Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Transforming Learning with the Seesaw App

by Mickey McFetridge 
Many people who use iPads and Chromebooks in the classroom know about the app Seesaw. It can be used primarily as an LMS (Learning Management System), but many of its features allow alignment with the Transformation spectrum of the SAMR Model.

Students using Seesaw can:
  • Take pictures and video
  • Annotate documents with drawings or voice
  • Record actions and voice on a whiteboard
  • Ask teachers to publish work on a class blog
Lets look at the SAMR Model and these Seesaw features together:

Modification: When students use the annotation features, especially voice and video recording, it allows “for significant task redesign.” Students can replay their recordings many times to reflect upon their learning. This reflection is a critical piece in fostering a growth mindset and meta-cognition.

Redefinition: The teachers can safely share his/her student’s work on a classroom blog and with parents. This allows the students learning to impact others outside of the classroom. They can receive feedback to make improvements on their work as well.

For ideas on activities to use with Seesaw check out the following resources below:

This post has not been sponsored by Seesaw, it is based off of my own in class experience with Seesaw.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Learning to Code Websites

The #CSforALL movement continues to grow. Many students are excited about this growth, while many teachers are apprehensive. Thankfully, many websites are designed to guide the students through their learning to code journey, allowing the teacher to act as a facilitator. In other words, classroom teachers at the elementary through middle school levels aren't expected to be coders or programmers themselves. These teachers can oversee the progress of their students as they begin to take interest in this journey. Look into the following sites to get your students started. (K- Adult)
Most famous for the "Hour of Code," is a great place for students to begin their coding experience. Younger students learn the coding process through block coding and then gradually begin to use Java, a coding language. The site has really taken off with a teacher dashboard. Teacher's can create a section for students to sign into so their progress can be followed. Complete lesson plans and modules are ready to go for teachers to assign to students K- 5. Middle school teachers have complete lesson plan access to Computer Science in Algebra and Computer Science in Science materials. also offers free PD for teachers either in person or online. All of these links are found on their Teacher Dashboard Page

Scratch (3rd Grade - Adult)
Image result for scratchCreated by MIT, Scratch is a great site to learn coding. It is highly engaging for students as they get to create different scenes for characters (or sprites) to act out in. Scratch allows students to share their creations to a project board for others to see. Once students get started, they can click the Tips tab at the top of the screen and there are many tutorials to guide them through their learning process.

Codecadmey (Middle School - Adult)
Image result for codecademyCodecadmey focuses more on the coding languages than block based coding. I would recommend this site for those students who rapidly completed block coding and are ready for that next step. What I like about Codecadmey is that it clearly lays out the programming language options on a menu for people to choose from: HTML, CSS, JAVA, and PYTHON just to name a few.

Pencil Code (Middle School - Adult)
Image result for pencil codePencil code not as self explanatory as the previous two sites, but it does have some great features. The Materials for Teachers page breaks down concepts one by one, allowing teachers to hone in on particular skills. It's almost like grabbing a particular "worksheet" off of the shelf for a specific skill. Pencil code promotes the student creativity side of coding very heavily. There are art, music, and game making playgrounds for students to explore. I'm not sure I'd start off with pencil code, but it is a great place to send the students that get through's Hour of Code quickly.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Teaching Digital Literacy: Resources to Help Students Validate Online Information

Digital Literacy is a term that is growing ever more popular among those teaching our 21st Century Learners. Also known as Information Literacy, Digital Literacy is an important component of what is known as Digital Citizenship. It is a skill that many children and adults grapple with. One of my favorite memes on the topic is right here!

We all chuckle, but then the conversation kind of fizzles out from there. It isn't that we shouldn't believe anything that we find online, it is that we need to be critical of the validity of what we find.

I often hear teachers say, "kids are so lucky now, they can just search for the information they need on the internet. They have the answers instantaneously." While it may be true, the statement doesn't take into account that students must be critical and validate information that they find. I argue that this was not a skill that previous generations had to grapple with as much. For example, as a child of the 80's and 90's, when I went to the library to look up information in encyclopedias and books, I didn't have to deeply question the validity of material found. I may have looked at publishing dates, but I hardly questioned who the author was, or the publishing company of the source. (I'm speaking of non-fiction texts of course) Yes our students can quickly access information, but they have to learn how to validate and be critical of that information.

So that leads to the following question: "How do I teach kids how to validate what they find online?"

Here are just a few resources out there to support teachers as they develop this 21st Century Skill with their students.

November Learning: Education Resources for Web Literacy - Middle School & Up
This site has 7 different steps to walk students through as they begin to learn about internet information, urls, domain names, and so on. It begins with a pre-test to give students an idea of where they stand.

Common Sense Education:
Common Sense has a great amount of support materials when it comes to teaching all aspects of Digital Citizenship. Here are just a few links that are directly used for Digital Literacy
Common Sense Education: Sites I Like (Grades K-2) - What makes a Website the Right Site For You?
Common Sense Education: You've Won A Prize! (Grades 3-5) - What is Spam and What Can You Do About It?
Common Sense Education: Identifying High Quality Sites (Grades 6-8) - When Can You Trust What You Find On the Internet?

iKeepSafe Digital Literacy - Google Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum (Grades 6-8)
The first lesson plan on this page titled, Become an Online Sleuth, can help you teach your students to use a critical eye while using the internet.

These are just a few of the many resources out there to support teachers and students as they shuffle through the unlimited information online.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Picture Surfing for Students and Teachers

Part of the purpose for student usage of technology in the classroom is to allow students to become creators not just consumers. A large part of this creative process for our learners is the resources that they find to put into their product. In this case we are talking about visual resources, or images.

Many students and teachers go directly to Google and search images. They then copy and paste away. As many of us know, this can rise several issues. Two of them being:
  1. Inappropriate images appearing within the search.
  2. The use of pictures without permission of the rightful owner.
These issues (and several others) have created the need of safe searching creative commons photos for educational use. Luckily there are several websites that students can go to for that very purpose!

Photos for Class - Just as the title says, this site allows students to search for photos that are appropriate for classroom use. The photos also include auto citation, and creative commons photos for use. If a student search does bring up an inappropriate image, it allows teachers to report it to be removed.


Pics4Learning - Pics4Learning is another safe place for students to search for needed photos. The organization of the site is excellent, and allows students to easily search by category.

Pexels - Pexels is full of large sized creative commons stock photos. Some of them are truly breath taking. Pexels was created for student and adult usage, so it isn't quite as filtered or safeguarded. There isn't anything extremely inappropriate, but some images could contain things like alcohol usage and mild adult situations. Students, especially younger students, should be monitored during the usage of this site. Nevertheless, landscapes, citiscapes, and other stock photos are excellent on this site.

*Addition to original post: These sites try their best to filter out inappropriate photos. As with anything online, there is nothing completely safe. Inappropriate pictures could still appear on these sites. However, they are still safer than simply searching google photos.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Teaching Digital Citizenship with Google Classroom

As the beginning of a new school year approaches, teachers begin to think about introducing the norms & rules of their classroom to a new group of students. Included in these classroom behaviors, are the expectations for technology usage.

Digital Citizenship has become a popular term in recent years both inside and outside of the classroom. Frankly, it isn't only our students that need to work on Digital Citizenship skills, but many adults as well. Our devices and connectivity allow us to easily make comments and share posts with others. This can be a great way for us to learn and connect with others. Unfortunately, this also leads to negativity, hurtful comments, and unsolicited opinions to be spewed over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.

How do we teach a new generation how to behave in digital spaces, when many students, parents, and other adults, don't necessarily behave themselves? Google Classroom and other Learning Management Systems (LMS) can give us that opportunity.

Google Classroom gives teachers the ability to control who can post and make comments to the "classroom stream." A great filter for teachers to be able to utilize as students begin to understand how to use the digital space.

However, only allowing the teacher to post and comment at all times can be detrimental. The less students are able to interact with the digital space, the less the students will be motivated to use it. More importantly, filtering their behavior for them will not give them the learning experience they need to build in their own filters.

Teachers must give some opportunities for students to post and make comments in the digital space. This will allow students to begin to use learning and social networks responsibly. Google Classroom allows teachers to model appropriate online behaviors for students as well as give students a safe digital space for them to try these behaviors out for themselves.

Here are some posting examples:

In both of these announcements to the class stream, the students are asked to participate in the commenting section. These are simple opportunites that the students have to have meaningful interactions within the digital space. The class is closed to only specific students to give them a safe place to interact. As the school year progresses, the teacher can allow students to create their own posts of videos, articles, or presentations to the class stream for discussion.

As stated, if a teacher never gives these opportunities, then the students will miss out on the complete experience that a LMS provides. They will also miss out on the understanding that any social network can lead to learning opportunities.

While we are all teachers of our content areas, we must prepare our students to succeed outside of the classroom. We need to give them the opportunity to interact with others through a digital space, and learn the concepts of Digital Citizenship. Google Classroom and other LMSs naturally lead to those opportunities.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Computer Science Practice Standards - An introduction to #CSforALL

This past fall (2015), I was lucky enough to be a part of the K-8 Computer Science Standards Committee for the state of Arkansas. Arkansas is the first state in the US to require all students in K-8 learn computer science standards. These standards will be embedded in other curriculum areas, CS will not be a stand alone subject. All of Arkansas's high school's must have CS courses available for interested students as well.

The Computer Science Standards (Linked HERE from the ADE Website) begin with a set of Computer Science Practices. These practices exhibit the "habits of mind" that it takes to succeed in the area of Computer Science. Many teachers will agree that these are also great habits to succeed in every subject.

Using Piktochart, I decided to make a printable poster for these practices. Please feel free to use and share this poster with your fellow teachers. Link to download poster:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Supporting ELL Students with EdTech

Over the last 13 years, I have spent my career in education in the Springdale School District in Springdale, AR. The 3rd and 4th grade classrooms I have taught were at about a 75% or higher ELL (or ESL) population. As I have seen the boom in EdTech over the recent years in our district, I have really paid attention to the technology tools that are available to help our ELL students succeed.

There are several tools out there to provide the scaffolding and support to these students, but I am just going to focus on a few of them for this post: Translation Tools, Auditory Tools, and Recording Tools. These tools are nothing new in the world of technology, but as more students are able to access technology in the classroom they should not be overlooked.

Translation Tools:
Google Translate
 used on iPhone
The translation tool I have seen the most success with is Google Translate. It works very well in multiple ways:

  • Tablet/Phone App: The app allows you to point your camera at a sign and translate it to a different language. It also allows you to speak one language into the device and it will translate and speak out loud in another language.
  • Google Search/Website: If you search google translate, a text box will appear at the top of your search results that allows for instant text translation. also does this function.
  • Chrome Extension: The Google Translate Chrome extension allows you to change the language of any website you are looking at with a few simple clicks, never leaving the web site you are viewing. 
Auditory Tools: 
I am defining auditory tools as any type of tool that reads texts to students. Many of our ELL students comprehend speech at a much higher level than they are able to read (in English). The use of auditory tools will allow students to hear the content needed even if they are struggling to read the words on the screen. There are several text to speech apps out there, but the following have worked best for me:
  • iPad/iPhone: I simply use Siri. This is activated through the accessibility menu within settings. Students can change voice accents and also speech rate.  
  • Chrome: I prefer the extension SpeakIt! Voice accents and speech rate are also controllable. 
As mentioned, I realize that these may seem like fairly simple tools in today's high tech classrooms, but the importance of what these tools can bring to our ELLs should not be looked over.

Recording Tools:
Apps that record student voices, screens, and actions can make a great impact with our ELL students in two ways: comprehension/assessment and reflection/meta-cognition.

Comprehension/Assessment - Giving ELL students the option to record their voice to explain a concept and turn it in to their teacher is critical. Our ELL students comprehend information at high levels, many of them just have difficulty putting their learning and understanding into writing. Why not allow them to record their understanding verbally and send that to the teacher for a comprehension check/assessment? There is a relatively new website/app called Recap just for this purpose.

Reflection/Meta-cognition For decades, coaches have recorded players on the field and reviewed it with their players. Music directors have recorded performers and had them listen back for reflection. This can now be done with every single student in the classroom. Having students record their thoughts through screen-casting, audio notes, or video will allow them to reflect upon their learning and presentation skills. This is only effective if part of the assignment is that the student listen back to their recordings for that reflection piece. There are so many great tools out there, but a few to check out are:
Chrome Extentions: Screencastify and Snagit Chrome Extensions.
iPhone/iPad: Book Creator, Draw and Tell, Educreations, Explain Everything, Seesaw, Shadow Puppet, Tellagami, and simply just use the camera. (If you would like to learn more about some of these apps, then check out my post 5 iPad apps for Student Presentations and Meta-Cognition)

As with everything with EdTech, it is important to not get wrapped up in the "bells and whistles" of an app/site, but what it really offers your students. In the case of our ELLs, thinking of how these tools can support language development should be our number one goal.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Accessing free eBooks with Open eBooks

Last month EdSurge and several other news outlets released an article about Obama and the White House releasing millions of dollars worth of eBooks to kids in Title One and Special Ed programs.

I jumped in right away to see what this was all about. The program runs through First Book and an app called Open eBooks.  Right now, the app only works on tablets (iPad/Android), but the Open eBooks company informed me that they hope to have a web based version out later this year, so if you are a Chromebook district, keep your eye peeled!

I have made the following tutorial to guide anyone who wants to get signed up!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Maps in Google Drive: Create Interactive Maps

The integration of Google My Maps within Google Drive has made it simple for anyone to create interactive maps. Both teachers and students can use these maps to display content for reports or instruction. For every pin dropped on the map, information and pictures can be added. Since it is in Google Drive, the map can be shared and worked on collaboratively as well.

To access Google My Maps, click the New button in Drive, hover over more, and select Google My Maps

Google My Maps allow for users to:

  • Add different layers
  • Change icon color and shape
  • Measure the distance between locations
  • Draw lines or shapes
  • Add driving, biking, or walking routes
Take a look at a few of the images below, and then try out Google My Maps for yourself!
Simple to edit and add pictures
Add layers to identify different purposes for pinning locations
Change icon color and shape

Friday, January 15, 2016

Student Response Tools for the Digital Classroom

As classrooms become more connected through technology, teachers have several choices when it comes to selecting a Student Response Tool to use with student devices. Whether your class is 1:1 with a specific device (Chromebooks, iPads) or you have a BYOD environment (Bring Your Own Device),there are many websites that work as an excellent option for teachers to gather responses from their students.

As always in my blog, I will just name a few of the many tools that I have found beneficial. These will be listed in alphabetical order:


AnswerGarden is a response tool that allows a teacher to ask a single question and makes a word cloud out of student responses. It is intended for short answer questions, about 20 to 40 characters long. It does not record which student gave which answer. It is more so intended as a brainstorming tool. The user can hover over any of the answers to see how many times it was answered. No accounts are needed for the site, and each AnswerGarden that a teacher creates holds its own URL and code for students to type in to. It has an iPad app that is easy for students of all ages to use.


Nearpod has many features beyond collecting student responses. It is a teacher presentation tool that allows the teacher to control what is on the screens of the students via WiFi. The teacher can set up a presentation like they would in Google Slides, Keypoint, or PowerPoint, and they an embed question types into the slide. Students sign in through a class code. Draw it, Fill in the Blanks, Polling, Exit Slip Quiz, and Open Ended questions can be asked. When the lesson is over, the presenter can download the answers that students gave. Nearpod is free, but has an upgrade to "Gold" as well. The dash board is simple to use, and many teachers share their presentations for others to use in the library.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is a great option for the BYOD environment. There are several ways for students/participants to join a poll, including texting through their phone. Poll Everywhere shows real time results in a bar graph on the teacher dashboard. While it would work best as a multiple choice response system, the teacher can also ask open response questions as well.


Socrative is an excellent site/app for giving tests/quizzes to students. The students sign in through a class code and the teacher can choose to give a student paced quiz or the teacher can control the pace of the quiz as well. As you can see, there are 3 other options as well.
Quick Question: Allows instructors to ask their students questions "on the fly."
Space Race: Students take a teacher created quiz in groups as a competitive game.
Exit Ticket: Has 3 generic questions for the end of the lesson for students to answer.

After the teacher chooses to close the session, a report can be downloaded, printed, or added to Google Drive as a Sheet.

These are only a handful of the great apps/websites that are available to students and teachers to collect responses in real time. This allows for faster student feedback, and easier classroom management. Other tools worth trying are:, TodaysMeet, Zaption, and EduPuzzle.