Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Short Example of the Benefits of Classroom Blogs

Six years ago I created a short slideshow featuring cartoons that I made to explain the benefits of having a classroom blog. That slideshow focused on the benefits to teachers. Today, I used Storyboard That and Google Presentations to create a new slideshow about the benefits of having a classroom blog. This slideshow is focused on the benefits to parents.

Each of the frames in the slideshow were created by using Storyboard That. Storyboard That offers more than 40,000 pieces of clipart that you can use to create comic strips.

If you need help developing a blog for your classroom, check out my free 90 page guide to using Blogger in school. In June I am offering a three week webinar series on blogging and social media. You can learn more about that webinar on

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers

The Week in Review - The Leaves Have Arrived

Clouds over the valley
 of Bryant Pond.
Good evening from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine where spring seems to have turned into summer almost overnight. I went away for one night to give a presentation and when I came back I noticed far more full leaves than when I left. In fact, it is so summer-like this evening that I am writing while sitting on my deck in the sun. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you're having a nice weekend too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 7 Ideas for Implementing Technology For A Purpose
2. The Importance of Teaching Digital Citizenship
3. ParticiPoll - Add Interactive Polls to PowerPoint
4. Listen to, Compose, and Play Music on SFS Kids
5. Science Friday - Science Lesson Plans and Interesting Science Videos
6. Five Mathematics Glossaries for Kids
7. Good Ideas for Using Augmented Reality in Elementary School Math and Reading

Five seats are left at the Practical Ed Tech Summer CampClick here for discounted registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
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Friday, May 30, 2014

What is the World Wide Web? And How Does It Work? - Two Good Explanations

Even though they use it everyday many of our students don't understand how the World Wide Web works. A recently released TED-Ed lesson tackles the topic of how the Web works. In What is the World Wide Web? students can learn about the origins of the Web, its evolution, and how we can contribute to the Web. The lesson includes eight review questions for students to try after watching the video. The video is embedded below.

Another good explanation of how the Web works is found in the Common Craft library of videos. Through the World Wide Web Explained by Common Craft students can learn about how computers are connected and the role of a web browser in displaying the information we see on our monitors. That video is embedded below.

Real-time Translation Coming to Skype Later This Year

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that they have developed a real-time translation feature for Skype. The real-time translation tool will provide nearly-instant subtitles for the words spoken by the people on a Skype call. In addition to the subtitles you can hear a translation of spoken words. Microsoft says that this feature will be in a beta version of Skype later this year. Watch the video below for a demonstration of the translation feature. (Jump to the two minute mark if you just want to see the demo without the explanation from the developers).

Click here if you cannot see the video above.

Applications for Education
Real-time translation over Skype has the potential to take digital penpals to a new level. I can imagine classrooms around the world connecting to talk and learn about each others' cultures and languages.

Canva Explains Color Scheme Basics for Slides and Infographics

Canva, one of my favorite services for creating infographics and slides, regularly sends emails containing design tips. The tip that they sent out in their latest email contained a link to this color scheme basics tutorial. The five part tutorial teaches you how to create five complementary color schemes to use in your slides, infographics, and poster designs. The five color schemes are environmental, summer, retro, monochromatic, and complimentary. Click here to view the color scheme tutorial.

Applications for Education
Canva's color scheme tutorial could be a good one to share with your students before they design their next slidedecks. After working through the tutorial students might be less inclined to do things like put yellow font on a white background. Your student don't have to use Canva to design their slides, they can simply apply the lessons from the tutorial to their use of PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Presentation.

For those who haven't heard of Canva prior to this post, it is a service that makes it easy to create beautiful slides, flyers, posters, infographics, and photo collages. Creating these graphics on Canva is a drag-and-drop process. Start by selecting a template then dragging and dropping into place background designs, pictures, clip art, and text boxes. Canva offers a huge library of clip art and photographs to use in your designs. You can also upload your own images to use in your graphics. Your completed Canva projects can be downloaded as PDF and PNG files. You can also simply link to your online graphic.

Could You Win the National Spelling Bee? - Test Yourself With These Winning Words

Last night two champions were crowned in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. As I watched the final moments last night I knew that I would not have been able to spell some of the words presented to the competitors. If you and or your students would like to test your spelling skills against those of past winners, take a look at Vox's Spell It Out challenge.

Vox's spelling challenge presents you with the final winning words from twenty past national spelling bees. You will hear the word pronounced then you have to type it in the spelling box to submit your answer. Before submitting your answer you can hear the word used in a sentence and see the origin of the word.

Applications for Education
One of the nice things about Vox's Spell It Out challenge is that students can see the importance of understanding word origins and root words in determining how to spell a word.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for Tweeting about this yesterday. 

Listango - A Quick and Easy Bookmarking Tool

The Internet is not lacking for bookmarking tools. Some are complex and robust while others are clean and simple. Listango falls into the clean and simple category. Bookmarking websites with Listango is a simple matter of clicking the Listango bookmarklet in your browser then choosing the list to which you want to add your bookmark.

To get started with Listango you register for an account then drag the Listango browser bookmarklet into your browser's bookmarks bar. With the Listango bookmarklet installed whenever you're viewing a site that you want to bookmark you can just click the Listango button to save the site to one of your bookmark lists. In your Listango account you can create as many categorized bookmarks lists as you like.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a very simple tool for your students to use to organize the sites they find while researching on the web, Listango is worth giving a try. If you have found other bookmarking tools to be too complex for your students, Listango presents a simple alternative to those complex bookmarking tools.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

ParticiPoll - Add Interactive Polls to PowerPoint

ParticiPoll is a service that you can use to add interactive polls to your PowerPoint presentations. Your polls are created and delivered within your PowerPoint slides. Once you've added ParticiPoll to your PowerPoint you can create as many polls as you like. Each poll can have up to six response options. The best aspect of ParticiPoll is that you don't have to leave your slidedeck at all in order to administer the poll and see the results of your poll.

Your audience can respond to your ParticiPoll poll through their cell phones, tablets, or laptops. To respond they simply go to the URL for your poll and choose a response. When you want to display the poll results you just click to the next element in your PowerPoint slidedeck and the results are displayed for all to see. All polls are anonymous.

Watch the video below for a complete overview of ParticiPoll. - Free Audience Polling for PowerPoint from ParticiPoll on Vimeo.

ParticiPoll's free plan allows you to create and deliver as many polls as you like. The paid plans allow you to collect audience comments and to keep a history of poll results.

Applications for Education
The market for audience polling tools is a crowded one with Socrative, Infuse Learning, and Kahoot getting most of the attention in the K-12 market. The one thing that ParticiPoll offers that could make it appealing to some teachers is that you don't have to leave your slidedeck in order to administer a poll. If you use PowerPoint you might consider using ParticiPoll to include some simple "do you get it" questions after every few slides.

Listen, Compose, and Play Music on SFS Kids

Three years ago I explored and reviewed the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra's website for kids called Keeping Score. Recently, the site was overhauled with new features and a new name. The new site is called SFS Kids and it is loaded with good activities for elementary school and middle school students.

On SFS Kids students can learn to compose and play music. Your students can jump into any section of SFS Kids and start learning, but it is probably best if they work through the sections in order. Students get started on SFS Kids by listening to samples of different styles of music performed by the symphony. A pop-up dialog box appears with each selection of music. In that dialog box students will learn a bit about the style of the composition and performance they're hearing. After listening to a selection of recordings students move on to playing games in which they try to recognize and match rhythms.

In the "performance" section of SFS Kids students learn about the instruments commonly heard in a symphony orchestra. After learning about how the instruments are played it is time for students to jump into the "composition" section of SFS Kids where they'll work through a series of lessons on the basics of composition and begin writing their own pieces.

The roles of the conductor of an orchestra can appear to be simple to the untrained eye and ear. In the "conduct" section of SFS Kids students learn what a conductor does. Students can try their hands at conducting a virtual orchestra after they learn that a conductor does more than just wave a baton.

Applications for Education
Students could spend an hour on SFS Kids and still not run out of things to explore. In a 1:1 setting you could have students create compositions on the site and then share them in your classroom as mini-concert of original compositions.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo for the news about the update to SFS Kids. 

Science Friday - Science Lesson Plans and Interesting Science Videos

Science Friday is a must-bookmark for teachers and students of science. On Science Friday you will find interesting videos and articles about a wide array of topics in chemistry, biology, physics, space science, and much more. As the name implies, new videos appear on Fridays. One of the videos from earlier this month that I like is about crystal formation in chocolate.

Each video is accompanied by a set of links for further reading on the topic. One of the links accompanying the video above takes you to this 33 page PDF about the science of candy.

Applications for Education
Science Friday offers lesson plans, many of them hands-on, that you can find in the education section of the site. To find a lesson plan just click a word in the word cloud on the education page. Each lesson plan includes a suggested grade level and links to the national science standards addressed in the lesson. Lighting Up Celery Stalks is one of the featured biology lesson plans that I think students will enjoy.

8 Crash Courses to Help High School Students Review the School Year

If your school is not yet out for the summer, you're probably in the home stretch. This is the time of year when we spend a lot of time reviewing everything that we did during the school year. While your students should definitely review their notes, they might want to supplement those notes with some online video content. Hank and John Green's Crash Course is an excellent place for high school students to turn to when they need some review videos. Eight courses in literature, history, and science are now available through the Crash Course YouTube channel.

Crash Course U.S. History.

Crash Course World History

Crash Course Ecology

Crash Course Literature

Crash Course Chemistry

Crash Course Biology

Crash Course Psychology

Literature 2

Math in Real Life - A TED-Ed Series

Math in Real Life is a series of 33 TED-Ed lessons. The "real life" context in these lessons isn't things like "how calculating percentages helps you be a frugal shopper." The "real life" context found in the videos in the Math in Real Life series is broad in nature. For example, you will find lessons about how math is used to guide ships and calculating rates of travel in space.

Applications for Education
The Math in Real Life series of TED-Ed videos, like most TED-Ed videos, could make nice extensions to your classroom instruction.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Database of the Best Commencement Speeches, Ever

NPR recently published a database of the best commencement speeches, ever. The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever has an index of 316 commencement speeches. The speeches are listed alphabetically by speaker's first name. Instead of searching by speaker's name you can search according to theme, school, or date. A transcript for each speech is available. Videos are available for many of the speeches. One of my favorite speeches, from Bill Cosby, is embedded below.

Applications for Education
It's probably a little late for this year, but for future years NPR's The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever could be a good source of inspiration for crafting graduation messages to share with students.

H/T to Open Culture.

Putting Your Google Jockeys to Work

One of the things that I often mention in my keynote presentations is the idea that it in the age of Google it is increasingly difficult to be the content area expert. Many of our students can be described as "Google jockeys." They're the students that Google everything they hear. While the habit can be a distraction, it can also be leveraged for good in your classroom.

I first discovered the term Google Jockey when I read Curtis Bonk's The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education. In The World Is Open I came across the idea for having a "Google Jockey" in my classroom. The idea is that you have one or two students in the room who are responsible for looking up terms or phrases that come up during the course of classroom discussion. Combining the use of a back channel along with a Google Jockey could become a good avenue for drilling deeper into the content of the day's lesson.

Three Good Places to Find Fun, Hands-on Science and Technology Lessons

Some of our most memorable learning experiences happen during hands-on lessons. The biology and chemistry lessons that I remember best involved doing something, not just observing something. Here are three good places to find hands-on science and technology lessons to try with your students.

For fun and educational hands-on science and technology projects I also recommend checking out the dozens of pages of projects listed on the projects section of Whether you're looking for a fun learning activity to do at home with your kids or you're looking for a classroom project that will spark your students' creativity and imagination, Make Projects has something for you. is a neat website on which kids can find dozens of DIY projects that they can do on their own or with their parents. provides videos and instructions on how to do the projects. After going through the directions kids then try to complete the project. When they've completed the project they can take a picture and upload it to their portfolios. Kids can share examples of their projects through Kids cannot register on without a parent's permission. Parents have their own dashboards that they can use to track the activities of their children. Children registered on have aliases and cartoon avatar pictures., written by a University of Wisconsin chemistry professor, features twenty-five fun and safe science experiments that can be performed with household items. The experiments introduce students to basic chemistry concepts through fun, hands-on activity. The experiments on Science is Fun are probably most appropriate for use with students in the fourth through ninth grade. In addition to providing detailed directions for conducting each experiment, Science is Fun provides an explanation of the chemistry at work in each experiment. Complementing the experiments are easy-to-understand explanations of many chemicals and elements on the periodic table. 

eduClipper Releases an Improved Website and Updated iOS App

eduClipper has released a new version of their popular web tool and iOS app. The updated site and app retain all of the great features we've come to enjoy about eduClipper while improving the look and feel of the service.

When you visit the latest version of the eduClipper website you will notice a new look to your boards. All clips are now the same size. The uniformity of the clip size along with increased spacing between clips makes clipboards easier to view and explore.

The latest version of the eduClipper iOS app has been designed to work the same way on iPads and iPhones. This update means that you can now create whiteboard videos on any device running iOS 7.

Support for importing content from Dropbox has been added to eduClipper too. If you're having students use eduClipper to create digital portfolios, the Dropbox integration could be helpful to them.

Disclosure: I am an advisor to eduClipper with a very small equity stake in the company.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Create Interesting KMZ Files on the Thematic Mapping Engine

Thematic Mapping Engine provides users with a very simple way to create Google Earth kmz files. Thematic Mapping draws on data provided by the United Nations to create maps depicting all types of development data and environmental science data. Users select a statistical indicator category, select a year or range of years, and the manner in which they would like the data displayed in Google Earth. If you're using a Windows computer you can preview your files before downloading them. Below is an image of the KMZ file I created using the Thematic Mapping Engine.

Applications for Education
Thematic Mapping could be used in Social Studies, Math, or Environmental Science courses. A map depicting GDP Per Capita would be useful in math if students are studying the differences between mean and median. The same map would also be useful in a Social Studies course where students are studying the distribution of wealth. There are a number of environmental science indicators available from Thematic Mapping one that may be particular useful for Environmental Science students is the CO2 Emissions Per Capita theme.

Thematic Mapping Engine recommends using Firefox as your web browser.

ExamTime Introduces New Options for Tracking Your Own Study Habits

ExamTime is a neat service that students can use to create flashcards, mind maps, and practice quizzes to help them study. Recently, ExamTime added some helpful new features.

The most significant of the new ExamTime features is the new performance tracking option. Performance tracking allows students to keep track of how they scored on practice quizzes, monitor which flashcards they know and which they need to spend more time with, and track their comprehension of nodes of their mind maps. That last option provides students with "tick boxes" that they can check when they feel like they have mastered the topics depicted on mind maps that they have created.

ExamTime's other new features include an improved, expanded flashcard display and a new resource "pinning" option. As all study materials created on ExamTime can be shared publicly, there is a large gallery of study materials for students to access. Pinning a resource from the public gallery is a way for students to quickly add review resources to their libraries of study aids.

ContextU - A Great Site for Exploring the Context of the Civil War

Ken Halla, the blogger behind the US History Teachers Blog, has been working on an excellent new site for students of US History. The new site is called ContextU and its purpose is to help students see the greater context for significant events in history. The first iteration of ContextU is focused on the American Civil War.

On ContextU students select from a table of contents an event, piece of legislation, or theme to see it in the context of other events, pieces of legislation, and themes leading to the start of the Civil War. Through timelines, Google Maps, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, and text ContextU provides context for each chosen event, piece of legislation, or theme. Students can jump from event to event or from theme to theme by following the hyperlinks within each diagram.

Applications for Education
ContextU is still in development, but what is available now is already quite good. The advantage of ContextU over a textbook as well as many other websites is the ease with which students can see how an event fits into the larger context of the causes of the American Civil War.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Week In Review - Thank You Guest Bloggers

Good evening from Keflavik, Iceland where I am waiting for a flight home after a week in Iceland's western fjords. This week while I was traveling I ran posts from guest writers along with a handful of posts of my own. Next week I will be back to my regular posting schedule.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Google Chrome Extensions to Help Your School Save Ink & Paper
2. Guided Reading in Google Apps for Education
3. Four Ways for Students to Create Multimedia Magazines
4. Stay Focused - A Chrome Extension to Help You Stop Wasting Time
5. Good Chrome Extensions for Students with Disabilities
6. Good Ideas for Using Augmented Reality in Elementary School Math and Reading
7. Quill - Writing Worksheets Made Interactive

Seven seats are left at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Click here for discounted registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Class Charts provides a great way to record and analyze student behavior information.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
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Friday, May 23, 2014

7 Ideas for Implementing Technology For A Purpose

This week I am giving some guest bloggers a chance to share their ideas with you. This is a second part of a guest post from Alicia Roberts. Part one of Alicia's post appeared on Wednesday. 

  • Recruit staff and students to beta test “free technology” - Send a quick email  ex: Hi, I thought this link to FlipQuiz would be great for end of the year review :)  You never know who will respond!

  • Set the tone - Celebrate others... “Wow! - I loved the interactive video w/questions you created using  educannon. Do you mind if I share the link with the campus?”

  • Outline, Explain and Share the Progress of your tech journey - Make sure you have a road map to share with your principal of what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Check the Impact of what you are asking students and staff to accomplish - does the work the students do carry more weight than just a grade? Find out by creating an  end of the semester survey.

  • Do what you love...and love what you do!

Alicia Roberts is the Instructional Technology Specialist at Paradise Valley Christian Prep in Phoenix, AZ and EDU Development Specialist at Grand Canyon University. For more tools and trends check out
Teach 2

The Importance of Teaching Digital Citizenship

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas with you. This is a guest post from Salima Hudani. 

With technology playing a central role in education, teaching Digital Citizenship I believe, is a foundational and non-negotiable message that should be taught explicitly to all students. Digital Citizenship not only teaches students the etiquette involved in being a smart and effective participant in a digital world, but it empowers and equips students with essential life tools to help them navigate challenging digital based situations. I am a strong believer that until this becomes a natural and intrinsic process ingrained for our students, Digital Citizenship should be taught.

Visiting and connecting with different classrooms over the last four years, I’ve seen that students do not understand the basic foundational principles of Digital Citizenship and are often in awe when I share with them why it’s important to safe. I believe students need to know that they are not alone when they post something online into a chatroom or onto a forum, even when it’s done in the privacy of their own home, it is visible to others. They need to know that a friend online, isn’t necessarily a friend to be trusted. Students also need to know that personal information can become public information extremely fast. Creating a positive Digital Footprint online is something that I encourage, but how do we teach students how to decide what’s valuable material to place online? How do we teach our students to become effective critical thinkers who question and critique not only their own actions but also understand how their actions may affect the Digital Footprints of others?

As a school authority, we began teaching Digital Citizenship explicitly. We commenced by introducing the concept of the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship to all students from K-12. Displayed in classrooms, is a poster that identifies and defines each of these elements and includes a statement for each element as well as a statement that brings the element into child friendly language. We adapted this poster based on Alberta Education’s Digital Citizenship Policy Guide, as well as Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. What I love about this poster is that it is divided up into 3 parts that highlights the importance of Digital Citizenship to students.

1. Respect and Protect Yourself, Digital Wellness
2. Respect and Protect Others, Digital Interactions
3. Respect and Protect Intellectual Property, Digital Preparedness

The contents of this poster is taught to students and readily connected to authentic experiences. For example, when logging into a website, a teacher would mention “Digital Security”, one of the Nine Elements, and why it is important to keep information safe. Teachable, authentic moments are key. As a system we also developed a working Framework of Digital Citizenship Targets that we felt would be important for all students to understand. These targets are what teachers use to help guide them in teaching Digital Citizenship.

In addition to teachers teaching Digital Citizenship, I personally have taught one Digital Citizenship lesson to EVERY classroom from K-8. In the hopes of delivering at least one foundational message that builds common language across our system. The lessons have been adapted for each level but have the same underlying theme. I rely heavily on lessons from Commonsense Media as this site has lessons and activities which easily match up to our system’s Digital Citizenship Targets.

As transformative a force as technology can be, I agree that fixating on danger isn’t the way forward, but we must take measures and owe it to ourselves to better prepare students to greet the many positives and challenges the connected life brings, by preparing Digital Citizens.

Salima Hudani, is the Director of Educational Technology, at Foundations for the Future Charter Academy in Calgary, Alberta Canada. She is well known for her passion, insight, and enthusiasm for working collaboratively with educators to develop the best possible educational technology integrated learning environment that promotes innovation, creativity and digital know-how to help reinvent teaching and learning. She advocates the importance for students to learn how to use technology wisely and safely, with awareness and compassion so that they can become informed and productive citizens in a global digital society. She holds a BA, B.ED, and M.ED from the University of Calgary. 
Personal Blog- 
Twitter- @salimahudani 
Resource Site for Teachers Developed by Salima-

Google Rocks Hawaii! -- A Weekly Hangout-on-Air for Collaborative Professional Development

This week I am giving some guest bloggers a chance to share their ideas with you. This is a guest post from Linda Lindsay. 

All you need is an enthusiastic group of educators who want to learn together and Google Hangouts on Air. Boom! You’re set for informal, spontaneous and fun professional development, with a local and global reach.

Google Rocks! Hawaii airs on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 PM Hawaiian Standard Time, when most of the rest of the United States is sleeping.

Every week, we educators choose a current topic, not necessarily Google-related. Topics vary widely: Hawaii STEM , Infographics, The Flipped Classroom, Hōkūle'a’s World Wide Voyage, Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in ISTE, and TEDxYouth, to name a few. Here’s the complete YouTube playlist. We’ve had several Google Apps for Education “Show and Tell” episodes. Our shows always start with short, informal presentations, followed by Q&A and discussion.

Our view count is typically small, ranging from 20-100, but our Google Cultural Institute and Paperless Classroom hangouts have been popular, garnering 400+ viewers so far. These numbers aren’t impressive by YouTube standards, but our philosophy is that every viewer is important. If we have made a difference for at least one educator each week, we consider our mission accomplished.

Our conversations are informal and informational. Our discussions are light-hearted and celebratory. Our pets bark, meow, and crow in the background, and family members stop in to say hi. We look forward to each week, and we love to learn.

Google Rocks! Hawaii began off air. My 2012 Google Certified Teacher (GCT) action plan was “to develop a Google HELP session or a Google Hangout series that meets the needs of Hawaii school librarians.” So I worked with Michelle Carlson Colte, a fellow Hawaii school librarian and a GCT as well, to bring a Google Rocks and So Do You! workshop for librarians in April, 2013. We offered a followup HELP hangout in June.

That one hangout turned into more. Michelle invited educational technology specialist Michael Fricano II on, and a few weeks later Michael suggested that we try a Hangout on Air. So our show went LIVE on August 20, 2013 and we’ve been hanging out weekly ever since. School librarians Anne Torige and Jody Brown round out the regular panel, and other Hawaii educators join in as guests.

We’ve been fortunate to have three continental educators on so far: Matthew Winner in Maryland to talk about World Read Aloud Day, Alexandra Riecke-Gonzales in Ohio to talk about Google Glass, and Brent Catlett in Nebraska of Connected Classrooms Workshop to talk about Virtual Field Trips. We also connected internationally, with three Maui students now on exchange in the Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain. Our target audience is Hawaii educators, but everyone is welcome to come and learn with us.

The hangouts are automatically uploaded to YouTube. We share our show notes in the video’s YouTube description and via Google Drive. Almost all of the videos have a clickable index, to accommodate busy viewers.

Two other weekly Hawaii educational hangouts started around the same time as Google Rocks! Hawaii: EdTech Mixed Plate, with “EdTech ideas, tips, tricks, and #EduRockstars to add to your plate”, and GEG Hawaii ACE21 - Q&A and Training, a Google Education Group.

Anyone can run a Hangout-on-Air for their colleagues and the world. The only requirements are a thirst for learning, a burning desire to share, and a little technical training. I recommend reviewing the always-current Source, Google support: Get started with Hangouts On Air.

Good luck hanging out on air and learning, and have fun with it!

Linda Lindsay is a teacher-librarian at Seabury Hall, an independent middle and high school in Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, and host of Google Rocks! Hawaii. She is a Google Certified Teacher. She blogs at mauilibrarian2 in Olinda and posts regularly on Google Plus, Twitter, and Facebook. She is always looking for interesting guests to come on Google Rocks! Hawaii.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ideas for Using Augmented Reality in Elementary School Lessons

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas with you. This is a guest post from Louise Morgan and Jan Hodge. 

In a very short time, my second grade classroom has changed drastically, due to the introduction of 10 iPads. My students were already proficient at blogging, skyping, and even tweeting using the few computers we had in the classroom, but adding the iPads changed everything. Classroom routines had and procedures that had been well-established had to be revisited and tweaked in order to accommodate our new tools. Simple housekeeping like handling the headphones, closing out apps, and keeping the screens clean were just as important for my 2nd graders to learn, as well as, how to navigate creation apps, the camera roll, and curating their work. Specific instructions and examples can be found on my blog:

The goal for my classroom has always been independence and creativity. I want my students to be able to create freely without being bogged down with the technicalities of technology. Teaching students how to blog and use our class Twitter happens early in year along with digital citizenship so that our days are seamless. That way, we are able to create, collaborate and experience learning at the highest levels.

This year, the students loved working with the Chromeville App. Students visited the website, read about the history of the villages, and selected their favorite character to experience in 3D. After using the coloring sheets and Augmented Reality to bring the characters to life, my students are now creating stories about them with the writing process. We were also able to Skype with the Chromville Creators all the way from Spain! Students learned that artists and programmers collaborate to create 3D animation, stories and the app. Because of the students’ interest and excitement we were treated to a demonstration of another project @Imascono #AR Apparel! T-Shirts with Triggers! My students loved the power ranger and the gorilla!

Another wonderful, free app that my students enjoyed was Tellagami. During our study on African American Inventors, my students researched an inventor, wrote a blog post & created a “gami” of their inventor. The students loved being able to configure their avatar’s appearance and backgrounds to fit their vision of chosen inventor. They also loved recording their voices and hearing them in the finished product. Using Tellagami brought history to life for my students in an engaging and meaningful way. My students were proud of their learning and love being digital storytellers!

We have also used ColarApp very successfully. Our District Library Media Specialist, Jan Hodge, collaborated with us as we used the ColarApp for #dotday. Students loved creating and bringing their dots to life!

What I’ve learned from having iPads in the classroom is, with good management & using them in Daily 5 and centers, I am actually able to meet regularly with my students. I am able to get off the stage and work alongside them mentoring and encouraging their journeys. Implementation of technology in the classroom should not be feared. These devices turn my classroom into a 21st century learning environment!

Louise Morgan @mrsmorgansclass is a 2nd Grade Teacher in Crowley ISD, #2ndchat Moderator, #globalclassroom lead teacher, #TCEA Presenter #ISTE 2014 Presenter

Jan Hodge @janhodgelibrary is a District Elementary Library Media Specialist in Crowley ISD, #TLA Presenter, #TCEA Tots & Techology Presenter 2014,

How Technology Has Engaged All Learners

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas with you. This is a guest post from Scott McKenzie

Every student can succeed.
That is what I want to talk to you about.
Every. Student. Can. Succeed.
We just have to find the way to help them do it.
This year… technology has leveled the playing field in my class for all students.

When I was young I didn’t fit in at school. I dreaded Valentine’s Day. Everyone would bring in cards for the people they liked. I would bring in one for each classmate and go around and hand them out. Then I would sit back at my desk, and try to hide the fact that my bag was empty. I would quickly stuff it into my desk. I didn’t fit in, and I wasn’t engaged in school. Later in high school I was told that I wouldn’t be able to pass advanced courses, and that I would never go to University. I eventually graduated with an Honours degree and went on to get my Bachelor’s of Education.

I share my story with my students every year, I mention that I didn’t feel like I fit in, that I was told I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dream and go to university. I try to share with students that everyone is important, everyone has a voice, and their dreams are always worth pursuing.

As educators we have to be open, and willing to seek out alternative ways to enable learners and foster success in our students. If we show we believe in them, and give them tools to truly become successful, then we have earned the title "educator".

Have you ever felt like you didn't fit in? Imagine being 2 to 3 grade levels below everyone else in your class, and trying to fit in. Imagine how hard it would be to disguise that fact in class every day.That was the reality for several of the students who came into my class this year. They struggled in school, and everyone knew it. They didn't fit in.

This year technology was our secret weapon. With technology my students could get past the hurdles of not being able to read, or spell at grade level. I brought in BYOD, so everyone could use technology, and everyone looked the same. Things were going better, but technology is not perfect, and the motivation dropped off, as they sometimes still struggled. I was searching for the key, but I forgot to ask the most important people in the room. I never asked the students I was trying to help. One day I assigned a task in class. I offered them the choice of several ways to complete the task. Many of the choices involved technology.

One boy approached and asked if he could use Minecraft. It was a game he played regularly at home on his iPad. It was something he was confident doing. I took a chance, and said yes. The speed and efficiency he worked at was literally stunning. He completed the same work as the others, in the same time limit. Letters that were often formed backwards, or even upside down were perfectly written for all the key points. Visual images explained all the concepts he had learned, and he even shared!

Since that day Minecraft had become a viable option in my class. All the students who struggled with reading and writing were proficient at Minecraft. Visually they could map out how to show their work in the 3D landscape. Other students worked with it as well, and that is when the magic happened. The students who were used to being the lowest were suddenly helping others in the class. They became our experts, working with others to help them be successful. They gained the esteem of their peers, but more importantly, they gained their respect.

Now when students are given a challenge, every hand goes up. Everyone feels empowered. They never miss class, even when they are sick! They have become fearless, they tackle every situation with this new found confidence, and work away at problems until they are solved.

Through technology we were engaged as a class, working together. We had built a community that everyone felt a part of. where every student is successful.

The Design Of Information - Empowering Students To Create Authentic Visuals

This week I am giving some guest bloggers an opportunity to share their ideas with you. This is a guest post from Mercer Hall and Patricia Russac. 

Students with access to tablets, laptops, and digital devices today are blessed with a wealth of visual resources at their fingertips. At the same time, they are inundated with graphics from smartphones, streaming media, and video games. As a consequence, rightly or wrongly, most children think of themselves as visual learners. The potential is steep for apps and web tools that invite students to create their own educational images. The risk, however, is that these pictorial projects will fail to actually illuminate any information and will instead result in a mess of colors, layouts, and fonts.

We’ve been experimenting this year with a few specific iOS and Internet resources to emphasize visual design as a way of adding context to content. We abide by the strict saying, “Content first, pretty second.” At the same time, we try to introduce students to the importance of visual displays in communicating information cleanly and effectively. These visual skills center on decoding and encoding. Students can “read” images to comprehend the essential meanings, and they can also generate graphics themselves to demonstrate thematic mastery.

Our middle schoolers, for example, use the Smore website to create digital portfolios of their work. They curate their creations across all of their subjects, storing them in a sharable digital archive. Smore is a free, flexible, open-ended resource originally billed as a tool for designing posters and flyers. Its user-friendly nature to embed and link media, however, makes it an ideal space for students to collect their visual projects. Teachers, too, can use Smore for cataloging class portfolios, to share electronically with parents and to maintain safely in a cloud-based platform.

Infographics also make for elegant visual presentations to arrange facts and figures. Although infographics have saturated the modern business climate, they are still emerging in the educational world as canvases for student work. Our students use the Visualize and PicCollage apps on their iPads to fashion social studies graphics about country statistics. Because they blend words, pictures, and data, infographics can be key tools to simplify and reimagine course material. They also make children aware of the media potential for bias in advertising. Even elementary learners enjoy the practice with color, fonts, and layout as they refine the clarity of their images.

Sketchnoting can offer another avenue for marrying class content with students’ individual learning preferences. Our students combine multi-sensory note-taking with the interactive possibilities of Thinglink. Sketchnoting by hand is an expressive, higher order process of capturing information that offers choice in exploring the visual metaphors of a day’s learning. Then, students can photograph their drawings using the iPad and upload their images to Thinglink. They annotate their illustrations with Thinglink hot spots, featuring paragraphs from their class blogs. These dynamic designs can be embedded or shared via social media like Twitter.

Overall, our students appreciate that well-designed visuals are rewarding in personalizing the understanding of content. As teachers, we see improvement in the way children internalize content and look carefully at their creations. This literacy in rendering optical inputs speaks to the interrelated nature of our students’ visual world.

Mercer Hall and Patricia Russac are K-8 teachers and media specialists in Roslyn, New York. They are also the co-founders of The American Society For Innovation Design In Education and co-editors of the ASIDE blog (@theASIDEblog), whose work has been featured in Edutopia, EdTech Magazine, and other outlets. They write about technology and literacy in publications such as ISTE’s Learning & Leading With Technology, Edsurge, and Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good Chrome Extensions for Students with Disabilities

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their experiences with you. This is a guest post from Clint Winter. 

I am lucky because I get to be an Instructional Technologist in the Clarke County School District in Athens, Georgia. Our school district is a 1:1 district in grades 3 to 8. Also, we are a Google Apps for Education District. Our teachers are using electronic devices in order to better differentiate for our students. I have been working with our district Assistive Technology Team to help identify useful chrome extensions for our students with disabilities. We like chrome extensions because our students can sign into their chrome browser and take their extensions with them! Our team decided to focus on the areas of organization and accessibility when finding extensions for our students with disabilities.

Since we are also a Google Apps District many of our teachers are encouraging their students to become better organizers with the Save to Google Drive Extension. This extension is very beneficial for our students. Students can quickly save web pages and images straight to their google drive to be able to evaluate later. Also, for organization, our students are utilizing the Google Calendar Extension. Google Calendar extension allows our students to set reminders on their calendar to turn in assignments, have classroom materials ready, and also to receive a daily agenda of what they will be doing for the day. This helps our students better plan out their day. Many of our students that we serve have deficits with organization and these two tools are helping to overcome that barrier.

For some of our students with reading deficits we are using Chrome Speak or Announcify to have web content read aloud. Students like Announcify because the text that is being read aloud is the main focus of the screen. Also, we use Readability to help students with print deficits. This extension removes the clutter from a webpage and focuses on the main article. Our students can choose to make the text larger or smaller based on their needs. These extensions are helping us make our 1:1 devices accessible for everyone.

Differentiation is a crucial part in a 1:1 environment. Chrome extensions are dismantling barriers that have long been put in place. Students with disabilities typically have teachers or peers assisting with gaining access to curriculum, such as having to be called out of the room to have text read aloud or being pulled for a class to work on organization skills. With the use of Chrome extension our students with disabilities are gaining independence and are in control of accessing the curriculum which fits their best learning style.

Clint Winter is an Instructional Technology Specialist with the Clarke County School District in Athens, GA. Before working in Instructional Technology Clint taught Middle School Special Education for 12 years. You can follow Clint on Twitter @ClintWinter.

Your Principal Dismisses the Value of Technology in Your Classroom...Now What?

This week I am giving some guest bloggers space to share their experiences. This is a guest post from Alicia Roberts. 

Communication is king. But what happens when your message is vetoed from the top before you can share with the masses? Here is the story (from my perspective) of how we should all consider rewriting the definition of the value of technology in the 21st century.

I could see my students using technology for entertainment, social networking and balancing their schedules all day long...and yet my campus wouldn’t support harnessing that same technology for classroom application. Dismissed and discouraged...what was I to do?

Searching through academic solutions to my problem I stumbled upon The Broader Value of Communication (link opens as a PDF) and came across this fantastic observation...

The poorer you are, the more valuable communication is. People with little money are often willing to spend up to 40 percent of their earnings on mobile services. To them, each call is an investment from which they expect a positive return. And the value of communication is by no means only monetary.

I knew the students on my campus understood the concept well. My students attached great value to mobile services they believed increased the size of their social network, improved their GPA’s through access to relevant material, and provided them a global market to barter within. Many of the students on campus did not have money, but they embraced the value of being plugged in without hesitation. The same was true for a large portion of the staff.

Using my new found perspective I re-coined the phrase technology integration to something a little more well defined: Technology for a Purpose. The “buy in” on campus was based on the idea that technology use didn’t have to be high tech. “Technology” was not the important thing; the important thing was using “it” in the right way. Empowering students and staff to refine their use of technology as a well developed tool of communication was and is the noble cause I had been trying to articulate without success.

I am now enjoying watching the fruits of a collaborative integration of student devices. The ideas shared below won’t require money, teacher in-service hours, or rewriting a curriculum map. Just time :) And honestly, I found that it didn’t take long before that first inch of progress turned into a country mile of success.

Alicia Roberts is the Instructional Technology Specialist at Paradise Valley Christian Prep in Phoenix, AZ and EDU Development Specialist at Grand Canyon University. For more tools and trends check out!

The Technology Workflow of An Assessment Task

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas with a larger audience. This is a guest post from David Wees. 

In our work with New Visions for Public Schools, we use rich mathematical tasks such as the ones from the Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) as common assessments for teachers to use as formative assessment tasks. This allows teachers to collect information on their student’s performance and at the same time have evidence of their thinking prompted by the mathematics of the task.

The available MARS tasks do not always align with our unit perfectly and so I occasionally create tasks similar in structure to the MARS tasks to fill the gaps.

Here is the workflow:
1. I start by creating a draft of the assessment task in Google Drive, which allows me to share the task and get feedback from my colleagues, both in person and online. Here is a sample task that I created that because of the feedback, we decided not to use.

2. I download a copy of the assessment as a PDF, and open it in Adobe Photoshop to shrink and crop the task so that each page is exactly the right size for use as a watermark.

3. Using Datacations’ Data Driven Classroom (DDC), I create an exam template, which our data specialist Erik Laby downloads. Full disclosure: We have a grant from DELL that funds our use of DDC.

4. Once Erik has a generic template and an exam template for each teacher’s students downloaded, he runs a script in Adobe Acrobat Professional which uses the cropped assessment tasks and overlays them onto the exam templates as watermarks. Here is a sample of what the first page of a task looks like after processing.

The bubbles on the right are where teachers record their scoring decisions, and where DDC collects the data from the task after the scanned version is uploaded.

5. Our mathematics instructional specialists then email the PDF files to the teachers they support, and those teachers decide when to give the tasks to their students, and then using a rubric shared by us in Google Drive, score the tasks. The teachers then scan the task, and upload it back to DDC, where if everything goes smoothly, the data from the task is recorded and automatically analyzed by DDC. A side-benefit of this process is that we end up with access to scanned copies of student work.

One challenge we found is that if the task is not printed exactly correctly, or if in the scanning process the pages become misaligned too much, then DDC has a hard time reading the data from the scans, and as a result, we have to correct these errors manually.

6. Teachers then have access to data reports in DDC, which include error analysis, item analysis, and an overall summary, and can then use the data to inform their instruction. This is another area where we are exploring using Google Spreadsheets to give teachers a more detailed and unit-specific analysis.

7. Erik also exports the data back into Google Drive, where he uses it to create data dashboards which contain analyses (such as unit by unit comparisons or pre-post task comparisons) not available in DDC. One requirement here is that we use Google Apps for Education for storing our data since it meets the requirements of FERPA and the free version of Google Drive does not.

8. Finally, in department-based inquiry teams at each school, teachers choose a few target students and study their work on the assessment task in detail. This allows them to collaborate to find evidence of student thinking, analyze this evidence, and decide on instructional next steps for these students that can further inform their instruction above and beyond what is possible with just the aggregate information alone.

This workflow allows us to meet some of the goals of our project, which are to;
  • promote the use of rich mathematical tasks, 
  • collect and study evidence of student thinking in collaboration, 
  • use evidence collected on these assessments to help inform instructional decisions.

If you are interested about learning more about this project, please contact David Wees at New Visions using the email address: dwees [at] newvisions [dot] org.

David Wees is the formative assessment specialist for New Visions for Public Schools. He has taught in four different countries, and has his masters degree in educational technology from UBC. On his blog, he shares his thinking on education, mathematics, and educational technology. He can also be found on Twitter at @davidwees.

Erik joined New Visions in 2012 as a data researcher. He brings experience in educational program evaluation, curriculum, educational media and assessment materials. Erik holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently pursuing an M.A. in educational psychology from Hunter College.