Monday, October 3, 2016

5 Types of Stories Students Can Tell With Digital Maps

When most teachers hear or read about Google Maps, Google Earth, ESRI, and other digital mapping tools they tend to think about social studies topics. While digital mapping tools are perfectly suited to social studies lessons, they can also be used in other subject areas including math, language arts, and science. Here are five types of stories that students can tell with digital mapping tools.

1. Autobiography
Ask students to add placemarks to maps to represent some of their favorite personal moments. Students could create placemarks about their summer vacations, a favorite field trip, or just a set of happy memories connected to locations. Including images and videos to their placemarks will add additional illustrative aspects to their stories.

2. Biography
A map is a great backdrop for telling the life story of a famous person living or dead. Students can create map placemarks for the important events in a person's life. For example, they could map the life of Theodore Roosevelt and include in their placemarks the places he visited before, during, and after his presidency. Ask students to include explanations of why the events they mapped were important.

3. Book highlights
As an alternative to a traditional book report, ask students to map the highlights of books they have read. This can be done with fiction and non-fiction books. If the book they've read is set in a fantasy world, ask them to draw the map as they envisioned it while reading.

4. Changes in landscapes/ cityscapes
Google's My Maps and Google Earth allow users to create maps containing multiple layers. Have students create one layer using imagery of a place captured 30-100 years ago. Then ask them to create a layer using current imagery. This is a great way for students to see the effects of erosion on a landscape. It's also a great way to see how a cityscape has changed over time.

5. Correlations between data sets.
This is the most challenging of the five stories for students to map. They will need to create multiple map layers to illustrate a correlation between two or more data sets. For example, students could attempt to show a correlation between droughts and animal migrations.

You can learn more about these ideas in Teaching History With Technology or learn about mapping tools by browsing through my YouTube channel

Use Storyboards to Create Halloween Lessons & Cards

Now that we're into October you might be thinking about Halloween-themed lessons for your students. Storyboard That offers a series of activities about Halloween. In the series you will find guides to using storyboards to teach Halloween safety and ideas for using storyboards as Halloween story starters.

If the Halloween story starters or safety guides aren't for you, you might want to take a look at the option to use Storyboard That to create Halloween cards. Storyboard That offers a variety of templates for creating cards for a variety of occasions. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Storyboard That to create a greeting card.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

7 Highlights of the Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Get Your Free Copy

Last week I published an updated version of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. It has been downloaded more than 1,500 times in the last four days. Combined with the previous version The Practical Ed Tech Handbook has been downloaded more than 30,000 times. I hope that many of you who have downloaded it have also printed it and shared it with your colleagues.

In case you haven't looked at it or downloaded it yet, a preview of each section of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook is outlined below.

1. Communication with students and parents.
ClassDojo is a popular tool for creating records of students' behaviors like staying on task, being prepared for class, and general attendance in class. You can also add custom behavior categories to track in your ClassDojo account. Students can sign into their own accounts to see the points they have earned in class. Parents can sign into ClassDojo to see how their children are doing in your classroom.

ClassDojo also provides a free messenger service. ClassDojo Messenger can be used to send messages to parents on an individual basis and on a whole group basis. ClassDojo uses the term "Direct Messaging" to refer to sending messages to individuals and the term "Broadcast Messaging" to refer to sending messages to all parents in a group. ClassDojo Messenger hides the personal contact information of the teacher and the of the parents. Parents have to opt-in to receive messages from the teacher.

2. Web search strategies.
Remind students that not every question needs to be Googled. One of the bad habits that I see many students fall into when it comes to research is simply entering into Google the first thing that comes to mind. While this strategy can work, it often leads to a lot of time wasted on searches for information that students already have. Before embarking on a research project ask students to make a list of the things they already know about the topic they plan to research. Have them look in their notes to see if they already have information on the topic.

3. Digital citizenship.
PBS Kids offers the Webonauts Academy in which elementary school students can learn about safe online behaviors. When students have completed all of the Webonauts missions they will graduate from the Webonauts Academy. The educators tips page offers some practical suggestions for using Webonauts in the classroom or in a school library.

Own Your Space is a free ebook designed to educate tweens and teens about protecting themselves and their stuff online. This ebook isn't a fluffy, general overview book. Each chapter goes into great detail explaining the technical threats that students' computers face online as well as the personal threats to data that students can face online. For example, in the first chapter students learn about different types of malware and the importance of installing security patches to prevent malware infections. The fourteenth chapter explains the differences between secured and unsecured wireless networks, the potential dangers of an unsecured network, and how to lock-down a network.

4. Video creation.
Tellagami is an iPad app that is a lot of fun to use to create narrated animations. Tellagami allows you to create customized animated scenes in a matter of minutes. To create a narrated, animated scene simply open Tellagami and tap “create.” After opening the create menu you will see a default character and background scene. The characters can be altered by selecting from a big menu of customization options. The background scenes can be changed by selecting from a menu or by inserting a picture from your iPad's camera roll. To add your voice to your animations simply tap “record” and start talking. Completed animations are stored on the camera roll of your iPad. Tellagami does not require students to create accounts or have an email address.

5. Audio recording and publishing.
TwistedWave is an audio recording tool through which you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud. If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks. TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool. Watch a demonstration of TwistedWave at

6. Backchannels & informal assessment.
Formative provides you with a place to create online classrooms. Your students join your classroom by entering the assigned class code after registering on the Formative website. Once your classroom is established you can begin distributing assignments to students. Assignments can be as simple as one question exit tickets like "what did you learn today?" to complex quizzes that use a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions. You can assign point values to questions or leave them as ungraded questions. You can also enable or disable instant feedback for students. When you give an assignment to students through Formative you can watch their responses in realtime. The best feature of Formative is the option to create "show your work" questions. "Show your work" questions enables students to draw responses and or upload pictures as responses to your questions. When you use this question type students will see a blank canvas directly below the question. On that canvas they can draw and or type responses.

7. Digital portfolios.
Google Sites is a good platform on which students and teachers that have Google Apps for Education accounts can build digital portfolios. Page-level permissions in Google Sites allows the creator of a site to share and give editing access to specific pages within a site rather than giving access to edit the entire site. To use page-level permissions open your Google Site editor then click "enable page-level permissions." With page-level permissions activated you can share and allow editing for each page individually. A video tutorial on using page-level permissions can be found here.

Download your free copy of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook
(Note: if is blocked in your school, you will have to download the handbook at home). 

Blogs & Social Media Course for Teachers & Principals Starts Tonight

  • Have you ever started a classroom blog with the best of intentions only to see it fall by the wayside after a couple of months? 
  • Are you wondering, "what's the big deal about Twitter?" 
  • Would you like to engage your students, their parents, and your community as a whole in more consistent and efficient manner?
 If your answer to any of those questions is "yes," then my online course Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is for you.

Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is a five week webinar series during which teachers and school administrators will learn the how to choose the best blogging platform for their situations, how to set-up a blog for classroom and school-wide use, and learn about strategies on how to manage blogs in classroom and school-wide settings. Participants will also learn how to avoid the mistakes that often lead to blogging endeavors being abandoned. After establishing blogs we’ll jump into using social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Instagram to reach out to parents, students, and other members of school communities.

The course starts tonight at 7pm Eastern Time. There is still time to register.

Don't worry if you cannot attend every live webinar in the series. Every live webinar is recorded and emailed to you after the meeting is completed.