Saturday, April 16, 2022

Eight Good Tools for Hosting Online Brainstorming Sessions

Earlier this week I shared a new video that I made about hosting online brainstorming sessions on Padlet. Of course, there are other good tools for hosting collaborative brainstorming sessions including physical sticky notes. Here are some other tools that I've used to facilitate and record group brainstorming sessions over the years. 

Canva offers a selection of brainstorming templates that can be used collaboratively. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Canva's real-time collaboration function for an online brainstorming session. In the video I also demonstrate how you can tell if the template support real-time collaboration or not.

Post-it offers a free iPhone and iPad app and an Android version of the same app. Both versions of the Post-it app let you snap a picture of a collection of sticky notes that you want to digitize. After snapping the picture you'll be able to sort and group the digitized version of your sticky notes. You can export your digitized stickies and groups of stickies as PDF, PowerPoint, and Excel files. Watch the video below to see how the Post-it app works.

Google's Jamboard can be used to host group brainstorming sessions. In larger classes I break students into smaller groups and have each group work on a specific page within the Jamboard session. At the end of the session we review the ideas from each page and put the most popular ones on a final page. Here's an overview of how to use Jamboard in Google Classroom


I started using Padlet more than ten years ago to host collaborative brainstorming sessions with my students. My favorite way to use it is to have students share ideas for research prompts related to a larger topic. For example, I'd give my students a broad topic like World War II and then have them add their ideas for topics to research that are connected to World War II.

Brainstormer is a free, registration-free tool for hosting online brainstorming sessions. It has two noteworthy features. First, it doesn't require any kind of registration in order to use it. Second, at the end of every brainstorming session students can vote for their favorite ideas that were submitted during the session. In this short video I provide a demonstration of how Brainstormer works. The video includes the perspective of a teacher using it and the perspective of a student using Brainstormer. 

Dotstorming is a collaborative brainstorming tool that I've used and written about for half of a decade or more. One of its key features is the option to have participants in a brainstorming session vote for their favorite ideas submitted during the session. The value of Dotstorming in an online or in-person classroom is that it allows you to gather ideas or answers to a problem from your students and then have your students vote for the favorite idea or answer. Those vote totals can then be the basis for discussions with the whole class or in small groups.

Rye Board provides you with a blank canvas on which you can place text notes, images, and drawings. Notes and pictures can be dragged and dropped into any arrangement that you like. Drawings can be added in the spaces between notes and or directly on top of images on your Rye Board. Rye Board allows for two collaborators at a time. Watch my video that is embedded below to see how Rye Board works.

Lumio has an activity template called Shout It Out that is perfect for hosting online brainstorming sessions with your students. You can learn more about that and other Lumio features in this video.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Create Audio Slideshow Videos With Phideo - No Registration Required

Phideo is a new online tool for creating audio slideshow videos. As the title of this post states, registration is not required in order to use Phideo to create and save your video. Using Phideo to make your own audio slideshow video is quick and easy. 

To create a video on Phideo simply head to the site then click the create button. You'll then upload the pictures that you want to use in your video. Once your pictures are uploaded you can drag and drop to put them into the order in which you want them to appear in your video. Phideo provides tools for editing each image that you upload. Those tools include cropping your images and writing on your images. 

Phideo provides a library of audio tracks that you can use as background music in your videos. Alternatively, you can upload your own audio files (just remember to be mindful of copyright restrictions). When you're happy with your image and audio selections, you can preview your video before downloading it in MPF format. 

All of the Phideo video creation options that I mentioned above are demonstrated in my tutorial video included below. 

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a free and easy way to create an audio slideshow video to show highlights of your school year, Phideo could be the tool for you. It could also be a good option for introducing students to some basic video creation and editing functions.

Phideo was created by the same person who developed ToonyTool and Here's my review of ToonyTool and here's my review of

We've Got Worms! And More Questions from My Daughters

Earlier this week we had some relatively warm days and were able to do a little spring yard work. My daughters like to try to help with some of it. But like most four and five year old kids, they quickly get distracted. Such was the case when they discovered some worms under some leaves in our yard. 

One of the worms my daughters found this week was picked up by my five year old who put it in bucket. Her younger sister then named the worm Suzy. Now for the last few days they've been adding dirt, water, and grass into the bucket to take care of Suzy every morning and afternoon. 

Suzy has been the inspiration for a bunch of questions about worms this week. I've had to try to explain answers to the following:

  • What do worms eat?
  • Do worms have babies?
  • Do worms hibernate?
For a general overview of the answers to these questions, SciShow Kids has a good video lesson about worms.  

For a more specific answer about worm reproduction, take a look at this short video from the Natural History Museum

And for more about what worms eat, watch this Reactions video titled How Do Worms Turn Garbage Into Compost?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Three Good Tools for Creating Infographics

Yesterday morning I got an email from a reader who was looking for some suggestions for tools that her eighth grade students could use to create infographics. Specifically, she wanted them to create infographics about data the class collected in a survey of their peers' thoughts about a variety of news topics. I thought it sounded like a great social studies project and I was happy to make some suggestions. 

The tools that I suggested were Adobe Creative Cloud Express, Visme, and Canva. They all offer hundreds of good templates for creating infographics. All three offer online collaboration options for students. Despite those similarities there some features of each that are worth noting when trying to pick one for your students to use. 

Adobe Creative Cloud Express (formerly known as Adobe Spark) has a free version for schools. The education infographics collection isn't as large as what you'll find in Canva, but it does have one editing feature that isn't found in Canva. That feature is the ability to change the whole color scheme of an infographic in one click. That color scheme selector will change font, graphic, and background colors in one click without changing any other element of the infographic you're working on. See this feature in action in my video below. offers more than 1300 infographic templates. Rather than having a catch-all "education" category, you'll find the templates are categorized according to display style like "timeline" and "comparison." The shortcoming of Visme is that you need to have one of their paid accounts in order to download your finished infographic as a PDF (online display is free). 

Canva offers nearly 1,800 infographic templates of which almost 600 are education infographic templates. Canva includes access to thousands of pieces of drawings, illustrations, and photographs that can be used in your infographic. And as you'll see in my video below, you can even import Bitmojis into your infographic designs on Canva. 

Watch this short video for an overview of all three infographic design tools

A Good Source of U.S. History Lesson Starters

When I taught U.S. History one of my go-to methods for starting classroom conversations about a new topic or unit was to give my students an interesting image or a short primary source document to review and ask questions about. A great place to find those conversation starters is the National Archive's Today's Document website

Every day Today's Document features a new image or document from the archives. The documents and images are from that day in history. Each one is accompanied by some additional research links and lesson plan resources.

In this short video I provide an overview of Today's Document and the related resources that it provides for U.S. History teachers.