This year I had a 5th-grade math teacher, Judy Jaisle, who wanted to get her students blogging about their math learning journey. I was so excited at this opportunity to give students an outlet for reflection and teaching. After all...isn't that the highest form of learning? 

We used Blogger and set up their blogs in the computer lab, but they are actually using iPads to do their blogging. I've been amazed at the ease with which these students took to blogging!

Since getting the 5th-graders up and running, a 4th-grade ELAR teacher, Lucy Morales and, 3rd-grade Bilingual teacher, Martha Lackey have also gotten their students blogging. Student comments and excitement for this have been fun to witness. Yes...learning CAN be fun!

I love using Blogger because there are several measures that can be taken to ensure students are safe. Currently, their blogs are unlisted, all comments are closed to their classmates only and are all moderated. What a great opportunity these students have to reflect on their learning in a real-world context. Who knows, we may be cultivating skills for the next Earnest Hemmingway or Harper Lee.


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I ran across this great post on using Socratic Questioning in the math class that identified the six types of Socratic Questions and then proceeded to provide specific examples of what these look like when learning math. Click here to check it out. 

When paired with the Padlet iOS or Android app, you could really leverage the ability to get students having math conversations. Just pose a question and have pairs of students use the video option to make a "Selfie Video" responding to a Socratic prompt. Boom...instant math conversation.

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Because our lesson plan template is now in Google Sheets, several teachers have asked for help in making it easier to type within the cells. I came across this blog post from Alice Keeler and thought her tips were helpful for our teachers and wanted to share with them, but also I decided I needed to add a few more specific to our needs.

I am sure there are other needs. As I uncover them, I will update this blog post. Have a question about something you are trying to accomplish in Google Sheets? Let me know and we will discover a solution for you!

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It's back to school...woohoo! A teacher asked me to compile a list of tools she could share with her students this year that would provide a variety of options from which to choose when creating their projects. She commented they always tended to create posters...for everything! So I jumped at the chance and even provided boxes for them to check off as they used a tool. But, it is important to note that the same tool can be used more than once, just in a different way or to produce or present content in a new way.

Below is the compilation of tools I believe help students to develop the necessary skills needed for today's digital learning environment. These tools are all free and easy to use. Also included are copyright-friendly resources for graphics to use in student projects. Notice the disclaimer at the bottom. We don't want to rob our students of opportunities to take control of their learning; after all, we aren't always around when they need to figure something out!

These are my favorite...what are yours?

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So...a funny thing happened last week that I never thought about! Our 8th Grade ELA students created these video projects in which they compiled short video clips from different TV shows, movies, and music videos to create their Top 10 Tips on surviving Middle School, Project 10: Life Lessons Learned. Their target audience...the incoming 6th graders. This was a great concept, but I knew they would need a crash course on Copyright Compliance so I gave them one. Once they began to upload their videos, a few still got flagged. YouTube was great to specifically detail the infractions. So corrections were made, and a new upload ensued. I realized...YouTube became our TurnItIn for multi-media. One more reason to #freethetube!

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Options such at Google Lit Trips or Google Earth Walks are some cool options that capitalize on the use of Google Earth. But they can be somewhat confusing to create for the tech-timid user and do require the use of Google Earth. A couple of very easy-to-use tools have since been launched that make it easy for students to create these "tours of information"...Google Tour Builder and Google My Maps.

This has led me to create "LiteraTours" that students can create as they read assigned novels. Our first LiteraTour is launching this May with The Cay

I can also see the use of Google My Maps as an intriguing option for a truly interactive notebook in a social studies or world history class utilizing the different map's layers for different categories of information...stay tuned as I begin to develop that concept.

Meanwhile, I've created an infographic that highlights a few of the differences between these two great options for storytelling through maps. Both are equally great options, it just depends on the needs of the task as to which tool would be best. 

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Over the last several weeks, I've been noticing some tweets popping up talking about when it might be time to look at a redesign of the work you're creating for students. At first, I thought it was funny when I saw this tweet:

But when you look at how many times it was retweeted and even many times it was "liked", you begin to wonder if this could be a problem. I saw a similar one regarding PowerPoint presentations. So I decided to put together an infographic with some questions you might ask yourself to decide if it's time for a redesign. 

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Virtual reality is taking over the educational world! With Google Cardboard oculus viewers so accessible, it has made it very easy for teachers to tap into using 4D resources that swing the doors of the classroom wide open to the world. Imagine studying:
  • the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza
  • the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef
  • how long it would take to walk the Great Wall of China
...and you actually get to explore the site you’re discussing...that day...with your classmates. These devices are the 21st-century school bus!
The great thing about the resources emerging for this is many don't even require the viewer. YouTube has launched their 360º Video Channel and many of these videos can be simply viewed with no additional devices needed. 

New apps capitalizing on ocular devices are emerging daily for both iOS and Android devices. Because our district is an Apple district, I created a Symbaloo that includes apps for iOS devices as well as some notable videos on the YouTube 360º video channel that I have placed on the bottom two rows.

Live WebCams are another cool option to swing the doors of your classroom wide open. There are lots of live webcams around the world that allow you to get a glimpse of different people, places, and things. Some ways these webcams could be used in the classroom:

  • Student Research Projects
  • Class study and analysis of data
  • Collaborative Google Sites to track data
  • Open discussions of observations and effects
  • As an added element to a web quest
Click on the graphic below to access some great webcams to check out:

Check back for updates as we continue to grow our list of Virtual Reality/Google Cardboard resources as well as our list of live webcams. It's time to take our students out into the world and bring learning to life.
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I'm always inspired when I watch TED Talks. They are so provocative and encourage me to look at ideas through a new lens. Almost always I walk away with a new perspective and some nugget of learning. Why not incorporate that culture of thought exploration into the classroom?

The TED Ed website is a treasure trove of valuable resources that leverage short, high-interest TED Talks and other content-related videos to examine, explore, and analyze. It also allows teachers to create their own TED Lessons and walks them through the process.

Beyond just using these videos, I believe it's time to start teaching our students how they can improve their presentation skills and I can't think of a better framework than following the TED Talk style of presentation. Click here to view a fabulous project developed by Kate Petty to accomplish this task. An adapted version of this can be found here by Marina Boeder. 

While I have several favorite TED Talks, there were a couple I wanted to spotlight here as examples of inspirational videos to share in the classroom. The first one, I believe, would be a great introduction video if you were going to initiate a TED Talk presentation project with your students to develop their presentation skills. I can assume most will be like..."I'm not a good presenter; I get too nervous!" This video could inspire them to adopt a new framework of thinking...

Another video I feel our students need to hear is one about the importance of leadership and how we view it. A short, but powerful leadership video I love is this one:

Maybe our math students might like to hear Dan Meyer discuss the makeover of math class. That, coupled with Carol Dweck's video might encourage some "non-math" students to take a second look at the possibilities available in that content area...It's just a thought...check this video out.

So as you begin to think about ways to integrate TED Talks into your curriculum, expand your thinking beyond just observing or consuming these resources, and look for ways to get your students diving in and integrating these skills needed to pull off a TED-style presentation. The embedded standards that would be covered in doing so could be mind-blowing...and you might just discover your own version of Thomas Suarez sitting in your classroom!

These are just a few of my ideas I thought were worth sharing...what are yours?
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Well, we've been back from TCEA for a couple of weeks now and the dust has finally settled. In reflecting on my time spent there, to me, what seemed to be trending: Google, Makerspace, and Virtual Reality, so I decided to post some tech tools every teacher needs to take a look at in 2016. Some have been around a while, some are new, and some just need to be viewed in a new way.

Noisli: Who can resist a website whose goal is to boost focus and productivity? I love this site! It has many different ambient noises, allows the user to create combinations (that you can save if find some you love) and even has a built in timer! This site could be very beneficial in a classroom when students are working independently, writing, researching, brainstorming, collaborating...the possibilities are endless. 

Quizziz: I've shared this site multiple times before with our teachers, but I'm not sure anyone is listening. This site has the cool factor of Kahoot, but I kind of like it better. And I'm getting a little anxious that the day will arrive when our students are "Kahooted out"; don't let that happen! So check out this formative assessment site. What I like about this site is the students aren't just slamming down answers to beat the others playing. They still compete against their classmates, but they're working independently so they have to really read the questions and potential answers.

Adobe Post: Last year at TCEA, I discovered all these incredible Adobe mobile apps that were free and incredible. In fact, I have a folder on my iPad and iPhone JUST for my Adobe apps. Well, Adobe keeps adding to the collection! This app is great and so easy to use. Need a quick, visually appealing graphic on the fly? Adobe Post is the key. Create engaging writing prompts, bell-ringers, exit tickets and do it quickly! The app comes with many templates, allows you to snap your own photos or use theirs. At this time, I couldn't find an Android version, but I'd keep checking.

Google Cardboard: While Google for Education was definitely trending at TCEA 2016, Google Cardboard and anything related to virtual reality was "more than trending".  These inexpensive little devices can transport students around the world and literally allow students to experience their learning firsthand. The resources for these devices are gaining in abundance daily. Click here to check out Jaime Donally's Symbaloo of Google Cardboard resources, but I will tell you, this is the tip of the iceberg! Also, check out Two Guys and Some iPad's latest post on free apps for Google Cardboard. Can I hear an OMG?

#360Video Channel: Don't have any Google Cardboard yet? No problem...check out the YouTube 360º Channel for lots of 360º videos. It's not quite the same, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. There is also an iOS app, In360Tube.  Click here for the Android version. 

Timeline JS: There are numerous multimedia timelines out there, but most are a little cumbersome to use. This site uses a Google Sheets template. Everything is already set up; you just enter the data into the spreadsheet. The only thing students need to do is be careful not to mess with the template and it produces a very slick looking timeline.

Newsela: This is another website we learned about last year, but it has really gained a lot of buzz...especially since the development of expository writing skills has become such a focus. This website provides very visually engaging, high-interest news articles. There are text sets categorized by state, further categorized by grade levels, standards, and content areas. Couple this with Chrome extensions like Scrible, ReadWrite or and you don't even need paper to annotate the text! This site is free and you get a lot in the free version. You can set up classes and enter your students. You can assign articles and even give quizzes, but you can't monitor or collect any data. For that you will need a pro account and be warned...the pro version is pretty expensive.

Google My Maps: While this Google app isn't new, it's become so easy to use...students can now add data, photos, calculate distance, collaborate and share these maps. They can access them directly in their Google Drive. I see so many uses for this app. Have student plot battles in order and take notes directly on their maps. They can plot out the progression of a novel with reflection/reaction responses written directly on their map. A whole class could collaborate on one map, adding content simultaneously in pretty much any content area.

Have any favorites we need to try in 2016? Feel free to contribute to the conversation!

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Our district has Macbooks, iPads, and Chromebooks and our teachers would say, not enough of any! As a result, I decided to create an infographic detailing potential apps to use for different types of content creation, separated by each device. 

In the past, students have been really frustrated in their use of the Chromebooks because it looked like a Macbook, but it didn't act like a Macbook. At the beginning of the year, I decided to do a student orientation with my assigned campus' student body on making the most of the Chromebooks. Now it seems to be their preferred device...but that wasn't the case prior to the orientation! And I certainly don't attribute that to my presentation skills!

They love the few extensions I had them add: Cite This Page for Me, AdBlockPro, Web of Trust, and Grammarly. Now don't get me wrong, I don't want anyone taking my Macbook from me...and I use Chrome on my Macbook so I have access to all those extensions. 

So why do they prefer the Chromebooks? It's pretty simple...they love that the Chromebooks stay updated. And...they love the speed at bootup! Now to be fair, many of our Macbooks are old...But I think the main reason they love the Chromebooks...and I believe this is crucial to loving a Chromebook...they are proficient in Google Drive. They are rapidly becoming the cloud computing generation! They love the fact that the Chromebook doesn't hold their projects hostage to one device and that they can truly collaborate with classmates because they are working in the cloud and their teachers routinely check Revision History to monitor progress.

Below is the infographic I created, broken down by task and device. Please note, these tasks are not limited to, but only suggestions, due to their ease of use.
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