Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Classroom Management Tools at Your Fingertips

Need a timer for an activity? How about a noise level indicator so kids know when they are getting too loud? How about a random name picker or dice roll? You can find all these and more handy classroom tools all in one place at

Simply project classroom screen onto your whiteboard and you'll have a host of tools literally at your fingertips. A few of my favs:

Work Symbols

Time & Stopwatch

Sound Level Indicator - helps kids be mindful of their noise level

Text (note pad)

There's even an exit poll feature!

These are just some of the useful tools Classroom Screen has to offer. For a more in-depth look, check out this tutorial

Or, go to and have fun exploring!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Interactive Videos! An Amazing & Free Tool to Make Any Video an Active Learning Experience

A couple weeks ago I was pretty excited about using polling cards to add multiple choice questions to YouTube videos. Well, move over polling cards! The video editing tool I'm in love with now makes you look silly.

Introducing Edpuzzle! Edpuzzle lets you upload or link to ANY video and trim it down, add voice over, add other audio, and insert written comments or questions. You can also have your students create their own video projects. And guess what:

We all know that most students enjoy watching videos and there are many truly great educational videos out there. We also know that it's all too easy for videos to become a passive, zone out experience. That's why I love the abilty to oblige my students to think about what they are watching by inserting comments and questions that must be addressed before continuing. I don't know about you, but when I create questions in a video, I have to do some critical thinking to make sure my questions are meaningful. Imagine a student having to do the same when they make a video!

Here's a quick vid demonstrating some features.

Another Pro feature: Teachers and students can sign up/logon using their Google account info with a single button click. So easy. And, you can import classes from Google Classroom. 

A Con: Students have to watch the videos from within the Edpuzzle site. As a teacher, you create a class in Edpuzzle and then give students the link to the class. It is actually very easy but extra steps like this do take extra time.  It would be extra wonderful if you could create an Edpuzzle interactive video and plop it right into a Google Classroom and maybe that will be a feature at some point. 

Another Plus: You can do a lot with the free version. Actually, the free version has all the same editing features as the pay-for version. As far as I can tell, the pay-for version is designed for whole schools or districts that want to create a shared library of videos and want to use a gradebook feature.

Edpuzzle was created by teachers who understand our need to craft meaningful learning experiences with little or no funding. That's why they have given us a free, easy to use tool that helps us leverage the popularity and power of video. I'm excited to see what kind of video magic you create!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Embed Your Calendar into Gmail

Like most of you, I pretty much live on my gmail while at work. That's why I love, love, love this little calendar gadget that gives me a three-day at-a-glance view. I don't always remember to open up calendar every day to see what's happening so having this little gadget has really saved me from missing events and meetings (and even personal appointments since I have my personal calendar integrated into my work calendar. Here's how to do that.

My gadget only shows a chronological list of events, but you can also display a mini-calendar at the top. I don't do that because I have a ton of labels so space is limited on my gmail sidebar. From the gadget, you can do a couple of things:
  • see event details by clicking on an event
  • open Google Calendar in a different window
  • choose which calendars you want to be visible 

Inserting the calendar gadget is super easy! Here's a video on how to do it. Or if you prefer to read instructions, here you go!

  1. From your gmail, click on the gear icon on the far right 
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Once in Settings, click on Labs 
  4. If you don't see Google Calendar Gadget listed, search for it in the search bar 
  5. Once the gadget pops up, click Enable
  6. Be sure to scroll down and SAVE CHANGES!!!! 
  7.  Close Settings by clicking on the inbox label (left menu)
  8. Scroll down to the bottom of that left menu, past all the labels, and click on the three little dots, which is your gadget icon 
  9. The calendar gadget will pop up right above
  10. Click on Options to customize your calendar
And it's just that easy! 
Be sure to let me know how this tech tip is working for you!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Make YouTube Videos Interactive!

Videos can be useful learning tools but sometimes I am not confident my students are really paying attention or picking up on the information I want them to learn. In the past, I've used post-vid or as-you-watch questionnaires to help direct my students' attention but I've recently tried out a different strategy: cards. They work so much better!

Cards are not really cards at all, but little popups in a video. There are a couple of different kinds and most seem to be geared toward getting viewers to go to a website or watch some other video. There is one kind of card, however, that we teachers can use - the poll card. You can use it to ask a multiple choice or true/false question like the ones pictured above.

You can set your cards to pop up at crucial points in a video so you can highlight content, or you can have them all visible for however long you need them.

Follow these steps to insert cards into a YouTube video:

First, create a YouTube channel if you don't already have one IT'S SUPER EASY!!!. Here's a blog post (text) on how to do it). Here's video on how to do it.

Now you need a video to work with. The video has to be uploaded onto your own YouTube channel. 

Do you have a video that you created or that already lives on your computer or Google Drive? Here's how to upload it to your YouTube channel.   


Do you want to use a video you found on YouTube? Here's how to download it so you can upload it to your channel. Once you've downloaded it to your computer, follow the directions above to upload it to YouTube. 

Finally, once you have your video uploaded to your YouTube channel, you can create polling cards. 

Here's how to insert cards into a video you already have uploaded to YouTube:

Here's how to view your poll card results:

Creating polling cards on a video seems like a lot of work, but once you are comfortable downloading/uploading videos to YouTube creating the cards is actually pretty quick and easy. Give it a try and remember - I'm here to help!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Students Show What They Know, Beautifully

I have to share this really wonderful tool my 3rd - 5th grade students have been using to create posters and infographics called  Canva. I just used it to create that cool image up there in less than 5 minutes! 

My students love the tons of free templates and graphical elements they can combine to create beautiful media. As a teacher, I love the cognitive challenge that comes with having to translate a message into a visual medium. Having to figure out an effective way to fit all one's talking points into a limited space really helps students nail down key ideas and show relationships between them. 

It's also been a great way for students to practice problem-solving and persistence because while Canva is not difficult to use, it is a graphic design tool, which is not something mosts kids have had to work with before. There was a fair amount of trail-and-error learning happening. 

Canva has templates for posters and infographics as well as (get ready): mindmaps, flyers, brochures, reports, book covers, magazines, 5 circle Venn diagrams, charts, letters, resumes, and , and , and. Really, there is just so much.

I also like it because you can use your Google account to sign up for Canva and then log in every time. No new username and password to remember! Here's how

Before you reach for that poster board or butcher paper, I encourage you to give Canva a try. I bet you'll find it worth the effort (minimal effort)!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rainbow Connections

Want a fun way to get kids at any grade level to interact with text?

Using a Google Doc and a little rainbow magic add on called Magic Rainbow Unicorns (silly name, super tool) you and your students can easily create rainbow text. The short video below shows you exactly how to do it and explains what add ons are, in case you are wondering.

How could a first grader use this?
Project a Google doc with some kind of text on it onto the whiteboard and have kids rainbowify sight words they recognize. 

How could a third grader use this?
Have students rainbowify main ideas in a paragraph. You can project a doc or give each student their own copy of a doc through Classroom or through Make a Copy

How could a fifth grader use this?
Students can rainbowify opinion statements and leave fact statements black. 

How could you use rainbow text to engage your students?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Letting Talkers Have Their Say with Flipgrid

Picture the students you work with. Do you have any that are good talkers? I know you do because I have those kids too and I can picture them pretty clearly! These kids just seem to be able to find the right words and string them together in a way that lets them articulate exactly what they are thinking.

Do you also have some who find writing or even typing challenging? Of course you do. I wonder how much these kids don't share because they find the written word so frustrating to deal with.

I'd like to tell you about a great tool that benefits both the great talkers and the reluctant writers...

Instead of having kids demonstrate comprehension or creativity in writing, why not let them do it using a skill we know they have mastered? In short, Flipgrid lets you record a question, talking point, or instructions and lets the students record their responses.

Here's a Flipgrid that I did last year with the Kinders using an iPad. I had one iPad set up in a quietish corner of my room and the kids who wanted to tell me about their favorite book orally instead of in writing came up one-by-one to create a response. They figured out how to do it without my help. 

Here's why I think you should give Flipgrid a try:
  • Works on Chromebook, laptop, PC, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. I use my phone to record questions pretty often. 
  • Students can record responses very easily using their Chromebooks or on an iPad
  • Students do not have to create an account to create a response. They simply go to the website and enter the topic code. 
  • Flipgrid is free. You get one grid (which is something like a virtual classroom) but you have unlimed topics, which means you can create as many questions as you like.
  • Flipgrid is very intuitive and easy to use for both teachers and students
  • Flipgrid is a lot of fun for students, who enjoy the stickers in particular
  • You can create a Flipgrid topic and get it to your students in about 5 minutes
If you want to see how easy it is to get started with Flipgrid, watch this video by Jamie Keet of Teacher's Tech.