Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Remind 101 Revisited

I've actually blogged about the use of Remind101 as a great communication tool with parents in the past. Some high school teachers actually have used it as a communication tool with their students for sports practice and reminders. Keep in mind if you are going to have students participate with their cell phones, you must have written parent permission. 

Yesterday, I witnessed the benefit as I attended my daughter's field trip to Merry Lea: Environmental Learning center of Goshen College. It is a great place for a hike, and great places for hikes also mean there are plants/bugs that will make you itchy. 

Like all good teachers do, a letter was sent out explaining the field trip and advising that students wear long pants, shoes that will survive getting a little muddy, and lunches need to be disposable. Just like most newsletters, they get misplaced or minor details like those listed are forgotten. (Has this ever happened to you?)

There were three first grade classes that participated. One class across the board had students wearing pants, proper footwear, and a sack lunch. Reason why one class had a greater percentage of students in compliance with the expectations: A Remind101 message was sent out the day before with those tidbits of information that we all easily forget. 

So when back to school night comes around in the fall, I would recommend getting all parents to join up with a Remind101 account. It will allow you to get those quick notices out to parents that are easily forgotten in newsletters/field trip forms. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Shadow Puppet 2.0

If you haven't noticed, Shadow Puppet has been revamped. There are a lot of new cool features added that make the app even better than before. Some of these features include:
  • Adding video clips
  • Photos from web (I'd prefer students use their own photos)
  • Music
  • Screen drawing
  • Animated text
  • Uploading to other apps (Showbie, Edmodo, Canvas, Dropbox, etc.)
Shadow Puppet has become a favorite of teachers as students can create very quick and simple slideshows/ presentations. Some teachers even like to use it to make their own teaching materials. (For example, sight-word lists for kindergarten.) Either way, it is a very versatile app that can be used with any content area. Here is one of my favorite examples: 

The new version is most certainly an upgrade. However, students can no longer take pictures within the application. This was a very handy feature for our lower elementary students as they could only take one picture at a time. Every time a picture was taken they had to press the "use" button. Now pictures will have to be taken ahead of time. The concern with that is primary students are never certain they took the picture correctly the first time. So they will take five to ten photos of the exact same thing before they realize they are taking pictures. This may seem insignificant to most, but to a primary elementary teacher it is another step that will have to be reviewed frequently. I hope this feature returns.

Take a look at the new version:

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Digestive System: A Project with Hello Crayon, Pic Wall, and Padlet

Today was a blast with Mrs. Abbee's third grade as we used the iPads to report about the digestive system. We used multiple tools to accomplish a task (multi-apping). I often compare this to non-digital projects as it often requires more than one tool to accomplish any task. Some tools lend themselves to better results and efficiency. Being a former fourth grade teacher, I understand the importance of efficiency in the elementary classroom. The tools we used for this project are Hello Crayon, Pic Wall, and Padlet

In this activity, Mrs. Abbee and myself organized the students into groups. Each group had a member to cover a stage of digestion: the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. I then emailed out a Padlet to the members of each group so that they could contribute their digital work for their group. As the students entered their Padlet, I had them create homescreen buttons so that they could easily access it again. 

Next we had students use Hello Crayon to place a picture of themselves on the canvas and draw the stage of digestion assigned. The students then saved their work to the camera roll.

After the pictures were saved, we used Pic Wall to insert the image, write a title, and write about the role of the part of digestion. Textbooks were available for reference if needed.

Last, students added their stage of digestion to their group Padlet. This is the first I've utilized Padlet to have students take a broken set of tasks and combine them into one. The results turned out great as the teacher did not have to do the combining/organizing. After the students contributed their work, I changed the settings on the Padlets to "Can View" so that I can publicly display the work without concern of outside viewers adding their own contributions.

Changing the privacy settings to "Can View."

Considering Hello Crayon and Padlet were new items for these students, I think I would have had the students have their writing prepared ahead of time. Some of the students were pretty rushed as we were moving very quickly through it. Overall, the activity was engaging and holds a lot of potential with a little tweaking. See samples below:

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Peek in the Classroom: Toni Doyle Using Shadow Puppet

Toni Doyle, first grade teacher at Rome City, has turned from technophobe to techno-wizard all in the course of this school year. Her previous experience with teaching and technology caused her to view students using technology as a "toy." Throughout this year, her views have changed as she has witnessed the benefits of students being trained to properly use it as a learning tool. This is now to the extent that she is considering her continuing education in the area of technology integration. It has been exciting to watch Toni grow as an educator this year. Ultimately, Toni's change in teaching is due to her ability to be "teachable." It is a constant reminder to me when I walk into Rome City Elementary that I need to be a learner every single day.

Toni's first graders have used multiple tech tools this year. However, her favorite has been Shadow Puppet. She loves the quick way that students can share not only with her, but with the entire class. This happens because her students are all signed into the same account. When a student creates work, the entire class can view it. 

Toni uses Shadow Puppet in a couple of forms. One way is to assess students. She will have them report how they solve math problems, record sight words, and record reading passages. Another way she frequently uses Shadow Puppet is for publishing final works. She will use apps like Pic Wall so that students can publish their writing. Then as the students save their work, they can import the pictures into Shadow Puppet to create a video slideshow with voice. This process could be called "app-smashing" or "multi-apping" as the students use multiple tools to accomplish a task. 

In this lesson, Toni is having students work on place value. The students then take a picture of their work and record their explanation on how to solve the problem. This allows Toni to easily check in with students as she can work with individuals that she knows will need some extra attention. How does she know they need more guidance...from previous recordings the students made. 

Thanks, Toni, for allowing me to record you:

Blogger of the Day

Using student bloggers is something that I recommended awhile back to help teachers keep their Blogger sites updated and parents informed. I love the ease of use and communicative potential that Blogger holds; especially for primary elementary teachers. 

Michelle Yoder, first grade teacher at Avilla Elementary, decided to give it a try by calling it, "Blogger of the Day." The first day she tried what I had suggested and have a student insert a picture into an email, and write about what was happening in the picture. However, she felt that since her kids are so familiar with using creative apps such as Pic Wall , it would be easier for her first graders to create a post using those tools. This allowed her first graders to be more independent with posting. 

This is still in the beginning stages, but I have a feeling that the potential will build as the class better understands the purpose and the expectation. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Introducing Pocket from Pocket on Vimeo.

Pocket happens to be one of my favorite tools to use as an educator. As I collect articles from Twitter or emails, I can typically determine if I want to keep them within a few seconds of skimming. Sometimes I don't have time to read it right at that moment. With Pocket, I can store them in a "cleaned up" fashion, and tag them so that I can essentially categorize them. This is really handy for the individual user and I encourage every educator to try out Pocket as the personal application is pretty straight forward. 

As you begin using it, you may also see the need for your students to have a Pocket account. Students under the age of 13 can participate in Pocket, but must have parent permission before participating. (My teachers do not have to worry as parents sign off on a COPPA compliance document at the beginning of the year with a list of our resources we wish to use. You will be notified at the beginning of each year of you have students that cannot participate.) 

I also brainstormed the idea of using a class Pocket account. What if you had a Pocket account, collected resources, and instantly those resources appeared on your class set of iPads? How cool would that be when collecting a bunch of resources for research project? 

There is a catch though. Since all students would be signed into that account, they also have the ability to delete content from your account. So a lot of discussion would have to take place as far as trustworthiness and digital citizenship  procedures go. In reality, that discussion has to take place with almost every digital tool students use. 

Here are some quick ways you can use Pocket:

The Chrome Extension: 

The iPad App: 

I had done a PD in PJ's session earlier on Pocket and said I was going to record it. However, I decided that I would hold off until I get more comfortable recording in Google Hangouts. I hope in the future to record those sessions and provide them for professional development. 


I've been thinking a lot about backup plans lately. I don't know how many times I've witnessed a classroom teacher send out an email to their students with content for the lesson, and it didn't send to some of the students. Sometimes it doesn't go to the entire class. What are supposed to do then? In reality, teachers should probably be using email as their backup plan in case something goes wrong with their primary line of action. Here are some other distribution resources that I have recommended trying: Padlet, Blogger, Pocket, and originally Kidblog

When I first started in this position as technology coach, I thought about utilizing Edmodo. Even though Edmodo is a great product, I never felt like it was appropriate for lower elementary. Too many options that it would boggle the minds of our youngsters. Even second grade teachers were frustrated as students became overwhelmed with so many things to see. 

Now I'm suggesting we try Showbie. Showbie provides teachers with a simple way to create classes, assignments, and students to turn in digital content. In fact, not all the content has to be digital as students can create something, take a picture of it, and send it through Showbie. 

Earlier this week, I tried Showbie with Mrs. Erexson's second graders. She was excited at the possibilities it holds as she was able to easily distribute content to students and they were able to respond quickly. She was giddy as I was teaching her students how to use it and she was quickly making PDF's, image files, voice notes, and text notes to her students. Her students were equally excited as content was magically appearing on their screens within seconds. 

I recently gave Julie Becker, South Side second grade teacher and technology coach, an overview on how to use Showbie through a Google Hangout. Afterwards, she had two teachers already lined up to try it out. I think she's convinced as well that this will be a viable tool for lower elementary students and teachers.

(Please note that sometimes the video does not start all the way to the beginning of this recording.)

If you are an East Noble teacher and would like to get started, please let me know. I will send you an invitation so that you can be a part of the East Noble School Corporation account as their are some space advantages to being a part of our district. If "pro" accounts would ever become necessary, the transition would be easier if you started with a district account.

Below are listed some quick tutorials created by Showbie if you would like to try it yourself:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blogger as a Teacher Website: YouTube Video Advantage

View Previous Posts about Blogger as a Teacher Website Here
Blogger makes a great fit for the elementary teacher and their website. It is an easy way for the teacher to keep parents, students, and the community informed about what kinds of learning activities are happening. Not only that, but it makes updating your teacher website exciting as it doesn't require much time at all.

In my previous post about Blogger, I mentioned the ability to have students be the authors of your blog. You can then have the students email you their posts with a combination of pictures/text. You forward it on to your Blogger address, and it appears as one of your drafts. (If your students have open email, you could have them email your blog directly.)

Now what to do about video? Since Blogger and YouTube are both Google products, they work extremely well together. With your YouTube account, you have a separate email address you can use to email videos directly to your Youtube account. Just have your students email you their video (you might be limited on the length of video depending upon the email settings), clean up the email of any extra text, change the subject to what you want the title to be, and email it to your YouTube exclusive email address. Then, just like magic, it is in your collection of videos.

So why would you want to email videos in this manner? Can't you just upload your video directly to Blogger.?That is true, but there is actually a limit of space in your Blogger account. To avoid this issue, you can take advantage of YouTube's generosity and unbelievable video hosting. This is great because when you click on the insert video icon while posting, the words "My Youtube videos" appear. You can then select your video from your collection and insert it. No extra copying and pasting of codes or links.

To see it in action, watch the following:

To be honest, I still copy embed codes and paste them into the HTML on my blog. Main reason being that I can adjust the size of the video as I want, and I can get rid of suggested videos at the end because the option to turn that off is available when you copy the embed code on a YouTube video. However, the method shown in the video above works well if you are not super confident in using HTML code. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Can We Go to the Zoo?

It is a matter of fact that field trips are on a decline. The culprits are possibly cost, time, and even technology. With technology providing vast amounts of opportunity, field trips to the zoo can be substituted for a much cheaper (usually free) alternative. (Speaking of which, I just posted last week about Connected Classrooms by Google+.)

The first grade teachers of Rome City, Ms. Ruse and Ms. Doyle had another idea in mind. Instead of utilizing technology to substitute for the field trip, why not use it to be persuasive? The students planned out what they wanted to say, wrote out their text using Pic Collage (now we would use Pic Wall), and used Shadow Puppet to record their persuasive writings. 

Check this one out (I apologize that the pictures did not center correctly): 

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Peek in the Classroom: Kari Ruse Utilizing Text Here and Padlet

A new series I'm going to attempt is to create videos to give a glimpse of technology integration in the elementary classroom. I'll titled it 'A Peek in the Classroom' and the purpose is to provide the opportunity to observe how a teacher is utilizing technology in an effective manner. This allows colleagues and other teaching professionals to gather ideas and build confidence in their delivery of lessons in a 1:1 technology environment.

Ms. Ruse, first grade teacher at Rome City Elementary, is utilizing Padlet and Text Here on her class set of iPod Touches. She uses Padlet for the distribution of content and project materials as students are able to view/download pictures, watch video, and reach websites linked to her collection of plant Padlets. Previous to this lesson, students chose a fruit or vegetable for their plant project. Ms. Ruse then sent the link to the Padlet via email according to the students' choice.

In this lesson, students are studying the text feature of labels. First they look for labels in their books and how authors use labels. Later they access their Padlet to download a picture of their fruit or vegetable so that they can use it in Text Here. They do so by "long-pressing" on the image and saving it. One tip that I frequently chip in to students as they attempt to save the images is that they need to have a "steady finger." If they don't, it won't save the picture and they have to try again.

The other tool Ms. Ruse is having the students use is Text Here. In this app, students can create captions on top of images with ease. Here students are labeling the parts of their fruit or vegetable with Text Here. Some students use the arrow feature. Some students use the tip of the speech bubble to point out the parts. Either way, the application is easy to use and does not require a vast amount of time.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Blogger as a Teacher Website: Students as Guest Bloggers

I've been doing a number of posts on Blogger as a teacher website. In previous posts, I talked about setting up an account, posting from an iPad, creating folders, and making your blogger as a learning resource for your students. Those can all be found by clicking here

In this post, I'm sharing how you can utilize your students as guest bloggers. Why would you want to do this you ask? Why not? The most common complaint I hear about maintaining a teacher website is time. Why not have students do the grunt work and create posts for you. Once you have it all setup, you only have to forward an email, clean up the post, and publish. This should take quite a bit less time. 

Another reason you should consider it is because it will really engage your students into what is happening in the class. What a perfect way to interest your strong students and give them a purpose for writing. After they become a blogging pro, they can train other students so that you don't have to start the cycle over again. 

Last reason you should allow students to post for you is parent involvement. One common complain from teachers is that parents do not look at their website. If you want teachers to look at it and stay informed, what better way than to showcase student bloggers. They can keep the audience coming and informed all at once. Also, make sure you advertise it! If you want parents to view it, have your students look at it frequently. This will cause the students to mention it at home and reel in the page views. 

What are some things you could have them post about? 
  1. Showcase student digital work.
  2. Display art projects by allowing the students to snap a few photos.
  3. Share a fun and exciting lesson that happened in the day.
  4. Tell about a guest speaker or convocation that happened.
  5. Discuss classroom materials needs. 
Here is how to set it up: