Monday, December 28, 2015

Boomerang for Gmail

What is Boomerang? 

Boomerang for Gmail adds some pretty cool features to your Gmail account. When you install Boomerang, you'll instantly notice that you have an additional send option when you go to compose a new email. In this post, I'll cover a couple options you have with using Boomerang for Gmail. The first covers receiving confirmation emails. The second covers how to schedule emails or create recurring emails. 

Confirmation Emails

Have you ever wanted to know whether or not someone has opened your email? With Boomerang, you can select the span of time someone has to open your email. You can then get a confirmation email letting you know when the message had been opened. You can even have it send you a response regardless of how someone responds to your email. This is a great way to remind yourself of a conversation that you initiated and will require followup. To do this, check mark the box below your typical send box, set your time and parameters, and send your email. 

 Scheduling Emails

Boomerang is also handy if you want to be able to schedule an email or create a recurring message. I recently had a teacher ask about a recurring email message. She wanted the same document sent to a group of parents for several weeks so that they had a continuous reminder that it was there for them to access. That way she could better keep parents informed of the resource being provided.

Another way scheduling would be handy is if you need to send an email to parents or staff members, but need it to be sent a specific time. This is nice if you know you will be short on time or do not want to rely on your memory to get the message sent out. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Parent Access and Google Classroom

Keep Parents Informed

How do you keep parents informed about assignments in Google Classroom? This is a question I frequently receive and it is a legitimate issue. Having the students sign into their Google Classroom account and showing it to their parents is about the only advice I have given. However, if I were a parent that had never explored Google Classroom before, it would appear to be an unorganized mess of assignments and announcements. A Google Calendar may provide a solution that would be less intimidating for parents.

Google Classroom Calendars in Google Sites

Earlier in the 2015-2016 school year, Google Calendar started integrating with Google Classroom. This provides an opportunity to keep those communication lines open. The key is that you must make good use of your teacher website to be able to do so. In the video below, I demonstrate how you can import your Google Classroom calendar into a Google Site. (Please keep in mind that would need to create a separate calendar for each Google Classroom that you want posted.)

Not Using Google Sites?

If you are not using Google Sites, you could also use an embed code to the calendar to post it on Blogger or other website service that allows for HTML editing. It takes a bit more work, but it can be done. If you are planning on using it in a site like Blogger, It might be a good idea to create a separate page for all your Google Classroom calendars you want to publicly post. (This video is an older video on putting a calendar in the sidebar of your Blogger site, but it will at least give you the basic idea.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Flip Your Classroom Chapters 8-9

As the author's wrap up the last two chapters, they clearly communicate that there are many different variations of flipping the classroom. Really, it all depends upon the needs of your learners.

Chapter 8 is dedicated to the frequently asked questions they receive about flipping the classroom. As you read through the questions, were there any responses that stood out to you or possibly left you hanging? Do you have any further questions that were not listed? This will be great to formulate a list as we will be chatting with Jon Bergmann on January 7th via Google Hangouts!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Seesaw with First Grade

This week has been an exciting week for my MSDSC primary teachers and students. I was able to work with teachers during a collaboration on utilizing Seesaw as a tool for student/teacher communication. (The parent feature will come later.) I was also able to jump into a few classrooms to help teachers and students get more acquainted with this awesome tool. I just wish Seesaw had been around when I took on the role as a technology integration specialist five years ago. It would have made my job a whole lot easier! (I had kindergarten students sending emails from iPads to turn in content.)

At Ryan Park Elementary, I was able to work with Mrs. Moor's first grade. They had some experience with Seesaw, but Mrs. Moor really wanted to know more about the capabilities of this tool. Being the first year she and her first graders have had devices (iPads), Seesaw can feel a little overwhelming with all the various opportunities it holds.

One of the options I find very useful is the ability for them to copy and edit an item you provide for them. This would be great for spur of the moment exit tickets or any other quick check you would like to do. It is also great in a scenario where the teacher has a specific item he/she would like annotated. To do this, you must go to the "manage class" option in the menu. The teacher will then need to turn on the "Enable Item Editing" option. Now students can make a copy by pressing the three dots under the teacher's post and choosing to copy and edit the item.

In my lesson with first grade, I provided them with examples of proper nouns. I started with a picture of a dog and chatted about how we can make sentences about the dog. We started with just using the word "dog" as sentence with a common noun and worked into how we could include a proper noun. I sent the image of a dog through Seesaw as a teacher, but used a student iPad to copy and edit the image as a class.

Next, I sent an image of their principal, Mrs. Heavin. All of the students were able to tap on the three lines, choose to "copy and edit" the image, and write their own sentence about Mrs. Heavin. Once students began submitting and I approved their work, the magic started to happen. Often teachers ask why they should bother allowing students to view each other's work. The dialogue that takes place is magic as they read each other's sentences and listen to the recordings. It strikes up conversation and collaboration that would have never taken place had you made them complete a worksheet and turn it into the tan trays in the back of the classroom for only the teacher's eyes to see.

In the video below, many of Mrs. Moor's first grade examples are shown demonstrating their ability to write sentences with proper nouns. They are not perfect by any means, but they will not forget how much fun it was to make sentences with Mrs. Heavin and Mrs. Minick as their subjects for proper nouns.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


What is PiZap?

PiZap is a free resource in the Chrome Web Store, or you can just visit It is a webtool that you can use to edit, combine, and annotate images. You can edit individual images or create entire collages with text and stickers. You can be as creative as you desire. 

Why PiZap?

Students often need images cropped or edited for videos or presentations. They may want to add their own design with the drawing tools, recolor images, or add a caption. Students can also use it to combine multiple images and add speech bubbles. All edited photos can be used as a single project idea or in conjunction with a larger presentation or video. 

Teachers can also use PiZap if they desire a custom banner for their social media outlets. PiZap has presized banner templates so that you can create your Youtube cover art to match your Youtube channel. If you use your Youtube channel (or other social media outlet) to display student work, this would be a great way to advertise the purpose of the account.


In my video tutorial, I demonstrate how to combine two images, add text, and import it into a Google Slides presentation. Combining images would be a great way for students to impose their own image with historical figures or places of interest. Imagine a student creating a presentation on Abraham Lincoln and them imposing their own image with him. What questions could they ask? How would he respond? With the example that I gave, I took to pictures of myself and imposed one on the other. What if students were to share their thinking about their reading. What question could they essentially ask and respond to?

Digital Citizenship

In the example, I didn't go into the stickers option. Please keep in mind that some of the stickers are not school appropriate. Those are important discussions to have with students that they determine what is appropriate for their projects. It is also important to discuss with students that they are conscious of the purpose of advertisements. Typically these advertisements will lead students to websites they do not truly wish to visit. Help them understand what to do if they accidentally click on an ad. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Chapter 7: How to Implement the Flipped-Mastery Model

"We describe our classes as hubs of learning. The focus of the classroom is no longer on the teacher, but rather on the learning."  - Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams
Chapter seven is on the implementation of the flipped-mastery model. There are a lot of great tips and things to keep in mind that the authors bring up. They discuss the number of years till they felt that the flipped-mastery model actually seemed to feel comfortable. They discuss training the students to function in their classes. They also describe the types of assessment that are necessary and are an effective means to measure learning.

What really stood out to me in this chapter was the quote I put to start this post. What do you think of the authors referring to their classes as "hubs of learning" in comparison to the traditional classroom?Do you feel that the way they describe the flipped-mastery model deserves such a title? Feel free to add any other thoughts you'd like to add about the chapter as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Orange Slice and the Hour of Code

Looking for an Expert

With the Hour of Code starting next week, I thought it would be fitting to find an expert in the field of computer science. When I signed up with to be the site organizer for MSD of Steuben County, having an expert was actually a suggestion and they provided opportunities to get in contact with people as such. Reason being that it helps young minds understand that all their digital content doesn't just magically appear on their device. There is a person and a thought process through the creation of digital resources. There is a skill set required to build the video games they play. I have quite a few experts in my personal life that are software developers for local engineering firms like Aptera and Logikos. Resources were certainly within reach, but I wanted to go a different route. 

Immediately I thought the Hour of Code would be a great opportunity for MSDSC's very own, Matt Buchanan, to chat about his experience with programming the Google App add-on, Orange Slice. Here we have a former mechanical engineer that decided to go into the teaching profession. Now Matt is using that engineering mindset to create digital tools that teachers and students can use to increase feedback.


In the interview, Matt shares quite a bit about the process of creating Orange Slice. Perseverance was his mantra as he talks about the problem solving process necessary to find solutions. Problems consistently arrived for Matt, but perseverance was key in finding success. This is an important message to our youth about what it means to work diligently, being reflective, and using the resources available that can help pull through the difficult moments of any challenge. 

The Hour of Code

Next week (December 7-13) is the Hour of Code. Matt's interview provides an opportunity for students (even teachers) to get a glimpse of the problem solving skills necessary in order to work through computer programming. It also may give viewers an appreciation of the effort Matt has placed in the creation of Orange Slice Rubrics. 

If you are looking for ideas for running the Hour of Code, I created resources to get your started, and you can find them by clicking this link. If you are already familiar with the Hour of Code, look for more resources at They have a wide range of webtools for all ages. 

Interview with Matt Buchanan

(I apologize for the poor audio quality.)

Orange Slice

If you haven't tried Orange Slice Rubrics yet, check out my blogpost featuring the teacher rubric

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Chapters 5-6: Flipped Mastery Model

The first four chapters really cover the basics and logistics of flipped the classroom and the benefits it holds. Chapters five and six introduce and make a case for the blending of the flipped classroom and the mastery model (flipped-mastery model).

The authors discuss how the flipped-mastery model that students are the ones pushing their learning. They work through the content at their own level of learning and proceed when the student has mastered that skill set. In chapter six, the authors mention that the flipped-mastery model teaches students the value of learning instead of "playing school." What are you thoughts on that comment? Agree or disagree as you please.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Build with Chrome

Get Started with Your Google Apps Account

Why Build with Chrome?

Looking for a fun way to incorporate building with Legos in your lessons? Try Build with Chrome as students can make creations with virtual Legos. What can be finer than kids making cool models or demonstrations of their learning with all the quietness of doing so on your class set of Chromebooks? It reminds me of my days starting out with 1:1 iPads when my teachers first discovered the geoboard app by Math Learning Center. Teachers were more excited about the fewer issues with the distraction of flipping rubberbands across the room rather than the functionality itself. Build with Chrome allows kids to build without all the distractions of kids rifling through Legos and is much more cost effective if you have a class set of Chrome enabled devices.

Sharing Your Legos

What's also exciting is the ability to share your creations. When students sign into their Google account, they can share their creations on a map of the world. Users can view creations by other users around the world, and share their own. Want to make it even more exciting? Try having the students give a tour of their creation as it relates to their learning with screencasting tools likes Screencastify or Nimbus. Having this recording could take the place of a traditional presentation as the students could create a model of a location in history, fictional text they are reading about, or any topic where students can create a graphical representation. 


Want an overview of how it works? Check out my video tutorial below to get a feel for the workflow in how to use Build with Chrome. 

Using Google Classroom?

After you make you creation, grab the link once it is published. Students can then turn in their work via a link in Google Classroom. Below is a quick video of how students can do just that. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chapter Four: How to Implement the Flipped Classroom

Chapter four delves into the nuts and bolts of flipping the classroom. First, the authors cover some of the equipment needs of the flipped classroom as well as the whole process of making a video. Most of these issues are actually questions that the MSD of Steuben County staff have addressed. Since we had a training day on utilizing video to leverage learning in September, many teachers are already using Screencastify to create videos and distribute them through Google Classroom, Google Drive, or Seesaw. If this chapter spurns some further questions, I can address those here. Feel free to ask. 

The rest of the chapter covers making videos interesting and also the suggestion that flipping the classroom will buy you time once it is set up. Select one or both of the following questions: 
  1. In what ways do you want to attempt to "make videos your students will love?"

  2. Do you envision that flipping will save you class time? How do you see yourself using this hypothetical time?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Youtube Photo Slideshows

Youtube has Photo Slideshows? 

If you've ever uploaded a video into Youtube. You may have noticed a lineup of  tools available on the bottom-right corner of your screen. I've utilized the Youtube Video Editor numerous times. It happens to be my favorite for cutting video on a Chromebook. I've also used the Photo Slideshow on numerous occasions as it provides a super simple way to create a slideshow to post on your blog or website. (See post from June, 2014)
Editing Tools in Youtube
This week Kristin Sine, principal of Hendry Park Elementary, wanted to create an Animoto slideshow for the school board meeting that she was hosting. After she was all finished, she realized that the free version placed an Animoto watermark over her slideshow. So I offered her the Photo Slideshow option in Youtube that I'd used in the past. As it turns out, there was an Advanced Editor that I didn't even know about! I just happened to notice it as she was was weighing her options between Animoto and the basic Photo Slideshow option in Youtube. 

Why the Advanced Editor?

With the Advanced Editor, you can add transitions, text, adjust slide times, and use royalty free music. It has much to offer and is fairly simple to use. Just like any tool, there is a learning curve, but I'm sure within a few minutes you'll have this one down pat. 

There is a drawback that I've come across. (As of 11/20/2015.) Your projects don't appear to save so that you can comeback and work on it later. As I've worked on a project and named it, I've noticed that it does not appear in my projects list if I come back later. You'll need to create your entire project and process the video when you are done so that you do not lose your video. 


I have five separate videos going through the steps of using the Advanced Editor in Youtube in the playlist embedded here. I broke up the entire process so that you do not have to sort through a really long video on how to upload your photos, insert items, and process it. You can see all the videos in the list by selecting the three lines with an arrow pointing on the top-left corner of the video below. 


Here is the fun and exciting example that was created for the MSD of Steuben County board meeting. Mrs. Sine did a fantastic job as this was her very first experience using the Youtube Photo Slideshow creator. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Google Forms has a New Look

Google Forms has a New Look?

If you haven't noticed in your Google Drive, you might be prompted to try the "new" Google Forms. I made a quick overview of how to navigate around the new forms (see video below). For the most part, the functions are the same, but they merely redesigned it and controls are in different places. 

The Prompt in Google Forms

Overall, the new look is very sleek and smooth in design. I like how they separate the question choices from the other input types (images, videos, page breaks). I also noticed that you can create a prefilled form link so that entries are automatically selected. All of these features are outlined in my tutorial. 

The new summary reports are built right within the form so that the owner can quickly see response data. The old forms had this, but the new graph data is much more accessible and easy to read. 

Responses are Easy to Find


Feel free to try out the new Google Forms, but if you'd rather just see a glimpse of where things are, watch my video. You still have the option of going back to the old version of Google Forms. On the bottom-left corner of the screen, you'll notice a silhouette of a person walking. That will take you back to the old version if you decide not to continue using it. How long you will still have that option is the big question. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Google My Maps

Why Google My Maps?

Within Google Drive, students and teachers can create and save customized maps. It is a great resource for mathematics and measuring distances, adding details to a report on a specific location, or studying locations on various time periods. (By no means are individuals limited to these three ideas.)

My Maps Features

In this post, I created a video to demonstrate how to add various features to your customized maps. We'll
first start with the features available.


The first basic function is search a location. Google is notorious for search in all of their resources. Quickly search regions on the globe and it will more than likely pop up with a variety of options. Select the one you want; the map will zoom in on that region.


You'll also have the option to save specific points directly on your map. You can customize these points by adding color and selecting a shape/symbol to coincide with your specific location. Once you create your point, the creator can also add various details and facts in the text-box available below the title. The creator can also add images or videos to their map. (Videos are limited to Youtube.)


Users can create routes throughout a map. In the video, I demonstrate how to create a straight line route. Walking, biking, or driving routes are also possible and will follow a specific road route. The traveling routes may not be as applicable in a school setting as those are there more for the purpose of modern day traveling. Just as a tip while creating a route, remember to click once to initiate the route and connect points. Double-click to end a route.


You can create layers on your map in order to better organize your points and routes you create. These layers allow you to turn the points and routes on and off that you want to see on your maps at any given time. Layers would be a great way to organize points of interest throughout various time periods. Each layer could represent a specific date, year, or range of years. Then when the user wants to see a specific time-frame, those specific eras can be viewed.


Google My Maps are shareable just like any Google Doc. However, it seems to lack the live editing features that the rest of the Google Apps for Education suite contains. So keep in mind that you may make changes to a map, and the shared user may not see the results until they reload the map.


My Maps lends itself well to screencasting tools like Screencastify or Nimbus. Students can give an oral report while clicking on their various points in the map key on the left side of the screen. As the user clicks on the points, the map automatically moves to that specific location or route and shows any of the extra information, images or videos the creator added to the point on the map. Then the student has a great video report while they click through the points of interest on their custom map.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Study: Flip Your Classroom Chapters 1-3

The first three chapters give mostly an overview and the reasoning behind the concept of "flipping" the classroom. As Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann delve into their reasoning, they also point out some poor reasons for wanting to flip the classroom. 

In the comments section below this post, think about reasons why you should and shouldn't consider flipping the classroom. After reading the first three chapters, do you feel that this model is something that will benefit your students? Is a full flip appropriate for your students, or are there just elements that you can take from this study? 

If you had something else in the forefront of your mind instead of the question I'm asking, feel free to post that instead. Please give a disclaimer that you are headed in a different direction if you choose to do so. Also, please feel free to reply to your colleagues' comments. Ask questions or throw in your two cents. Later this week I will likely throw out a reminder email asking you to revisit the post to see what others had to say. 

Next week, we will tackle only chapter four. 

Thanks again for participating. I'm excited to learn with you! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Seesaw Presidential Election

Allison Miller's Kindergarten was featured in my last post about utilizing Seesaw in the kindergarten classroom. I posted it to demonstrate Seesaw in action so that teachers could develop ideas for the implementation of this tool. Seesaw is an amazing opportunity for all learners, but it especially caters nicely to the needs of primary students with being icon based and simplistic. The simplicity does not diminish from the power it holds as students can quickly document/record their learning and communicate it to either the teacher or the entire class. In the past, I had used Google Drive in a similar manner to increase idea sharing and the excitement for learning. The opportunities Seesaw holds for primary students trumps my previous experiences with Google Drive. 

Last week, Mrs. Miller was ecstatic about what her kids were doing with Seesaw. To demonstrate their knowledge of the Indiana kindergarten standards K.2.2, students created a mock election for a stuffed animal. (No insult to our government intended.) Here the students were to create a reason why voters should select their candidate, take a picture and record their voice with the image in Seesaw. 

Check Out This Presidential Candidate Example

Seesaw happens to work well for the voting process as well. Students were to "like" a classmate's post. The likes were considered a vote so the animal with the most likes was the winner of the election! Not all of the recordings were up this quality, but the students are gradually learning how to effectively communicate their thinking with Seesaw.

What cool ideas do you have for Seesaw? Share them here in the comments area. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Hour of Code - 2015

What is the Hour of Code?

The Hour of Code is an event each year (December 7 - 13) to promote the field of computer science. All things electronic require someone to program it. From basic coding resources like Scratch to learning actual computer languages in Code Academy, the hour of code is designed to give students exposure to programming robotics and computers.

Why Participate in the Hour of Code?

Ask a teacher what their ultimate goal is for their students. Most of them will say that it is to prepare their students for the future and to be successful lifelong learners. (At least something along those lines.) Computer science is a part of our world. Whether it is changing the radio station and seeing the frequency light up on the screen, or using your iPad to Facetime with family, you are utilizing the efforts of a software developer. 

The demand is great as the technology realm is changing so rapidly. With the launch of the iPhone and Android devices, the need for developers exploded. What need will the next break-through device create? According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an 8% increase in jobs for computer programming will occur in the next seven year. 

How to Participate in the Hour of Code

There are a ton of resources out there to get started on the Hour of Code. I'm listing just a few to span over the devices and grade levels that are in my school district (MSD of Steuben County). So check out the materials and think about how you can discuss the field of computer science with your students. They need to be aware that their video games and favorite websites didn't just magically appear there. There is someone's work behind the screen. 

1. Introduce Computer Science

Let students know that computer science is a real thing. You could start with either of these two videos supplied by to give students a feel for what coding is.

2. Have a Conversation about Computer Science

Have a discussion or have kids post on a blog, Google Classroom, or Seesaw to share where coding has impacted their life. Discuss how their life would be different without it. 

3. Have Students Participate

The Hour of Code does not mean the kids have to do coding for an hour straight. It means that throughout the week, the students are trying activities that expose them to the realm of computer science. So if the kids have a few minutes here and there, encourage them to participate in one of the many activities in relation to coding. Feel free to have students watch the video if you feel it will help them get acquainted with the tool. 

Kodable - Kindergarten and First Grade

The Foos - Kindergarten through Second

Lightbot - First through Sixth Grade

Scratch - Third through Eighth Grade

Code Academy - Seventh through Seniors

Khan Academy - Sixth Through Seniors (Video Tutorials on Links)

4. Celebrate

Take pictures or videos of students participating in the Hour of Code. Tweet them out or post them on Instagram with the hashtag #msdsafari and #hourofcode. Free free to tag me in your images on Twitter with @mr_yoder and Instagram with @edgaged

Monday, November 2, 2015

Seesaw in the Kindergarten Classroom

I have utmost respect for primary level teachers. If you've never had the experience of working with early learners, I highly recommend taking the time to observe or even assist in a Kindergarten classroom. It is eye opening for other grade levels to experience the rapidly changing learning experiences in order to meet the needs of young learners. It is much like watching a maestro leading and conducting an orchestra. 

Primary Needs

With the pace of the classroom, technology must be able to keep up. Technology needs for primary students require that tools are time efficient and an effective means by which students can express their learning. One of the more difficult questions to answer is how to fit a learning management system (LMS) into the equation. Quite frankly, the majority of LMS options do not meet the needs of primary students or  teachers effectively. LMS options may effectively provide opportunities to distribute content, but the main problem lies in the ability for students to return content to the teacher. 

Being a Google Apps for Education school district, we naturally look at Google Classroom as an option. It is an excellent resource and very user-friendly. However, students still need to be able to read in order to effectively communicate their learning experiences. A better option I'm considering is Seesaw

How It Works

Connecting Students

Students can either sign up with their Google Apps for Education account, use an email address, or connect using a QR code! If students are able to type in their email address and password, I recommend using it through that method. Otherwise, I suggest taking advantage of how easy it is to utilize the QR code option.

QR Code Method

Submitting Content

Submitting work in Seesaw is extremely simple as it is icon based. The icons are straight-forward and easy for students to understand. This is essential when selecting digital tools for primary students. Students can submit a drawing, image, video, typed note, or other file type. What makes it truly primary appropriate is the option for an audio recording. Most one-on-one conferences consist of students reiterating what they attempted to communicate on paper or other media type. Here, students can communicate verbally what they attempted to communicate through written work or drawings. 

Submitting Content in Seesaw


Feedback is equally easy for teachers as they can communicate through text and/or audio recording. This is powerful for young students. I highly recommend providing both text and audio recording so that students can read and hear your feedback. If given a parent code, parents can participate and give feedback just to their student. This is exciting as one of the biggest criticisms for students using technology in the classroom is the ability for parents to be involved in an easily accessible/universal manner.


Seesaw is intended to function as a digital portfolio where students/teachers/parents can participate. However, I see the potential well beyond that. Here are some ideas:
  • Class Blog - Seesaw could easily function as a class blog as members of the class can easily find their classmate's work. By clicking/tapping on individual names, all of the work samples from that particular student appear in the feed. 
  • Content Curation - This would appear very different according to grade levels, but younger students could curate images for projects. Older students could submit links to various websites relating to a topic. This would allow all group members to benefit as they can quickly access content submitted by the class.
  • Flipped/Blended Learning - Seesaw is a great platform by which to distribute video content. It works very compatibly with a variety of video formats. The teacher can submit a video and ask students to respond either through their own brand new post or through comments. 
  • Connecting Classrooms - I'm actually in the works of making this happen with some kindergarten classes. I think Seesaw would be an awesome way to connect students with other classes. Having a shared class would allow students to submit work and receive feedback from peers outside of their physical classroom. I'm actually considering making a system for digital pen pals in the near future. I'll be sure to let you know how that works out! 
  • Learning Management System - Essentially everything that Seesaw can do functions as a learning management system. The only real element it is missing is the option to provide actual grades and house a gradebook type system. However, that piece is not necessary when teaching primary students. The feedback options provided are much more meaningful than a percentage/point system. 


Seesaw is available on Android, iOS, and is web-based. So no matter what your device, Seesaw is a great option. I currently have teachers and students using Seesaw on iPads and Chromebooks. I utilize the Android app from time to time as well. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fluency Tutor for Google

Why Fluency Tutor?

Fluency Tutor for Google is free resource that provides a variety of great opportunities for students in building fluency.
  1. It creates a nice clean version of a website that makes it easier for students to read without the distractions typical websites hold
  2. Fluency Tutor will read the text aloud at an adjustable rate
  3. Integrates with Google Classroom
  4. Allows students to make a recording of the text that appears in the teacher's account 
  5. Provides a dictionary through the highlighting of words (picture or text dictionary)

Student Side

I was introduced to Fluency Tutor by Kristin Sheets at Ryan Park Elementary. It can be accessed through the Chrome App or Google Classroom. When a student access an article or website posted in Fluency Tutor, the student receives a distraction-free version, the ability to hear the text read aloud, a readily available dictionary, and the option to make a recording. In this video, Mrs. Sheets had a student demonstrate how to use Fluency Tutor. 

Teacher Side

For a teacher to use Fluency tutor, they will need to create an account, get a class code for his/her students to use to connect, and verify his/her Google Drive/Google Classroom account. For more specific directions, view my slideshow at the top of this post.

Teachers will also want to use the Share with Fluency Tutor Chrome Extension. By using this extension, the teacher can be on an Internet resource, click the extension, and push items to Google Classroom as an assignment. Then when the students click on the link provided in Google Classroom, they can instantly start to work on the resource.

Students Using Google Classroom

To turn in an assignment with Fluency Tutor, students have several options.

  1. Students can indicate that they completed the task by choosing "mark as done". This is typically good enough as the teacher will see whether or not it is completed when they access their Fluency Tutor account. Either the recording will be there or not.  
  2. Teachers could require a screen-capture to turn in as evidence by using a tool like Nimbus. Students could capture the screen indicating that they have completed the assignment, then upload it into the Google Classroom Assignment. For more detailed directions for options one and two, see the video below.
  3. The third option would be for students to download their recording as an MP3 and upload it into Google Classroom. This was a feature I missed the first few times I looked at this tool. This would allow the teacher to listen to the recording directly from Google Classroom.

Not Using Google Classroom?

If you are not using Google Classroom, have no fear. You can still assign and listen to Fluency Tutor passages through it. When the students log into Fluency Tutor, they can find any assigned passages in the "assessments" section of their dashboard. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nimbus Screenshot and Screencast

Why Use Nimbus

Nimbus Screenshot and Screencast is a free tool available in the Chrome Web Store. There are multiple uses for Nimbus that I'll go over in a bit, but students should use it for the mere fact that it is a simple tool to use in order to demonstrate knowledge as they can capture and label anything that is on their Chromebook screen. Why have students use it? It is a fun resource that can be used for both proof of knowledge as well as a creative outlet that can supply the students with the images needed for more extensive projects. 


With Nimbus, users can capture the entire screen, selected regions, or even scroll an entire page. After the user creates a capture, they have the option to either download the image (check-mark) or go to the editor (pencil). Within the editor, the user can re-size, crop, draw, highlight, annotate, blur, and shadow over the image. The tools are very user-friendly and allow for quick expression of learning. For tablet users, the functionality is very comparable to Skitch.

Once you are finished, you can create a Nimbus account to save your work, download it directly to your device, or upload it to Google Drive. If Google Drive is your choice destination, you also have instant access to a share link so that you can copy and paste the image/access to the image in an email or another website. To improve workflow, I recommend having a Google Drive folder ready prior to uploading. A new folder option for Google Drive is not available in Nimbus.

You also have an option for a video screencast capture. It works very well with very little lag, but it saves in a webm format. It is fine if you are wanting to upload directly to Youtube or Google Drive. However, some video editors will not allow you to edit the video in this format. You may have to convert it using a file conversion tool such as Zamzar.

Student Assignments

When students use Nimbus, they could use it to capture quite a few things for the purpose of completing assignments. 
  • Scavenger hunts for information online.
  • Highlighting important details or research
  • Demonstrating reading comprehension strategies online
  • Capturing a score on a skill based website/app
  • Collecting images and annotating for a presentation, video, or digital poster
Regardless of the use of Nimbus, students need a way to turn it in. The following video demonstrates how to take a Nimbus project and turn it in using Google Classroom. The same concept applies regardless of the learning management system of your choice. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Flip Your Classroom Book Study

Interested in Flipped Learning?

On September 25th, MSD of Steuben County hosted an all day training and collaboration on the topic of using video to leverage learning at all grade levels. I left a survey for staff to indicate the level of learning that took place, and also an opportunity consider participating in a book study on Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. The response was incredible as we had over 50 percent of the staff vote that they were interested!

My dilemma is that I can't provide enough books for everyone at MSDSC to participate. I only have 20 books at the moment and have the hopes to be able to have more opportunities to run this book study again in the future. So please only indicate that you want to participate if you are going to read the entire book and participate in the discussion.

So if you are in the midst of a flipped model or are contemplating it, this book study is for you. For teachers that have students that are not taking devices home, this book study would still be beneficial if you really want to utilize video in the classroom. Either way, I'm excited for the opportunity to run this book study. What is especially exciting is that author, Jonathan Bergmann, has agreed to participate in a Skype/Google Hangout session with my MSDSC staff. I will be arranging that date in the near future!

The Plan

I will be using my blog for this book study. All posts in relation to Flip Your Classroom will be labeled as such. You just need to click on the image of the book on the right side of my blog. The book is linked to all posts labeled according to the book title. This will aggregate the conversation into one page.

Find the Conversation!

Once a week I will post a question or two in reference to the chapters read. To respond, you leave your answer in the comments box below the post. If there are no comments, you will click on "no comments." If you do not want to make an initial comment, you could also reply to someone else's comment.

Where to Comment

If you are not an MSDSC employee and you still want to participate, please feel free! I'd love to have more input from friends outside of my school district. However, I will not be able to provide you with a book. You can purchase a new or used copy from Amazon for a reasonable price.

The Form

If you want to participate, please fill out the form below. I look forward to collaborating with you. We will begin the book study by reading the first three chapters during the week of November 15-21. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Push to Students with the Share to Classroom Chrome Extension

Share to Classroom Chrome Extension

Why Push to Students?

Google Classroom already provided an awesome opportunity for teachers to share content with students and students to share work. However, much of it still required quite a bit of clicking. With the Share to Classroom Chrome Extension the teacher can have a website instantly pop up on the entire fleet of Chromebooks. It requires no clicking on the part of the students and very little time at all for the teacher. Here is the push feature in the Share to Classroom Chrome extension:

Please keep in mind that the students must have the chrome extension for the push feature to work. It also only works on a Chromebook, PC, or Mac running Google Chrome. 

Classroom Application

Students also have the ability to push items to the teacher's device. It doesn't pop up automatically on the teacher's screen, but goes into a queue within the teacher's Share to Classroom extension. The teacher can open the queue, view the titles of web resources pushed, and who pushed them. The teacher could then click on those links and push them out to the entire class. I envision this to be a great way to have students collect resources on a topic for the teacher to review. In a sense, the students could do all the resource searching for the teacher, and the teacher can look at those items and decide if it is worthy of the class' time. 

Other Features

If you have never used the Share to Classroom extension, you also have the ability to share a resource directly to an announcement or an assignment. Using the extension can save you time as you quickly have a drop-down menu to input the information for the assignment or announcement. After you finish posting, you also have a convenient "view" button so that you can quickly access your classroom page. 



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bulk Renamer for Google Drive

If you have students that have a lot of image or video files that they need to rename, this tool is for you. I recently had a teacher contact me about the issue of working on the school yearbook. She has a ton of image files in a folder and needed to quickly rename these items so that she could better organize them into folders and better scan through her files. By using the Bulk Renamer for Google Drive, you can choose a part of a file's name and replace it with your own custom text.

There is a basic and advanced feature. I just used the basic function to replace portions of file names. You can get much more detailed with your bulk renaming with the advanced features, but this video should at least get you started.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Skitch for iPad

Skitch has been around for quite awhile. In fact, I blogged about using it on an iPod Touch several years ago when I had Kindergarten and first grade students using them instead of iPads. I was extremely focused on tools that functioned well on both devices. However, Skitch is one of those apps that changes so frequently, any videos or explanations you create pretty much become obsolete as soon as you make them. Just about like buying any new technology. 

I absolutely love apps that can be applied to almost any learning experience. Skitch is one of those apps. Students use it to describe objects, go on scavenger hunts in the school or class, label items, build authentic slideshows for a presentation, and the list can go on and on. Either way, it is an excellent tool for students to get started expressing their learning through a creative outlet that takes very little time at all. What measures the true value of Skitch is that by combining it with other apps (app smashing), the student products move to a different level. 

Fortunately for me, I didn't have to make a video using Skitch. One of my first grade teachers, Christina Minick,  made one while teaching her class how to use it. Here, she demonstrates to her class how to use the app by labeling books from a book-fair flyer they might be interested in, the genre, or any other classification a teacher would want. I thought it was a great practical application of Skitch in how students can communicate their knowledge of fiction vs. non-fiction texts just by looking at the cover, title, and author.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tiny Techies

Last week was exciting as I had the opportunity to participate and present in the Indiana Connected Educators conference. I did two presentations: Tiny Techies and An App Smashing Good Time. These two presentations really sum up the last four and a half years of my career in education as it has been focused upon elementary students utilizing technology in a meaningful manner that empowers learning. Students should be creating content and building their knowledge and understanding through creative outlets. Technology is only a means to provide more opportunities for students to do just that. This most certainly includes primary students.

Tech Fluency 

When a kindergarten student first comes to school, there are a lot of basic skills (cutting with scissors, holding writing utensils, gluing and pasting, etc.) students need to know in order to start learning academic skills? Why...because students can demonstrate their learning through the use of various tools. I participated in a "makerspace" session at ICE. Why was it the most memorable part of my day? I was building. I was creating. There was a connection between what was said in the session and the application of participating in the learning. I was also collaborating with my peers about the tasks.

So what does this have to do with tech fluency? In order for students to build and create, they have to build fluency with the tool. They have to know it well so that when they are ready to utilize it to express their learning; the tool doesn't get in the way of the actual learning. By building tech fluency, the technology can speed up the process and learning experience. Just like in the "makerspace" session, my background knowledge with using a Snap Circuits set allowed me to quickly build and help others efficiently and effectively accomplish tasks. Those that had never used them, needed to follow the written instructions more carefully and closely.

A video posted by Lance Yoder (@edgaged) on

Culture and Choice

Primary students desire choice in their learning. It is the essence of a workshop model. Choice is what drives learning centers. Michelle Yoder, my wife and primary teacher, had a cycle with digital tools. She would introduce a tool and have the students use it for multiple purposes. After the initial shock of a new tool, the students become very fluent with the app. As the students build fluency, choice can come into play as they can then decide which digital tool would best suit the task before them. Choice is a great motivator in learning.

When students utilize digital tools in a creative manner, the true value of the device becomes instilled. Students begin to understand what they miss out on if they break or misuse their device. However, students denied the opportunity will push boundaries as they tire of skill and drill apps/websites. The value of the device has nothing to do with the amount of money it cost. The value is purely the opportunities it has to offer. How students value the device is mostly up to the culture the teacher creates around it.

Prior to my days as a technology coach I taught fourth grade. Early in my career, I couldn't figure out how my partner teacher's students were performing so much better than mine in reading. Finally, she put it plain and simple to me. She told me, "You don't love to teach reading. So your students don't love to read." It cut me deep, but that deep cut created change. She was right because I was trying to fool my students. Students see right through an act. After that, I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Very quickly did the culture and perception of literacy change in my classroom.

Empower Learning

All individuals desire to build and create. They also desire to chose how they do just that. The most difficult is having the money and materials available to make that all possible. Amazing things are happening now with the makerspace movement. However, students can create great representations of their learning with digital tools at an extremely fast rate. Whenever I hear that technology takes too much time, I'm reminded of when I first started teaching. For students to use digital devices, we had to pack everyone into a crowded computer lab, turn on old Windows 98 machines and do anything at all. With digital tools such as the iPad or Chromebook that start up in seconds, the amount of learning time lost is insignificant. 

Students can take and edit/annotate images, create video projects, and even use coding applications/websites to create their own animations or videos. When dealing with primary grade levels, a great place to start is to take advantage of the power of the camera. It is the main reason I'm a firm believer in the use of mobile devices for primary students. Students can use it to capture materials for their digital projects, but also of physical material creations. Have them take pictures/video of all their projects where they need to utilize crayons, glue, and scissors. Where the camera becomes powerful is the ability to share those images/videos with their teacher, classmates, or even with parents with applications such as SeeSaw or on a teacher's Google Site/Blog.

The big question is how you make this happen in your classroom? How do you create a classroom where students are able to utilize digital tools of their choice in order to express their learning and use it to communicate and collaborate about learning? It starts with a mindset from you. I referred earlier to the mindset change I had to experience in my reading instruction. I had to love teaching reading to build a class culture of readers. So start with you. Do you love utilizing technology to express your learning and teaching? 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Annotate the Internet with Diigo

When I taught fourth grade, one of my favorite activities to do when teaching reading was to make use of sticky notes. (We are talking about the days when integrating technology was making use of the four to five desktop computers in the back of the classroom.) Whatever reading strategy we were using or story/text element we were discussing was marked in the students' books with sticky notes. If it was a copy of an article that was shared with the class, we would bust out the highlighters and write all over it to share our thinking. Now there's Diigo.

Diigo has actually been around since 2006. So we are not talking about anything new. However, one thing that has greatly changed is the access to it. In the Chrome Web Store, there is a Diigo Web Collector that allows you to quickly launch the service. Users can then highlight and post sticky-notes on any website. What is also really incredible is the ability to share a link to a users annotated page so that others can view your annotations. Also, there is a lot more to it than what I'm covering. This is just a quick overview of how to get started and take advantage of the basic features.

Diigo Installation

If installing a Chrome extension is something you are already familiar with, then you can skip this part. More than likely, you just want a quick link to the Chrome Web Store so that you don't even have to go searching for this one

Annotate a Website

Want to get started annotating. Here's how it is done! It is simple to highlight and add sticky notes to a page. You can even use various colors to help categorize and organize your thoughts. The great part is, your Diigo annotations are automatically saved. So even if you close out of Chrome, all marks will be saved in your account's "My Library".

Share Your Annotations

What is especially cool is the ability to share your annotated links. This is really powerful for a teacher to highlight and leave sticky-notes all over an online article and then share it with his/her students. This would be great if you were modeling a reading/comprehension strategy and shared your link to the students through a QR Code, Google Classroom, or other learning management system. Teachers could even record the lesson using Screencastify so that students could revisit the reading strategy when necessary. Students could also share their annotated inks with the teacher. Either way, sharing is the most powerful part of Diigo. 

Organizing Annotated Links

If you start using Diigo for the purpose of research, tagging your links will help you sort through all your Diigo annotated links. This video covers how to find your library of links as well as tag them so that they can be better organized. 

If you happen to try Diigo and want to share some cool annotated links with me, or have a blogpost/website with your kids using it,  drop them/it in the comments below this post. I'd love to hear from you.