Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Math Learning Center

(All images in this post are animated. Hold your cursor over them. iPad and Android users will need to touch the image.)

Math Learning Center has been providing quality math learning resources for several years. They have been providing digital math manipulatives for the iPad that many of my teachers already utilize. They also have web tools that would work fantastic for teachers that have an interactive whiteboard or touch enabled PC or Chromebook. If you hover over the image at the top, you can quickly see how to find the free web tools Math Learning Center has to offer. (Either that or you could just click here, but I'm proud of my animated pictures.


When East Noble School Corporation first adopted iPads, teachers loved the Geoboard app. The most annoying part of using real geoboards is that students (much like myself) like to take the rubber bands and have flipping contests in the middle of class! The digital version was a revelation as there were fewer behavior problems and less cleanup. 

Pattern Shapes

Pattern Shapes are great for exploring geometry and fractions. I loved using pattern shapes to conceptualize equivalent fractions for fourth graders. The hardest part for students was seeing how I was manipulating the shapes. When I finally purchased a set of overhead pattern shapes, it helped quite a bit. Having it on your interactive whiteboard and students using the iPad app is a powerful combination. Students could also snap screenshots of their work and send them to the teacher. 

Number Pieces

How often do you want to use base 10 blocks and not have enough for all students? How often does your supply of base 10 blocks dwindle down because students lose the pieces? Number pieces is a good solution for students to quickly grab and manipulate a set of base 10 blocks. I have numerous teachers already using the iPad app because students can show their work by pulling blocks and writing on the canvas. 

Number Line

Number Line is handy as the user can change the format of the line and even customize it to make specific jumps. In the sample below, I changed the number line to jump 23 at each point. The customization would help students that need to conceptualize multiplication. Outside of math lessons, I thought this would be a great tool to use for creating a customized timeline. I am frequently asked about what teachers could use for quick and easy timelines (that students under the age of 13 can use). (There is an iPad app as well.)

Number Rack

Number Rack is a good tool for students that need to visualize counting by fives and tens for addition/subtraction fluency. If necessary, users can add multiple racks for adding multiple numbers and write directly on the canvas. Straight stick lines are also available for drawing so that the teacher can easily split between sets of numbers for visual aid. (iPad app available as well.) 

Number Frames

Number Frames help students groups of five and ten onto a frame. There are multiple frames students can select between five, ten, twenty, or one hundred. Users can also change the color of chips individually as a group. There is a lasso tool available for grabbing clusters of chips and manipulating them. It does take some practice, but users can then set the chips on the frame with the tool automatically placing them in neatly. This would be a great resource for students to access on their iPad to demonstrate their number sense and computational skills. Have students write their name on their work, take a screenshot and send it off to the teacher. 

Math Vocabulary Cards

Math Vocabulary Cards can be broken down by grade level as well as by specific skills. In the example provided below, you can see that you can select different deck sets and cover up either the term, definition or example. These visual cards would be a great resource to post on the board. The default setting is that the entire deck is selected. Students would need to learn how to manipulate the deck so that they get the desired set on their iPad. A great feature would be if the teacher could create accounts and assign specific decks to students. These vocabulary cards are also available in Spanish. 

All of these tools are available for free online or on the iOS app store. I highly recommend trying them out if you have a projector, interactive whiteboard, or are in a 1:1 technology setting.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Sumdog is a free learning resource that numerous teachers in East Noble School Corporation have found to be very useful. It initially started as a mathematics skill and drill gaming platform and has since moved to the subject areas of reading and writing. I do not typically make a big fuss about skill and drill resources, but Sumdog is the exception.

I was originally introduced to Sumdog by Michelle Yoder four years ago. The topic came up because she was implementing it with her first graders when they would visit the computer lab. (Sumdog was not available on the iPad at that time.) By providing students and parents with their usernames and passwords and promoting it on her website/newsletter, parents began having students log in and play from home. She had a first-grade student answer over 1,000 math facts on Sumdog in a week...all on his own time from home.

What makes Sumdog unique that a student would want to answer so many math facts on his own time? The games are actually fun. They are competitive as they actually play other Sumdog users around the world. While they are stacking piles of junk, the user also earns "money" to spend on designing their character. Their avatar essentially becomes unique the more they earn. 

Teachers also like it as they can create competitions and challenges in their class. The challenges can be with students competing against each other or with any Sumdog user. Teachers can also have their students participate in regional and national challenges. This provides a lot of motivation to get the most points to represent their class and school. This creates a lot of math fact fluency! 

There are also reports that can be downloaded so that the teacher can gather. However, most of the quality reporting features are on the paid subscription only. Teachers using free accounts can only access how many problems were answer correctly and their percentage of accuracy. 

If you are interested in trying out Sumdog, feel free to use my resource posted below to get you started. On my resource, you can quickly see how to create your account, student accounts, access challenges and basic reports. Please make use of the table of contents on the third slide to access sections quickly. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kindergarten Punctuation Project

Mrs. Kuehnert's kindergarten just wrapped up a little punctuation study. For a week or so, they studied the period, question mark, and exclamation point. She was also looking to get her students familiar with an app they had never used. I recommended Shadow Puppet for this idea since it lends itself well to combining multiple ideas. The purpose of this activity was to create sentences using periods, question marks and exclamation points, but also to work on those vital speaking skills.

For this project, I met with the students several days so that they could get plenty of practice with Shadow Puppet before the big punctuation project. We started the punctuation study with the question mark and discussed what it is and shared quite a few examples as a class. The kindergarten kiddos then wrote their sentence using Hello Color Pencil and drew a picture to match their sentence. After they saved their picture, they imported it into Shadow Puppet and made a quick recording. To create a classroom gallery, I created a Google Drive folder so that they could all submit their video. This is a fun way to share learning with the entire class! (See picture above.)

Question Sentence Sample:

On the final day of the punctuation project, we combined all their sentences into one Shadow Puppet video and made a class gallery in Google Drive. The trickiest part was getting the students to find all the images to their videos as they had created other projects in between my visits. If I were to do this project again, I would have had students create an album in the camera roll as they wrote their sentences. It would have made it easier to find the items for the entire video. Another method that would have worked well would be to have them select their existing Shadow Puppet videos they made for each sentence type. However, part of the experience I wanted to give them was to learn how to record, use the pause button and turn pages in one recording session. Having these tech skills will open new opportunities for future activities.

Final Project:

I'm looking forward to more opportunities to implement Shadow Puppet with kindergarten. It is an exciting experience to build independence with a technology tool. They love the opportunity to express their learning through an iPad.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Thinglink is a resource I've had on my blog list for a very long time. It can be utilized on multiple platforms as well as in multiple ways for both the teacher and the student. With Thinglink, users can create interactive images with targets/hotspots where other pieces of information can be imposed on the image. Students could use it to label items, provided extra information about an image, insert videos, and attach links.

Thinklink is a "freemium" product. They give teachers quite a bit of free access as they can have one group and up to 100 student accounts. This works well for elementary classrooms. However, I imagine that teachers that have multiple classrooms would like more groups available to better organize. At $35/year, it might be worthwhile for a middle or high school teacher to consider purchasing or go begging the PTO for a subscription. The cost is reasonable and gives more access to various features.

In the example embedded above, I cover various aspects of Thinglink as you hover over the targets. In it, I have targets for how to create your classroom account, use as well as the iPad app, embed your Thinglink into Blogger, and a sample from a teacher that used it to disperse an assignment.

I like the idea of dispersing assignment materials through it like Mr. Gallagher as if it were a learning management system. Using an image related to the topic and including links to websites, documents, images, and videos would be a powerful way to engage the students in a topic. In return, students can turn in their own Thinglink as a final assignment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kidblog for Math is a great way to promote online communication and creating a culture of sharing within a classroom. Students can utilize it to post about any topic whether it be of choice or designated by their teacher. The collaborative nature of students sharing their thinking and responding through comments provides a powerful learning opportunity as learning is documented.

Recently, I met with Mrs. Jackson's third grade. Her students have been using Kidblog quite a bit this year as a platform to practice communicating online and publishing writing. This week I thought it would be a good idea to pose a problem-solving question on the blog and give the students a choice as to how they demonstrate the strategy used to solve it. They could either write their solution on paper/dry erase board and snap a photo or use a drawing app with the image of the problem on the background. It was interesting to see the dynamic of student choices as the class was pretty split on which tool they chose to use. Some students were so consumed with attempting to solve the problem accurately, they didn't want to deal with the steps to import the image of the problem into a drawing app. Several students stuck with their iPad, and I think it might have been to avoid solving the problem a little longer. :)

Math Problem Posted on

Once students started posting their responses to the blog, they began checking one another's posts and making comments. There were a few things learned through this process. First, we need to revisit what it means to make a quality comment. It is essential to model for students proper commenting techniques. Students must actually read posts and make the decision if a comment will benefit the class. The novelty of making a comment for the sake of doing it needs to go away. After you establish this, you model more. Set those expectations high by pulling out examples where the students are making quality comments.  Students will follow suit. It may require some time and revisiting. 

(If you are looking for some guidelines for commenting, here is a good resource.)

Student Sample
The second thing learned was how quickly they realized that their classmates used various strategies to solve this problem. Some used traditional computation, some used a chart, and some (like the one in the picture above) drew pictures to help them organize the data. This portion of the lesson was very powerful as they began to realize that there are several strategies that could be utilized to accomplish this task. Because it was posted on Kidblog, all could share in the learning experience. Because it was posted on Kidblog, many students were more conscious about clearly demonstrating their solution. 

Mrs. Jackson and I discussed a further use of Kidblog in mathematics. We thought it would be a good idea to have several problems posted where the students could choose. They could then title and tag their posts according to teacher specifications so that the responses could be sorted through easily. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

OneNote iPad App

OneNote for the iPad has recently been updated with the ability to draw! I'm excited about this opportunity for students, especially at the elementary level, as it will be a tool that will help them be more organized in all aspects of student life. Students can use it for research purposes, note taking, organizing writing, collaboration, and so much more. OneNote can be the "one man band" of iPad tools.

In this post, I have numerous videos breaking down the use of OneNote on iOS. Through these tutorials, users will get signed in, organize notebooks, input data, and share notebooks with others.

Sign In

Keep in mind that you need to have a OneDrive account either personally or through your organization. Most school districts considering the use of OneNote in the classroom will have an organizational account through Office 365. If you have an account, here is how to sign in: 

Notebooks, Sections, and Pages

In this video, you will learn how to create notebooks, sections, and pages in OneNote for iPad. Think of a notebook as a binder, sections as the tabs, and pages as well...pages. How would you organize a binder of information about your students or class notes? Plan on picking a specific project for which you want to start using OneNote. As you practice, you will get a better idea of how you want to organize your information. 

Basic Inputs

The basic inputs of OneNote are typing, images and drawing. These tools provide an incredible opportunity for students to merge together their physical learning materials with their digital items. I frequently take notes using pen and paper and snap a photo of the note into OneNote.


Now that you have learned how to place images into OneNote, it will be helpful to better understand how to input text and drawing in a manner that improves workflow. Students will need to be accustomed to the idea of switching between drawing and drawing mode in order to effectively zoom into a document. These same rules apply to drawing on files that can be imported which will be covered later in this blog post. 

Importing Documents

A great feature of OneNote is the ability to import a variety of files into your notebooks. Users can even choose to save a document as an icon or have the whole document printed out on a page. This feature will help users organize documents to match various topics that they are researching/utilizing. Users can import files from email, Safari, and a few cloud storage services. 



Cloud Storage


Users have a couple options for sharing in OneNote for iPad. When using an organizational account, users can share an entire notebook with full access. The process is slightly cumbersome as after a notebook is shared. The person it was shared with must request access. Then the user can accept the request. Once the notebook is shared, both users have editable rights to the notebook. This provides a great opportunity for collaborative notebooks. Another option is for a user to email an entire page as a PDF printout. This type of sharing is not collaborative but is a good way for teachers to send the lesson notes out to students. 

I plan on launching opportunities for students to utilize OneNote in the classroom in the near future. I also like the idea of using OneNote on an interactive whiteboard. Stay tuned for ideas. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

OneNote 2013

OneNote has been around for quite some time. It is a powerful note-taking resource provided for free by Microsoft. I will be posting multiple times on the topic of OneNote as the amount of uses is vast and can feel overwhelming. These posts will give a quick overview of how to navigate and get started. I will also chat a bit about different ways it can be implemented in the classroom.

This post will completely focus on OneNote 2013 for a Windows machine. It integrates very well with the rest of Microsoft Office and can provide an easy way to store and organize important bits of information on any topic you like. The key is just getting started. As you tinker around with OneNote, start with something small. Try using it to organize emails on a specific topic or person. Since you can make multiple notebooks for various purposes, there is no harm done if you decide you want to start fresh after practicing and finding a purpose.

Signing In and Creating Notebooks

When you open OneNote 2013, you'll need to sign into your Microsoft account. If this is your first time utilizing OneNote, it will automatically create a default general notebook for you. You may want to create a new notebook just so that you can practice and get a feel for how the program work. 

Creating Sections, Pages, and Sub-pages

When you start using OneNote, it can feel a little overwhelming as to how you want to organize everything. Think of OneNote as a virtual binder. Within a binder, you have tabs that stick out of the top that you typically label. Those are the colored sections that will help you organize the pages that fit underneath that tab. As you create pages of information, a user can also create subpages to continue a topic started on one page. So if you are a teacher and you are documenting Tommy's timed addition tests, he may need multiple attempts on one particular set of facts. Each attempt could be placed in a subpage. 

Importing Items

OneNote is much more than just a note-taking tool, you can also import other various file types such as Word documents, PDFs, images, and audio. This becomes extremely handy as you collect information and want to organize it to fit a specific topic. Images files are extremely helpful as a teacher may take pictures of classwork and want to document a specific student's progress or even create a digital portfolio of the teacher's accomplishments. Audio files are equally handy as a teacher can document a student's fluency using OneNote. The passage the student is reading and the audio recording of the session can both be on the same page. 

Outlook Export

Want to push an email to OneNote? This is extremely easy with Outlook 2013. After a user clicks on an email, the option to export to Outlook appears on the ribbon. This is handy if the teacher needs to collect an email from a parent or if a student email's his/her work to the teacher. It could even be used to organize important emails that you want to be saved for later as all of OneNote is searchable. 

Screen Clipper

Another handy tool is the "screen clipper" that is a part of OneNote 2013. With it, you can clip a section of your computer screen into an image format. After you clip the screen, it will prompt you to organize your image into the note of your choice. (Snagit users should be aware that this piece is unnecessary. Snagit has a direct export to OneNote in the "share" tab.)

Copying and Moving Notes

As a OneNote user, you are bound to misplace a note from time to time. It is handy to know that you can move the note to a different section or notebook at any time. There are also times where a note fits in two different locations. A note can easily be copied to another section. 

Sharing and Exporting

A great feature of OneNote is the sharing portion. Teachers can give other colleagues or students access to an entire notebook. The shared notebook can be for the purposes of viewing or collaborating depending upon your end goal. If you don't want to share an entire notebook but need to distribute important information from OneNote, a teacher can export just a section or page as an attachment in an email. 

Applications for the Classroom

  • Documentation of student work/progress
  • Organization of email
  • Shared class notes
  • Student data notebooks
  • Student digital portfolios
  • Student research projects
  • Behavior notes among staff
  • Collaborative spacesd

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

TodaysMeet: Reading Groups Continued

This is a continuation post about utilizing TodaysMeet for reading discussions in first grade.  I decided to post on this topic again as I worked with a different set of students and a different text. In this post, the first graders used their iPads to chat about a story with a lady that laughed about everything!

I love the exciting opportunities provides for students to converse online about any designated topic. I've promoted other platforms like for similar activities. However, the format of TodaysMeet lends itself more to a specific conversation much like a Twitter chat. Why not use Twitter? Simple answer...first graders can't have Twitter accounts.

I have more information on how to set up a TodaysMeet here. In this scenario, I had a QR code to the TodaysMeet on the actual text. It works well so that they can quickly access the page without having to type in a URL. This is especially handy in case a student gets disconnected. I am hoping to have students perform this activity completely independently in the future.

If you are interested in seeing the conversation or just want a few laughs, enjoy the transcript below.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Zamzar: PDF to PowerPoint  is a great resource for converting file formats. It is easy to use and will notify you by email when your file is converted. I use it frequently has staff members like to send Microsoft Publisher files to post/advertise on the school website. If I'm on my Chromebook, that is a problem as it does not read Publisher files. I just use Zamzar and convert it to a PDF file. I could ask them to send me a PDF version, but ultimately it is faster if I just do it myself. 

Mr. Cary, the music teacher at Rome City Elementary, asked a question about putting a multi-page PDF file into PowerPoint slides. He wanted it on slides so that he could flip through sheet music quickly while helping students or sitting at a piano. He didn't want to be tied to his computer/interactive board to flip pages. He was taking screen shots of each page and inserting each one into a PowerPoint presentation. This could be time-consuming depending upon the length of the file. 

To save a little time, one could use Zamzar to convert the PDF file to an image format, extract them into a folder, and insert them as a "photo album" into PowerPoint. Here is a quick tutorial on how to make that happen: 

Monday, April 6, 2015


Teachers need to tell their story. They also need a time-efficient to be able to accomplish the task. Parents need convenient ways to receive communication; a little glimpse of what is happening in the classroom goes a long way. It is the nature of today's culture as Internet users are so accustomed to having so much information piped directly to them in short bursts through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I encourage teachers to join into the realm of social media as it provides information to parents on a platform that they already utilize. If teachers are telling their story, less fiction can be created. The slideshow above is an example of how Flipagram for iOS and Android can be an asset to the teacher in sharing their story.

I've posted quite a bit recently on the use of Instagram in the classroom and how it can enhance communication. In addition to those posts, I'd like to introduce Flipagram. I like Flipagram because it is super easy to use and can be piped directly into your social media outlets (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Teachers can put together a few pictures into a slideshow, add some text, add music, and post to all major social media platforms. It has been useful as I snap a few pictures of my classroom experiences and send a slideshow to the teacher so that they can post it on their blog. They appreciate that I did a few steps for them, but it really only takes about five minutes to create a Flipagram.

Here is how to create a Flipagram:

Another practical use of Flipagram is to post the slideshows to your blog/class website. If you are utilizing a class Instagram account, you can easily embed your Flipagrams directly to your blog. What an easy way to keep parents informed and engaged in their child's learning experience.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Baby Toys Should Have Bluetooth Too

My Son's Interpretation of Bluetooth
One of my favorite electronic toys at home is my JBL Power-Up bluetooth speaker. It produces incredible sound out of a small device. Not only that, but I can pair it with my phone just by laying my phone on top of the speaker. It will make a connection, kick on my music and wirelessly charge my phone simultaneously. I absolutely love wireless charging.

My wife recently sent the photo of this baby toy phone setting on top of my speaker. (Of course, I had to add a little of my own treatments to it.) My son thought that by placing his little sister's baby toy on top of the speaker, that it would project the sound out of it. He's seen me do it hundreds of times with my phone. He obviously is missing a few pieces to the puzzle as the toy phone does not have bluetooth capabilities nor does he know how to pair a device. He lacks the know-how. However, he's witnessed what it is capable of doing. He doesn't try this anymore as he was left unsuccessful. Nor does he even seek help.

The baby phone scenario got me thinking about technology integration in the classroom. I work with some amazing teachers that do technology integration very well. It is a part of their daily routine. It is a part of them because they utilize the tools personally as well as professionally. They are risk takers and have failed miserably at times, but always learn from their mistakes and are extremely teachable.  Their students are fluent because they use digital tools everyday purposefully; not for skill and drill. They create and express their knowledge through apps that require them to input information and think about how they want to communicate their thinking. So often these teachers provide a learning experience that is so engaging and transformational at such a level that it causes their colleagues to notice. That's when I get an email or a question in the hallway asking to create the same "magic" in their classroom. I attempt to create the same experience, but it almost always falls short because there is something missing. There is a lack of understand of what happens behind the scenes for the teacher that experiences success after success with technology integration. Much like my son with his sister's baby phone, placing the toy phone on the bluetooth radio will not create the same magic that I can with my phone. There are pieces to the puzzle that he never saw. He doesn't know that I either read directions or had prior experience with bluetooth enabled devices. He doesn't know the extent at which I studied and practiced to make it work properly.

Five Pieces to the Puzzle:
  1. Digital Citizenship - What steps were taken in order to communicate treatment of devices or expectations for their use? Do they know what kind of power lies at their fingertips and the ramification for poor choices? 
  2. Digital Culture - What value does the teacher place on the device? If the teacher doesn't utilize/value their digital resources, the students won't either. That's plain and simple. The digital culture in a classroom is completely dependant upon the teacher. Do the students comprehend and appreciate the power they hold in their hands? 
  3. Integration - Technology is often treated as a separate part of the day. I cringe every time I hear of "free technology time" on Friday afternoons. How about using it for indoor recess? Using a piece of technology should be fraught with purpose. It is a terribly dangerous thing to just let students use the devices with no end goal in mind. Sure, you can let them use it during recess, but give a purpose for its use. If the purpose is entertainment, the device has lost significance. 
  4. Purpose - Does the purpose for the experience mean anything to the student? If you have students use (insert skill and drill tool here)  for 30 minutes each day, are they benefiting from that experience? Teachers don't give the same worksheets each least I hope not. Are the students using the technology to enhance their learning, or is it being a hindrance? 
  5. Problem Solving - Students need to know how to use a multitude of digital tools in order to achieve an end goal. Can they successfully make decisions as to which tools they use to accomplish a task? Can the teacher do the same? Teachers need to practice using the tools for their own purposes in order to effectively guide students into the problem solving process. Try making a video slideshow with Shadow Puppet. Try making a collage with Pic Collage. Imagine how your students can benefit from the same resources.
I read an article from The Journal by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway recently about technology failing to substantially improve student achievement. It all comes down to one issue: How the students are utilizing the technology? Are your students creating? Are your students using multiple tools to gather information and express their learning? Are you students taking advantage of the opportunities that lie within the technology?