Sunday, September 25, 2016

Transform Learning Inside and Outside of the Classroom with SeeSaw

Do you give your students options for showcasing their understanding? We know from brain research that the way we learn is as different as our DNA; therefore, providing options for demonstrating understanding is critical in the learning process. SeeSaw is a free digital portfolio too to give students the ability to express their knowledge in different ways through written text, drawings, images, video and web links.

What I Like

There are several things that I like about SeeSaw:

  • It is easy to use and makes it the perfect tool for elementary classrooms.
  • Students can annotate, record, and capture images directly in the App.
  • SeeSaw is available on multiple platforms, which makes it perfect for any school environment. 
  • Teachers have control over what is posted, including student and parent comments.
  • Teachers can give access to parents to see their child's work. Recently, my son's teacher gave me access to his SeeSaw account. I am able to hear him read stories and share what he is learning when he is learning!

How Can I Use It?

SeeSaw is easy to incorporate into any classroom, which gives you many different options. Here are a few ideas:

  • Blog - Have students share what they learned in class through a blog entry, video recording, or a picture. Once students have posted content, have classmates learn how to use comments to comment on their classmate's work. Encourage parents to participate too!
  • Solve Problems - Have students take a picture of math problems or grammar practice and solve using the annotation and video recording features. This provides you with the perfect way to understand their thinking. 
  •  Practice Reading - Have students use the video and audio recording features to practice reading their favorite book, poem, or something that they have written. This provides you with an excellent progress monitoring resource as well. 
  • Share Announcements - My son's teacher often shares what's going on in class through a 30 - 60 second video on SeeSaw. I love hearing about what is happening!  

There are so many other ways to use SeeSaw, but I highly recommend that you check it out! It can be the perfect tool in the elementary classroom for teachers, students, and even parents.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Give Your Students a Voice, One Dot at a Time

Each one of us makes daily decisions that impact the lives of others. How often do you take the time to have students and colleagues vote or share a voice in how decisions are made? Although this can be time consuming, Dotstorming is a tool, much like Padlet, where participants can add ideas, share opinions, and vote through dots. 

Step 1: Create Your First Dotstorming Board

First, you will need to create your first Dotstorming topic by providing the title of the topic, a description, how many votes (or dots used to cast votes) you would like each person to have, and how do you want to share your board (via a link or email). 

Step 2: Share Your Topic

Next, you will want to share your Dotstorming topic with others through a link or via email. As with other collaborative sties, participants do not have to have an account to participate. 

Step 3: Add Your Ideas

Then, you will want to add your ideas in the form of text, images, and videos. There are tons of was that you can use this tool, such as:

  • Determining topics to cover in class or professional development
  • Which resources to share at your next faculty meeting
  • Plan your next unit with colleagues
  • Have your students or colleagues give feedback on what worked and what didn't
  • Have your students use this as a project-based learning workspace

Step 4: Vote

Last but certainly not least, you will want to have participants vote on your topic. Simply click on the idea you like to place a "dot" or cast a vote.


Humans are naturally wired to want to have choice; however, we often struggle with how to give options and receive quality feedback. Allowing others to have a voice is the perfect way to create engaging and collaborative environments, where everyone has an opportunity to share and be heard. Dotstorming is the perfect tool to get the feedback that you desire. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

3 Reasons Why You Should Use PBS Learning Media

What if you had access to thousands of free and engaging digital resources that are aligned to academic standards? What if you had access to tools to make your job easier? What if you had access to tools that provide students with engaging and customized learning experiences? You and your students can with resources from PBS LearningMedia.

Here are three reasons why you should be using PBS LearningMedia:

Access to over 100,000 videos, images, interactives, and lesson plans for every grade level and subject area. Resources are aligned to national and Common Core academic standards.

Tools to make your job easier! PBS LearningMedia provides tools to increase your productivity, such as Lesson Builder, Storyboard and Quiz Maker. Teachers can create customized and self-paced lessons for students to effectively learn content. Students can use the Storyboard to demonstrate their understanding of a concept in their own way. Each resource can help you create customized and effective lessons for all students to learn.

Access to a larger community of educators, who are committed to helping ALL children succeed. It is the perfect place to connect, whether you are looking for a webinar to use digital tools more effectively or want to connect with other educators in your subject area.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Three Ways to Engage Parents with Google Photos

Can you believe that it is September already? It's the time of year for fresh starts, new school supplies, and exciting opportunities to try something new. Why not start the year off with a new tool to engage parents?

Google Photos: Much More Than a Backup Tool

If you are a Google Apps for Education School, then you know that Google Photos is the perfect place to store your classroom photos, but did you know that it also offers you several powerful creation tools? Here are three easy ways to engage parents (and students) with this powerful tool:

1. Create a Shared Photo Album

Parents love to see pictures of their children in action because it gives them a glimpse of what they are learning, how they interact with their peers, and how they engage with learning.

Many of us have mobile devices and tablets in our hands, so why not use them to capture everyday moments and store them in a shared album? Parents can view albums without needing a Google account because it can be shared via URL, Facebook, or Twitter.

2. Create a Collage

Want to spruce up your weekly news letter, create a unique gift, or showcase a particular activity? Google Photo's provides you with a Collage generator. To create your collage, simply select the pictures you would like to appear in your collage and Google will do the rest!

Elementary school parents love seeing their children grow through pictures. Why not take a beginning of the school, mid-year, and end of the year picture? Share the picture at the end of the year as an end of the year or Mother's Day gift?

3. Transform Back-to-School Night with a Movie

If you have an iOS and Android device, then you may want to use the Google Photos Movie Maker tool to make your movies come to life through animation and sound. Simply select the pictures that you would like to feature in your movie, select Movie, and Google will automatically animate and put your photos to music.

This is a great way to make Back-to-School night more interesting, send out a weekly email blast, or engage parents through social media!


Marking one's self is not a natural trait of many teachers; however, in this day an age, it is an essential quality to connect the classroom and home. If we look for opportunities to connect with parents and engage parents in the learning process through technology, I believe we are more likely to build stronger connections between the classroom and home!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Cut Past the Baloney with BaloneyMeter App

Critical thinking is an important part of learning and involves the ability to reason effectively, utilize systems thinking, make judgements, and solve problems. Although it is an important component of learning, how do you help your students to think beyond the obvious?

You may want to consider using a simple tool called the Baloney Meter. This free iOS App leads you through several questions to consider the relevance of a claim, website, and even political candidate!

Students (even teachers) can use a sliding scale to answer several different questions to determine the claim's relevance:

  • Is the claim baloney? 
  • Is its source reliable? 
  • Can it be tested?
  • Is there confirmation for it?
  • Can there be another explanation? 
As you use the sliding scale, your screen changes color to determine its relevance or irrelevance. 
Although it is not a perfect tool, it is a great tool to help your students to begin thinking critically about the information, claims, and websites they come in contact with on a regular basis. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

iOS and GAFE: Collaborate and Auto Populate a Shared Folder with Images and Videos

Recently, I gave a Classroom 2.0 webinar titled "Amazing Digital Projects for All Students with Google Tools." During the webinar, I spoke of ways to make your pictures speak "a thousand words." I provided an example that I learned from the great Ken Shelton called a class photo vault.

The basic premise of Ken's idea was to create a place where your entire class could populate a Google Folder with photos and video clips from their iPad or mobile device. Your "photo vault" is a location, where students can use non-commercial images and videos to create their own content. Here is how it works!

Step 1: Create and Share a Folder in Google Drive

If you are a GAFE School, you could easily share your folder via Google Classroom or you could enter your student's GAFE accounts in the sharing settings. Make sure that you give your students Editing rights.

Step 2: Have Students Open Up the Folder on Their Mobile Device

If you are using an iPad, have students open up the folder in the Google Drive App. When students open up the folder, have them tap on the plus sign (bottom-right corner of their screen).

Have students choose "Use Camera." If this is the first time they are using Google Drive to access their camera, they will need to give it permission.

Step 3: Photo Shoot Time!

Once students are inside of the folder, they can take pictures that will automatically add content to the folder. This is the perfect space for students to curate content and not waste valuable time searching for that perfect image. Have students use only pictures created by the class to illustrate a concept, make a point,  or express their opinion.


Another great tool worth mentioning is Google Photos. If you have not checked it out, this Google App provides users with the ability to create and share albums, collages, and animations. More to follow!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

3 Ways to Engage Students with Technology During the First Day of Class

It is that time of year again! School has started or will be starting for many of you. How can you build community and creatively infuse technology into your classroom? Here are some of my favorite activities to try on the first day:

1.  Collaborate on Expectations in Google Slides 

Instead of speaking at your kids, why invite them to collaborate on your classroom expectations? You can easily create a Google Slides presentation and share it with your entire class (make sure they have "editing" rights). Break your students into pairs or small groups, then assign them a specific slide. I usually assign group 1 to slide 1, group 2 to slide 2, etc.

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Have students create their top 10 list of classroom expectations 
  • List one specific expectation on the top of each slide. Have your students describe what that particular expectation means to their group.
Have students use text, pictures, and videos to explain their assigned expectation. At the end of your presentation, make it "view" only and have each group present their expectation. You can add any content to each group's slides (as needed) because you have editing rights.  Check out a sample that I have used in the past here. 

2. Gamify Your First Day of Class with FlipQuiz.Me

Instead of talking your class to death on the first day, why not gamify your class with FlipQuiz.me? Share information about yourself, syllabus, and class expectations in a game-like manner. FlipQuiz.me is an online website to make your own online Jeopardy game. 

3. Create Community with Google Forms

James Comer once stated, "Learning cannot occur without a significant relationship." In the classroom, knowledge (about your students) is power. Why not create a Google Form with questions aimed at getting to know them better? You may want to ask about their hobbies, learning styles, interests, etc. Here is an example I have used with teachers for PD. 

If you do not have technology in your classroom, it may be helpful to link your Google Form to a QR Code to allow students to use their mobile devices to enter data. Once a student fills out a Google Form, their data is automatically compiled into a private Google Sheet. 

I like to continue adding to the Sheet throughout the year as I get to know more about my students. This information can be very helpful at strengthening relationships or getting through difficult times. 


As the first day of school approaches, it is important to find engaging ways to share information and expectations with students. Start your school year with highly engaged students and see the difference!