#1iPadClassroom: Assessing Students with Plickers (clicker alternative)

Although Apps are very powerful, not every school can afford to supply tablets in every classroom for every student. How can you use the power of Apps, while staying true to your budget? Welcome to the creatively simple and effective #1iPadclassroom. Over the next few posts, I will talk about Apps and strategies you can use if you only have one iPad. 

Let's say that you want to quickly assess your students, but do not have access to laptops, iPads, and your school prohibits using cell phones. What do you do? Download Plickers to your teacher iPad or Android device. Plickers is a free assessment App that requires very little effort on your part and your students’ part.

Due to the nature of Plickers, your questions are limited to multiple-choice; however, this can be an effective way to check for understanding. How can students answer questions? This is where things get interesting and “old school.” When you sign up for a teacher account, you print out answer cards for students to use. When you ask your students a question, they simply hold up their card and tilt it to the side that corresponds to their answer. You can see a sample card below.

Open up the Plickers App and use your device to literally scan the room for your students’ answers. The answer card has a unique QR code that Plickers scans and generates a poll of answers. Don’t believe me? Check out this video:

This is a great way for any classroom to use. Whether students have learning disabilities or not, they can easily demonstrate their understanding, while you quickly assess their learning.

We know from brain research that it is not about the technology, but how you use the technology that solidifies learning. We also know that not every medium is equal, which can enhance or inhibit learning. This tool opens up learning opportunities and provides students with options to easily express their understanding, whether they have a learning disability or not. It also allows you to move beyond what the answer is to why the answer is what it is.

  • This blog is designed using the Universal Design for Learning framework. Want to know more about UDL? Check out CAST.

  • Are you interested in earning 3 graduate credits and a free iPad? Why not take Eduspire’s iPads in education course. If you are interest, email me for details.

Need Self Control? There's an App for That!


 A few days ago, I was able to hear CAST co-founder, Dr. David Rose, speak at Towson University. In his speech about Universal Design for Learning, Dr. Rose was talking about developing executive function in the brain and mentioned an App called SelfControl. With so many distractions on the web, many of us feel that we have ADHD while browsing.

This has to be one of the coolest Mac Apps that I have seen. It literally locks you out of distracting websites, so that you can concentrate on doing work for a set amount of time. You literally can block yourself from accessing webmail, social media, or anything else on the Internet.

Once the program starts running, you cannot override it (even if you restart your computer) until the timer stops. This is perfect for when you need 20 solid minutes or 4 hours to work on a project, rather than browse through your news feed. If you do need to use the Internet, you can customize which websites are ok and not ok.

This open source program is free and available to download for Macs. If you have a PC, there is an alternative called Cold Turkey that runs in a similar way. Check out the FAQ's for more information!

#UDLTowson: LiveBinders and IPad Recipes

I have had an incredible time in Towson, MD working with teachers from the Baltimore County School District. The past three days have been jam-packed with so many valuable resources about Universal Design for Learning.

Just this afternoon, I was privileged to hear co-founder of CAST, Dr. David Rose, speak about his experiences with the UDL framework. I've worked with amazing leaders like Liz Berquist, George Van Horn, and Katie Novak, Nikki Norris, Fran Smith, and Bill Jensen.

As many of you requested, here are the copies of the presentations:

Recipes for LiveBinders

Recipes for Don't Be a One and Done

#Brainly and Homework Help: The Value of Crowdsourcing in Education

Most educators are unaware of the term crowdsourcing; however, its contribution to the world of education is becoming a valuable commodity. To understand why, you must first understand what the term means. In its simplest sense, crowdsourcing can be defined as the ability to get a “crowd” of people (online) to work together (outsourcing) to complete a task or generate funding.

Many teachers still cringe at the name Wikipedia; however, it is an excellent example of crowdsourcing, which annually generates millions of user-generated articles and edits on a variety of topics. You may cringe when you hear the word crowdsourcing paired with the classroom, but its potential impact on students is substantial. For example, think about one of the biggest challenges in most classrooms today - homework.

Why are students NOT doing homework?
Homework has been a frustrating cat and mouse game for decades. It seems like no matter what we do, there is always that one student who fails to complete their homework. Why? Teachers sometimes attribute this lack of student performance as being “lazy,” “apathetic,” and “not caring.” Students still offer excuses for incomplete homework assignments that been the subject of jokes for decades. Yes, students still say that their “dog at their homework!”

Don’t get me wrong, there are dozens of students who fail to see the value of homework; however, there are also dozens of students who legitimately don’t complete homework for a variety of reasons. 
  • Perhaps they legitimately don’t understand how to complete it because they didn't completely grasp the concept in class.
  • Maybe they lack the vocabulary foundation they need to understand the assignment. 
  • Perhaps they don’t have the parental support to answer questions.
In my opinion, I believe that one of the biggest reasons why students don’t complete homework is that they truly don’t understand how to complete it. In our instantaneous society, our students often get frustrated when they cannot find an answer NOW. How do they respond? They shut down.

What if you could utilize the power of crowdsourcing to help students?
How do we get students to do homework? We could make it relevant and applicable to their life. We could connect them to other students who are willing to support them. We could provide supports and scaffolds to help support their learning, providing help where it is needed. Perhaps we could use the power of crowdsourcing, social media, and education.

A perfect way of doing this could be through Brainly, an excellent resource worth considering for elementary to high school classrooms. In fact, people inside and outside the educational community are starting to take note of this amazing site. Forbes magazine recently described Brainly as a form of “crowdlearning,” or a way of bringing crowds of online users to help each other learn. 

From math to French, there are a variety of subject areas to request help from. When you log into your Brainly account, you are directed to a home screen with current questions that are posted to the general community, a place where you can ask a question on a variety of subject areas. 

How does Brainly work?
I decided to test out the site for myself by creating an account using my Facebook credentials. When you create an account, you are also given a certain number of points. Points are deducted from your account every time you ask a question. How do you get more points? You answer the questions of other users within the community. I love this simple, but motivating idea. To have your questions answered, you have to be willing to help others.

I noticed that Brainly claims that most questions are answered within several minutes. The cynical side of me decided to test this out, so I posted a basic question “what is the difference between a noun and pronoun?” I had to determine a point value that would be awarded to someone who would answer it. 

Plus I was able to award “bonus” points for the best answer I received. Quite motivating! Immediately I was able to see specific users within the community that were looking at my question, which is a great indicator that it would be answered.  

In fact, in about 10 minutes I had two excellent answers.  When a person responds with an answer, you can click a “thank you" button,  provide a rating, and award bonus points to the best answer.

What about the Reliability of Other Users? 

One of the biggest challenges to crowdsourcing is the reliability of answers, which is something that Brainly has placed a considerable amount of thought into. The site contains a scoreboard ranking the daily, weekly, monthly, and overall “Brainliest” users. As users accumulate points, they are also awarded ranks like “beginner,” “helping hand” and“genius.” 

This is a great way to see if the person who is helping you has a good track record or not. If you want to learn more about other users, you can view questions they previously answered, subject areas they mostly help with, how active their account has been, and questions that they have asked in the past.


Brainly is an awesome resource that should be included in any classroom. Current brain research estimates that the best way for students to attain information is by reteaching it to fellow classmates. With the power of crowdsourcing, students can now learn by helping others across the globe.

How #Edmodo Snapshot Reports are a Game Changer

A few weeks ago, I had created a blog post and video describing how you could use the Edmodo Snapshot feature to assess student performance on ELA and Mathematics Common Core Standards. Today I would like to take it a step further and show you how to use Snapshot to make data-driven decisions in your classroom.

Once students have taken a Snapshot assessment, Edmodo provides you with instantaneous group and individual feedback. There are three reports within the Snapshot feature that I would like to make you aware of. To access the data, click on the Reports tab in the top right corner of your screen.

Want to see it in action? 

Check out my video:

Understanding Each Report:

To help you understand how each report works, I would like to use the analogy of an airplane ride.

Report # 1: Focus Report (aka 30,000 foot view)

When I think of the Focus Report, I like to think of it as the 30,000 foot view of your classroom. This report compiles an overview of how many students meet the ELA or Math standards and what percentage of the standards have been addressed.

One of my favorite parts of this report is the Opportunities section, which provides a snapshot of the standards that need the most attention. The data is compiled into what looks like a complex venn diagram; however, it is much easier to use. By placing your cursor over top of each shaded circle, you will see what students meet and do not meet standards.

The size of each circle communicates how much improvement is needed. The bigger the circle, the more attention is needed. Overlapping circles communicate that there are students that do not meet multiple standards. This tool is a great way to make informed decisions for the entire group based upon immediate needs.

Report # 2: Student Report (aka the runway) 

When I think of the Student Report, I like to think of it as the ground view of each student in your classroom. The purpose of this report is to meet the individual needs of students within your classroom. This tool is a great way to make informed decisions based on actual student needs.

To unveil student data, there are are three hidden gems that you will want to be aware of:

1. You can filter by last name or by proficiency.

2. By click on the color-coded key at the top of your screen, you can filter based on actual student performance like "borderline," "behind," etc. This will remove all of the clutter that exists and filter out by performance. For example, if you wanted to see only the students who are "borderline" or "behind," you could do so.

3. You can see student responses (correct or incorrect) to each question. Due to the nature of Snapshot, students will be given different questions that address a particular standard. In other words, when you create an assessment all students may have different questions. To see how students performed, you can click on the color-coded standard and see how exactly they responded.

Report # 3: Standards Report (aka 10,000 foot view)

When I think of the Standards Report, I like to think of it as the 10,000 foot view. You can view how students have performed on all of the standards by looking at each standard's color-coded doughnut chart (based on performance). If you want to see how each individual student performed on a particular standard, just hover your mouse over top of the standard (or substandard) and you will see a list of students categorized by performance.


This is a game changer and it feels awkward saying this, but there is very little effort on your part. Once students take the assessments, you have a library of valuable data to meet the needs of individual students and the class as a whole. Why aren't you using it?

My Student's Take Over as Guest Bloggers - App Creation Changes Everything

When I wrote about how my students created their App for a project creation last week, I had no idea of how much interest it would generate. My students were so excited at the positive comments and interest that were generated that I wanted to give them an opportunity to serve as "guest bloggers." Without further adieu, here is Brett, Kayvon, and Lindell:

About the Class and App:

Why did we choose Como?

We created an app because we wanted to stay up to date with modern technology. Our project's focus was on social media, so creating an app was relevant to our objective. We used Como to create our app because it was easy, convenient, and free. It also guided us through the process of creating an app. Como also provides a QR code which allowed our project to be interactive.

Click on the picture below to see a sample of our App:

3 Ways to Start App Creation Today: 
  • Como (formerly Conduit Mobile) lets you have up to 50 free mobile visits and up to 5 App downloads a month. It's free and easy to use. 
  • Yapp is another free site with a focus on creating Apps for events. You can make your Apps public or private. It is also very easy to use. 
  • AppShed - is a great alternative too.  Although you have to pay for it, they have accounts for education. Mr. B had blogged about this App last last July. Check out his post
Why Create Apps? 

We really liked the experience of creating our own App because we had the pressure of a real audience. We had to do our research, double check hyperlinks, and come up with good ideas because the world is  always watching!

Student App Creation is Easier Than You Think

One of the best parts of being a teacher at the Milton Hershey School is the kids I get to work with. Recently, a group of my honors business students and I traveled to the Hershey Company to give presentations to employees and executives.

It was part of our Hershey's Honors Authentic Business Management program, a 34 week course where students learn about every aspect of the Hershey Company. From manufacturing to social media, a new Subject Matter Expert from the company helps me co-teach the class each week. At the end of the 34 weeks, my students create a presentation from one of the topics covered in class; however, there is a twist. They have to offer a new idea (related to their topic) to the company. Many of my students chose to present new product ideas, order management systems, and social media strategies.

One of my groups went above and beyond the standard PowerPoint Presentations that we normally give. They invented their own App to share with the company! The purpose of this App was to help the company sell chocolate in various ways. It provided Google Maps to brick and mortar store locations, product information, social media links, and links to products.

How did they do it? 

My students had an idea and wanted it to come to life, so they started researching free mobile App creators. They really liked Conduit Mobile (now called Como App Maker) because of how easy it was to create. They could easily create the App and preview what it looks like on multiple IOS and Android devices.

How did they share it? 

Knowing that Como lets you have up to 50 free mobile visits and up to 5 App downloads a month, they wanted a quick and efficient way to share their idea with the over 100 people in the room. They used Screencast-o-Matic to create a screencast of their App and embed it in their PowerPoint.

They still wanted to be able to have a limited number of participants interact with App, so they created a QR code containing the mobile address. They placed this QR code on the back of business cards that they placed on tables around the room. It gave the people who wanted to see the App up-close and personal a chance to do so.


Instead of creating a website, why not have students create their own App? Brain research has shown us that students need different ways of representing material to connect with it. Because every student learns differently, they also need different ways of demonstrating their understanding. This is a perfect option for analytical and struggling learners to stay engaged.

We are seeing evidence that learning is becoming more mobile each day. From BYOD programs to the devices hidden in our students pockets, mobile devices are becoming an essential part of learning. Students are using mobile Apps to study, create projects, communicate, collaborate, and enhance the learning process. With so many mobile devices available, why aren't we give our students the chance to engage in a new way?

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