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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Google Calendar - Appointment Slots

Here's something that's been around for a while but I didn't know it existed, and it's great!  Appointment Slots is a tool baked into Google Calendars which allows you to designate a time period, with incremental time slots, for people to self-select a meeting time with you.  This would be useful for teachers setting a time for students to meet or parents for conferences.  The process for creating one is as simple as creating an event.

1,000s of Free Socrative Quizzes

Socrative is a great tool for the online classroom.  Here is what their website says:

Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers by engaging their classrooms with a series of educational exercises and games. Our apps are super simple and take seconds to login. Socrative runs on tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

There are 1,000s of free quizzes at this website for you to use.  You can filter them to your liking and grab the SOC # and add them to your Socrative class.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Screen Sharing via Messages

Note: you need Apple's newest operating system, Yosemite, in order for this to work.

Yosemite has some new "cool" features, including SMS relay, phone calls on your Mac, and handoff.  But one of my favorite features is Screen Sharing and it's built right into the Messages app.  If you've never used the Messages app, I highly recommend it.  It's a great, quick way to stay connected.

The new feature of Messages is the ability to share your screen (or control someone else's) and it's baked right in.  When using the Messages app on your laptop you'll see a Details button on the top right.  Click on that and if that person is also logged into Messages you'll see the option to either share your screen or request to share theirs.  It will then open up the Screen Sharing app and allow you to remotely control their computer.

This is a great for those who support others, whether they're teachers or family members.

Is Google Up or Down? How about Apple?

Yesterday I had a lot of staff asking me if Google's services were up or down.  I found a website that shows you the current status of Google's apps.  There's also one for Apple's services too.

Apps Status Dashboard

Apple Services Dashboard

Monday, October 27, 2014

QR Codes for Reading

I got to hang out at Lincoln Elementary with Mrs. Brown's 5th grade class today and during recess two girls stayed inside to do some Reading?  Huh?  Missing recess for Reading?  These girls were excited to show off their creations via QR codes that were proudly displayed in the hall for all to enjoy.

The bulletin board invites all comers to scan the QR codes with their own device or come into the classroom and borrow one to see what's going on.  This use of technology gives the students a real audience outside of just the teacher and student and more importantly, the product carries the process.  Students are excited about Reading because of what they get to do with it.

School Focus App

School Focus is a great, free app that allows you to take a picture or video of a students or group of students and tag it with their names.  Anything tagged automatically shows up in the Illuminate student & parent portal.  It's a great (and fast way) to share what's happening in your classes with those at home.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Google Forms Add-ons

Add-ons are a great way to extend your use of Google applications but there haven't been any specific ones for Google Forms, as of yet.  Today Google has introduced add-ons that can be used within a Google Form, like the ability turn off a form when a certain number of responses has been reached or the ability to add graphs and math functions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shadow Puppet Edu App for Content Creation

My latest goal has been to find apps and websites that help teachers to "teach above the line", in reference to reaching the upper levels of the SAMR model of modification and redefinition.  Specifically, I'm looking apps that allow students to share their learning in a personal and creative way.  Shadow Puppet Edu fits that bill.  In a nutshell, students and teachers can create short presentations with videos and images, record a narration over the top, and then share.  During the creation process they can also draw on the images and add text where needed.  Here is a blurb from their iTunes page:

∙ Present a project or describe an experience
∙ Search Library of Congress, NASA, Met Museum, Creative Commons, and more for images to explain an idea 
∙ Develop digital storytelling skills
∙ Demonstrate understanding of a concept for assessment 
∙ Improve speaking skills or practice reading aloud

∙ Create mini-lessons for blended learning or flipped classroom 
∙ Develop more engaging prompts for assignments or discussions
∙ Provide examples of final projects

Here is a sample

There are also another competitor called SpeakingPhoto (iPad & Android)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Free iPad Presentation Tools

A new, free presentation tool came to the iPad party last week called Canva.  It does a pretty decent job of allowing you to create your own slides or use the installed templates.  Here is a blurb from their iTunes page:
Create beautiful designs with Canva. Choose from more than one million layouts, stock photographs and illustrations. Search for the best graphics, photos, and fonts (or upload your own) then use Canva’s simple drag and drop tool to create a design.
Another one that my students liked that made really clean looking presentations is Haiku Deck.
Haiku Deck makes it a snap to create beautiful presentations that will wow your audience – whether you’re pitching an idea, teaching a lesson, telling a story, or igniting a movement.

Word Clouds in Google Docs

Words clouds are great because they are a neat graphical representation of words and they also can show a teacher or student which words are coming up frequently in their writing or in others work, such as historical documents or speeches.  Now you can easily add word clouds or Tag Clouds, as they're often known, in a Google Doc if your document has more than 100 words.  Simply go to the 'Add ons' menu and search for Tag Cloud Generator.  Add it as an add-on.  I had to close the Google Doc I was working in and reopen it in order to get the option to show up.

Open your Google Doc, go to add-ons, and select Tag Cloud Generator > Create Tag Cloud and the newly created word cloud will appear in the margin on the right.  I've been searching for a way to insert this into a document, short of taking a screenshot of it and inserting it, but I can't find an easy way.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Record iOS Screen with Yosemite and iOS 8

The ability to record your iPhone or iPad's screen for instructional purposes is great.  It's also a useful tool for students to be able to share what they're learning or making tutorials by recording the steps.  The only way to do this in the past was to mirror your iOS device using AirServer and then recording it.  But with the releases of iOS 8 and Yosemite it's very easy with the additional use of Quick Time Player.  Here are the steps (borrowed from iOS Hacker):

  1. Connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to your Mac via a Lightning Cable.
  2. Open the QuickTime app.quick-time-iphone-screen-recording
  3. Go to File and select ‘New Movie Recording’.quick-time-iphone-screen-recording-2
  4. A recording window will appear. You will a see little arrow for drop down menu in front of the record button. Click that arrow and select your iPhone.
  5. Select the Mic of your iPhone if you want to record music, app/game sounds.quick-time-iphone-screen-recording-3
  6. Click the Record button. Now perform the tasks on your iOS device that you want to record.
  7. Once done tap the stop button and save the video.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Google Classroom Updates

Google Classroom is a great tool that allows students and teachers to use their Google Drive as the launchpad for a digital classroom.  Google came out with some updates today based on worldwide feedback from users.  They are as follows (from the Google Apps Updates Blog):

Google Classroom launched this summer to make Google Apps for Education even simpler — saving teachers time and making it easier to collaborate with students. Today, we’re launching five improvements to Classroom, focusing on things educators and students around the world told us were most important to them:

  • Groups integration: Ability to pre-populate classes using existing Google Groups. If your school uses tools like School Directory Sync, admins can sync class rosters from the student information system (SIS) into Groups.
  • Mark assignments as “done”: Students can mark assignments as complete even if there's nothing to turn in (e.g. watch a video, read a chapter, bring something to class)
  • Export all grades: Teachers will now have the ability to download grades for all assignments at once, making it easier to export assignments to any gradebook
  • Sorting: Teachers can now choose to sort students by first or last name, depending on their needs
  • Greater teacher controls: Teachers can now set permissions for whether or not their class can post or comment in the stream, they can mute individual students from posting or commenting and can even view previously deleted items in the stream

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vocabulist - Great Word Tool

I stumbled across a wonderful, free tool today called Vocabulist that allows you to import a file (PDF, Word, text, or cut/paste) containing your classroom vocabulary words.  The site then offers suggested definitions for each of the words.  From there you can export the word list as a PDF or, and here's the best part, you can export the words and definitions to Quizlet.  That way students can download the words as flashcards onto their iPads.  My favorite flashcard app is Flashcardlet.

You can also log in with your Google account, which is always a bonus.  One less password to remember!

15 Second Vocabulary Videos

Came across a great idea today about learning new vocabulary with technology in a novel way.  15 Second Vocabulary Videos (or animations).  It's actually a contest from NYT but you have to be 13 to enter.  Regardless, it would be a worthwhile activity for students to do to attack academic vocabulary.  Plus they have a lot of sample videos.

Read this blurb from

"The 15-Second Vocabulary Contest asks students to create a short video in which they pronounce, define, and illustrate (animation, drawing, acting, claymation, stop-motion) the meaning of one of" your academic vocabulary.

Monday, October 13, 2014

GoSoapBox - Polling, Quizzing and Class Barometer

GoSoapBox is a website that offers a few key services for classroom teachers to use to gather information from students.  You can use it free with 30 students at a time, but must pay more if you had a larger audience.  The key parts, they call them events, include:

  • instant polling
  • online quizzing
  • discussions
  • real-time classroom barometer (confusion meter)
There are a bunch of sites that do the first three but the fourth one was most intriguing to me.  Basically, students visit the site and and login with a unique code.  Once they're in they see whatever events you have set up for them and at the very top they see the Confusion Barometer, which is a switch to toggle between "I get it" and "I don't get it".  What shows up on the teacher's screen is the number of students on each side of the equation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

iPhone Tripod Hack

With the new iPhone coming out with it's sleek design and rounded edges it's no longer possible to prop it up on a table in order to take a self-timed shot or time-lapse.  But I read about a neat way to keep your phone stable while filming.  Take your iPhone charger and place your phone inside the prongs that you would normally plug into the wall.  Place it on a flat spot and film away.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Auto Send Emails Using a Google Spreadsheet

This is a great tip I learned today while from a webinar from  You can use a Google sheet to email parents or students a universal and individual message with the click of a button.  The process is pretty simple and the video below has all of the details.  The website he references to download the sheet is

The bulk of your time will be entering student or parent email addresses and then customizing the sheet before sending it.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

For All Rubrics - Score Rubrics on Your iPad

The For All Rubrics tool gives you an online place to score students' papers using a rubric. It has potential for our device pilot teachers. Here is some information from Class Tech Tips:

If you use rubrics to grade student work you have to try ForAllRubrics! Once you set up your class list, this website allows users to import rubrics they’ve already made, or easily create new ones. Open the site on your iPad and with a few taps you’ll have projects graded in no time. It’s easy to access previous grades, print out data, and it’s free for teachers!

Pixiclip - Online Interactive Whiteboard

PixiClip is a website and iPad app that, much like Educreations and Explain Everything, give you a blank slate and tools with the ability to record your work or lesson. I think these are very powerful for getting students to think critically about their work and learning. Here are some details from Class Tech Tips:

PixiClip is a great choice for teachers and students looking for a way to capture their doodles. This online interactive whiteboard works in any web browser. On an iPad you can capture your writing as you draw pictures, type in a message, or show your work solving a math problem. On a web browser on a computer, users can record their drawings as well as the view from a web cam or sound from a microphone.

You might use PixiClip to write and record a message for students to view from their mobile device, to give students a visual writing prompt or explanation of how to solve a math problem. The user interface is simple for both teachers and students to use. You don’t have to login to share your work, but if you’d like the recordings you make to be private you can sign up for a free account. Check out PixiClip’s website to get started today!

MathChat iPad App - Collaborative Math Help

There are some great math apps out there but this is the first collaborative math app I've come across. The premise sounds great.

"Get instant math help from your friends! Solve your specific math problem while your friends message with you and draw for help. Then check your answer to see if you’re right!"

It's a freebie so download it here

Hour of Code 2014

Last year my students participated in the Hour of Code and I would encourage students of all ages to take part this year.  Writing code not only is a window into what makes our apps and websites tick but it's akin to learning a second language and can be a marketable skill.  The Hour of Code does a good job of getting kids excited about it.  Here is an email that I received from

Calling all teachers. Worldwide.
Computer science is foundational for all students today. Yet 90% of schools don't teach it. Last December, 15 million students tried computer science in one week, thanks to educators like you! Since then, over 40 million students have tried the Hour of Code.

Hour of Code 2014 - let's reach 100 million students
Please help this grassroots, teacher-driven campaign reach 100 million students by the end of the year. Sign up to participate in Hour of Code 2014 during December 8-14, Computer Science Education Week.

You've taught courses, so you know how fun this is for students. Use the Hour of Code to re-engage students with new tutorials.

Sign up to participate, recruit a fellow teacher, or get your whole school to join the fun!

Start now at

Hadi Partovi

P.S. Free 1-day workshops for teachers in grades K-5
We're offering free, in-person workshops in 60 cities nationwide! Get a head start on teaching computer science in elementary school with Code Studio. Try out Code Studio and Find a workshop near you.

Use Class Charts for Behavior Driven Seating Charts

Class Charts is very similar to ClassDojo in that it allows teachers to track individual student's behavior and then see charts and data around that behavior.  Where ClassDojo seems a bit more elementary school focused, Class Charts could easily fit into middle or high school.

Here is a blurb from FreeTech4Teachers
ClassCharts is an excellent tool for creating online seating charts, behavior charts, and behavior reports. One of the best features of ClassCharts is the option to create seating charts based on behavior data that you record for each class. When you are viewing a seating chart in your ClassCharts account you can select the option to rearrange students manually, randomly, or based on behavior patterns. Create a chart based on behavior patterns simply move the behavior score slider to "cluster similar" or "disperse similar." See the screenshot below for an illustration of this setting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Huge Google Drive for Education Updates

Google just announced that in the very near future all of the Google Drive for Education accounts will have a few new features, including unlimited storage and the ability to host large files, up to 5Tb.  That's beyond big.  It has big implications for students who will be able to save anything they do...anything.  It also means the same for staff plus the ability to backup their computers to their safe, secure Google Drive account.

Minecraft for Team Building

Students love, really love, Minecraft.  In my classrooms they played it at every spare moment.  Yes, it's a game, and yes it's addicting but that doesn't mean there's not educational value tied to it.  I had students create worlds and characters and then write about those characters in a story, using proper story elements.  They recorded themselves creating their worlds and shared with the rest of the class.  It's as powerful as you make it.

I just recently read an article on the ISTE website by Douglas Kiang titled Can Minecraft Teach Team Building that is worth your time to read.  His main point is that Minecraft can be used as a tool to teach team building for the classroom.