It Happened for a Reason: Reflections on #GTAATX

IMG_4411I believe that things happen for a reason. The reason isn’t always clear to me at first, but as days progress and thoughts process, the reasons start to unravel and become revealed. Rewind to spring of this year— I was pretty disappointed when I didn’t get accepted into the Google Teacher Academy at Mountain View. The timing (summer) was perfect, and the location (California) even more-so. But I knew that there was a reason why I wasn’t accepted into that cohort, and I promised myself that I’d apply for the Austin, Texas cohort. Fail forward, right? So after learning I was accepted to Austin, I started looking for the reasons. Slowly but surely, I’m discovering the reasons why I believe I was meant to be a part of this particular group, and I’ll probably learn more reasons as relationships continue to develop.

Social Media as The Great Equalizer

From the moment we were accepted, we became a team. We connected through different social media channels, such as Google+, Twitter, and Voxer. I was a Voxer newbie, and frankly I still am to some degree, but that didn’t stop me. I wanted to be part of the conversation early on, and I’m so glad that we all dove in head-first. We talked about everything from gym habits to choice beverages to district technology practices. It made meeting face-to-face for the first time feel like a reunion with old camp friends that I hadn’t seen since the summer before. The feeling that we were a team, even though I didn’t know a single other person in the cohort before the academy, is just one reason why I believe I was put into the Austin cohort.

Tools and Problem Solving

Interestingly, I didn’t have too many expectations about what would happen going into the GTA. I figured we’d learn some cool and different ways to use Google tools, get to know one another a little, make a plan to do something upon our return, and have a good time. I knew it would be awesome and I’d feel mind-blown the whole time, and it was and I did, but not in the way that I thought I would. We spent a lot of time identifying a problem that is important to us in our roles within our districts or schools, and we used the design thinking method to come up with a statement of purpose for a project we want to tackle.

Photo: Danny Silva

Working hard to consider the issues I face. Photo: Danny Silva

We collaborated for feedback on our ideas and we helped each other work through that process. We walked away with the beginnings of a plan. I had already started a project in my district that was the beginning of this plan, but now I am better equipped to consider everything I want to do with my plan to move it forward, and I have people I can call on for feedback and conversation surrounding my plan, because so many of us are taking on the same issues. There’s some comfort in that, and those connections are another reason why I believe I was put together with this group of educators.

Effective Feedback Makes Things Happen

Effective Feedback allows for a creator to iterate. When feedback is, “this is good,” it doesn’t give the creator anywhere to go. When feedback is more like, “Have you considered doing this?” or “Think about this from a different perspective…”, well, now we’re talking. During the GTA, I put my big idea out to a group of like-minded educators with similar passions and the desire to make similar changes in the world.

Photo: Amy Mayer

Look at all that collaboration! Photo: Amy Mayer

Even though I have a start at my moonshot idea, there are perspectives that I hadn’t considered, and there are aspects of my project that could use some improvement. I am not sure where in my plan the improvements will happen quite yet, but I have a better understanding about where my project is going thanks to the effective feedback and thoughtful questions that I got from my peers at the GTA. Yet another reason.

We’re All in This Together (sing it with me!)

There have been numerous times over the past few years when I have listened to or participated in conversations with other teachers that have left me feeling… unsettled. I didn’t like what I was hearing, but I didn’t contribute my own ideas because they were so far outside of the reality of the conversation that I just didn’t want to have to explain my thinking or be looked upon as crazy, jaded, and idealistic.  I have always know that there are others nearby and far away who are just like I am—idealistic (and maybe a little crazy). They are willing to speak up and stand up for what they believe in order to turn our ideals into reality. I know now for certain that I am not alone and that like-minded educators are just a few clicks away. This is probably the most important thing that I learned at the Google Teacher Academy.

Photo: Amy Mayer

Team #FancyFruit! Photo: Amy Mayer

In the End, It’s All About…

… the connections. It’s always been about the connections for me. I’m so fortunate to have spent time in Austin, Texas, with my cohort and new friends. It was fun, and it was crazy, and it was difficult, and it was challenging, but most of all, it was inspiring. I can’t wait to see where we all go with our moonshot ideas and I hope we’ll be able to work toward them together!

Photo: Danny Silva

Photo: Danny Silva

Student Authoring with Book Creator

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 6.42.04 PMBack in the days before technology was so readily available, I had my students write stories and turn them into books using file folders covered with construction paper as book covers, and we would bind them using the giant book-binder and plastic bindings that I purchased for my classroom. We would create collaborative class books in the same way. Today, students can use apps on the iPad that to write and publish their own e-books. One such app, Book Creator, by Red Jumper, is easy to use and allows students to create beautiful books on the iPad that are viewable in many different apps, including iBooks.

How Does Book Creator Work?

If this is your first time using the app, be sure to take a look at the Getting Started guide. It allows you to see a book and it gives you the chance to move things around and explore before having to create your own.Book_Creator_start

When you tap “New Book” to create a new project, you will have the chance to choose the type of book you’d like: portrait, square or landscape. Book_Creator_shape

The book will open to a blank cover. It’s up to the author to decide what should go on the book’s cover. There are many different types of elements for students to add to the cover and to the pages of the book.Book_Creator_elements

Elements can be moved around the page, resized, and deleted if necessary. Tapping on an element and then on the “i” icon will open an editing menu for the element.Book_Creator_edit_text

You can also tap on the “i” icon without having anything highlighted, and that will open the menu to edit the page.Book_Creator_edit_page

When the book is finished, you can open it in other apps, or it can be exported in a variety of formats. You can export it as an ePub, a PDF, or a video. Books can also be opened in other apps. This can be done from within a book or from the “My Books” page.Book_Creator_open_in

Common Core Connection

If I listed all of the Common Core State Standards that could be addressed as students use Book Creator app, this post would go on forever! The app can be used for students to meet just about any Common Core State Standard in English Language Arts or in Math. Writing books helps students show what they know about any topic in any subject matter. Using Book Creator is a fantastic way to help students not only show their understanding to the teacher and their classmates, but they can share their books with the world, as well. Along with the Common Core standards that are being met, students exhibit the 21st Century Skills of communication, critical thinking, and creativity when they create. Of course, if the book is a collaborative effort, and if students share their books with others and ask for feedback, they are also using collaboration skills.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Book Creator in your classroom? What kinds of books have you asked students to write?

Story Telling with Adobe Voice

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 2.06.00 PMAttending EdCamps is one of my favorite ways to learn about new apps and Web tools. In June, I attended EdCampOC in Santa Ana, and it was there that I learned about Adobe Voice. We were talking about all the wonderful video creation apps that are available for the iPad, and a fellow teacher mentioned Adobe Voice. Of course, I downloaded it immediately and started to play around with it. Adobe Voice is similar to Animoto in that students can upload photos and add music and text to their videos, but Adobe Voice has some great organizational features built in. Additionally, students record themselves telling their story, which allows them to create and “star” in a video without actually being on camera.

How Does Adobe Voice Work?

Adobe Voice allows students to create rich, attractive videos that follow a specific story line. The story line can be altered, but it provides structure— a story board, if you will— which can be necessary for some students to get started. Adobe Voice also prompts students with questions each time they create a new slide in the video. The app allows for students to access the camera roll so they can use images they’ve taken themselves, or they can use any of the plethora of icons included in the app.

Students will start on the Welcome Page and choose “Create New Story.”


Then students will provide a title or an idea to get started. At the bottom of the screen are some ideas that float by, and they are categorized by subject. Tapping on a new subject area changes the ideas the float across the screen.


Choosing “Next” takes them to the part of the app where they choose the structure. There are 8 pre-determined structures, or students can choose to “Make Up My Own.” Swiping to the left or right across the structures shows the other structures that are available. These are not the text structures that we have come to know as part of Common Core, such as Compare and Contrast or Problem-Solution. They simply provide a structure for students to help them organize their thoughts.


Students are then able to choose an icon, add a photo, or write text for the slide. At the bottom of the slide, they will hold the record button to record their voice. They can listen back, and if they don’t like what they’ve said, they can re-record the slide.


At any time, students can change the layout of the slide.Adobe_Voice_Layout

They can also change the theme of the slideshow, and they can make changes to the background music.




When students are all finished, they choose the Share button in the upper right hand corner of ever page. They will be presented with many options for sharing their video. This is the one problem I have with using Adobe Voice: it doesn’t save to the camera roll, and you can’t upload it to YouTube– and in all honesty, that is a huge drawback of using this app. The video goes to Adobe Creative Cloud, which means students will need to create an account, or the teacher will need to create a shared account. When the video is uploaded to Creative Cloud, it receives its own Webpage free from distracting advertisements. At the bottom of the page where the video can be seen, Adobe Creative Cloud provides an embed code so you can post the videos on your own website if you wish.  **UPDATE! 1/28/2015** Adobe Voice videos can now be saved to the Camera Roll!! 

Common Core Connection

Adobe Voice allows students to create, think critically about story lines, and communicate effectively. Students who are speaking for awhile on any particular slide are encouraged by the app to, “Keep it Short.” Students will therefore need to determine whether they can shorten what they want to say or add a new slide to accommodate the entire story.

The app can definitely be used spontaneously, but it’s best that students prepare what they are going to say ahead of time. As you could clearly hear in my example, I did not do that! When students have the chance to write out their text beforehand and rehearse what they are going to say, the recording will sound much smoother and students will be working toward a greater number of Common Core Standards.

Students can use Adobe Voice to create presentations that will support their understanding of many of the Common Core Standards, including:


Anchor Standards for Reading
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Anchor Standards for Writing
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Anchor Standards for Language
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

What Do You Think?

Have you used Adobe Voice in your classroom? What kinds of stories are your students telling?



Inform Your Teaching with Google Forms

forms-iconIf you are a teacher who has access to technology in the classroom and you aren’t using Google Forms, you really should be! Forms can be used by any teacher who has a Google account, even those who don’t have Google Apps for Education through the school, and they are a fantastic way to gather information from students or parents.  Teachers can collect all sorts of data using forms, including:

  • daily attendance
  • quick exit survey
  • quizzes or tests
  • parent or student contact information
  • signups for volunteer activities
  • walkthroughs
  • evaluations
  • staff surveys
  • reading logs
  • walkthroughs
  • evaluations
  • staff surveys
  • choose your own adventure activities
  • applications for school programs

If you are teaching in a school that has Google Apps for Education, students also have access to Google Forms in Drive, so they can also create their own surveys for class projects.

I recently presented a session at the Ed Tech Team Orange County Summit featuring Google for Education called InFORM Your Teaching with Google Forms. The session was geared toward teachers who are just beginning to use Google Forms, and it was a standing-room-only session with lots of energy. When I present to teachers, I like to include a hands-on aspect to my sessions, and this one was no different. Teachers spent about half the time creating a new form that they can use as the school year begins.

Want to Create a Form?

To get you started, I’ve created a Google Forms Task Challenge. It’s the first in what I hope to be many, but it gives you a starting point to create a share a form. If you do create one, you do not need to share it with me (unless you want to!). The purpose of the Task Challenge is just to give you a starting point. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do or ask in a form, so this is just meant to be a jumping-off point. You are not bound to only do what’s on the challenge. In fact, many of the attendees went above and beyond in creating a form.

Sending Vs. Sharing

Usually when you work in Google Docs, you share your documents rather than send them. Forms are a bit different. You can share them with collaborators and have other teachers add and edit questions on your survey, but when you are ready for respondents to fill out the form, you have a few options:

  • send via email
  • post a link on a website
  • embed in a website
  • make a QR code for quick access

Here is a quick video that shows you a couple of steps in this process. It doesn’t include how to embed in a website, but it does show where you will find the code. It also doesn’t include how to create a QR code.

Common Core Connection

Is there a Common Core Connection here? Sure, there is. Using Google Forms as a teacher will help you assess your students’ progress toward achieving the standards, but if you have students creating forms, it’s even more of a tool to help students meet the standards. Additionally, students are improving their 21st Century Skills when they collaborate to create a form, which can be used for any subject or reason. Asking clear and precise questions, and determining the correct type of question for a specific purpose,  helps students improve their communication and critical thinking skills.

What Do You Think?

Have you used Google Forms with students? What are some suggestions you have for using Google Forms in the classroom?

Student-Centered Use of Technology: My Phil”apps”ophy

photo 1I created Come On, Get Appy!  to share apps and show where and how they fit with the Common Core. With so many apps in the app store, and the number is growing daily— how do I choose the apps I share?

How I Choose Apps to Share

I follow two major ideas when thinking about apps:

  • Apps used in the classroom should be predominately creation apps.
  • All the apps you use with students should fit on one screen. This gives you 25 slots on an iPad—and that’s a lot. The apps I have on my home page include creation apps and curation apps, because those are the ones I use most often. If I find I’m not regularly using an app, I’ll exchange it with one I use more often. This makes my home screen the only screen I really need for most of my work.

I realize that these ideas go against what many teachers want. I frequently get requests for content apps, and I have no problem with content apps. In fact, I’ve shared posts on content-based apps (like Sums Stacker). However, I prefer to spend my time and money on an app that can be used across the curriculum for multiple purposes and can be used in student-centered ways— rather than on an app that is only about consuming content.

Student-Centered Ways? What Do You Mean?

When I conduct Professional Development on technology integration, I always bring it back to the idea that what we are doing with technology needs to focus on student-centered uses. Actually, everything we do in the classroom should be done in student-centered ways. So, what does this look like? What I want to see when I go into a classroom is students making choices— not only regarding the tool they will use, but of the product they will create using the tool. I want students to demonstrate their learning of a topic, and I don’t direct how they demonstrate this learning. I believe that this can best be accomplished using creation apps.

For some teachers, allowing students to choose the apps they use and they products they create can feel overwhelming. It requires the use of a rubric focused on the content, not the product. It may mean that there are 20 different types of products to grade (assuming 40 students are working in pairs) for any given assignment. If the class is studying figurative language and the students need to prove their understanding of figurative language, some may choose to make a video or a presentation of some sort, while others may write and/or produce a story.  Some might not want to use technology at all. That’s completely okay. Students need opportunities to choose the best tool for the job. If they can justify why he or she has used a particular tool, I consider the use of technology to be done in a student-centered way.

Students making the decisions about which tool to use for which purpose is student-centered use of technology— even if the decision is to use no technology. In order to be able to make these choices, students need to have access to multiple apps that will allow them to create different products. As teachers, we need to make sure we are focused on the process—not the product.

Common Core Connection

This post isn’t about an app, per se; it’s about all apps. If you are using creation apps, there is a greater chance that you are addressing Common Core standards and the 7 Cs. Standard 6 of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing states: “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” Producing and publishing writing takes many forms, and creation apps allow students to produce, publish, and post their work. The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening, especially standards 4, 5 and 6, can also be met through the use of creation apps.

What Do You Think?

I have a number of favorite creation apps. I’ve already written about many of them— Kidblog, VoiceThread, ExplainEverything, Coach’s Eye, Tellagami, Skitch, and Thinglink. However, there are so many more that I will eventually feature on Come On, Get ‘Appy! 

What are your favorite creation apps? How do you use them in student-centered ways?



Stop Motion Videos? Yes, You Can!

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.17.31 AMStop Motion videos are popping up all over the place, and after playing with Stop Motion Studio app, I can see why! Stop-motion is a great way to create animated videos using objects or drawings instead of people. Students are able to exercise their creativity using stop motion, and it’s not as scary as starring in a feature film (well, for some students, at least– some students crave the camera!). This particular app, Stop Motion Studio, is free, although there are some in-app purchases that will allow students to enhance their creations, but students and teachers can easily use the free version and still create high quality projects.

How Does Stop Motion Work?

Stop motion is basically a string of snapshots that get played one after the other in video form, and it makes the objects in the snapshots appear to move. It’s just like the old-school flip books we used to make in elementary school, when we would draw stick figures jumping over rocks at the bottom of sticky-notes, and then flip through them quickly. Remember that? It was awesome. Students can draw their own pictures to use in the video, they can create clay figures, or they can use other action figures they may have.

Launching the app for the first time will bring up the Welcome Video. It just shows a little movie made with some small pieces of paper.


Starting a new stop-motion video isn’t entirely intuitive. Swipe the screen to the right, and a plus sign will appear where the starting screen of the other video was before.


Tapping the plus sign will open the camera along with some help text for navigating the controls that are on the first screen.


Once you’ve set up your materials, you are ready to begin taking your photos! Each photo is stored as a frame in the reel at the bottom. Tapping on any frame will reveal an additional menu which allows you to copy, move, capture, hold, select, or delete a frame.


If you aren’t sure what an icon does, tapping on the question mark will bring up the help menu.


Tapping on the settings gear at the top of the frame reel at the bottom brings up another menu that mades adjustments to the camera as well as allows the user to turn on the grid. This gives the creator an idea of how far their characters have moved and how far to go next.skitchsm1

Another feature of the Stop Motion app is the option to add sound. Tap on the microphone icon to record directly into the movie. The picture/musical note icon brings up a media import menu.

Tapping on the settings gear at the top of the frame reel at the bottom brings up another menu that allows students to make adjustments to the playback settings.


In order to create the 13-second video below, I captured about 60 photos. I don’t have any music stored in my iPad and I didn’t want to do a voice-over, so I exported the video to the camera roll and added the music in iMovie. This isn’t necessary, but it was easier (for me) than trying to do this in the app itself.

Common Core Connection

Like many of the apps I’ve featured on Come On, Get ‘Appy, this app is fabulous for developing the 4 Cs, which helps students achieve the Common Core State Standards. Students might use this app to create a story from scratch, or they might use it to retell a story they’ve read in class. If it were used in this way, students would be developing many of the reading standards.

In order to create a well-balanced stop motion video, students need to create a storyboard. This requires them to write their ideas and place them in sequential order. In some cases, they may even write a script. This would require them to be working with all of the Writing Anchor Standards that fall under Production and Distribution.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Additionally, students can use Stop Motion as part of Speaking and Listening Anchor Standard 5.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

Classroom Applications

There are so many ways to use stop motion (or any video, for that matter) in the classroom. Here are just a few examples.

  • retell a story
  • illustrate original narratives
  • animated reader’s theater
  • show the steps of a scientific process
  • animate a P.E. concept or sport
  • animate a math concept
  • recreate a historic event

 What Do You Think?

Many students are already using Stop Motion in the classroom. How have your students used it?











Create Whiteboard Animations with VideoScribe

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.59.09 AMI came across a video animation app by accident while I was looking for something else this past week, and I’m so glad I did! VideoScribe, by Sparkol, is both an app and a web tool. The app is available for $5.99 in iTunes, and the benefit totally outweighs the cost for this particular app. You and your students can do some really powerful whiteboard videos.

How Does It Work?

VideoScribe is fairly intricate, but with a few little tips it can be user-friendly. You do have to be patient with the app— it can be slow, and sometimes it doesn’t recognize where your finger is trying to tap. But, that’s when a stylus comes in handy!

The toolbar across the top controls inputting images and text into the animation. Below you can see the opening screen when you first create a VideoScribe.

VS_splash screen

There are many, many icons to choose from for the animation. Tap on the little crayon to see all the folders and options.


Once you’ve selected the image that will be put into the animation, the icon menu at the bottom will have more options for your animation, including changing the type of text, the color, how long it takes to draw, and more.


When adding sound, you have a few options. You can choose one of the tracks that are included with the app. You can also record your voice or music directly into the animation. The third option is to add a sound track that is one the web, such as one that you’ve previously recorded and uploaded.




Dropbox seem to work best for the Web import option. When I had trouble and did a Google search, I found a great workaround at this link:

Pushing the play button will show the animation with all of the editing you’ve done. Once you are pleased with your animation, you can compress it all into a video by tapping the video button in the upper right-hand corner. Once it’s completed, you’ll have a few saving options. VS_save_video

Here’s a finished product that I created using VideoScribe on my iPad.

 Common Core Connection

Students can use VideoScribe to meet a variety of writing and speaking and listening standards depending on the task. However, of the 7 Cs, the app clearly addresses 3 of the 4 better known “4 Cs“. This app helps students practice Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Communication. If students are working together, or if they use their creations to create conversations via a student blog or website, they would also be developing their collaboration skills.

The specific Common Core State Standard that VideoScribe can help students develop is Speaking and Listening Standard 5, which states that students should be able to: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

There are many ways this app can be used in the classroom to showcase learning. How have you used it?


VoiceThread: Student Conversations in the Cloud

imagesMy friend and colleague came to me last year and asked for a technology recommendation for a particular project she was planning. She shared the 7th Grade History and Social Science California State Standards that were addressed in the lesson, and we discussed the 4 Cs and how Communication and Collaboration could be incorporated into the project. Immediately, VoiceThread came to mind.

What is VoiceThread?

VoiceThread is a Web 2.0 tool that allows students to upload images from their camera roll, record their narration and annotation on each image, and share their final product for commenting and conversation. It also has a free iOS app. Currently there isn’t an Android option, but there is a Chrome extension if you are using Google Chrome. If students are using the web version, they are also able to upload full videos and/or presentations.

Using the VoiceThread App

When using the VoiceThread app, students can only upload images, not full presentations. In the project that we did, which was called “The Voice(Thread) of Islam,” students first created Keynote presentations on their iPads. Then they put the presentation into full-screen mode and took a screenshot of each of their slides. Next, they uploaded the screenshot of each slide to VoiceThread and recorded a narrative that explained the life of Mohammed and the tenets of Islam.

Once the students published their VoiceThread, they shared them with other students in their grade level to teach them what they had been learning about Islam. These students were able to ask questions, and the creators of the VoiceThread answered back. This created really interesting conversations between classmates. Parents, teachers, and students from around the world were also able to ask questions and leave feedback on each VoiceThread. The best part for the teacher is that she was able to grade the projects by leaving a comment for each student, and she did so from her smartphone!

Common Core Connection

Communication and Collaboration skills  are developed naturally when using VoiceThread, especially when students work in collaborative groups to create a VoiceThread. In addition to these skills, the CCSS ELA Speaking and Listening Standards 7.4, 7.5 and 7.6 are all developed using VoiceThread. In addition, there is the potential to develop CCSS ELA Speaking and Listening Standard 7.1d, Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views. This would occur when students hear from other students or adults who may have a deeper understanding of the topic.

Your Thoughts

How have you used VoiceThread with your students?


Coach’s Eye

coach's eyeThe two middle schools in my district have a unique focus.  One is considered an “Academy of the Arts.” The school has a partnership with a local museum and with a performing arts center in our area.  The other middle school is focused on Science and Technology, and their big partnership is with Project Lead the Way. They also have a program called TSMA, which stands for Technology, Science, Math Academy (similar to STEM).  Last year, as part of this Academy plan, they added an innovative class:  Advanced P.E.

The interesting element with Advanced P.E. is that it’s not just physical education in the traditional sense. This course requires students to go beyond the physical aspect of Physical Education and examine the science behind the sports they are learning. The class has ten iPads that are available for the students to do research, watch focused videos on specific sports techniques, and create tutorials for their fellow students. About halfway through the year, the  Advanced P.E. teacher asked me about how to the iPads in a more advanced way than to just do research. I knew about the app, Coach’s Eye, by TechSmith, because my husband had been using it to help coach our son in baseball. This teacher and I decided to investigate a way to use the app in Advanced P.E.

Coach’s Eye allows the user to record video of a sports technique and then annotate the video using shapes, lines, and free-hand drawings to bring attention to certain points in a video. It also allows the user to zoom in on a specific part of the video or to view two different videos side-by-side for comparative purposes. The app also allows the user to shoot a video and play it back in slow motion, all the while annotating and recording voice to give feedback. It’s relatively easy to use the app, but there are some great tutorial videos on YouTube that can help a new user navigate the app. You can subscribe to the Coach’s Eye channel, as well.

Coach’s Eye is well-worth the $4.99 price tag. It seems hefty, yes, but considering the possibilities in P.E., it’s still a good buy. For only $1.99 more you can have the Precision Pack which includes the Angle Tool, the Timer Tool, and the Spot Light Tool. It really is a reasonable price, especially if you are coaching students for intramurals or helping improve their performance for a sport they play outside of school.

Common Core Connection

Common Core calls for an integration of subject areas, and this app can help P.E. teachers integrate science and math into the sports they are teaching. In addition, it allows for the students to communicate their learning about a sport because they can analyze and discuss their own form or technique by having a classmate record the video. Students could also use this app for a science-fair type project by making and testing a hypothesis about their performance in a particular sport by changing the technique they use and analyzing the different videos.

While the app is best suited for P.E. teachers, I think it could be applicable across different subjects. I can see science teachers taking video of different experiments to do a side-by-side analysis of the results. I can also see Language Arts teachers using this app to compare performances in speech and debate or just a general classroom presentation. They can use the app to point out slight differences in body language and gesturing that might make a difference in a competition.

Coach’s Eye has a lot of potential in the classroom. How do you plan to use it?



Thinglink: Create Interactive Images in the Classroom

thinglinkMy school district uses Microsoft products, and each time I launch Internet Explorer I’m introduced to an intriguing image on Bing. I love that different areas of the photo are tagged so the reader can learn more about the image. So when I was introduced to Thinglink, I thought, “This is so cool! It’s like kids creating their own Bing images!”

I’ve introduced Thinglink to many teachers in my district. A first grade teacher has used Thinglink with students to show what they’ve learned about bats. Another teacher used Thinglink in her 8th grade science class. Students tagged an image with information about chemical reactions. History, English, math, science, P.E., music… the possibilities are truly endless.

How Does Thinglink Work?

One of the greatest things about Thinglink is that it integrates with so many other web-based tools.

  • Students can take a photo of their own work and upload it to Thinglink, or they can go online to find an image appropriate to what they are studying (as long as they obtain permission and properly cite their sources).
  • Once the photo is uploaded, students then “tag” the image with many different types of rich media tags, including audio files, videos, other images, and more.
  • For example, students can record themselves reading a story on SoundCloud and use that recording as a tag on an image.

Using Thinglink is a great way to combine many different smaller projects related to a theme into a central, visually-appealing location. Here’s an example of a Thinglink I made to show the different apps on my iPad’s One Screen.

Common Core Connection

Thinglink is yet another web-based tool that can be used in any subject area and by any grade level. It more closely aligns with the 7 Cs, specifically Communication. Students use Thinglink to show what they know (and possibly how they know it), so they are increasing their ability to communicate effectively as well as improving their Content Understanding. It doesn’t get more Common Core than that!

What Do You Think?

How have you used Thinglink with students? Do they create the Thinglinks or do you?