A Whole New Look for Educreations

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.26.59 AMI was so excited last night to see some of the changes that have been made to the Educreations app. According to the Educreations Facebook page, the update was just released yesterday and I happened upon it last night! Here I will tell you about some changes to the app, but if you want to read my original post with instructions for setting up your Educreations classroom and the Common Core connections with using the app, click here.

What’s Different?

You’ll see a refined color palette, different icons, and a new logo. You now have more sharing options within the app, and there’s a basic plan and a pro plan.

Here’s the new start screen. This hasn’t changed much, but the coloring is different.

Educreations Main Screen

When you create a new lesson, you’ll notice the new colors are calmer and more muted. You do have more choices, though– just tap one of the circles.

educreations colors


At first, I thought the option to add text had been removed, but it wasn’t (sigh of relief). It’s just hidden in the “add content” plus sign. There are more options for adding content now, too–but they are only available by upgrading to Pro.

educreations add


educreations clear

If you do add text or an image in the background, you still have cropping, editing, and locking abilities. Locking the text or image just means it won’t move as you draw over the rest of the page.

What’s New?

One of the best new features is the ability to save a draft! That’s huge– students can come back and continue working the next day. The limitation is that with the free version, they have to finish one draft before they can begin another.

Educreations draft

Sharing has also been majorly upgraded!  You can share your videos from two different places. If you play your finished video, you will notice the share icon in the top right corner. Choose it at any time to share via email or Twitter, to copy the link, or to copy the embed code. You can also share from your Lessons page. Select the lesson and choose the share icon.

If you upgrade to Pro, you will also have the option to… wait for it… save to camera roll! This is huge. I wish it were part of the free version, but it’s not. Still, having the option to get the embed code or a link to the video directly from the app is a bonus.

Upgrading to Pro

Here’s part of the comparison chart for basic and pro. You can see the entire comparison chart at Educreations.com.


What Do You Think?

How are you feeling about the new changes to Educreations? Will you upgrade to Pro or stick with the free version?

Creating Photo Montage Videos, Part 1: Animoto

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 11.34.49 AMI’m always on the lookout for free, intuitive creation apps that teachers and students can use quickly and easily in the classroom. Students seem to enjoy creating videos that use their photos, and I’ve come across a few apps that help them create videos using photos stored on their devices or on social media sites. This post will describe one such app: Animoto.

Animoto in a Nutshell

Animoto, which is available on the Web and also on iOS and Android devices,  has been around for quite some time, and it has a great reputation. The app allows students to create videos that include captions for each individual photo.Students can also add text-only slides for transitional purposes. Animoto comes complete with interesting themes and music for students to choose, and students won’t be violating any copyright laws by using the music provided by Animoto. As educators, you can even apply for a free six-month Education Account, which allows you to create accounts for up to 50 students to use.

The app opens to a beautiful page of scrolling photos. There’s a “create a video” button at the bottom. Tapping that button opens the creation area, which automatically launches photos and videos. Students can use photos or 5-second increments of video from the camera roll, or they can take a photo using the camera.

animoto page 2

animoto screen 3

After choosing the group of photos, students choose a theme and some royalty-free music for the video. Music can be added from the device, but students must be the original creator of the music. There’s an agreement that students must agree to before they upload any music.

animoto screen 4

animoto agreement

When students advance to the next part of the app, they can add a title to the video by tapping on the edit pencil at the top. They can also set a new cover image at that time.

animoto screen 6

Tapping on an image brings up a menu to add a caption, rotate the photo, or trash the photo.

animoto screen 8

Tapping on the T+ at the bottom allows students to create title slides that they can then move into place by holding the image until it pops up a little. Then they drag it and drop it off in the proper location. Images can also be rearranged in this way in order to properly tell a story. Once students are all finished, they can hit the preview button and see what their video will look like.animoto screen 9

Once a student decides to save the video, he or she must log into an account, which should be an account that the teacher creates through their free Animoto Plus account. The app itself has a limited number of sharing features— students can share via email or Twitter, or they can copy the link. If a student logs into Animoto.com from the computer, there are many more sharing options available.

Here’s an example of the short Animoto video I created that tells a little bit about me and my family.

JPG in a Nutshell


Common Core Connection

When students create videos, they are working on developing creativity, communication and critical thinking. Of course, if students were working together to create their videos, collaboration would also be in the mix. More than video-editing apps such as iMovie, Animoto allows students to create photojournalism projects,  because it doesn’t require editing the video itself. It just requires students to arrange photos and captions in a way that tells a story. Some examples of ways students can use Animoto include:

  • retelling a story through images and song.
  • “About Me” time- capsule videos at the beginning and the end of the school year, being sure to take photos of all their favorite things, which would help them.
  • character analysis through images, which can be photos the students take or images they draw and save in the camera roll
  • an alternative to a lab report in science

In terms of Common Core State Standards, Animoto helps students achieve numerous standards. Close Reading of text has become very important, and that can include “close reading” of media. Students can analyze the photojournalistic projects of their classmates in close-reading fashion. Teachers can also create videos using Animoto for this purpose to introduce a story or concept to their students. As students finish units of study in class, they can also create Animoto videos to showcase their understanding of the learning.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Animoto in the classroom? Do your students have individual accounts, or do you use a class account?

Finding Documents in Drive using “Recent”

DriveI was recently in the middle of a presentation, and I had asked the teachers to complete a Google Form. The form was embedded in my website, but I wanted to show them how Google Forms gathers the responses in a spreadsheet. I went into my Google Drive… and I had a total brain freeze. I could not for the life of me remember what I had named the form, let alone where I had put it. Thankfully, being able to find the sheet by looking under “Recents” saved the day!

Recent Items

Under the red “Create” button in Google Drive is a listing of how you can view your documents. You can view the documents that are in your own Drive. If you have shared items that you haven’t moved into your Drive, you can find them by clicking on “Shared with Me.” If there are items you have starred as important, you can search for them by clicking on Starred. And if you haven’t found what you are looking for in this manner but you know you have recently created, edited, or modified a document, you can find it by clicking on “Recent.”

Drive Recent

Once you click on it, all of the items you have recently viewed or modified will be shown. You will know you are looking at your recent items because the word “Recent” on the left will turn red. Drive Recent 2

Within the Recent items, you can then filter in some additional ways to find documents. There are two filtering menus that are side-by-side, which gives you some flexibility in how you find what you are looking for.

Drive Recents 5

You can filter by the owner of the document. This is especially helpful if you know that the item you are looking for is one that is owned by another user and has been shared with you. The filter on the left works in conjunction with the filter to the far right. You will notice that both drop-down menus are the same, but you can’t have the same option chosen in both menus.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 2.25.17 PM

What Do You Think?

Do you have a way of organizing your Google Drive so that you can easily find your documents (without having to use Recent)? Please share if you do!

Word Clouds by ABCya

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 6.03.26 PMIt seems like everywhere I look on the Internet, I see word clouds. They can be interesting and attractive, but up to this point I’ve found that students haven’t been able to create and save word clouds on the iPad. That is, until now! The app Word Cloud, by ABCya, has (thankfully!) solved this problem.

So What’s a Word Cloud?

A word cloud graphically represents the frequency of words used in a text. The more often the word appears in written text, the larger it appears in the word cloud. There are a few Web 2.0 tools that make word clouds, the most popular being Wordle and Tagxedo. One of the problems with these tools is that you can’t download the image you create and you can’t use them on the iPad unless you buy an app. Word Cloud by ABCya is free (for now), and it was developed for younger students, so it’s very easy to use. As an added bonus, students can save their word clouds to the camera roll, which allows them to share the images elsewhere—either on another website, in another app for appsmashing, or via email. For a great blog post on appsmashing, see this post by Meghan Zigmond.

How Does Word Cloud Work?

Using Word Cloud is a cinch. All you do is type text directly on the screen, or you can copy and paste text if you are analyzing another person’s content for word frequency.



After students go to the next screen, they choose the layout, font, and colors they prefer.




Then, save to camera roll! Voilà!

Common Core Connection

Students often struggle to edit and revise their own writing. It is a challenge to get students to evaluate their word choice or to recognize that, perhaps, they have been a bit repetitive in their writing. Word Clouds are a good way to help students visualize their repeated language. Teachers can then encourage them to analyze where and when these words are used and help them determine whether the language used is precise. In addition to being able to revise and edit writing, students also need to be able to identify the main idea of a text when reading. Word Clouds can potentially help students to determine the main idea or theme of a text based on the vocabulary that is repeated in the text.

The anchor standards below are those that can be addressed using the app Word Cloud.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices share meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.

What Do You Think?

I’ve seen many blog posts on using word clouds in the classroom. Some teachers use them as an introduction to a concept, and others have students create them for a variety of purposes.

How do you use word clouds in your classroom?

Fair Use and Copyright– Day 1 Standout Session at #cue14

I attended a couple of sessions today at the Computer Using Educators (CUE) Conference. The standout of the day for me was ,“Can I Use That? Teaching Fair Use to the Remix Generation,” presented by Gail Desler of Elk Grove USD and Kelly Mendoza of Common Sense Media. I know it doesn’t sound like much fun, but the session was entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking.

What Is Fair Use?

The Constitution of the United States provides the government the right to create a copyright system to “promote creativity, innovation, and the spread of knowledge.” In 1976, Congress passed the Copyright Act, which provides rights to copyright owners. The Copyright Act includes Section 107, The Doctrine of Fair Use, which states that “fair use of a copyrighted work is not an infringement of copyright.” Fair Use actually promotes a more creative society. However, teachers and students need to understand what is considered Fair Use of a copyrighted work. Now, I could go on and on about Fair Use and how to determine whether a student’s work (or your work!) falls under Fair Use, but there are others that do a much better job than I can. Presenters Gail and Kelly provided a Google Site with a great number of resources from their presentation. You can see all of their resources here: https://sites.google.com/site/unlockmedialiteracy/.

I would suggest visiting the creativecommons.org website. It provides an overview of how a creator licenses his or her work, which basically means little icons that tell others how they can use what they find on the Internet.

Also—did you know that you can do a Google Image search and filter results by level of permission? Check this out:


What Does This Mean for Teachers?

It is absolutely critical that we teach students to be Digital Citizens. There are curricula that help to guide your lessons, so you don’t have to start from scratch. We live in a file sharing, copy-paste age and it is so easy for students to just use someone else’s work. Students need to know how to provide attribution to sources when they use images or music. They need to understand how much of a work they can use and for what purpose. They also need to be able to find channels to ask permission of the people who created the work they want to use. This is tough—but if a student is going to create a project that gets shared on the Internet, they must follow Fair Use.

Common Core Connection

Technology is embedded in the Common Core State Standards. There are some standards, however, that explicitly state what students need to do using technology. The level to which students must do this varies by grade level, but starting in Grade 5, students need to begin adding multimedia components to their presentations. The Anchor Standard for Speaking and Listening states the following:

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

If students are required to do this, students and teachers alike need to understand and practice Fair Use.

What Do You Think?

What curriculum do you use to teach your students about Digital Citizenship? How in-depth do you go? Would you say that your students are good Digital Citizens?

Tell a Quick Story with Tellagami

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.39.07 PMWatch this Introductory Gami

How It Works

  1. Choose a background.
  2. Personalize the character.
  3. Record yourself speaking or type in the text you’d like the voice to read. Once nice thing about typing in the text is that the reader will pause at commas and stop at periods. This is a good way for students to self-correct their punctuation if something doesn’t sound right in their writing. (steps 1, 2 and 3 can be done in any order)
  4. Share your 30-second creation or save it to your camera roll.

Common Core Connection

There are so many ways that Tellagami can help all students achieve the Common Core state standards, but this is also a great app for engaging English Language Learners in brief oral language exercises. Let’s start with the Common Core Standards.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1: Prepare for and effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • 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.
College and Career Readiness 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.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6: Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
English Language Development Standards and Proficiency Levels

ELD students also benefit from using Tellagami. The app helps students develop their Productive Language and their Accuracy of Production skills. The following document provides and overview of the ELD Standards and Proficiency Level Descriptors for California: http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/er/documents/sbeoverviewpld.pdf.

Pages 8-13 of this document contain a table that helps teachers identify the proficiency levels and the language skills that ELD students should have. These standards and intertwined with the Common Core State Standards, and they focus on the Mode of Language in addition to the students’ Knowledge of Language.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Tellagami in the classroom?


Keeping your Digital Hands to Your Digital Self

photoPart of my job as an Academic Coach is to present demo lessons. A lesson that has been requested  often is the one I facilitate on creating a classroom Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). You can see an example of what an AUP should contain by visiting EducationWorld.com. Having an AUP in place before starting with mobile devices (or any technology) in the classroom is a critical step in having a successful mobile device initiative and Common Core implementation. The classroom AUP is created with student input, is stated in positive language, and is created in addition to the school or district AUP.

The lesson I facilitate with students takes between 30-40 minutes depending on how much experience the students have . Throughout the lesson, the students and I create a Tree Map (from Thinking Maps, www.thinkingmaps.com) with “iPads in the Classroom” as our topic and the following three branches: Classroom Behavior, Device Management, and Educational Uses. For each branch, there are non-negotiable elements that the teacher and I have discussed. Even if the students don’t generate these ideas in their group conversations, the teacher or I will make sure that these topics get put on the Tree Map.

One of the most important things that goes on the Tree Map is: “Keep Your Digital Hands to Your Digital Self.” In the elementary schools I work with, the students are sharing the devices. For this reason, some additional rules about acceptable use need to be discussed. Here are the things I tell the students:

  • Leave photos in the camera roll, even if you didn’t take them
  • If another student has started a presentation of any kind, leave it alone or save it and start a new one
  • In a shared Dropbox or Google Drive account, only open your own work and keep comments appropriate
  • Get permission before using the camera and before taking photos or video of others
  • If you come across anything that is not appropriate for school, tell the teacher immediately

The concept  “Keep Your Digital Hands to Your Digital Self” leads to more robust lessons on digital citizenship. The AUP lesson is just the introduction so that there are guidelines in place for students to begin using the devices in the classroom. Follow up lessons with more practice with being good digital citizens is the key to continued success as Common Core requires students to interact with content on digital media.

What Do You Think?

How do you introduce iPads and Acceptable Use to your students?