Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Plickers - Instant formative Assessment with only 1 device

It would be great if all our students had their own devices, and all those devices worked all the time, and we could conduct seamless formative assessments to monitor student learning.   But for many classes, this is just a dream.  

With Plickers, you can still stake advantage of this capability - with only one device.

All you need is one iOS or Android device and you can collect data from your entire class.

Here is how Plickers work: 
  • You sign up for a free account. 
  • You create a class, assigning a number to each student. 
  • Plickers gives you a unique scannable image for each student that you print on a piece of paper.  They look like this: 

Each student's image means something different depending on how they turn it:  Facing one way, it means "A".  Facing another way, it means "B" - allowing for four possible answers.  This allow you to ask multiple choice questions and students can answer every one with that same sheet of paper, depending on how they hold it up. 

To gather responses, you simply hold up your smartphone or the iOS or Android device equipped with a reader and scan each student's card and the results are immediately collected in one spot on your device.

Watch a demonstration here:
I see this as being a great tool for exit slips.  Ask students a question and as they leave the room, can their code and instantly get feedback on their understanding.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The 4Cs and Google Apps for Education

Google Apps for Education has changed how I teach and how my students learn. A few years ago I agreed to pilot Google Drive after spending years using Microsoft Office and Smart Technologies to support teaching and learning. Google was only a search tool that help me find lessons and my students research ideas. My students collaborated on a variety of in class activities, but we rarely collaborated using digital tools. My classroom was very teacher centered. We focused on content first and foremost. 

I won't tell you that I started using Google Drive and I immediately became a different teacher. I was probably a full year before I fully engaged in Google Drive. Today I rarely touch an Office Tool or Smart Notebook file. They are great products but no longer meet the needs of my classroom like Google Apps for Education. 

The change in tools also brought a change in my teaching. Today the activities in my classroom start with the 4 Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity). Google Apps for Education provides me with great set of tools to support these skills. There are other great tools that I use, but most of what we do relies heavily on GAFE.

Since I shifted my classroom to be more learner centered, my own learning has shifted to a great reliance on my personal learning network. I've learned a great deal about Google Apps for Education and a student centered classroom and I am always driven to learning more. I learn the most by sharing, so here are a few resources that I've found or created to support learning in a student centered classroom using Google Apps for Education: 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Audio Tools for Speaking Practice in ELL, Foreign Language or Speech Classes

This week, I had a question from an ELL teacher about finding a user-friendly too for students to use to record and share voice clips. Since our district is a BYOD one, it would make sense that the tool(s) be available and able to share across multiple platforms.

There doesn't seem to be a perfect answer to this question, but here are a few options.
I heard about from Richard Byrne and Larry Ferlazzo. Students can record and share the file using the website.Then they can share it with a link or embed it in a web page or blog post. Or they could post it to Google Plus, a tool that some of our teachers use. If the class uses Google Classroom, students could turn it in using the provided link. There doesn't seem to be a way to share it directly to Google Drive.

Students are also able to record and upload the sound file to's website via free iOS and Android apps or they can share the link via e-mail via the share option on the app.It is very easy to use.

TwistedWave is a second option. It is a free online editor that allows you do basic recording and editing of sound files. The files can be exported to Google Drive or SoundCloud for sharing. You can also import sound files from Google Drive or SoundCloud to edit them and export them. There is an iOS app at this time, but not one for Android yet. The free app for iPhones is a recorder that has basic functions for recording and uploading. You can share the file by e-mailing the file or just a link.. For anything else, you would have to pay for it.

The best option would be to record the file in, do any editing in TwistedWave, and then export your masterpiece to Google Drive or SoundCloud.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Overdrive for students and you

Love reading...have a device...check out an eBook using Overdrive.

Download the Overdrive app on your device and add a library. Add Indian Prairie and your public library.
Staff-Kronos login
Students-computer login.

Want to use a computer instead? Use the link below.

Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Emaze - Online Presentation Tool

We are all familiar with Powerpoint.  Too familiar.  If you've been wowed by what Prezi can do, with all its moving around and zooming - you will want to get to know Emaze.  It is a web-based presentation tool.  Like Prezi, you can create your presentation online, store them there, and can share them from anywhere with internet access.   It also gives you the ability to share with others to collaborate on the same presentation.

But what I love the most about Emaze is their templates.  They are simply beautiful.  The Gallery template is set up like an portfolio and with every click you sort of walk around in 3-D.
Take a look at emaze here:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slides + YouTube = Infomercials 2 Inspire

In 2008 I finished my 1st Masters degree and the during the exit defense of my portfolio I was questioned about the image below. The image was created by me as a visual reminder of a quote from Robert DuFour's "Failure is NOT an Option."

The sign reads: "Veterinarian & Taxidermist"
The slogan reads: "Either way; you get your pet back!"

Let that marinate..............................


I interpret the meaning of this sign to apply to education. Our kids are enrolled into our system of learning for over a decade and in the spring of their 12th year the family and our community gets those kids back as young adults. 

Question that motivates me is HOW and WHO am I returning to the world after they experience my learning experiences and environment for a year... Was I the veterinarian that healed and empowered them?!! Or was I the taxidermist that returned a shell that was hollow on the inside and ill prepared to succeed in our world? 

The learning experiences we provide MAKE A DIFFERENCE to the student. Not all assignments must fit into these standardized boxes for assessment. We can choose to expose and sharpen a skill that aligns with a standard in a relevant way. Rigor does not have to sacrificed at all. 

Students are social media natives. Most students are GAFE savvy. Many teachers are making the empowered choice to learn and implement GAFE tools. For this post I wanted to show a very simple example that I implemented after being inspired by my wife (English and Reading teacher at Naperville Central).

The lesson was designed for my AP Environmental Science class. The objective was to communicate how the current economy must change in order to be more sustainable for future generations regarding materials (matter) and energy. My assessment was very straightforward:

  • Critical Thinking: evidence the student connected the concepts from the book "Cradle 2 Cradle" to the objective
  • Creativity: generation of an infomercial (informative commercial) that markets their plan for change
  • Communication: evidence that the message of the student resonates with the viewer/reader
  • Collaboration: infomercials shared via a published hyperlink so that all other students can view and comment. 
Slides is a simple presentation tool. I asked students to use slides as their tool and after creating their slides to publish them to the web so that Google Slides would convert their presentation into a url that can be shared and viewed over social media and more! GET THEIR MESSAGE OUT:)

There are many other (and better tools for this) tools to create audiovisual messages but they tend to require a little bit of instructional time on how to use. My students know Slides so that is what we went with. Some kids wanted to add music to further engage the viewer... great idea!

So, we used YouTube to find the music that would play in the background of the published slide show. As you view the examples below be sure to:

1. click hyperlink to music 
2. open slide show and start it
3. open your mind and let the messages sink in

All student infomercials link

Students can share via a link in Twitter or Tumblr....  

Or Students can embed their infomercial on their blog or website....

Monday, April 20, 2015

Drive Add-ons for Managing and Scheduling Resources

I've used Google Calendar Appointments as a checkout system for our Building Tech Checkouts for the past several years. While overall this has worked well, there has been a few bugs and setting up multiple periods for checkout can be very time consuming.

I recently discovered two new resources that I am going to make a run at for the 2015 - 16 school year. Unless there is an update to Google Calendar I believe one or some combination of both might be a more efficient way to manage the checkout of devices.

CheckItOut is a Google Form Add-on that creates a question or multiple sets of questions for checking In and OUT of resources. 

Lab Scheduler is a Google Sheet Add-on resource scheduler designed for schools, that uses periods or blocks to schedule rather than times. 

What tools are you using to facilitate online checkout of resources? 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Just One Useful Thing: A few Single Purpose Websites

Sometimes all you need is a quick, useful tool to do some small task. No frills. No extras. Chrome extensions do this quite well, as do smartphone apps.  Single serve (or single purpose) websites are also useful for this, though most are a bit of a novelty.  These are websites with just one page that do one simple thing. A lot of them are silly or weird, but there are some really useful ones out there too. Below are a few that teachers might find helpful. They have all been around for a while, but hopefully, the sites will be new to you.

Password Bird
Generate a strong password that you can remember by providing information that you are likely to remember. Both you and your students probably sign up for a ton of free websites, so this site might help you make sure you passwords are more secure.

Online Stopwatch
This stopwatch would be useful to project on the screen in your classroom if you are having students do short sessions of individual or group work. There are several variations on the standard clock interface at the bottom of the screen. My favorite is the bomb countdown. It always creates a sense of urgency while they work.

Let Me Google That for You
I believe the original idea for this site was to stem the tide of requests for help from technology challenged friends and relatives who constantly ask for your help since you are the techie one of the two of you. Enter a search and the program generates a link for your to share. Just e-mail or post the link for someone for them to see how to do a proper Google search. In the classroom, it might be helpful for demonstrating for students how to construct a skilled web search for the topic you are studying.

Is It Down for Everyone or Just Me?
Okay,class is about to start. You bring up the website you want to use for this lesson. It appears to be down. Type in the web address onto this page and click on the just me link. The site will tell if you the site is down at the source (technical problem on the site's end of things) or just for you (some technical problem with your computer or Internet service). If the site is down for everyone, then you are out of luck. Time to go to plan B. If it is just you, take that Snickers bar out of your desk and bribe your local IT staff or tech savvy student to try to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

Who is the Cutest?
So this one is not terribly useful unless you are having a low self-esteem day. Need a quick ego boost? Click on this site and find out who is currently the cutest. Hint: It is meant to make you feel better.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tell a Story with MyMap

Many of us have used Google Maps to find directions to dinner, but have you tried using one to tell a story or to chronicle an event?  Have your students use MyMaps (now a part of Google Drive!) for storytelling. They can drop pins in the different locations a character visits and add in videos, images or text to talk about plot or character development. MyMaps allows you to add directions, points of interest and color-coated location markers in different shapes (a drop pin, star, square or circle). You can also draw lines to indicated borders or routes and add multiple sets of step-by-step directions, too.   At images and text or videos at different locations.  All of this can be sorted easy-to-manage layers of information.

Maps can be created on desktop Web browsers, but can be viewed and edited on computers or mobile devices. Once your map is made, you can email it, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+, and of course pull it up from the Google Drive whenever you need it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sharing Your Screen for Learning or Troubleshooting Problems

Have you ever had someone try to explain a problem with their computer that they are having over the phone or through an email? Maybe you've been on the other side and tried to get help with something that you are just not sure about.

Whichever side of the help you are on, my guess is that it may have been a frustrating experience. Unless is is a common problem it is often difficult to help with something that you cannot see, but it doesn't have to be this way. Checkout these easy to use screen sharing tools that almost anyone can use to quickly demonstrate and record what is happening on their computer.
Generate a help URL so someone can send you instant screen recordings to help trouble shoot computer issues.

Quick ScreenShare
Share a screen live. Even lets you remotely control mouse and keyboard.

One-click screen capture recording on Windows or Mac Computers that you can download and share.

If you are a Chrome user, here are two additional favorite screencast extensions you may want to take a look at:

What other tools do you like to use for ScreenCasts? 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Scanner In Your Hand for Research or Other Stuff

As a school librarian, I am often witness to the trauma high school students experience when they realize that all of the world's information is not accessible through Google. Usually, this is preceded, by the statement, "My teachers says we have to use a book."

The next hurdle they have to face involves getting this printed information into electronic format without too much effort or pain. Thier choices usually include 1) take notes 2) use a photocopier or a flat bed document scanner 3) use a cell phone camera to take a picture of the page. 

They usually choose the cell phone. The phone camera takes a photo of the page, but this is inefficient. The picture is a single photograph that doesn't allow you to copy and paste information and the pictures are saved a seperate files. Instead, I point them to a few apps that make the whole process a lot easier. 

There are a bunch of scanner apps that can do the job, but I like to recommend these three. All of them are currently free.

Scannable for iPhone (iOS):

If you use Evernote or Google Drive for storing and documents and you are an iPhone user, try the Scannable app from Evernote. Here is why it is a great tool:
  • Open the app and the camera immediately starts looking for the edges of the document 
  • The picture it takes is immediately turned into a pdf document.
  • Scan multiple pages and they all can be uploaded to your Evernote or Google Apps account as a one multi-page document. 

Google Drive for Android users:

If you have an Android phone and use Google Apps, the Google Drive app is probably your best bet. Open the app and click the Add new button. Select Scan. The picture will be turned into a pdf file and you can upload it to your Google Apps account. 

Note: Though iPhone has a Google Drive app, its version doesn't have the same scanner capabilities. 

For Windows Phones (or Microsoft Office Users):

If you have a Windows phone, or if you are an iPhone or Android user and you prefer Microsoft Office products (Office, OneNote, OneDrive), then try Microsoft's Office Lens app. You can export the document to Word, PowerPoint or OneDrive apps. Or you can e-mail it or make it into a pdf document.

Microsoft Lens for iPhone and Windows phones. 
The app for Android is still in testing mode, but you can preview it now. More information from Microsoft. 

Friday, April 10, 2015



What it is: Duolingo is a language-learning app and website that features comprehensive guides for nine of the most commonly taught languages in the U.S., including Spanish, French, and German.
Who would love it: First-time learners as well as veterans looking to brush up on their skills before a trip; especially friendly for younger audiences.
Why it's good: Most free language-learning apps can feel like a random stack of unrelated flashcards. Duolingo actually features an intuitive, step-by-step learning progression that leads speakers through the basics of the language while gently challenging them and explaining key grammatical concepts. For that, and its excellent design, it’s also been named one of the best apps by Apple, Android, and TechCrunch.
Why it's relevant: Duolingo has a track record of excellence in design and education. It is also expanding this year, adding new languages (like Swedish) and greatly improving its Web experience. It may not be as robust as a Rosetta Stone, but we've found it to be more engaging and a joy to use (not to mention: free).

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Movenote is a wonderful Google App that allows teachers and students the ability to create presentations for others to view. With its recent updates, Movenote provides the option to create audio presentations and video presentations. Users can upload docs and presentations from their Google Drive or computer and then record their presentation with or without a video of the user on the screen. In addition, a recent update allows the presenter to draw on the slide in order to enhance the presentation and draw attention to what is most important.

Teachers can utilize Movenote by creating presentations that students can view at home while working on class work. In addition, if a teacher has a planned absence, he or she can record their lesson and have the substitute play the lesson for the class.

Students can utilize Movenote by creating presentations for class assignments. It promotes speaking skills and allows students to be creative with their presentations. Also, Movenote provides an outlet for sharing presentations, thus promoting communication and collaboration in the classroom. As with teachers, if a student has a scheduled absence during an assignment that requires them to present, Movenote is an option in order for students to still complete the assignment.

In order to utilize Movenote, go to and sign in with your Google account on the top right hand corner. If you want to utilize Movenote right from the Google Drive, click on New -> More -> Connect More Apps -> Search for Movenote.

Visit the Movenote Channel on YouTube to find more tutorials for this beneficial classroom resource.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We hear it every day.  Data.  Data-driven decisions.  Inforgraphics have become a powerful way of disseminating data in a visually appealing fashion.    It is a good way to get data in a format that makes it easy to understand the story behind the data. is super easy and the user interface is well designed.  It's more "interactive" rather than "data" centered.  There are 6 different template/styles to choose from.  Once you choose your template, you add in your data and comments and you have a great visual that you can embed in a website or share.   You can also take a screenshot and add to any presentation.
One thing to note:  the privacy controls are limited so it is better suited to visualizing data for public use.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Publishing Information with Picktochart!

Creating effective ways to deliver information is an art form that requires critical thinking and communication skills. The critical piece is more abstract in that the delivery has to be accurate and engage the reader to inquire further or be rewarded with clarification. The creation part has to appeal to the masses and provoke them to consider reading more in order for the message/content to be delivered as intended.

Picktochart is a simple to use technology tool that empowers students to create visual information more easily and in a form that is trending with social media. Info-graphics simply organize content in a visual way and by doing so effectively info-graphics promote discussion about the content they represent.

I recently challenged students to work collaboratively to create an assessment question based on their field experience to the Quarry. Simultaneously, I asked the students staying in class to work collaboratively to create an info-graphic to visually display and anchor a presentation about an Environmental Case Study.

COLLABORATION requires a simple Google doc to be set up. As the teacher, I set up the Google doc and empowered every student to EDIT it as they experienced the field trip via their smart phones. The resulting document for the field trip is linked here. The remaining students stayed back in class and completed a comprehensive note document of the Chesapeake Bay Case Study which is located here.

After the data has been compiled and time has been used to discuss and interpret students must be challenged to create a way to deliver that information to empower others with the same knowledge. One of the students decided to use Picktochart and the artifact created looks appealing and accurate. Some other students used traditional methods (paper and pen). Both were completed in the same time frame and I will allow you to determine which is product is more impactful on student learning.

Picktochart Tool for Instruction....                          Conventional Tool for Instruction....

The key to using technology to enhance the learning experience is realizing that the tool itself will NOT TEACH NOR LEARN. The tool can promote the information to be discussed and conceptualized more readily and that can teach others and learn others on a fundamental level!!

Monday, April 6, 2015

IFTTT for Productivity and Creative Thinking

IF This Than That is a great resource that has been around for a while, but one that I sadly have not fully engaged in until recently. The slogan is: "Put the internet to work for you." In recent days I've started automating many of my manual tasks online using and creating recipes. If something is connected to the internet you can probably create a recipe to make you online life a bit easier.
What is IFTTT?

IFTTT empowers you with creative control over the products and apps you love.
What are Recipes?
Recipes are simple connections between products and apps. There are two types of Recipes: Do Recipes and IF Recipes.
Do Recipes
Do Recipes run with just a tap and enable you to create your own personalized Button, Camera, and Notepad. The Do apps are available for iOS and Android.
Ideas for some recipes:
  • Create a recipe for a newsletter that auto publishes.  
  • Recipe to collect favorite tweets in Google spreadsheet.
  • Recipe to connect Pocket to Google Drive.
  • Use to trigger certain email events to a group.
  • Text reminders from calendars and events to remind me of something I always miss.
  • Create a recipe to post autopost a thank you when someone follows me on Twitter.
How can you use this to support teaching and learning? Please share your ideas below.

This is the post that connected me to IFTTT again:
This is the video that got me thinking about and using IFTTT to automate much of my online life.

Special thanks to Daniel Rezac at the 2015 ICE Conference and Joe Macchia an old friend for getting me started with IFTTT again.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Keeping Up with Feedly

Twitter, Facebook. LinkedIn. Instagram. All of these (and other social media sites) make it easy for you to receive instant updates from people that you friend, follow or connect to on their networks. But if you want to keep up with online news or get the freshest information from your favorite blogs, you might try a news aggregator like Feedly.

Let's say that you are a social studies or science teacher and you want to keep up with current events in your topic area. Twitter and Facebook are great tools tools to use, but there are also wonderful blogs like the U.S. History Teachers Blog or news sites like Science Daily that provide resources and context or the latest news in your topic area.

Set up a free Feedly account and you can:
  • subscribe to the latest news, blog posts and other sites that have frequently updated content.
  • search for new sites to subscribe to using Feedly's internal search engine
  • organize your subscriptions into folders for easier organization
  • save articles for later access
  • share articles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus
  • efficiently sift through a ton of information in a short amount of time
  • access your Feedly account using a phone or tablet using the mobile app
  • add any content that uses an RSS feed (for intermediate or advanced users)

Following the websites you love from Feedly on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Google Keep

Sometimes, I start playing with a new tool and kick myself for not doing it sooner!  Google Keep is one of those.  It's a remarkable simple tool, but powerful.  Google Keep is a program that allows users to quickly and easily create, access, and organize notes and lists - and SHARE!    You can simply start a new note or list and then you can select one or more options:
  • Create a list
  • Add an Image
  • Change color of the note
  • Share with others
  • Set a Reminder (this can be done based on location!)
And this all is synced with your google account and can be accessed from a mobile device or a computer.