Wednesday, September 20, 2017

WriMo Wednesday ~ NaNoWriMo is Coming!

     I challenge (in fact, I triple-dog dare) you to take on NaNoWriMo!

For those new to the word, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it will be here again this November.

     What we know:
  • Reading and writing are priorities in every grade level and every content area.
  • We need authentic experiences for our students.
  • Students need to be challenged.
  • We need to crawl outside the box once in awhile!

What do kids have to say about it?

It's not just for middle and high school, though...

Just incredible!  It makes my heart sing.  

Now you're asking-
Where do I start, though?  How does it all work?
I know you asked that, right, because surely you can't walk away from a triple-dog dare!

The NaNoWriMo Young Writer's Program has done the setup for you.  I am spreading the word now, so you will have time to set up a free account, to plan, and to get your free Teacher Kit.

Leave a comment below if you accept the NaNoWriMo Challenge!  For those of you in Region 15, I would love to create a Virtual Word-Count Wall for all of our participating classes/schools/districts.  

Check back next Wednesday for more WriMo goodies, too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Flattening Those Walls ~ Reach Out Beyond Your Classroom

Those of you who follow this blog know how I feel about using technology to connect your students to the world.  You have so many tools at your fingertips with Skype in the Classroom, Google Hangouts, collaborative documents, Flipgrid...and the list goes on!  What connections are you making this year?  Why not bring in an author to ignite the reading and writing fire in your students?  There are so many authors willing to Skype/Hangout with your students for free, it is crazy not to take advantage of their kindness.

Kim Ventrella is one author I have recently had the pleasure of contacting.  Her new book, Skeleton Tree, will be released on September 26th, 2017, by Scholastic Press.  It is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

You might be wondering why I chose to feature Kim this week.  The answer is her generosity.  I contacted her to Skype with a group of our teachers for this year's upcoming NaNoWriMo on inspiring our students to read and write.  She was willing to take time to Skype with us for free, and she will do the same with your students.  Sadly, we could not make our workshop work in September, but I still wanted you to know about her!  You can find out more on her Scholastic PAGE HERE.

So how are you connecting with the world?  Leave us a comment below.  I get daily requests from teachers in the Connected Classrooms Workshop G+ Community who are looking for partner classes.  If you are interested in connecting with another class, or even think you might want to give it a try,  leave me a comment or send me an email.  I would love to help you flatten those walls!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Weekly TNT ~ Build a Tardy Tracker in Google Forms

If you have only been using Google Forms for student input, you need to know Forms are great organizational tools for teacher documentation, too!

I've been talking to some teachers who would like to use Google Forms to track tardies.  While we haven't come up with the perfect solution (there are paid programs that do everything), here are some options on keeping track.

If you have ideas on how to improve them Form, please share in the comments below.  We would love your collaboration!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Weekly TNT ~ Adding a Passcode to a Google Form

I have shared ways to create data trackers using Google Forms, which I love.  Any time teachers can simplify documentation, it's a win!  As a teacher, I had data trackers on my phone that I could access anywhere in the class.  Students occasionally used the camera on my phone to document something, too.  In cases like this, we need extra security on those Forms.  It is easy to add a passcode to a Form in just a few steps!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Google 101 Quick Tip #1 - Uploading Word Documents into Drive

We have the school year underway, and I have had several requests for some basic Google tutorials.  We have several new districts who have chosen to go Google, and I want to share some quick basics throughout the fall semester.  These videos will be three minutes or less and will focus on one basic skill.

We all have things we've created in Word or PowerPoint that we want to use in Google, right?  Here's

Quick Tip #1 - How to Upload a Word Document as a Google Doc

I will still be posting other tutorials in addition to the Quick Tips!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Welcome Back to School!

Welcome back to a brand new school year!  
I am so excited for all of you!  
We have the chance to change lives, to inspire and release genius in our students, and to build relationships our students need!

We have new districts joining our Google tribe, so I am planning a series of Google Three-Minute Jam tutorials.  If you need to know how to do something specific in the Google tools, please use the form over there on your right to let me know.

On the Microsoft front, Microsoft Classroom has been replaced with Microsoft Teams!  I'm hoping for user-friendly interface and usage.  For those of you who aren't using Google, I will be bringing tutorials for Microsoft in the new year.  

That brings us to Skype in the Classroom.  If you have never used Skype or Google Hangouts to bring speakers into your classroom or to partner with other classrooms, you are missing out!  

There are hundreds of authors who will Skype with your students for free!  You can take virtual field trips, and your students can tackle PBL with other classrooms in the world.  I DARE you to flatten those walls this year!  You might want to start with a Mystery Skype.  I am a part of a group of connected educators, and I have teachers from other states looking for partner teachers/classrooms.  If you are interested in connecting your kids with another classroom, fill out this QUICK FORM, and I will send you more information.

You are Rock Stars!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Creator for Chrome

I am excited to announce Book Creator for Chrome!  It has been in beta this summer, and I received the message that it is ready for your classroom!  For those of you unfamiliar with Book Creator, for iOS, it is an open-ended book creation tool students can use to create books on any subject.  Students can create comics, science journals, non-fiction books, collaborative works, class books, and even books created from classroom collaboration around the world (see #TWIMA to find out more).

Book Creator for Chrome is now available, and it has some amazing features.

Dan from Book Creator says,
Google Image search

"When you tap the + button and select Import, you can now search for images on Google. Rest assured that safe-search is enabled, and all the images have full permission to be used in your books. You can also disable the feature altogether in a library's settings if you prefer students to only use their own images."
It is a free/paid tool.  Teachers can create a library of 40 books for free.  That's ok, though, because you can export finished books to other places and remove them from Book Creator.  HERE is the price list, but you know I always try to use free tools when I can!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New Updates for Google Classroom!!

I am excited about the new updates to Google Classroom!  Google listened to the things teachers have been saying.  Read the full article to know exactly what new features you have in Classroom.  Gone are the days of not being able to reorder your class cards, and now you can see a list of assignments for an individual student.  Click HERE for the full article!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Apple Swift Playgrounds

#ISTE17 has been amazing!  I am gathering so many new ideas to share with you, so I thought I'd better start now before I forget something.  I have enjoyed the Apple team this week and have gained some great insight into Swift Playgrounds.  I have played with the app and have recommended to teachers, but I had no idea about the huge amount of resources Apple provides for teachers who want to use the app!  Wow!

Where do I start?  Or, rather, where do you start?
     Start with becoming an Apple Teacher HERE!  I can't even tell you how many resources are available through this site.  On the site, you will find Everyone Can Code with links to teacher guides, the Swift Playgrounds app, and other great resources!

Apple has coding material for elementary, middle, and high school - something for all of us.  Besides that, helping Byte with his challenges in the Swift Playgrounds app is a blast!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Use Google Classroom Writing Tools for Mobile Devices

We had a question at the STEM Expo about students being able to show the actual work they did to solve a problem in Google Classroom.  Students can always add a photo attachment to an assignment, but it would be nice if there were a built-in feature that would allow students to write with a stylus or their finger.  Google thought so, too!


Monday, June 19, 2017

MakerCamp Starts Today!

Looking for summer ideas for your own kids, or are you gathering Maker projects for the coming year?  Check out Maker Camp.  The event starts today!  Makers can join the online camp and find project ideas for summer fun.  Community camps are also happening, so kids can find local events using the Camp website.

Join a community of Makers:
Google + Community for Maker Camp

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Google Drawings and Frame Games

I love word puzzles!  I played them with my granddad when I was a child.  I have had this book from Scholastic for years...PGD (Pre-Google Days).

I found it again while sorting out a box of old books, and instantly I thought of Google Drawings and Slides!  I am always trying to come up with new ways to use Google tools in the classroom.  I love using Google Slides for collaborative projects, book writing, bell-ringers, and journaling, but why couldn't students create, share, and solve Frame Games via Slides?  

What, exactly, is a Frame Game?  I know these word puzzles have many names, but they are simply puzzles that combine letters, numbers, and pictures to express well-known phrases, names, places, and song titles (Stickels, 2003).

I started a Slide deck below, and I have given you editing rights.  Follow the link to add another slide with your own puzzle.  My examples took less than five minutes each.  Students could create a puzzle and could use the comment tool to solve other students' puzzles.  

When I used these puzzles in the classroom, I shared a puzzle a day for several days and let students guess the answers.  After we had solved several examples I asked the students to create their own.  These could revolve around content vocabulary, particular concepts, etc.  I can even imagine using these to express common idioms.  Students could solve and explain the meaning of the idiom via comments!  

Use Google Classroom to push out one shared Slide deck to all students, give them editing rights. and you are ready to let their puzzling minds create!

What other ways have you used Google Slides or Drawings in the Classroom?  We would love to hear your ideas! Please share in the comments below.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

OCEARCH.ORG - Real-life Data Collection

Lori Gracey of TCEA shared a great site that I wanted to pass on to you.  OCEARCH.ORG is a global shark tracker!  What student (or teacher) wouldn't find this cool?  I chose a shark named Lydia, a 14 foot 6 inch white shark that has been pinging the map since 2013!  I got to see how the scientists added the tracker to her dorsal fin in a video posted on her bio.  Love it!

Data, data everywhere!  The site includes math and science curriculum using the shark data.  I can imagine all kinds of cross-curricular activities based on tracking sharks!

From the About Page on OCEARCH.ORG

OCEARCH is a recognized world leader in generating critical scientific data related to tracking (telemetry) and biological studies of keystone marine species such as great white and tiger sharks, in conjunction with conservation outreach and education at a measurable global scale.

Photo of Lydia from OCEARCH.ORG

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

New Google Slides Video Features

I am very excited about the new features in Google Slides.  While YouTube is a great resource, many schools have it blocked.  Teachers must also consider parent permissions when hosting student-made videos on YouTube.  Google has solved the problem!  You can now insert videos from your Google Drive.  Just be sure to set the permissions to "anyone with the link can view", so those people you have granted access to the Slide deck can also play the videos.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Google Drawings

I loved hearing from so many innovative people at TCEA 2017!  I realized Google Drawings is an unsung hero of the Google tools.  Imagine a blank canvas where ideas can form, where students can organize ideas, and where teachers can create eye-catching media for class websites, newsletters, etc.

Google Drawings allows the user to create PDF, JPEG, PNG, and SVG files from the content on the drawing.  Drawings can also be inserted into Docs directly from the canvas.

Matt at Ditch That Textbook has a great article with links to graphic organizers he has shared.

Organize your tech integration using a copy of an easy Tech Planner in Google Drawings.

Want to create yourself for flipped videos, or want to let students create videos explaining concepts using simple avatars made of shapes in Google Drawings?  Check out Kristina Edgar's example!

Or possibly just have a little creative fun?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Google and O365 Forms Comparison from TCEA

Sometimes districts feel the need to be an either/or district when it comes to technology; however, Google and O365 play nicely together.  You can harness tools from both great platforms. Miguel Guhlin at TCEA wrote an article on Forms comparison between Microsoft and Google.  Take a minute to read his article at to find out how the two compare.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Making of a MakerSpace #4

In keeping with our Makerspace theme, I wanted to share TOONTASTIC 3D with you!  Thank you to Lori Gracey from TCEA for sharing the free story-telling app from Google available for iOS and Android.  Making in the virtual realm gets students thinking, too!  The free app allows students to create their own animations using the app's characters or by drawing their own.  The app even suggests plot structure to the student-producer.  In addition to story writing, the scenarios include a science report that walks students through the scientific method.  I don't know about you, but I would have loved to explain my findings in my own video production!

Here's what it looks like:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Making of a MakerSpace #3

From cardboard contraptions to physics-based apps...the act of building something ignites a spark in even the most reluctant learners.  We will eventually be looking at full Makerspaces that are not content specific, but I thought we'd start in the content areas.  You teach specific concepts, and any making your students do needs to tie directly to those standards.  Making is so easily associated with STEM classes, but what do you do if you teach Language Arts?  Rather than give you ideas from books, I want to connect you with real teachers who hacked traditional learning in ELA.

  • Check out 10th grade English Literary Architecture inspired by Matteo Pericoli's Laboratory of Literary Architecture. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Making of a MakerSpace #2

After participating in a recent TCEA webinar on Makerspaces with Peggy Reimers, I left with six big questions you should ask when you start planning a makerspace.

  • What money is available? (Don't worry!  Makerspaces can be done without $$.)
  • Who is your audience?
  • What experts can you utilize?
  • What is your physical space like?
  • How will you manage it?
  • How will you showcase what your students are doing?

What questions do you have?  
What advice can you give to others just starting to try to answer these questions?
Leave a comment below to join the conversation!

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Making of a MakerSpace #1

I am so excited to tell you about the new Makerspace coming to San Angelo!  Tom Green County Library is working to bring the community a wonderful space filled with all kinds of creative tools, pieces, and parts to get visitors of all ages making.  I will keep you updated as they move forward with plans to open in March 2017!

Why a MakerSpace?

     Research supports hands-on learning and inquiry.  Take a look at Makerspace's Research Roundup for articles and studies on how making, creating, and tinkering affect learning.  We know that engagement is key to reaching students.  Students love to create and investigate, and we can teach our students to question things more deeply as they "play" (Kurti, Kurti, & Fliming, 2014).  We must become more comfortable with unanswered questions and answering with another question.

Where Do I Start?

     Start where you your classroom.  Campus makerspaces are fantastic!  Libraries or classrooms filled with tools and technology are amazing, but you don't have to start (or finish) there.  Making should be happening in every classroom.  You can bring makerspaces to your content stations, to a portable tub, to several buckets, or even to your students' backpacks.  Making is an action - not a space.  It's about the feeling you create, the excitement you bring, the permission to fail you give, the questions you ask, and the example you set.  Makerspaces can be no tech, low tech, high tech, or any combination you choose.  Why not start with what your students already have - smartphones.  Consider BYOD, if you aren't already harnessing this power.

     Five Free Things Students Can Create with their Phones

  • Create a Stop Motion Video (Many choices - I like Stop Motion Studio)
  • Record a Song they wrote/Produce a music video (Voice Record Pro, iMovie, Garageband)
  • Write and produce a movie (Camera/iMovie)
  • Create a talking avatar (Tellagami, Photospeak)
  • Learn to Code (Many choices -, Tickle, Playgrounds is a new favorite of mine)
No matter your content area, you could use these simple, no-cost ideas to get your kids making!

Check out Stop Motion on YouTube.  I searched Stop Motion Water Cycle and found great examples, such as this one by Ethan Thompson!

What ideas can you share?  Leave a comment below to join the conversation!

Friday, January 6, 2017

MakerSpaces - Get Started in 2017!

I am a Maker.  I have been since I was very young, and I am so thankful my family encouraged (or at least tolerated) my need to create.  If you think about it, all of our kiddos start out with creative and curious spirits.  In my personal opinion, for whatever that's worth, we, as adults, slowly whittle away that creative spirit in them.  We don't do it intentionally, but it comes with the territory.  As teachers, we sometimes tell our kids how we expect them to answer, what we expect them to produce...even how to think.

Don't fret, though!  We also have the power to ignite creativity and curiosity in our students while we are teaching the content we need to cover.  We just need a shift in thinking, or possibly just to bring back to mind what we already know.  Over the next few weeks, Teacher Tech Cafe will be sharing ways you can bring about the shift, and we're going to start with MakerSpaces.

What exactly is a MakerSpace?

     There is not one right answer.  The design of your MakerSpace may look completely different from mine, but they have one thing in common...they exist to allow creativity and exploration to happen.  Drop in daily next week to explore simple ways to bring making into your classroom/school.