Friday, November 13, 2015

7 Techy Ways to Build Reading Skills at Home: Guest Post for Learn2Earn

Often, we get asked to write guest blog posts for other bloggers, organizations, or companies from the edtech industry.  One of those organizations we post for is

Their website states that, "Learn2Earn is a technology company focused on funding education in a way that's creative, fun, and relevant." (

Basically, Learn2Earn provides schools an interactive platform to raise funds for their school "WHILE connecting schools, students, and families with the goal of promoting a genuine love of reading." (

If your school is looking for unique and education-minded fundraisers, you may want to check them out. 
While you're there be sure to check out our most recent guest blog post "7 Techy Ways to Build Reading at Home."  In this post we focus on ways parents can foster a fun, creative literacy environment at home that goes beyond just reading a book together. 

Click the image below to link in!

 Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Memes in the Classroom

Memes are one of those side effects of the digital age that you either love or hate- mostly dependent upon how you connect with the meme's content.  It's likely that your students spend a good bit of time browsing the web looking for memes that are relevant and funny to them.

Here's a quick and fun activity that capitalizes on their love for a well-written meme.  We figure if you can't beat 'em, you may as well beat 'em at their game!

The following memes are student created (sixth graders) after learning vocabulary from our Ancient Rome unit.  Students used a variety of apps to create the following memes including PicCollage, Sketchbook, and Keynote. Creativity was left to them, but they had to use a vocabulary word in such a way that demonstrated their understanding of the term.  

Think about your subject area(s) and/or content.  How can you use memes in the classroom with your students?  Be sure to post student work around the classroom!  Have a classroom Twitter account or student blogs? Share them out with the world!


Sunday, October 25, 2015

The (Semi) Reformed Perfectionist: Stepping Back So Students Can Step UP

It's time to take a really long, good look in the mirror.

What has happened to the American student?

Is it too much screen time?  Too much state-testing? Too few/too many worksheets? Is it less time spent exercising or playing outside?  Is it too much pressure, too much testing, too much programming? Not enough quiet time, noisy time, movement, and on and on.

All of these questions are relevant and have been worthy of study and discussion at some point.  I'm tired of study and discussion. Our time, funding, and brain power are better spent elsewhere.

When I look in the mirror, I see the culprit.

Every day that I step into my classroom, I make a choice.  I either allow all of the above to guide my instruction, OR I decide for that day to teach students.

When I walked into my classroom this year, I was all gung-ho about all the cool techy tricks I was going to teach them.  I'm one quarter of the way into a school year, and I've already changed my goal for the year.'s students don't need tons of lessons in technology.  They totally "get" anything techy I throw at them.  That became clear to me straight away.  Even if they came in with just the basics, they were quickly engaging in higher level tech projects with some assistance.

What they need is freedom.  Freedom to be busy.  Freedom to be a little noisy.  Freedom to be quietly thoughtful.  Freedom to explore.  Freedom to create.  Freedom to love learning.

They just don't know it because we've done a really great job as a society of educators creating productive, rule-following students. They can work the program, check the boxes, take the notes, and fill in the blank.  What we haven't done as a society is teach them common sense, critical thinking skills, and how to use that pesky thing we call an imagination.  Thing is...we've been doing this for a very long time.

I was one of those students in the late 80s and 90s.  When the teacher would give us a project, I was the first one at her desk making sure I understood the components for completion. I needed the steps. The boxes to check off. They wanted five facts, and I'd give them ten.  I needed absolute assurance that I was going to get the A+.  College was pretty much the same story. Rubrics and syllabuses were my BFFs.

Then I got my first teaching job.  Hello, world!

At first I played by "the rules."  I performed my job.  Liked it even, but it was just...a job. Then something happened. Technology entered the picture, and I was hooked.  Suddenly I found myself passionate about my career.  My neat little rows of desks suddenly became collaborative tables.  My structured, quiet, paper-filled classroom began to evolve.  Hours of work stretched into the late hours of the night.  It wasn't a job anymore.  Edtech had given me freedom in my classroom.  It was now a passion project.

Even though that little student inside of me was screaming for structure, the growing teacher in me saw a great need for passion and creation in the classroom.  Passion and creation is busy.  Noisy. Kid-oriented.  A little more work on my end. Worth it.

There are days that it still drives me crazy...admittedly.  Mid-way through grading five period's worth of projects, I was wondering what I had been thinking!  My classroom is not perfect.  I am not perfect. I screw up, and the old structured Mrs. Copple comes out.  I hate it when that happens, but I don't beat myself up about it.

More often than not though, my heart literally almost melts when I watch students make connections and innovate in their own right.  They can be little things like watching them figure out how to prop up their iPad to record themselves (trees make excellent tripods).  Innovation doesn't have to be big all of the time.  We have to celebrate the little breakthroughs, too. Who knows where they may lead?

So make a choice.  Look in the mirror.  Be a rebel and tell those excuses to take a back seat. Remember that we are imperfect people working with imperfect kids.  Start small.  Change up one subject of your day.  Try that project you've been dreaming about.  Be as brave as you want your students to be, or at least pretend on the outside!

We are the single-most important factor in our classrooms.  We are the variable.

Step back so they can step up.

After all, I'm a semi-reformed perfectionist.  If I can do it so can you!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

An Hour with 2 Techie Teachers: Webinar Event

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 4:00pm

Join us for our first ever webinar event as we share the importance of encouraging your students to create in the classroom on a daily basis. We'll share easy, no-prep activities that will have your students creatively sharing authentic work in all subject areas. Learn how to maximize the best of what your students’ iPads have to offer. We’ll also highlight our use of digital interactive notebooks using Book Creator. This is one concept guaranteed to positively change the workflow of your classroom! 
We will be live and ready to answer your questions about organization and management, favorites apps and programs, and more!
This event is through the Indiana Office of eLearning.  You don't have to be from Indiana to learn from this webinar!  You can register for the webinar here.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Interactive Study Guides with Book Creator

Looking for a way to help your students effectively and efficiently study for an upcoming assessment?  If you aren't using digital interactive notebooks, then it isn't too late to provide students with purposeful study materials they can personalize.

We recently completed our Ancient Greece unit, and I wanted to provide students with the key details we covered in class as well as extra online resources for them to check out.  Students worked on these study guides in class with a partner and had full access to them the week of the final assessment.

Looking for the "how to" behind creating these guides?  I used the same process that we use for our interactive notebooks.  Check out that step-by-step guide here.

Why use Book Creator? Simply put, Book Creator provides both teacher and student with a variety of tools to personalize learning while using a user-friendly format that even the littlest of learners can tackle.  Hands-down, this is our favorite paid app loaded on our student devices.  We find new uses every week!

Here are a few samples pages (screenshots) from our Ancient Greece study guides.  Note that I was able to mix media by adding video, images, text, links, and more.  You can even link out to digital flashcards or games that you may have created using resources such as Quizlet or Socrative.

The Cover Page is clear and easy for students to distinguish from other books.
Add a personal message that gives the students a purpose using video.
Interactive features give students a more authentic learning experience. 

Students can add in their own text or photos that enhance their learning.
This student added a photo that named the 12 gods of Mt. Olympus,
and they used the notes section to roughly answer the "Think About It" section. 

The final page is reserved for extra resources for students to go above and beyond in their study.
Including links to information websites as well as interactive features such as Kahoot!, gives students a broader range of study materials to choose from. It also allows parents a great resource to help their students go deeper into the material. 

Happy studying!

Study Guide Medium Credits: 
KG Fonts ( (clip art) (map)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lose the Worksheets with these Easy Digital Quick Checks

"I love standing in line for the copy machine on Monday morning," said NO teacher ever.

There is something about a paperless classroom that is utterly freeing.  When I made the jump this year to middle school life, I made it a priority goal to minimize the number of copies I make for my classroom.  Aside from projects I've printed to hang on my classroom walls, I've made exactly zero copies for my sixth graders.  Ahhhh....

After coming off of a stint in primary where paper skills are still extremely valuable and necessary (cutting, gluing, coloring, and other fine motor skills as well as station materials), I find myself not spending my Sunday afternoons hugging the copy machine and subsequently visiting with the laminator.  I don't miss it yet, but I am sure someday I will.  Until then, Brittany keeps me grounded by recounting her many hours spent cutting out lamination!

Even at the primary level, there are still many ways to reduce the amount of "papers" that travel home with your students each day. Let's face it...most of those quickly find their ultimate home in the trash can after a quick glance from a parent.  I know because I am one of those parent-type creatures.

You still need to quickly assess your students' understanding of a lesson or a concept.  Let me throw out a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.  Have more ideas?  Share them in the comments below!

5 of the Easiest 5 Minute Quick Checks that Save Trees and Encourage Creativity

1) The..."Quick! Act it out and show me what you know" video.
After a rousing discussion of the four main types of government used in Ancient Greece (what ISN'T fun about that?), I asked students in groups to create a quick 30 second video in which they act out a chosen form of government.  What ensued was hilariously fun, and it provided us with AMAZING review material!  We showed the videos and students had to guess which form of government was being demonstrated.  Did I mention fun?  

2) The Digital Exit Ticket 
Within our LMS, Canvas, students can comment on discussion questions that I post for them.  Take the exit ticket a step further and let this be a student-driven learning opportunity. Allow students to submit exit ticket discussion proposals and select one!  If you don't have an LMS, you can use polls in Kahoot, Socrative, etc. to get a similar effect.  This is a great way to gauge who has it and who doesn't.  You can also allow older students to "backchannel" your lesson and discuss with each other using resources like Today's Meet.  

3) The Twitter-esque Post
For word lovers like me, Twitter with its 140 character limit can be agonizing.  However, it does force you to be concise!  Have students compose Twitter-esque narratives that demonstrate their understanding of the concept.  Students can post these wherever convenient for you to check.  Take it a step further and create a classroom Twitter account and a jazzy hashtag to follow.  Our school has SM blocked, but there are ways around this.  You can select well-written Twitter responses and make them live and breathe out there for the world to notice for your students! #dontforgetthehashtag

4) Graphic Organizers with Style 
When I need a quick check that students always love, I go to PicCollage.  Whether I want them to compare/contrast two characters in a story or discuss the pros/cons of tyranny in Ancient Greece, PicCollage is always a top contender.  Kid-friendly and fun, it also allows the addition of relevant content such as video and photos that add more authenticity to their responses.  Bonus...I can do this on the fly if I see we just aren't "getting it." This allows me to assess quickly and adjust our learning. What can you PicCollage this week?

5) Sketchnoting or Doodling...pick your poison
This is another easy idea that is suitable for any age or stage.  I have always been a major doodler...the proof is on my church bulletin each week!  First graders can sketch or doodle while their teacher reads a story which encourages visualization, text connections, and other comprehension must haves.  Teachers can direct the flow of sketching/doodling or allow students free range.  Older students can also sketchnote/doodle their way through a content rich video or discussion.  The key here is proper management so students understand the purpose of this activity.  Doodles/sketches should be relevant and enhance their learning.  Showing them some great examples that are out there on YouTube can be very helpful, and/or model good technique yourself. There are many great apps for this skill. Idea Sketch, IdeaStorm, Inkflow are just a few of the free ones out there.  Not sure you want to go all the way with sketchnoting?  Try any whiteboard app (DoodleBuddy for primary, EduCreations for intermedate+) and allow your students to doodle 'til their hearts' content. Oh, and do let them share!

What are YOUR favorite quick checks?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Twitter Chat Ahead

If you haven't discovered the incredible world of professional development via Twitter, we invite you to join us as we moderate the Indiana Office of eLearning #INeLearn chat on Thursday (September 3) night from 9:00-10:00pm. Though the chat is geared toward our elementary learners, there will be relevance for all.  Topics will include creation centered integration as well as balancing a blended learning environment.

Use the hashtag #INeLearn to follow along, and be sure to follow us @kindergartenVF and @MrsCoppleSES.

We hope you'll join us!

Check out the INeLearn blog here...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Poetry, Music, and Fun... Oh My!

Show of hands...  How many of you use music or songs to build skills?  I know I use songs regularly, even if they are not actual songs, to teach my little learners skills.

It is no secret that I am pretty much obsessed with EVERYTHING my good friend Deedee Wills creates for the classroom.  I am pretty sure I own all of her products, and trust me when I say, they are worth the investment!  

I have used Deedee's poetry packs for four years.  We use them in whole group as well as during literacy station time.  In a word, they ROCK!

When I found out Deedee was creating a product that would put her poems to music, I was THRILLED!  Knowing how much we sing these poems, and the fact that I wouldn't have to do my best Broadway renditions anymore, I snatched those packs up as fast as I could!

There are endless ways you could use the music to enhance your poetry instruction.  In a whole group setting, you could, of course, burn the files to a CD.  To do that, it does take some technical skill, but this video explains the process beautifully!

Courtesy BestLaoSong's YouTube channel

I do not prefer to use the CD in my classroom; instead, I play them directly from iTunes on either my computer or iPad.  

I also use the music file to supplement my literacy work stations.  Each week, my students visit the poetry station.  While at this station, students have always read the poem, completed the word work activity that accompanies it, and read the poem again.  This is all great, but I was so excited to use the music to really beef up this station!

Here is how I do it:

Our school district uses an LMS called Canvas.  Canvas is used in all grade levels in our district, so naturally, I have chosen to use this with my students.  If your school does not have an adopted LMS, I would recommend using Showbie to push files out to your students.  Showbie is free to use, and pretty easy!

In Canvas, my students download the file to their iPads.  After the file is downloaded, students can listen to the poetry songs right on their device!  I love taking it a step further and having students create a ChatterPix of them reciting or singing the poem of the week!  

Make sure to check out this fantastic resource ASAP!  It's a must-have, for sure!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Building Fluency in the iPad Classroom

There are fewer tasks more important and less daunting than building fluency in young readers. Once a student has mastered the fine art of decoding and word attack skills, they are ready to move toward developing the fluency and stamina needed to tackle higher level reading comprehension.

It’s no secret that the key to becoming a more fluent reader is practice, practice, practice.  When I moved to first grade after teaching four years of third grade, I was suddenly finding myself at a loss for meaningful fluency activities.  I had felt for years that the activities I had completed with students were beneficial for my understanding of student growth, but had failed to provide the learner with activities that both enhanced their understanding of their learning while being engaging. 

I need to preface the following with this statement.  “Techy” that I am, I don’t believe in using tech for the sake of using tech.  Rather, I believe that we should always evaluate our practices for the BEST possible way to enrich our students’ learning.  I started to investigate and play with a few fluency activities that utilized our 1:1 student iPads. The following tips, tricks, activities, and thoughts will hopefully help YOU implement a successful, tech-fueled fluency program in your classroom! Enjoy. :)

The Power of the Camera

Students LOVE to hear and see themselves do just about anything, and teachers love to make assessment and grading as efficient as possible.  When you harness the power of the camera on the iPad, you can combine both of those desires into something pretty great!  Ask a student to read aloud to a teacher or classroom assistant and you will receive a mix of results.  Some students clam up and get nervous while others give an empathetic performance simply to “get it done.”  When you introduce the camera as their audience, things begin to change.  Students see a fluency reading as a chance to have power over their own assessment, and teachers are able to listen (and listen again if necessary) to their students’ reading whenever and wherever convenient.  The ability to listen, listen, and listen again to a fluency recording can hold tremendous advantage for both student and teacher.  Teaching students to listen for inaccuracies, automaticity, and prosody helps them become reflective and ultimately more fluent readers.  

Activity Suggestions  

Cold, Warm, Hot Reads:  Students record themselves on Monday reading a passage they have never seen, heard, or read before.  We suggest including the reading passage as well as recording chart within a digital interactive notebook using Book Creator (view a detailed post here or perhaps a digital fluency notebook.  Students can then read the passage and record an audio clip right in their digital notebook.  Students can also simply record their audio or video and send it to you however they share files in your situation (GoogleDrive, LMS, etc.)  They should repeat a reading mid-week (warm read), and a final read on Friday (hot read).  Students should analyze their growth alongside the teacher. 

Trio Readings:  Students form trios to read a shared passage be it a song, poem, fresh read, etc.  Two students read the passage together while the third member records.  Students should listen to their recording and share advice on how to improve their fluency (automacity, prosody, and accuracy).  The trio will then shift jobs and read/record again.  I witnessed students having meaningful conversations with one another about their reading when participating in trio readings.  Just having the ability to HEAR themselves read is invaluable.

Short Reads/Excerpts:  In this activity, provide students with short fluency phrases or excerpts.  Basically any fluency passage/poem/song under 30 seconds will do.  Using apps like ChatterKids, students add audio clips to fun images of their choosing.  For example, during Dr. Seuss week we read one particular book that was full of tongue twisters (great for fluency practice).  Students chose a tongue twister from the book, selected an image from KidRex (safe search site for kids) of the main character, and recorded an audio clip of the passage.  ChatterKids allows the user to draw a “mouth” over the image which will move to the rhythm of the recorded audio clip.  Kids adore ChatterKids and will flip for any fluency activity that utilizes it! This is a FREE app that can be quite powerful for a variety of activities in the classroom.  Check it out! 

For Struggling Readers:  Something that became quite amazing for students engaged in intervention exercises was the ability to individualize and tailor activities that target their weaknesses.  On Mondays, I would call students to my round table and work through our list of first grade sight words and common phrases.  Those phrases and words they struggled with went into a separate pile.  Together, the student and I created a personalized video reading and discussing their struggle-point words and phrases.  For the rest of the week, the students listened and whispered through the video first thing during intervention block.  On Friday, we would recheck for growth in word/phrase fluency.  I found this activity particularly powerful for ESL students who struggle with proper phrasing. 

It’s my hope that you have gleaned an idea or two that will help guide your fluency instruction in your iPad classroom.  I encourage you to utilize the resources and materials you already have and make them work for your students.  I always find that once my mind has been opened to a new avenue, the possibilities become seemingly endless.  

Happy Reading!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Not "Just" a Teacher: An Open Letter to Digital Leaders

Dear Teacher,

We see you. 

You're the one with one iPad to your name, but wanting so much more. You've spent your summer paying out of pocket to attend edtech conferences around the country just dreaming about the activities you want your students to experience. You don't just want more. You NEED more. 

Your passion and desire do not escape us. 

You are not "just" a teacher. You have the power to change your classroom. Your hallway. Your school. Your district. 

You may not have the title or every resource, but you can do this. You can be the spark of change, and you can do it from the bleachers. 

There will be persecution. Those that call you a showboat or loner. But you know differently. You know that the motivations behind doing what you do is for the right purpose. 

The kids. 

There will be failures. Those will make the successes sweeter. 

There will be tears. Those will motivate you to dust yourself off and try again. 

There will be late nights and short weekends. The hard work pays off. What's worth it isn't always easy. 

There will be frustration. And moments of feeling under-appreciated. You are oftentimes. 

But in the midst of all that, there will also be laughter, smiles, light bulbs, and JOY. 

So you keep doing what you do. We applaud you and encourage you to carry the torch of change.

You are NOT "just" a teacher. You are a mentor. A facilitator. An empowerer. A behind-the-scenes, doer and implementer of change. 

Your students are lucky. Immeasurably and incredibly blessed by the example you set. 

Now get out there and do what you do because YOU are a digital leader AND a teacher. 


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Digital Citizens are Global Citizens

I'm currently sitting outside (poolside to be exact) working on some digital citizenship curriculum for the beginning of the school year.  It's one of those evenings where the sky is just a million shades of beautiful, and you can almost see the curve of the Earth's atmosphere.

Which got me to thinking.  This world is a big ol' amazing place filled with learners of all ages, races, sizes, and shapes.  When we give our students the freedom that digital access should bring, we are not just shaping them as digital citizens, but global ones as well.

When I was in high school (circa 1997-2001), we were on the cutting edge of "distance learning."  I remember sitting in front of this ginormous, boxy television monitor sitting on the edge of my seat as we prepared to connect with another high school.  This was groundbreaking, Back to the Future-type of technology for us.  It was exciting and something that helped ignite my passion for what I do today.

These days, distance learning is at the touch of a button on any phone, tablet, laptop, etc.  It's no longer considered groundbreaking technology.  It

Today's students have heard the digital citizen spiel.  While I feel it is certainly an important conversation, I think we need to go broader.  Deeper.  Students need to feel and experience the sense that they are just one in billions of other people like themselves who are now connected in ways previously unimaginable.

We need to teach them that they are responsible. Responsible for embracing the opportunities they have to reach out and make a difference in their world.  They need to know they are connected. They need opportunities to go beyond their small inner circle of peers. They need to connect with all generations and races of people in meaningful conversation.  WE need to teach them to be considerate.  This is where those digital citizenship traits come into play, but even more than that...teach them to be aware of cultural and generational differences.

Finally, we need to show them that they are capable.  As a global citizen, they are capable of doing anything they put their mind to.  The resources are unlimited so long as we refrain from setting limits. The world is certainly theirs to explore.

Let's teach them how.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Successfully Implementing an Elementary Tech Club: Looking Back to Move Forward

A couple of years ago I (Tiffany) had a dream to start a tech club in our building.  At that time, our technology was fairly limited compared to what we have now, and it didn’t seem like a smart venture.  That was my excuse.

So last year in Atlanta for ISTE 2014, I spoke to another teacher who had successfully gotten one off the ground. I sure wish I remembered her name so I could thank her, but I sadly do not. Perhaps it was a combination of something she said with the mountain high you get when attending a conference like ISTE, but I came back to school last fall with a resolve.  To get a tech club up and running at Scottsburg Elementary. 

These ladies did a great job representing our Ninjas back home!
One year later, I am heading home after a whirlwind week of learning and sharing in Philly for ISTE 2015.  Only this time I took members of our tech club with me to share in a student showcase.  Wow.  It still feels totally surreal all that happened this week for both Brittany and myself.  Between our separate student showcases and our two posters presented together…I am mentally and physically exhausted in the very best of ways.  

I would love to say that the past year was perfect and that everything we did in club was awesome and amazing.  I really can’t, but if anyone ever says they are 100% perfect…they are either lying or…lying.  Anything worth doing is always hard work of course, and starting a tech club was just that.  It was a lot of hard work, some failures and flops, and stressful at times.  More than that though were the highlights.  The smiles and laughter, the successes, the progress, and the fun.  

So for anyone out there who may be considering a leap this fall and starting their own tech club, I leave for you the top ten things I learned this past year.  I also encourage you to visit our club website where you can find resources, project samples, and more.  I beg you to steal from me, learn from my mistakes, and otherwise use our club as a springboard for your own!  You won’t regret it!

Not all projects and/or ideas are going to work.  Relax.  Failure is a wonderful opportunity to teach and learn from the process together.  You'll make it better next time!

Plan A may not always work so be sure to have a Plan B, C, and sometimes D!  Inclement weather, project deadlines, scheduling conflicts all abound within the school year.  Make sure your parents know that schedules are always open to change!

Whatever rules and procedures you implement for your club, make sure you stay consistent with enforcing them.  Start club on time; end on time.  Period. 

Tech club members need to know that their academic life is of utmost importance.  Be vigilant in checking grades and behavior referrals.  Enlist the help of classroom teachers and administration.  Club should be something worthy of working their hardest. 

Spend time at the beginning of the year assessing your club members' strengths and weaknesses.  This gives you a starting point.  Each year you should find a greater knowledge base.  Then reflect.  What went well? What didn't?  What other opportunities can you take advantage of next year?

Whenever you can connect students with real-world experiences...DO!  Guest speakers, Skype sessions, field trips, etc. are all great ways to make the learning authentic and relevant. 

Use the power of digital tools like Remind and social media to keep your parents informed.  Any letters and formal communication can be sent via paper or LMS.  The key is to utilize as many avenues as possible and use them frequently.

People love to help and donate when they feel appreciated.  Whether you are asking for their time or for items like refreshments, be sure to thank them!

Tech club tends to draw students who may not always find a niche elsewhere.  Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with each club member throughout the year.  Interest surveys may be helpful so you can direct them to tech ventures they will appreciate. 

There's absolutely zero point in starting a club if the goal doesn't include having fun.  Play games, laugh together, share successes, and keep the atmosphere relaxed.  They've worked hard all day.  Club should be a time to have fun exploring and growing as learners together!

Questions? Comments?  Need more info?  Connect with me via Twitter, email, or comments below. 

Be sure to check out our Tech Ninja Weebly by clicking the image to the right!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


You asked, and we’re delivering ISTE 2015 followers!  As promised during our poster sessions, we are writing this post for YOU.  Below you will find ten of our favorite tools we use almost every week to foster creativity and engagement in our classrooms. Be sure to check through archived posts where these are spoken about at length!

These are also in absolutely NO order whatsoever!

PicCollage (FREE app)
This first grader created a PicCollage with photos
and videos of action verbs. 
Created as an app to allow normal people (let’s face it…teachers aren’t normal) the ability to mash several photos together to share on social media.  Teachers, being the devious sort we are, have pirated this app and made it work for them. Bonus is that students can add video in addition to photos.  Take student PicCollage products and incorporate them into their digital interactive notebooks using BookCreator!

Use it for: (Anything your imagination can dream up!)

  • Scavenger Hunts- Finding real-life examples of abstract concepts. 
  • Skill Sorts- Geometric Shapes, Nouns, Digraphs, short vowels, Types of Seeds/Rocks/Whatever, Fiction vs. Non-Fiction, and on and on.
  • Grammar- Photos and videos of students demonstrating parts of speech. 

ChatterKid, ChatterPics (FREE app)
Whoever created this app is a genius.  Not only is it engaging, but once again teachers have found ways to make this app functional in the classroom.  This app allows kids to take photos of real-life objects or grab photos from the web and make them come to life.  Kids get 30 seconds to record and then have the options to jazz up their creations with a variety of stickers, frames, filters, and text. Pair this app with their digital interactive notebooks to make them more authentic!

This cutie is creating a ChatterPix to share interesting facts
she gleaned from an informational text about Ireland.
Use it for: 

  • Recording facts they’ve learned from informational text.  Ex. A book about elephants…grab a photo of an elephant and make it talk about itself!  Make this part of an animal project where students create a QR zoo for their peers to enjoy!
  • 30 second retellings.  Get them down the main idea of a text in 30 seconds or less!
  • Phonics fun.  30 seconds to name as many words in a phoneme family and more!
  • Spelling shorts.  Have them spell as many words as they can in 30 seconds!

Book Creator (paid app)
 Click Me to Find out How!Yes, this app is paid.  BUT…if you’re going to buy one app that will totally revolutionize your classroom…buy this one!  We're going to link you to our lengthy blog post about how to create interactive notebooks using this favorite.  Some of its best features are its workflow capabilities.  There are many options for sharing out including iBooks, ePub/video/PDF files, and more. You won’t regret it! 

Click the app image to the right to go to that blog post!

GoNoodle (web-based)
Want to cut down on wasteful transitions?  Kids stuck inside for recess for days on end?  Need a solution for PE when you just ran out of creative steam for the week?  Want to just have a little F-U-N? GoNoodle is your solution.  This database will be a kid and teacher favorite in no time as they sing, chant, dance, balance, and otherwise exercise their way through quick, engaging brain break activities.  Have a favorite YouTube educational video you enjoy? Add it to your personal account and never spend precious time searching for it again.  Our personal faves?  Anything by the KooKooKangaroo guys.  

BrainPop & BrainPop Jr. (paid subscription, web-based)
This is our go-to for short, engaging, content-rich videos created solely for kids.  Bump it up by taking the hard or short quizzes, playing the related games, or checking out the Storymapping component.  At this time, story mapping is only available for BrainPop, but GOOD NEWS!  Brittany and I were a part of a focus group at ISTE that got to see and give input on this feature for BrainPop Jr.  Trust us…you’re going to LOVE it!  Even if you can’t snag a paid subscription, students can take advantage of the Movie of the Day! You might just luck out!

Coding for Kids (web-based & app platforms)
Coding and programming continues to be a hot word in the edtech community.  Why? Understanding the process behind and using the critical thinking skills it requires allows kids to expand on not just their tech-savvy, but their creativity as well.  If you’re afraid that you just don’t know enough about coding to teach kids…stop worrying.  These no-fail websites will have your kids from zero to coding in minutes.  We also encourage you to call in the experts on this one, too.  Skype or bring in a coder/programmer.  Let kids see a neat perspective on why knowing computer language is important to them!  

Oh…even the littlest of learners can get into this! 

Try out: (app version as well)
or the HopScotch app

Allowing students voice and choice in what information is important to them is a powerful way to engage.  We like the free app Voice Record Pro, but also check out BossJock or Garage Band for more technical endeavors.  Create digital “newsletters” for your parents through the kids’ perspective.  Tip:  Allow them to listen to several different types of podcasts out there so they can hear what’s out there.  

Toca Builders (paid app)
Warning: Toca Builders is
HIGHLY engaging!
This kid-friendly version of Minecraft allows students a whole world of creation and fun.  We’ve even used it to do spelling, addition/subtraction stories, and more!  Have students build a layout of the school or redesign a playground.  The possibilities for creative play are endless. 

iMovie (paid app)
This is one of those heavy-hitter apps that is so versatile regardless of student age and ability.  This is a great app to smash with others that we’ve mentioned above or ones like keynote, DoodleBuddy (for illustrations), and more, This tool is great for project products or fun. Try out the Trailers option to connect with literacy!   

A step-by-step tutorial “how-to” post is coming soon detailing how to use this app with kids. Student samples will be included. Be sure to check back!

Stop Motion Animation
We certainly don’t do stop motion animation projects every week, but when we do…kids love them!  There are a variety of tutorials available on YouTube that will walk you through the process regardless of the medium or tech tool your kids have access to.  For us, the intermediate ages can handle iMovie (easier if accessing Mac version vs. the app).  The smaller kids use the app MyCreate.  There is a lite version if you want to check it out first.  This is much more kid-friendly.  You may also check out iMotion. 

We hope you found a tip, trick, tool, or two that ignites an idea to use in your classroom.  Connect with us below in the comments or via Twitter if you want more!  We'd love to hear what YOU want to read about!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Glimpse Into the Kindergarten PBL Classroom

Tiffany and I have been lucky enough to spend the week at ISTE in Philadelphia!  My kindergarten students traveled to the City of Brotherly Love to present on a few of the PBL projects we have completed.  For your enjoyment, here is a video highlighting a few of those projects.

Tiffany and I will be back to blogging regularly when we get back from ISTE.  We have a lot to talk about!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Looking Back and Jumping Forward

You may have noticed a lag in posts for a couple of months...we sure did!

(Tiffany will take a lot of the blame as she went back to work after a three month maternity leave!)

Here are a few things we were up to in the edtech world outside of our in-class responsibilities:

2015 Spring Blogger Meet-up in French Lick, IN

We were fortunate to escape for a two night get away sharing and learning with over 100 amazing, blogging educators from all over the United States.  We were able to share our quick tips and tricks in three table sessions during the event.  Always a pleasure!

From Left: Tiffany (holding Baby Micah), Brittany, and friend/blogger Marissa  Zimmer.
Photo taken at the French Lick Resort, French Lick, IN. (Hometown of Larry Bird!)
GoNoodle Headquarters 

Brittany was fortunate to tour the GoNoodle Headquarters in Nashville, TN with a small group of educators and bloggers.  The features coming soon are brilliant!

What a dream place to work! We can't wait for all of the new features to roll out!
Indiana Department of eLearning Science/Social Studies Digital Writing Cohort

We are currently writing digital content for the Indiana Department of eLearning with 22 other educators across the state of Indiana.  At our first meeting, we got to meet State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz!

Superintendent Ritz was extremely inspirational and very supportive of the eLearning movement!

That's where we've's where we WILL be coming soon!  

Presenters: June 9th iPossibilities Center Grove, IN

Spotlight Speakers: June 23rd & 24th Digipalooza Scottsburg, IN

Poster Session Presenter: June 28-31  ISTE Philadelphia, PA

We will add dates as we add them! Unfortunately many conferences are happening while our school is still in session due to snow days.

Oh...and we promise more posts now that things have calmed down! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Facilitating Creativity: Relinquishing Control

I was mid-conversation with a colleague today about the evolution of projects in the classroom when I had a revelation. Often teachers cling to their tried and true classroom projects and assignments not for the fear of change so much as for the fear of relinquishing control.  Bingo.

Our society still embraces the old school picture of a classroom.  Desks neatly in rows facing the front of the classroom where a smartly dressed teacher writes clean, even handwriting.  Students intently watch the teacher and copy her every stroke into their crisp, spiral bound notebooks filled with meticulously and laboriously taken notes about a subject.

I used to be that teacher.

Now on a happy day, students are digging up earthworms which dangle from their little hands as they smile for the photo their classmate is taking of them.  Special areas around the room are filled with busy learners wearing headphones listening to informational text about any number of high-interest content. Still yet, a few learners are singing silly rhymes while a buddy records them.  I am usually flitting from group to group.  Checking in.  Asking questions.  Every now and then I stop the class and say something like, "Boys and girls! Everyone take a look at what he's doing here!"

Sometimes I wonder what the hallway passerby must think about my class.  It's funny how the word "structure" can be both a compliment and a negative.  I'd like to call my class structured, but in more of a 21st Century way.  We are busy, but everyone has a task to do.  Students are chatting, but engaged.  I have essentially two "silent" times in my day...independent reading and the minute and a half it takes during timed tests.  That's a glorious minute and a half.

Yet within all that busy-ness and movement, students are learning.  Sure they are learning important content deemed necessary by the powers that be in the state house, but more than that...they are learning HOW to learn. They are the experts, and I drive them and push them toward becoming independent learners who seek out their own outcomes.  It's not because I'm too lazy.  Heavens no. I don't have the luxury of laziness.  It's just that I want THEM to have control of their learning.

Here's why.  The world is changing more rapidly now than ever before in the history of the earth.  Technology created today is already on its way to becoming outdated tomorrow.  Yet if I teach students the crucial business of LEARNING, this doesn't matter.  If they have the skills of analyzing, making connections, and seeking answers...they will SUCCEED!

That's why we need to take a step back.  Analyze our own need to formulate our students' learning experiences so exquisitely that we miss the point.  It isn't about checking off all of the little boxes and making 15 slides in a Keynote presentation to our liking.  It's about giving them the freedom to create.  Mess up.  Discover.  Wonder.  Be unique.

Because within that process, we will find that we have truly succeeded in facilitating something much greater than we ever hoped for.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Digital Interactive Notebooks: Spruce Up Your Literacy Instruction

If there is one digital tool that's become our go-to this school year, it's been Book Creator.  Last summer we were researching ways to incorporate digital interactive notebooks into our literacy blocks.  All of our research kept pointing us back to Book Creator!

Originally we relied upon graphic organizers as our sole-source of material for these notebooks, but the ways in which they have evolved has been amazing. With traditional interactive notebooks, students create hands-on pieces that involve a lot of coloring, cutting, and gluing.  The purpose is that their work becomes not only three dimensional in look and feel, but that the learning itself goes deeper.  That's exactly what we wanted to achieve with our digital versions.  Simply annotating graphic organizers was not enough for us or our students.

As the year has progressed, we began to incorporate more and more into our weekly notebooks. Students often inspired these additions as well as discovery of new apps to utilize. Students are now including photographs, images, etc. from KidRex, recording video of themselves completing fluency tasks, photographing station work, incorporating ChatterKid images, and much more.

This is what a student page may look like before:

Anytime students can find or take real-time photos, it connects themselves to the text in a meaningful way.
Incorporating multiple apps within Book Creator is a major plus.
This page asks students to use ChatterKids to make the Fox speak!
Students take photos or record videos of themselves throughout the week at station.
This makes grading a breeze as well as presents instant accountability for the student. 

Eye-pleasing covers make it fun! 
So how do we build these interactive notebooks?  How do the students receive them?  How do we check their work?  

1) Building the Notebook

We choose to build our notebooks from our laptops using Keynote, but whatever you may use (PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.) will certainly work!  We build each slide using a variety of graphics that make the page pleasing to the student.  Sometimes we choose to go full color, and other times we leave a little more white space for creation.  This really depends on the project as well as the time limits we are working with!  Many of our pages are created from scratch at this point, but we also incorporate quality work we may find elsewhere such as TPT.  Teaching is all about cheating as they say...if someone has already done it well...why reinvent the wheel?

Each week we incorporate a variety of literacy tasks including, but not limited to:

Fluency (have students read a passage while recording themselves)
Comprehension (graphic organizers that utilize photographs, drawings, text, etc.)
Text-to-self/world Connections
Station Work

Once we have built the slides we want to add to their digital notebooks, we export the slides as images.  This is easily done by going to File then Export to...  Select Images.  This will prompt you to save your images.

In order to begin the next step, you will need to save your image files to a storage system easily accessible on your iPad.  We like GoogleDrive, but you may also like other cloud-based apps like DropBox.

You will need to open and save these image files to your Camera Roll on your iPad before beginning the next step.

2) Building the Book Creator Book

From your iPad, open the Book Creator app and select New Book.

We prefer the Landscape format as it seems to fit our Keynote slide images perfectly.

From here, creation is easy.  On each page, click the + sign and choose camera roll.  Select the image you would like the students to work on for each page of their notebook.

Resizing is easy accomplished by dragging one corner of the image to fit the screen.

Once you have added all of your images, you are ready to share the book with your students!

2.) Workflow

Select the "share box" as we call it (the box with the arrow shooting out of the top) to export.

You should see what you typically use to share, expedite, or "push" files to students.  Again, we use eBackpack.  Note that iBooks is an option. This is great if you ever want students to publish their work for parents or beyond!

Book Creator will automatically save your creation as an .epub file.  Note that size may become an issue you have loaded your eBook with video files.  Sometimes we incorporate learning videos from BrainPop or other sources for students to view.

Students will simply open the file from your workflow app of choice (Drive, eBackpack, etc.) directly into Book Creator.  When they have completed their work for the week, they will simply follow the same procedures you did above to send it back to you! We love the ease of checking their work quickly at week's end by flipping through their digital notebooks!

3.) Student Creation

We utilize these digital interactive notebooks throughout the literacy block.  Sometimes students add along as we create a class anchor chart (they can even take a photo and annotate with you!), use them during stations (anytime they can record themselves, it's instant engagement), document fluency, and so much more! As you use them more and more, you will discover new and exciting ways to engage your students in literacy tasks!

Above and Below:
Connecting Literacy and Science after reading, "It Looked Like Spilt Milk."

Comprehension Skill: Drawing a photo of the main character.
Resource courtesy: Tech with Jen K-2 Interactive Notebooks
Recording fluency practice to add to their digital Interactive Notebooks. 
Drawing via DoodleBuddy then added to their digital interactive notebook.
This was after reading "Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."
Question, "What does a bad day look like to you?"  
Students have many options when annotating directly in Book Creator.
This one loves the camera...instant engagement.
Text-to-Self connections using thought-bubbles.  
Sharing our work with Dads during our annual Donuts with Dads event.
We take ownership in our own learning. 
This is a sample page of where a student may add their fluency video.
We incorporate their fluency text for easy access.
Resource courtesy Christine DeCarbo April Fluency Just Print Pack.

We hope that this post has inspired you to take a new look at the possibilities technology can bring to your literacy block through digital interactive notebooks!  These have truly revolutionized both the workflow and engagement in our classrooms!  Let us know if we can help you further!