Archive for February, 2014

I have a joke for you: The past, present, and future walk into a bar…

Want to know the punch line? ¬†ūüôā ¬†Continue reading. ¬†In this edition of TechToolThursday, I’m going to introduce you to the Smithsonian Channel app for iOS and Android devices. ¬†We’ll take a look at the Evernote Web Clipper extension, and the Chrome app Typing Club. ¬†As always, please let us know how you’ll use or are using these tech tools – we share because we care. (My 3 year old is currently obsessed with Monsters, Inc., so I’m “borrowing” their slogan.)

Smithsonian Channel

Does the fact that I only watch documentaries on our Netflix account make me a nerd? ¬†If so, oh well. ¬†I love learning, and I love watching shows that teach me something. ¬†My interests are varied and wide spread. ¬†This is what makes the Smithsonian Channel app so perfect for me and students like me. ¬†In the app, you choose topics that are of interest to you, maximum of three. ¬†Itthen generates a web of videos that speak to those interests. ¬†As you add more, your web gets bigger. ¬†At any time, you can deselect an interest to get rid of those videos. ¬†To view the videos, simply click on the thumbnail icon on your web. ¬†All videos are HD quality, and they are adding new videos and new shows all the time. ¬†Users have the option to search for videos, search for specific shows, favorite videos to view later, and to browse through playlists that have already been created. ¬†LOVE THIS APP!…and it’s FREE. ¬†Here’s a screenshot of my channel I created.

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Evernote Web Clipper

If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you may have discovered my love affair with Evernote. ¬†The Evernote Web Clipper extension is just one more reason why I use Evernote for all of my content curation and much of my note taking. ¬†When you find a website, online article, or anything online that you want to save, you can clip it directly into one of your Evernote notebooks simply by clicking the web clipper extension. ¬†Other options within the clipper include sharing an article, viewing a simplified version, clipping a full-page screenshot of the site, bookmarking a page, or taking a screenshot of what’s showing on your screen. ¬†If you choose to view a simplified article, you also have the ability to highlight and annotate on the article before saving it to your notebook. ¬†As with all Evernote notes, you can tag the clips in order to find them easily when you need them. ¬†Here’s a screenshot of what the Evernote Web Clipper looks like.


Typing Club

My job as an Instructional Technology Specialist allows me to visit many different classrooms across our district. ¬†We are currently deploying a good number of devices (Chromebooks, iPads, etc.) to achieve 1:1 status. ¬†As I’m observing and teaching in these classrooms, there is one thing that is glaringly holding our students back from getting the most out of technology. ¬†That’s keyboarding skills. ¬†I remember in 8th grade learning keyboarding from the flip book that focused on two different letters each lesson. ¬†Eventually we worked our way up to typing whole sentences. ¬†This just isn’t happening in schools today. ¬†Typing Club is a fun, easy way to expose your students to the invaluable skills of keyboarding. ¬†You are able to set up a free account (required only to save your progress), then work your way through learning home row keys, then the rest of the keyboard, eventually working your way up to timed tests with whole sentences. ¬†Although you’re encouraged to move sequentially through the lessons, students can move to the lesson that fits their current ability level. ¬†Here’s a screenshot of Lesson 1: f & j.


Now, back to the joke. ¬†The past, present, and future walk into a bar…it was very tense. ūüôā

When I was young, I knew that I would be a teacher. ¬†In high school, I began collecting items that I knew ¬†would use in my classroom. ¬†By the time I walked into my classroom in 2006 I had an amazing classroom library and a completely awesome set of stickers ready to go on those papers that I was going to love grading. ¬†Well, my love affair with grading papers lasted about a month; after that it was just a pain. ¬†At that point I didn’t have a SMART Board, I didn’t have clickers, and we didn’t have Google Apps for Education.

There are many things that I love about Google apps like Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, etc.  The two things I love the most about Google docs is the ability to collaborate with others in real time and the ability to use a Google Form to create digital assessments and surveys.  To learn how to create a Google Form to collect assessment data, watch the short tutorial video below.

I love using Google Forms to collect assessment data because all of the responses are loaded into a Google Spreadsheet. ¬†This allows you, the teacher, to analyze the data in one place and even begin to manipulate the data. ¬†Within the spreadsheet, under “Form”, you can choose to view a summary of responses, and based on the type of questions you may even be able to get a graph of responses. ¬†Like other spreadsheet software, you can also filter, sort, and rearrange the data if you need to.

Not long after I began creating assessments using Google Forms (my students LOVED taking the tests on the computers), I heard about a script that will grade your assessments for you. ¬†Obviously, if you use open ended questions, it can’t grade that. ¬†I have a different solution to that problem that I’ll describe a little later in this post. ¬†The script that will grade your assessment is called Flubaroo. ¬†Watch the video below to see how easy it is grade an assessment with Flubaroo.

But, Lauren, that doesn’t grade essay type questions…Well, no it doesn’t. ¬†However, you can use a tool called conditional formatting to let you know which questions you may need to spend more time reading and which ones you can just skim. ¬†When writing your essay or constructed response questions, be very specific in your wording. ¬†You might say, “Using vocabulary that you’ve learned in class…,” or “Using people’s names, describe…”. ¬†This will allow you to color code those responses by whether or not they include those specific words or names. ¬†If you set up your conditional formatting to look for your vocabulary words and a cell is highlighted green (you choose the colors), that will tell you that that student used vocabulary words so you may be able to skim that response rather than read it word for word. ¬†If the cell highlights red, you know that that student may lose some points because he/she didn’t follow directions, but you’d have to read it more carefully to determine if they understand the concept. ¬†Interested in conditional formatting? ¬†What this short tutorial video.

Want to know more about alternatives to clickers for digital assessments?  Check out these other posts on the topic.

Extreme Collaboration



Each year on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, schools the country celebrate Read Across America day. ¬†This year, on March 3rd, ¬†teachers will come dressed as the Cat in the Hat,¬†Oh the Places You’ll Go¬†will be read to 5th graders in preparation of moving on to middle school, and millions of Seuss-like characters will created in the minds of our students. ¬†In this edition of TechToolThursday, I’m going to cover an app, Chrome extension, and website that will help you make your Read Across America activities awesome!

The app:  ChatterPix Kids by Duck Duck Moose

I am having a ton of fun with this app! ¬†You can take a picture or choose one from their gallery, then draw a line across the mouth or other area. ¬†After choosing you image, you then have 30 seconds to record your voice, sound effects, etc. ¬†The apps then calibrates your voice to the image. ¬†The outcome is a hilarious rendering of your image “talking” to what you recorded. ¬†For R.A.A. day, I would have my students find pictures of Dr. Seuss characters, then record themselves reading their favorite Dr. Seuss quote or their favorite page from a Dr. Seuss book. ¬†You could even have them research Dr. Seuss, then make a picture of the icon to deliver a report. ¬†Here’s a sample a made using a page from my son’s favorite Dr. Seuss book, Hand Hand Fingers Thumb.

The extension:  Clearly

If I were an language arts, science, or social studies teacher, I would definitely have this extension installed on my Chrome browser. ¬†I am a big fan of using online articles detailing current events in the classroom. ¬†It allows teachers to help their students make connections to what they’re learning and the real world. ¬†What I am NOT a big fan of are all of the advertisements that usually go along with websites that have these great articles. ¬†That’s where Clearly comes in. ¬†Developed by Evernote (my favorite content curation tool, by the way), Clearly allows you to remove all of the distractions on a website to get to the content that’s so important. ¬†Here’s a before and after screenshot. ¬†Notice on the “after” shot that you have the options to highlight, clip to one of your Evernote notebooks, and if you’re an Evernote Premium user, you can utilize a text to speech feature that will read the article to you.before_clearlyBefore


My “go to” sites to find articles for the classroom are:

The Week

Time For Kids

The Learning Network by the New York Times

Popular Science Kids Section

The website: Seussville

Although not found in the Chrome webstore, if you remember from my introduction post to TechToolThursday, Chrome apps are nothing more than websites. ¬†Seussville¬†is the perfect website to explore on R.A.A. day. ¬†My favorite place to visit on the site is the “Author” page. ¬†Here students can click on objects around Dr. Seuss’ office to learn more about the man who created our favorite books and characters. ¬†There are also games and activities to play, watch preview videos made from his books, and explore different worlds created by Dr. Seuss. ¬†Students can create avatars and earn points, called Dooklas, to redeem for items to decorate their avatars. ¬†So much fun to be had on this site, so you should definitely check it out with your students. ¬†This site would be awesome and engaging displayed on an interactive whiteboard as well!

I hope you found at least one helpful tool from this post.  If you plan to use any of these to enhance your Read Across America activities, or if you have other tech tools that you plan to use, please share in the comments section below.

Third in the “Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments” series, this post will introduce you to Nearpod. ¬†I have to say that I was in love with this tool when it was strictly an iPad app, but now that they have made it web-based as well, I’m even more infatuated with it. ¬†Nearpod is a FREE presentation/activity/assessment tool…it does it all! ¬†The presentations you create through Nearpod are called Nearpod Presentations, or NPPs for short. ¬†Once you’ve created your presentation, your students download the NPP to their devices (any web-enabled) by entering a short session code and then you, THE TEACHER, are in control. ¬†As you move through the presentation, your students are automatically moved with you. ¬†SUPER COOL! ¬†I have to say that this is the tech tool that teachers AND students are most excited about when I model lessons. ¬†The younger students can’t believe that the pictures move without them touching them, and the older students love being able to do everything right from within one app. ¬†One second grader exclaimed, “It’s magic!” and all attention was then on the lesson at hand.

Mail Attachment¬† The basic subscription, called the Silver edition, allows a teacher up to 50MB of storage, with presentations no larger than 20MB. ¬†Also with the free account, you can have up to 30 students per live session (I’ve had up to 40 and it still worked), and your reports are generated in PDF format. ¬†An upgraded account, the Gold edition, is available for $10 per month, which gives you more storage, more students per live session, and a CSV download option for your reports. ¬†You also get more content features, which are great, but not a necessity. ¬†There are also options for whole school and district accounts.

To create a NPP, you can start from scratch, or upload a PDF version of a presentation you’ve created in Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple’s Keynote, your specific interactive whiteboard software, or Google Presentation. ¬†(I plan all my NPPs using Google Docs and Presentations so if I run out of storage in my account and have to delete some NPPs, all of my information is ready the next time I need it and I can easily recreate the deleted NPPs.) ¬†I love the fact that you can just drag and drop the file onto the Nearpod page and it’ll automatically start uploading. ¬†You can also create pages within Nearpod from jpg and png files. ¬†Once your presentation has uploaded, you can then add videos, polls, whole quizzes, “Draw-Its”, and open ended questions. ¬†The creation process is very intuitive and fast. ¬†Once you’ve dragged your slides to order them, all that is left to do is publish and deliver. ¬†When your NPP is published and you’re ready to deliver it to your students, you’ll “launch” it either from the website or iOS app. ¬†You’ll receive a short code that your students will use to access the presentation. ¬†Once students are logged in, you’ll be able to track when anyone leaves the presentation, which is an AWESOME feature. ¬†So that’s the basics of Nearpod, but you can’t understand the full power of the program without seeing it in action. ¬†So check out the short demonstration video directly below. ¬†I’ve also included some screenshots of the teacher view under the view. ¬†After watching it, I have no doubt that you’ll head straight over to Nearpod, register for your free account, and create your first NPP. ¬†If you do, please come back and let us know how it went by leaving a comment below.

Nearpod Teacher View Screenshots

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Presentation slide previews are housed on a scroll bar below the larger view of the slide that students currently see. ¬†You can click on any slide and then click “Share” to move in a non-linear way through the NPP.

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When students sign in, you’ll see a list of names on the second screen. ¬†Also not the green people icon in the top, left corner. ¬†If that turns red it means that a student has exited the NPP. ¬†You can click on it to see which student.

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While students are taking quizzes within the NPP, you see which question all students are currently on, what answers they’re choosing, if they’re getting questions right or wrong (they’re green for correct, red for incorrect), and you have an overall preview via the pie chart at the top of the screen.

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When you’ve assigned your students at “Draw It”, you get a preview of their screens when they click submit. ¬†If someone has done a particularly wonderful job and you’d like to share, or if someone submits something thought-provoking, you can click on their picture and share it with the whole class. ¬†The name of the student will not be visible.

Miss the other posts in the “Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments” series? ¬†Check them out!

Extreme Collaboration


Google Forms, Conditional Formatting and Flubaroo

My apologies for not posting the second installment of Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments last week. ¬†It is my goal to post each Tuesday night and then the TechToolThursdays on…well, Thursdays. ¬†Since I missed last week, I will post two times tonight in order to stay on my schedule. ¬†This post will focus on using the online and app-based tool, Socrative, as an alternative to clickers for digital assessments. ¬†Socrative¬†is a free web-based tool that allows teachers to either create quizzes and assessments before-hand, or deliver single formative assessment questions “on the fly”. ¬†Students complete the assessment on any web-enabled device. ¬†Do your students have iPads or Android devices? ¬†Great! ¬†There are teacher and student apps for both!

Registration for Socrative is easy and FREE! ¬†Once you are registered, you are given a classroom number. ¬†This number is what your students will use to join your class and take your assessments. ¬†Your class number will be the same each time, however, if you want something a little more personal you can change your class number from your “Profile” menu. ¬†Here is a screenshot of what your teacher dashboard will look like in Socrative.


I love Socrative for its variety of question and quiz types.  Question options include multiple choice, true/false, and short answer.  Before delivering a quiz, you can choose for it to be student paced or teacher paced.  You also have the option to randomize answer choices, disable immediate feedback, and hide any question explanations.  Quizzes can be shared between teachers, which can increase collaboration within your PLCs.  Once your students have completed a quiz, you are given several options for reviewing results.  The reports are delivered in the form of a color-coded spreadsheet that breaks the assessment down question by question, student by student.


In addition to quizzes, Socrative features a couple of assessment features that are very useful. ¬†The first is the Exit Ticket. ¬†This is a quiz that includes the same questions each time, so you just launch it and go. ¬†The questions are: ¬†“How well did you understand today’s material? What did you learn today? Please solve the problem on the board.” ¬†Obviously if you’re going to use the Exit Ticket, you’ll want to have some kind of problem on the board. ¬†ūüôā ¬†The second feature is called the Space Race. ¬†This is a game that puts your students onto teams. ¬†You can let them choose teams or allow the program to choose for them. ¬†Students then race to answer questions. ¬†Each correct answer moves the team’s spaceship across the screen. ¬†The first team that reaches the other side wins, but the game doesn’t stop until all spaceships have crossed the board. ¬†This game also generates a report for the teacher.

One powerful way to use Socrative is to set up “template assessments”. ¬†Similar to Socrative’s Exit Ticket, these are generic assessments that you can use over and over again. ¬†Check out the three “Thinking Routine” templates that were shared on the Socrative Garden blog on January 27, 2014. ¬†Are you already using Socrative? ¬†Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Check out other posts in the “Alternatives to Clickers for Digital Assessments” series.

Extreme Collaboration


Google Forms, Conditional Formatting, and Flubaroo

Clustr Map