Archive for March, 2014

tellagami Tellagami (free)

Everyone has a story to tell, and with this app, stories are called “gamis”.  That’s why the app is called Tellagami…you create an avatar, and then tell your gami.  Get it?! 🙂  I LOVE this app for its simplicity.  Users create an avatar by choosing the gender, skin color, eye color, hair color, clothes, and facial expressions.  There are default backgrounds, or you can upload your own.  Users can then place their avatar anywhere on the screen, then just hit record.  You can either type what you want the avatar to say, or you can record your voice.  Each gami can last up to 30 seconds, but if you want a longer story, you can use YouTube’s video editing tools to put them together into one video (check back next week on Thursday for a post about YouTube editing tools).  Here’s a gami I created advertising a local Tech Express session.

1_click_timer1-Click Timer

This Chrome Extension is super easy to use and perfect for the classroom.  When you click on the icon in your tool bar beside the omnibox (formerly known as the address bar), the timer will appear.  Simply click the time that you want it to begin counting down from, and it will starts automatically.  When you click outside the timer, it disappears, but you’ll still have a small countdown on your toolbar.  What I really like about this extension is that when time is up, you don’t get this annoying buzzer that scares the crap out of everyone.  A nice acoustic guitar riff plays alerting you and your students that time is up.



This Chrome app was formerly known as Edcanvas.  I’ve just discovered this one, and I’ve already begun sharing it with teachers in my district.  Blendspace allows you to organize all of your links and documents onto a “canvas” or “space” so that your students can have instant access to all lesson documents in one place.  This app really appeals to me because my district is a Google Apps for Education district, and you can also bring in documents from your Google Drive.  In fact, you can sign in automatically with your Google account.  I recently used this tool during a training on Rigor and Relevance by curating various news headlines.  Teachers were able to click on the headlines that appealed to them, as well as see all the resources available at a glance.  Here’s my Blendspace I used for that training:

Please let us know how you’re planning to use these tools, or your experiences with them in the comments section below.  If you have any tools you’d like to see featured on TechToolThursdays, feel free to suggest them below.


Even on a good day, copyright is hard to understand.  There are so many rules and percentages of use to remember that even while trying to be compliant, we may make mistakes.  The availability of resources online makes that even more difficult sometimes because we think, “well if someone put it on the Internet, it must be okay to use it”.  Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.  In fact, I received a message from Pinterest letting me know that they had removed one of my pins.  It was just something that I repinned, so I wasn’t responsible, per say, but it was still removed because the copyright holder complained.  As teachers and users of online content, we’ve got to be more aware, and teach our students to be more aware, of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to using online resources.

Fortunately, Creative Commons was founded in 2001 as a way for people to license their work for certain uses or to dedicate works to the public domain for free.  Since 2001, they have worked to bring scientific research to the public with their licenses, as well as to minimize barriers for educators and students to share and reuse educational materials.  According the their website, “Creative Commons licenses, public domain tools, and supporting technologies have become the global standard for sharing across culture, education, government, science, and more.”  Thank you, Creative Commons!

So what are the Creative Commons licenses?  According to a very helpful infographic by Foter, here are the available licenses and how they’re used:


How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos by Foter

So basically, finding resources that have been licensed under CreativeCommons ensures that you’re using materials with permission.  I also love the fact that you and your students can license your own work for free!  If you’ve never explored the Commons, I highly suggest you check out  From the website, you can read about special projects they’re currently involved in, explore their Public Domain resources, and find materials that have been licensed under Creative Commons.  My challenge to you is to start creating and get your students creating, then license those creations.  Use your materials and their materials in your lessons, presentations, and projects to ensure that you are copyright compliant.

What are my favorite CreativeCommons tools?

Flickr for photos

YouTube for videos

Sound Cloud for music

Do you have “go to” Creative Commons sites?  Please share them in the comments below.  Want to learn more about copyright in the digital classroom?  Check out my other posts in this series:

Copyright in the Digital Classroom

Fair Use

Public Domain

Copyright, Class Websites, and Student Projects

Hello All!  I apologize for not posting the past two Thursdays.  Unfortunately, the demon stomach bug from you-know-where attacked my house and then we sold our house and went under contract on another one within three days.  I’m back to the computer now, and hopefully no more interruptions!

This week, I’m going to introduce the iOS and Android app Stick Pick, a couple of text to speech Chrome extensions, and MoveNote.  I have used all three of these, and I’m sure if you try them, they’ll prove to be invaluable to your classroom.  Let’s dive in!

Stick Pick (iOS and Android, $2.99)

There are not many apps that I will actually pay for.  There are just so many free ones out there that I can usually find one to do what I need to for free.  However, I did pony up the $2.99 for this app because it is AWESOME!  I’m not sure how many middle or high school teachers have the soup can with student names written on popsicle sticks, but I’m pretty sure all elementary teachers have had one at some point.  That’s exactly what this app is, but it takes things a few steps further.  You can choose to put the stick back in the can or leave it as “used”.  The real value in the app, however, is in the fact that you can assign Bloom’s, Revised Bloom’s, or ESL question stems.  So when you “pull” a student’s name, it will generate question stems based on the level you assign to them.  You can then decide to assess using that question stem, or not.  If you choose to count the student’s response as right or wrong, you can periodically see how the students are doing and decide to move them up a level, down a level, or leave them where they are.  All the work is pretty much done for you!  I’m telling you, if you’re a teacher and have an iOS or Android device, BUY THIS APP! (not an affiliate)  I’ve included some screen shots for your viewing pleasure 🙂

2014-03-20 07.42.38  2014-03-20 07.40.36  2014-03-20 07.41.44


Text to Speech Chrome Extensions

ispeechiSpeech: Select and Speak

Unlike the site like, the majority of sites on the Internet cannot be adjusted by reading level.  This makes it very difficult for our struggling readers to get the full benefit of all of the amazing data and resources available online.  This is why I love the text to speech extensions within Chrome.  I’ve tried a couple of them, and the least intrusive and easiest to use (that I’ve found), is Select and Speak by iSpeech.  Within the settings of the apps, you can control volume, speed, and voice.  To convert text to speech, simply highlight the text and click the extension’s icon in your browser bar.  It even has automatic language detection, or you can choose from other languages like German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian, just to name a few.  This extension is great for Project Gutenburg and reading articles from sites like Time for Kids and The Learning Network from the New York Times.


If you are an Evernote Pro user, you can use the text to speech feature in their Chrome extension, Clearly.  Other than converting text to speech, clearly allows users to annotate websites, as well as take away all of those annoying distractions like advertisements and moving pictures.


Do you have lots of PowerPoints or documents you’ve created over the years, but are now looking for a way to shake things up in your classroom?  One way to do this is to “flip” your classroom.  I’m planning a few posts on this in the near future, but for now I’ll just say that basically flipping your classroom means delivering instruction outside of class so that students can spend in-class time participating in meaningful learning experiences to help them fully understand the content.  Movenote is a Chrome app (website) that allows you to record yourself explaining any kind of document saved either in your Google Drive or on your computer.  It’s as easy as uploading your document and clicking record.

While getting links for this post, I discovered that MoveNote has also added a Chrome extension.  Click HERE to watch this short video about how you can access Movenote directly from your Gmail!

As always, please share your experiences with any of these great tools, or let us know how you plan to use these in your classroom in the comments below.

The first U.S. Federal copyright law was passed in 1790, and it granted ownership rights to creators of books, maps, and charts for a specified amount of time.  Copyright law has changed over time, and can be very confusing, but the purpose is always the same:  to protect the rights of an individual to make a living from her/his creative work.  Currently, law states that anything created after 1989 does not require the copyright symbol.  Ownership rights are automatically assumed for the creator.  However, ownership rights aren’t forever.  When a copyright has expired, unless there are special circumstances, works are considered to be in the “public domain” and are free to for use.


Let’s take a quick minute to talk about those “special circumstances”.  Sometimes countries will grant what’s called a perpetual copyright.  For example, the Authorized King James Version of the Bible holds a perpetual copyright in the United Kingdom, so its copyright doesn’t expire.  Sometimes, copyright holders will transfer copyright upon their death.  An example of this is the play Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.  Although the copyright has expired, rights were transferred to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.  This means that royalties must be paid to the hospital anytime the play is performed in the United Kingdom for as long as the hospital exists.  For the most part, though, copyrights expire, and then the works can be used for your classroom, or any, purposes.

In the United States, the expiration of copyright is dependent on when the work was created and if it was published or not.  Works published/created before January 1923 is considered to be in the public domain due to expired copyright.  Anything published between 1923 and 1978, copyright is active for 95 years from the first publication date.  Anything published after 1978 is protected under copyright for 70 years after the death of the author.  Anything created by the United States government is automatically placed into the public domain.  This chart was helpful to me in writing this post.

Works in the public domain are free for any type of use, commercial, educational, etc.  Many people even create a derivative piece from a work in the public domain by adding a Foreward, inserting new graphics or images, or adding commentary.  That derivative work can then be copyrighted and sold.  So what’s in the public domain now?  Think:  Shakespeare, classic novels, art, and more!


So where can you find works that are in the public domain?  Here are some of my favorite resources:

Public Domain Review:  According to the site, they’re goal is to provide exposure to the “surprising, strange, and beautiful” works within the public domain to bring awareness to the breadth and commonalities of our shared cultural commons.  This is by far my favorite, and I HIGHLY recommend you spend some time poking around.  My favorites are the animated gifs created with public domain images.

National Gallery of Art:  Provides access to classic works of art that are now in the public domain.

Smithsonian Institution Public Domain Images:  Link to the Smithsonian’s Flickr page.

New York Times Public Domain Archives

Project Gutenberg: Collection of public domain electronic books that can be downloaded and read in multiple formats.

Librivox: Collection of public domain audio books

Prelinger Archives:  Collection of advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films.

Want to know more about Copyright in the Digital Classroom?  Check out these other posts in the series:

Fair Use

Creative Commons

Copyright, Class Websites, and Student Projects


Fair Use Logo 
by Óðinn at the English language Wikipedia

If you’re like me, you think that anything that a teacher needs for his/her classroom should be free.   I mean, we make next to nothing, yet we’re usually stuck with buying supplies, subscriptions, etc.  Unfortunately (or not), other people have to make money, and a lot of what we need in our classrooms is not free.  As teachers, though, we’ve been given a little leeway in our endeavors to utilize available resources that might not be free.  This leeway is referred to as “fair use”, and I’ll be honest:  the guidelines surrounding fair use are often about as clear as mud.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to clear a few things up for you and point you towards some other resources that are also helpful.

Fair use is a concept that was formalized in 1976 in order to provide exceptions to the copyright laws in a few specific situations.  These situations include news reporting, parody, research, and education.  My focus for this post will be the guidelines for education.  I’ve heard many teachers claim “fair use” to use anything copyrighted as long as they’re using it in their classrooms.  This is a misconception, and potentially, a costly one.  The biggies of fair use in education are that it only applies to face-to-face instruction (not online), material must be used pretty immediately after it is gathered, and it can only be used once…not saved to be used again semester after semester, or year after year.

In addition to the guidelines above, Dan Sparlin with NCDPI published a Fair Use Test on NCWISE Owl.  According to this test, usage is classified as fair use if:

  • the purpose of the use was non-commercial or the purpose of the use was to alter or enhance the original piece of work,
  • the type of work used was out of print or a work of non-fiction,
  • only small portions of a work are used (unless the small portion is one that contains the “essence” of the work),
  • or if using the piece of work will have no affect of the owner to control the sale or distribution of the work.

So, as a teacher, how do you keep yourself safe from those hefty fines that could come your way if you infringe on copyright?  The number one way to ask permission.  In our ever-increasingly connected world, it is super easy to contact authors and publishers to get permission.  This endeavor could also lead to creating some great relationships for the classroom…think Skype and Google Hangouts!  I would also advise any teachers who use websites as information hubs in your classroom to password protect them.  Only giving access to students and parents will help protect you as well.  The best advice I’ve received about copyright is to always ask myself, “Are you saving money?”  If the answer to this question is “yes”, even fair use may not give you the right to use something.  Stay tuned for more posts about copyright in the digital classroom!

Public Domain

Creative Commons

Copyright, Teacher Websites, and Student Projects

Clustr Map