Thursday, January 30, 2014

Challenge your students with Function Carnival

Function Carnival is an interesting website that gives your students a unique set of challenges. I came across this site the other day and after messing around with it, I'm still not sure what, if any, the educational value of it is, besides a thinking challenge, but it might be something you would like to provide with your students if they are looking for a math/science challenge. With Function Carnival, you watch an animation, then try to graph that animation to make it look exactly like the original animation. There are three different challenges: a man getting shot out of a cannon with a parachute, a bumper cars and a ferris wheel. If nothing else, it is a fun challenge to check out. My personal favorite, of the three challenges, is trying to get the bumper car through the other cars without getting in an accident. It's a unique challenge because of all the other cars in your way. It would be a lot easier if those other cars were not there. Too bad the challenge isn't to drive the car through a huge car lot with all the cars mysteriously missing. Yeah, that would be much easier, but "easy" is not the style of Function Carnival.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Teacher Resource:

Here is a website that was shared with me by a friend that is worth looking into. The site has a variety of resources, ideas, and links. There are many tools and lesson plans that you can either use, or use the idea and make your own version. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Create and publish Interactive Maps with Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps is a great mapping tool that allows the user to create interactive maps and share them via email, image, link, directory, or embed code. They can even be shared via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. You do not need to create an account to use Scribble Maps. To create a scribble maps, simply go to the site and click "create map." The maps you make are saved and you can access them and edit them via a password you set for each unique map. Each map is given a unique Map ID so you can share the ID and the password to allow others to colalborate on the map with you. Scribble Maps has a variety of tools such as: draw, scribble, lines, measurement, place markings, text, boxes, circles, etc. You can also upload pictures to place on your maps as well. Scribble Maps would be a great tool to use when planning a route or trip. It could be use in many ways in any history/geography class. Perhaps your students are reading a book that invovles some sort of trip or journey? You can use scribble maps to make that route come alive and see it in an interactive way. I encourage you to check out Scribble Maps and see how it could help you in your class.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mouse War 2014: The Battle of Sink Cabinet

It is a difficult task to concentrate on your job throughout the week when your mind is many miles away. Sure, I may seem okay, but that is just a mask because my true thoughts this week were at home, on the battle field, to the war raging in the kitchen. Mouse War 2014 threatened to tear down the very core and beliefs of our home and what it stands for. As the mouse ran amuck throughout our house each day, the very fabric of our lives was beginning to pull, tear. With each passing day and empty trap, our hopes and dreams were beginning to splinter, teetering on the verge of irreparable. The discovery of the mouse happened Monday with the revelation of tiny mouse droppings under the kitchen sink. That discovery set in motion one of the most fierce and bitter battles the world has ever seen. It made the Battle of the Bulge look like a joyous family gathering in the meadow. Immediately upon discovery, I rallied the troops and placed four traps strategically throughout the kitchen. I was determined, focused. I laced each trap with peanut butter, thinking surely that feisty little bugger would not be able to resist the succulent taste of the creamy Jif. I awoke the first morning excited to end the battle after just one night. However, that sneaky little devil had made his way around to all four traps and licked every one clean. As I slept that night, dreaming of the common core, Google drive and sunsets, that mouse helped himself to quite the midnight snack. Undeterred, I retrieved each of the four traps and loaded them again with peanut butter. The next morning, I again sprang out of bed to see if the mouse had raised the white flag and again I saw nothing but four sparkling clean traps. Not a speck of peanut butter in sight. I could almost hear the laughter booming from wherever that mouse was hiding, deep within the cabinets. That taunting just fueled my inner drive to not give up and keep fighting, no matter the cost. During the evening, it seemed as if my eye would constantly catch a shadow darting across the floor or peaking out from a corner. I would snap my head around but see nothing. For my next plan of action, I decided to abandon the peanut butter method and go a different route. With "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities blaring in my headphones, I jammed a piece of cheese into each trap and placed them in position. On the morning of the fourth day of the war, I made my way downstairs to the kitchen, on the verge of losing hope and motivation. A man can only be pushed so far before he breaks. The first trap I checked, nothing. The cheese had been swiped during the night. Dejected, I checked the second trap and again, found it empty. No cheese. As my eyes began to moisten and the real possibility of defeat looming above my head, I checked the third trap and there it was. A sight like no other. A magical moment that Hollywood itself could not recreate. The mouse had been caught! The wire bar had snapped down, breaking his neck instantly, ending the long and grueling war. I sat on my kitchen floor, looking at the fallen mouse, with his eyes bugging out of his head and just reflected on all that had happened during the week. The pain, the suffering, the fear. It was a moment etched in the timeline of my life that will not easily be forgotten. I feel like now that I have won the Mouse War 2014, I can do anything.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Character Scrapbook" from Scholastic

Sometimes people take forever to read a book. It's like they only read one page per day, or maybe even just one word. You borrow someone a really good book, yet it takes them a millennium to read it. It's like they are on the setting of "glacier" for reading speed. In cases such as these, perhaps they would read faster if they had a fun tool to use when they were done! Scholastic provides a nice character scrapbook tool for kids to use in focusing on a character from a story or an individual from history. Though it may appear as if this tool is designed more for elementary students with its cartoonish appearance, students of all ages could use the tool to help them detail a character or show you what they know about a particular character or person. They could use this tool as a learning opportunity or as a review. With the tool, students can show what the character looks like (or as close as possible) and then provide facts and details about the character. Information that students enter about the character: things I know about the character, things about their personality, words that describe them, appearance, challenges faced, and accomplishments. With the finished product, students have the option of printing it. This however, is not the most efficient way of doing things, so I would recommend teaching the students how to do a screen shot and email it/save it in apps drive/save it in Google Drive, etc. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Study Online with Cram is a great online study tool that gives the student a variety of ways to study/review for upcoming tests, quizzes, or any other type of assessment. is a free service that allows you to use facebook, twitter, or google to create an account. It allows the teacher to input their own questions and answers. The teacher can then "share" the flashcard set with the students via a link on their website. Students could also get their own account and make their own flashcards to help them study. The student has four "modes" that they can use with the flashcard set. Flashcard mode allows the student to use the traditional flashcards. Memorize mode gives the student the question, then the student thinks of the answer, then clicks to reveal if they were right or wrong. The student then clicks if they got it right or wrong for tracking. If the student has their own account, they can save their results/progress. Test mode gives the student all the questions and answers and they have to match them up. Finally, there is Game mode, which gives the students the questions/answers in the form of a game equipped with a timer and high scores leaderboard. Another cool thing about is there is an app for iPhones, which means you can download on your phone and review on the go, at anytime, anywhere. However, I caution you to try avoid using the Cram app while you drive because if you are not paying attention to what you are doing, you may drive over a median, or worse. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lone Survivor: An Epic Must-See Experience

(L to R): Murphy, Luttrell, Axelson, Dietz
Normally, I try to keep this a technology in education website, only posting non-tech/non-education things on an occasional Friday. However, this past weekend, I saw the movie "Lone Survivor" and just felt moved to share. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I strongly recommend doing both, in that order, as soon as possible. The story is about Operation Redwing, a Navy SEAL mission to provide recon against a leading Taliban target in the mountains of Afghanistan. The mission goes awry when some goat herders come upon the four SEALs laying in cover, watching the compound. Suddenly, the SEALs are forced to make a tough decision: execute the goat herders and protect the operation or let them go and risk the goat herders alerting the army below. Lt. Michael Murphy, the SEAL in charge, decides to let the goat herders go, deciding that executing the three goat herders was not the right thing to do and in violation of the terms of engagement. Within hours, hundreds of Taliban soldiers armed to the teeth are upon the SEALs and a ferocious gun fight ensues. The movie does an amazing job capturing the horrific scene of the fight, yet portraying the bond and brotherhood between the SEALs as they fight to stay alive and fight for each other. Movies today are done with such a high level of quality that sitting in that theater room, you felt like you were on that mountain, fighting with the SEALs. It was such an amazing thing to watch those four SEALs, outnumbered 100-1, never quit, never give up, never stop fighting. As the name suggests, only one man makes it off that mountain, Marcus Luttrell, who is taken in and protected by a village near the mountain. He returns to the United States and tells the story of his brothers and what happened that day. It really hits home and makes one think at the end of the movie when they show pictures of the real SEALs who died that day, along with their family members. Many of those SEALs had sons and daughters, kids that will never get to see their dad again, wives widowed, moms and dad's outliving their children. The sacrifice these SEALs made and the sacrifice they continue to make is such an unbelievable thing, something we often take for granted. We often forget about the men and women out there, fighting, keeping us safe. We can sit on our front porch, watch the sunset in the horizon and not have a care in the world. We can be at home when our kids wake up and eat breakfast together. We have the right to share what we think without fear of persecution. We can choose our path in life and forge our own destiny, all because we live in America, the home of the brave and courageous. We live in freedom, protected by the undeterred men and women who fight in the shadows. I think it is so humbling that those men would willingly go into those mountains, into the eye of the storm, to fight and die for me, for you, for people they've never met. If you get the chance to experience Lone Survivor, you will leave with a swirling mind, an overflowing sense of appreciation and a full heart. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Kevin Bacon: An Enigma

In 1979, Kevin Bacon made his first television appearance on the show "Search for Tomorrow." Little did anyone know at the time, that appearance would launch one of the most amazing and decorated acting careers of all time. It would set the new standard for acting in television and film. Do you have an enigmatic friend? I do. His name is Kevin Bacon. An "enigma" is defined as a puzzling, inexplicable occurrence. That is exactly what Kevin Bacon is. His ability to transcend any genre of film makes his talent and skills truly mystifying. How can one person have so much ability, yet, relate to common folk? Whether he is sporting a dirty mustache, or a fresh shave, floppy hair or a close crop, he is a beacon of hope and light for all those aspiring actors because he represents a person willing to do any film, however big or small.  Kevin Bacon has an amazing list of film successes. Can anyone do a better job of portraying an invisible person like Kevin Bacon did in Hallowman? I would argue that the success of Apollo 13 is in no thanks to Tom Hanks, but the young, energetic Kevin Bacon who portrayed Jack Swigert and stole the show. Or in The River Wild, where Kevin Bacon showed his ability to act like a real creep as the murderous Wade. Who could ever forget one of his most amazing performances in Footloose, as the rebel Ren McCormick stole our hearts and the dance floor when he lifted the dancing ban and planned a prom in one day? Nobody remembers Planes, Trains, and Automobiles because of Steve Martin and John Candy. No, No, my friend. It is because of Kevin Bacon and his priceless scene at the beginning when he portrays a young, cocky businessman who beats Steve Martin to a taxi. In Frost/Nixon and A few Good Men, Kevin Bacon showed his serious side and further added to his repertoire of acting skills. He went creepy in JFK as Willie O'Keefe and sentimental in My Dog Skip. The Air Up There showed the world just how athletic Kevin Bacon is. Perhaps his all time greatest acting feat is in the blockbuster series Tremors, which became an instant classic and added to the vault of all time great Hollywood film. Nobody could have battled those extremely huge and unrealistic snake/monsters like "Valentine McKee" (Kevin Bacon). Would the scrawny Kevin Bacon be able to out run and outsmart the tremors? It was edge of your seat action the whole way through. Most recently, Kevin Bacon has been taking over television with his portrayal of the smart, but flawed FBI agent Ryan Hardy in The Following.
In all his acting roles, Kevin Bacon's character has been named "Jack" six times, no wonder the name "Jack" is the #23 most popular boy name in the year 2013. The name "Kevin" is not on the list as parents no doubt feel the name is too sacred to use.
So, how does this all connect to technology? Well, if you have a smartphone, tablet or computer, you can access the "Internet Movie Database" and look up every movie Kevin Bacon has ever been in and then watch them in a row, what I like to call a Kevin Bacon Marathon. Doesn't get much better than that. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014 Another Cloud Option

I love using the Cloud. I almost love it as much as a being surprised with a piece of fruit pizza showing up out of the blue for me to eat. The cloud makes working on projects so much more efficient and convenient because they are always with you. is a cloud option that allows you to save all your projects and access them anywhere you want., along with Skydrive, Google Drive, and are all great cloud options that allows us to be free and not tied to devices or flash drives. All these cloud options give you free storage, so the only reason you may need to use more than one cloud is if your free storage gets used up on one of them. The only difference between Google Drive and the others (which is why Google Drive is my fav.) is that Google Drive gives you creation options, the others are strictly storage. Another great thing about these cloud options is that with the speed and advancement of technology these days, all this stuff is streamlined and accessible on our mobile devices. All these clouds have apps to make it even more convenient for us. Once we get more devices into this school district, our students will be able to depend on the cloud and they will love it. It will mean more quality work, more efficiency, and best of all, less excuses! (No longer valid: I lost it, I can't find it, I left it at home, etc....)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kuizza: A great online quiz/flashcard option

Last night, while I was just sitting on a chair, in the dark, starring, I thought about how it would be cool to find an online quiz/flashcard option that kept track of stats. So, after starring for a moment longer, I opened up my Chromebook and did some searching. I found a tool called Kuizza and I am excited to tell you about it. It is of course a free tool. It has a very clean, fresh look and is very easy to use. With your account, you can create quizzes and share them with your students. I will be using Kuizza for review tools, not formal quizzes. Kuizza allows the student to either take the quiz or get the flashcards for the questions. The one thing I really like about Kuizza is that it keeps track of the stats for the students. Students have to simply create a free account (don't even need an email!) and it will keep track of the quizzes they take and how well they do. I think the students will like this because it almost makes it into a video game because they can see how well they are doing and can see the improvements based on statistics. Students do NOT need to create an account to take the quiz, only if they want to keep track of their stats. For the teacher, Kuizza also keeps track stats for each of your quizzes that you create. So you can see the average score, high score, low score, times taken, etc. It does not keep track of individual students though.  Kuizza has many pre-made quizzes to search for, but you can also make your own custom quiz. So, my suggestion for you: go sit on a chair and just stare for a while and think up some good ideas to use Kuizza for. Your students will appreciate it. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Visualizing Google Drive

Watch this short video to help you understand Google Drive and the cloud concept. This video takes you through the basic workings of Google Drive, along with an introduction to an advanced feature called Doctopus. There is much more than the video shows, but hopefully it serves as a starting point, something to help get the ball rolling for you and Google Drive. I believe Google Drive would be a very dynamic and valuable tool in student learning if the students had more devices. Click the "Google Drive" tab above to access many short Google Drive tutorial videos to help you get started.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A few Resources to Browse is a resource website worth looking at. It is a website that provides an online sharing community of teachers and lesson plans. It is free to join. You can create an account and browse/save lessons. You can also "follow" other teachers so whenever they post something new, you will get notified. To find lessons, simply use the search box and the most relevant items will pop up based on your search. This is a good website to find ready made lesson plans or to get ideas of lessons that you can modify/adapt to what you are doing in your own class. is another great resource that provides informational text on a wide variety of topics. The articles are designed for elementary/middle school. In addition to the informational text, there are some games that you could offer as a motivator or reward. 

French and Indian War Interactive: Searching "interactives" is another way to find engaging activities that the students can do online. My daughter has been learning about the "French and Indian War" in social studies, so I searched for an online interactive tool to help her learn and understand this topic. Add "interactive" behind any topic you are searching for and see what is out there. is another great resource site with thousands of lessons and ideas. Unfortunately, this website is not free. It costs a little over $4 per month. is a unique website that offers many resources made by teachers throughout the country. It is also a place for teachers to share/sell lessons they have created. It is free to join the site but it costs money to download lessons that you want to use. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The wondrous Pizza Bagel

Is there such a food out there that makes one forget about all their problems? Is there a food that takes one out of reality and into a dream world of flavor and deliciousness? Is there a food that hypnotizes the mind and soul? The answer: Yes. A most emphatic Yes. It is called the Pizza Bagel and it is a wondrous combination of flavor and awesomeness. The Pizza Bagel can be bought at Bagel Boy in Sioux Falls, SD. Upon entering Bagel Boy, I walk with a spring in my step over to the counter and peer into the bagel rack to make sure they have the "Everything Bagel" which is by far the best type of bagel to use for the Pizza Bagel. One time, I walked into Bagel Boy and the worker informed me that the Everything Bagel was out for the day, I couldn't believe it. I put my head down and did the zombie shuffle out the door and into my truck, where I sat for 10 minutes and cried. I drove straight home and sat in a dark room, depressed for three days. When ordering the Pizza Bagel, make sure the worker puts a pepperoni over the hole in the bagel because then the sauce will not leak out the hole and fall onto your pants, making a slightly embarrassing stain on your trousers. I like to go to Bagel Boy, order a Pizza Bagel and then sit by myself in the corner of the restaurant and enjoy the delicious, flavor packed wonder that is the Pizza Bagel. It is best to sit alone, away from the other people because they often give odd glances of confusion as I sit there, eating with a giant smile plastered across my face the whole time. Upon first bite, the combination of cheese, sauce, pepperoni and the multiple flavor crystals of the Everything bagel such as onion, poppy, garlic, etc. makes my taste buds overflow like the Nile river. Each time I am fortunate enough to make it to Bagel Boy, I order a cinnamon crunch bagel with cinnamon and sugar along with my Pizza Bagel because when the Pizza Bagel comes out of the toaster, it is too hot to eat, so the cinnamon and sugar bagel serves as a nice little appetizer while you wait for the Pizza Bagel to cool. Eating the Pizza Bagel when it is too hot is one of the worst things a human can do because one can not enjoy all the flavor if it's too hot. So be patient. Dig down deep to find the inner strength to wait for it to cool off. Once it has reached the appropriate temperature, though, tear in to that thing with reckless abandon. So, next time you are in Sioux Falls or any city with a Bagel Boy, stop in. Order up a Pizza Bagel on the Everything Bagel. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Google Chromebook Touch Screen and ChromeCast

As I was browsing the computer section at Best Buy last night, looking longingly at all the wonderful laptops and technology, I noticed the Chromebook now has touch screen models. This made me very happy. I knew Google would come through with a device even more education/school friendly. The touch screen Google Chrome Book is $300. In sharing this new found information, I hope that perhaps the Google Chrome Book can be launched into the conversation as a possible device to bring to Brandon Valley. In my opinion, all types of devices should be looked at, analyzed, and discussed. I feel that thoroughly doing our "homework" about the device and seeking input from all content areas is the right way to do things. How would a Chrome Book work in Math? English? Science? Reading? English? Social Studies? Encore?  It would be worth while to get input from those teachers but before we can get that input, perhaps a quick look at what a ChromeBook is would be helpful. Also, if you would like to "play around" with a Chrome Book, you can borrow mine anytime you want. 
Also, I just thought I would add that if you are looking to buy an awesome gadget to make your life a lot better, get a Chrome Cast. Chrome Cast only costs $30 and it allows you to watch things on your television through your smartphone, tablet, or laptop (using Chrome Browser). There is no reoccuring cost. Just a one time purchase. The Chromecast plugs into an HDMI port on your television. Once the brief set-up is complete, your laptop, tablet or smart phone will have the "chrome cast icon" which you simply press to project to the television. It's pretty awesome. Great for watching Netflix or HBO GO on your television. You can also watch YouTube, Hulu, etc. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Techno.ED Supports the Troops

What better way to ring in the new year than thanking the men and women who keep this country free? What better way to thank those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice when they laid down their lives to protect ours? Though this website is focused on tech tools and strategies in education, we are all free Americans and for that, we should be very thankful. If you happen to be out and about and see a soldier in uniform, be brave enough to go up to them and thank them, whether they are in perilous situations on the front lines, or do not encounter any danger, they have still made the choice to bear arms and fight for our country. They have chosen to be away from their family in order to protect ours. The video below, I believe, makes the sacrifice more real to us. It shows the raw emotion of being away from loved ones, and the joy of being reunited. The video also makes one think about all the men and women who will never get that reunion. We salute the troops and say a big "Thank you!" to all who serve or who have served in the past. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Google Drive: An argument for 1:1

Why do we need 1:1 in our school? I think the argument starts and stops with one thing: Google Drive. It is an educational tool of powerhouse proportions. If every student had their own device, everyday, we could teach and learn in the cloud. We could use Google Drive and open learning up in ways that have never been possible. For those not familiar with Google Drive, it is like Microsoft Office, only online, but that "only online" part is a major difference. Think of Google Drive as a cloud in the sky, hovering over your head all the time. Your Google Drive account is your cloud, which always goes with you. It doesn't matter if you are in Brandon, at school, at home, in China, etc. no matter where you are, your cloud is with you. Work on a project at school using your cloud, computer explodes, you go home, enter your cloud on your home computer/phone/tablet and your project is still there. With Google Drive, we are not tied to a machine, or a flash drive, or a physical piece of paper. We do not have to email things to ourselves so we have them when we get home. We are free to go and do as we please and always have our work with us, and so are our students. My students were just issued their Google Drive account, essentially setting their cloud up for use. It's free with a huge amount of storage. To get started, we worked on a document comparing Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. They worked on their document with the use of a Chart I provided with them by "sharing" it from my cloud to their cloud. No physical piece of paper to lose,  the chart I gave them is always with them because it's in their cloud. Students showed up for my class or study hall and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM had their assignment with them because every single one of them has a cloud. It is impossible to lose your cloud. You can not run away from it. It is impossible to forget their project at home. It's in their cloud. It's impossible for them to lose their project. It's in their cloud. It's impossible for their project to get ripped, destroyed, spilled on, etc. It's in their cloud. Students love this because it's frustrating for everybody when stuff is lost or missing. But just wait, there's more. There's "Sharing." The true power of Google Drive. 
When finished, they "shared" their assignment with me, essentially sending it from their cloud to my cloud. This is simply done with two clicks of the mouse and entering my Google Drive name. Once it's in my cloud (Google Drive), I can access their document anywhere: home, school, I even read through AND provided feedback on some of their assignments while waiting for an oil change with my iPhone. Once they shared it with me, I could open their document, read it, and actually write feedback and their grade right on their document. It takes SO much less time reading their writting via typing, as opposed to their hand writing. Most of us can type faster than hand write, so once again, providing feedback is done in a more time effecient way. "Shareing" isn't just done from student to teacher. It can be done from student to student. Provided with their partners google drive name (which is their k12 email address), students can "share" a document with their partner, which provides an enriching collaborative experience because they can work on the same project, at the same time, but at their own computes, either sitting in my class or sitting at their own homes. 
The example above is just one of many. With our limited availability, I had my students create a document in their Drive (cloud) account to give them a spot to save helpful websites in researching their Wax Museum characters. If they find a good website, what do they do with it? Write down the long URL in their planner and never be able to access it again? Write it in their notebook? A notebook is lose-able. I also had them create folders for their other classes, in hopes they would use their Drive for those as well. These examples are merely examples of Google Drive on the surface. Good Drive is designed and meant for much deeper things. 
It would be so exciting to see what teachers could come up with if they were allowed to think, plan and teach with Google Drive on a daily basis.