Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Edpuzzle: Google Classroom integration

Google just keeps getting more awesome. Google and Edpuzzle have combined their power with Edpuzzle's integration into Google Classroom. Now, it is easier than ever to create an assignment in Edpuzzle and assign it to your class. With Edpuzzle, you can now import all your Google Classroom "classes" into Edpuzzle and automatically have the students enrolled. Google Classroom integration allows for some key advantages: Students can access their "Edpuzzle" assignment right from Google Classroom so they aren't confused on where to find it. Once they finish their Edpuzzle assignment, like any assignment in Classroom, it tells the teacher who is done/not done. Within your Edpuzzle account, all classes are organized into your Google Classroom class for easy navigation. 
A couple screen shots to get you started with Integrating Google Classroom and Edpuzzle.
Video Tutorial

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

4 ways to have Students write for an Audience

Students should write a lot in school but too often, they are writing for an audience of ONE (the teacher). They are given a task of writing creatively or an essay on a topic or a story, their thoughts and ideas are amazing. They work hard, put forth great effort and complete their work. They are proud of it. They are excited about it. The "due date" comes and BAM! the student is hit with the realization that all that hard work will only be viewed and appreciated (or even worse, just skimmed) by one person: the teacher. We want, no-we need, to provide our students with a bigger audience. We want them to be heard! An audience of one does not produce a very high level of concern. But an audience of hundreds, if not thousands makes it real and gives the writing meaning.  Here are a few ways to create a large audience for your "authors" (students).

1. Create an ebook. Creating an ebook isn't as difficult or complicated as one might think. In fact, there is a tool that you can use that you are already familiar with--Google Slides. Yes, great for presentations, but it can also be used for creating an ebook, which can be downloaded and shared. Create a new google slides, change the dimensions of the slides to the standard 8.5" x 11." When finished, go to "File"--"download as"--and then click "as pdf." This is a great way to create a picture book. With the "sharing" feature of Google drive, collaboration is not only possible, but easy!

2. Google Docs: Writing a story via google docs makes it easy to turn into a "webpage" and share or post.

3. Widbook: Allow students to create a online/ebook with this site and get it added to the Widbook collection of other ebooks. This tool allows students to work collaboratively on the writing project.

4. Blogs: Tools like Blogger gives students a voice and an audience. In our world today, more than ever the youth want to be heard! So give them the opportunity to blog about: what they know, what they learned, what they think, what they feel, what they dream about, what they fear, what they want to know, what they wonder, and what they want. A blog gives them a voice to share and be heard.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Flubaroo: Send Student results via Google Drive (no email needed)

Google Forms is a great tool for formative assessment, gathering data, and compiling information. Google Forms added a new feature to make it even better. In the past, students could not see their results after submitting their Google Form. The only way to see results would be to ask the teacher OR the teacher could share the grades with the student by emailing them through Flubaroo. It's best to avoid using the email address whenever possible, so this new feature allows the teacher to share the students results via Google Drive, with no emailing at all. Here's how you do it.
1. After the students complete the Google Form, run flubaroo to grade it. 
2. After Flubaroo finishes, while still in the spreadsheet, go back to "Add-ons"--"flubaroo"--"share grades". 
3. Go through the steps to signify which question asked for the students Google Drive account. (See picture) 
"Email Address Question" should be the name of the question you asked to get their Google Drive account. 
"Grade Sharing method" should be "Share via Google Drive (no email)" 
Finish the rest based on your preferences. 
4. Click "Continue" and Flubaroo will work for a while to get everything shared. Might take a few minutes depending on how many submissions you have. 
5. All students will get a document in their "Shared with me" folder that has their results. 

You also have a copy of the students grade report. When sharing grades via flubaroo, a new folder will automatically by created in your Drive called "Flubaroo-Shared Grades". Inside this folder will be a folder for each Google Form you do this with. So if you named an assignment "Algebra exit check," you will get a folder called "Algebra exit check" which will contain all the documents. Since both teacher and student share the document, you could comment back and forth for feedback purposes. 

In order for this to work, you have to include a field in  your Google Form that asks for the students Google Drive account. Without this, it will not work. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Great formative assessment: "GoFormative" is a powerful tool with tons of potential in your classroom. If you are familiar with Google Forms, think about that tool on steroids. It gives the teacher the ability to do instant formative feedback to the students, to ensure understanding. Teachers can create a class and have their students enroll without even using an email address. Once enrolled into the class, teachers can then assign their assignments to the students, which they begin working on. While the students are working, the teacher can see the progress in realm time on their own screen. It is a more interactive, immersive experience. Teachers can provide instant feedback and help as the process goes. For the assignment itself, teachers can use multiple choice questions, short answer, and true/false. Teachers can also have the students draw something, either on a blank canvas or a picture that had been uploaded. Teachers can add content to the assignment/assessment such as an image or drawing.  
Check out these tutorials to get started with 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Why do kids say "Hello" ?

After you've been a teacher for a while, you start knowing more and more kids. You start seeing former students around more often when you are out and about. When you see a former student, let's say at a sporting event or grocery store, there are only two things that could happen: 1. the student says "hello" to you. or 2. The student does not.  So why do kids say "hello"? What moves them to walk up to you, as their former teacher, and say hello? In some cases, you could have been their teacher 15-20 years ago, yet they still say hello. So why? Well, it certainly isn't because of what you taught them. Former students do not come up to me and say "hello" to me because I taught them what a Ziggurat was during our Mesopotamia unit. Former students say "hello" because of how you made them feel. Because how you greeted them each day. Because of how you answered their questions. Because of the experiences you created for them. Because of the atmosphere of your classroom. Because of how you pushed them to reach their potential. Because of how you gave them self-confidence. Because of how you created a safe environment. Because of how much you cared. 
The position we are in to make an impact is such an awesome responsibility, so make one! 
After years and years and years and different teachers and different people and different experiences in their lives, for a human being to come up to you and say "hello" after all that, I'd say you made an impact on that life. Well done. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Unlimited Legos, for FREE!

Screenshot of Build with Chrome
One of the best things we can say to a student is, "Go build something." This allows them to get creative, get hands-on, and get thinking. The problem is, building something takes materials and with so many students, it's tough to get the supplies we need due to cost. Fortunately, there is this awesome thing called "Google" and they love education and work hard to provide things that help our students learn. Google has a product called "Build with Chrome" which gives your students an unlimited amount of legos that they can use to go build whatever they want! It's free and it's just waiting to be used. Visit the link below. Click "start building" and play around with the tool. You can switch pieces, colors, zoom in, zoom out, pan around, etc. Students can save/publish their work if they sign in with google, or they can just take a screen shot of their product if you do not want them to sign in. 
Application for Education: Have students build something just for fun. Have students build something that relates to what they are learning about: a building in ancient Rome, a scene from a story, a result of a science experiment, an explanation of a math concept. Have students build something, take a screenshot, then add text to give explanation/caption to their project. If you allow your students to log in, they can choose a "plot" on the map of the US and build. This capability gives the students the opportunity to build with each other and make massive building plots. Don't underestimate what students can do and build with legos!  Use Build with Chrome and let the creativity flow! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Memorial In-Service

EdpuzzleGet more out of videos! With Edpuzzle, you can add dimensions to the video that allows the students to hear you explain things, answer questions, and create their own video experience.  Don’t just have your kids watch a video, make it an enriching learning experience.
Full Edpuzzle Tutorial

Quizizz: A great quiz option to add to your arsenal. Like the popular Kahoot!, Quizizz allows you to involve the entire class in a multiplayer battle of knowledge. However, unlike Kahoot!, Quizizz allows you to assign it as homework so the challenge can continue outside of your classroom.

Build with Chrome: Let kids build with Legos.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quick Timeline Maker

Quick, easy to use, this website allows you to build a timeline and share it as a .pdf.  No sign up required, this timeline maker has options such as time, date, or event name for labeling the timeline. Another great feature of this timeline maker is the ability to insert photos, making for a dynamic viewing/learning experience. When finished, your sharing options are .pdf, but you could screen shot it and save it as an image. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Clip YouTube videos

YouTube is loaded with videos. Perhaps you find a video, but only want to use a certain clip from it. Well, that's easy, just get the video qued to the spot you want to watch and then pause it when the clip is over. But what about if you want to make that clip available for your students to watch on their own? For this, you need another tool. Enter  This website allows you to grab the clip you want and then share it anyway you want: URL, embed code, etc. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Royal Rumble--in the classroom?

What to do with content, what to do with content.... Okay, so there's content we want the students to know so we either give it to them (not preferred), or they read/learn about it themselves with our guidance. After the students have gotten the initial introduction to the content, what then? What do they do with it? It's a question that is not earth shattering. Any teacher worth a hoot thinks about ways the students can use the content and make it meaningful, make it stick, make it real.  Perhaps you are stuck or in a rut or sick of doing what you've always done. Perhaps you need a Royal Rumble. What is a royal rumble? It's when a bunch of people go into the ring and fight. It's like a tournament. All go in, only one comes out, triumphant, bathed in the glory of victory. So a Royal Rumble in the classroom sounds like a quick trip to a firing. However, that's not true. With any type of content, where you have a lot of "something," be it amendments of the constitution, states, countries, physical features, formula's, adjectives, animals, clouds, etc, etc., assign one of each of the "things" to a student or group of students. Create a bracket and have the students "compete" to get their "thing" to advance--based on most important, most impact, biggest difference maker, etc. Students face off, then the class votes to see who advances. Even when students are "beat out," they are still involved. Doing this puts meaning to the learning. You are forcing the students to think critically, about their own "thing" but also their "opponent." You are adding a healthy level of competition. You are getting them to think about all sides, and come up with arguments, statements, thoughts, etc. You aren't just asking them to regurgitate information on a test or quiz.  
So try it out! Think of something in your classroom that might fight the tournament style activity. Kids get enthused, they get into it. It's healthy. It's learning.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wikipedia at a Glance

Wikipedia is an information wonderland. But is it good information? Wikipedia gets a bad reputation at times because of how it's set up: with anyone having the ability to add and edit entries. However, Wikipedia isn't just a nonsensical website. It has things in place and set up to help the information seeker find quality, trusted sites.  So instead of shunning wikipedia immediately and outlawing it as an option for researching, teach kids good digital citizenship and show them how to look for and analysis wikipedia articles for their quality and trustworthiness.

Padlock: there is a padlock on some wikipedia entries. The meaning of these padlocks can be found HERE. Padlocks restrict who can make an entry and who can edit an entry, making it a much more trusted source of information.

Stars: Some articles/entries are starred, which means they are "Featured Articles" aka best articles Wikipedia has to offer.

Good articles: Articles with a green plus sign in the middle of a circle are considered "good articles" and can be trusted.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Student Presentations

Having students present is something that has been done for along time and will continue to be done going into the future. It's good for students to get the experience and opportunity to show what they know and practice talking in front of people. Giving the students a chance to perform should never go away. What should go away is students standing in front of the class and reading a bunch of text off their power point slides. When this is done, the students are not presenting, they are just reading to the class. They are not showing evidence of learning/understanding if they are just reading. We want our students to present! A big myth is that power point is dull and boring and shouldn't be used. The tool is NOT the issue, it's what's on the slides. Some of the best presenters I have seen recently use power point. They are awesome at presenting, not because the tool, but what they have on the tool and, more importantly, what they say/how they say it. There are lots of presentation tools out there, some more "exciting" than others, but it still boils down to what's on the slides and what the students say. 
A few years ago, I wanted to go in a better direction for student presentations so I implemented the TED format for student presentations. If you ever watch TED videos, there's very little text on the slides. Just some images or talking points. You will NEVER see a TED presenter read off their slides, so why should we allow our students to do that?  
My recommendation for Student presentations:
*1-2 words per slide only. NO EXCEPTIONS (unless it's a poignant quote)
*No note cards or paper for the student to read off of
*Use insightful pictures to help tell the "story" of what the student is presenting on.  

Forcing students to these guidelines will increase rigor, thinking, learning and their ability to present thoughtfully and creatively.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Perhaps it's time, for TimeMaps

Looking to add a little spice into your students' map use? Not happy with the maps in your boring, paper atlases? Well, then maybe it's time you try TimeMaps. 
This free site provides you with tons of interactive maps of World History. You can hit "play" and watch how things change/progress over time. On the map, you will find images to click to get further detail/info about that particular region/time period. There are over 1,500 maps, historical overviews, and in-depth articles, images, etc.  This is more than just maps. It's a maps website with power. You can zoom in and out to get the viewing experience you want. 

This could be a major element of a lesson, or simply provide the link to your students for them to have an opportunity to discover something new and share it. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Get more out of YouTube Videos

YouTube is an immense collection of videos, we know that. We also know that YouTube is a wonderland for educators to find quality, interesting videos to help teach a concept or illustrate a topic. But, what we may not know is EDpuzzle. Edpuzzle is a tool that lets us get more out of youtube videos. It beefs them up, it gives us options, it gives us the ability customize the video viewing experience. Instead of simply watching the video, or watching the video and answering questions, Edpuzzle allows you to orchestrate a dynamic viewing experience. Free of charge, Edpuzzle allows you to set up a class with a "class code" so your students can join with their Google account. With your students joined in, you can assign videos for them to complete--whether for reinforcement, learning, review, etc. 
As mentioned, Edpuzzle allows you to create a more dynamic viewing experience. It helps you get more out of the video. Here's the deal: Get a Youtube video that you want to show. "Upload" it into Edpuzzle and from there, you can choose what the students do while watching. You can ask them MC questions, open ended questions, or have them comment. You can add a "voice track" which is a audio recording of yourself explaining the video the student is watching. You can also trim the clip to focus on just the part you want.
You assign these to your class so you can see how your students did on the questions, comments, etc. so it is a quality formative assessment piece. You can also share it with the world with the link, though you do not get individual results unless they are part of your Edpuzzle class.
Not only can  you use YouTube videos, but you can search for other videos from Khan Academy, TED, Vimeo, National Geographic, and many more. You can search these other video sites from within Edpuzzle.
Check it out! I think it could be a great piece to add to your classroom puzzle.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Great Google Trick!

Have you ever heard of a Google Easter Egg? Well, Google is quite clever. They like to have fun with their product and one example of that is with "Easter Eggs." Like the name suggestions, these Easter eggs are like what you do around Easter: hunt for hidden eggs. Google has hidden tricks and fun things throughout for people to find.  I was preparing something the other day and I needed a picture of Atari's "breakout" so I google imaged it and all of a sudden, before my very eyes, the google image screen turned into a game of Breakout! 
So, if you go to Google and image search "Atari breakout" (or click "I'm feeling lucky") the actual game will begin and you can play it with the mouse. Give it a try! It's kinda fun. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Google Docs: Simple Navigation

I find it annoying to scroll through Google docs. I feel like sometimes my scroll wheel is going to wear out! It is because of this feeling that I set out to find a solution. Some google docs are not that long, so it's not a big deal. But others can get to be quite lengthy and constantly scrolling through the doc is not an effective use of the small amount of time we have in life. The solution I found is "table of contents" and "bookmarks." Both fairly similar, but each add their own unique advantage. 

Bookmarks: You can attach bookmarks anywhere in a google docs for fast, efficient navigation. When you add a bookmark, you can then "link" a word to that bookmark, so when you click the word, it brings you to that spot automatically. Here's an example: Mesopotamia Closure. In the example, I didn't want my students to have to scroll through everything every time. I wanted them to be able to click the task and be brought right to it. 

Table of Contents. Table Contents works much the same way--creating words into links that you can click and quickly move to that spot. With table of contents, you need sub headings. So when you type out a word, you need to change it from "normal text" to a "subheading." Once you have all your subheadings done, go to "insert" -- "table of contents" and a table of contents will appear for easy navigation. Example Here. (This is a demo created just for an example) 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Save that Tab! (Google Chrome)

NOOOOO!!! I needed that tab! But I accidentally closed it because I have too many tabs and the area to select a tab is so small that I accidentally hit the 'x'!!! I don't know about you, but I tend to have a ton of tabs open when working in Chrome. When this happens, it is extremely likely that I accidentally hit the 'x' instead of the tab itself. This could be very bad! You may really need that tab and not remember how to get to the site you were on! Well, rest easy, my friend because Google has a solution to this problem. In the event you close a tab by accident, simply hit Ctrl + shift + T (though you don't need caps) and it will reopen the tab, along with browsing history so you can still go "back" if you need to. Handy tip, huh??

Ctrl + Shift + T (windows)

Command + Shift + T (Mac)

Monday, October 12, 2015

EdCamp Harrisburg

Ever been to an "Edcamp"? Well, if you have, you probably know the benefits of going and connecting with other passionate educators from around the area. If you have not gone, I highly recommend giving it some thought. Edcamp is like a "unconference," which means people show up for the "conference" and then decide what the conference will be about. In the morning, the "edcampers" discuss what sessions/break outs they want to have and who will help facilitate. It is not sit and listen to presenters the entire day. It is a come as you please, interactive day. For example, let's say there's a session on differentiated instruction. You can attend, listen and when you feel like you've had enough, simply move on to another session (perhaps GAFE or project based learning, for example.) What sessions will be offered will not be known until the day arrives, after it's been decided by the attendees. This is a great opportunity to learn and grow professionally. Also, it's a chance to connect and share ideas. AND, it's FREE! 
Door prizes, doughnuts, coffee, pop, food, etc. It's all free! 

Event Website
Click to Register for Edcamp Harrisburg (it's Free)

October 18th, 2015. Harrisburg South Middle School
Schedule for the day
8:30-9:30 - Breakfast/Mingle/Build Schedule -Come when you please... We just hope everyone is there around 9am
9:40-10:30 - Session 1
10:40-11:30 - Session 2
LUNCH  - Give aways and Game time! 
12:50-1:40pm - Session 3
1:50-2:40pm - Session 4
2:45pm - Wrap up/Reflect on the day

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spice Up Your Text Message Game with "Bitmoji"

Looking to add a little spice to your text messages? Feel like your texting game as gone bland? Well, maybe what you need is "Bitmoji." 
Bitmoji is an app for Apple and Android that gives you a ton of new emoji's. What's even better is that you can customize the emoji's to look like yourself! Once you edit how you look in the app itself, you can select bitmoji's to use in your text messages. There are a wide variety of bitmoji's so you are sure to find the perfect emoji for the situation. 
Here's how to do it:
-Go to App store and get "bitmoji." 
-Open "bitmoji" app and customize what you look like.
1. Go to "settings"
2. Go to "general"
3. Go to "keyboard"
4. go to "keyboards"
5. touch "Bitmoji--bitmoji"
6. Turn on "access allow"
7. Use it! In a text message, click on the icon (looks like a globe with lines) in the bottom left to access the bimoji's. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Working together: Google Forms, Flubaroo, and Charts

Using Google Forms for quizzes/formative assessment is a great way to organize student data, keep it all in one place, and get both an overview and individual view of how your students/classes are doing.  Below are some highlights of Google Forms for quizzes.

*Create a variety of questions using a Google Form.

*Password protect the quiz by forcing students to enter a "password" in order to get to the next page (start of quiz.)

*Change the destination of where responses go to keep all data in one spreadsheet.

*Use the "add on" Flubaroo to grade all quizzes instantly.  Flubaroo can grade multiple choice, true/false and short answer (short answer: student has to type the word exactly how you enter it on the answer key, so this one is a little tricky.)

*Use "charts" to create charts from the student data to get a great picture of how your classes are doing.

These are just some of the highlights. I encourage you to check it out and explore further!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kahoot! to raise engagement!

If you are looking to change things up in your classroom and try a new tool, I'd recommend giving Kahoot! a try. Kahoot! is an engagement dream, a way to focus your students, blend game structure, share thoughts and formally assess them. Kahoot! is an audience response system that works on any device that has internet, as it uses a web browser, not just the Kahoot! app. Laptop, iPhone, iPad, Chromebook, desktop, etc. Kahoot! allows the teacher to give a quiz, a discussion, or a survey. The results can be downloaded and saved. The results give question by questions breakdown, as well as individual results, making tracking and documentation a snap!  
After signing up for a free account, create a Kahoot! quiz. You will add questions and then when you launch the quiz, you will instruct the students to go to and enter the game pin. This connects their device with the quiz you are showing on the smartboard. On their device, they see the four options, which are shapes. They select the shape that corresponds with the correct answer. You can adjust the time limit, the audience, the difficulty and also share it with others. 
Application for Education: Kahoot! is just a tool and it's not about the tool. It's about the learning. So how does Kahoot! help learning? Use Kahoot! to do a short, fun quiz to see where your students are at. The game-based feel to it makes it much more engaging than a centeo quiz or scantron. Engagement can not be underestimated when it comes to improving the learning.  Learning rises as engagement rises. It's a fundamental fact of education and of life.  I'm convinced that if the student knows a Kahoot! is waiting for them, they will be more eager to learn the content and get prepared. They will be eager to see their game-based score as they navigate the Kahoot! quiz. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Create Infographics with Photovisi

I'm a big fan of Infographics. I think infographics are a good way for students to learn, review, and share what they know. Creating infographics is not busy work, its work that requires thinking and planning, not to mention writing and reading. An infographic is simply a product that has information and graphics. Some might call this a collage, but a collage is more of a "picture only" type of thing. I by no means invented the idea of Infographics or any of the infographic creating tools. However, I do like to search for infographic creating tools other than paper/pencil. Unless a student is an awesome drawer, computer infographics are way more effective. Photovisi is a great tech tool that students can use to make an infographic. 
Great things about Photovisi: it's free. Students do not need to log in. Students can easily save their project. Students can pick from a wide variety of templates and options. Students can use pictures off the internet. Students can add typing/captions. Students pick up on how to use photovisi quickly, so instruction time is minimal and creation time is optimal. So, find a computer lab and give Photovisi a try. Students will enjoy using it and get something out of it. Photovisi's can be as in-depth as you want to make it. General overview of a topic or a dynamic, in-depth project. 
Application for Education:
-students research a new topic and create a photovisi
-students create a photovisi as a review tool
-students share their photovisi with their classmates to learn about new topics through their peers
-teacher creates a photovisi to present information/new topic


Monday, September 21, 2015 great teacher tool

I was talking about technology in education with a colleague the other day and we were discussing tech tools that allow students to create. We both agreed that technology in the hands of the students is a must because we want them to discover, create, and explore. We were talking about having students make websites but it's such a time commitment with a lot of explanation so it gets to be a daunting task. I told him that I have a website making tool that the students can learn how to use and make a website in just one class period. He didn't believe, so I said, "Do you triple dare me to show you?" and he said, "No, I quadruple dare you to show me." So I did. I showed him and it blew him away. is a dynamic web 2.0 tool that allows you to create webpages quickly and easily (and without knowing any coding). Along with blogger and remind101, is right up there with my favorite tech tools. It is an especially good tool in trying to implement CCSS in your curriculum, no matter what the content. offers you and the students the ability to create permanent websites. This seemingly monumental task is actually quite simple. provides you with only the basic/necessary tools to create your website so you don't feel overwhelmed with too many options. There is no code writing. You do not have to be a tech wizard to use As with every tech tool, there are two options: you use it or have your students use it. In my opinion, it is always best if the students can get their hands on these tech tools and use them. 
Application to Education: Create a tackk on a topic that you are studying. Post an article or write the article yourself, then make it available for students to read. With this angle, you can implement Reading Informational text. 
Having students create tackks provides them the opportunity to work on the writing portion of the CCSS. Have the students create a tackk to go along with a short research project, compare/contrast, write opinions, or any number of writing standards.
The great thing about Tackk is that the websites are easy to share, so all can benefit from the projects being created. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Garden of your Mind

Inspire kids to grow ideas, in the garden of their mind. You have the power to do that. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sharing Student Work: The Photo Journal

Students love to have their work put on display. Think about it-a kid goes through 3 hours making something awesome, only for one person (the teacher) to see it. That doesn't seem right! Have students share their work with their class in real life--that's easy. But I also think it's a powerful thing to share their work online. Students think it's cool to be able to see their work on a class website. They can show their parents. They can see other classmates' work, etc. The question is, "How do we do this?" With technology, we can do this in a very fast, efficient way. I have done this many ways in the past, always looking for the fastest possible way to share student work online. One of the fastest ways I have discovered is to use Google Drive. Here's how:
Create a folder in your Google Drive. Label it "Photo Journal 15-16"
"Share" the folder to get the link for view only. 
Post/share the link on a website or some place students can easily access it. 
The efficient part is how to get the images into the folder. 
Get the Google Drive app on your smartphone. Take a picture of their work or whatever you want to add to the photo journal. With the Google Drive app, open the folder you created for the photo journal, and simply upload the image(s) from the camera roll. Once this is done, the images are instantly in the folder and instantly available for viewing.  

Students constantly asked me when I was going to update the Photo journal. It was a good motivator because they would ask if a certain project or task was going into the photo journal and if specifically their project was. 

Monday, September 14, 2015 Google Drive Review Game

Can Google Drive get any more awesome? It seems everywhere I turn, there is something new and innovative being produced by Google-things to make our jobs as teachers more efficient and effective. is a tool that allows you to create review games/tools through Google Drive. provides flashcards, completion certificates, progress meters, and my favorite, Game Show templates. At, download the template you want to use, make a copy for your Google Drive and edit it to produce your custom review game. The game show uses the spreadsheet feature of Google Drive. Simply enter your questions and answers, publish to the web ("File"--"publish to web") and then the spreadsheet will kick out the link to share (the link you give to your students). 

Application for Education: This tool/game can be used for all types of content/classes. It's great to provide for kids to use when studying on their own, as it keeps track of your points so you can see how well you are doing or what you are weak in. I've also used it for students to partner up and play against each other. It can also be used as a whole class review game. You can anywhere from 0 teams to 6 teams when keeping track of the score. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30 Short: "First Pitch"

If you haven't already seen it, I strongly recommend you check out the ESPN 30 for 30 short: "First Pitch" about when George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the World Series, shortly after the terror attacks on 9/11. Bush called it the "most nervous time of his presidency." Whether you are a democrat or republican, it doesn't matter. It was a powerfully, amazing moment in the history of our country.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11 Resources

Like you, my 9/11 memory is as vivid as the day it happened. I was a freshman in college and for some reason, decided to wake up before noon. I flipped on the t.v. and could not believe what I was seeing. I picked up the news after the first plane hit and there was speculation but from the news people, it sounded like it was an accident. Then, the second plane hit, then the Pentagon, then the fourth was brought down and that removed all doubt that it was in fact an attack on America. As I'm sure you were, I was glued to the t.v. It was horrific. Seeing the buildings collapse, the graphic video of people jumping out of the window, the first responders rushing into the fray, rather than away from it. The stories of tragedy, the stories of rescue, the stories of survivors.  People talking about how they should have been on one of the four planes that were hijacked. Or they should have been at the WTC that day, but were home sick, or away on a trip, or out for a brunch, etc.  Years pass since that day but the vividness does not fade. Nor should it. 
Here are a few resources about 9/11 (which were gather with the help of the awesome 7th grade geo teachers at PHMS):

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Teacher Websites: A good idea

I am a firm believer that teachers need their own website for their class. Our students practically live on the web, so why not provide them with a website from your class? They will visit your site, as long as there is something on there, and I'm not just talking about your lesson plans. Students love going on teacher websites, so let's give them some! 

There are many great website builder options out there that require you to have zero programming skills. Website builders like blogger, wordpress, weebly, wix, or many others allow you to make a great, professional looking website with a small learning curve. These are all free website making machines. I use blogger to build/maintain Speartip, but have also used wordpress, weebly, and wix. I think they are all solid options for building a website. Perhaps you will find one that you think is better, such as shutterfly and google sites. Yes, making these websites take time, but I'm here to help! The impact they can have on your classes is enormous. Plus, I think once you start building, you will find that it's fun to have your own website. It's like having your own piece of the internet.  I know you all use either google classroom or edmodo, which is great! It is still beneficial to have a website because there are things that you can or want to share that work better on a website. Classroom and Edmodo are management sites. A website is your central location on the internet for all things dealing with your class. 
Why it's a good idea to have your own class website: 
1. Extend the learning outside of your class time.
2. Post lesson plans
3. Post an "assignment calendar" so students and parents know when things are happening. 
4. Create and share interactive assignments, review tools, and learning tools. 
5. Gives students the opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts. (blogging comments). 
6. Gives you another way of connecting with your students and getting them excited about your class.
7. Provides another (strong) communication channel. 
8. Gives students a place to go for anything and everything about your class. They want this. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 Great communication tool

As the school year starts and we start thinking about what tools we are going to use, give some thought. Remind was built for teachers. It allows you to text message your students in a safe, secure way. I have used it for the past 2 years and students and parents love it. They love getting the messages sent right to their phone. It is very convenient. Students don't always use/check their planner. But it is a guarantee that they will check their phone, usually many times a day. has a new look from last year so I posted a video above to help make sure we are comfortable with the new (better) look. If you have any questions, please ask.
Why is such a great tool:
-It's free to use.
-It doesn’t require your student to have a cell phone.
-Teachers do NOT see your child’s cell phone number.
-Students do NOT see their teacher’s cell phone number.
-The text message notification counts as simply one text message in your cell phone plan. ----Students can NOT text the teachers.
-Your child’s teacher will explain how to become a “subscriber” to their notifications.
-Cell phone numbers are NOT sold or given out by Remind101.
-Text message option or email option or both.
-It provides a "widget" to place on your website so students can get the messages without being a subscriber.

If you would like some help in getting up and running, I will gladly help! 

What makes a good Social Studies teacher?

So what makes a good social studies teacher? In a recent discussion with college seniors, we discussed what makes a good social studies teacher. It was an online discussion so I was able to pull out some interesting statistics about what they said was important. The word "engage" or some form of it was said 30 times throughout all the discussion posts and replies. It was the most mentioned adjective discussed. In second place: Content Knowledge (or some reference to knowing the material)-about 28 mentions. Third place was passion with 10 mentions. 

I was excited to see our future teachers mention the word "engage" the most. I couldn't agree more. To teach social studies effectively, engagement has got to be #1. It is our single greatest weapon to defeat the arch nemesis of a social studies teacher/classroom: the word "boring." It seems like social studies/history and "boring" are always grouped together. Well, I want to break that and being engaging is exactly how we do that.  Engage the students and you can teach them whatever you want!

Every participant said something about engagement, passion, and/or positive attitude. That's awesome! Those are great things to be discussing when talking about what makes a good teacher. The challenge is to not forget those powerful adjectives or lose sight of them as the years tick by. If you feel like you are getting into a rut, I encourage you to seek out new, fresh ideas. Things you can do or try in the classroom to reinvigorate your teaching. Find something that will spark that passion inside of you once again. When we are engaging, it makes everything better! 

Some other keywords that were mentioned in our discussion: connecting, hands-on, variety, challenge, critical thinking, acting out, visual aids, and positive attitude. These are all really good words.

Passion is huge. Hopefully as a teacher, you are passionate about kids (if not, might want to consider a new job). Being passionate about what you teach is also important. However, nobody is passionate about EVERYTHING they teach. I am passionate about Greek Mythology and the Medieval Times, but not ancient India. So what did I do? I would ramp of the enthusiasm for that unit. Passion can not be faked, but enthusiasm can. Enthusiasm and passion will make your classroom come to life!

I found it interesting that so many of the participants mentioned content knowledge. It is important to know the content and to know it well. The more you know, the better/easier it is to think up engaging lessons and activities. However, it is impossible to know everything about the content you are teaching, especially if it is social studies. It's okay for you to say, "I don't know" when a student asks you a question. We are all human, not Google Robots. It's not the end of the world to admit to a student you don't know the answer to a question. Turn it into a positive situation, "Well, I don't know. Let's go find the answer together." Including the student in the discovery of knowledge is a powerful thing. Also keep in mind that you are teaching young kids so you do not need to be a PH.D. level scholar in American History to know what you need to know. The challenge is not knowing the content, it is making it engaging, relevant, and being able to teach it in a "kid friendly language." 

Above all, what makes a great social studies teacher is the same thing that makes a great teacher ina ny content area: building positive relationships with the students. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

First Day of School

Perhaps we, as teachers, should rethink the first day of school and what we do with our classes. Students have spent three months on summer vacation so when they enter the building for their first day of school, they are not prepared to understand, comprehend, and remember a whole bunch of information. However, when students get to school on that first day, that's exactly what they get. All day, students are overwhelmed with rules, procedures, information, etc.  Now, I'm sure all that information is important for students to know, but teachers are just wasting their time because the students are not going to remember. We spend the entire day talking to students about all this important stuff, yet nothing is retained. Students simply are not ready. It would be quite humorous to zoom out of a classroom and have the ability to see each students thoughts as the teacher spends all class discussing rules, procedures, etc.  Students' thoughts would be drifting all over-lunch, who's in their class, what they did all summer, etc.
So if students are not ready to receive important information, what should we do on the first day? Well, I think the answer is easy-work on what's most important in school anyway: making relationships. Start getting to know your students. Start the process of connecting with them and building a foundation of an impactful relationship. There are a wide variety of activities a teacher can do with their students on the first day. I think what's best is to get them doing something. Get them active. Create an experience so they are excited about your class and can't wait to come back the next day. There's plenty of time to cover the important information. Start with something fun.  Perhaps you already do that, which is great! But if you find yourself as one of those teachers who talks about rules and procedures all day on the first day, perhaps rethink your strategy. Save that important information for a time when students have settled into a routine, ready to receive and understand.

My first day: I stood at the doorway and greeted them of course in a very enthusiastic way. Music was playing in my room (inspriational music) and on the board, they had a task. Seat themselves alphabetically by last name, following the directional arrows of the desks. This got them moving and doing. It also got them talking with each other because they all come from different elementary schools, so they do not know each other. After a certain amount of time, I would stop the class and see how well they did. Next, I would give them a brief monologue on what I thought school is and should be. Then, I passed out a can of play-doh to each student and had them make something they were passionate about. Then, of course, we shared out what we made. This started the process of getting to know the students because we all love to talk about what we are passionate about. Students don't remember the rules, procedures, and info the first day--but they do remember the play-doh.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Standards Based grading-Ken O'Connor

Ken O'Connor visited the Sioux Falls middle schools this week and I I had the privilege to listen to him formally during his presentation, but also to talk with him informally while eating some chislic. Listening to him talk about standards-based grading and getting the chance to bounce ideas/questions off him was very beneficial. Getting down the details of standards based grading was very valuable. I am by no means going to regurgitate everything I heard Ken talk about, but just to share a few insights from listening to him, a few things I took away from the day that stuck the most. 
Ken's whole premise is that overall, grades are broken and in need of certain fixes. The key statement to keep in mind when it comes to grading/assessment is a students grade should reflect how much they know/what they have learned. Working off of this foundation, a lot of things need to be rethought: bonus points, extra credit, late work, missing work, group grades, among others. Sometimes, grades and scores are done in a way that does not provide an accurate picture of what the students know. When this happens, the grades are broken. 
Ken O'Connor's wisdom and insight into the world of grading is spot on and needs to be shared. Over the course of the next week, I will be discussing what Ken O'Connor says about fixing grades. 

"A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades." By Ken O'Connor

Bob Ross is Inspirational. Good Thoughts. Happy Thoughts.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What is the SpearTip?

When you throw a spear, the very first thing to hit the target is the tip. It's the first to make an impact, a difference, to change things. It takes the blemish free target and punctures it. Slices it. Blasts it. I am not throwing spears here, but philosophically, that's exactly what we should do in education.

This website used to be called "Techno.ED" and it's mission was to share technology tools and strategies to increase student learning. The goal was to use technology with a purpose, not just use it to use it. The resources/ideas shared will remain on the site. However, with a new position in my career and a broadening of horizons, I want to provide a resource and share out on more than just technology. I want to share and discuss all phases of education-instructional strategies, assessments, projects, students, motivation, engagement, tlap, experiences, learning, and yes, technology as well. With so many educational websites out there, why another one? The answer: individuality, the beauty of education.  Each educational website is operated and maintained by someone different- different life experiences, different perspective, different ideas, different background, different everything. This makes a unique sharing experiences, individuals coming together for a greater good-impacting student lives.

So why SPEARTIP EDU?  It's an attitude. It's an attitude of not being afraid to go forward. An attitude to try things, to get out front and be a leader. Having the courage to be that "speartip" and go forth, at the front, unwavering in your pursuit to make a difference. To change things. It doesn't mean having to be "first." Education isn't looking for everyone to try to be first in everything.  This implies too much competition among educators, where instead, there should be working together. Education is looking for educators to not sit back in the weapons depot, but to fly, to launch itself forward, towards the target. When that SPEARTIP hits its mark, there's been a breakthrough, a student "getting it," the discovery of a new tool to enhance learning, a relationship made, a tough student helped, a collaborative session amongst colleagues, or an idea born.

Join me on the SPEARTIP.  Let's make an impact.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Great App for Shoppers! "GeoQpon"

If you have a smartphone and like to find great deals, then maybe you should check out the "GeoQpon" app. It's got tons of great coupons and daily deals that you can use at a wide variety of stores. Simply show the coupon to the cashier and they scan your screen! It's pretty slick. I haven't actually ever tried using it, but I've heard of people who have. Get savings up to 40-50%! Or more! or maybe less (like I said, I've never actually used it.)  Simply enter your zip code and the app will generate a huge list of stores in your area that having coupons on this app. You then scroll through the list and select the stores for your "Favorites" list. Then, let the hunting begin! I know people who have spent hours staring at this app looking for deals. So there must be a lot of stuff to look at! (Again, I've never used it.)  
Add to your spring wardrobe at Old Navy or buy that new tool you've always wanted from Ace Hardware or buy your favorite zombie video game from Best Buy or get that pair of bedazzled jeans you've always wanted from Justice or feed your dog the good stuff for a change from PetSmart. 

Happy Shopping! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creating an Experience

If you want your students to learn something, you might have them read an article, watch a video, or view a powerpoint. All three of those things get the job done, more or less. The information is being passed from teacher to student. But, if you really want your students to learn something, you need to make it an experience. It is through life experiences and meaningful moments that trigger the brain to retain information. Recently, in my 6th grade social studies class, we tackled the topic of mummification in ancient Egypt. It is a rather significant topic in ancient Egyptian culture, so we placed a high value on understanding why they mummified and how they did it. In the past, I took my students through a powerpoint presentation explaining the why, the where, and the how. I included grizzly pictures showing the various steps of mummification to try to get them to “stick” in their minds. It was just okay, but I’m not satisfied with “just ok.” The powerpoint informed them on the topic, but “just ok” doesn’t create an experience for my students. I wanted to give them more than “just ok” so I set out to create an experience that would teach them mummification in a way that they would never forget. The question was “What can I do that will teach them mummification in a way they will not forget?” The answer came quite quickly and was in the simplest of manners: Show them.
I decided I would show them mummification by mummifying a dead body right in front of them in my classroom. So, I set out to gather my supplies. The key piece to this experience was, of course, the dead body. After much perseverance at the mall, Old Navy came through in a huge way by donating a full form male mannequin to my project. Unfortunately, the mannequin didn’t have a head. I solved that problem by buying a foam head from hobby lobby. It worked out great because since the mannequin and the foam head were both white, it looked fairly natural when I duck taped the head to the mannequin with white duck tape. I had my dead body, so I was ready to set things up and turn this mannequin into an interactive dead Pharaoh to show the steps of mummification. During the mummification process, the brain is removed through the nose with a wire hook. I took a hanger and bent it to make my wire hook. I then sawed off the top of the foam head, carved out some foam to make a cavity, and then filled it with a long piece of gray rope-like cloth material that I cut from a pair of sweatpants. I stuffed the “brain” into the cavity, and put the skull back on with velcro. Another step of mummification I needed to show was the removal of the internal organs through a hole cut in the stomach. For this step, I cut a hole in the stomach with a jig saw, then placed white duck tape over the hole so it appeared to be closed. The two pieces of duck tape were side by side so I could stick my hand through the hole after it was supposedly cut by the “slitter” (student volunteer). The organs inside (liver, stomach, lungs, and intestines) were from an anatomy kit. I poured a bunch of fake blood (karo syrup, red food coloring, and water) in inside the mannequin for effect. When the big day arrived and it was time for the show, I stood by my door and invited my students in to witness the mummification of the Pharaoh Khufu. The walked in, with the lights out, but a lamp hanging from the ceiling, providing a eerie glow over the dead pharaoh concealed by a white blanket. They were wide eyed, excited, motivated to see what was going to happen. They continued to be ultra engaged as I pulled the brain out the nose with a wire hook, reached in and retrieved the organs, as blood dripped from the organs, and my hand as I placed them in the canopic jars. I stuffed the body cavity with rags as the Egyptians did. I then covered a Ken barbie (mini Khufu) with salt for the drying out process. With the help of more student volunteers, we wrapped the body with white strips of linen (toilet paper), placing golden amulets between the layers to protect the body. Finally, the mummification was complete. The experience had.
When our students come to school, they should be put in a position to experience something they’ve never seen before. They should enter our classrooms eagerly trying to see what is going to happen next. I don’t view it as going above and beyond. I view it as doing our jobs as professional educators. Creating memorable experiences is what education should be. Education in our classrooms and schools should be something kids run to, not away from. Be willing to put forth the effort needed to provide those experiences. Be willing to sit down and think. Create something new, something different. Read the book “Teach Like a Pirate.” Subscribe to Edbean. Join Twitter and find one of the many great educational twitter chats out there. Be willing to take a risk and make a difference. While preparing, someone asked me, “Why go to all this work for one lesson?” I pondered it for a moment and replied, “Because I want my students to experience my class. Not just sit through it.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Props: More than just objects

He will remember the day
 he was sent to the pillory. #tlap
I am a big believe in using props with lessons. If you have read "Teach Like a Pirate," then you will know how powerful props can be in creating an experience and bringing the lesson to life. Think about what you are teaching about. Think about what objects or visuals could be made or brought in to help show and reinforce the topic. Students are used to doing the zombie shuffle into school each day and getting the same dose of "sameness." So why not hit them with something different? If you are talking about a topic, then abruptly stop and say, "Well, why don't I just show you?" And you pull out a prop. Students are going to become much more alert, eager to see what you are talking about. They are going to sit up and take notice. Bringing in props for a lesson makes that topic come to life. It is there, for students to experience, not just listen to. Props give students a great visual for them to connect to. They will understand and learn the material because you have provided them with a connection. In discussing the Medieval Times, I thought it would be good to have a "pillory" as a prop in my room. So I built one and brought it in. I kept it under a bed sheet for a couple days to build the suspense. The students were constantly guessing as to what it was and asking when they got to see it. This method, which is classic #tlap, builds the momentum of the lesson and when I actually did reveal it, the students were highly engaged and begging to help demonstrate it. Students remember things like this. Plus, you are providing them an opportunity to actually have an answer to the question "What did you learn in school today?" Instead of the age-old "nothing," they can share that they learned about the pillory and actually got to try it. 
As the school year winds down and the restlessness cranks up, it might be a good idea to think about incorporating some props into your lessons/classroom.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

EdCamp: Brookings- Saturday, March 28th

The edCamp is a great concept. If you have no idea what it is, well, let me explain: An edcamp is a chance to get together (for free) with passionate educators to discuss, share, create, and connect. It is an "unconference" which means the day is not organized until the teachers get there. Instead of showing up and being told what to do, the attendees of the edcamp gather in the morning and decide for themselves what they will be working on, sharing, discussing, etc. For example, if teachers want to work on assessment strategies, they go to a classroom and work on it. If a group of teachers want to work on SLO's or math strategies, differentiation, etc, they form a group/session and get to it. You can stay in the session for as long as you want. When you are ready, you simply move on and check out a different session of interest. When  you've had your fill of great PD, then leave!  You are not bound to stay a certain amount of time.  Granted, this takes place on Saturday, which is a day off for us teachers, but give it some thought. 
Brookings, SD
Camelot Intermediate School
Start time: 8:00 am
Bring your own device

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Google Drive Strikes Again! Review Games with Google Drive

Can Google Drive get any more awesome? It seems everywhere I turn, there is something new and innovative being produced by Google-things to make our jobs as teachers more efficient and effective. is a tool that allows you to create review games/tools through Google Drive. provides flashcards, completion certificates, progress meters, and my favorite, Game Show templates. At, download the template you want to use, make a copy for your Google Drive and edit it to produce your custom review game. The game show uses the spreadsheet feature of Google Drive. Simply enter your questions and answers, publish to the web ("File"--"publish to web") and then the spreadsheet will kick out the link to share (the link you give to your students). 

Application for Education: This tool/game can be used for all types of content/classes. It's great to provide for kids to use when studying on their own, as it keeps track of your points so you can see how well you are doing or what you are weak in. I've also used it for students to partner up and play against each other. It can also be used as a whole class review game. You can anywhere from 0 teams to 6 teams when keeping track of the score. 

Monday, March 16, 2015 Games with a Purpose

Recently at Sharapalooza, I shared some tech tools that teachers could start using now. I would like to share them here since I know many of you wanted to come but were unable to make it. allows you the opportunity to create review games in which you want your students to identify something. It is a user friendly set up in which all you need is content, an account, and an image to upload.
Application for Education: This review game would be a great option in many content areas. A few examples: Upload a picture of the United States. The students are then given the capital and they need to click on the correct state. In science/anatomy, students could identify the parts of the body, nervous system, rocks, clouds, etc. How could you use this in your class? You can also search the site for games that have already been created. The game is "timed" giving it a bit of a competition feel to it. Kids can challenge others or themselves to see who can do it the fastest.  In my class, I have my students identify the countries on a map of Europe, the different pieces of armor on a Knight or the various tools of mummification. The example below is a review on Greek Mythology. Try it out! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The most versatile word in the Teacher's Vocabulary

Is there a more versatile and useful word in the teachers' vocabulary? I think not. If you stop and think for a moment, better yet, if you continue reading I think you will agree with me. Wait. What is the most versatile word, you ask? Well, if I told you right away, what fun would that be? Where's the suspense? 
I believe the most versatile word in the Teacher's vocabulary is the word......"buddy." Let's take a moment to dissect this word and look at it through the lens of a teacher. I don't know about you, but I use this word about 500 times a day. It just always seems to work in any situation I find myself in. Whether it's a fun atmosphere, a serious one, or some other type of situation, it seems the word "buddy" just pops out of my mouth, as natural and effortlessly as breathing or blinking. 

Let's look at how versatile the word truly is. 
If you are congratulating a student: "Good job, buddy!" 
If you are consoling a student who is having a tough time: "It's okay, buddy." 
If you are upset with a student, "Hey! Buddy! Sit down and stop talking!" 
If you are getting serious about something with a student: "Hey, buddy, I really need you to come through on this project." 
If you are showing thanks: "Hey, thanks buddy!"
If you are surprised by a student, "Whoa! Buddy, I didn't see you there!" 
If you are really excited about a students accomplishment: "Yeah!!! Great job buddy!" 
If you are trying to build up a students' confident: "I know you can do it, buddy. I have confidence in you." 
If you are just having a casual conversation with a student, "That sounds like a fun trip, buddy." 
If you are in a hurry and don't have much time, go with "bud": "Not now, bud, I gotta get going."
It can easily be tagged at the end of almost any question: "How was your weekend, buddy?" "What are you doing this weekend, buddy?" What's your favorite team, buddy?" "Hey buddy, how's it going?" "Anybody have any questions?.....Yeah, what is it, buddy?" 
If you are listening to a story, but not really paying attention, "Hey, that's cool, buddy." 

And finally, it can (almost) be used as every word in the sentence: "Hey Buddy, that buddy over there is looking for a buddy. Why don't you be a good buddy and see if he wants to be your buddy, okay buddy?"  (see?) 

Anyway, I hope you learned a lot from this blog post. I think it was very informational and enlightening. The next time you find yourself using the word buddy, appreciate the versatility of the word.  Or, if you find yourself in a pinch and don't know what to say, just say buddy. 

Thanks, buddy.