Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Engaging Students with Digital Interactive Notebooks

Digital Interactive Notebooks are an amazing way to help engage students in the learning process while creating personalized notes with content that is meaningful to them on an individual basis. Teachers can custom create notebooks to help guide students through project based learning, specific units of study or for tracking personal goals.

Check out this 2nd grade example for a unit on plants to get an idea of how one might look.

The digital interactive notebook can act as a compilation of hyperlinked content like video and digital articles, combined with note taking strategies and student created digital products that demonstrate key understandings. 

If used with tools like Google Classroom, teachers can check in on work and insert comments throughout to give feedback and help guide students in deeper understanding. As students grow accustomed to the model, teachers can gradually release creation of the notebook over to the students to choose their own note taking strategies, video and articles to help solidify meaning.

Want to know how to get started with digital notebooks? Check out this Digital Interactive Notebook for step by step directions and activity ideas:

Get your own copy of the notebook [here]

Additional Resources

Monday, June 4, 2018

SAMR Remix Update & Redefining the Role of the Learner.

It's been almost two years since I've updated my resources for SAMR and Bloom's Taxonomy

As I was considering the newest tools out for students to use, it became really clear that as time has gone by my own view of what is "Redefinition" has shifted. This really highlights the subjective nature of the SAMR model. What is Redefining in one classroom, may not be that at all in another. 

When I first began to develop SAMR resources back in June 2014, I placed Nearpod under the Redefinition category. Back then the possibility of putting your presentation directly into every student's hands where they could see clearly and engage in the lesson seemed so forward thinking. When I revised in 2016, I chose to keep it there because of the addition of so many interactive elements, the ability to self-pace for differentiation and of course the virtual field trips that allowed kids to go to even the coral reef. Now, as I look at how far technology integration in the classroom has progressed, I realized that it's time to recategorize it. In this version, I chose to place Nearpod in the Augmentation category, mostly because even with self-pacing, Nearpod is primarily a teacher driven tool that allows students to share their thinking in different ways with their teacher or explore something someone else created. 

Today as I consider tools and integration, I ask myself these things: 
  • Are students creating? 
  • Are students able to push back the walls of the classroom and reach a larger, more global audience?
  • Are students given choice in what they use and how they share?
The more control over the learning and sharing of learning that can be achieved by the student, the better. With those questions, I see myself moving away from SAMR strictly in the sense that I'm referring to technology integration and more toward looking at ways to REDEFINE the role of the LEARNER, which in my own opinion is the real role of technology. 

This is not a be all end all guide to integration of technology, rather a work in progress. The tools represented here, if used in different ways with different intentions by the student, can allow them to redefine their own role. For example, when a teacher uses a Google Form to collect data from students, it's simply Substitution, but when a student makes the decision to create a Google Form to collect data for personal record and goal setting or, even better, for a specific project that seeks to gather information from people from around the world, and they then take that data and visualize it with reports, it changes the role of the tool. Students are redesigning tasks to meet their own needs, collecting data from far and wide in ways they wouldn't have easily been able to do before. In this case we see the tool can be used in an Augmentation or Modification capacity.

In 2018, our students can easily share their thinking, their findings, their judgements with a global audience through video, book publishing and podcasting, and they can model and prototype in 3D with virtual and augmented reality, and there are plenty of tools out there to make these tasks even better.

The interactive image below includes links to resources and ideas for use. Be sure to check out the resources with the red target for background. Blue targets will send you to the resource, and black will send you to different ideas for implementation.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Curating and Collaborating with Google's Jamboard App

Post originally published under FTEdTech
I am always on the look out for strategies and applications that allow our elementary students to collaborate. When you can add in tools that will let them sketchnote, curate resources from multiple sources, including their drive and use tools that autodraw icons based on rough sketches, then you know you have something that kids can really get into using.

I am really excited to share the new app we have in the app portal called Jamboard. Jamboard is essentially a collaborative whiteboard app that includes some pretty impressive features - including collaboration! It is part of GSuite (Google applications) and you sign into it with your school email/password. This app opens up so many possibilities for sketchnoting, curation of ideas and most importantly collaboration!  Jamboard is an application that can be used with or without a physical Jamboard recently released by Google. 

Check out the basics of how to get started with Jamboard below:

Write now, I'd have to say my favorite feature is, hands down, autodraw.  I like the idea of sketchnoting, but I often get caught up in the idea that my sketches don't really show what I want them to show. Autodraw is a tool that I can use to move past one of my personal barriers to creating notes.  

In addition to the cool sketchnoting capabilities, Jamboard also offers a way to curate information from a variety of sources like your Google Drive and the web. Imagine organizing thoughts for a video by pulling in research from the internet and notes from a class project that you did in Google Slides.  Jamboard makes this possible.  Check out how that might look below:

One of the last powerful features of Jamboard is the collaboration feature. To get started collaborating, with our current permission level, teachers would begin a Jamboard, then invite students to share ideas on the board through an email or by a code. This would be a powerful way for a group to plan a video project or a presentation that required them to research add images, drawing, and to organize their ideas. Check out the video below to see how to make that happen.

Want to try it out, but need some help?  Let me know! I have ideas for you!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring Magnetic Poetry

I originally published this on FTEdTech 

April is National Poetry Month, and a perfect time to inspire students to create their own poems about Spring.

Inspired by Eric Curts' "Springtime Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings"
I created a template that we could use with iPads and one to use with Seesaw.

I love the format Curts uses in Google Drawings, but currently we cannot use Google Drawings on the iPad, so it requires a little modifying to give our students the chance for the same fun.

To modify the idea so we can use it on our devices with PowerPoint, Google Slides or Seesaw, I first created a background template in Canva using the "Presentation 16:9" size template. I inserted a free image related to spring from their stock images and downloaded it as a JPEG.

Setting up the Activity in PowerPoint

I inserted this image as the background of a blank PowerPoint slide by clicking:
  • Design tab
  • Format Background
  • Picture or Texture Fill 
  • File
  • Locate image and insert
Placing the image on the slide as the background helps to stabilize the activity so students can't move it around.

Once the background was inserted, I was ready to create and insert the word magnets.

I was feeling a little stuck on which words to use for Spring, so I hit up Google and found a great list at a site called Words to Use. To create the "word magnets", I inserted a rounded rectangle and changed the format so it would be easy to see on the background. I then typed in words and saved them as pictures by right clicking on the shape and choosing "Save as Picture..."

I saved some time by reusing the same box over and over.  I then went back in and inserted all the word pictures and arranged them on the sides and bottom of the template.

The extra step of creating these magnets as images will help as students drag and drop. To be flexible I added a template shape at the bottom so students will just have to touch the shape and add their own words. I decided to make this a different color so teachers would be able to see what were student generated words and what belonged with the template activity. It might be fun to have students insert appropriate emojis in the template box.

If you want to use this template with your students, you can find it in Schoology>>FTIS Elementary EdTech Group>>Resources>>Interactive Notebook Files>>Magnetic Poetry for Spring. I uploaded the template to Google and converted to Google Slides. You can grab a copy for Google Slides to use with your students if that format works better for you.

To distribute the assignment to your students, you'll want to upload it to your OneDrive or Google Drive and use Schoology Microsoft or Google Assignments so that you can create a copy of the template for each student. If you're not sure how to do that, check out the directions here.

Setting up the Activity in Seesaw

To give even our youngest students the opportunity to practice with the idea of magnet poetry, I created a similar activity in Seesaw. 

I used the same background and when creating the activity uploaded that image, and used the label tool to create the word "magnets". I also added in emojis for the students to use. For this version, students are additionally asked to create a recording of themselves reading their poems. This would a fun shared writing activity that would align to CCSS writing standards (W.K.2, W.K.6).

You don't have to reinvent the wheel with this one, you can grab a copy and edit the activity for your own needs and learning goals here.

Questions? Want to work together to make more activities like this? Let me know!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Ozobots: Your Next Center Addition

I originally published this post on FTEdTech

If you haven't tried out the ozobots yet with your class, then now is the time!

Ozobots are tiny little robots that work with markers.  Students draw thick lines on paper with black, red, green or blue markers.  They can create different color combinations to program the robot to perform a variety of moves from changes in speed to changes in color and more advanced turns and moves.

The simplicity of these robots make them a perfect addition for a center.  With little set up, and very little training students can be engaging in activities that meet the standards, help them practice skills and are fun!  This could be a great way to change things up as we head into the end of the year.

Right before Spring Break, I got the chance to work with Mrs. Perkins and her first graders at JES to test out some activities.

For the activity we used an Engage - Explore - Explain cycle. 

Cycle 1 

To begin the activity, students came to the carpet and sat in a circle. I showed the students the robot, and demonstrated how to turn it on and how to make it go by drawing a line.  I asked them to observe what happened to the robot if I changed the color of the marker. We also placed an image of the Ozobot code chart on the Smartboard so students could see different ways they could program the robot. We also talked about strategies for using good team work, since they had to work with a partner.

We used the 5 minute timer on ClassroomScreen to set a timer for students to explore with a partner. Students were encouraged to think about good team work skills and practice drawing different kinds of lines to see what worked best. They were curious to see how to make the Ozobot turn, if they could follow a squiggly line, and what happened if there was no line.  

When the 5 minutes were up, students had time to share out about what they had learned about using the ozobot. They also shared team work strategies that included things like taking turns for a certain amount of time, diving their paper into two and creating their own drawings then taking turns with using the robot.

Once students had some time to try anything we were ready to get into the next learning cycle.

Cycle 2

For the next phase of learning we used a Flippity spinner that had a number of different activities, aligned to things that the first graders were currently working on or aligned to skills that might help them use the Ozobot.

For the spinner we had
  • Color - for this activity students would be challenged to make the Ozobot change colors using different codes
  • Tornado - students would need to code the Ozobot to move in a tornado pattern
  • Tell a Story (RL & RI 1.1, or W.1.3) students would need to work together to create a story or an informational piece that showed a beginning, middle and end.  They would draw images, and write words and then draw a line to lead the ozobot through the telling of the story.
  • Math - for this activity, student partners wrote 3 math problems on one side of the page and mixed up the answers on the opposite side of the page.  They traded pages with another group and new partners solved the problems by drawing a line for Ozobot to match the problem to the answer.
  • Spelling - students would choose a spelling word and practice writing it so Ozobot could follow the letters
  • Symmetry - Students created a drawing that demonstrated symmetry
  • Speed - Students were to use the color code chart to create speed changes with the Ozobots. 
We had enough time to spin the wheel three times with between 5-10 minutes between each spin. For this round, students were able to practice with Symmetry, Telling a Story and Math. After each activity, we paused so students could share their work and what they discovered during the activity.  

Students just recently learned about symmetry and had mixed ability to transfer their learning to their drawings. Some pairs came up with ideas right away. In talking through their drawings, they demonstrated quality reflection and were even able to discuss as a whole group which heart in the drawing to the left showed more symmetry.

This activity allowed for some evaluation of student learning and provided a fun way to reinforce the concept.  After practice and discussion, many more students were exploring the idea of symmetry.

The students also struggled some with the idea of creating a story in the beginning. As a group we discussed that they could show the different things that happened in their school day. After some discussion and modeling, I think the students would be able to repeat the activity in a more independent way. This would be good for having them retell the beginning, middle and end of a story using drawings and verbal retelling.

We ran out of time to fully complete the math activity. This might be more realistic to practice with teacher created templates, but I did like to see the creative thinking that went into developing the problems. 


You can evaluate a student's work in centers in a number of different ways. I used IPEVO Whiteboard app and the Apple TV to mirror the students' work on the smartboard and record it in one motion (video above). Students could use the IPEVO app to do the same thing, or they could take a video of their retelling and share it on a Flipgrid, through Seesaw or on Schoology.
As a wrap up I asked the kids which activity they liked best. It may go without saying, but many of them preferred the free time to explore. The rest of the activities were a bit of a tossup with the symmetry activity possibly edging the others out some.

If you want some more ideas for using Ozobots in your class, check out the Ozoblog.

You might also want to check out "5 Ideas for Implementing Ozobots" from Talkin Pinata Teaching. 

Want to add some engineering or creative fun to the mix? Encourage students to design an attachment for the ozobot to drag along with it or to create a costume for the ozobot that they could then write about. 

Need help?  Let me know!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Digital Interactive Notebooks: Getting Started

Post appeared also on FtEdTech

It's no real secret that I love Digital Interactive Notebooks.  I create them every chance I get and encourage teachers to use them for everything from long term Project Based Learning (PBL) projects to weekly unit work with vocabulary.  

The Interactive Notebook (INB) has long been a staple of the classroom to engage students more directly with their notes.  The traditional interactive notebook often includes traditional student notes, questions, and interactives that students cut, fold, color and paste into their notebooks. You might find graphic organizers, pockets with measuring tools, data charts, and foldables that act as study aides.  In the NSTA article "Science Interactive Notebooks in the Classroom" Jocelyn Young explains the benefits of INB when she shares that "By using notebooks, students model one of the most vital and enduring functions of scientists in all disciplines—recording information, figures, and data. A second reason for maintaining a science interactive notebook is that it provides a ready reference for each unit, as well as a resource to consult for review".

The downfall of these notebooks is the time that it often takes to cut out the interactives and of course all the glue: it doesn't take much spill over around a corner to permanently stick an important page to the one in front of it. This is where the Digital Interactive Notebook (DINB) comes into play. With a little creativity, you can still accomplish many of the same learning goals digitally.

Getting Started: Slides vs PowerPoint

DINB work best in either Google Slides or PowerPoint because students can use the slide sorter pane on the left to quickly maneuver through the notebook. The choice of Google Slides vs PowerPoint largely depends on the device. If using an iPad, the PowerPoint app proves to be a much more robust choice since students have the opportunity to use draw features and easily add images, video and add-ins that include quizzes.  If using a computer, Slides is a more natural choice because the Explore feature opens up tools that allow for easier formatting, and you can insert photos directly from image searches and embed YouTube videos easily.

Getting Started: Slide Size

The next thing you'll want to consider is the layot of your notebook. Both Slides and PowerPoint obviously use a default horizontal layout, but you can customize that to mimic a more traditional notebook page if you choose. If working on an iPad, the horizontal view often feels more natural to work with, but it also depends on the content and the types of organizers or activities you want students to do.
Google Slides
To customize the size in Slides go to:
  • File
  • Page Setup
  • Custom
  • Manually enter the size you would like

To set a custom size in PowerPoint go to:
  • Design Tab
  • Slide Size
  • Page Set Up
  • Enter the desired size
  • Press OK
  • Choose Scale Up

Design Basics

Once you have selected your application and size, you're ready to begin.  You can make your notebook very simple and use text boxes, shapes, and design layouts to create graphic organizers, as well as space for notes and directions for adding things like drawings and collages.  

It helps to look through examples of notebooks to get some ideas for what you might create. Here are a few basic examples I have created.  I have found that once I have the basic organizer created I can copy and paste that into many different notebooks.

Example Notebooks

Tips and Tricks

One thing that I prefer to do is to create graphic organizers and templates in Canva and use those  images that I download as the background on my slides. 

The bonus of using images is that I can upload them to Google or use them in PowerPoint, they can also be distributed to students on their iPads for applications like Seesaw or Draw and Tell. Using an image as the background, also reduces the likelihood that a student will accidentally delete an element of page that they need.

When designing in Canva, I most often pick the Presentation 16:9 template.  I find that it is a perfect fit in Slides or PowerPoint when I insert it as a background. If you're stuck for inspiration, check out the templates offered by Canva. I can almost always find something to inspire me and simplify my work there.

You can add over 30 slides to a Canva file by pressing the "Add a new page" button.

To download the file, choose JPEG or PNG.  This will download your file to your computer as a zip file with all pages saved as an individual image.

You can then share these pages to your tool of choice: PowerPoint, Slides, Seesaw, Draw and Tell or even just as a print out if needed.

Adding Images to your Background

If using PowerPoint or Slides, you'll want to insert it as a background image.  To do that in PowerPoint you:
  • Click on the Design Tab
  • Format Background
  • Picture or Texture
  • File
  • Navigate to your image
  • Insert

Google Slides
From the menu bar choose:
  • Background
  • Image Choose..
  • Locate the file - upload right there, or upload to your Drive ahead of time

Sharing Files to Students

Once you have your notebook files complete, you're ready to share.  If sharing complete digital interactive notebooks, it would be best to use a tool like Schoology or Google Classroom. With Schoology's Google and Microsoft Assignments, you can share documents with students and maintain connection so that you can check in on their work. Check out how to do that here. For Google Classroom users, you would use your Google Drive - you can upload and convert a PowerPoint to Slides if you began your work there. You can also use tools like Seesaw to share page by page for editable lessons. 

Additional Tools to Help You Create and Get Inspired

  • Marzano Strategies - use some of these strategies to inspire activities and graphic organizers to use in your notebooks  

  • Visible Thinking Strategies - Project Zero from Harvard has a number of really good visible thinking strategies that could be used as inspiration for organizers and activities
  • Canva Colors - if you need help considering a color scheme, this is a great tool that lets you plug in a color and browse for combinations 
  • The Noun Project - Find a ton of vector images to help with visual elements. An educator account is very reasonable, otherwise you can download black vector images with source information 
  • Flippity - Use this Google Add On in Google Sheets to input templates that let you create spinners, flashcards, word searches in Google Sheets - check out the example

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Teachers in Training - Tech to Get you Started

In the vast world of EdTech it's easy to get super overwhelmed and super lost.  If you find one tool or idea here to dig deep into, you'll be off to a good start.

There are many different thoughts in terms of tech integration.  From SAMR to TECH to the Technology Integration Matrix, there are plenty of theories and guidelines out there about how we should be teaching with technology.  At the end of the day, it's easiest to think of how we engage students in learning, using the tech to help facilitate.

I like to think of the 4Cs when I think of ways to create engaging lessons using technology.
As a teacher in training, it would be hard to know what situation you will be walking into.  Schools vary immensely in terms of platforms, available classroom technology and devices.  So, what are some quick device-agnostic tech tools to get you thinking about ways to encourage creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication?  These tools can be used in centers, as a class in a 1:1 situation or in a lab or even with BYOD (bring your own device)


Adobe Spark
13 and up - but edu accounts coming, free with premium plans

Use to create "posts" (images), pages or videos.  Great way to share learning through different formats. 
13 and up, free

Use for explainer videos, ads, infographics and animations. 

13 and up, free with premium paid features

This is an amazing tool for graphic design.  Use it to create newsletters, your resume, presentations, infographics and so much more.  I use this constantly.  It would be great for students over the age of 13 to use for many different projects.

All Ages (when teacher creates account), free with premium paid features

Inspire your students to create their own 360 degree virtual reality worlds. CoSpaces EDU is a relatively new tool that has seem some major improvements.  You can create your own class of students and give them assignments.  Use this to have students create models for NGSS related lessons, or build the settings of their favorite books.  If using a computer, you can even using block coding with the different features.

Parapara Animation
All ages, Free

Create simple drawings and animations online with this free tool.  Students could create a screen recording of their animation to create a quick video.

13 and up, Free and premium subscription available

Excellent video and presentation tool that allows you to create cartoon-like videos. 

All ages with teacher accounts and code, free 

Use this CAD tool to create 3D designs.  Students can learn about 3D shapes, angles, measurement, X-Y-Z axis. Files can be exported as .svg files and used with 3D printing CAM software


Critical Thinking



all ages, free

Get your students coding with  Set up a free teacher account, add your students and give them assignments. The coding curriculum here is all age appropriate and includes how-to videos and plenty of practice exercises.

Scratch and ScratchJR
all ages, free

Use Scratch through the browser and Scratch JR on the iPad.  This is a great way to learn about block coding.

Scratch also has community that allows for students to share, remix and get feedback from other users. This is great for collaboration and communication as well.

Formative Assessment & Teaching Tools

All ages with teacher account, free

Educational game maker. 

All ages, free - premium accounts available

Educational Quiz Makers.  You can make your own or search for pre-made quizzes that others have made.

Students join on with a code provided by the teacher.

All ages (teacher creates account), free - premium accounts available

With a Nearpod account, teachers can create interactive lessons that can either be student self-paced in centers or teacher led.  Through these interactive lessons you can have students submit formative assessment style questions, short answers, drawings etc. 

Pear Deck
All ages (teacher creates account), free - premium accounts available

Pear Deck is similiar in nature to Nearpod.  Teachers can create presentations through Google Slides and embed Pear Deck interactives like drawing, multiple choice and short answer style questions.  They also have a pretty slick "Flash Card Factory" feature that allows students to collaboratively create flashcards that include real-world examples and drawings.  


Book Creator
Any age (with teacher created code), free with premium options - iPad app and Chrome browser

Create ebooks that include images, drawings, video, audio recordings.  Awesome tool for creative writing, sharing learning, research and even journals. 
You might make books for students or have them make books for you!  Collaborative features through the Chrome browser add an additional layer of AMAZING.

Any age (with teacher created account), free with premium options

Through this tool, the teacher posts a topic and students respond with video or images and voice over.  Awesome way to share learning and reflect as a community.

Any age (with teacher created account), free

Storybird allows students to create and publish stories with art work shared through the storybird platform.  Storybird is a great way to inspire creative writing and storytelling.

Any age (with teacher created account), free with premium options

This service is amazing for primary grades. It is a digital online portfolio of student work where students can upload their work to share with others in their class and with their parents. Students can engage in learning activities and save work to folders where they can track their own learning progress.


Any age, free

Invite your students to this interactive whiteboard tool where they can share their thinking and drawings.  

This is a good tool for brainstorming, webbing, and solving problems. Export boards as images and PDFs from your computer.

Any age (with teacher created account), free

Padlet is a bulletin board style website tool that allows for curating of ideas, links, videos etc.  

This is a great way to allow students to share resources for a group project, respond to questions and ideas.

Other Amazing Teacher Tools to Check Out

There are many, many amazing tools that you can use to enhance your classroom management and lessons.  Consider checking out Class Dojo to help monitor behavior, Class Flow to set up lessons, Epic! to get your students reading ebooks for free, Classroom Screen for keeping your class on track as an agenda tool, and EdPuzzle to get kids engaged with videos.  

Digital Citizenship

As teachers, it is also super important that we embed digital citizenship lessons as often as possible in our every day discussions.  If you need ideas, check out Common Sense Media's Scope and Sequence and Google's Be Internet Awesome

Get Certified

If you want to stand out in the crowd of new teachers, one thing you might consider is becoming a certified educator.  Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have certifications.  You will also want to check with your favorite applications to see if they have ambassador programs. 

Ways to Keep Up with EdTech

Educational technology is constantly changing.  Thankfully, there are some pretty amazing educators who share.  If you're looking to keep an eye on things, check out these resources.
  • Alice Keeler is an EdTech and Google guru with a ton of Google scripts and add-ons to inspire those who love computer science
  • Control Alt Achieve by Eric Curts is sure to have a great idea that can easily be borrowed or replicated
  • Cult of Pedagogy This is one of my go-to tools for all things pedagogy related.  You'll find a blog, podcast and videos to help you find your next best classroom practice.
  • Edutopia Has a wealth of knowledge from project based learning to technology to social emotional topics.  They have a pretty amazing video section, and you'll even find features on Kentucky's own Eminence
  • Erintegration is an edtech site that has a lot of ideas for primary teachers using Google and iPads.  Many of the tools she shares are available on Teacher's Pay Teachers, but could easily be replicated in your class
  • Free Technology for Teachers - is a site hosted by Richard Byrne with ideas related to all forms of technology
  • ISTE - the International Society for Technology in Education is a professional organization that promotes good classroom practices and has standards for students, teachers, coaches and administrators.
  • Paul Hamilton - has many ideas related to iPads and emerging tech 
  • Schrock Guide to Everything - maintained by Kathy Schrock is a great go-to site for technology.  It is sure to point you to something you can use on topics of SAMR to Digital Storytelling to Sketchnoting.
  • Shake up Learning - Kasey Bell talks about a lot of technology related practices, with a heavy focus on Google's GSuite.  
  • TeachThought is another all around good resource for finding information about tech integration and project based learning.  They have a podcast as well. 
  • Twitter - Twitter has an amazing number of educators representing and sharing. All of the sites above have a Twitter following.  In addition search for these hashtags and you will find many passionate educators to follow: