May 28

May 28, 2014

A New EdTech Adventure

Greetings! I’ve been MIA since my last post in February, but for good reason: I just returned from maternity leave! My daughter was born on February 20, and I returned to work yesterday after a glorious three month leave with her. Sorry it has been so quiet around here, but I’m sure you understand…

Though I was on leave, I still lurked on the #edtech and #edchat Twitter hashtags and pinned a bunch of things to save and address upon my return. And now that I’ve returned, a new edtech adventure is on the horizon for me; I will be teaching Digital Learning as well as Digital Video Production next school year at one of our middle schools. Though the instructional technology coaching position is going away, I am excited about the new challenges and getting to put a lot of the resources and ideas I’ve curated over the past four years to use in a classroom with students. (more…)

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Feb 04

February 4, 2014

Creative Commons Search: Find Content You Can Share, Use and Remix

Image from

When students need multimedia like images to use in their projects, I cringe at how quickly (and without a second thought) they do a Google Image search and pop the first thing they find right into their project and move on. While teaching students (and adults!) the importance of respecting copyright and attribution isn’t a new thing, it certainly has become more of a challenge in a world where we’re inundated with multimedia being shared all over the internet all the time, and the internet is such an integral part of our everyday routines.

Here’s where Creative Commons comes in. Authors can choose to publish their work under a Creative Commons license to adjust copyright stipulations, which may allow the work to be shared, used, or remixed by others. From the Creative Commons website: (more…)

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Jan 23

January 23, 2014

Quickly Accessing Resources in a BYOD Classroom

Our district is using a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, and just last week I worked with all five second grade classrooms at one of our buildings as they brought in their devices for the first time, which was an exciting and fairly large scale project! Their goal was to use some of the databases we provide to our students to do some research.

The first day of bringing in devices can be a little bumpy and seem a little time consuming, but that’s usually just because it’s the first time students have connected to the district’s wireless network and they may need help (especially in the primary grades) with this step. The good news is that going forward, their device will remember and auto-connect to the school’s wireless the next time they bring it to class, so this is usually only a bump on day one that you don’t have to take time to address every time. (more…)

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Dec 17

December 17, 2013

Drop Everything and go check out Blendspace

I mean it. Drop whatever you’re doing and go check out right now.  (Formerly known as EdCanvas, so don’t be confused if you see EdCanvas branding in the videos!)

Blendspace is a free web tool for teachers to collect resources in one place to form a bundled, interactive lesson for students or colleagues. When you create a Blendspace lesson, you can pull in videos from YouTube, websites, pictures, EduCreations lessons (check out my previous post about EduCreations for more info on that!) Flickr images, or links and images from Google. You can import from Gooru, OpenEd, Dropbox, or Google Drive. AND you can always upload your own files, like PowerPoints or resources housed on your own computer. Pretty much any resource you can imagine or that you would pull together to share can be embedded into a Blendspace lesson. But that’s not all! (Note: video above is a quick overview!) (more…)

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Dec 12

December 12, 2013

LearnZillion Can Help Keep Students on Track Over Winter Break

You all know how much I love LearnZillion. Its (free!) database of Common Core aligned video lessons for ELA and Math grades 2-12 are outstanding, especially when teachers take advantage of LearnZillion’s features to assign and monitor student progress through targeted lessons that support differentiation.

I got an email from LearnZillion this week with some tips and tricks on how its service can help keep kids on track during the holiday break, and the ideas are too good not to share again, especially with the upcoming break almost upon us.

First, if you’re not already using the Assign function in LearnZillion to assign video lessons to your students, I highly recommend doing so! It only takes a few minutes to add your classes/students. Then you can assign targeted video lessons to specific students based on their individual needs, whether they need reinforcement or a challenge on a particular concept. If you want to see how quickly you can add students (really!), check out my LearnZillion Video Tour starting around the 2:13 mark. Then watch this quick tutorial on assigning lessons from LearnZillion.

Prevent Winter Break Brain Drain! 
Tips and tricks from LearnZillion

ELA: Assign one fiction and one non-fiction reading set for winter break, or create a list of possible reading lesson sets with a minimum of one from each genre so students can choose. Always give students the option to do more if they want!

Math: Let students preview what’s coming in the new year by assigning lesson sets for standards you’ll be teaching in January. If a student needs targeted help, assign him or her a lesson or lesson set from the standard they’re working toward.

While students may be sliding down snow-covered hills over winter break, at least you’ll be confident knowing they won’t also be sliding in reading and math, thanks to these tips straight from

Looking for more ideas on how to use this tool effectively? I love the LearnZillion Blog, where the Dream Team posts tips and tricks like these all the time. For example, the most recent post, Three Tips for Approaching Close Reading, is excellent!

Happy holidays! See you in 2014.

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Dec 10

December 10, 2013

Padlet in the Classroom

I’m always looking for cool tools that can serve lots of purposes in the classroom. Tools that make life easier for teachers AND are more engaging for students in meaningful, educational ways are sure winners, and Padlet is currently one of my favorites. It’s a great tool for formative assessment that also doubles as a collaborative way for students (or teachers) to connect with each other, too! Students collaborate on a shared wall space and YOU get all of the evidence you need to see if students “get it” or not. It’s pretty magical! is a free web 2.0 tool for teachers. With an account, a teacher can create unlimited shared wall spaces that are great for collaboration between students or colleagues. Create a wall and share it with students; they don’t need to have an account to collaborate on the wall.

When you make a Padlet wall, you as the owner have control over how it looks and functions. Set the background, give it a title and description (the perfect space for instructions) and even give it a personalized URL. All walls have their own unique URL, which is how you share it with others.You can even password protect your wall, so you’ll be confident linking to your collaborative wall on your classroom webpage for students; just be sure they know the password to access the wall. And because it’s web-based, this means it can be accessed from anywhere with internet access. (A great tool for flipped classroom setups.)

To add to the wall, simply double click (or double tap, as it works perfectly in the browser of any personal device, too!) and you’ll create a new post-it note. You’re able to add a heading or title to your note (a great place for students to type their names to help distinguish and identify their notes from others) and text in the body of the note. Notes are re-sizable and the owner of a note can move it around on the wall. The best part? You’re not limited to just text on a note; you can also attach other things to your notes: add a URL to other websites or videos, upload a file (hello, assignment turn-in!) or take a photo using your computer’s webcam.

I love using Padlet for exit slips. For example, I presented BYOD to our secondary admin at a meeting. At the end, I directed them to a Padlet wall I had created where I wanted them to add a note and tell me what kind of support they wanted for their building, so that I knew how to follow up with them and set up future trainings. Of course, with the nature of posting “notes” to a wall, the notes were all over the wall in no particular order by the end. This is the beauty of Padlet – I collected the data from “students” and then as the owner of the wall, I can go back to it later and rearrange the notes in a meaningful way for ME so that I can analyze the data. I arranged the notes by building so that I could see what each building’s needs were, and then I added a note myself underneath each building’s cluster of notes to remind myself how and when I contacted those admin to arrange the follow up supports they wanted. Even 3 months later, I can go back and tell you on what date and how I followed up with those administrators.

For a practical classroom example, let’s say you asked your kindergarten class to add a post-it to your wall with a word that has a long “A” sound in it. Whether students are 1:1, BYOD, or you have a “station” with the wall up on a classroom computer and students rotate through and add a post-it sometime during the day, at the end of the day YOU have a wall of notes, one per student, and now you can arrange the notes in a meaningful way to analyze who gets it and who doesn’t. Over here are all the kids who got it, over here are all the ones who didn’t. Now you know who needs more work with the long “A” sound. Change up the question depending on the topic, grade level, etc.

This tool isn’t just for students: you can use Padlet to collaborate with your colleagues or collect resources and images for an upcoming project with your department or grade level team all in one place together.

I worked with a secondary art teacher who wanted to take her class on a walking field trip through the building with their devices. Students were to use their device to take pictures of various elements of art that they had been learning about – texture, space, line, etc. Her dilemma was then how to have all of those images shared back with her so she knew if they understood the concepts or not. Solution? She created a Padlet wall and shared it with the class. When students were done with the activity, they were able to access the wall right in the browser of their devices, and using the Upload File option, attach pictures right from their camera rolls onto their post-it. So Joe adds a note with his name on it and types, “This is my example of texture” and attaches the picture he took representing texture to the note. Bam. All students do it, and now all students can see each others’ photos and more importantly, the teacher can tell who gets it and who doesn’t. Or perhaps students can analyze the results and weigh in on whether or not they make sense. All in one place.

Padlet is great for “parking lot” or “check in to check out” activities. Imagine a gym class where the teacher asks students to share how they beat their personal best this week, or a music class where students add a post-it to the wall to share what imagery came to mind as they listened to a specific piece of music.

Students can cite evidence from text in a close reading activity using a Padlet wall. I worked with a teacher who asked students whether they had free speech or not. After accessing various articles on what free speech is, students were then asked to support their opinion on the Padlet wall, citing evidence from the text that they read. This kind of activity spans all grade levels; citing evidence and supporting your opinion is a key skill at any age.

What about a KWL chart? By using a different background on your Padlet wall, (or uploading your own) and adding headings yourself ahead of time to define the K-W-L spaces on the wall, students can then add post-its and place them under the proper category to share what they Know, what they Want to know, or what they Learned. And speaking of using Padlet to categorize notes, you could also use it as a space to collaborate on a schedule or have students organize their responses in a certain way. It’s important to note that the teacher is the only one with a Padlet account; and the owner of the account/wall is the only one who has control to move ALL of the notes around. Students connected to the wall can only modify, edit, or move THEIR own notes around, but not the notes put up by others. Keeping Padlet’s Terms of Use in mind, accounts can only be created by those 13 and older, so in the elementary realm this would be the teacher only, but secondary students could make their own Padlet accounts and set up their own walls so that they have a collaborative space to work with peers on group projects. (To achieve a collaborative space for group projects in the elementary, the teacher could make all of the walls and share the different wall URLs with teammates.) Speaking of TOU, don’t forget that teachers of students under 13 should notify parents and seek permission for students to use the service to post notes on your wall(s) before continuing. You can access that information here: Padlet’s Terms of Service

Here’s another cool idea – you as the teacher set up a wall and link to a video news article online. Your instructions are for students to watch the video, and then post a note in response to the video on the wall. What I love is that you achieve this by inserting the URL to a YouTube video, for example, and students can watch the video embedded right on the wall instead of clicking off to another page or window. Then they can post their response right away, next to the video clip. This also works by linking to a specific news article or website; students access the link to the article or website and read it, then come back to the wall and post in response to a question you pose about what they read.

Another unique way to use a Padlet wall is as a communication tool for parents and students on your classroom webpage. Think of it as a forum; set up your Padlet wall so that notes post in a column layout, (this means anytime someone adds a post-it note, it goes in a column stream on the wall instead of anywhere randomly on the page) and you’ll be able to see the latest notes posted at the bottom. Students could post a note ask for homework help, and anyone from class – you or another classmate – can add a note to respond and help. You can also share information with parents by posting a note, and attach any relevant files, images, or URLs they may need. This turns the Padlet wall into a stream of interactive conversation. If you password protect your wall, it only becomes accessible to your students and parents. (Just don’t forget to share the password with them!)

Whew! There are tons of ways that Padlet could be used effectively in the educational space, and the list keeps growing. Padlet even has a gallery of ways people use it that you can check out. How would YOU use Padlet in the classroom? Contribute your ideas to this public Padlet wall!

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