Google Drive’s Hidden Gem: Google Drawings

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As a classroom teacher, I often found myself hurried, plagued with classroom thoughts at all times of the day, and running short on time when trying to plan learning opportunities that met learning standards/curriculum needs.  Not only was I trying to plan learning opportunities, but learning that utilized technology that would transform the activities within my classroom.  So, when I found a tool the students like, is easy to use, and can be utilized for more than one purpose, I tend to use it, a lot.  Once discovered, Google Drawing became that tool for me.

Not only is it located right there in the students’ Google Drive, (no need to access the web to find), it works seamlessly with other Google Drive classroom staples, Docs and Slides.  As a teacher, I was able to utilize this tool to enhance my instruction, but not nearly benefitted as much as the students.  This post will share some ideas for classroom uses.

  1. All About Me Digital Posters: Because of the easiness of inserting, scaling, cropping, and adjusting images in GDrawing, this becomes a favorite for digital posters.  The students can either scan and upload a self-portrait or photo of themselves, or they can also draw using the GDrawing tools.  Imagine the possibilities at the beginning of the school year.
  2. Book Character Digital Posters: Let’s put a spin on the All About Me Posters.  If you really want to assess whether the students understand characters in books, historical figures, or current public figures, have them create All About Me posters in the point of view of the character.  You could have the students include important events in the “lives”, create quotes, insert relevant images, etc.. Imagine the critical thinking and opportunity for creation (21st-century skill) by the students. (Could even create a “facebook” page)
  3. Vocabulary Development: The students could create “murals” on new vocabulary  learned in the classroom.  Traditional “word web” activities could be included (definitions, sentences, synonyms/antonyms) but now the students can make it their own with the creative processes and image insertion capabilities.  Take it up a notch by attaching these to QR codes and displaying for others to view.
  4. Mindmapping: Because this tool has collaboration capabilities through Drive, you could have students work together to create learning/thing maps to help them process their learning.  Imagine the possibilities for book clubs, and specific content studies.
    1. As a classroom teacher, I was well aware of the brain research that if you allow the students to create their own mind-maps/graphic organizers, they would find a way that was meaningful to them. Understanding would, therefore, be more meaningful and reliable. Early in my teaching career, too often, I provided the students with the graphic organizer I thought was needed for the students to collect and organize their information. After studying a bit on how the brain works, through workshops and resources from Marcia Tate and Eric Jensen, I began providing early on in the school year, different mind-maps the students could use to organize and process their learning.  I provided ample examples of how to use the mind-maps.  But after they were all processed, they were posted in the classroom and the students could choose their own.  This made their learning a little more personal and authentic.  Guess where they created them?  Google Drawings!  They could easily be shared and used as collaboration tools!
  5. Assessment:  While attending a workshop by John Antonetti, his focus was keeping student engagement alive in the classroom.  One idea he gave the crowd was different strategies for assessment.  Imagine having the students answer your questions on a Google Drawing.  Picture this: I am working on assessing geometry within my classroom.  My prompt could be, “Draw a green parallelogram”.  As I’m walking around the room with my checklist, I can easily see who understands this concept.  I can continue until all concepts are shown. The students are engaged and creating.

These are just a few examples of how Google Drawing can be used.  Do you have others you would like to share?

Outside the Box to Engage & Motivate: Genius Hour

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Last week I had the opportunity to present at the Powerful Learning Conference.  It is always amazing to be surrounded by educators who are passionate about their profession.  To continue to be motivated to find practices, strategies, and resources to reach all learners in the classroom, despite long hours, very little gratitude, and more “stuff” added to their teaching plate is overwhelming.  I am so proud to be a part of this community and so thankful my own children are loved each day by powerful, effective teachers.

This year one of my presentations, Educational Trends: Teaching Outside the Box for Student Success, offered all 250 participants the opportunity to be exposed to teaching methodologies that are proving successful in classrooms globally, when used effectively.  These next few posts, I will be sharing some excerpts from this presentation.

The first “teaching trend” is Genius Hour. I hate the term, trend.  A trend tends to incite thoughts of fleeting “fads”.  But I am here to tell you, this is a powerful practice that is growing globally.  It is here to stay.  What makes this practice so powerful is it can be tweaked to fit the needs of your students and classroom.  Genius Hour, also known as Passion Projects, 20% Time, and Innovation Time to name a few, are rapidly becoming classroom practices to engage and motivate learners of all ages.  The idea is simple.

Imagine a workplace, like Google, that made a deal with its employees.  You give this company 100% of your effort, brainpower, love for 80% of the week, and they will give you 20% of the work week to work on ideas you are passionate about that may not necessarily fit within your job parameters.  Pretty insightful, right?  Imagine a world without Google Apps for Education, Google Hangouts, Google Classroom?? Now bring that idea into your classroom… You (student) give me (teacher) 100% of your effort, brainpower, love of all things school for 80% of the week, and I will let you work on something you are passionate about. (That is school appropriate.) Would that spark the interest of some of your learners?

Not sure?  Here is my journey with *Bobby.  Every time I would present new learning materials/content to the class, he would always challenge me why this was important.  It didn’t matter if the lessons were at the top of the SAMR Model in effective technology use, or something that the students were cheering so loud in appreciation for that the principal had to see if her attention and guidance was needed, *Bobby was not impressed.  Nothing I did made learning fun, or relevant for *Bobby.  Then I tried Genius Hour.  You see, *Bobby would always tell me, regardless how many times I was clearly communicating the relevance of our learning activity, that he could go “live in the woods, hunt, and survive without knowing this stuff”.  I was very sure he could.  But with introduction of Genius Hour, I now used his “survival skills” to my advantage.

If *Bobby gave me 100% of his effort for 80% of the week, I would let him research and create something to present to the class to show he was a “Genius” on wilderness survival skills.  I had *Bobby hooked.  Now to make it happen.

*Bobby and I sat down and filled out a Genius Hour Contract.  This is where I let *Bobby have a voice and choice in his learning, but me being the sneaky teacher that I am, inserted content standards or skill sets that still needed to be mastered by *Bobby for personal academic success.  He still gets to work on what he wants, and I can insert standards to be mastered.  The really tricky part is motivating *Bobby to give 100% of his time 80% of the week.  If he, or any other student, was missing assignments, did poorly on assignments due to lack of effort (not because of my lack of effectiveness in teaching material: BIG DIFFERENCE!) or was a behavior issue during the week, 100% effort was NOT given.  During the designated Genius Hour time, this work would be completed, redone, or behavior consequences met.  If and when the work, consequences were completed, they could use the rest of the time for their Genius Hour project.  Did I mention *Bobby created a guide to wilderness survival?  Very easy way to tie in writing, reading, and science learning standards.

This sounds great, but where do you find the time in the day?  In my elementary classroom, we had whole group reading instruction everyday followed by small reading groups/independent reading time.  On Thursday and Friday of each week, I would designate the last small reading group rotation as Genius Hour time.  This allowed a 15-20 minute period twice a week where the students could research, write, create, investigate, and analyze information on a topic they were passionate about.  I felt it was a “win-win” for everyone involved.  I have seen Middle and High Schools designate one day/week or a whole week between units as this time for personalized innovation time.

Might be interested?  Here are some steps I used to help me facilitate this worthwhile personalized learning process:

1. Students would fill out a Genius Hour Proposal (optional)

2. Students and I meet and create Genius Hour Contract (this is where I have my content standards ready).  Here is a list of Question Stems to help develop essential questions.

3.  Student decides how he will present his “Genius” to his peers (non-negotiable: all students have to create a presentation in some fashion)

4.  Teacher and student designate “check-in” days to check on student progress and blogging posts about student learning.

5.  Students presents “Genius” to class.

As I stated before, Genius Hour can be tweaked and modified to fit the needs of your students.  Some Genius Hour projects can take a few weeks, some over a month.  Some can be individual or with partners/groups.  (When working with a partner group it is crucial when assigning expectations that each member has the same rigor of critical thinking/creating within the project.  You don’t want one or two people doing all the work!) Never underestimate what your students can do.  Even our youngest learners have passions.  A Kindergarten Genius Hour will look very different, but it is possible and it is happening.  Some Genius Hour projects my past students have completed: A step by step flyer on how to create bracelets using different materials; a reenactment of the Geddysburg Address using sock puppets, a video tutorial on how to use basic coding skills to create a review game, a video of a non-fluent reader fluently reading a picture book, a volcano erupting in class, and the list goes on.  I hope you take the time to explore Genius Hour on your own.  Your kiddos will love you for it.

Additional resources:

Genius Hour

Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level by Don Wettrick 


Genius Hour Resources


Why Blog?

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As a classroom teacher, I was always looking for ways to make learning authentic and meaningful for my students.  I had the over eager writers, always, who wrote pages and pages of stories.  But, I also had the non-motivated writers.  Those were the kiddos I was lucky if I could get a page, much less multiple ones.  I know we all have had this problem as educators.  I knew I was missing the boat somewhere.  That’s when I stumbled upon student classroom blogging.

I used the blogging tool, Kidblog.  At the time it was a free resource, that allowed me to set up a classroom account with individual student members.  The students loved the idea they could design their own blog page.  At first, I used as a reflective tool.  An exit ticket, so say.  But then it developed into so much more.  I had students writing book reviews, writing to prompts, creating their own stories without me even asking them to!  Eventually they started responding to each other’s posts.  Such learning and thinking about learning happening in the classroom!  Then the opportunity to connect with other classrooms developed and there was no turning back!  Kidblog also allowed me to share the access code with our parents.  They could now view the learning taking place in our classroom!  (I added my administrator as a student to our class, and imagine the amazement when she would respond to student posts!!)

What I really liked about this tool was the option to set preferences that I had to approve all posts and comments before they would be posted to our classroom page and/or student pages.  This helped keep appropriateness in check and allowed me to use this tool for both formative and summative assessment purposes because I could get original answers/posts from students without their peers’ posts influencing them.

I will say, I tried not to use for grading purposes.  I wanted the kids to LOVE this form of authentic writing and for some, the grading aspect could have a negative effect on their effort and quality of posts.  Kidblog does now charge after a certain amount of posts, and offers fantastic “bells and whistles” with the very reasonable updated price.  There are many other blogging tools available for educator/student use that will offer the same learning experience as Kidblog.  You can view them here from a recent presentation I facilitated.

As a professional educator, blogging has been equally effective in developing my understanding and “teacher toolbox” as it was for my students.  Through the blogging tool associated with Google, Blogger, I created a blog that I coedited with my building administrator, with the purpose of sharing tools and strategies/ideas to bring our building into the 21st Century learning mindset.  TEAMingUp4Tech was my 1st dip into the professional blogging pool!  (Since I no longer have an account within that school district, I am no longer viewed as a contributor to the blog.  However, if you look closely, all the posts with “author unknown” is yours truly:)  Here is a TEAMingUp4Tech post I created on blogging with additional blogging resources: Blogging: Connecting in the 21st Century

This blog, which I use as my weekly newsletter to teachers of the Mexico Public School District, is created using the blogging tool, Edublogs.  It is an awesome free tool, but allows for more “bells and whistles” with the updated version.  Here, I am able to import videos, images, hyperlinks, and text (as with the others).  The only reason I didn’t use one of the above mentioned blogging tools, is because I wanted to try something different.  They have all been great and such a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and resources with others!

There are many resources out there to help you get started whether for your classroom/student use or professional use.  You could even create a personal blog to share what’s happening with you or your family.  Blogging is such a powerful and popular form of sharing information and resources with the public.  If you really pay attention, most of the resources you may pin on Pinterest, share on FacebookTwitter , and G+, probably come from a blog post.  Others are blogging, why aren’t you?


Share any ideas or ways you have used blogging in your personal/professional environment.  You never know, your idea could spark someone else’s creative genius!

Additional Resources:



Teaching Above the Line

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I had the absolute wonderful experience of presenting, again, at the MOREnet Technology Conference in St. Louis.  As I’m sitting through great presentations from awesome teachers from Missouri and surrounding states, it became evident there are LOTS of resources and digital tools to assist teachers in creating and presenting engaging activities to students of all ages.  It was affirming to know that most of these tools were already on my radar and I was excited learning of new tools I could bring back to teachers in the district.  There is nothing I enjoy more than hearing new, innovative ways digital tools are being used to enhance and transform instruction.  What was clearly present, and mentioned in almost every workshop I attended, as well as my own  presentations, was the importance of using digital tools to make learning better.  Don’t just use the tool to use the tool.  It’s important to ask yourself, “How is this tool going to make my lesson better?  How will this tool increase the level of learning, understanding, and, most importantly, critical thinking for all my students?”  Discussed and presented was the importance of using the SAMR Model of Technology Integration, to develop lessons that truly transform student learning.

As the District Instructional Technology Facilitator, in every meeting, I stress the importance of “not using the tool to just use the tool”.  It’s important to look at where the tool and lesson uses fall on the SAMR Model scale, and try to reach levels “above the line“.  I challenged all the teachers at the beginning of school to find where most of their technology practices with their students fall on the SAMR Model, and try to increase 1 level.

As educators, we all know there are times where activities at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy, Webb’s DOK, and SAMR are necessary.  But if we teach at those levels for the majority of the day/time, our students are the ones clearly suffering.  We have all studied, to great length in most cases, the importance of increasing that rigor and critical thinking of students.  And now, throwing technology into the mix, we are faced with additional opportunities to really promote critical thinking.  I tell my teachers, if you could do this activity with a pencil, why use the computer?

Here is a breakdown of the SAMR Model:

S stands for Substitution.  Basically, there is no benefit or change in the critical thinking by using the technology available.  An example would be using the computer to type a research paper or story.  This activity, while not as fun and longer to complete, could easily be accomplished, at the same critical thinking level, as using the traditional paper/pencil method.  Now let’s increase the function of technology just a bit…

A represents the Augmentation level of the SAMR Model.  In this level, the technology slightly makes the thinking and lesson  a higher level of critical thinking/productivity.  For example, now the student will use a speech to text app to help create their paper or story.  This would not have been possible without the use of the technological app, however the level of thinking did not increase.

M is for the Modification level of the SAMR Model.  Now we are working “above the line“.  Learning opportunities “above the line” are challenging students to really use their levels of understanding and develop those critical thinking/higher order level of learning skills.  An example would be having the students share their work with a peer, in another location,  to have them comment and offer suggestions to make their paper/story better.  Here the students are collaborating with each other, in real time, via the computer, and collaboratively creating a paper that is of higher quality than the traditional paper/pencil version.  Through the use of the revision history, the teacher can then begin to determine the level of understanding each collaborator has in regards to editing/revising or the selected content material.

R: Redefinition.  The final level of the SAMR Model.  Here the task is significantly changed due to the use of technology.  This activity could not be possible without the technology.  A great example would be to take the created story/paper and create a podcast with the information gathered.  This podcast could be put on the classroom webpage and shared with other students around the country/world.  The students could collaborate with other students, who have listened to their podcasts, and debate/answer questions regarding their selected topic.  Imagine the 21st Century skill opportunities!  Collaborating and Connecting with others.  The Creativity involved in the creation of the podcast, and the Critical Thinking necessary to defend/clarify comments made during the podcasts.

Below are a few resources to better help you understand the SAMR Model and its relationship with higher level thinking for all students:

SAMR      SAMR:Blooms


All grade levels can use this model as a framework for technology integration.  It will just look different between the Kindergarten  and 9th grade classrooms.  Is it a bit scary?  Absolutely!  But as educators we are ALWAYS looking for ways to engage our students in meaningful learning opportunities.  It’s time to step out of the “comfort zone”.  Try shooting “above the line” in your technology teaching!


So now, I challenge you the reader.  Look at the resources shared in this post.  Ask yourself, “where do most of my technology practices occur in the classroom?”  How can you raise to the next level and truly work to create productive, engaged, critical thinking 21st Century students?

Classroom Management For Everyone!

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Now that the school year is underway, most teachers may be finding themselves in the same boat I did in mid-September, experiencing behavior issues within your classroom.  If you are not experiencing any aspect of this, please share your “magic juice”!  What I’m speaking of, is the loss of the “honeymoon” period with some of your students.  By this time, you may be experiencing little, or big, behaviors that your students were hiding those first few weeks of school.  Now that reality has set in that they will actually be held accountable for classwork for the next eight months, and you actually have classroom rules they have to follow, some of your students may not be so happy.  Not to mention the kiddos who may struggle with learning, and the only way to get out of actually completing their work is to act out and disrupt the classroom learning taking place.  I know, we as teachers, start to build up, what I call, our “teacher toolbox”.  Those behavior and management techniques and strategies that may have worked in the past with similar students, things you’ve picked up watching other teachers or from conferences and workshops.  I know, personally, I can find anything I need on Pinterest!  Well I am here to share a few more resources to add to your “teacher toolbox”.  Class Dojo and ClassCharts.


Class Dojo

I like ClassDojo for many reasons.  ClassDojo is a free visual behavior tracking system that allows the students to view their behavior over the course of the day.  The students begin by choosing their own fun little alien/monster avatar to represent their name.  There are many to choose from allowing different avatars for each student depending on your classroom numbers.  The students may be awarded points for following certain behaviors.  When that occurs, there is a positive sound as the program adds a point next to the student’s avatar.  However, through experience, I have found that focusing on the positive behaviors is ultimately more successful with students.   ClassDojo also allows for weekly parent reports and class codes so parents and students can have access to their own accounts to track behavior.  There is also a teacher resource tab which provides additional information and resources to assist with classroom use. Did I mention there is also a free mobile app to allow teachers easy access to award positive behavior outside the classroom?


Class Charts

I like Class Charts for its versatility and opportunity to not only appeal to younger learners, but older students as well.  Class Charts is a free resource which provides teachers with the ability to track student behavior and also create classroom arrangements based on gathered behavior and learning data.  Teachers have a variety of desk and table sizes to use to create their classroom arrangement.  Teachers can assign students to selected areas and upload pictures to help with classroom location of students for substitute teachers, if needed.  There is also a feature, of using past student behaviors and added learning data , to have Class Charts assign possible seating arrangements for students.  As with ClassDojo, parents can become involved in keeping tabs of their student behavior, and teachers have access to weekly and trend behavior reports, and the people at Class Charts are more than willing to provide demonstrations and provide additional information if needed.


Here are a few other resources I wanted to share.  Hope you find something useful!  If you have a tool you use for classroom management, please add to the comments below.



Fun Formative Assessment…KAHOOT!

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It’s rare when you happen upon a web resource that is so versatile, all students, young and old alike, will LOVE using it.  KAHOOT is a Web 2.0 tool that can be used in the kindergarten classroom, clear through collegiate classes.  It’s colorful format, along with the timing and point-awarding factor, make this a highly engaging resource when checking student content understanding or reviewing for tests.  This is a free tool that can be utilized with computer and mobile devices.  Not a 1:1 classroom?  No worries!  Break out those Kagan Cooperative Learning strategies, Heads Together, Boss, Secretary, etc and use with small groups.  Here’s how it works:

  • Teacher will create a free membership at Kahoot.  (this is different from the site students enter to play)
  • Teacher will either create a new Kahoot or search for Kahoots already created and shared through the public Kahoot tab at top of the page.
  • If the teacher wishes to create their own, they would choose whether they wanted to create a Quiz, Survey, or Discussion.
  • Once the type of formative assessment is selected, the teacher begins adding their checking for understanding/review questions.
  • The teacher will have a choice between adding text type questions, inserting images, or uploading videos to use for question prompts.
  • The teacher will include answer choices (multiple choice) including the correct answer.
  • The teacher will also have an option to award points and determine time allotted for each question.
  • Once the questions have been created, the teacher will be given a GamePin.  This will connect the students to the interactive quiz.
  • To access the quiz, the students will go to the Kahoot site, enter the GamePin, and get ready to play!


What makes this so engaging for students?  The immediate feedback for each question.  The students are awarded points depending on if they answered the questions correctly and how quickly they answered.  What makes this so beneficial for teachers?  It allows teachers an opportunity to see exactly where their students understanding lies within the content.  By having each student/team actively login to the game, via the GamePin, the teacher has an idea of where holes in content understanding occur.  Not only will teachers have an opportunity to access which students answered correctly and the fastest, but a breakdown of specific questions/student response is available.  Want to use in a kindergarten classroom or with students who need visual/language support?  Kahoot uses color and shape visuals for their answer choices.

What an opportunity for reteaching either through whole class, small group, or one-to-one conferencing.  By utilizing this formative assessment tool, teachers can collect information to help guide their instruction that students will actually enjoy.  Below is a  video tutorial on how to get started, create, and assess using Kahoot.  As always please leave a comment and share any ideas/suggestions for Kahoot use.



Quick Check Tool for Assessment and….FUN!!!

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Now that the new school year is underway, beginning of the year benchmarking, to assess where students are academically, are common practices throughout many districts.  While teachers realize the importance of this information to guide instruction, students are realizing that yes, the school year has officially started and summer break is over.  Many teachers may already be experiencing the child’s attitude towards learning.  Most have already determined which student will need extra “coaxing” to get their best work and effort in the classroom.  I know I struggled with looking for strategies and resources that would get my students excited about learning, but still meet my instructional expectations in the classroom.  Once I found the free jewel, Padlet, I immediately added it to my Teacher Toolbox.

For those that are not familiar with this web tool, Padlet serves as an online bulletin board.  This is a location where students can post their questions, responses, thoughts, and resources for all with the link to have easy access.  This tool became an engaging way to have students complete exit slips, quick formative assessment checks, and other learning opportunities within daily lessons.

I remember using a calendar, assigning every student a number, and throughout the day having my students record various pieces of information on sticky notes to add to the calendar.  This system worked great.  I could check for understanding, gauge where student interests lie, find wholes in my instruction, etc.  While this worked great for helping me plan the next day’s whole group and small group instruction, I was in a mess if I lost that bundle of sticky notes.  Padlet works the same way, but all I need is access to the link.  All my information is right there, and if I forget my students’ sticky notes at school, no problem.  Instructional decisions at home can still be made!

There are many other uses for Padlet other than exit slips.  Some are, but not limited to:

  • pre-assessments before units
  • quick checks during units
  • possible compilation of “important facts each day” to be added to a unit Padlet to be used as a study guide at end of unit
  • number box/number name collection
  • practice for spelling/vocabulary patterns
  • collection of ideas on topics
  • “wonder wall” to promote inquiry
  • location for group members to share resources, links, images, facts for group projects
  • online portfolio for students to add links to mastered standards
  • weekly learning/reading logs

These are just a few ideas on Padlet’s use.  There have been concerns on how to utilize this tool if the students have access to only one computer  or tablet in the classroom.  Could you set this activity up as a center or rotation throughout the day?

Do you know what is really exciting?  Having administrators model web tool use in their faculty/ professional development meetings.  One building is reading the FANTABULOUS book, Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by the dynamic Dave Burgess.  She created a Padlet for teachers to share how they were incorporating components of their book study into their classroom teaching.  Not only did she model how easy it is to use, but also how valuable a sharing resource this tool can be.  Other teachers suggested using this tool, across the district, to help guide other discussions as well.  Here is a snapshot of this book study padlet:


Are you interested in getting started?   Here is a quick tutorial.  As always, please leave comments and /or suggestions on how you are using this versatile Web Tool in your classroom!!

I Have a SMARTBoard! Now What???

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What an educational resource a SMARTBoard, or interactive whiteboard, can be for the classroom!  But, if you are using this as a projector only, you are missing MAJOR learning opportunities for your students.  Yes, the SMARTBoard is an excellent projection tool, but it is also a way to allow your students hands-on opportunities to work with, manipulate, and create to deepen their understanding of content in the classroom.  This resource has so many opportunities for whole group, small group rotations, and individualized learning.  This post will share a few tutorials, and classroom applications that will not only help engage students, but promote 21st century learning in the classroom.

One very easy application of the SMARTBoard is its use as a notetaker.  I especially liked this use because I could save the important notes shared and written with students who may have been absent during the class period.  By printing the notes, the students could add them to their notebooks, and have access to content/discussions missed during class.  This also provided opportunities for interactive, shared writing by students.  Whether primary or secondary classes, the note-taking capability allows  all students to have a voice and participate in the sharing of content.

Sorting and grouping activities also become a breeze with the SMARTBoard.  These activities help promote higher level thinking in an engaging manner.  Below is a short tutorial on how to set up a BASIC sorting/grouping activity.



SMART Notebook also has many manipulatives, images, and templates, located in their Gallery, to help teachers create meaningful learning activities.  Interactive learning tools, such as rulers, geometric shapes, compasses, protractors, geographic maps, and other images/resources are available for teacher use. The possibilities are endless in providing opportunities for meaningful learning!!

One resource that cannot be ignored is the online SMART Exchange.  Here is a compilation of interactive activities created for SMARTBoard use.  You will find lessons created and submitted by educators from around the world.  SMART Exchange provides many activities, grades Pre-K through 12th , in every content area.  There is even a search option by content and learning objectives.  SMART Notebook also has an activity builder that assists you in building learning activities to practice content.  Simply choose the activity, plug in your information, and you are ready to go! Why recreate the wheel?


Here are a few other suggested uses.  Please let me know how I can support you in your use of the SMARTBoard to optimize classroom learning, student engagement, and higher order thinking skills!

  • Class/Group Brainstorming
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Game-Based Learning (to reinforce classroom learning)
  • Sharing media whole class (videos, images, presentations, etc)
  • Online simulations
  • Everyday Math Online Resources
  • Sharing of iPAD apps via Airplay or Doceri
  • Interactive flannel board (primary students)
  • Start of Day routines
  • Classroom Management (ex. Class Dojo)
  • Manipulations of math tools
  • Virtual dissections
  • Record your lessons using SMARTBoard tool Recorder

Do you have suggestions on SMARTBoard uses you would like to share?  Please leave a comment below:)





Organization & Workflow: Symbaloo & Google Classroom

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Last week, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to the awesome K-5 staff of the Mexico Public School District.  For over 3 hours, we were able to share, discuss, and create using new tools presented to help maximize their first days of school with their new students.  Among the resources shared were Padlet and TodaysMeet.  (view brief tutorials on how to get started here: Padlet, TodaysMeet).

A large portion of our time together, was spent on helping the teachers organize their school year workflow.  As a former 4th grade self-contained classroom teacher, Google Classroom was a huge asset to my teacher toolbox.  However, realistically, this tool can be overwhelming to primary grade teachers and students.  So, the Web 2.0 tool, Symbaloo, was introduced to my K-3 teachers, as an option for organizing and managing tools to optimize classroom learning.  This post will share information, tutorials, and practical classroom uses for each.


WOW! What a resource for any teacher, regardless of grade level or content taught.  Symbaloo is a cloud based tool that allows teachers the opportunity to organize favorite websites and apps into, what Symbaloo refers to as, a webmix.  For teachers, this is an opportunity to organize all of your favorite websites and web tools to help promote and reinforce learning within the classroom.  I suggested my K-3 teachers use this as a default homepage for their young learners.  What I really like about Symbaloo is that you can incorporate visual cues/icons for your early readers, struggling learners, or ELL students.  Here are other ideas, for Symbaloo use, shared during our PD workshops:

  • create a “tile” with each student’s picture, linking to their own differentiated webmix
  • create tiles, with covers of popular books, linked to online reading of texts to be used during Reader’s Workshop
  • organize different content area sites/apps into different content webmixes
  • primary teachers can use a temporary “webpage”
  • create a webmix, to share with parents, to reinforce learning in the classroom

Getting Started with Symbaloo (video)


Google Classroom

As I stated earlier, the release of Google Classroom for all GAFE (Google Apps for Education) districts and teachers, proved to be an invaluable resource in my teacher toolbox.  As a teacher who encouraged online sharing of work, my Google Drive became bogged down with many assignments shared with me by my students.  Although I was excited to start the process of becoming a “paperless classroom”, I found myself spending quite a bit of time locating the assignments in my Drive and placing them in appropriate folders to be viewed, commented on, and graded.  Google Classroom helped organize my students’ workflow.

Through Google Classroom, teachers have the opportunity to create different “classrooms” for each class/content area taught.  As a teacher, I can post announcements and assignments for my students.  Before Google Classroom, I really had to emphasize the importance of making a copy of any assignment I shared through Google Drive to my students.  If they did not make a copy, they would inevitably change the original template or have an ongoing, ever growing assignment with every student’s response.  As a teacher, I would do my best to prevent this, by making all my shared Drive items, view only, forcing my students to make a copy to complete, but Google Classroom takes care of that for you.  There is an option to create an assignment/copy for each student.  What a time saver!

Google Classroom also creates a Drive folder for each created “classroom” to help organize student work. No longer was I searching my Drive looking for a particular student’s assignment.  I simply accessed the folder for the classroom the work was assigned, and there was the completed, turned in assignment.  Did I mention,  with one click of the mouse, I had a list of the students who had completed and turned in assignments, and those who had not?  No more marking names off the endless supply of class checklists!  Don’t forget, I could access my Classroom, and so could the students, from anywhere there was a computer, internet connection, and access to their Google account.  Want the icing on the cake??? Google Classroom now has a free app!  I could check assignments while waiting in the doctor’s office if needed!

Whew!! So many benefits to Google Classroom.  I have provided a Google Classroom Basic video, and a more in depth video of Google Classroom possibilities.  Hopefully you will find these useful.  As always, please leave comments below sharing any questions, ideas, and/or comments about any of the tools that were shared today!

Google Classroom Basics (video)

Google Classroom Pt. 2 (video)

TodaysMeet in the Classroom

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This week I started my new position with the Mexico Public Schools #59 district.  My new title is the Instructional Technology Facilitator for grades Pre-K-12.  To say this is an exciting time for me would be an understatement.  However, I am still a little lost not getting a classroom and new resources ready for the new school year.  You see, this will be my 1st year, without my own classroom, in 16 years.  I will truly miss my 16 years as a 4th grade eMINTS teacher, but am so looking forward to supporting the teachers in this school district.  What a way to reach more than 25 students each year, right?

This week, I gave my 1st official presentation to the awesome new teachers of this district.  The presentation was towards the end of the week.  These new professionals were completing a very informational-packed week, and I wanted to provide them with a resource that was simple to use and easily adaptable to any grade level and/or content area.  I chose the FANTABULOUS tool, TodaysMeet.

TodaysMeet is a free web tool that allows back-channeling opportunities, real-time, online conversations that occur during an activity or event, within the classroom or other setting.  Did I mention it is free?  Did I also mention you do not have to have an account to use this awesome tool? (Although, signing up, for free, does allow you to have more use options.)

Intrigued?  Let’s get started. (Click on this link for a short tutorial on logging in, and getting started with TodaysMeet) :


Like it?  Here are just a few ideas for TodaysMeet uses:

  • during whole staff PD or meetings
  • during whole class discussions
  • during videos/movies regarding curricular content
  • during read alouds (reinforcing reading strategies)
  • during book clubs
  • as a formative /check for understanding opportunity (exit tickets)
  • collaborative piece/documentation for group projects/work
  • ongoing reflections
  • real-time collaborative piece b/w teacher and students or student groups for content practice

Do you have any additional ideas?  Please share in the comments below.  I hope you found this tool useful!