Sam the Snowman and Snowflake Fun

I am not a big fan of the term digital native.  Just because kids are growing up in a time where technology surrounds them, doesn’t mean they can effectively use it. I see this all the time with my kindergarten and first graders. Many are not able to use a mouse effectively. They don’t hold it correctly, they have trouble clicking and dragging, and are still developing their hand eye coordination. In the lab, I try to work on this skill by finding activities that will help them with their mouse skills.

This week, the kindergarteners had assistance from Sam the Snowman.  Sam the Snowman is picture book about a snowman who tries to bring snow to some children.  He has trouble at first, but with the magic of giving, he is finally able to make snowflakes for the children. We haven’t had a lot of snow in our area compared to previous years so we decided to make some snow in the computer lab, just like Sam. In the process, we’d be working on improving the mouse skills of kindergarten students. Using the Make-a-Flake website, students created digital snowflakes. I love this site because students can create awesome paper snowflakes without all of the little scraps of paper on the floor.In addition, students can make their snowflake, preview it, and then go back and make more cuts to improve it. The site allows users to save the pictures, download them, or print them out.  We weren’t planning on printing any of these out, but instead the students were able to save their favorite snowflakes. When students felt they created a neat snowflake, they let me know and I took a picture of it. I turned those pics into a couple of Vines you can see below. They had a blast with this and created many fantastic snowflakes, they practiced their mouse skills, and we didn’t waste a lot of paper or have to clean up any scraps. I’d call that a win win win.

Chad’s Choices

I’m constantly saving links with the intention of going back and rereading or sharing. I usually do, but sometimes I either forget or simply don’t take the time to do it. I’m going to work hard to not have that happen. It’s time to share a few more articles and blog posts I’ve come across that made me think, wonder, and learn. If you haven’t seen these, I’ve included a snippet from the article to pique your interest.

The Curse of Knowledge? When I saw this headline floating around Twitter and Facebook, I knew I had to take a look. After reading the article, it makes complete sense. I work with younger elementary students and I often expect them to pick up things much quicker than they actually do. I’ve often thought I expect a lot and they should be able to pick things up quickly. However, this article really got me to think about the process of learning and that it does really take time. I have to remember this.

The Curse of Knowledge places all of our students at a disadvantage. As educators, it’s not enough to simply recognize that we are unable to remember the struggle of learning. We need to act.

Read the entire article here.


I spend a lot of time on Facebook, more than I probably should. For me, it’s a place to connect, share, and watch the next Carpool Karaoke video, but also a place to learn. I learn from my friends sharing links, posting interesting questions that generate discussions, and from how to videos. I came across this post sharing additional Facebook accounts to follow to continue learning. You may find some interesting.

While you may feel that your hours spent commenting, liking, and sharing on Facebook are mindlessly wasted, numerous studies have shown a link between social media use and boosts in intelligence and the brain’s all-important grey matter.

Read the entire article here.


Tech tools are everywhere. Which ones should you master? New ones seems to be popping up everyday and it’s hard to stay on top of them. We all should know many of these, but which ones? This is a great article that doesn’t necessarily tell you specific tools to know, but the functions that are essential for all teachers. Take a look and see where your strengths lie and what areas you need to explore more.

Technology integration can be a daunting task, especially with the myriad of tools out there to choose from. Where do you begin? Mulling it over, I have come up with ten types of tools that should serve as the foundation of a student-centered approach to technology integration.

Read the entire article here.


Every day I seem to find an article about learning spaces. Whether it’s the classroom or the school library, a lot of people are talking about transforming these learning spaces to reflect today’s technology and today’s learners. These ideas fascinate me and I’m looking at ways to alter the physical space I work in to meet the needs of my students. This article shares a few examples from school districts around the country.

Surely you’ve heard the not-so-funny joke that if Rip Van Winkle were to wake up today he’d recognize only one thing: the classroom, with its cookie-cutter rows of desks and a blackboard and teacher up front. But we all know that mobile devices allow digital learning to take place anywhere—on a bus, a beach, a bed, or at a ball game. That’s why some districts are turning their libraries, unused closets, and classrooms into open, collaborative spaces that better reflect the open, collaborative learning of today.

Read the entire article here.

ChatterPix Kids + PhotosfromClass = Creativity

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 11.51.21 AMThis week, I took iPads into the classrooms due to standardized testing in the computer lab. I wanted the students to create something related to their knowledge of reading strategies. I decided to try using ChatterPixKids as the app of choice. Chatterpix Kids is an app that can make anything talk — pets, friends, doodles, and more. Users take a photo, draw a line to make the mouth, and record their voice. My idea was to have students find a picture of an animal and then use the app to create a short video sharing the reading strategy We had the app, we needed the pictures.

I don’t believe it’s ever a good idea to just let students search Google for images, especially elementary aged students. I decided to use, one of my favorite sites to get copyright free or Creative Commons pictures. Using the site was extremely easy for the students to use, they simply went to Safari on the iPads, went to, and searched for their animal. I reminded the students they needed to make sure their animal’s face was looking forward so it worked well with the app. They had little trouble doing this and with a brief demonstration of how to save the pictures to the iPad camera roll, they were often running. The students had a great time with this and created some fun videos, some of which can be found below. I think this was a neat way for students to share reading strategies with their classmates. I saw joy in their faces and heard a lot of laughter as students continued experimenting with the app, trying out different voices and creating other videos they shared with their classmates.

Saving the videos to the devices was simple. I only wish sharing the videos from the app to social media was possible. I would have loved to tweet out the videos easily. Instead, I had to upload the videos to YouTube and share that way. It worked, but it wasn’t very efficient.

This link will take you to a folder with more videos the students created.


iCab Mobile & Green Screen Apps

A couple of days ago, my friend Dave posted a question on Facebook looking for an answer to a problem he was having.  The task involved downloading a video from Discovery Education using the iCab Mobile browser and saving it onto an iPad. The next step would be to use that video as part of a green screen project using another app, Green Screen, by DoInk.  I was able to help solve the problem and the steps are below. Thanks to Dave for helping out with this.

Follow the steps below to download the video to your device.

1. Launch iCab Mobile
2. Log in to your Discovery Ed account (if the video you want is there)
3. Search for and play the video
4. Tap and hold on the video
5. Select Download
6. In the upper right corner of iCab, tap on the circle with the down arrow. That will open the iCab download window
7. Double tap on the file you want to save to your iPad
8. Select “Save File in Album” from the menu.

At this point, the video should be saved to your camera roll on your iPad. From this point, you can launch the Green Screen app, import the video and create your green screen project with the video playing in the background.

Below is a screen cast showing the process.

Chad’s Choices

It’s the middle of March and a time to share a few more articles and blog posts I’ve come across that made me think, wonder, and learn. If you haven’t seen these, I’ve included a snippet from the article to pique your interest.

Homework. Should it exist? How much is too much? My two kids attend different schools – a public school and a private school. One is a middle schooler and one in high school. The amount of homework differs drastically. I have many thoughts about homework – from a parent perspective and a teacher perspective, but agree that in many cases, that homework should probably look different for most kids. Below is another interesting article about homework.

Our culture essentially holds kids hostage from early morning until late afternoon, to a great extent neglecting their need for true socialization, physical activity, play, quality time with parents, and for daydreaming and other creative pursuits. And these days, because academic achievement is held in such high esteem, our culture is intruding further and further onto the little time children once had for that “other stuff.” Because, heaven forbid, children should have no time when they’re not “learning,” kids (in some cases, even those in preschool) are being assigned more homework than ever – expected to continue their academic pursuits even after the school day has ended.

Read the entire article here.


Reading ability is one of the biggest factors in student achievement. The better readers often get the better grades. I’m sure not I agree with the assessment section, which is listed as of the anchors in this article about using technology to teach reading, but much of the information is pretty solid.

…the teaching profession is one of innovation, and teachers are ceaselessly experimenting with ways to use innovative practice to help kids learn how to read. Recently, I’ve learned that some teachers are even using games to teach reading, arguing that these interactive video games provide the same skills that students need to be able to read.

Read the entire article here.


Finland isn’t going to teach subjects anymore. Say what? This country is often seen as having one of the best educational systems in the world and they are making a big change. I love this idea because it’s so easy to bring in a variety of subjects into a lesson, something many elementary teachers do on a regular basis. For high school teachers, this is a much bigger change. It’s one I think secondary teachers in the United States would have a very difficult time dealing with.

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

Read the entire article here.


Digital Learning Day was a couple of weeks ago and one of the ideas behind this is to highlight examples of how great teaching, combined with effective technology, are positively impacting America’s schools.happening in schools. I’d argue this should be occurring every day of the year, not just on Digital Learning Day. A blog post by Steve Anderson shared that being digital isn’t just about the technology. He shares several great thoughts.

But I believe being Digital or using Digital Tools is more than just giving devices to kids or even providing professional development for teachers. For me it’s really less about technology and more about relationships and attitudes.

Read the entire article here.

Using a Green Screen

Here’s a recap of some of the stuff that we’ve done at school using a green screen. It’s really been a lot of fun and I hope students and teachers think of this as ONE way students can share their learning with the world. Using a green screen can be as simple as using the Green Screen by DoInk iOS app or more complicated using iMovie or WeVideo. I think the possibilities are endless and it provides students a fun opportunity to show their creativity.

Google Drive Integration

Pics4LearningMy students have been using Google apps when they’ve come to my class in the computer lab. I love the ease of use, the fact that work is saved automatically, and that all of the student work is in one place. The idea that students can access it from whatever device they want, from wherever they want, is icing on the cake.

I discovered something this week that I don’t recall seeing and really loved.

My second graders are making an animal alphabet book using Google Slides. They are researching their facts using Pebble Go and adding their info to their slide. In addition, the kids need to add at least one photo as well. I decided to have the kids use Pics4Learning as the first option when searching for an animal image. The site has copyright free images and is very easy to use. I haven’t used the site in a while, but noticed something pretty awesome – the option to save the pictures to Google Drive – see photo on top right.  Rather than saving the image to their computer and uploading it to the slide, the kids could simply save the image straight to their Drive and then insert the image. I loved this and it was so easy for the kids.  No more downloading to the computer, remembering where it was saved, and uploading it to the document.

Unnamed image (3)Saving the images directly to Drive is such an advantage. Knowing where the images are located and having access to them from anywhere is such a plus. I’d love to see more sites offer Google Drive integration and have a Save to Drive button like Pics4Learning, but in the meantime, there is an alternative. If you add the Save to Google Drive Extension to your Chrome browser, you can right click on an image and save it directly to Google Drive. While this isn’t quite as easy as clicking on a button, especially for younger students, it will do the trick.

The more I use Google Apps with students the more I realize how awesome they are. It makes me wonder why more teachers are not using these tools with their students.



Fun with a Green Screen

I’ve used a green screen a little myself in the past, but overall, I don’t have a ton of experience with it, especially with students. The bright green cloth that was sitting around my house needed a new home. I brought it to school, figuring I could use it with the students to create something fun, share their learning, and give students a new way to express themselves. I have all sorts of ideas for ways to use the green screen, but the first step was to  get it set up. I had to figure out where to put it – a place where the lighting would be good and there wouldn’t be shadows. I found a wall in my school library and stapled it to the wall. We were all set.

Thanks to Conni Mulligan and others, my knowledge of using a green screen has grown quite a bit over the years. I figured I’d use the Green Screen by Do Ink iOS app because it’s simple and the kids could probably create things by themselves. My kindergarten students were reading The Pigeon books and I thought it would be a great idea to make our own little video using the green screen. I showed the students a video of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and told them we’d be making our own video. They were excited, but weren’t really sure what that meant. I grabbed my iPad and lined the kids up near the green screen. Student after student, they stood in front of the bright green material and repeated lines from the book. Knowing the app is more or less a one take video type app, I knew I’d have to put everything together using iMovie. I took pictures of the pages of the book and began editing everything together. I’m really pleased with the final result, shown below. I did the same thing with another class and am in the process of editing that video. I’ll be sure to share it when it’s ready.


B-s1Zp2WoAAeJqZThe students have seen the green screen in the library and have been asking about it. Most have an idea what it is, but have never done anything with it themselves. That’s going to change. In fact, the 4th graders are just wrapping up their unit on immigration and one student wanted to use the green screen for part of his project. He wrote a rap song about his topic and recorded it. He wanted to use an image of Ellis Island in the background so we found one we had permission to use, and loaded it into the app. I let the kids take over from there and surprisingly, the students pulled it off in just one take. They thought it was really cool and I can’t wait for kids to think about other ways they can use it.

There are already plans in place with other grades to use the green screen. First graders are current writing book reviews and are going to record themselves telling others about their books. We’ll add the book cover as the background image and record the students in front using the green screen. Third graders are studying countries and there have been discussions on how we can use the green screen to share their learning as well.

My next  goal, is to improve our green screen studio and see if we can paint a big section of a wall to serve as our backdrop. This will work out much better than our small cloth backdrop and will allow groups of students to work together and create some amazing stuff. Is the green screen the be all, end all? No, but what’s it’s doing right now is giving students a new way to express themselves, share their learning and expertise in ways they haven’t before, and have fun in the process. And those are all good reasons to jump in!

Technology, Teaching, and Learning

I’m taking a class to renew my teaching certification since I’ve jumped back into the school scene. The class I’m taking is called Terrific Technology for Teachers and Their Students. Much of the stuff I’m going to have to do will be a refresher of things I’ve either done, or are at least familiar with. It will be good to get back in the frame of mind of implementing things with students again.

One of the first assignments was to read several articles and watch a few videos about the 21st century student and teaching with technology and write a few paragraphs about our own philosophy towards these ideas. Interestingly enough, one of the articles we had to read was published in 2005 and another in 2007. The video below was also shared, and I got a kick out of it again. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth 3 minutes of your time.

Below is what I shared as far as my thoughts on the topics we explored. I’d love your thoughts and comments. Do you have some of the same thoughts? Do you disagree? Does anything stand out?

When I think about my philosophy of technology in the classroom and teaching in general, several things come to mind. I strongly believe the classroom environment needs to be comfortable, engaging, and safe for the students. Regardless of your teaching abilities, if students are not in a good place mentally in school, they won’t learn as much as they could. I also believe learning needs to be fun. Too often, kids do not relate school to fun, unless they are talking about recess.

Technology has certainly has a tremendous impact on teaching and learning – for both the students and the teachers. We are almost 15 years into the “21st century” yet many schools, teachers, and students are not utilizing technology in the classroom as much as they could be. There are a variety of reasons for this, but I feel it is the teacher’s responsibility to learn on their own, develop new ideas, and share them with their students. Kids are different these days. I see my own children on devices all the time. They are learning and communicating without a traditional teacher guiding them along. This needs to occur throughout the school day, not once the typical school day ends. To me, there is no reason students should not have access to a device in school, whenever they need it. For those saying students would use the technology negatively, I would respond by saying proper use should be modeled and taught. Taking technology away, or not having it available due to fear of what might happen is crazy. Removing access because of a negative action by a student is equally wrong. We don’t take pencils and paper away from kids who write mean notes, do we? We consider those essential to school. Why isn’t a laptop or tablet viewed the same way?

As a teacher, we need to model learning for our students. I’m trying my best to share my learning with students and my own children. I will tell them about something I learned and how we are going to try it out in class. I tell them it might work or it might not, but giving it a try is okay. Students need the opportunity to fail. We need to tell students it’s okay to fail. They can learn just as much from failing and finding an alternative than succeeding without much effort.

When it comes to the use of technology in schools, I think students should be creating and sharing their learning as much as possible. In most cases, work that students do in schools doesn’t get seen beyond the teacher and maybe some classmates. Students and schools need to share the learning beyond the classroom walls. Getting feedback from classmates, other children, and adults from all over the world is a powerful experience for students. When they know their work will be seen by many people, they will work harder to make sure they are sharing their best work. I’m trying to do this at my current school. We’ve set up a Twitter account to share images of learning at our school. I’m creating multimedia newsletters to share with families to give them a glimpse of their children are doing. I’m encouraging students to share what they’re doing with their parents. The more they get a chance to share the great things they’re doing, they’ll work harder, be proud of their work, and have fun.

Folders in Google Drive, Google Classroom, the Power of Social Media

GClassroomI’ve been enjoying the use of Google Classroom with several of the classes I see each week. I love the fact that I can assign something to the kids, they can complete it in class or whenever, and I can access their work and check whether it’s complete, all in one place, all without paper. It’s early in the school year, but I’m becoming more and more of a fan. If I was a classroom teacher in a school with GAFE and enough tech access, there’d be no question I’d be using this a ton.

Earlier this week, I ran in a little problem with Google Classroom and Google Drive. Five of my classes are participating in the Monster Project and are drawing a monster and creating a descriptive writing project. Students used good old paper and marker for their drawings, but we needed to get them online to share with the partner classes much easier. Google Drive was the obvious answer to me.

My plan was to using the Drive folder for each of the Google Classrooms as the storage place for the monster pictures. If you’re not familiar with Google Classroom, a “Classroom” folder is created and all work assigned through classroom is saved in that location. Students logging in via Drive with their GAFE accounts can access the folder. While in the teacher mode in Classroom, I created a folder within the Classroom Drive folder, thinking students could upload to this folder and everything would be organized. It turns out, this isn’t possible.

I’ve learned a lot of about Google Classroom from Alice Keeler. We’ve never met, but she shares great information about Drive and I sent a tweet to her about this issue, thinking I might be doing something wrong. Whether she realizes it or not, she’s become one of my Google Classroom go to people. She replied, and included Jonathan Rochelle in her response. It turns out that Jonathan is a co-founder of Google Docs and Google Drive. Social media to the rescue! My friend Dean Mantz also jumped into the conversation and we shared screencasts of the issue with Jonathan. He looked into it, shared it with his team at Google, and came back with information.

It turns out that what I was trying to do, can’t currently be done. Perhaps this will change within Classroom moving forward, but Jonathan did suggest a work around. The work around is actually what I ended up doing with students as my own solution. I did create the folder within the folder, but had to assign access to the folder to the students via Google Classroom. They simply clicked on the link and then added the folder to their Drive. It worked, but added an extra step to the process.

The only issue that made this tricky for me, was the fact that we were using iPads to take the pictures of the monsters and then uploading directly to the Drive folder. There isn’t a Classroom app (yet) so kids had to log in on the computers to accept access to the folder via Google Classroom before taking the pictures on the iPads. After doing this, the correct folder showed up on the device and the students could proceed. Now that the folders are created, everything is working well.

I love the power of social media, Twitter specifically. This little story is another confirmation that educators need to be connected and have people they can reach out to when help is needed. In this case, the connections led right to someone at Google who could offer a solution to a problem.