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.