DENSI2014 Maker Faire

The first DEN Maker Faire was a huge success. A big thank you goes to Kristy Vincent for all of her planning. A great number of DEN STARS brought many amazing and different craft/maker projects to share. There were MANY highlights. Here are just a few –












DENSI2104 – Adam Bellow Keynote

Adam Bellow rocked his Keynote this morning at the Discovery Educator Summer Institute in Nashville, TN. Many inspiring moments, here are a few.

Excited to check out Pixel Press, an iPad App used to create a video game.
Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 11.04.47 AM

Inspiring (meaning there may have been tears in a few eyes) videos were shared.
This one is from the White House Film Festival.

This video, actually commercial, is really about the power of a student’s passion for learning, not the scotch.

I am also excited to explore Adam Bellow’s own site, EduClipper. I’ve been told it is like a Pinterest for Educators. Can’t wait to check it out.

DENSI2014 – A Few Links

I am having a great time in Nashville attending the Discovery Educator Summer Institute. It is an opportunity to renew friendships and to meet more amazing educators from all over the US, Canada and United Kingdom. The learning takes place in planned sessions and in conversations over lunch, over coffee and while gathering in the lounge in the evening. The Discovery Educator Summer Institute is the most powerful and valuable professional development and should be experienced by every teacher.

A few highlights:

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.40.44 AM Go to to get started. Kahoot is a game based classroom response system. Easy to set up and use. Students reply using any device – computer, iTouch, iPad. Can’t wait to use it with my students. It was a wonderful warm up activity for our group and a great way to learn more about each other. I have used the Hour of Code activities with my students, however I hadn’t attempted the non-computer activities.LeaAnne Daughrity led a session on coding that had us taking part in these non-computer coding activities. Solo cups were used to demonstrate the power of clear directions and we also used code to write our names. I learned even more about bringing coding activities to my students and staff. Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.43.47 AM

Center of the Universe with Lodge McCammon. I learned more about the Solar System in a session with Dr. Lodge. He used a combination of short video lectures (less than 5 minutes), peer discussion, and movement to engage learners. We used the song – Center of the Universe, written by Dr. Lodge and available as a Discovery Education resource. The video below is our final product. It was great fun to experience learning this way and will be a great way to engage my students and to learn.

Marshmallow Toothpick Towers – STEM

I wanted to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)  activities into my classroom. I knew my limitations and if it was going to be too complicated, well it most likely wouldn’t happen! I realized that STEM activities do NOT need to be complicated and really the best part is that you provide the students with the tools and then step back and watch them go.

I chose to start with Tower building using Toothpicks and Marshmallows. I thought this would be a pretty easy activity, but was surprised at how hard it was. First the children needed to work in groups – some groups were beautiful, some had a few struggles.  The had difficulty figuring out how to use the marshmallows and toothpicks correctly. One group was spearing the marshmallows like a shish kabob. They needed to understand that the tower needs to go UP and stand on its own. The kids had a great time building that first day and I knew we needed to repeat this activity (more than once) to continue to learn.

Here are some pictures from our first day of Tower Building.


Before our second attempt,  we watchedThe Magic School Bus Under Construction (DE Streaming) and  I read aloud Iggy Peck Architect.  We talked about buScreen Shot 2014-06-30 at 2.03.51 PMilding structure, design, and shapes they noticed and what they might do differently this time. .They used their first tower as a guide and tried to build better and higher with interesting results. Final photos are posted below.

We followed this up with another tower building activity using index cards and masking tape. This time I worked with the 3rd grade teacher and we mixed up our classes. In that challenge the children were given specific directions. The tower must be at least 15 inches high and must support a small stuffed animal for 10 seconds. In the end only two groups had a successful tower, but they had a wonderful time building. The combining of the two grades was magical and it was great to see how the different personalities all worked together.








Both of these tower building activities use easy to find, inexpensive supplies and can be ready at any time. I know I need to have more of these items around just to let the kids explore with. What if I made the supplies available and didn’t give them directions on what to build? What would they come up with ? In addition to exploring STEM activities I have been learning about the Maker Movement. It will be fun to see where the combination of these two ideas intersect and what that will look like in the classroom.

MACUL 2014


The MACUL conference (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) took place in March. This was my first year as a MACUL Board Member and it absolutely changed my MACUL conference experience for the better. It is amazing how much work by a great number of people goes into the planning of the conference. It is also amazing how well everyone did their part to make this one of our best conferences ever.



One of my favorite parts of the conference is the Student Technology Showcase. Our first and second graders came to share how they are using technology in the classroom. The second graders shared some of the many ways they share using their Kidblog, including sharing their Discovery Education Boards. When Discovery’s own Dean Shareski, one of the featured speakers stopped by, my student had his iPad on his board and shared it with Dean (without any prompting from me as I was not around at the time!)



The first graders shared how they used the iPad and the Puppet Pals App. On the 100th day of school the children all came dressed as if they were 100 years old. Their teacher took their picture and then had them write about what life at 100 might be like. They published their picture and story using the Puppet Pals App. George Couros, the keynote speaker for the following day also stopped by to see what the students were sharing. He loved the Puppet Pals stories and asked if he could use one in his Keynote the following morning!



I was able to attend many of the sessions including Keynotes from Adam Bellow, George Couros, and Rushton Hurley. I learned from our Technology Using teacher of the year, Erin Klein and so many others.  One of the many great things about the MACUL and other conferences is that the learning doesn’t end with the conference. I have already been in contact via social media with some of the speakers and other attendees to continue the learning.


A new part of the conference experience for me were the Lightning Talks.The Lightning Talks were amazing! It is incredible how much is shared in such a short time and so well. Take the 5 min to listen to Trevor Muir in the talk below. It is truly amazing! After hearing Trevor Muir I was inspired and am looking to see if I have a Lightning Talk in me.


The DEN on ICE

I had an excellent adventure attending the ICE Conference in February. This was my second year attending and it only got better. I learned a great deal, but the BEST part was meeting up with so many DEN friends! I instantly felt part of the group and it truly made the conference even more amazing. I enjoyed the DEN meet up Thursday evening, and enjoyed connecting with these DEN-mazing educators.

One of my “Wow”s from the Conference was understanding the Apps within Google Drive. I had no idea! For those of you in the dark like I was, here is the link to the presentation by Tammy Lind. The short version is when in Google Drive, click Create, scroll down to Connect More Apps and then WOW! I am excited about Pow Toon, Movenote and Real Cube to start. I would love to hear what Apps others are using and how they are using them in the classroom. I have not shown my students the Apps yet, as I want to make sure I know all I need to know before I open that box. Plus I want to introduce the Apps with a cool Pow toon presentation.Again, advice from those in the know is most welcome!

A second “WOW” was initially not techie at all. Greg Tang, author of many children’s books with a math theme, spoke and used as his presentation tool a document camera, paper and a black pen. That’s it. He never even got to the tech in the his first presentation and we were all captivated and listening to every word. I stayed for his second presentation and when he did get to the Tech it did add another “WOW”. His website has wonderful math games that Greg Tang created that get kids thinking about numbers decomposing them, looking for patterns, and THINKING. Funny Numbers is his way to teach regrouping that makes sense. As someone who has sung and danced to help kids understand regrouping, Funny Numbers is a gift! Kakooma, another game he created has students race to complete the puzzles using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. While Kakooma is sold as an App, it is free on the website as are all of his games along with interactive versions of his books. My second graders, who are usually quite wiggly during the last 20 minutes of the day (okay they wiggle ALL afternoon) were engaged and attending as we read Math-terpieces and tried to find the number combinations. I introduced to all of my tech lab students and it is a hit at all levels!

Scratch and Hour Of Code

This post is cross posted on

My Middle School Students have been working with Scratch in preparation for The Hour of Code event in December. We began with the Learn to Code Tutorial. This was a great way to introduce the students to the basics of coding and they had fun as the Tutorial used Angry Birds and Plants vs Aliens levels. I was thrilled at how engaged all 6th, 7th and 8th graders were with the tutorial and were determined to reach the end. I loved how the tutorial made them think. The later levels were not easy and the students needed to try a few different things to reach the end.

I then had the students sign up for their own Web Based Scratch account. If they did not have an email address, I gave them one to use. (This website let me use the gmail+1 trick to create additional accounts.) This way they can work on their projects from home and it makes it easy to share projects. During our first class with Scratch we learned together, using directions I found on how to make a maze game. While the basics of the directions worked, we had trouble getting our Sprite to move correctly using the arrow keys. I went home and spent the next evening playing with Scratch and figuring it out. I found the best way to learn was to look at a game someone else made on the Scratch website. If you click on SEE INSIDE you will see the scripts written for that game. I found a maze game I liked and used it as my model for making my own maze game, complete with annoying noises which I knew the Middle School students would enjoy. Below is my game. You move the Butterfly through the maze using the arrow keys.

I have students who attended Scratch summer camps, so they were already experts and able to help the rest of us. I need to learn a little ahead of the other students so I can help them, but I am also encouraging them to check out other projects to get ideas. I am excited to see where we go with Scratch and gaming. All grades will be participating in Hour of Code and my hope is that we are gaming, coding and creating on an ongoing basis throughout the rest of the year.
There are other tutorials on the Hour of Code website, including an introduction to JavaScript and Tutorials for LightBot (for younger students) and Tynker (coding similar to Scratch.) I have also been using some FREE iPad Apps that teach coding with the students including Kodable, Daisy the Dinosaur, Hopscotch and Cargo-Bot.

Tellagami App with 4th and 5th Graders

4th Graders wrote and illustrated Autumn Poems with their classroom teacher. Using the iPad and the Tellagami App (free!) the 4th graders published their poem. What I love about using technology to publish writing is that it adds that often missed step of reading and sharing the writing. Too often my students would finish a writing project and I would post it in the hallway and then we would move on to our next assignment. Using technology the students need to read and often re-read their poem or report, and as they record their voice, they are often critical and want to record it again (and again.) Having a student read a report or poem in front of the class does not always mean you have an attentive audience. When we play the Tellagami App recordings of each student, the audience is engaged. Posting these on the Kidblog gives them the opportunity to listen to each other over and over and leave comments.

The 5th graders created dioramas in response to

    “The Cricket in Times Square”

. They also wrote a description of their diorama. I helped them use the Tellagami App to take a picture of their diorama and record their description. I do find it easier to take the picture with the Camera App on the iPad and then import it into Tellagami. The Tellagami App also has a 30 second limit. The 5th graders needed to look at their written descriptions and figure out what the important details were. It gave them a chance to edit their writing, and others learned how to read a little faster.

I love the Tellagami App because it is easy to use, and does not take long for students to figure out. It is relatively quick, and the product is fun to view. The students enjoy creating their character before recording, this sometimes takes the longest. After they record the Tellagami, I have all the iPads set to email the Tellagami to my school email address. Then I can easily grab the embed code and pop it on the student’s Kidblog for sharing. (To make that a quicker process, I ask the students to create a Blog Post Draft for the Tellagami then I only need to sign in to Kidblog as myself to copy and paste the embed code.)

Animal Reports with DE and 3rd Graders

I am loving my job change this year. I am now half time second grade teacher and half time Tech Lab Teacher for grades Preschool through 8th grade. I love having the opportunity to work with all grades, especially all of my former second grade students, although I must admit that Preschool and Kindergarten are a new and sometimes scary challenge for me!  More about that another time.

One of the great things about being the Tech Teacher is getting to work with all grades and help the classroom teacher support technology use. In third grade the students came to the lab ready to do research on an animal. I sent them to Discovery Education as their first stop. They were also given links to some other safe sites for students. They spent time in the classroom researching as well. While they continued writing the report with their teacher, they next used lab time time to search for images of their animal – again beginning with Discovery Education and then continuing with safe and copyright free image sites. The images were put into an iMovie. The students added titles, transitions and some music to the iMovie. Bringing the final copy of their report to the lab they narrated the iMovie by Recording themselves reading their report. The iMovies were exported and uploaded to Schooltube and then embedded on their Kidblog. I was very pleased with how well the students worked and the quality of the iMovies. The step in the process we need to add is citing the sources. We need to add that slide at the end of each movie that gives credit to Discovery Education and the other research and image sources we used.

To view the rest of the iMovies, visit the 3rd Grade Kidblog
and feel free to leave a comment or two.

DENSI2013 – iPad Apps

So much was learned last week at DENSI2013 in Burlington, Vermont. The phrase “I think my brain is exploding!” was heard more than once. I need to break all I learned into smaller pieces so I can process and keep track of it. Smaller chunks will also help me when I try to share it with my staff.

I am starting with iPad Apps. There are a gazillion Apps out there and many are excellent for education. I cannot possibly review or use them all so I need to concentrate on the ones that best meet the needs of my students and staff. I have chosen a few of my new favorites introduced at DENSI2013. I would love to give credit to the people who shared them with me, but my mind is a bit fuzzy on that one. I know I learned a great deal from Gurus Karen Ogen and Tracy Carpenter, but I also learned by reading the tweets and Edmodo posts of others and from Sara Badiner’s Unconference session. So to everyone who shared – Thank you!

Here are the ones I know I will use with my students this year.
Kodable is an introduction to the concept of coding, programming  and problem solving for the younger grades, ages 5 and up. I played a few rounds and it really is easy to get started and the levels get more complicated as you go through. The children need to drag and drop the commands in order for the FuzzFamily to follow as they explore a new planet. This is a FREE app with the option to purchase a Pro version. The free version looks as though it has quite a bit for the students to work through before you need to consider upgrading.

Questimate allows the user to create questions and comparisons. It has images that you can manipulate as you try to compare the size of two figures. It compares size, speed of animals, objects and more. Users can create thousands of questions. The App may be single player or more than one player. Sample questions include; How many soda cans tall is a giraffe? How long is a squirrel compared to an iPad? How much food do Dolphins eat per day? This is a free App with the option for in App purchases to unlock other sets of questions. Users may also earn coins by playing which will also allow them to unlock the other sets.

Trading Cards has a lot of possibilities. Students may create trading cards about themselves as well as real or fictional people, places or things. The Trading Card App provides a template for each type of card with leading questions to help the student explore and explain the chosen topic. This is a Free App.


Pixntell is one of my favorite kind of Apps. It can be used for storytelling or presentations. The free version allows only 5 pictures which is plenty for my younger students. The paid version allows up to 70 pictures. You insert pictures from your camera roll. It allows you to edit and embellish the pictures with text, stickers and other highlights. When finished students are then able to narrate each picture. They talk about each picture, then slide to the next one. It is a quick and easy way to publish a story and can be shared via email, Youtube or you can download it to your desktop.

Tellagami is another favorite App for storytelling. It uses one image and the avatar does the talking. You may use the background scenes that come with the App or upload your own image. The avatar may be designed however the used wishes, and then the user records or  types the text they want to go with the image. There are unlimited possibilities for use in the classroom – students could explain a science concept or math process, read an original poem or story with their illustration in the background, or use the Tellagami and part of a larger presentation. The Tellegami (or Gamis) as they are called by the App, provide you with a link for sharing so it may be emailed, saved to the camera roll or embedded on a blog or wiki. This is a Free App.