MACUL 2014

Filed Under (DE Board Builder, MACUL, Puppet Pals) by Patti Harju on 29-06-2014


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

Filed Under (Google Apps, ICE Conference, Math) by Patti Harju on 08-03-2014

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

Filed Under (Gaming) by Patti Harju on 22-11-2013

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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

Filed Under (Collaboration, Digital Storytelling, Tellagami) by Patti Harju on 10-11-2013

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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

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Patti Harju on 10-11-2013

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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

Filed Under (DENSI2013) by Patti Harju on 23-07-2013

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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.



DENSI2013 – WOW!

Filed Under (DENSI2013) by Patti Harju on 21-07-2013

I returned from the Discovery Educator Summer Institute exhausted and energized at the same time.
This was the third DENSI that I have been blessed to attend. This time I made it a point to meet (and remember) as many of the other participants as I could. The DEN yearbook put together by Dave and LeaAnne was my guide. Several nights before I went to sleep I would go thru it, counting those I knew and marveling at how many more there were that I hadn’t even spoken to yet. I met so many amazing educators and I have already continued the conversation with many of them, via Twitter, Glide, Edmodo, and Facebook.
I had the opportunity to see a few of the DEN Gurus in action by attending their sessions. I was very impressed and they are greatly deserving of the title of DEN Guru. I plan to share what I learned from them and all the other sessions through additional blog posts or a presentation for my staff (thanks for the idea Shelby!)
The entire week was organized by a talented group led by Porter Palmer. She has thought of every detail and all of her work is appreciated. From the outing to the evening activities to the sessions, it was an amazing week. So many great ideas!

– Newbies were given a pack of gum or bag of mints which they had to share. This was wonderful way to get them involved, let us know who was new and help them meet others.
– The Got DEN? T-shirts were fun to try to get. I got one by writing a song. (I’m Dreaming of a Got DEN? T-shirt, just like the ones the cool kids wear….) I also enjoyed getting my picture taken while others were trying to win one, even though I didn’t realize that was why they were asking for a pic with me. I just thought I’d suddenly become popular (after all I did write that song…)
– All the sessions I attended were amazing. I don’t know how I can possibly use everything I’ve learned this school year, but I am going to have fun trying.
– I met, connected, and re-connected with so many great people. I wish we could meet in person more often. We may need to play a game of HEADS UP! Via Google Hangout.
-Dean Shareski’s closing was inspiring. Learning should be joyful for the students and teachers. I agree completely and hope that is what my students experience. A joyful learning experience was exactly what DENSI2013 was. Wouldn’t it be great if our students felt like this after a week in our classrooms?

My goal is to inspire other teachers in my school and district to become DEN STARS and get involved with the DEN even if it means they get a spot over me at the next DENSI. DENSI should be experienced by as many teachers as possible.

I know there is more to share but I still feel a bit jet lagged. My flight home ended up being a 21 hour, four plane trip due to weather and canceled flights. (I was only traveling from Vermont to Michigan.) I did get them to re-route me through Boston so I could see my daughter from midnight to 6 am. While the flight experience was exhausting, I’d go through it all again even without the visit with my daughter to attend another DENSI.

Multiplication with EduCreation App

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Patti Harju on 09-03-2013

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My second graders used Educreations on iPads to demonstrate multiplication. As they watched the first student learn how to use the App, they each were excited to give it a try themselves. Using iPads is always an engaging time for my students! They began by drawing a picture using the Drawing Box lite Free App, and then used this picture to write a multiplication story. The stories show multiplication as groups with the same number in each group, or as an array.
My second graders found the App easy to use and their stories were uploaded to the EduCreations website which makes it easy to grab the link and share the stories. You will find the rest of the children’s multiplication stories on our Kidblogs.

DEN Connects – Habitats

Filed Under (DENConnects, DENSI2012, Habitats) by Patti Harju on 11-10-2012

This month my second graders have been learning about Habitats as part of DEN Connects, an innovative project connecting classrooms and educators using Discovery Education resources. The theme for this month is Habitats and so far we have taken a Digital Dive into the topic and explored the concept of Habitats using Discovery Education resources. The students enjoyed our first mini lesson, especially listening to and singing, Teacher and the Rockbots: Habitats. We had fun writing animal riddles and using Blabberize to animate them. These three examples are our first attempts. The first riddle was written and created by the entire class. The last two were written and created by individual students.



Perfect Professional Development – DENSI2012

Filed Under (DENSI2012) by Patti Harju on 27-07-2012

I just returned from The Discovery Educator Summer Institute (DENSI) in Bozeman, Montana. It was the most intense and amazing Professional Development experience. In Wes Fryers’ presentation on Thursday morning, he asked how many of us were forced to attend DENSI. Not one hand was raised. That in itself speaks volumes. Over 125 educators from all over the U.S., Canada and one educator from Romania wanted to be there. We applied to attend, creating videos to show our passion for education, technology and Discovery Education.  Many of the educators not only chose to be there, they paid over $500 (or more!)  to cover their travel expenses. We waited anxiously to find out if we were accepted, rejoicing for ourselves, yet understanding and sharing the disappointment of those not accepted this year. We knew that this was going to be an amazing week, one that would permanently and positively impact how we teach and who we are as educators.


The DENSI is the perfect professional development model. We attend because we want to. We spend every minute working, networking and learning from each other and when DENSI ends, we hug, we cry and we stay in touch. The friendships that we made are professional and personal. We have connected with these people on many levels and those connections continue long after DENSI. DENSI is the beginning of the professional development, not the end.


I have been home only 15 hours, at least 10 of those sleeping and I have already shared my experience with two colleagues, two friends, my family, and another teacher I met in line waiting to pick up Chinese Food. I have communicated with several of the DENSI participants through Facebook, Twitter, Edmodo and Text messages. The conversations began at DENSI and they will keep going all year.


If all Professional Development could be like this, imagine the impact it would have on education.

Thank you to Discovery Education for a wonderful, exhausting, engaging, energizing week!