Sunday, September 29, 2013

App Category: Photo Projects

Photo Project apps are used for creating collages (with labels or information) and annotating pictures. The products of these apps are perfect for "layering" into other apps to create a more complex final product. For example: students might make a PicCollage and use that as a background graphic for a Thinglink project or insert multiple Visual Poet images into the 30Hands app to record narration and create a video.

Some examples in the classroom might be:

  • Math - Create a collage of shapes, patterns, or geometric terms with short captions to explain. Create a visual dictionary of math vocabulary.
  • Science - Create a collage of images with short captions from an experiment. Create a visual dictionary of science vocabulary.
  • SS - Create a collage with short captions for events in history or about a famous person.
  • ELA - Create visual poetry. Create collages to describe the setting, characters, events, etc. in a story.
  • Other - Create collages to be used as illustrations for projects created in other apps like Pages, Keynote, iMovie, etc. Create infographics about a topic.

My Favorite Photo Project Apps
There are so many good options and each have a slightly different product so I can't possibly pick just one! Here are some of my favorites.

PicCollage -

With PicCollage, students create photo collages with multiple pictures and text. Photos can be added from the camera or photo library. (NOTE: It is not recommended to let students explore the gallery or import pictures directly from the web.)  PicCollage also has built in frames for organizing your images.

Visual Poet -

Visual Poet is similar to PicCollage except that it has just one frame with 3 photo spots (like the picture on the app icon).  Strips of text can be added to each picture. It's great for creating a graphic to be used in a larger presentation. 

Skitch is used mainly for annotating over a single picture. Students might take a picture of a science experiment and label what was happening or they might take pictures of geometric shapes in the real world and label the parts.  Skitch also has built in maps and, if your students are using Evernote, any PDF in the linked Evernote account can be opened and annotated in Skitch.

PhotoCard Lite is a great app for creating postcards.  One image can be inserted on the front side (or you could use a saved PicCollage if you want more than one image) and students write the message on the back. Check out my blog post from May to learn more:  

What’s your favorite photo project app and why? Leave us a comment!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Into the Book - Reading Strategies for Elementary Students

Into the Book

Into the Book is a great free website for elementary students to learn and practice reading strategies. It can be used for whole class, group or individual instruction using a computer (it's Flash based so it won't work on the iPads Update:  The website updated to HTML in Dec. 2013 so it now works on iPads!).  You'll find interactive lessons and videos for 8 different strategies (see below) as well as lots of teacher resources in the "Teacher Area".

Strategies for Learning:
Prior Knowledge
Making Connections
Using Strategies Together

Sunday, September 22, 2013

App Category: Screen Recording

Screen Recording apps are used for creating “Show what you know” videos. The apps are basically a blank white board that records drawing along with audio narration.  Usually images can be inserted into the videos and annotated.  They are great for student or teacher created tutorials.  

Some examples in the classroom might be:
  • Math- Students solve a math problem and explain their thinking.
  • Science- Illustrate and explain various cycles: Water Cycle, Moon Phases, Life Cycle.  Label and explain photos such as parts of plants, parts of cells, parts of an ecosystem Explain the steps in an experiment.
  • SS- Place a map on the background and students draw/explain westward expansion across the United States.
  • ELA- Retell a story. Storyboard a piece of writing. Create and explain a thinking map about a book character. Illustrate and recite poetry.
  • Other- Teachers create instructional videos for students and link or embed on their webpages.

My Favorite Screen Recording App
Doceri is my favorite screen recording app because it’s the only one I’ve seen that lets you save the recording directly to the camera roll.  Once it's on the camera roll you can easily add it to Keynote or iMovie projects or email it.  Plus there's no login required!

Other Options:
Screen Chomp is another great option because no account is needed.  Finished products are uploaded to the Screen Chomp website and you can copy, email, or Tweet the link.

Show Me requires an account to share but one account can be created for the entire class. Then students are able to easily view each other's videos on their iPads through the app (without having to have a link to a website).

Educreations also requires an account to share.  Once the videos are uploaded to the Educreations website, the final products can be linked or embedded in a website or blog post.

What’s your favorite screen recording app and why? Leave us a comment!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thinglink - Create Interactive Images

Thinglink is a web 2.0 tool and an iPad app for creating interactive images.  Educators can create a free upgraded account (using the link above) for unlimited uploads so it's easy to create a single class account that all your students use.  

First upload your background image.  These images can be from the camera, the internet (be sure they're copyright friendly!) or students can create their own background image using PicCollage, Popplet Lite, Comic Touch Lite, Haiku Deck or any other app that saves the final product to the Camera Roll. 

Next add your pins.  Pins can link to URLs or simply to text. Using the iPad app, pins can link to student created videos.  These videos can easily be created in apps like 30Hands, iMovie, the camera, Doceri, Tellagami or any other app that saves a movie to the camera roll.

The final product can be linked via URL or embedded onto a blog or webpage.

Here's my Thinglink with information from my last blog post on "Going Global". Hover over the image and pins to see the links and information. (If you're viewing this blog post via email, click here to view the embedded image on our blog.)

For more ideas for using Thinglink in the classroom, check out my Thinglink Pinterest board:

Have you used Thinglink in your classroom?  Leave us a link to your creation in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mail Filter Issues

We've had a problem with week with our GCISD mail filter sending our Blog Update emails to the Junk Email folder.  We think we've figured out a work around so hopefully you'll be receiving your updates directly to your Inbox as usual.

Be sure to check out the posts you might have missed by checking your Junk Email folder (it's a good idea to check this regularly anyway!) or by clicking the links below:

3 Easy Ways to "Go Global" in Your Classroom:

STAAR Standards Resources: 

Dictionary of Numbers

Math teachers, check out Dictionary of Numbers, a Google Chrome extension that puts numbers in real world "human" terms.

If you are a Google Chrome user, go to:
Click the DOWNLOAD NOW button.
Click the FREE button.
Click the ADD button.
The Dictionary of Numbers icon will appear in the top right corner of your Google Chrome window.

Click the Dictionary of Numbers button. Enter a number and the search results will appear.

STAAR Standards Resources

There are two free apps by Mentoring Minds that make it easy to access the standards for your subject area(s). For each standard, you can mark it as completed or enter notes and activity ideas, accessible only to you. Each standard is also noted as readiness or supporting.

There are also some free resources on the Lead4ward web site:

Scroll down to the Released Test & Snapshot Table. In the STAAR Snapshots and TEKS Snapshots columns, there is a PDF for each grade level and subject area that clearly outlines the readiness and supporting standards. For example, here is the 6th grade science snapshot -

Sunday, September 15, 2013

3 Easy Ways to "Go Global"

Communicating and collaborating both locally and globally using digital tools are two important 21st century skills as well as a part of the Technology Applications TEKS for ALL GCISD students.  

Here are 3 super easy ways that you can "Go Global" in your classroom:

100 Word Challenge
Each week students are given a prompt (sometimes a picture and sometimes a phrase). Students around the world under the age of 16 write 150 word stories based on the prompt and post to a class blog. Students can then read the blogs and comment on the stories written by other students (both older and younger). It's a great way for students to get blog comments from outside their classroom and also a great way to encourage high level writing from your students.

Global Read Aloud 
The Fall Global Read Aloud runs from September 30th to November 8th. There are four different books to read depending on your grade level: An Eric Carle Author Study for grades K and up, Marty McGuire by Kate Messner for grade 1 and up, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper for grades 4 and up and Stupid Fast by Geoff Herback for grades 8 and up. Student read and discuss the book with classes around the world. Connect with teachers and students via the Global Read Aloud blog and wiki, Edmodo, Skype, Twitter, Facebook or any combination of them all. You decide how much you want to participate.  

For more info and to sign up, visit

Then go to the wiki page "So You've Joined - Now What" to get started.

Mystery Skype
Mystery Skypes are a fun way to begin using Skype in your classroom. Two classes Skype, ask each other questions and use the answers to figure out where they are from. It's great for geography as well as research and critical thinking skills. Teachers can find classes to Skype with using the Skype for Education website ( ) or via Twitter using the #mysteryskype hastag. Once a partner class is located, a list of questions is created (ideas here), students answer the questions for their community, student jobs are assigned (ideas here) and the Skype begins!

For more information about Mystery Skypes or other ideas for using Skype in the classroom, visit my Pinterest board

Want even more ideas for "Going Global" in your classroom, visit my "Connecting Globally" Pinterest board:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

App Category: Mind Mapping

Mind mapping apps are used for brainstorming and organizing ideas. They are great for creating Thinking Maps, flow maps and graphic organizers.  Some examples in the classroom might be:

  • Math - Diagram the steps in problem solving.
  • Science - Brainstorm predictions prior to an experiment or use during the experiment to note observations.
  • SS - Organize information about people, places and events in history.
  • ELA - Use this tool with the planning phase of the writing process.
  • Other - In any classroom, use to capture your ideas while you brainstorm and sort them visually in real time.

My Favorite Mind Mapping App:  
Popplet Lite is my favorite due to the ability to add images (from the camera roll or internet) and drawings.  Even though you can only create one in the free version, it is an unlimited canvas so students can move to a “clean” portion of the canvas to create their product without deleting other work.

Other Options:
Idea Sketch has a neat feature that allows you to convert the map to an outline form and vice versa. You can use a variety of shapes and color code.  The main drawback is that there is no option for images or drawings.

Simple Mind is a very easy to use app for creating very simple mind maps.  There are no options for the shape of the bubble and no option for adding images or drawings.

Mind Mash is more like a drawing app.  It’s like a blank piece of paper on which students can draw, type or add images.

Venn Diagram is a free app from  It is only for creating Venn diagrams but is free and simple to use.

What’s your favorite mind mapping app and why? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

So Many Apps? How Do I Choose?

Creation apps can be divided into categories with many options in each one.  How do you choose the best tool for the task?  Many factors go into deciding which app is your personal favorite in each category.  Some things I think about when I learn about a new app are:
  1. Do I already have/know an app that addresses this same need? If yes, are there features I wish it had that it doesn’t?  Maybe the new one has additional features to improve the final product.  If not, stick with the one you already know and love!
  2. Does it require a login?  Any app that does NOT require a login will be easier to deal with.  There won’t be worries about terms of use and student privacy for our students under the age of 13.
  3. How can the work be shared OFF the iPad?  Any app that allows the final product to be saved to the camera roll via a picture or video is going to go to the top of my list.  Camera roll pictures can easily be used in other apps (like iMovie) to create cumulative products from many different apps. This is known as “App Layering” or “App Smashing”
  4. Is it easy to use?  If it takes too long to figure out the app, you have to weigh the amount of time invested in learning the app vs. the benefit of the final product.  Can the same result be achieved more easily with another app?
  5. Does the free version accomplish everything I need it to?  Some free versions only allow for a specific number of products to be created or only have limited options.

Our GCISD Training Wiki is a great place to find apps for a particular product.  Each of our recommended apps has its own page with a description, link to the app store, tips, tricks and ideas for using it in the classroom.

The iTunes store also has a great section called Education Collections for finding specific education related apps.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing the app categories that we regularly use in GCISD and my favorite free apps in each one.
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