Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thinking Blocks Math Apps and Website

Thinking Blocks

Many of you have probably used the Thinking Blocks online interactives from Math Playground but did you know they are now free apps too?  They are an awesome resource for helping students understand how to solve word problems by using online manipulatives in a step by step manner to create concrete models of their solutions.  

Both versions (online and apps) offer word problems in 4 categories:  addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, fractions, and ratio/proportion.  

Each app is set up the same way:

1.  Students are presented with a word problem.

2.  First they use the blocks to label the known and unknown parts the problem.

3.  Then they fill in the known and unknown numbers.

4.  Finally, they solve the problem.

Check out this great resource today online at (computers only) or download all the Math Playground apps at

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Infographics: A Creative Assessment and Attention-Getter

Infographics are intriguing. 

Infographics show what our brains are programmed to see. They are bright and colorful visual representations of information presented in e-posters, printed, and digital documents that grab student attention. Additionally, they  provide a creative way to assess student learning while incorporating the 4C's: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and curation.  Check out a wall in your classroom or your bulletin board. That area in your classroom is presenting information in one place, with cutouts, colors, letters and artwork. Think of the infographic in the same way, as an informational bulletin board.

Infographics are a great instructional/learning tool.

Infographics can be great instructional tools but they work best as learning tools as they incorporate most of the traditional teaching elements of research, planning, writing, and process. Teachers can create their own or find an array of infographics online to share with students on interactive boards, via class blogs or websites, or as a part of an assignment. Some ways that an infographic can be used as an instructional/learning tool:
  • Students make interpretations based on statistics presented in the infographic
  • Students answer questions about the information presented.  
  • Students discuss why certain elements were included (critical thinking, anyone?)
  • Students can visualize what might not be the most exciting information in an exciting way.
  • Complex ideas and concepts are presented visually, making it easier to understand.

Infographics are inviting. Invite your students to create one.

Allowing students to create infographics is a great creative project and provides the teacher with a way to assess a student's thorough knowledge and understanding of a topic. Getting students involved in the creation of this product addresses all levels of Blooms in addition to providing the students the opportunity to:
  • Collaborate/Communicate - working together students discuss ideas on what is the best representation of graphics, fonts, colors, and ideas to relay information in a visually appealing format.
  • Critically think - students must decide what information will go into the project and why it should be included.
  • Create - students decide how the information will be displayed. Will they use PowerPoint? An app with templates? 
  • Curation - students must sift through and collect information for their infographic then organize it in a way to effectively communicate the objective.
  • Use Creative Commons as a means to find images to reproduce, share, and modify.

Steps to Create an Infographic

Before assigning this project to students, the teacher first must determine what will be assessed and communicate to the student what information must be included. Providing a rubric to students is a helpful way for them to keep on track. Here is a sample rubric from Kathy Schrock as an example to get you started. If you want to create your own, try Rubistar4Teachers which provides a simple way to make your own customized rubric.
  • Look at rubric samples of all types: informational, data driven, etc. Discuss the features of all different types. For sample infographics, click here.
  • Investigate and Research - Research and gather the information, data, images and tools needed to relay the information. 
  • Create a rough draft. Draw out on paper (low-tech) to organize thoughts and decide what goes where. 
  • Choose a tool to create your infographic. There are apps and websites available to make the process simple or programs like Photoshop or PowerPoint could be used. 
  • Follow a few simple rules:
    • Keep it simple. Help the audience know your topic with a large headline.
    • Color, font, and layout are important. Decide on a color scheme and fonts that best represent the message you wish to communicate.
    • Flow is important. The most important facts first then minor, supporting elements follow.
    • Use graphics such as arrows, lines, and color blocks to help your audience navigate the infographic with ease. 
    • The five-second rule: The audience should be able to know what your infographic is about and a few facts in just five seconds. Try it out on a classmate. If they get the basics in five seconds, you are on the right track. 
    • Dont be afraid to make an interactive infographic. Incorporate other sites such as Thinglink or add QR Codes.

Apps, Sites and Resources to Get Started

    The Anatomy of an InfoGraphic
Everything you ever wanted to know about using infographics in the classroom can be found on Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything: Infographics as Creative Assessment.

Some apps and web based sites that were favorites of Heritage Middle School teacher, Kelli Mann's class:

Grafio Lite
iVi Touch Lite
Inspiration Lite



Comment below with questions or answers. How can you use infographics in your classroom?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Infuse Learning 

Infuse Learning is a great (and free!) tool for formative assessment that works on every device.  There's no app!  Just go to the website on your iOS or Android device or computer and choose the appropriate login in the top corner.  Teachers create an account and students join the teacher's "room".  There's no need to create student accounts. 

Teachers can ask questions "on the fly" or create quizzes ahead of time.  There is a wide variety of available question types including multiple choice, true/false and even a draw response where students can work a math problem or draw a diagram.

The "Interactive Tools" give teachers even more options.  InfuseDraw allows the teacher to send a picture to the students to label or annotate and InfuseLink sends a website URL for students to simply click to go to the website. 

For more information, check out this video (if reading this via email, click this link to view the video

What's your favorite digital tool for formative assessment?  Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

GoneGoogle Story Builder: See Writing Come to Life!

Google has made writing and collaboration easy and fun with the GoneGoogle Story Builder.  Anybody can create a quick animated video of the writing process with the look and feel of a Google doc.  The process is simple: choose your characters and your music. Write. Then grab the link to watch and share.

Using Story Builder 

  • No login required. Navigate to and get started. You can also view some great samples before you begin.
  • Customize and Personalize: Choose up to 10 characters that you create.
  • You may have up to 10 dialogue exchanges of your own creation.
  • Watch the writing process unfold as you add and edit to the conversation between characters.
  • Create your own title.
  • Publish and share your writing video.

Ideas for Classroom Use

  • Attention Getter: Introduce a lesson in a different way
  • As a warm up activity - have students review the previous lesson
  • Have students create a conversation between two characters.
  • Write a new introduction or ending to a story, song lyrics, or a poem
  • Use as an editing tool for spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Discuss how to solve a math equation.
  • Create a hypothesis for a science experiment
  • Have a debate
  • Hit all levels of Bloom's
  • Once you try it, you and your students will think of many more ideas to implement this tool.
Although the technical creation process is simple, students are forced to think critically about how the information and ideas are to be presented in a brief format. Word choice is a crucial element. The only negative about the story builder is that you can't actually download the creations. However, if you can create a quick Google form and have students submit their links to you there so everything is in one place. Even though you can't get the embed code directly from the story builder, you can use an embed code creator such as and it creates the code for you so you can still embed the stories on your blog or website.

Sample GoneGoogle Stories

Here is a sample story I created while experimenting. It took less than 3 minutes.  

"Nothing's not here." by Ima Teacher

Here is a promotional feature sample from Google:

Try out GoneGoogle Story Builder and leave a comment about how you used it in your classroom.

Monday, October 21, 2013

IPEVO Whiteboard


Draw and annotate directly onto real-time video using an iPad and the Juststand, document camera or iPad camera. IPEVO Whiteboard can also be used as a whiteboard to draw onto a blank canvas using the default white background or annotate an image from the iPad photo library. In whiteboard mode, you can make a screen recording and save it to the camera roll. Multiple boards can be created. No login is required.


  • Add text boxes, shapes and lines to emphasize and highlight key points or parts of an image
  • Use different color pens and line thicknesses
  • Undo and redo functions
  • Pointer tool and a clear all functions tool
  • Record the screen In whiteboard mode and save to the camera roll
Saving options:
  • Save to the iPad camera roll
  • Send to Evernote
  • Email image

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Viewpure - YouTube without the Ads

Today's post comes to us from Patrick Lollis, music teacher at Cannon Elementary.  Patrick writes:
I found a great tool called Viewpure that I really like to view YouTube videos without ads, other search results, or suggested videos.
Here's how to use it:

  1. Go to
  2. Drag the "purify" button to your browser's shortcut bar.
  3. When you locate a YouTube video that you want to use, press the button.
  4. Create your QR code to the new ViewPure page.
What the button actually does is change the web address from a YouTube address like this one:
to a ViewPure address like this one:
You can use the button, or just remember what to change and do it manually.

Thanks for the tip Patrick!  Do you have a great tip to share?  Fill out the "Tips from our Readers" form on our blog or click this link: 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

SpeakPipe - Voice Mails for Your Blog

Do you have a class blog using Blogger, WordPress, Weebly, Tumblr or Joomla?  If you do, SpeakPipe is a cool way to connect with your readers.  SpeakPipe add a "Send Voicemail" tab to the side of your blog that readers can click to record a voice message to your class.  The free plan allows you to receive up to 20 voice messages a month (90 seconds max per message).  

To get started, just go to and create a free account.  Choose your blogging platform on the setup window and it tells you exactly what to do to put it on your blog.  Very cool!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

InstaGrok -- More than a Search Engine. It's an Interactive Answer Engine

Have you had a chance to Grok with your class? Grok means to understand thoroughly and intuitively. InstraGrok is an intense, interactive discovery, learning, search and answer engine designed specifically for the classroom. A "grok" can be created by simply entering a topic in the site search box. Answers are returned in six different categories: key facts, websites, videos, images, quizzes and a glossary instead of a static list of links.  Understand, a blog post does not do this tool justice. You have to experience it. Try a quiz. Find a video. Review terms.

The Wow Features

  • No login required. Students can create and share a Grok without logging in
  • It is interactive and it is not flash-based so it works on the iPad
  • The Quiz tool provides classroom ready questions on your search term. Have the students take the quiz or use the questions yourself to add to your own quizzes
  • Results can be customized to have as much or as little detail as you want. Just adjust a slider from an ABC chalkboard all the way up to an Einstein level. 
  • It is free and specifically made for education. (Creating a login/free account gives you more options and of course there is a paid version with even more options.)
  • Results are filtered and safe for all
  • You can customize the colors
  • Groks can be shared and embedded into your blog, website, etc.

Classroom Uses

Use instaGrok to
  • Create an interactive mind mapping tool
  • Find topics to write about
  • Generate ideas
  • Curate information
  • Really learn vocabulary words
  • Explore complicated ideas
  • Find images and videos in one click
  • Allow for self assessment through the quiz feature
  • Teach students how to narrow down search results
  • So much more!

Check out my instaGrok on the use of iPads for Education to see what all the excitement is about! Click on a circle then click on the side bar for additional information.

Grok is intuitive and easy to use, but if you want a tutorial, here is one for you.

So, what do you think about InstaGrok? Try it and leave a comment about your experience.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Aurasma - Like QR codes But Better!

Aurasma App

Aurasma is a super cool augmented reality app.  Teachers and students can use Aurasma to create "Auras" that allow you to hover over an object or image (like a poster on a wall) and another image or even a video will appear on the screen to give you more information.  Sound confusing?  Imagine this:  A science teacher wants to teach her students about lab equipment and safety.  An aura is created so that when the student scans eye goggles with the Aurasma app, a video about eye safety will begin to play on the iPad.  Check out this example for making posters come to life (if you're reading this via email, click this link to watch the video: )

The possibilities are endless:

  • Talking word walls or alphabets - scan a word or letter and a video starts to play talking about the word or letter.
  • Campus tours - place markers throughout the building that, when scanned, play student created videos describing particular places on campus
  • Talking posters - students create posters for projects and add Auras to key pictures on the poster to provide more information via video
  • Talking book trailers - scan a book cover and watch a video trailer for the book
  • Interactive notebooks - create Auras on diagrams or drawings in interactive notebooks to play instructional videos
Basic auras can be created with the iPad app or more sophisticated ones can be created using Aurasma Studio on the web.  The iPad app is great because the overlay videos can be taken straight from the iPad camera roll.  That means that you can create the videos with any app that saves to the camera roll... Tellagami, 30Hands, Doceri, iMovie, etc. for movies or Doodle Buddy, Pic Collage, PhotoCard lite, Skitch, etc. for images.  What a great example of app layering!

For more examples of Aurasma projects and tutorials check out my Pinterest board:

Getting started with Aurasma help:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

App Category: Drawing

Drawing apps are perfect for creating student artwork to be layered into other apps.

Some examples in the classroom might be:
  • Math- Use as a whiteboard to work out math problems. 
  • Science- Illustrate the moon phases and save to the Camera Roll. Use pictures to create a digital presentation in Keynote, 30Hands or another Presentation app. 
  • SS- Create a map replicating a classroom or school campus. Draw examples of hieroglyphics. Illustrate different types of housing Indians in Texas lived in.
  • ELA- Illustrate idioms, metaphors or other parts of speech. Recreate the setting of a story. 
  • Other- Draw a self-portrait for Art class. 
My Favorite Drawing Apps

Doodle Buddy -

Doodle Buddy is the most common basic drawing app. Students can choose from a spectrum of colors to draw with a brush, chalk or even glitter. There are some built in stamps that are great for creating patterns or modeling math problems.  Students can choose from several built in backgrounds or use any picture from the camera roll as the background... great for annotating!  Typed text can be added as well.  The final product can be saved in the camera roll and then layered into other apps like 30Hands, Haiku Deck, etc. to create a more complex product.

ColorBox HD -

If Doodle Buddy looks to "kiddy" for your students, try ColorBox HD. It looks like a real art box, complete with colored pencils, pens, markers and highlighters. Bonus points go to anyone who can tell me why on Earth there are the 2 lace handkerchief option tools... just tap the tool again to get rid of them if you accidentally add them to your drawing. Weird!

Doceri -

We've already looked at Doceri as a Screencasting App but it can also be used just for drawings. I've found that students really like the color choices and there's just something about the smooth lines that is appealing. Rather than recording audio over your drawing, just export it to the camera roll using the share icon.

What's your favorite drawing app?  Leave us a comment!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

App Category: Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling is a wide and diverse category. Many apps that we've placed in the Presentation, Screen Recording or Photo Project categories could also be considered Digital Storytelling apps. For our purposes here, I'm included apps that allow the student to create animated movies or cartoons that tell a story... any story. It could be a documentary or a fictional story to explain a topic or an actual story to show their knowledge of literary elements. Some examples in the classroom might be:
  • Math- Explain the steps used to solve a problem or explain a concept such as rounding or estimating
  • Science- Create a story explaining the 3 forms of matter or telling the hypothesis and result of a lab experiment; create lab safety videos
  • SS- Create a story using characters to represent two or more historical figures and have them discuss or debate an historical topic relevant to their era.
  • ELA- Create stories to present various grammatical topics in a conversation or to demonstrate sentence types; Retell a story; book reviews
  • Foreign Language- Students can create a story with a two way conversation to practice asking/answering questions in a new language.
  • Other- Create PSAs on bullying, Red Ribbon Week or Internet Safety
My Favorite Digital Storytelling App
Tellagami -

Tellagami is a free app for creating 30 second talking avatars.  It's like Voki for the iPad!  First pick your character and customize it.  Backgrounds can be added from several presets, the camera or photo library.  Then record up to 30 seconds of audio or type up to 440 characters.   The completed "Gami" can be saved to the camera roll and emailed as a movie.  Tellagami is a great app for layering or "smashing" into iMovie. Create multiple 30 seconds Gamis and then combine them into a single movie in iMovie.

Other Options:

Toontastic is great for creating longer animated cartoons.  Cartoons are created using the built in "Story Arc" with a story setup, conflict, challenge, climax and resolution.  Additional scenes can be added as well.  For each scene, students add a background and characters.  Then students animate the scene and record narration. Finally students pick music based on the mood of the scene.  Repeat the process for each scene in the cartoon. Completed movies are uploaded to the Toon-Tube website.  Pre-planning is super important for creating Toontastic movies.  Have the students create a storyboard before beginning.  Also, be sure to have the sound turned on... there's a built in tutorial to guide you through the steps in creating your very own cartoon!

Sock Puppets is a super simple app for creating 30 second puppet movies. Kids love it because it disguises their voice.  It's great for short explanations.  Simply choose the characters, the scene and the props and then record your narration.  While recording, tap a puppet and that puppet will lip-synch.  Tap a different puppet to switch auto lip-synching to it. Final products can be uploaded to YouTube.

Puppet Pals HD or Puppet Pals 2 -

Puppet Pals HD and Puppet Pals 2 are a cross between Sock Puppets and Toontastic.  You have more options than Sock Puppets but they're not quite as complex as Toontastic. Choose your characters and scenery and then animate/narrate all in one scene. One thing I love is that the final product can be saved to the camera roll!  The free versions are limited in the choices of scenery and characters.

What's your favorite digital storytelling app?  Leave us a comment!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Blog with via Evernote

If you or your students are Evernote users, you are going to love this new blogging resource. Log into with your Evernote account and select a notebook to use for your blog posts. Create a note in the notebook and tag it as "published" in order to publish the note as a blog post.  It is that simple!

Note: Commenting on the blog posts is through a third party site called Disqus. The terms of service for Disqus prohibit use for children under 13.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

App Category: Presentations

Presentation apps create slideshows that students can present live or can embed on a blog or website. Presentation apps are a great place to combine products from other apps, especially those in the Photo Project apps category. For example: the visual for a particular slide in a 30Hands video might be an annotated picture from Skitch or the background of a Haiku Deck slide might be a PicCollage image

Some examples in the classroom might be:

  • Math- Create an explanation of problem solving or math vocabulary.
  • Science- Create audio explanations for science experiments or topics.
  • SS- Create a presentation to explain historical events, people or places.
  • ELA- Create book trailers or reviews and visual poetry

My Favorite Presentation Apps

I have 2 favorites for this category because they each have a slightly different product.

Haiku Deck-

Haiku Deck creates beautiful presentations in which an image and a small amount of text are the focus. It forces students to be concise in their thinking and encourages good presentation techniques (ex: don't just read everything that's on the slide). You can also create simple bar and circle graphs. Learn more about Haiku Deck and see an example in Janie's blog post:

30 Hands-
30 Hands is an app that allows users to insert pictures and record audio narration to create a video. Images can be edited or annotated directly in the program or you can draw your own. Images from other apps like PicCollage can be added and narrated for further explanation. It's a great way to integrate the physical world with the digital world. Take pictures of student's paper drawings and create a narrated video.

Another Option:
Keynote is the iPad's version of PowerPoint. Students can create slideshows with images, text and embedded videos. Final products can be presented directly from the iPad (using the Reflector software on a teacher laptop computer or using a VGA adaptor) or saved as PowerPoint or PDF files.

What's your favorite presentation app?  Leave us a comment!

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