Monday, December 1, 2014

Hour of Code

GCISD K-8th grade teachers are invited to participate in Hour of Code during the week of December 8-12.

Why?:  There will be 1,000,000 more computer science jobs than computer science students by 2020. Based on’s Hour of Code, teachers will choose from a variety of resources and tutorials that expose students to foundational concepts of computer science. Computer programming allows students to practice perseverance, problem solving, and critical thinking. Skills necessary for coding align with our Profile of a Graduate, particularly skilled problem solver, effective communicator and self-regulated learner.​

How?:  Teachers choose 1 hour during the week of December 8-12 to promote coding. 

1. Let us know you're participating by filling out this form 
2. Then, choose from a variety of resources and tutorials found here - that expose students to foundational concepts of computer science. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Video Files and the Google Drive iPad App

To upload videos to Google Drive in the app, you should be able to:

  1. Open the desired folder.
  2. Click the + sign and choose Upload Photos or Videos.  
  3. Choose the desired files.
Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 1.53.14 PM.png

We have discovered that some video files will not upload to Google Drive via the Google Drive app.  I've investigated a variety of common apps that save videos and have found this information:

It seems that 30 Hands, Shadow Puppet Edu and Chatterpix Kids will not upload directly to Google Drive.  Here are some work arounds:


  1. Create the video project in 30 Hands, Shadow Puppet Edu or Chatterpix Kids as usual.
  2. Since saved iMovie videos WILL upload to Google Drive, students can create an iMovie project with only the 30 Hands, Shadow Puppet Edu or Chatterpix Kids video.
    • Open iMovie and create a new project (plus sign and choose Movie).
    • Pick any theme and tap Create Movie.
    • Tap the desired video file from the Video panel and insert it into the movie.
    • Click the back arrow to exit movie editing.
    • Click the share icon and choose Save Video.
    • This will save the video to the Camera Roll in a format that will upload to Google Drive.
All students have a YouTube account using their GCISD Google account.  In order to be able to upload videos from an iPad to a district Google/YouTube account, students first have to create a channel.  These steps must be completed ON A COMPUTER.
  1. Go to and login with your GCISD Google account.
  2. Click NEXT.
  3. Click SAVE.
  4. Click UPLOAD
  5. Enter the student's network ID (the first part of the Google account… the part before the  If that’s already taken, try adding GCISD to the end of the network ID)
Full instructions (with teacher instructions) here: 

Once they've setup their channel, students can upload any video from their camera roll.  
  1. Go to the Camera Roll to watch the video.
  2. At the bottom of the video screen, tap the “send to” icon (square with arrow) and tap Send to YouTube.
  3. Fill in the video information:  Title, Description, Category (Education), Privacy (Unlisted)
  4. Click PUBLISH in the top right hand corner.  Login with GCISD Google user name and password if prompted.

Shadow Puppet Edu 

Shadow Puppet Edu has a built in feature to "open in" another app and Google Drive is an option.

1.  Create your Shadow Puppet Edu project as usual.
2.  Click menu icon in the top corner and choose Share.
3.  Tap More

4.  Tap and hold on the "Grownups Only" button.  You can turn off the "Keep checking age" feature when prompted.

5.  Tap More again and choose "Open In". Choose "Open in Drive" from the list.

Have you had this happen in other apps besides the ones mentioned?  Do you have another work around?  I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Friday, October 31, 2014

YouTube "Safety Mode"

If you use the Chrome browser, you may have been getting this message lately when trying to view YouTube videos. 

To disable "Safety Mode", scroll to the bottom of the page and click the drop down next to "Safety".  Select Off and click Save.  Refresh the video page and your video should begin to play.

If you're trying to view a video that's embedded in another webpage, go to  Follow the instructions above and then return to the webpage with the embedded video.

For more information about Safety Mode:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Britannica Image Quest

Today's guest post come to us from Becky Sporrer, librarian at Silver Lake Elementary.  You can follow Becky on Twitter @SilverLakeLib or read her blog at 

Have you ever needed your students to find images for a digital product? It is hard to find out if you have rights to use photos from Google Images, and you want to teach your students to be good digital citizens! Plus you may be afraid to let your students search "chick" for fear of what results they will find!

Britannica Image Quest may be your answer! The web address is Your librarian will have your username and password. If you have Mackin Via, the students should be able to access this database - and it should be automatically authenticated! This database has nearly 3 million rights-cleared images from more than 50 of the best collections in the world. You can search in Spanish as well as English.

You can save pictures straight to the camera roll on an iPad.  Check it out to use with your next project! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Edmodo or Google Classroom?

With only 5 workdays before the first day of school, GCISD teachers and administrators are struggling with a big decision - Edmodo or Google Classroom?! I can’t make the decision for you but I can share some information that might help as you make this important decision. GCISD Instructional Technology will support Edmodo or Google Classroom. The choice is yours! 

The most important factor to keep in mind as you make this decision is your students. You do not want any one student to have to manage 2 different learning management systems (LMS). For this reason, I would encourage you to make the decision as a campus or grade level team. While some of your students may have previous experience with Edmodo, Schoology, or another LMS, that should not be a factor in the decision you make for this year. Any experience you or your students have with managing or utilizing one LMS will transfer to Google Classroom or Edmodo.

If you are comfortable with Edmodo and it is working for you, there is no reason to change at this time. Several campuses have invested valuable time and energy training teachers, students, and parents. If you already have a system that works for your classroom, there is no reason to change! Edmodo has 2 major features that Google Classroom does not have at this time - parent access and quizzes.

Google Classroom

If you are comfortable using Google Drive then Google Classroom will be a natural next step for you. It is simple, straight forward, and integrates seamlessly with Google Drive. If your campus does not have a campus-wide learning management system this would be great place to start. As you and your students grow in your knowledge of Google Drive, Google Classroom will allow blended learning to occur by extending your interaction with students beyond the walls of your classroom.

Google Classroom is new so they will be continuously adding features throughout the year. Create a class and give your students a code. They will log in with their GCISD Google accounts and begin participating in your class. You can post an announcement or an assignment. Assignments can be uploaded from your computer, Google Drive, Youtube, or any hyperlink. If you choose to attach a file from Google Drive to your assignment, you will have a choice of how to distribute it to students:

Whether you choose Edmodo or Google Classroom, GCISD Instructional Technology will support you! 

If you are a blog subscriber from outside GCISD, your district must be a Google Apps for Education district and must have the Google Classroom feature turned on at the admin level in order to use it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Top 10 Apps for Elementary Digital Classrooms

I'm often asked for a list of my top 10 apps for a digital classroom.  I created this presentation for a breakout session during last week's Digital Classroom Cadre 5 training.  These are the apps that I think give you the biggest "bang for your buck".  They can all be used for students to create projects in any content area.  (If viewing this blog post via email, go to to view the slideshow.)

Download a PDF of the presentation here:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Math Tools for Elementary

I created the following presentation for a breakout session during our Digital Cadre 5 training this week.  

Several of these tools are great for creating images to be used in other apps like Shadow Puppet, Tellagami or Popplet Lite.  For example, students can create and screenshot representations of numbers using the Number Pieces Basic app.  Then capture the student's thinking by inserting the images into Shadow Puppet and recording audio explanations.  

Do you have another math tool app or resource you love?  Share it in the comments below!

Download a PDF of the presentation here: 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mission MapQuest

Create your own Google Maps Treasure Hunt!

This is brought to you by Nicki Anderson and Kim Grant, both 4th grade teachers at CES.

With Google Maps Treasure Hunt:
  • Create your own MapQuest.
  • Share with other users using a QR code, URL link, or download a web shortcut.
  • Use for a formative assessment.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Make Your Own Stylus

Today's guest post come to us from Jan Cline, 7th grade math teacher at Heritage Middle School.  

The search for the perfect stylus...

I am a digital classroom teacher and we make a lot of instructional videos.  My students are always asking me to use a stylus.  It seems that no matter how careful they are, the stylus falls apart in a week or so. 

Yesterday,  I went on a search for the best stylus. The styluses at the top of the list are all around $20 each. That is way too expensive to buy a classroom set.  I personally have a fine tip stylus (adonit Jot Pro) for writing on my math tutorial videos.  It is really good, but again too pricey for a classroom.  It was on the list as one of the best for making videos. my search I saw several ways to create your own stylus.  I made one and it seems to work. 

You need:
  • Foil type candy wrapper - I used twix
  • Pencil with a good eraser
  • Tape
  • Scissors

1.  Cut the Twix wrapper like this..

2.  Put one of the flaps over the eraser end of the pencil and tape it in place.  Silver side out.

3.  Wrap the Twix wrapper around the pencil and put the other flap over the eraser.  Again, tape in place.  

4.  Tape around the base of the wrapper so it will not move.  

It's been kid tested and it survived.  It's so easy. The students could make their own!  

Here it is in action!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shadow Puppet Edu

Shadow Puppet Edu

I heard about the Shadow Puppet app awhile ago but didn’t really pay any attention to it because it had all the same features as 30Hands or Storyrobe (which used to be free).  Basically you take pictures and put them together to narrate and create a movie.  It’s great as a layering app to take pictures created in other apps like Doodle Buddy, Popplet Lite, Haiku Deck or even the camera roll and combine them.  It’s easier to narrate them in an app like this vs iMovie because it automatically sets the time that the picture displays for as long as your narration (in iMovie, you have to change the time setting for your picture after you narrate.) 

Shadow Puppet just added several features that I think make it superior to 30Hands so I’d recommend that everyone check it out.

First of all they’ve created a special Edu version with features only available for free to teachers and students. 

Secondly, you can combine not only images but also video clips from your camera roll.  That means that you can take videos created in other apps like Tellagami, Chatterpix Kids or Doceri and combine them with images.  

It’s easy to use.  Just pick your images or videos. Tap Start and narrate the story as you flip through the pictures.  As you’re recording, you can add drawings to your images, zoom in or add text. There are a variety of sharing options (tap the more icon to choose the option “open in” and save directly to Google Drive) or you can save your final project to the camera roll.   

You can add up to 100 items and up to 30 minutes long.  There is a built in search that includes the Library of Congress, NASA and “Web Images”.  Be sure to use the “Web Images” search with caution.  There is a possibility for finding inappropriate images.  I would recommend limiting your students to the Library of Congress and NASA sections and find other images on a website like (using the GCISD login) or  

Check out my presentation with suggestions for finding copyright free images here: 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Google Forms - Are They Anonymous?

Are They Anonymous???

Since we've "Gone Google" in the district, several people have wondered about the anonymity of the forms.  I've played around with it and here's what I've discovered.

When a form is created using our district Google accounts, there are 2 options at the top:  Require GCISD login to view the form and Automatically collect respondents GCISD username.

If only the "Require GCISD login to view the form is checked, you'll be required to login to your GCISD account but your username will NOT be collected.  

Here's what the form looks like for the person filling it out:

And here's what the response spreadsheet looks like for the person who created the form:

If the "Automatically collect respondents GCISD username" box is also checked, your username will be collected but you WILL know it.  If your username is being collected, there will be a message at the top of the form telling you.

Here's what the same form looks like for the person filling it out when this box is checked:

Here's what the response spreadsheet looks like now for the person who created the form:

Want to learn more about Google Forms and how to use them in your classroom?  Check out this blog post:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Record.mp3 for Creating Your Own Audio Books

Many teachers have asked me for a way to create audio recordings of books from their classroom library so that students can listen as they follow along with the book. is an easy (and free!) way to do just that. 
  1. Go to
  2. If it’s the first time you’ve visited this website, you’ll get a notification about allowing access to your microphone.  Click “OK, got it” and then choose Allow and Remember and click Close.
  3. Click “OK, I did it.”
  4. Click Record to start recording.  You might get a yellow bar across the top of the window asking you again to allow microphone access.  Choose to allow.
  5. Click Stop when you’re finished reading.
  6. Click Play to listen back.
  7. Click Start Over to re-record or click Save Recording.
  8. Copy the URL.
  9. Go to (or your favorite QR generator) to create the QR code.   Print out the QR code and tape into the book in your classroom library.
NOTE:  Be sure to follow copyright laws.  These audio recordings should not be shared or posted anywhere for students to access without your physical copy of the book. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

LucidChart in Google

LucidChart and Google Docs

LucidChart is an online mind mapping tool in Google Drive. It also works on the iPad to view and edit diagrams.  LucidChart is an add-on for Google Docs and makes it possible to create and insert diagrams without leaving your document. You can export to PDF, PNG and JPG.

In LucidChart:
  • Add a diagram to a Google doc
  • Lead a discussion
  • Collaboration
  • Green graphic organizers
  • Brainstorming with mind maps
  • Venn diagrams
  • Embed your diagrams in blogs, wikis or websites

Note: Using the free account you will not have access to: mind maps, UI mockups, iOS mockups, and Android mockups.

Getting Started with LucidChart in Google:

  • Open a Google Doc.
  • On the menu bar, click ADD-ON and select GET ADD-ONS.

  • Enter LUCIDCHART in the search bar and click + FREE to add.
  • Click ACCEPT to grant LucidChart access to Google Docs. The right sidebar will then be visible.
  • Click GET STARTED in the right sidebar.
  • Grant Google access to your LucidChart documents.

Using the LucidChart Add-on after Set-up:

  • Open a Google Doc.
  • Click the ADD-ONS tab and select LucidChart Diagrams > Insert Diagram. A sidebar will show three options: Create, Insert, or Edit.
  • Choose the option that fits your needs.

  • Click the CREATE button in the top-left area of the sidebar.
  • Choose the diagram type.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Don't Forget to Sign Up for EdCamp GCISD - June 10

There's still time to sign up for EdCamp GCISD.  Register in Eduphoria here:  You can also invite your out of district friends!  They can register at

What kinds of things could you learn or share at EdCamp?  

EdCamp Tips:
  • There won't be formal presentations.  You don't have to have a PowerPoint presentation created in order to host a session.
  • Think about what you want to:  Learn, Share, Discuss or Explore.
  • You don't have to be an expert to share.  Just be willing to start the conversation!

More info about EdCamp GCISD can be found here:

We hope to see you on June 10th!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Auto-Tweet Your Blog Posts with Twitterfeed!

I've used the website (If This Then That) for years to automate many things online but just found a super easy way to auto-Tweet my Virtual Voyage blog posts to the #gcisdvv hashtag.  It's a free website called  

Here's how to set it up:
  1. Go to and create an account.
  2. You'll get an email to confirm your address.  Click the link and you'll be taken through a step by step process to setup your blog Tweets.
  3. Type your blog name and paste your blog URL.  (Click the "test rss feed" button to be sure it's the right feed address).
  4. Click the "Advanced Settings" link to expand the window.
  5. Scroll through the options and change 2 things:
    • Change the "Post Content" choice to "Title Only"  
    • Enter #gcisdvv in the "Post Suffix" box.  This will automatically add the hashtag after the blog post title in the Tweet.  
  6. Click "Continue to Step 2"
  7. Choose Twitter and authenticate your Twitter account.
  8. Click "Create Service"
  9. Click "All Done"
Now anytime you write a post on your Virtual Voyage blog, it will automatically be Tweeted to #gcisdvv within 30 minutes!  How cool is that?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

GCISD Virtual Voyage - Create Your Blog Today!

Want to get started on your own Virtual Voyage?  Worried about step #1... creating a blog?  No worries!  It's easy!  Here's how:

Seriously!  It's that simple.  The hardest part is picking your blog name/url.  I just chose something easy ( but it can be anything you want.

Now you're ready to start posting.  Creating a post is as easy as typing an email.  Just follow these steps.  

Now that you've got your blog created, sign up for the Virtual Voyage by filling out our form here:

Stay tuned tomorrow for a really cool trick to auto-Tweet your Virtual Voyage blogposts with the #gcisdvv hashtag.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Doctopus and Goobric - Google Drive Add-Ons To Make Your Teacher Life Easier!

Today's guest post come to us from Julie Brem, librarian at Colleyville Heritage High School.  

Do you have something to share?  Fill out the "Tips from our Readers" form and maybe you'll be selected as our next guest blogger!


The “Doctopus”

You’ve gotta love all these crazy names for tech tools, but here’s one you can’t live without: Doctopus.  Think Google Docs + An Octopus’ arms,  pushing out documents to all your students’ Google drive folders.  But wait--there’s more!

  • Got differentiation happening in your classroom?  Doctopus will push out modified documents to those students who need them.  
  • What about collaboration?  Doctopus will push out separate documents for each group, allowing only those group members to collaborate.  
  • Doctopus makes assessment so much easier.  In the end you will have a Google Spreadsheet with links to all your students’ products, so you won’t have to click inside each student’s folder.

I cannot neglect to mention the most amazing feature of Doctopus: it will create four folders for each of your classes: a teacher folder for just you, a “view-only” folder for you to put things in for students, a class edit folder, and an individual folder only shared between you and that student.  This means that if all of a student’s teachers used Doctopus, they would have a completely organized Google drive for each of their classes!

The Goobric “Eye” -- it appears in the navigation bar of Chrome when installed.

Here’s another crazy Google tool name: Goobric.  Google + Rubric = Goobric.  

  • Goobric works with Doctopus to overlay a rubric pre-created in your Google Drive.  
  • After you score your students’ work, you can email them the rubric along with comments and scores.

What you will need to begin using these amazing tools:

  • First of all, make sure you are using Chrome as your web browser.
  • Second, you will need a roster spreadsheet in your Google drive with columns for your students’ first name, last name and GCISD email addresses (email me for tips in how to easily create this spreadsheet).
  • Once you are in your roster spreadsheet in Google Drive, click on the Add-Ons menu at the top and add Doctopus and Goobric.
  • At this point, I could reinvent the wheel and write out instructions, but it’s really best to get it straight from the horse’s mouth:

These two funny-sounding Google Sheet add-ons may well be the missing links in creating a paperless, efficient workflow for using Google drive to distribute and evaluate assignments and projects.  

Please join the GCISD Google Apps for Education Google+ Community to problem-solve and share ideas regarding the use of Doctopus and any other Google products within the classroom or professionally.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Feedly - Blog Reading Made Easy!

Today's guest post comes from Gypsy Mishoe, Instructional Coach.  Follow her on Twitter @gypsymishoe.

For several years now, some of my clever colleagues have been "suggesting" that I set up feedly.  I never got around to this task, so this Virtual Voyage was the perfect excuse to check it out.  At first I was a little bit confused as to how to set up account.   Of course, it was one of those times where the set up was so simple I was way overthinking things.  All I had to do was sign in with my google account. It was that simple. 

I decided to set up 5 different "collections" to help organize my blogs.  I created the following categories: humanities, technology, special education, GT, and finally a category called "Virtual Voyage" to easily keep up with all of my fellow travelers.  If you have not yet joined us on the GCISD Virtual Voyage, please go here to sign up!  I can now use feedly as my one stop shop to see all the great new things my blogging friends have to say.

There is a little search field in the top right hand corner of the home screen that allows you to search for blogs.  I copied and pasted the url of desired blogs and they magically appeared!  You then press the +feedly button to add the blog.  I then selected the correct category for the blog and clicked the word "add" at the bottom. 

This worked beautifully 99% of the time.  I did have a few problems adding weebly blogs to my feedly. I would like to thank Courtney Ervin's blog  and Amy Phillips for helping me figure this out.  For those blogs, I had to find the rss feed for that weebly, and then paste that url address into the search box.  Not hard!

Here is a screenshot of what my "Virtual Voyage Collection" looks like.  I am super excited to have the ability to see ALL of the new posts without clicking on each of the individual blogs.  

 I found this blog post (on my feedly of course) with detailed instructions on how teachers can use feedly to easily assess and comment on the blogs of entire classes.  Check it out here.

Gypsy's post is part of her GCISD Virtual Voyage blog.  Join us on your own Virtual Voyage... 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Twitter Chats

Today's guest post comes from Erin Gerdes, 1st grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary.  Follow her on Twitter @ErinGerdes.

A year ago I began my digital classroom journey. It has opened my eyes to endless possibilities for myself as an educator, for my students and for opportunities to collaborate with others. One new option for me was doing a Twitter Chat. I tend to be the quiet person who listens and takes what everyone says in, then I try it on my own and reflect. I'm a bit shy, especially when surrounded by other professionals. Turns out, Twitter Chats are PERFECT for me! At first, I was a 'lurker'. I would watch the chats but not get involved, other than retweeting something so I would have record of it later. I slowly grew my PLN this way, following a number of people. 

After a while, I began to participate. Now I really enjoy getting involved and look forward to meeting some of these people in my PLN at conferences. One of my favorite Twitter Chats is #1stchat. It is every Sunday night, which is nice timing in my home. We are winding down, preparing for the week ahead. I can ride my stationary bike or get comfy in my sweats while on my couch and follow along. If I have to take care of my family, I can go back and read what was stated during the hour later on. 

This chat has led to TONS of ideas that I can go back and apply on my own time, and share with others. It has led to me branching out with a Twitter account in my classroom, matching up with other 1st grade teachers from around the country and in Canada. They have sent activities to me, as well as share fun ideas (#2d3dshapes while we were all studying geometry; number riddles, poetry, etc). There is a lot of participating and active sharing. I've started lurking in #2ndchat as well recently. I also enjoy #txeduchat on Sunday nights. I can finish one chat and go right into another. I know there are several others - I have checked out #geniushour, too. 

My first favorite of course is the #gcisdchat! It was fun chatting with other educators that I have met at meetings but never get to just talk to about what works and what doesn't. I enjoy when coaches and administrators get involved and offer ideas, as well. One of my favorite things was visiting another school in our district. A teacher and I recognized each other but we had never met. Turns out we participate in the same Twitter Chat! It is fun to get to know all these amazing educators that are right here in my own district, as well as others from around the world. 

Twitter Chats are perfect for a person like me. I can sit back and observe, or I can take a risk and offer what I have experienced or what I am wondering about. I have gained confidence in what I do and really enjoy broadening my PLN. I highly recommend Twitter Chats!

Erin's post is part of her GCISD Virtual Voyage blog.  Join us on your own Virtual Voyage... 
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