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... 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Join us on a Virtual Voyage this summer!

What is the GCISD Virtual Voyage?    

The GCISD Virtual Voyage is a summer opportunity for you to have fun and step outside your technology comfort zone! Challenges can be completed in any order at any time.  Do as many as interest you.  The only rule is that you must share your learning with others via your blog!

How do I participate?
  1. Create a blog.  (Directions here)
  2. Sign up here: 
  3. Use this checklist to pick the challenges you want to do.  
  4. After completing each challenge, share your reflection in a blog post. 
  5. Tweet your post with #gcisdvv so we can all learn from each other.
If you've already done these things, please still share your reflections in a blog post.

What are the challenges?  

  • Participate in a book study
  • Find a free app and try it out
  • Set up Feedly to read education blogs
  • Take the Google Power Searching online class
  • Create a Google form
  • Explore Infuse Learning
  • Collaborate on lesson plans in Google Drive with a teammate
  • Attend an online tech training
  • Search Pinterest for tech ideas
  • Move an activity up the SAMR ladder
  • Skype or Google Hangout with a fellow teacher
  • Watch a TED Talk
  • Explore Thinglink
  • Participate in a Twitter chat (besides #gcisdchat)
  • Design your own challenge!
More information and resources for each challenge can be found on our GCISD Virtual Voyage website.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

GCISD Hour of Code: Reflection from 7th Grade Math

Today's guest post comes from William Boykin, 7th grade teacher at Cross Timbers Middle School.  Follow him on Twitter @Cadre5GCISD

My seventh grade PAP Math students at Cross Timbers Middle School participated in the GCISD Hour of Code on May 13, 2014.  The day started with a discussion about the one million computer coding jobs that may be unfilled in the year 2020 because of the lack of coding classes offered by U.S. high schools.  Next, we watched a video with testimony by some of the most famous software developers such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.  They encouraged students to learn code, stressed the importance of computers in their future, and spoke about how they began their coding careers.  I also showed them a clip from President Obama celebrating the Hour of Code week and challenging the students to become involved.  Finally, the students used their iPads to navigate through the Code Monster web site.  Code Monster allows students to edit Java script code while manipulating geometric shapes.  It provided easy-to-follow directions, and allowed the students to advance at their own pace.  

 By the end of the class period, students gained valuable experience writing and editing code, and were exposed to a new skill that could lead to a hobby or career they had not considered before.  Many students displayed an attitude change over the course of an hour.  The idea of computer code can be very intimidating to adults and young students, but as they followed the instructions and applied their basic math knowledge to the program, their confidence grew along with the level of enjoyment and excitement throughout the room.  It was as if they realized they CAN do this if they put some work into it, and that it doesn’t take a genius to enter code.   

Overall the Hour of Code day at CTMS was very successful.  The students explored a new skill, and were given the opportunity to continue the coding journey at home.  As a teacher, it is exciting to introduce students to new ideas they may not have considered before.  You never know when you are going to change the future of a child, and maybe this was one of those days they will never forget.

Friday, May 16, 2014

GCISD Hour of Code: Reflection from a 3rd Grade

Today's guest post comes from Nancy Hale, 3rd grade teacher at Grapevine Elementary.  Follow her on Twitter @Mrs_Nancy_Hale and her classroom blog:

When I first read about the Hour of Code on the GCISD Tech Blog, it took me back to my own experiences in elementary school. I vividly remember learning how to do BASIC coding to create pictures on the computer screen from simple pixel commands. Knowing the impression this experience made on me, I knew I definitely wanted to try it with my students. 

I used the district’s list of suggested coding apps and took a poll of my class to see which apps they already had used. As soon as I brought up the idea of coding, they were immediately intrigued. From creating video games to programming their own robot, or even inventing a new type of technology…what kid wouldn’t be interested in learning how to code? The conversation and this short video clip had them all begging to begin. I felt like I was trapped in a car with small children asking, “are we there yet?” because all I heard for two days was “When is the Hour of Code?”

I decided to use the app Hopscotch, because none of my students had tried it before. I simply downloaded the app and they took off running with it. Even though I had posted a tutorial video on our Edmodo page, all of my students decided to figure it out through experimentation and collaboration. They were sharing ideas, showing off their cool creations, and teaching me as we went. Below are a few pictures of our experience. We look forward to spending more time coding in the next few weeks, perhaps with a specific task to create in the next hour.  

Writing code is certainly not easy and can sound like an overwhelming task, but we can plant the seeds student’s need to flourish in the future by allowing them opportunities to experiment now.

For more information about GCISD's Hour of Code, view resources here:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

GCISD Hour of Code: Create Your Own Flappy Bird Game

Today's guest post comes from Diane Norwood, 1st grade teacher at Cannon Elementary.  Follow her on Twitter @MsDianeNorwood.

Earlier this year my class began learning about writing computer programs.  We have worked on this with apps like Kodable and Hopscotch.  The students are learning to put the commands they want to use in a logical order to carry out a task.  

We went to a website called and created our own versions of the Flappy Bird game.  (It works on desktops or iPads). The website has a nice tutorial that took us through the process step-by-step of creating if, then commands to tell the character what to do. Then the final step was to design their own game and get the embed code to link to it.  Some students made the game character change backgrounds as they played or created a game where you got points for crashing on the ground - a point for each bounce!  Some kids created an endless game that you can never lose.  Most of the kids have posted a link to their game on our class blog.  You can try out their games by going to their posts on our student blogs (  (You may have to scroll down their pages back to February!)  Here's my undersea version:

For Hour of Code week, there is a new set of tutorial lessons with an Angry Birds (
 theme! We will be trying that out this week! Then we are going to try some challenges on Hopscotch. (I think that's more than an hour of code, but my kids will not mind!)

For more information about GCISD's Hour of Code, view resources here:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GCISD Hour of Code: Reflection from 1st Grade

Today's guest post comes from Maureen Simmons, 1st grade teacher at Bear Creek Elementary.  Follow her on Twitter @MSimmons1212 and her classroom blog:

Being a first year digital teacher in Grade One, I was looking forward to these last few weeks in May where “my” learning was winding down.   My young students and I have tackled a lot of exciting things lately – using Google Drive (check!), utilizing Edmodo for assignments (check!) – what more could our wonderful Instructional Technology Team challenge us with in the glorious month of May?   

Enter: “Hour of Code”

 When my fellow digital teacher (Karen Gelles) and I read this latest challenge we were mystified to say the least.  Both of us have heard the word “codes” here and there on Twitter… but that was the extent of it.   Karen and I spent a conference period exploring the Hour of Code lesson plan from our Instructional Technology Team to try to demystify the subject of coding.  We came up with our own definition that codes are teaching the very beginnings of computer science to our kids.  This Hour of Code lesson would fit in perfectly with Career Day – so we signed up to be a part of the Hour of Code.  We downloaded the “Kodable” app to our student iPads and I planned to explore it over the weekend.  I would be totally prepared for the following week!  

Enter: “6-7 year olds”

Three days before our Hour of Code lesson, our 1st graders discovered the Kodable app on their own.  They were supposed to be practicing math facts on an approved list of Math apps listed on the board.  Instead, a large group of students huddled in a circle completely engaged while exploring the Kodable app.    The same thing was happening across the hall in Ms. Gelles’ class.  Both of us whispered, “Should we stop them?”  I mean, after all, we were saving that app for next week’s (expertly planned) Hour of Code lesson!   But instead, we stood back and observed, listened and were amazed. These little first graders were teaching each other computer coding (without us!) There were tones of excitement mixed with mystery and even a little frustration as they were working hard to “understand the game.”   There was a sort of energy in the room that I can’t explain.  Many were already completing several levels of the app, realizing the increasing difficulty of the next challenge and sharing how they solved the prior one with others.  They did not need me teaching a well planned lesson.  So I got my iPad and joined the huddle on the floor so my students could teach me the Kodable app, since I haven’t yet had the time to explore it on my own.  Our first graders did not even know they were beginning to learn and understand computer coding – but I will tell them that next week (when we actually have the lesson)!

Enter: “Slightly revised Hour of Code Lesson for next week.” (Our kids are already so smart!)

Many thanks to our GCISD Instructional Technology Team for continuing to encourage and challenge all of us to step out of our (month of May) comfort zones and enter into the (not so bad) zone of computer science!  If first graders can do it – anyone can!

For more information about GCISD's Hour of Code, view resources here:

Friday, May 9, 2014

GCISD Hour of Code: Reflection from Middle School Language Arts

Guest Blog Post from Nichole Hostetler.  Follow me on Twitter @mshostetler6th!
When I heard about the Hour of Code, my first thought was…straight up fear.  Nightmarish flashbacks about my accidental enrollment in a high school C++  (advanced computer programming) course came flying back at me, as my stomach began to turn. 

“Okay, get over it,” I thought. “This will be good for my kids. They need this, and I can “fake it until I make it” to get them exposed, and then we’ll get back to our novel (where it’s safe!).”

I had initially planned to do this only with my advanced classes, and to spend both of my ELA blocks on this.  One block would be the “Intro” piece where I showed the videos, had them brainstorm real world applications for coding, and explored each of the apps, websites, and “low-tech” options to decide where they’d like to spend a larger block of time later in the day. 

To prepare, I began going through all the options myself.  After exploring this activity for myself, I knew I just had to do this with all my levels of kids. I was hooked.  Coding was easy---and FUN! Who knew?!

I started out with thoughts like “Coding is hard; I’m not smart enough to teach this; and coding looks super boring.”  After experimenting with all the possibilities, I was thrilled to have a changed mind! And even better still, I knew I was teaching the kids something they really needed to move into their future.

I shared with my students, especially the girls, my own reservations about this activity. 

“This is typically considered a “man’s” profession, and I never saw myself as a programmer.  But, if you will just give me the day, and promise an open mind, I will promise you that you’ll be pleasantly surprised!”

During the lesson, every student was engaged.  Collaboration, leadership, and cooperation happened organically, and the kids were INTO IT! They were helping each other “debug” faulty programs, writing code, and playing each other’s homemade video games!

After the lesson, I had my students reflect on their experiences.  Below are just a few of the students’ reflection comments.  I’m so happy to report that even the MOST reluctant student had a BALL doing the hour of code! Overwhelmingly, I saw comments like
“When can we do this again?!”
“Coding is so much easier than I thought!”
and “Maybe I’ll do this for my career one day!”
(Especially from my girls!)

I am so glad we were able to do the Hour of Code, and this is something I’ll definitely work into my lesson plans in the future! I’m a changed woman…and now, a PROGRAMMER too!

Student Reflection Comments:

“I really love [writing] code.  I might pursue it as a job.  It is basically your own playground, and that is the aspect I like best!” ~Julian

“This was really fun! I loved the obstacle course and the cup stacking [robot] game.  My dad showed me code earlier in the year and I thought it didn’t’ make sense, but this has opened my eyes to how it can be fun.” ~Jack

“I learned a lot about coding, and I think it is really cool and maybe something I want to do as a career!  I have always wanted to go to MIT, so this is cool! ~Missy

“After today, many of my questions [about coding] were answered.  I think coding is very fun and that any age can do it.  I found out coding isn’t boring; it is fun! ~Cameron


Robots Running Code: Unplugged Activity

Cameron's First Video Game with My Doodle Game

Hour of Code with My Doodle Game


For more information about GCISD's Hour of Code, view resources here:

Monday, May 5, 2014

GCISD Hour of Code

GCISD K-8th grade teachers are invited to participate in Hour of Code during the week of May 12-16.

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 May 12-16 to promote computer programming or “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.

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