Monday, March 31, 2014

Online Manipulatives for Grades K-8

McGraw Hill Education Virtual Manipulatives
 McGraw Hill offers a free website with a huge variety of manipulatives that would be great for use in a classroom with an interactive projector. 

After picking your grade level, choose the desired background from the list.  Pre-K-2nd grade have game board and story board options as well as the workmats that are available for all grade levels.  

Next choose a manipulative.  Some options include algebra tiles, base ten blocks, currency, clocks, fraction tiles, geoboards, geometric solids, hundred chart, tangrams, thermometers and many more.  

Use the tools at the bottom of the screen to move, type text, draw or measure objects on the workmat.  


Monday, March 24, 2014

DocsTeach - An Amazing Resource for Analyzing Primary Source Documents


DocsTeach is an awesome resource for social studies teachers. Teachers can search a large collection of ready to use interactive activities or create your own for students to analyze thousands of primary source documents selected from the National Archives.  

Note: The activities do require Flash to be interactive so they won't work on iPads but they do have a print view that can be accessed on an iPad.  Some of the activities would be great to complete whole class using your interactive projector.

Activities can be searched in 3 categories: by eras (from 1754 to present), by historical thinking skill (chronological thinking, historical comprehension, etc.) or by tool (finding a sequence, focusing on details, etc).

Here's an example activity analyzing documents from the Civil War:

To create your own activity, first create a free account.  There are 7 different activity types to choose from:

Choose your documents, design your activity and add any discussion prompts or directions.  Once you've saved and published your activity, you'll get a URL that students can use to access the assignment.

What do you think?  Have you used DocsTeach?  Share your thoughts, ideas or activities in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Turn Any Video into an Interactive Formative Assessment with EdPuzzle

EdPuzzle is a great FREE web-based tool allowing teachers and students to create interactive quiz-based video lessons using just about any video.  Once uploaded, videos are editable, can include voice notes, and provide data tracking for real time formative assessment. The site is easy to use and provides a variety of useful features to transform passive viewing into interactive lesson engagement!

Personalize the Learning

Any video can be personalized with the addition of audio notes, annotations, cropping and editing! Even videos from other sources such as YouTube, Khan Academy, Learn Zillion and more can be remixed with your own voice or annotations. The best part is that the student doesn't have to wait until the end of the video to answer questions. Multiple choice, open ended questions, and comments can be added at any point in the video. EdPuzzle collects data as the students watch and interact with the video. The teacher can track when a student viewed the video as well how many times the student viewed a section before answering correctly.  Since the students' understanding and progress can be assessed, the teacher can personalize the learning based on the students' or class results.

In the Classroom

  • No more work sheets! Directly embed formative assessment into your videos. EdPuzzle analytics provides real time tracking so that you can check understanding and even grade based on the percentage of questions answered correctly. In a "flipped" classroom scenario, the results can aid in the lesson planning and instruction for the day's activities.
The teacher shouldn't do all the work! Let the students do the creating! Teachers have the option of assigning students the tasks of creating their own interactive video. Students could create their own or find videos from another source. Their audio, questions, and comments could demonstrate mastery and understanding. Plus students could view and interact each other's creations too.
  • Use EdPuzzle as an interesting way to introduce a new unit of study. Use audio notes or comments to create questions to pique the students' interest.
  • Create or find read-along videos and use EdPuzzle to check for comprehension and understanding. Since questions are inserted on a timeline, the teacher can pick the exact place in the passage to assess understanding. Students can work independently or in small groups.
  • Create video learning centers in your classroom. In science class, for example, students would have to correctly answer questions from a safety demonstration video before being able to advance to the next level.
  • Create and embed video writing prompts. Provide prompts throughout the viewing so that students can pause and reflect. EdPuzzle offers open-ended response options too. 
  • In LOTE classes, students could use voice over to tell the story shown in the video in their language of study.
  • Learning vocabulary can now include visual and auditory clues.
  • Provide audio feedback to student created video projects.
  • Since it is web-based, students can upload videos directly from their tablet, iPad, or other device.

Awesome Features

  • Teachers and students can sign in with their Google Drive account, although no email is needed for students to join. Teachers will need to create a free account.
  • Teachers also have control over the student accounts so it's easy to reset passwords. 
  • Help and tutorials are at your fingertips. In each section, the "show me how" button offers brief instructions.
  • Videos are editable, even YouTube videos. Choose only the parts you want to use.
  • Explain in your own words with your own voice over or pause the video and add an audio note.
  • Embed interactive quizzes or open-ended questions in the exact place in the video where you want them to appear. Watch in real time as students view or use the analytics to review the next day.
  • A library of lessons created by other teachers are there for you to copy and make your own.
  • Easy access to a variety of video sources such as YouTube, Kahn Academy, Learn Zillion, TED and more!
  • A Chrome app is available and since it is web based, it works on the iPad and other mobile devices too.
  • Strictly for educators! EdPuzzle was created for teachers by a former math teacher in Spain, Quim Sabria.

Getting Started

EdPuzzle is easy to use, even for the technologically challenged. Once you have created your teacher account at, simply follow the prompts. There are four basic steps: 
1) Create or upload videos; 2) create your class; 3) assign the video; 4) share and review the student progress.

What are you waiting for?  Create an account and try it out at

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Leave Audio Comments on Google Drive Files with Kaizena!

Kaizena is a free resource that let's you leave audio comments, text comments or links to resources on Google Docs.  What a great way to give feedback to your students!  Students can share their work with you through their Google Drive account (all GCISD students have a Google Drive account using their email address and password). Then you open the document in Kaizena (on a computer) and quickly and easily record comments.

Here's how to get started:
  1. Go to
  2. Click Connect to Google Drive.
  3. Login to your district Google account and click Accept.
  4. Pick a file from “My Drive” or “Shared with Me".
  5. Highlight desired section to add a comment.
  6. On the toolbar that pops up, click the microphone to add an audio comment, click the quote bubble to type comments or click the tag to add a resource (link to video, lesson, game, etc.)
  7. Send the comment to the creator by clicking their name on the left hand side.
  8. Choose to send via Doc Comment.
  9. When the student opens the document, he/she will get a link to listen to or view your comments in Kaizena.  (They will be asked to "Accept" the Kaizena to Google Drive link the first time they connect.)
Note: Kaizena works best on a computer.  Comments can be accessed on an iPad using Safari and "Desktop Version" following these steps:
  1. Open the document
  2. Tap the Edit button
  3. Tap the down arrow button next in the top right hand corner and select "Use Desktop Version".  
  4. Wait for the document to fully load and tap the Comments button.  Ignore the yellow bar warning about an "unsupported browser".
Kaizena will not work within the Google Drive app on an iPad.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Student Learning Journal - Google Template

At the TCEA (Texas Computer Educators Association) Conference in February I learned about a great free template for students to use in their Google Drive account.  It's a student learning journal created by Tammy Worcester Tang.  This would be a great tool to help  students become self-regulated learners. 

The template can be accessed here:

Students would click the link on the page above and login to their GCISD Google Drive account to create the journal in their Google Drive.  

Note:  On a computer, the link will automatically ask them to create a copy in their drive.  On an iPad, students will need to choose "Go to Spreadsheet View" and choose "Continue to Desktop Version".  Then they can choose FILE and MAKE A COPY to create an editable copy in their own drive. 

Once the copy is in their drive, students can edit it using the Google Drive app, on an iPad in Safari or by going to their Google Drive on a computer.  The spreadsheet has 4 tabs:  a cover page, Assignments (for tracking due dates), Journal (for recording "what I learned" reflections) and Class Notes.

Students can also share the document with the appropriate teacher(s) so that anything the student writes can be automatically viewed by the teacher.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

QR Journal - QR Scanning on a Mac Computer

Looking for a way for students using Mac laptops to scan QR codes? QR Journal is a great free option.  

To install QR Journal:
1.  On a Mac, go to the Applications folder and choose App Store.  
2.  Do a search for QR Journal.  (or use this link:
3.  "Buy" the app using your AppleID.

Once it’s installed, open the app from your Applications folder. You'll see a button that says “Scan”.  That opens a window that is using the laptop's built in webcam.  Hold the QR code in front of the camera and it will scan the code.  Super easy!

Tip: To make any Mac app easy to access, you can choose to keep it in the dock even when it's not open.  Just right-click on the app icon in the dock (when the app is open) and choose "Options" and "Keep in Dock".

Monday, March 3, 2014

What's a Mystery Skype?

What is a Mystery Skype?
A Mystery Skype is a Skype conversation between 2 classes.  The teachers arrange the Skype call in advance but the students do not know where the other class is located.  Students ask and answer pre-determined questions about their city/state to learn about where the other class is.  Students research the answers and guess the location of the other class.

What themes can be learned through Mystery Skypes?
Social Studies: geography, climate, landforms, natural resources, economy, cultures
Math: data collection, graphing, estimating, measuring
Science: weather, seasons, landforms
Thinking: research, organizing data, critical thinking, problem solving, compare/contrast
Listening/Speaking: notetaking, communicating via written, oral and visual information

What equipment do I need to do a Mystery Skype?
Either a computer with a webcam, microphone and Skype software loaded or an iPad 2 or higher with the Skype app installed.

How do I do a Mystery Skype?
I've put together a Mystery Skype checklist with reminders and resources to keep you on track. 

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

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