Showing posts from 2015

Throwback Thursday: Mystery Skype

Last week, during Hour of Code, we had tons of classrooms across the district who connected with professional programmers via Skype or Google Hangout. The opportunity for students to speak with people who do the thing they're learning was very exciting for them and part of Portrait of a Graduate as global citizens! Another way for students to connect outside of their classroom is through Mystery Skypes. Amy originally posted about these around two years ago, so it seems like it was a good time for a Throwback Thursday on this topic. 
You can use the link above to find a classroom to Mystery Skype with, find a guest speaker, or take a virtual field trip. 

Below you will find Amy's original post!

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 quest…

Throwback Thursday: Read Write Think Website Interactives and Apps

Read Write Think offers several great iPad apps for students to use in all subjects... not just ELA. Over the years, I've blogged about Trading Cards, RWT Timeline and VENN Diagram, and the Poetry Apps (Diamante, Theme, Acrostic and Haiku).  To view all the apps in the App Store, click HERE.

The Read Write Think website offers many more (58 to be exact!) student interactives that work on computers or Chromebooks for students in all grades k-12.  You can search by grade level, interactive type and even learning objective (comprehension, critical thinking, etc.)  There are also many lesson plans to give you ideas of how to incorporate the interactives into your classroom.  The online interactives can be accessed here:

How do you use the Read Write Think resources in your classroom?  Leave us a comment below!

It's Hour of Code Week!

GCISD K-8th grade teachers are invited to participate in Hour of Code during the week of December 7-13, 2015.

To learn more about Hour of Code, read our original blog post HERE.

Check out some of the tweets from GCISD teachers yesterday:

It's not too late to join in the fun!  
Let us know you're participating by filling out this form  We will again be partnering with developers to Google Hangout with interested classes.  Be sure to indicate your preference on our form.Also, register on the site:, schedule 1 hour (or more!) during the week of December 7-13 to promote coding. Choose from a variety of resources and tutorials found on our GCISD Hour of Code website ( to expose students to foundational concepts of computer science.

Throwback Thursday - Kaizena: Audio comments in Google files


Amy posted about Kaizena in March of 2014. As she said, "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."Since posting about Kaizena, they have updated a bit so that you can add "groups" or classes based on what you teach.

If you use Google Classroom and Google Docs pretty extensively, this is a really great tool for giving feedback to students or grading. For instructions on how to get started, see Amy's original post!

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Social studies, history, government, or other humanities teachers, sign up for The Great Thanksgiving Listen! The idea is that students interview a grandparent or other family member over the Thanksgiving break then upload their story. It is created by StoryCorps and designed specifically for students ages 13 and over in an effort to engage people of all ages in the act of listening.  There is a free teacher toolkit that includes a lesson planning guide, permission slips, StoryCorps Great Questions, and follow-up activities for students.
StoryCorps App

To participate, your students need a smartphone and the StoryCorps mobile app. The app is user friendly and walks you step by step through the interview process. 

Discovery Streaming

Discovery Streaming is an amazing resource that is provided to all GCISD teachers and students through Region XI.  If you don't already have a login, you can get your campus passcode from your librarian.

Here is a quick start guide created by the Technology Department:

Once you're logged in, you can search for videos (and video clips) by keyword, subject, grade level and even specific TEKS standards

When you click on a specific video's page, you can read a short synopsis, preview the video, select specific clips or download the video.  Some videos also come with lesson plans (found under the Materials dropdown).

From the "Classroom Manager" dropdown at the top, teachers can create classes and student logins.  Discovery Streaming has great instructions for creating student accounts (  Tip: make their login the same as their GCISD Google account.  …

Throwback Thursday - WatchKnowLearn Videos


We first blogged about WatchKnowLearn in this post in May 2013.  WatchKnowLearn is an indexed collection of over 50,000 educational videos for K-12 students.  It's a great resource for teachers to find videos to include in classroom instruction (add them to a Blendspace!) or for students to use for independent (Genius Hour!) research.  You can search by keyword and even filter by appropriate age.  A login is not necessary but, if you create one, you can "favorite" videos for easy access later. 
Interested in exploring other video learning sites? Check out these other options: Safari Montage - students can login with the GCISD network loginDiscovery Streaming - teachers can create student loginsKnowmia - video lessons created by teachers

Throwback Thursday: Blendspace!

Today's Throwback Thursday goes to Blendspace! No idea why they changed their URL but we have an elementary school called TES, so it should be easy to remember! We originally posted about Blendspace back in January, so not that long ago. Blendspace is a fantastic way to curate information for your students. You can collect several resources about a certain topic and put them together for your students to use. You can add videos, websites, text, quizzes, and photos. If you've never done a Blendspace before, it's super easy!  See the original post by Amy Phillips for a step by step.
We have been collecting GCISD Blendspace resources since posting about this topic. You can see those examples in this Google Doc. Use these freely! We would love for you to send us the great resources you've put together to add to our list! The more we collect, the more we can help each other. Please fill out the Google Form below with your Blendspace link.

The New GCISD Podcast!

Lead GCISD is a new podcast we created to explore topics around our school district. We'll talk about LEAD 2021, best practices, educational technology, & more! 
What to do: Subscribe in iTunes for any new episodes: our Google Voice number at 817-755-0838 to leave a voicemail with any questions you may have. Your question may make it onto the show. Leave a message with a topic idea for a future episode or if you'd like to be interviewed.You can also subscribe to the Lead GCISD blog for supplemental materials or to be notified when a new episode has been released.
If podcasting is a new topic for you, podcasts are an audio file made available on the internet for consumers to listen to. Edison Research has reported that fully one-third (33%) of all Americans 12 years of age or older now say they have listened to at least one podcast. People like podcasts because they're free, easy to listen to, and on a variety of topics that you can choose from. F…

Hour of Code

GCISD K-8th grade teachers are invited to participate in Hour of Code during the week of December 7-13, 2015.

Check out this video to learn more about Hour of Code.

Why?:  There will be 1,000,000 more computer science jobs than computer science students by 2020.

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 Portrait of a Graduate, particularly skilled problem solver, effective communicator and self-regulated learner.​
Let us know you're participating by filling out this form  We will again be partnering with developers to Google Hangout with interested classes.  Be sure to indicate your preference on our form.Also, register on the site:, schedule…

Throwback Thursday - Get Epic! - Free English AND Spanish eBooks for Kids

We first shared Epic! with you last spring in this blog post from Bridget Visser, Literacy Intervention Specialist at OC Taylor Elementary.  Epic! is an awesome app that offers thousands of ebooks for K-5 students and is 100% free for teachers.  

There are so many ways Epic! can help the classroom teacher out! 
It is an app you can put on the child’s iPad or use the website.It provides one more way to help children fall in love with reading! It provides a way for children to log their reading documentation. The choices of literature are AMAZING!  Many genres at all levels.It allows differentiation in the classroom because you can choose what age group you are interested in reading. It has books read to you for the emergent readers.It has chapter books of all genres for the higher readers.It has books for all academic subjects!  Easy way to do nonfiction mini lessons in small group reading that seem exciting to the kids!They've also just added a large…

Just Books Read Aloud

Just Books Read Aloud is a site where over 700 videos of children's books being read aloud have been collected for students to peruse. 
The website says: Children can't navigate away to follow other YouTube leads.There are only children's books on the site.While reading the videos generally only show the books versus seeing the reader, which I think distracts from the book.Animation on the site is limited to nice editing jobs that zoom to parts of the page.The books are frequently reordered to encourage listening to new books.This is a great option for younger students to choose books in a safe way, with a lot of variety. There is even an option for books to be read in other languages. This will work in Safari on our student iPads. Give it a try and tell us how you like it! - Super Easy Student Blogging App

Since KidBlog switched to an all paid model in August, we've been on the lookout for a new, EASY way for students to blog.  Last week we learned about Easyblog from Abigail Embry, 4th grade teacher at Dove Elementary.  Right now, if you sign up for an account you get 100gb of space for free!  There is a bit of a process to get everything setup on each iPad but it's the easiest blogging app I've seen for kids.  Parents can visit their child's blog online and can subscribe so that they get an email each time their child posts.

Here are step by step instructions to get everything set up: The site also has a great collection of tutorial videos

Once everything is setup, students have 4 choices when they're in the app ("The Easyblog App"

When they choose the Type button, they have a piece of paper for their writing and can also post a photo and/or video.

Once they tap …

It's Digital Citizenship Week!

Digital Citizenship Week is the week of October 19-23. While GCISD teachers incorporate digital citizenship on a daily basis when using technology with students, this is the week we put a spotlight on it! The instructional technology team has created a web site of curated resources for campuses to use and provided the information to your campus learning liaison and librarian. Elementary schools will use the daily announcements and a customized campus plan created during 1:1 planning. Middle and high schools will use the daily announcements, the "Strong Passwords & Security Questions" lesson, and one additional lesson of choice based on grade level and campus needs.

Common Sense Media continues to be our primary source for digital citizenship curriculum. Common Sense Media's web site also contains information for parents to use at home in both English and Spanish.

What is your class doing to celebrate Digital Citizenship Week? Tweet about it using #gcisdchat

Throwback Thursday - Google Forms + Flubaroo!

I first blogged about Google Forms in this post from way back in 2012.  Now that everyone in GCISD has a Google account, it's even easier to get started!  Here's a step by step tutorial if you're new to Google Forms:

Google Forms are a great way to get information from your students or parents.  Many teachers use a short Google Form for a quick formative assessment during a lesson.  I have pinned tons of ideas for using Google Forms in the classroom on this Pinterest board:

Here are some examples from GCISD teachers.  

Decimals Task Cards - from Kimberly Steele, 4th grade teacher at OC Taylor Elementary.  The students worked sample problems on their task cards and submitted the answers to her via this form (  Then she used Flubaroo to give her immediate feedback about their progress.Map Skills - from Caroline Presley, 3rd grade teacher at Heritage Elementary.  Caro…

Throwback Thursday - LucidChart in Google

Last summer, Vicki shared with us a bit about LucidChart, a mind-mapping tool in Google. You can access LucidChart by going to the link above and signing in with your Google account, or by going to Google Drive, clicking New>More>Connect More Apps and searching for LucidChart. 

Once you have LucidChart open, you can create a new document and start dragging and dropping elements onto your chart. You connect boxes by dragging your mouse in a line from box to box. You can download a finished chart to PDF or an image, or you can insert them straight into your Google Slides or Docs. 
A new feature LucidChart added is to make a presentation within your chart. This could be a new interesting way for your students to present or show work. See the video below for the steps:

Instructional Technology News - InTech 4.0

4 Points to Keep You Up to Date on All Things Digital
A Somewhat Periodic Blog Post from Instructional Technology
1. YouTube Videos: When you upload teacher-created or student-created videos to YouTube, be sure to choose the Category - EDUCATION. We want to make sure your instructional videos are accessible to you when needed as technology services works on ensuring the digital safety of our students on an ongoing basis.
2. Digital Citizenship Week: Mark your calendars for Digital Citizenship Week from October 19-23. While digital citizenship is embedded in our work with students any time we are using technology in the classroom, this week will provide additional focus on the subject. 
3. Hour of Code: GCISD will participate in's Hour of Code for the 3rd year! Mark your calendars for December 7-11 and choose 1 hour to teach coding. If you want to register early, use this link -

4. Google Drive Organization Tip: The more we use Google Drive, the mor…

Throwback Thursday: ViewPure - Remove the YouTube Distractions!

We first shared ViewPure in this guest post from Patrick Lollis, music teacher at Cannon Elementary in October of 2013. 

ViewPure is a great resource for taking away all the comments, ads and other distractions from YouTube video pages.  The easiest way to use ViewPure is by using their bookmarklet.  From the main page, simply drag the big orange "Purify" button to your Bookmarks Bar (you may have to go to View and choose Always Show Bookmarks Bar if you don't see it.)

(If the animated gif above does not play in your email, click HERE to view)
Once the Purify button is on your toolbar, just go to the YouTube video you want to show, click Purify and the bookmarklet will automatically take you to a simple page with just the YouTube video.  

It actually creates a new URL for the video so you can share that with your students in Google Classroom, Blendspace, via QR code, etc. so that they can watch without the typical distractions!

Terms of Service

Any website or app that requires a login to use it will have a "Terms of Service" agreement.  The agreement is usually linked at the bottom of the app's website.  These agreements generally have age requirements in place in order for the site to comply with COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) and CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) laws.  Generally these fall into several categories:

No age requirement:  Anyone can use

Must be over 13 (or sometimes 18) to use:  Students under the age of 13 (or 18) CAN'T use the site no matter what (even with parent permission)

If under 13 (or sometimes 18), students must have parent permission in order to use:  Rather than teachers having to get parent permission every time they find a new app, in GCISD, parents give permission through InfoSnap at registration.  Your data secretary can print a report of students who do not have permission.

Even if the app or website touts itself to be educational or you hear an…