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Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Tag Archives: education

Book Creator with Five-Year-Olds

Introducing Book Creator to Kindergartners is quite exciting. Any time the camera app is used, kids go nuts. An introductory lesson covers the following:

  • Create a new book
  • Add a photo by using the camera (students got into pairs, swapped iPads, and photographed each other)
  • Add text (student name)
  • Change font
  • Change color of font
  • Change size of font
  • Change color of cover
Many KG classes will utilizing Book Creator to serve as a digital portfolio, replacing the traditional mountainous folders.

Beyond Earth Day

Guest Post by Annika Dahlgren-Ferrell



Earth Day is a day of observance/action celebrated each year on April 22 and has been going on and gaining momentum since its inception in 1970. The United Nations observes Earth Day every year on the March Equinox, which often falls (as it does this year) on March 20th. Earth Day, whenever celebrated is usually a time to reflect on the state of the environment and what steps can we take, as humans, to clean up the mess we have created.


Earth Day, in my mind is flawed. It’s like Valentine’s Day. Why spend one day doing what you should be doing every day? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s to bring awareness and stimulate social change, but I think that we, as educators should be living by example and teaching our students things that they can be doing every day to save the earth.  Kids understand the 3 R’s (reduce, recycle, reuse). They’ve been told to go out and plant a tree,  but we never really teach them important simple things that they, and their parents, can (and should) be doing in their every day lives at home.

What You Can Do to Save the Earth During the Other 364 Days

Re-evaluate what your needs and wants are.  We live in a society where everything is at our finger tips.  It’s easy to accumulate and spend and continue the circle of consumerism which is shockingly harmful on our environment. We need to not try to live in comparison to someone else… to have the newest and latest… to have the biggest… Start living in your means and possibly below your means.  It will allow you to live free and not be tied down by your possessions. With this in mind, here is a simple list of simple things you can do to make every day Earth Day.


  • Cut your hair at home (spouses and children)
  • Use good ol’ water for cleaning the floors, counters and surfaces instead of purchasing chemical-filled cleaners.  Tip: add lemon or orange peels and white vinegar to your water
  • Plan your trip with your car so that you can get all your errands done in a certain part of town.
  • Tell people you love hand-me-downs.  Clothes, toys, dishes you can get it all by just asking people for their old stuff.  You help them unload and you get what you want.
  • Reuse vacuum bags, empty them out and reuse them.
  • Use refillable water bottles.
  • Rinse dishes in a large bowl.  With water that is left-over, water the garden and potted plants in the house.
  • Drive a dirty car or wipe it clean.
  • Don’t buy new. If you must buy, buy used.  Search online. Check out your local Salvation Army.
  • Exercise outdoors when you can, instead of using a gym membership.
  • Use things for their entire life instead of continually upgrading.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Cut up old shirts for rags (I use them as Kleenex as well).
  • Trade toys with friends/neighbors for your kids.
  • Buy in bulk when it makes sense to.


  • If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.
  • Use your shower towel for a week (or until it gets musty) hang it in a well ventilated spot so it can dry quickly.
  • Turn off the water when you soap up.
  • Turn off your water heater (if you have the capabilities) and turn it on right before you shower.
  • Buy refills for soaps and shampoo bottles.
  • Clean the toilet bowl with a little bit of hand soap instead of buying harsh cleaning chemicals.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.


  • Use coupons.
  • Bring your own cloth bags when grocery shopping.
  • Keep refrigerator door closed (open it with something in mind… don’t keep it open and ponder what it is you want to eat).
  • Run the dishwasher only when full.
  • Wash Ziploc bags and re-use them.
  • Make enough dinner so you have lunch(es) the following day(s).
  • Turn off all appliances that have lights, numbers, or timers on them.  It drains electricity.  Including the TV.  You can unplug at night and have it on during the day if that works better for you. Alternatively, put all your electronic equipment on surge protectors and just flip the switch on that instead of unplugging them.
  • Use water that is just sitting in your sink (in cups, glasses, pots and pans) to water plants.


  • Wash sheets once a month.
  • Use your clothes more than once before washing them (unless they are stinky and noticeably dirty of course).

Living Room

  • Use fans in summer (and turn them off when you leave the room) instead of using AC.
  • Turn thermostat up.
  • Close curtains to keep the heat out.
  • Sweater up in the winters.  Turn thermostat down and let in the natural sun light to warm things up.
  • Incredibly enough, candles increase the temp. in your home.
  • Turn off your computers and printers when they are not in use.
  • Turn off everything in a room that you aren’t using or when you leave the room.

Student Check-List

Eco-Sites for Kids & Teachers

Eco Kids

Eeko World

Rufus’ Home

Recycle City


The Daily Green

Kids Saving Energy

The Green Guide for Kids

Earth Matters

Annika Dahlgren-Ferrell is a Health, Nutrition and PE teacher from California who is passionate about the environment. Growing up in two cultures (Sweden and the US) she has seen her share of both environmental negligence and responsibility.

Making Quizzes Using ActivInspire

Learn how to make quizzes using ActivInspire and your ActivExpression voting devices.

Measuring the Success of 1-to-1 Initiatives

Guest Post by Mark Pullen

Attribution: flickr.com/photos/29096601 @N00/4700349141

With 1:1 technology initiatives proliferating in schools around the country, it’s clear that an ever-increasing number of school boards, school administrators, teachers, and students see technology adding value to the classroom experience. Defining that added value, however, has been elusive; measuring it, virtually impossible. To this point, schools incorporating 1:1 technology have largely relied on standardized test scores to measure the success or failure of those programs.

Without a better measure by which to judge 1:1 initiatives, the mass media have, essentially by default, chosen to assess them by that same metric as well. In September 2011, The New York Times published one influential article that was critical of a 1:1 program in Arizona; in February 2012, they turned around and penned an article, which lavished praise on a similar program in North Carolina. What was the difference? Standardized test scores in the North Carolina school had increased significantly since the 1:1 initiative had begun, while the Arizona school’s test scores had remained flat.

I believe that it is up to us as tech-integrating educators and administrators to change this narrative. We must come up with an alternative measure with which to determine whether or not the introduction of technology into the classroom has been successful. If we fail to do so, the current test score fixation will remain, and as a result, since education technology improves student learning and engagement in more ways than what can be measured on a fill-in-the-bubble test, the benefits of classroom technology will largely remain hidden from the public.

Here’s one possible solution: I believe that students, teachers, parents, and administrators should be surveyed annually to collect data designed to measure the average level of student engagement in school, parental satisfaction with their child’s education, teacher satisfaction with the education their students are receiving, whether or not parents feel their child’s education is preparing them for the future, and more. Ideally, of course, baseline data would be collected in all of these areas before a 1:1 initiative ever takes place.

Given the “sound bite” media culture in which we live, I propose including numeric rankings for many of these questions, while also creating a number of opportunities for lengthier responses. (For example, “On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied were you with the education your child received this past school year? Please explain your answer in the space below.”) This will allow schools to supplement the black-and-white numeric data of a standardized test with sound- bite-friendly numeric data of their own: “Student engagement has increased 35% since we began our Bring Your Own Device initiative this fall.” More thoughtful audiences will appreciate the lengthier responses, but let’s be honest: those aren’t the folks who were swayed by the test score data in the first place.

Leave a comment to continue the conversation: How do you feel we can best transform the ways in which the public measures the success of ed tech integration in schools?

About the Author:

Mark Pullen has been an elementary teacher for 13 years, currently teaching third grade in East Grand Rapids, MI. He’s an advocate for classroom technology integration, and writes extensively on that subject on behalf of Worth Ave Group, a leading provider of laptop, tablet computer, and iPad insurance for schools and universities.

The Value of Financial Literacy

Here’s a great infographic from Edutopia highlighting the need for financial education in our schools.

8 Great Sites for Reluctant Writers

1. Storyjumper

Storyjumper allows you to create online books using a plethora of characters, scenes, and props. Teachers can, for free, create classes to register students so they each have their own account. As of this writing, there does not seem to be a limit as to how many student accounts you can create.

2. Read Write Think Printing Press

ReadWriteThink creates a lot of great educational resources. With Printing Press students can create a booklet, flyer, brochure, or newspaper fairly easily. There is a nice guide that walks you through the process and the focus is on writing. There is a place within each publication for a picture, but not one that you can add from your computer. This space is reserved for students to draw a picture after printing.

3. Kerpoof

Kerpoof is an online story and comic-creator which allows students to create comic scenes and stories, as well as animated movies, cards, drawings, doodles, and pictures.  Educators are able to sign up for a class account and assign usernames and passwords for each student to have their own individual accounts. There are no ads or inappropriate content and the art work is fun and lively.  Finished products may be saved, printed, or emailed.

4. Story Starters

Story Starters is a fun activity to inspire students to write. They first spin the story starter wheel (they can then spin individual wheels to adjust their story starter), choose a format (notebook, letter, newspaper, postcard) and then begin writing. There are options to print and draw a picture as well. There is a nice teacher section that lists objectives for the lesson as well as several ideas for integrating the activity into your current RLA focus. Being that students can’t save their work, I often just have them spin the wheels to create a starter and then simply have them write their stories in Word.  This would also be a good site to have projected on the screen (or on a classroom computer station) first thing in the morning. Each day a new student can spin the wheel and you could have a quick morning creative writing session, comparing and sharing stories.

5. My StoryMaker

My Storymaker allows students to create a story book with fun characters and settings. When complete, you can print, or save to the public gallery which allows you to download the file as a pdf. I recently introduced this to a 5th grade class and it went extremely well. The students created epic and creative stories and had a really fun time writing! The one drawback I found is that there is no option to save and come back to edit, so students have to start and complete their story within one class period. One idea I’ve come up with is to have the first session be an explore session where the students learn about the site, the characters, setting, etc. Then, they can write out a rough draft before the second session so that when they access the site the second time, they are ready to roll, and time is not as much of a factor.

6. Writing With Writers

Part of the larger Scholastic site, Writing With Writers provides an excellent resource for writing. There is an excellent section for kids called, Computer Lab Favorites (Teacher View Here |Student View Here), that has a variety of writing tools like Story StartersMyth Brainstorming Machine, and Poetry Idea Engine; as well as learning games like, It’s Greek to Me (great for Real Spelling connections), and Fish Up Word EndingsAlong with all the great writing tools and activities, there are also sections for MathScienceSocial Studies, and Spanish that require no prep and can be completed in 15-30 minutes.

7. Zoo Burst

Zoo Burst is a digital storytelling tool that allows you to create lively 3-d pop-up books with sounds and actual pop-up effects when you turn the page.  You first create a free account, and then use the simple interface and tools to begin creating your book.

8. Bitstrips

My favorite comic creator, Bitstrips allows students to create fun comics on any topic of their (or your) choice. Students can use Bitstrips for free, but the $78 annual subscription allows teachers to create a classroom with individual student accounts and create assignments that students submit to you when they are finished.

EdTechIdeas: These sites can be great tools to help struggling writers, as well as kids who love to write.  I’ve seen my students so excited about story writing with StoryJumper and Kerpoof. The Printing Press makes it quick and easy for elementary kids to create nice looking publications. Story Starters is a quick go-to tool when you’re in need of prompts.

Password Generating with Wolfram Alpha

I read a recent post from Digital Inspiration about using Wolfram Alpha to generate strong passwords, and it just so happened to come at a time when I was teaching my 3-5 graders about the importance of computer security and password creation. For the past couple of years, I’ve shown my students the video Secure Passwords by Common Craft before having them create their own passwords, and there is always a few students who have trouble coming up with a password that works for them. Enter Wolfram Alpha. Students can do a search of “password of 8 letters” and a password will be created with a phonetic form that will make it easier to remember (see below). 

If you want to make the password easier or stronger, students can click on “Use Specific Password Rules Instead” and allow special characters so that the password becomes more complex.

This will give you passwords like:

which, admittedly, are not the best passwords for elementary school students, but going through this process is a good practice for students, nonetheless. For those students struggling with creating passwords, they can play around with the password rule allowances, and create an easier password with just lower-case letters and numbers. Delving deeper, within Wolfram Alpha, you can click on any of the passwords that have been generated and find out how long it would take a computer to crack the code. For example, the password nJ$+[pub would take a computer 352.9 years to enumerate (assuming 100,000 passwords/second), therefore, this would be considered a very weak password with a total score of 48. Doing a search for “password of 10 characters,” delivered 3phZaejT7k, which is a strong password, taking a computer 55,456 years to break.

iPads in Education

Here’s a great resource compiled on scoop.it by Kyle Calderwood, for learning about the reasons to use iPads in educational settings. There are currently 81 articles about ways to use iPads in your classroom, must have apps, tips and tricks, case studies, and more.

Using iPads in Education

Arcademic Skill Builders

Arcademic Skill Builders is a fun site that combines arcade style games with academics to make learning fun. There are 12 different subjects including addition, subtraction, fractions, time, geography, language arts, typing and more. Students can create a public or a private game (private games require students to create a password for that specific game).

At the time of this writing, teachers can sign their class up for the Plus version of Arcademic and have the ability to track student performance, create custom content, analyze problem areas, and earn attachments.

Newspaper Map, Study Jams, and Go Go News

Newspaper Map

Newspaper Map is a nice mash-up with Google Maps that pins many of the world’s newspapers in their respective locations on the map. Students and teachers can look up a specific newspaper or location, filter it by language, and then go to the site of any of the thousands of newspapers included in this site.

Study Jams

Study Jams has a fun selection of animated videos to help students with math and science concepts such as multiplication and division, algebra, fractions, geometry, landforms, solar system, matter, energy, light and sound, force and motion, animals, and much more.

Here’s a preview of one of the videos:

Go Go News

Back to current events, Go Go News is an educational site that has “big news for little people.”  Since its inception in 2006, GoGoNews has provided children with general knowledge, as well as a consciousness and awareness of the world, regardless of geography or culture. Along with the different news sections, there is a free mobile app, and they are developing GoGoTeach, to help educators integrate the site into their classrooms.

We’re Back!

After a wonderful summer hiatus spent travelling with my family to Hawaii, California, and finally returning to Singapore after 2 months of living somewhat off the grid; I am penning my first post in quite some time. For those of you long time readers, welcome back to EdTechIdeas!

Being that most schools in the northern hemisphere are starting up school in the next few weeks, today’s post will highlight 3 sites that can be used as ice breakers and discussion starters. These sites can be used at any time, so for those of you half-way through the school year, they will come in handy as well.

Learn Something Every Day

Learn Something Every Day is a great little site that has for the past couple of years posted interesting facts on a daily basis. Teachers often have the site projected as the students enter the class and have them do a quick write about the topic.

A Google a Day

Here’s a great idea for a classroom ice-breaker or a daily conversation starter from Google. It’s called “A Google a Day” and it’s a simple interface that takes the Google search page and adds a daily trivia question to the bottom of the screen. You do a search to find the answer and then check to see if you got it correct by clicking, “Show answer.” The answer is then displayed along with tips on the best techniques to search for it (in case you got the wrong answer).

Icebreakers from Education World

Here’s a bunch of icebreaker activities from Education World, broken down into 12 different volumes. You’re bound to find an activity here that will get your school year off to the right start.

Best of luck to you whether you are beginning your school year or are half-way through!

Summer Sites for Kids – Part II

A good majority of northern hemisphere and international schools are winding down the 2010-2011 school year and doors will be closing as the students and teachers take off on their summer adventures. Here are three more sites to keep your kids learning in a fun way during the summer months. This is part 2 of a multi-part series of posts dedicating to summer learning. Part 1 can be viewed here.

Arts Alive

Arts Alive is a performing arts educational website developed by the National Arts Centre of Canada (don’t worry, there are no Justin Bieber or Celine Dion references). There are sections for students, teachers, and parentsto learn more about the performing arts and ways to discover a greater appreciation of music, theater, and dance.


Can’t afford that summer vacation schlepping around Europe? No worries, just pull up Toporopaon your nearest browser and learn all about the geographical, political, historical and economical aspects of the wonderful continent.

Story Creator

Story Creator is a great free tool for kids to write creative stories with a medieval theme. Intuitive interface allows users to add pictures from the gallery (with the option to upload your own), record audio, add sound effects, create chapters, and print and/or download the story.

U.S. Education vs. the World

The following info-graphic from USC Rossier Online shows an interesting comparison between educational spending and test performance of the U.S. and 12 other countries. It seems like throwing money at a problem is not always the road to success…

My Top 3 Brainstorming Tools

I’ve always liked Inspiration and Kidspiration for quick, easy to use ways of brainstorming. But with a $900 price tag for a 20 computer license, there just didn’t seem to be any reason to pay that money when there are several robust, free alternatives. In the past couple of years, these alternatives have come close to matching, and in many aspects, surpassing what Inspiration and Kidspiration can do to help students organize their thoughts. Here are my three favs, with a few honorable mentions thrown in to boot.

1. Diagram.ly

Just discovered this one and it’s already my favorite. Easy to use (really) drag and drop interface. Intuitive tool bar. Decent amount of shapes, lines, and clip art.  You have the ability to right-click on any shapes for editing options. Diagram.ly has a very Microsoft feel to it so if you have students who are used to using Office products, the learning curve with Diagram.lywill be easy. Another great feature is that there is no sign up, no registration and no download. You simply create your mind map and save (.xml, .jpg, .png, or .svg).

2. Grapholite

Grapholite is another great diagramming site that is, like diagram.ly, very “Microsoftesque.” Grapholitehas a generous amount of shapes, text boxes, arrows, flow chart icons, and blocks. Colors, fonts, and sizes are easily changed, and it’s easy to insert your own pictures directly into the diagram. Without creating an account (demo mode) users can create diagrams (there doesn’t seem to be a limit as to how many) and export their work as either a .jpg, .png, or .pdf. If you sign up for a free account, you can save your work online to be able to come back and edit it at a later time.

3. Bubbl.us

Another great tool, bubbl.us allows you to easily create and save mind maps. Without an account you begin brainstorming straight away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up for a free account and you can save the mind map to work on later and/or have others edit it.

Honorable Mentions

Hewe are some other sites worth checking out for brainstorming and flow chart creation:

The Greatest and Greenest Earth Day Sites for Kids – Part II

April 22 is Earth Day and in recognition of this, I’m dedicating two posts of the greatest Earth Day sites for kids and teachers. Part I can be found here. As Earth’s population nears 7 billion, teaching awareness of our environment to children has never been more important.

Environmental Kids Club

Environmental Kids Club is a site made by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  One thing I really like about this site is that it has Daily Actions, an Environmental Tip of the Day, and a Question of the Week. There are also sections about air, water, garbage & recycling, plants & animals, you & your environment, an art room, a science room, a game room, and many other additional resources for kids and teachers.

National Audubon Society

The National Audubon Society’s education section has fun activities for kids where they can play games, watch videos of wildlife and see live webcams of nesting birds. There is also an adoption center where classes can learn about endangered animals, and how they can help.  In the educator section, there are links to activities, lesson plans, and tips on how to bring nature into your classroom.

Environmental Education for Kids (EEK)

From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, EEK is a very kid-friendly site with links to information on all kinds of animals (would be a great resource for animal research), environmental issues, and a section devoted to cool things to do and read about. The Teacher Page has activities, resources, event calendar, and a news section that will help teachers keep their students informed about environmental issues.

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