Thursday, December 12, 2013

Assessing the Change

Switching to 3D Game Lab brought a lot of changes in my classroom, many good, some unexpected and others curious. My students are almost always on task. The come into the classroom, check for bellwork and get right to work on 3D Game Lab. I have had many people compliment me for how engaged and active my students are. It's very rewarding and calming.

One thing that I have struggled with is grade reporting. Both parents and students are used to traditional grade reporting. For example, weekly progress reports, and A-F grades. While I came up with a cut off or a "win" criteria for my semester long course of 2750, it has been very difficult to report how well the students are doing.

I think next semester, that instead of having a single xp goal for the students I might use a combination of things. For example: 80 quests, 4 awards, and 6 badges. I have struggled throughout the year with effectively using discussion boards.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Gamification Changed Everything

At the end of last year I was blessed with an opportunity to change teaching positions from Earth Science to Technology. As Technology is one of my great passions I gladly took this leap. I often feel like I am one of the luckiest teachers because of the support that I have from my adminstration. Gamification is something that I am very passionate about and had some luck with last year. We dipped our toes in the water, using elements from ClassRealm and Class Dojo but I wanted to DIVE in!

We were able to purchase accounts for 3D Game Lab. Over the summer I participated in webinars, hangouts, and quests, all while building my courses for this fall. While my courses are not 100% complete, the work that I have done of ther summer has made a tremendous difference. In my 5 years as a teacher, this has been the smoothest start to a year (computer logins aside).

So what exactly is all this... Gamification? In a traditional setting students receive instruction from a teacher on a very strict timeline (typically lectures). X assignment is due at Y time. Or else. These "or elses" such as docking points and letter grades can inadvertantly harm a student, who is able to show mastery of a concept, but didn't have it done on time for a variety of reasons, some valid some not. In games, such as video games and even board games, players will persevere to overcome their obsticals, often at great time commitments. They do not simply give up because they did not succeed. This concept is applied to the classroom with Gamification. Gamification incorporates aspects of gaming such as badges, awards, achievements and levels.

We all know that students learn in different ways, so why are we still teaching them all in the same way? QBL (Quest Based Learning) allows students to have choice. With QBL facilitated through 3D Game Lab, students are able to choose what they learn and how they show mastery of a concept. After the first week the students realized that I wasn't going to tell them which quest to do next, that decision was up to them.They may all take different paths but will receive the education that is right for them. Just like a game, there isn't one way to "win" but many.

So what does this look like?

Thanks to a grant, we were able to create an all new 1:1 Go On Learning Lab. This lab is used for technology classes at our middle school. Students created gamer tags and avatars to use while they quest through the course. Over the summer I spent countless hours creating my road map, one that wasn't linear, but afforded students choice. Students work at their own pace, with partners, groups, and even sometimes as a whole class to complete quests. As students complete quests, they earn XP. Xp helps them "level up" in the course.

As they level up, they earn rewards, such as choosing where they sit, or listening to their music while they work. Because I spent so much time developing a reward system that would appeal to this age group, we've had a great start of the year. The first Saturday after the first week of school, I had students emailing me asking for more quests!

QBL allows me to give all of my students the attention that they need, from those that need enrichment and advancement, to those that need extra help and guidance. I feel like for the first time, like my classroom management and learning management have finally coalesced into something truly meaningful. I will keep you all updated on how the year goes!

Evernote for Educators

Evernote is a digital notebook system that allows you to be organized in a new way! I have written several guides, created movies and more to help everyone get started with Evernote!

Video - Getting started with Evernote

Video - Using the Evernote Webclipper

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

10 Edtech Tips if You Only Have 10 Minutes

A lot of times people come from conferences or webinars and they are overloaded with information. One of the biggest complaints that I hear from my colleagues, is "When am I going to have time to do this or that?" With that spirit in mind, here are  10 tech integration activities that take about 10 minutes to implement.

10.  Get started with Evernote. You've all heard me talk about Evernote and I've done my best to make it easy for folks to get started with it. I've created these two videos that walk you through getting set up with Evernote and the webclipper. Then it's easy to keep all your files and things that you find on the web. With tags you can keep track of everything.

9. Start using Wunderlist. Wunderlist is another one of those amazing free apps that lets you keep track of things. It also lets you collaborate on projects with your colleagues. This would also be a great tool for your students when working on group projects. It becomes an easy way for everyone to keep track of what needs done. And it works on every platform.

8. Create a word cloud using Tagxedo or Wordle. Word clouds are a nice way to get your students attention when starting a new unit or subject. It is also a great way to incorporate literature and other texts into a variety of curricula. Simply copy/paste the text into the site, or enter the url of the website where you want the information to come from. This is a great way to start discussions.

7. Use interactive tools. Even if you do not have an interactive whiteboard, you can still use interactive tools, many of them are free. If you have a computer with a projector in your classroom, either you or your students can manipulate the software from the computer itself. This allows for the interactivity needed to help increase student engagement. Many interactive tools are free.

6. Start asking questions. We ask questions everyday in our classrooms and sometimes students may be apprehensive or uncertain of their answers, but it important for us as educators to ask those questions and that we give the students an opportunity to do so in a safe and comfortable environment. If you do not have a class set of clickers, students can use their smartphones (or computers or class iPads if you have them) to answer the questions and give you instant feedback. Checkout Poll Everywhere or Socrative.

5. Make a One-Shot video. Using screencapture software like Camtastic or Smart Capture allows you to record what is on your screen as well as audio. Instead of assigning homework, you can create an introduction video for students to watch at home/before class. This is a way to do some pre-teaching before you get into the meat of things.

4. Make a Voki. Voki is a free website that allows you to create a simple animation that speaks with either your voice or computerized voice. This can be a way to introduce a topic, expand on something that students are learning, or an activity for students to create their own to demonstrate learning.

3. Liven up your PowerPoints with embedded websites. Many times people who use PowerPoint know how to link to a website, so that during the PowerPoint, they can click on the link and the website will open. This will "pause" your PowerPoint and then you'll have to alt+tab or click on the icon on the dock to get back to your PowerPoint. However, if you install the LiveWeb plugin, you'll never have to close out of your PowerPoint because the website will be right there on the slide.

2. Create an interactive image using Thinglink. Use these in your classroom on an interactive board of as a way to start a webquest.

1. Make a plan. It's easy to suggest these things and all the other resources that we have here out there, but sometimes, time just gets away from us. Making a technology integration plan is an excellent way to keep yourself accountable. Whether it's in your planbook or with your team. You can also keep a log of the technology that you use and how you use it, this way you can reflect on how successful it has been, or things that you would change in the future.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Connecting Authors with Students

When I taught 5th grade, I read aloud to my students for about 20 minutes a day. We read a variety of author's and books, two of which had a strong impact on the students, those being The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

I read on Tom's website, that he would Skype with classes. This was an amazing experience for students, they were able to ask questions of Tom and learned how to fold an emergency Yoda. This connection to the author helped inspire several of my students to read the other books in the series, and some of them continue to read them.

Skype is a very powerful tool, one that people are using all over the world to connect classrooms, I highly recommend that everyone try it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quest Attractiveness

When I initally mapped out my quests I was thinking very linearly, just as traditional teaching would have us. Teach a lesson, assign homework, assess what was taught. However it seems that in trying to force this one-way-street type of thinking into Quest Based Learning it completely removes both choice and attractiveness of quests. Quests must be both engaging and informational to students. It is also important to include variety


While some students may learn better reading a text, others may learn better by watching a video, I believe that it is important to include this kind of flexibility within quests so that activities do not become stagnant.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Time Blues

Hey folks, the summer is half over and it feels like I still have a lot to do before I go back to school. This summer has been filled with good times with family and friends, travelling and watching way too many shows on Netflix. And there's still another month or so before I have to report back to work.

Unlike previous years, this year is the first year that I have not taught summer school, which has it's ups and downs. Missing that extra income has been one of the larger "downs." And the "ups" are fairly obvious: I've been able to catch up on some housework, get some yard-work projects done and work in my garden (which is currently overgrown with weeds, the weekend's not too far off and then I'll remedy that.)

I find that I miss my classroom and my students, but hopefully with my professional development and planning plans, I'll keep busy and the new year will be here sooner than I thought.

This summer I only attended one in person conference: i-STEM which is offered at universities around Idaho and focuses on, you guessed it: STEM!

Here's some of the resources, tips and tricks that I picked up at this conference.
I got to hear Kenneth Wesson speak on how the brain works and how that effects STEM education. His site Science Master, is filled with tons of research and resources. If you ever get a chance to see him speak, I highly recommend that you do. If you want to see the slides/read through the information that he presented it can be found here.

The strand that I took for the week was called Computational Thinking and it was taught by Alark Joshi (@Alark). We spent the 4 strand days being introduced to 2 different programming languages (Processing and Python - both of which are FREE!) as well as interactive resources and other block type programming. That's all well and good but how am I actually going to use these things in my classroom? Some background. I will be teaching Robotics (as an engineering elective) and Tech I and Tech II for grades 6-8.
  • Alice - is a graphical based block programming that students can use to create videos to demonstrate their knowledge (think machinima).
  • Python and Processing can be used as stepping stools/alongside students who are learning to program their robots with ROBOTC
  • Data visualization, this is more than just a Wordle or a Tagxedo, using ManyEyes, you can collect data in your classroom and view it in a variety of formats that allow students to draw correlations and make inferences. If you are a teacher who teaches classic literature, you'll be able to find entire copies of it available on the public domain, and when you visualize it, you're able to make other connections with the text. 
  • Blockly Maze - this fun and surprisingly addictive game lets your or your students build a foundation of block based programming.
  • Want to build your own games, videos, or interactives like the Blockly Maze? Check out Scratch

It seems like there was SO much more and like I am forgetting everything, but this is a start. While this is the only in-person professional development that I will be taking this summer, I have been working on 3DGameLab and quest based learning for most of the summer. I'm sure I'll have a post about that up later this week, it is super exciting stuff!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Connecting Your iPad to a Projector

There are several ways that you can connect your iPad to a projector.

The first way involves the Apple Mini DVI to VGA Adaptor. This method requires you to simply plug the adapter directly into the projector and your iPad. Another method is to use mirroring, a feature available on iOS 5.0 and higher.

The Reflector App is also available for $12.99 or $54.99 for multiple licenses, that also allows you to connect your iPad to a computer/projector.

This step-by-step guide explains the steps to mirror your iPad through your projector via mirroring. Please make sure you are referring to the correct projector type. If your projector type isn't listed (I've just posted directions for a couple types that I am used to using) feel free to contact me and I'll do my best to help you out.

Epson Brightlink

  • Turn on the projector
  • Turn on the Apple iTV (hit the menu button)
  • Change the projector setting to Computer 2
  • Connect your iPad to the same network that the iTV is connected to.
  • Use 4 fingers to swipe up
  • Slide all the way to the left and click on the mirroring icon
  • Select your Apple iTV
  • Slide mirroring to on 

Dell Projector

  •  Turn on the projector
  • Turn on the Apple iTV (hit the menu button)
  • Change the projector connection to HDMI
  • Connect your iPad to the same network that the iTV is connected to.
  • Use 4 fingers to swipe up
  • Slide all the way to the left and click on the mirroring icon
  • Select your Apple iTV
  • Slide mirroring to on


  • Is your iPad connected to the same projector as your Apple TV?
  • Is there a password on your Apple TV? Did you enter it
  • Is your Apple TV on? (hit the menu button)
  • Is AirPlay turned "on" on the Apple TV?
  • Still having trouble?
 Apple Troubleshooting AirPlay

Friday, April 5, 2013

More iPad Apps and Websites

It seems like everywhere I turn I am receiving more lists of great Apps for iPads and websites. This list came from a co-worker Kari Schumacher after she attended a UCET conference in Sandy, Utah.  This list is HUGE, take some time to check it out.

Utah Coalition for Educational Technology

Apps for the iPad
Pic Stitch (free) - Create and label images in different layouts
My Create ($4.99)
  • Stop-Action Movie program 
  • Externally representing a mental model
  • Forces the student to consider a timeline
  • Storytelling (beginning, middle, end)
  • Storyboarding (flow of the presentation)
  • Change in time

Story Kit (free) - Create an electronic storybook

Sock Puppets (free / $3.99) - App that is a lot of fun for kids to create animated stories. This is done by selecting your sock, background, and props and then recording your voice as the socks talk.

Toontastic (free) - A wonderful free iPad that allows children to create animated cartoon stories. They can choose from stock characters or draw their own while animating them and recording their voice for narration. Also, Toontastic's built-in story arc takes students step-by-step on how to create a story.

Puppet Pals (free / $2.99) - A excellent free iPad app that lets users create a story by adding characters or their own photos to a selected background. Once the scene is a setup a person can move the characters around while recording their voice.

MultiTouch Math ($1.99) - Use Multi-Touch to answer addition, subtraction, division and multiplication questions.

CloudOn (free)
  • Allows you to edit Microsoft Office documents as well as Google documents on your iPad 
  • Cloud based access to Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box

CollabraCam ($5.99)
  • Allows multiple users to take pictures, videos, etc. at the same time in the same place and they will go to an account where you can then manipulate them (create a slideshow, movie, etc)
  • Clips are saved to the designated “director” device
  • Videos can be opened in iMovie and shared over iTunes

Vyclone (free)
  • You can mix film taken on your iPhone, iPad, etc with footage taken by other people filming the same events
  • It will synchronize and edit everyone’s clips to create one movie with all the angles cut together (you also get the raw footage)

Aurasma (free)
  • Virtual ads / information 
  • Place your iPad, iPhone, or other devices over an image and watch it come to life!
  • You are able to create your own as well!

Layar (free)
  • Able to add digital content to print media
  • Augmented reality is a way of viewing digital information which has been superimposed – or augmented – onto a live view of the physical, real-world environment around you. 
  • You are able to create your own as well!

WordLens ($4.99 per language) - Word Lens translates printed words from one language to another with your smartphone's video camera, in real time.  No network connection needed!

groupzap.comVirtual bulletin board that allows multiple users to post pictures, notes, etc
  • Blog from teachers - Gives step-by-step instructions on how to set up a class website and other ideas on how to go paperless in your classroom
  • They said that their school (grades 7-12) was using tons of paper so their administrator challenged them to become paperless and gave them the incentive that if they did, they would be able to save and get laptops for every classroom
  • They said that now they save on average $6,000-$7,000 every month by not using paper and ink!
Visible TweetsSet up a Twitter account and this website will allow you to see all of the tweets that are incoming 
  • Allows you to share your screen to anybody with the link
  • Helpful for students that need to view items closer or if you want them to focus and view
  • PrimaryPad is a web-based word processor designed for schools that allows pupils and teachers to work together in real-time.
  • Allows for real-time single document collaboration
  • No signups needed, just start a pad, share a link, and you’re ready to go!
  • You can import documents into it as well as export
  • A time slider allows you to go back in time to re-create the collaboration as it happened
  • InfuseLearning provides a simple, powerful platform to streamline the facilitation of learning. Engage every student, on any device.
  • Similar to a Clicker, but it can be done on any device that can connect to the internet
  • Allows for real-time student feedback or collective questioning
  • Questions can be developed in one language and played back in another
  • Student responses (drawn or quizzed) instantly display on teacher’s dashboard
  • You can search a title, place, person, etc and it will generate a list of other books, places, things, etc that mention what you searched
  • For example, if you search Elvis Presley, it says that Elvis Presley is mentioned in 1832 books.
  • Takes all the details of a story and lists them on a web page (songs, cars, etc)
  • A useful tool for students that enjoy a certain topic and you can connect it to a different book that they may not have already read or known about

Tools ($80)
  • More accurate than a mouse!
  • Enables the user to use their hands to write, click, play games, etc on their computer!
  • Allows you to control your computer screen with gestures

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Class Dojo

This morning I received an email from eSchool News with a link to this site. I am always looking for more apps to review and try out in my classroom. This morning I absolutely fell in love with Class Dojo. Class Dojo takes about 5 minutes (if that) to set up. And once you are done you have a powerful tool for tracking classroom behavior, both positive and negative.

With a simple click on my iPad, PC or from my Android phone ( I am able to add or deduct points from individual students for a variety of reasons such as: showing teamwork, being on task, persistence, helping others, unprepared, no homework, and off task. Once you have clicked this, it syncs with the website so that you can generate powerful reports that illustrate a great picture of a student's behavior in your classroom.

The site allows you to view, print and email these powerful reports. Students and parents may be empowered with their respective codes, allowing them to track the student's behaviors. After you have entered the points you can go to the website and enter in specific comments for that day/time as needed. This app is SUPER easy to use and to set up. It is a must for any classroom!
Are you using Class Dojo? Comment below to share!

iPad Apps Take 3

So far I've posted lists of apps for teachers and for students. There are tons of apps that are being sent to me for review weekly and it's hard to find time to try them all. But here are some more that I have found useful.

Stage: Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera - This was passed to me from Trainer Rob who came to our district this last fall. It allows you to annotate over live video. It's quite interesting, very intuitive and best of all it's FREE!

Toy Story Read Along

Idea Sketch~ “Spider” webs

Puppet Pals HD- create stories, even record voice!

IEP Checklist

Whiteboard Free - connects to whole class for partner work

eClicker -in class survey


CIA Factbook


Monday, February 25, 2013

Common Core Resources

There is a lot out there to help us gear up for the Common Core State Standards. These are all sites and resources that I either use or have checked out thoroughly. - Read the standards and appendixes. If you haven't looked at the CCSS yet, this is the place to start

Common Core Fiction Reading Passages - Grades 2-12. A variety of reading comprehension passages created with CCSS in mind. The standards are listed and embedded in the passages. - curriculum maps

Caitlin Tucker's 11 Tech Tools for the Common Core

Achieve the Core

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Paperless Part II

Trying to go paperless in the middle of the school year has proved problematic. Students are used to both having a physical text book and to having paper... and lots of it. I think with more planning and preparation that it would be better to start an endeavor like this at the beginning of the school year.

have managed to eliminate paper tests, quizzes, and some assignments with the help of My Big Campus, which is good, but I would still like to be able to do more both to eliminate the amount of paper used by myself and my students, and to help the environment with recycling extra papers or at least reusing the back sides of them.

Has anyone else out there tried to go paperless? What are your experiences with it?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Do I Use?

I have been asked this question quite a bit lately so I thought I would break down the classroom technology that I have and how I use it.

Interactive projector - I have an Epson BrightLink projector with an interactive pen that allows me to use anything on my computer in front of the classroom. This gets you up and out away from the desk and interacting with students. I try to find interactive websites like and to create interactive activities for my students. Quia lets me make challenge boards (jeopardy), matching, rags to riches and even battleship games, which the students love to play and come to the board.

4 student computers
Document camera
Small iPad cart (11)
Big iPad cart (20)

My Big Campus - This is the Learning Mangement System (LMS) that is adopted by my district. I started out last year using a free trial of Brainhoney, but it was greatly lacking in features and functionality. My principal turned me on to edmodo, which we used with moderate success for about half of last school year. Then our tech guy told me about My Big Campus and it was a no brainer to make the switch. My Big Campus offers SO much more functionality that edmodo simply didn't have. One of the biggest problems we had with edmodo was the fact that Youtube videos would come up blocked on the site. Because My Big Campus is part of our Lightspeed system we get access to videos and content that we otherwise had problems accessing with edmodo. 

Discovery Education

LEGO Mindstorms kits - Who doesn't love STEM learning? With a class set of LEGO Mindstorms kits, students are able to explore real-world concepts. When we studied alternative energy sources, students were able to build working wind generators and solar panels. This hands on learning is the key to students success in Science.

Google Docs for Educators

Google docs offers teachers and students the ability to work collaboratively in the cloud!
  • Forms can be created for students to answer questions (like a test), and/or to submit work.
  • Forms can be used to create anonymous surveys
  • Groups can collaborate by working on the same document
  • Students and teachers can create slideshows (presentations like PowerPoint) that can then be easily shared and embedded on websites.
  • Buddy Edit (make changes in red or another color)
  • Reading Responses, then share with your teacher so they see them.
  • Use instead of Word for cloud computing (so students have their files anywhere)
  • Student assignment tracker (spreadsheet)
  • Google drawing (shapes, arrows etc) to create flow charts and word clusters
  • Create shared folders for handouts/worksheets/presentations for absent students

Useful links to get started with Google Docs:
Getting started with Google Docs
Sharing and editing documents
Integrating Google tools for teachers
Tips for teachers
Richard Byrn - - A Guide to Google Docs

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Going Paperless

This week I started a new adventure. I am going paperless. I teach science and this has been an interesting week thus far. The first thing that I realized is that paperless for me doesn't mean paperless for the students. Students are able to turn in assignments to me online through our LMS MyBigCampus.

In addition students still take notes and occasionally they will need paper, this is just part of life. But right now I am able to have the assignments digitally, and we are working towards our student created digital portfolios. This is exciting right now and we'll see how it goes or if I am pulling out my hair at the end of a while. We shall see.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


The end of this week is spent at a technology conference in Pocatello, Idaho, put on by Idaho State University. This conference is filled with great information and TONS of resources. I'll post some tips and tricks later, but it's definitely not something to miss.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Creating a Digital Portfolio with Evernote

This step-by-step guide will walk you through creating a portfolio in Evernote. Remember Evernote has all the basic word processing functions.

  • Open Evernote
  • Click on File -> New Notebook (ctrl +shift + N)
  • Name the notebook Yourname Portfolio
  • Your portfolio will consist of several components which illustrate your mastery as a teacher. 
    • Each of these components can be a page or a "Note" in your notebook.
    • If you have physical papers that you need to incorporate you can take a picture/import them directly with your iPad's evernote app
  • When you have finished compiling your portfolio information you'll need to share it.
    • Right click on the notebook
    • Select share notebook
    • Select invite individuals
    • Enter the email address of your administrator
    • Type in an optional note if you'd like
    • Click invite
    • Click Done