Thursday, July 31, 2014

Teacher Discounts

This is a bit different post for Tech Teaching Tips, but we all know teachers who spend there own money on in-class materials. We all know how that can add up.

Here's a link to over 75 businesses that offer Teacher Discounts for all sorts of items - from clothing, to art supplies, to technology software (okay, there is a connection here!!), even includes hotels, parks, museums and zoos.

Well worth taking a look and seeing if you can find a way to stretch your hard earned teacher dollars!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chalkup Rubrics are here!

Good News!
Chalkup is now incorporating Rubrics into their platform making it easier and easier for teachers and students to have a common baseline for assessment.
If you aren't already familiar with Chalkup...well you should be!
You can learn more from an earlier Tech Teaching Tips post.

Check out Chalkup Rubrics here.


If you are familiar with the coding program SCRATCH...check out this free new app ScratchJr
especially for iPads. ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children
(ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games.
It looks FUN!

Read more

and more here

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Learn Launch

Learn/Launch is a helpful place to be in touch with the latest ideas from start-ups for use in classrooms. Many of these start-ups offer their apps for free to teachers, all they ask is for some feedback from your experience using it with your classes. 
Get in on the ground floor for a lot of cool educational apps!

Read more from their latest mailing 

Google Educator Groups

A great resource for educators...
Are you familiar with Google Educators Groups?

See below for more information below and to sign up for a group or even create your own.

Google for Education

"We are pleased to announce the launch of Google Educator Groups (GEG), a program supporting communities of educators who learn, share, and inspire each other to meet the needs of their students through technology solutions, both in the classroom and beyond. GEG empowers educators around the world to expand their social and professional networks, and gain skills to deliver the best possible education through open technology.

GEG takes place both online and offline, and provides a space for educators to build relationships, collaborate, and learn through Google+ communities and hangouts or in-person events and workshops. Whether you’re a teacher, professor, or principal, anyone is welcome to join GEG to learn. Each group is organized by a local volunteer (GEG leader) and is entirely independent from Google.

Interested in joining a GEG or starting a new one? Check out the WEBSITE at to learn more, spread the word, and get involved. See you in GEG!"

Vi Hart on Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant

If you aren't already familiar with Vi Hart's creative and inspiring videos, you should be. Some of your students might just latch right on to her somewhat quirky approaches to math topics! She has posted hundreds of very quick paced, creative and thought provoking videos on all sorts of topics that show her love of math and art.

Post them onto your blog, webpage, or your Chalkup class platform so your students can watch them on their own time. (a tip - some of them need to watched more than once to "get it")
Vi Hart also has a blog that you and your students may find entertaining, inspiring and challenging.

If you have, share with us how you have used Vi Hart videos for your classes.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Recently many colleges and universities are including E-Portfolios as a platform for students, teachers, alumni, etc. to showcase their work and ideas. Digication is one of these wonderful sites that many universities are using. High School students should take note as this sort of portfolio will be helpful to you as you apply to colleges...It will be quite impressive on your college applications if you set up your own e-portfolio of your HS work, internships, employment, volunteer work, etc. It also helps your future schools and employees see your experience, achievements and background.  Students and teachers can include artwork, writings, videos, coursework, collaborative work, research, etc. on a platform like Digication.

Some colleges now include this as a mandatory part of their graduation coursework. An e-portfolio program like Digication is actually an excellent way to present your work, your background, your creativity, your coursework to future employers/life opportunities. Many colleges also are now incorporating Common Core Standards and state teaching frameworks as part of an e-portfolio presentation. It creates a comprehensive package of your educational/life learning experiences that will impress anyone you present it to as you approach your life interests.
Check out this intro video from DIGICATION.

Wordle Tutorials

You've probably seen those Word Splashes on your screen within various presentations - these are made with a simple little program called Wordle. Just click on this link and it will bring you to the program you need to build these word splashes. You dont need to dowload anything to your computer for this, though you may like to Bookmark Wordle onto your computer for quicker access. Students and teachers alike can use this program in a variety of ways - key vocabulary words from Science class; words that a students feels describe themselves; names of characters from a book; math terms; Social Competency terms, etc.

The mechanics of using Wordle are quite easy. Once you open the program, just enter your list of words/names in the space provided. Just to experiment and see how it works, you may want to start off with a short list (8-10 words), however the bigger Word Splashes are sort of fun and can often turn into a type of "Word Search" for students.

Check out this VIDEO for more advanced work with Wordle - copying poems, using website URLs, changing  the layout, colors, font style, cutting out words, etc.

You can use your Snipping Tool to save your Wordle creation. A short little video to help you locate your Snipping Tool in Windows 8/8.1

A quick note - make sure that JAVA is uploaded to your computer at home and the school computers if you intend to have students create their own word arrangements.

Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts

A lot of folks are moving on to Windows 8, 8.1, and more than a bit perplexed by all of the features that it offers. Put in a search for "Windows 8 Tutorials" and you will find several videos that offer you more information about some of the variety of features that it now offers. This short video tutorial from CNET will help familiarize you to some shortcuts in working with Windows 8, 8.1.

Let me know if you find some good shortcuts and short informative and helpful videos on this!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Typeracer for Schools

A wonderful typing game that will keep your students coming back for more day after day - Typeracer for Schools. Although this program is not free for schools, it's cost is quite minimal and do-able for many schools - especially if you can't afford to squeeze in typing/keyboarding classes into your school day.

Teachers set up their students with accounts and log-ins. Students sign in and "Enter Race" - it's as simple as that to get started! Each student is designated a race-car with their name. At the green light, a passage shows up that the students are to type. If they make an error, their passage will turn red to alert them to go back and correct it. The cars race forward as the students type the passages (most are just a sentence or two, sometimes 4-5 sentences at the most). A fun and unique feature is most of the passages are from books that students might be familiar with in their classwork, whether it be Literature/Reading classes or Science and Social Studies. Some students start to smile that even some of their favorite Justin Beiber or Katy Perry tunes are offered up as passages! It makes the game even more fun for them!

The competition within the room gets electric as students realize that they are racing against each other. The Typeracer program does track students' timing and accuracy levels, so eventually those students who perform at a faster and more accurate rate, will be grouped to similar level students. Teachers are able to follow along on a Master List and can see how often a student is participating, how accurate and speed levels.

In this day and age where it is difficult to fit in actual keyboarding classes into a school day, Typeracer for Schools fits the bill in an exciting and fun way for your students.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This is Sand

When students have completed a project and there just isn't enough time to start a new one, I often give in to their request to go to the site - This is Sand

If you remember ever creating sandart with colored sand, This is Sand is the same concept. Instead of using actual sand, students go to a color page and "grab" a color with their cursor, then return to their art page and click on the mouse to see that color start to fall on the page. To change colors, go back to the color page, click on another choice of color, then return again to your art page.

It may seem like a mindless waste of time, but two things in particular stand out to me -
*This is Sand is very non-threatening and user friendly. You don't have to be an "artist" to use this program. Students' designs improve over time. They start adding some thought and care into their design and realize if they want something besides a triangle, they need to think of some spatial relations of their page and how to create what they have in mind.
*It's a very CALMING. If you have a student who is agitated, upset, or is just antsy and needs to calm down This is Sand is an amazing tool that can help with just that. Because at first it doesn't require any deep thought, anyone can sit down and start with it. Once focused on their project, students will start to breathe slower and calm down. No, I don't believe any studies have been done with this app, but I've seen   it work its magic time and again!

Once they learn the wonder of working in This is Sand, students come from home and share that they've figured out that it's a free app that they can download onto their phones and then they can happily, calmly create all kinds of colorful wonders!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

San Francisco Symphony site - SFS Kids
The San Francisco Symphony has developed an interactive site for young-middle school students on music, instruments, and composing. On SFS Kids students can learn to compose and play music. It is a free site and does not require any log-in for your students.
There are lots of sections to click on and just dive into -
To start it's probably a good idea to start with the "Discover" section and see how the site works.
Most computer-savvy kids will follow along quite easily. In this section they listen to samples of different styles of music performed by the symphony orchestra. Dialog boxes pop up giving information about the style of the piece that they are hearing. After listening to recordings, students can then go to a game section where they are to recognize and match rhythms.

When students click on the "Perform" section they can choose from about 15 orchestral instruments to listen to and even hear and play a scale on them - clarinets, timpani drums, tubs, pianos, etc. In the "Compose" section students are first presented with the basics of how to drag musical notes onto a scale and then can create their own musical compositions based on what they've learned from the other sections of the website.

I've played around with it for a short time and was impressed with how much information is contained in the site as well as how students can compose a variety of pieces within a short time.
SFSKids Definitely worth checking into!!
For some further info click HERE.
 and HERE.

SFS Kids

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From a Teacher - Letter Home....

When it comes to being a teacher and what education is really about to us all, you know that we all feel this.....
worth a share...


A wonderful FREE site for teachers to collect and store all sorts of curriculum work is a new start-up called - Coursekicker.

  • Quickly and easily find the best lesson plans for any topic
  • Find great videos and other materials to enhance your lessons
  • Organize materials in your personal library, and create lesson playlists
  • Share with other teachers your favorite links, your own lessons, and your ideas for creating great classroom experiences

  • The teaching resources are created by teachers. Member teachers then rate the resources with a star system. Teachers can collect materials that they like into their own Library and then use them with their classes. Teachers are also encouraged to post their own lessons in whatever format they choose. Class resources can be PowerPoint presentations, videos, labs, curriculum presentations, quizzes, surveys, worksheets, etc. Coursekicker provides a clear format to use with dropdown menus for Lessons, Subjects, Grade Levels, All Types (of lessons), and Standards.

    There's much more to Coursekicker. It will take some time to look through it and see what parts apply to you. For example, there is a Community page for educators to share together by posting questions, challenges, discussion topics, etc..

    It looks like Coursekicker has the potential to be a wonderful resource for all teachers on all levels.
    Let me know if you check it out!

    Another very interesting platform presented at the recent LearnLaunch session that I attended was called HSTRY. 

    In their words, "is a digital learning tool where teachers and students alike can create their own interactive timelines. Embedded social features promote collaboration and engagement between students." appears to be a very easy to use timeline creating site with professional looking results. Your students work will shine with both how their information is presented and how they can incorporate images into the finished product. It appears to be quite easy to start right in with - you can search on-line for images that correspond with your research topic and include links to your sources.
    This is a very new start-up, but I was impressed with the final looks of their timelines and their interest in teacher/student participation and feedback, including social media / Facebook participation.

    Paul Revere's Ride Timeline


    I recently attended a Learn Launch session for teachers to get introduced to some new start-up educational sites that are being created for educators and students. My first reaction was delight to learn how many of these entrepreneurs are coming through with more and more "teacher friendly" sites for us to work with. They are taking care of some of the time consuming things like no further need to write in student names and individual email accounts for each class list that you need to work with. Most seem to just have a code that you could post on a gmail "share" to your individual classes and once the students click on that, they create their own log-in, using their school gmail account.
    Nice help!
    One of the very promising start-ups that I spoke with was called Chalkup. My first impression is it's a lot like Edmodo, but a bit easier to navigate around and seems to offer more depth and breadth for teachers. This platform was built to work with Google Drive and teachers will find it easy to import documents, create surveys, post assignments, videos, comments, etc.
    And, good is free!
    They have scheduled some up-coming webinars this summer that you might want to participate in to help you gain some more insight as to how Chalkup might be of help to you in your classroom.
    Also check out their blog, you can learn lots more info about Chalkup there and their overall mission statement here.

    Chalkup even has a Flashcard making section to their platform so students can study some key terms, dates, etc. that you assign for them to study. They are collecting these and will have them available for teachers to draw from without needing to make them up (a work in progress!)

    Discussion pages - students all contribute to a topic, question, assignment, etc.

    If other teachers in school are using Chalkup students will see a page like this with their assignments from all classes (color-coded per class):

    Chalkup on Facebook

    Let me know if you check it out!