Saturday, September 26, 2015

Student Presentation Apps

Today was my district's annual iDevice Mini-Conference. I always love these conferences because of all the learning and sharing. There are so many good ideas that come from them! I facilitated two sessions on student presentations. Because of the focus on iDevices, I shared several apps that I love to use for helping students share their learning.

Rather than just focus on tools, I like to discuss ways to help students be better presenters. My inspiration comes from a blog post by Lisa Nielsen called Stop Letting Good Students Do Bad Presentations.  She outlines 6 tips teachers can use to help students be better presenters. I think these tips are more important than learning the apps. It doesn't matter how well students use the app or how easy the app is, if they present their content poorly all the hard work is lost.

My beginners session focused on 3 basic apps that are simple enough for students and teachers to transition from the idea of PowerPoint to doing the same style presentations on an iPad. The session handout can be downloaded here and the presentation is below.

Student Presentation Basics - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The three apps I focused on for this session are

In the advanced session I also added information about a new presenting method I absolutely love called PechaKucha. PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where students show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and students talk along to the images. This helps them be concise and stay on topic. It forces them to let pictures tell their story.

The session handout can be downloaded here and the presentation is embedded below.

Engaging Student Presentations - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The three apps I focused on for this session were specifically chosen because they don't follow the traditional slideshow format typically used in PowerPoint.
These are some simply, yet powerful apps that can really help students be creative and show their learning.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Awesome iPad App: Adobe Voice

Storytelling is a powerful way to inspire students and give them a voice. They inspire us, catch our attention, and solidify concepts in our mind. The way stories are created and shared can be just as powerful. Students don't need a tool to be so complicated that it gets in the way of the telling of the story. 

Adobe Voice is an iPad app that follows this philosophy. Check out this two minute video from Adobe Voice that shows this philosophy.

Voice is so easy to use that students at virtually any grade level could use it. When you launch Adobe Voice the first time, it includes an on screen tutorial to walk you through the process of creating your story. Once you know what you're doing you can skip that and go straight to the creation!

The app starts by asking you to enter a topic for your story. Swiping up from the bottom reveals suggestions for different types of stories.

Voice then offers a story structure for various kinds of stories. The structure includes a certain number of slides with suggestions for what story element to include on that slide. You can also start from scratch. Make your choice and tap Pick This One.

Choose a Layout for the slide you are on.

Choose a Theme for the entire story.

Choose Music for the entire story.

On each slide you tap the + to add an icon, photo, or text. There are thousands of iconic images to choose from.

If you select photo you can import from the camera, camera roll, or Dropbox.

Tap the microphone and record what you want to say. It's best to add only one or two sentences on a slide. Let the pictures help you tell the story.

When your whole story is done tap the Share icon and save the video to your camera roll.

Adobe Voice maintains a YouTube channel with some really good videos that offer some more advanced tips and tricks.

Integration Ideas

  • Create an All About Me story
  • Summarize a chapter
  • Recount a story
  • Share a biography
  • Create a how-to video
  • Present a position on a topic
  • Cultural explanations
  • Journal of field trip
  • Book trailer
  • Descriptive language practice
  • Create a dictionary

Download the Tech Integration Challenge for Adobe Voice and see if you are up to the challenge!

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Awesome iPad App: Sock Puppets

Digital storytelling is one of my favorite activities for students to do on the iPad. Letting them do this really brings out their creativity. If done correctly, students can still go through the writing process, learning all those needed skills, and still create a fun product in the end.

Sock Puppets is one of those apps that lets you create digital stories. With it you can create your own puppet shows in seconds. From the Sock Puppets description:
Just add puppets, props, scenery, and backgrounds to start creating. Hit the record button and the puppets will automatically lip-sync to your voice.

Friends can work together and create hilarious conversations with multiple puppets. While recording, simply tap a puppet and that puppet will lip-sync to your voice—all you have to do is tap a different puppet to make them talk back and forth. Switch backgrounds to take your puppets to different places, move the puppets all over the screen and use props and scenery to animate them while recording.
Sock Puppets is only available for iPads. The free version has a limited number of puppets and backgrounds. Projects are also limited to 30 seconds. A “complete” version costs $3.99 and has all the content included and allows for 90 second recordings.

How It Works

Before using the app have students write out their script. This will help the, organize their thoughts and prevent a lot of false starts and stops.

After opening the app tap the New button. Select puppets to appear on the screen. You can select up to four puppets. Tap Next.

Select a background. You can select up to 5 backgrounds to use as multiple scenes. Tap Next.

Select up to 4 props to use in your scenes. These will all appear on all backgrounds.  Tap Next.

Arrange the puppets and props and change their size to setup your scene.

Tap the Record button, move your puppets and props, and record your narration. Every time you tap a puppet it will start lip-syncing. You'll see an arrow above it to indicate that puppet is the one talking.

When your show is done, tap the Save button, give it a name, and export it to YouTube or save it to the camera roll.

Integration Ideas

  • Explain a science concept
  • Retell a story
  • Tell about an event from history
  • Share information about a famous person
  • Model appropriate social behavior
  • Tell jokes (Knock-knock jokes work well!)
  • Review vocabulary
  • Have a mini debate
  • ELL conversational skills
  • Foreign language practice

Download the Tech Integration Challenge for Sock Puppets and see if you are up to the challenge!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Blog overload: students as blog authors

image courtesy

In the last few posts here and here I discussed ways of managing student blogs by gathering the blog links into one location. This makes it very easy for the teacher to go through the blogs to comment on and monitor student writing. While working with a high school teacher to incorporate blogging I discovered a third way that can be really useful.

Again, this is for the Blogger platform, which doesn't offer any classroom management for student blogging. Essentially each student has their own blog, which is awesome for customization and staking out their own blogging space on the internet, but difficult in terms of viewing and managing. With the method described in this post, students become authors of the classroom blog. You can then moderate the posts and quickly view all of a student's posts.

After you set up the class blog, go to the Settings tab. In the Basic settings is an option for Permissions. Under Blog Authors click the Add Authors link. Enter the Gmail address for each of your students.

When the students log in to with their credentials, they'll see your class blog listed and will be able to create and publish posts.

Clicking their name as a blog author, however, only takes you to their profile. If you want to see all the posts a particular student authored, you'll need to use labels.

Go back in to your blog settings and click the Layout tab. In the sidebar click the Add a Gadget link. Find the Labels gadget and click the + button. Customize it how you want and click the Save button.

When students write their posts, have them add their name as a Label.

Now their names will show up on the sidebar of your blog in a Labels section. Clicking the name will take you to a list of all the blogs with that same label. Essentially this is digital portfolio of their work!
Labels vs Contributors (Authors)

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Friday, September 18, 2015 love

image courtesy

As a Digital Learning Coach in the Clark County School District I have 8 schools that I work with. I rotate through those schools, which means the day of the week I am on campus varies each time. As you can imagine, with that number of teachers and students scheduling can become a nightmare. It's hard to remember which teacher is in which room at which school. Fortunately this year I was introduced to YouCanBook.Me, which has become my new organization love.

You can see how I have my calendar set up by clicking the Schedule Me tab at the top of this blog.

Here is a short video to give you an idea of how it works.

Setup is super easy. Simply go to the website and create a free account using your Google calendar or iCloud login. You'll then be guided through the dashboard to link your calendars, schedule your appointment times, and setup the booking form.

This is what the dashboard looks like for me.
I have two iCloud calendars. One shows which school I'm at on a given day. I share this calendar with my wife and boss so they can track me down. The second calendar has the actual appointments and meetings with teachers. With the free version of you can only link one calendar. I embedded my school calendar on my blog and linked the appointment calendar with

In addition to designating appointment slots, you can also define what information you need to gather for each appointment. This is done on the booking form tab. In my case I need to know which school the teacher is at, which room they are in, and what help they need. When the teacher selects their desired appointment time the booking form appears, they fill in the information, and the event is added to my calendar. 

The booking form.

I can even specify how the event appears on my calendar. Not only does the appointment appear immediately on my calendar, but I get an email letting me know I have a new appointment.

I only had one small glitch that I contacted their support team about. It was a known bug, which they fixed, and even gave me a month of premium free to try out.

The results of using this booking system has been astounding so far. I can't always make it around to every classroom or meet all the teachers. When I announce to teachers that I will be on campus on a given day, I also provide a link to my calendar so they can schedule a time. The amount appointments I have this year has doubled from what it was last year.

Thanks to the team and service at, I feel so much more productive this school year. Thanks guys and gals!

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Blog overload: Use Feedly to manage student blogs

image courtesy
Teachers have limited time to read and assess student work. When you add in student blogging with all the accompanying posts and comments, the amount of work can increase as well. What teachers need is one place to view student blogs, instead of hunting down and bookmarking each URL. Blogging platforms such as Kidblog and Edublogs include classroom management tools to do just that.

Blogger, however, lacks those tools. In a previous post I described how you can add links to a blogroll to make that easier. However, if you are a secondary teacher with multiple periods a blogroll also becomes unwieldy as that list becomes longer.

Another alternative is to use an RSS reader such as Feedly. Feedly is a free service that gathers all the blogs you follow into one location. You can group student blogs by class and quickly see how many unread posts a blog has. There is also a mobile version for your smartphone or tablet. I use Feedly all the time for the many educational blogs that I follow. Here is a screen shot so you can see what that looks like.

The first thing you'll want to do is gather the URLs for your student blogs. Probably the easiest way to do that is simply use a Google form to gather those URLs into one spreadsheet that you can then use to copy/paste them into your Feedly.

Next go to the Feedly website and create your free account. You can use your existing Google login to do that.

Silvia Tolisano, blogger advocate extraordinaire, has directions for adding your student blog URLs in her post The Blogging Kraken: How to Keep Up with All Your Students Blogs. Follow her directions, making sure you name each link with the student's names. Group them by period and you'll be super organized when it comes time to read your students' blogs.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Blog overload: Keeping up with student blogs

Now that many schools are using Google Apps for Education, teachers are discovering Blogger as a viable platform for student blogging. It is easy to set up, all students with a GAFE account have access to it, and its highly customizable. The one major downside to it is that there is no classroom management component. In other words, teachers don't have one central place to view or moderate blog posts.

In a classroom of 30 students that's 30 separate blogs to keep track of. It makes it hard to keep up with reading posts, giving timely feedback, monitoring copyright, etc. Staying organized and avoiding blog overload may prove difficult.

Fortunately there are two strategies that can be easily implemented to make this easy. This post deals with using Blogger to keep track of student blogs. The next post will show how to use Feedly to easily manage blogs. There are pros and cons to each method so choose the one that works best for your work flow.

With Blogger, and any blogging platform for that matter, you can add a blogroll to the sidebar of your blog. A blogroll is simply a list of other blogs that a blog author follows. You can see an example right here on my blog on the left. It's the section called My Blog List.

You can add all of your students' blogs to your blogroll, combining them in to one place for easy access. Depending on how it's configured, the blogroll can also show a summary or title of the latest blog post.

Log in to your blog at On the left side choose the Layout tab. In the sidebar section click the Add a Gadget link. From the list that appears click the + button next to Blog List.
The Title field would be a name for that section. Select the information you want to see from the student blogs. Click the Add a blog to your list and enter the URL for each student blog and save the gadget.

Students can follow the same steps to add each of their classmate's blogs and have an easy way to comment on each other's blogs.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why educators should trust Wikipedia

I’m a huge advocate of using Wikipedia. I know a lot of educators that cringe at the thought of students using Wikipedia as a source of information. For whatever reason there’s little trust in the accuracy of the information. I’ve addressed some of those concerns on my blog at In Defense of Wikipedia.

Recently, Jeff Utecht, an educator/consultant/author that I follow on Twitter, posted on his blog about Wikipedia.

[As educators] if we don’t understand how to use something in education our first reaction is to not use it and to tell students not to use it. To be fair nobody has ever taught us how to use this resource...We don’t understand how Twitter works so block it. We don’t understand how to create learning communities on Google+ or Facebook so block it. Instagram? It’s just pictures!... I love asking groups of teachers how many of them have read and trusted what they read on a Wikipedia article. Almost every hand goes up. So….what you’re telling me is we use it in our daily lives but when it comes to using it with students we should tell them………don’t trust it? There’s a disconnect here that we need to face…..we need to stop teaching that Wikipedia is a bad resource and start accepting it and understanding it.

He then outlines 3 features of Wikipedia that can help teachers feel more comfortable trusting Wikipedia as a source of information. You can read his blog post at Understanding Wikipedia in 3 Clicks.

Thanks, Jeff, for providing even more reasons to trust students to use Wikipedia!

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