Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Digital Interactive Notebooks: Getting Started

Post appeared also on FtEdTech

It's no real secret that I love Digital Interactive Notebooks.  I create them every chance I get and encourage teachers to use them for everything from long term Project Based Learning (PBL) projects to weekly unit work with vocabulary.  

The Interactive Notebook (INB) has long been a staple of the classroom to engage students more directly with their notes.  The traditional interactive notebook often includes traditional student notes, questions, and interactives that students cut, fold, color and paste into their notebooks. You might find graphic organizers, pockets with measuring tools, data charts, and foldables that act as study aides.  In the NSTA article "Science Interactive Notebooks in the Classroom" Jocelyn Young explains the benefits of INB when she shares that "By using notebooks, students model one of the most vital and enduring functions of scientists in all disciplines—recording information, figures, and data. A second reason for maintaining a science interactive notebook is that it provides a ready reference for each unit, as well as a resource to consult for review".

The downfall of these notebooks is the time that it often takes to cut out the interactives and of course all the glue: it doesn't take much spill over around a corner to permanently stick an important page to the one in front of it. This is where the Digital Interactive Notebook (DINB) comes into play. With a little creativity, you can still accomplish many of the same learning goals digitally.

Getting Started: Slides vs PowerPoint

DINB work best in either Google Slides or PowerPoint because students can use the slide sorter pane on the left to quickly maneuver through the notebook. The choice of Google Slides vs PowerPoint largely depends on the device. If using an iPad, the PowerPoint app proves to be a much more robust choice since students have the opportunity to use draw features and easily add images, video and add-ins that include quizzes.  If using a computer, Slides is a more natural choice because the Explore feature opens up tools that allow for easier formatting, and you can insert photos directly from image searches and embed YouTube videos easily.

Getting Started: Slide Size

The next thing you'll want to consider is the layot of your notebook. Both Slides and PowerPoint obviously use a default horizontal layout, but you can customize that to mimic a more traditional notebook page if you choose. If working on an iPad, the horizontal view often feels more natural to work with, but it also depends on the content and the types of organizers or activities you want students to do.
Google Slides
To customize the size in Slides go to:
  • File
  • Page Setup
  • Custom
  • Manually enter the size you would like

To set a custom size in PowerPoint go to:
  • Design Tab
  • Slide Size
  • Page Set Up
  • Enter the desired size
  • Press OK
  • Choose Scale Up

Design Basics

Once you have selected your application and size, you're ready to begin.  You can make your notebook very simple and use text boxes, shapes, and design layouts to create graphic organizers, as well as space for notes and directions for adding things like drawings and collages.  

It helps to look through examples of notebooks to get some ideas for what you might create. Here are a few basic examples I have created.  I have found that once I have the basic organizer created I can copy and paste that into many different notebooks.

Example Notebooks

Tips and Tricks

One thing that I prefer to do is to create graphic organizers and templates in Canva and use those  images that I download as the background on my slides. 

The bonus of using images is that I can upload them to Google or use them in PowerPoint, they can also be distributed to students on their iPads for applications like Seesaw or Draw and Tell. Using an image as the background, also reduces the likelihood that a student will accidentally delete an element of page that they need.

When designing in Canva, I most often pick the Presentation 16:9 template.  I find that it is a perfect fit in Slides or PowerPoint when I insert it as a background. If you're stuck for inspiration, check out the templates offered by Canva. I can almost always find something to inspire me and simplify my work there.

You can add over 30 slides to a Canva file by pressing the "Add a new page" button.

To download the file, choose JPEG or PNG.  This will download your file to your computer as a zip file with all pages saved as an individual image.

You can then share these pages to your tool of choice: PowerPoint, Slides, Seesaw, Draw and Tell or even just as a print out if needed.

Adding Images to your Background

If using PowerPoint or Slides, you'll want to insert it as a background image.  To do that in PowerPoint you:
  • Click on the Design Tab
  • Format Background
  • Picture or Texture
  • File
  • Navigate to your image
  • Insert

Google Slides
From the menu bar choose:
  • Background
  • Image Choose..
  • Locate the file - upload right there, or upload to your Drive ahead of time

Sharing Files to Students

Once you have your notebook files complete, you're ready to share.  If sharing complete digital interactive notebooks, it would be best to use a tool like Schoology or Google Classroom. With Schoology's Google and Microsoft Assignments, you can share documents with students and maintain connection so that you can check in on their work. Check out how to do that here. For Google Classroom users, you would use your Google Drive - you can upload and convert a PowerPoint to Slides if you began your work there. You can also use tools like Seesaw to share page by page for editable lessons. 

Additional Tools to Help You Create and Get Inspired

  • Marzano Strategies - use some of these strategies to inspire activities and graphic organizers to use in your notebooks  

  • Visible Thinking Strategies - Project Zero from Harvard has a number of really good visible thinking strategies that could be used as inspiration for organizers and activities
  • Canva Colors - if you need help considering a color scheme, this is a great tool that lets you plug in a color and browse for combinations 
  • The Noun Project - Find a ton of vector images to help with visual elements. An educator account is very reasonable, otherwise you can download black vector images with source information 
  • Flippity - Use this Google Add On in Google Sheets to input templates that let you create spinners, flashcards, word searches in Google Sheets - check out the example

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Teachers in Training - Tech to Get you Started

In the vast world of EdTech it's easy to get super overwhelmed and super lost.  If you find one tool or idea here to dig deep into, you'll be off to a good start.

There are many different thoughts in terms of tech integration.  From SAMR to TECH to the Technology Integration Matrix, there are plenty of theories and guidelines out there about how we should be teaching with technology.  At the end of the day, it's easiest to think of how we engage students in learning, using the tech to help facilitate.

I like to think of the 4Cs when I think of ways to create engaging lessons using technology.
As a teacher in training, it would be hard to know what situation you will be walking into.  Schools vary immensely in terms of platforms, available classroom technology and devices.  So, what are some quick device-agnostic tech tools to get you thinking about ways to encourage creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication?  These tools can be used in centers, as a class in a 1:1 situation or in a lab or even with BYOD (bring your own device)


Adobe Spark
13 and up - but edu accounts coming, free with premium plans

Use to create "posts" (images), pages or videos.  Great way to share learning through different formats. 
13 and up, free

Use for explainer videos, ads, infographics and animations. 

13 and up, free with premium paid features

This is an amazing tool for graphic design.  Use it to create newsletters, your resume, presentations, infographics and so much more.  I use this constantly.  It would be great for students over the age of 13 to use for many different projects.

All Ages (when teacher creates account), free with premium paid features

Inspire your students to create their own 360 degree virtual reality worlds. CoSpaces EDU is a relatively new tool that has seem some major improvements.  You can create your own class of students and give them assignments.  Use this to have students create models for NGSS related lessons, or build the settings of their favorite books.  If using a computer, you can even using block coding with the different features.

Parapara Animation
All ages, Free

Create simple drawings and animations online with this free tool.  Students could create a screen recording of their animation to create a quick video.

13 and up, Free and premium subscription available

Excellent video and presentation tool that allows you to create cartoon-like videos. 

All ages with teacher accounts and code, free 

Use this CAD tool to create 3D designs.  Students can learn about 3D shapes, angles, measurement, X-Y-Z axis. Files can be exported as .svg files and used with 3D printing CAM software


Critical Thinking



all ages, free

Get your students coding with Code.org.  Set up a free teacher account, add your students and give them assignments. The coding curriculum here is all age appropriate and includes how-to videos and plenty of practice exercises.

Scratch and ScratchJR
all ages, free

Use Scratch through the browser and Scratch JR on the iPad.  This is a great way to learn about block coding.

Scratch also has community that allows for students to share, remix and get feedback from other users. This is great for collaboration and communication as well.

Formative Assessment & Teaching Tools

All ages with teacher account, free

Educational game maker. 

All ages, free - premium accounts available

Educational Quiz Makers.  You can make your own or search for pre-made quizzes that others have made.

Students join on Kahoot.it with a code provided by the teacher.

All ages (teacher creates account), free - premium accounts available

With a Nearpod account, teachers can create interactive lessons that can either be student self-paced in centers or teacher led.  Through these interactive lessons you can have students submit formative assessment style questions, short answers, drawings etc. 

Pear Deck
All ages (teacher creates account), free - premium accounts available

Pear Deck is similiar in nature to Nearpod.  Teachers can create presentations through Google Slides and embed Pear Deck interactives like drawing, multiple choice and short answer style questions.  They also have a pretty slick "Flash Card Factory" feature that allows students to collaboratively create flashcards that include real-world examples and drawings.  


Book Creator
Any age (with teacher created code), free with premium options - iPad app and Chrome browser

Create ebooks that include images, drawings, video, audio recordings.  Awesome tool for creative writing, sharing learning, research and even journals. 
You might make books for students or have them make books for you!  Collaborative features through the Chrome browser add an additional layer of AMAZING.

Any age (with teacher created account), free with premium options

Through this tool, the teacher posts a topic and students respond with video or images and voice over.  Awesome way to share learning and reflect as a community.

Any age (with teacher created account), free

Storybird allows students to create and publish stories with art work shared through the storybird platform.  Storybird is a great way to inspire creative writing and storytelling.

Any age (with teacher created account), free with premium options

This service is amazing for primary grades. It is a digital online portfolio of student work where students can upload their work to share with others in their class and with their parents. Students can engage in learning activities and save work to folders where they can track their own learning progress.


Any age, free

Invite your students to this interactive whiteboard tool where they can share their thinking and drawings.  

This is a good tool for brainstorming, webbing, and solving problems. Export boards as images and PDFs from your computer.

Any age (with teacher created account), free

Padlet is a bulletin board style website tool that allows for curating of ideas, links, videos etc.  

This is a great way to allow students to share resources for a group project, respond to questions and ideas.

Other Amazing Teacher Tools to Check Out

There are many, many amazing tools that you can use to enhance your classroom management and lessons.  Consider checking out Class Dojo to help monitor behavior, Class Flow to set up lessons, Epic! to get your students reading ebooks for free, Classroom Screen for keeping your class on track as an agenda tool, and EdPuzzle to get kids engaged with videos.  

Digital Citizenship

As teachers, it is also super important that we embed digital citizenship lessons as often as possible in our every day discussions.  If you need ideas, check out Common Sense Media's Scope and Sequence and Google's Be Internet Awesome

Get Certified

If you want to stand out in the crowd of new teachers, one thing you might consider is becoming a certified educator.  Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have certifications.  You will also want to check with your favorite applications to see if they have ambassador programs. 

Ways to Keep Up with EdTech

Educational technology is constantly changing.  Thankfully, there are some pretty amazing educators who share.  If you're looking to keep an eye on things, check out these resources.
  • Alice Keeler is an EdTech and Google guru with a ton of Google scripts and add-ons to inspire those who love computer science
  • Control Alt Achieve by Eric Curts is sure to have a great idea that can easily be borrowed or replicated
  • Cult of Pedagogy This is one of my go-to tools for all things pedagogy related.  You'll find a blog, podcast and videos to help you find your next best classroom practice.
  • Edutopia Has a wealth of knowledge from project based learning to technology to social emotional topics.  They have a pretty amazing video section, and you'll even find features on Kentucky's own Eminence
  • Erintegration is an edtech site that has a lot of ideas for primary teachers using Google and iPads.  Many of the tools she shares are available on Teacher's Pay Teachers, but could easily be replicated in your class
  • Free Technology for Teachers - is a site hosted by Richard Byrne with ideas related to all forms of technology
  • ISTE - the International Society for Technology in Education is a professional organization that promotes good classroom practices and has standards for students, teachers, coaches and administrators.
  • Paul Hamilton - has many ideas related to iPads and emerging tech 
  • Schrock Guide to Everything - maintained by Kathy Schrock is a great go-to site for technology.  It is sure to point you to something you can use on topics of SAMR to Digital Storytelling to Sketchnoting.
  • Shake up Learning - Kasey Bell talks about a lot of technology related practices, with a heavy focus on Google's GSuite.  
  • TeachThought is another all around good resource for finding information about tech integration and project based learning.  They have a podcast as well. 
  • Twitter - Twitter has an amazing number of educators representing and sharing. All of the sites above have a Twitter following.  In addition search for these hashtags and you will find many passionate educators to follow:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

March Madness of Coding

Post also appears on FTEdTech
After we made some great gains in coding with students during the Olympics, I thought it would be awesome to capitalize on that momentum and create some challenges for March Madness.

In this round of possible centers you can use our Dash and Dot robots and the ScratchJR app by trying out:
  • Spelling Word Shootout - Play a game of H-O-R-S-E using the Dash launcher
  • 3-2-1 Challenge - earn as many points as you can with the Dash launcher shooting a 3 point shot, lay-up and a foul shout.  Students have 3 minutes to get as many points as they can.  They could even get in a little practice with addition and writing number stories.
  • Dash Spirit Band - Use Dash with the Xylophone attachment to create a song that will pump up the crowd.  You could also encourage invention by challenging students to create their own instruments that Dash can play.
  • Dot Cheer - Show your team spirit by coding Dot to cheer.  Include custom sounds to add rhyme, repetition, and change the colors. 
  • ScratchJR - Code a basketball game using ScratchJR.  Students should have at least two players, four different scenes and include writing.  

Grab your own copy of the template here

To go along with the activities I also have a half court 24 in by 24 in poster that can be printed.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Empathize, Imagine, Create, Evaluate, Repeat: Your Guide to 3D Printing

KYSTE 2018 
Session resources

In this session we will be using principles of design thinking to tackle the idea of 3D printing.  The resources below will help guide us through the session and can be used for reference and additional study later.

You will need to create an account in Tinkercad, if you don't already have one.


3D Printing, in conjunction with Design Thinking can be a powerful tool for problem solving in your classroom. When students and teachers work through a process of identifying a problem, understanding that problem through empathetic practice, define, ideate, seek feedback and prototype in an iterative cycle they can solve big problems. We have had students as young as 4th grade work to successfully solve problems using appropriate modifications to these strategies.  Depending on the age of the students, we would encourage students to either use the ICE model of iterative design or d.School's model of Design Thinking.

The model and resources we will share in the workshop can be adjusted and duplicated to suit your needs and style.  We will be examining manufactured problems today for the purposes of hands on practice, but just look around your school building or home, and you are likely to come up with a very long list of problems your students can solve. 

The notebook below outlines the process and the problems we will be working with in our workshop.

Interactive Notebook

You can create your own, Google Slides copy of the interactive notebook for editing purposes here

Looking for other ideas? Consider these:

Family and Consumer Science:

The Fashion and Interior Design class has an assignment to practice converting basic furniture to a piece that would match characteristics of different time periods.  For the assignment, students will create a model of a piece of furniture that represents one of the time periods under study. As part of the redesign, students should 3D design and print components to add to the model.

Students in the Culinary class have discovered that their custom school themed cookie cutter has broken, and they need to supply cookies for a school event in four days – not enough time to have another one custom ordered. They would like to create something to replace the cutter using the 3D printer.
Language Arts:
A group of juniors is working on creating a video that features key details from the setting of the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.  They are using miniature glass pieces they found, and would like to convert a miniature dresser into a 1930s era piece that would compliment the setting of the play and would be used to display the pieces.  Design decorative elements that could be added to the dresser. 

A language arts class has just finished a unit where they read a number of different works that all had strong symbolism.  Their assignment is to choose one of the works they read and create a physical representation for the work to share with the class in an activity that explore the importance of symbolism.  One of the groups has chosen to3D design and print a symbol to represent the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost

Physical Education
A group of seniors in an elective physical education class has been working with SPED teachers, occupational therapists and students with different disabilities to help them improve on both gross and fine motor skills.  They have designed a series of activities that will help students practice improving fine motor skill practice and need a series of basic shapes that fit into a base.  The object must be small enough that the student will have to pinch and hold it with their fingers.

Social Studies
A class has been studying the Bill of Rights.  Each group is to choose an Amendment and develop a symbol that will help their classmates remember the most important components of the Amendment.  Groups will share their symbol without revealing which Amendment it represents and the class will work to identify the symbols and provide a rationale.

Additional Workshop Resources

Design Thinking & 3D Printing: A Primer

Reference Sheet

 Example Marked Up Interactive Notebook

3D Printing 

Make Magazine - 3D Printer Buying Guide 
Design a Solution - Bank of 3D Printing Ideas
Makerbot - Educator's Guidebook
3D Printer Basics - Instructables 
Tinkercad 3D Printer Tutorial - How to create your first 3D print
How to Get Started in 3D Printing - Tech Radar 
Top Ten Tips for Designing to Print  - Make 
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing a 3D Model for 3D Printing 
Tinkercad Tutorial:

Design Thinking

ICE- Great for Younger Students


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

PD While You... February 2018

Post also appears on FTEdtech 
In our most recent edition of "PD While You..." you can learn plenty of new ways to engage your students.  From math to choice boards.  Find the links you need below.

TED Talk: The Puzzle of Motivation by Dan Pink
As our 5th graders head into a season of Genius Hour with FTGenius, find out the "Why" behind that, and think about maybe using the resources available for your own class.  We have versions of Genius Hour available for 2nd-5th grades.  Look for FTGenius Interactive Notebooks in the FTIS Elementary EdTech Group under the Interactive Notebook file.

Classroom Screen: A Quick Alternative to Smart Notebook
Check out Classroom Screen, a tool I saw both Allyson Jones and Maria Schuman at WES using.  In about 30 seconds they can post an agenda, add a timer to keep the class moving and create a QR code on the fly.

Getting Appy With It: FlipGrid
FlipGrid is a video discussion tool that students can use through an app on the iPad. With FlipGrid, teachers create an account, start a topic, and invite students to share video responses by entering a grid code. The free version is enough to get started.  If you don't see FlipGrid in the student app portal, and would like access, please let me know.

Want more details on how to use it?  Check out this tutorial by Richard Byrne.

Getting Appy With It: CoSpaces EDU
Your students can create their own virtual reality using CoSpaces Edu.  With the free version you can set up a class environment for your students to create through an app.  If the app is not available to your students, please let me know and I will correct that. 

This app would be best suited for older students.  When the are asked to set up their account, they should choose the Google or Office 365 option and enter their school email address and password.

Two Ways to Gamify Math: Prodigy and FogStone Isle
In Prodigy Math, teachers create a free account and then can create path ways for students within the game that are Common Core Aligned.  The game levels from 1-8.  The app for students is in the app portal.

FogStone Isle is another game type math app, best suited for 3-5th grades.  This app earned an award as one of the best from Common Sense Media.  Set up your free account and set up your class.  The app is available for students in the app portal

JES Feature Link
As you're planning for PBL, consider posting a timeline and milestones in your classrooms to keep kids on track.  You also might consider taking it digital by asking students to record things in their iPad calendar or by posting it for the in Schoology calendars.  

MES Feature

Making Choice Boards for your class is not easy work.  As you plan choice boards for language arts, consider taking a look at the Workstation cards for the week in Wonders, find your favorite advanced organizer for skill practice or check out the ideas on the Padlet below.  To get the advanced organizer interactive notebook go to Schoology>>FTIS Edtech Elementary Group>> Interactive Notebooks >> Advanced Organizers.

Made with Padlet

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Coding in a Winter Wonderland

This post first appeared on FTISEdtech

I was thrilled to get the chance to work on some coding centers with a second grade class, and so impressed with their persistence and hard work.

The kids got a lot of practice with addition, measurement, algorithmic thinking and even a little storytelling.  

These would be great centers to try out any time this winter.


For the centers, you'll need: 
  • At least 6 sets of Dash and Dot Robots
    • Launcher accessories
    • Plow accessories
    • Ping Pong Balls
    • Bunny ears accessories (for Dot)
  • 4-5 Ozobots
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Black, Red, Green and Blue markers
  • Cotton balls
  • Painter's or Masking Tape

The Centers

Center 1: Winter Activities with Scratch JR

In this center students create a winter scene in Scratch JR and then write about their favorite activity using the speech bubble or audio record feature in the program.

I like this basic tutorial from Paul Hamilton about how to use Scratch JR:

Here's an example of a program a student wrote about being in school:

Center 2: Santa's Village

For this simple center, students explore many of the different coding activities on Google's Santa Tracker site.  Here they can check into art, games, and basic block coding activities.

Center 3: Snowball Throw

For this challenge, students code Dash to launch "snowballs" (ping pong balls) through Dot's bunny ears.  They should work in partners with one partner acting as a timer and score keeper while the other partner gets 1 minute to try to get as many points as possible.  Each time a ball goes through or over Dot's ears, they earn 2 points.  Once they get the hang out of how the launcher works, encourage students to try to use the automatic reload feature and to program Dash to "sneak" up on Dot by moving in from different directions and turning. 

Center 4: Winter Scene

With this center you will need Ozobots, markers and paper. Students should draw a simple winter scene for the Ozobot to "explore" and use the different colors to achieve different effects like speeding up and slowing down.

Center 5: Snow Plow

For this center it's nice to have at least two simple mazes made up of straightaways and right angles.  If you have groups of four, it's also nice for each student to have their own Dash to test their program ideas. Explain to students that Dash is automatically set to go 50 cm for each move forward block.  Then show them how they can change that variable. Encourage students to measure the straights so they know how far they should program Dash to go for each distance. 

Check out the directions here:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Design Thinking and 3D Printing

Post used for 3D Printing PD as a resource page.

Have you heard the story about the middle school teacher in Wisconsin who helped to save the life of a duck by making it prosthetic feet or maybe you've heard about the 6th grade students making prosthetic hand a classmate.  

While printing prosthetics may seem unusual, there is no doubt that 3D printing technology can revolutionize problem solving for teachers and students of any age. For example, consider how this Assistive Technology Specialist in Sonoma used 3D printing to design solution specifics to the needs of a student he was helping:
By using Design Thinking strategies and guiding students to empathize with end users and define problems, teachers can turn things over to students to problem solve.  With a simple design process like ICE (Imagine, Create, Evaluate), even elementary aged students can successfully imagine and design solutions.

How can you organize student work?

Consider guiding students through an exercise in 3D printing using tools like Digital Interactive Notebooks built using tools like PowerPoint or Google Slides.  Interactive notebooks, depending on the age of the students, allow you to structure learning so that students can develop a sense of empathy as they work towards defining the problem or need and the constraints that go along with that need. It also provides time for checkpoints and evaluation.  

Check out the examples below:

Design Thinking/3D printing Workshop Notebook


4th Grade Design Wars Project Template

Need more?

Hover over the Thinglink below to see resources.