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Your Instructional Technology HQ


If you see a tool that you liked on my tools page there is a good chance that I've made a tutorial and review about it on this page.  Enjoy!

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Doctopus and Goobric

Posted by [email protected] on April 11, 2016 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

As I've written before, this is my first year using Chromebooks in my classroom.  Prior to this year a few colleagues (Thank You Patrick Donovan) started talking to me about Doctopus.  This Google extension allows you to distribute copies of a Google Doc to the entire classroom so that each student can edit the doc as they see fit.  Another Google extension called Goobric allows you to distribute a rubric to go along with each document shared with the students.  This combination of distribution of workflow and ability to provide meaningful student feedback is as peanut butter is to jelly.

Setting up Doctopus to use in your classes does require a bit of backend work.  You will either have to manually create a classroom spreadsheet or upload a .csv file from which to create your class roster.  However, a nice little cheat that I used is to have your students complete a Google form and create your class roster from that.  Once you have the class roster, you want to make sure you add the Doctopus extension.  Once you add the extension it's a step by step process that's really easily to follow.  There are many different options for how you go about distributing student copies to tailor to meet your needs.  Once you distribute the documents you get the option to add a Goobric.  Trust me, add a Goobric!

To set up Goobric you'll want to use Google Sheets to create your rubric.  When you do this leave A1 open; you must do this or it won't work.  I found this out the hard way.  Running Goobric will not only allow you to be able to score student work, leave comments, and leave audio notes as well but also students are able to see the rubric while they're working on the document.  I've included a video below that gives much more detail than I can provide here.  However, it's well worth your time to explore.

The importance of improving student learning by providing meaningful corrective feedback to students cannot be understated; the combination of Doctopus and Goobric does just that.  Not only can these tools be used in the classroom but also for professional development purposes throughout any school district or organization.  Though these tools take a bit of backend work to set up, but it will be well worth your and your students time to do so.  Enjoy!

Demonstration Video Link:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-OQnIE9I0oaMFFncGxvWl9Va00/view?usp=sharing

Primetime Timeline!

Posted by [email protected] on March 29, 2016 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Over the years I’ve opted for timelines over various presentation tools because (as a history teacher) they tend make it easy for students to demonstrate a historical narrative and or demonstration causation among events. I’ve used quite a few timeline generators in my classes: Timetoast, dipity, capzles, etc. However, HSTRY is by far the best, most user-friendly tool that either I, or my students have used. HSTRY makes organizing your classes easy and allows students to easily pull in mult-media to enhance their timeline. The manner in which the timeline is set up allows the student to create more than a timeline, but to create their own story and tell it in a manner of their choosing. It is really a remarkable tool that helps students reach higher levels of understanding and reaches the highest levels of the SAMR model for integration of technology in the classroom. I look forward to continue using and passing on to others how HSTRY can improve student understanding.

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Math: It's Elementary!

Posted by [email protected] on January 21, 2016 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I teach Social Studies, which carries with it the presumption that I cannot do math. In my case, this is an accurate stereotype, but I don't think that it needed to be. Growing up I had conditioned myself to believe that I was not "good at math". Truth be told, I didn't practice enough at math to say that I wasn't good at it. Once I had my own children I resolved myself to make sure that my children were of the mindset that there wasn't anything they couldn't be good at as long as they practiced; academically speaking math has taken center stage. 

There is a plethora of tools I recommend for teachers, parents, and children for improving math skills, and you can find them on the tools page on this site.  However, I want to focus on a tool that I started using with my children called SplashMath.  This tool has an array of lessons and diagnostic information that you can use to monitor, adjust, and gauge your child's progress.

Let me begin by saying that SplashMath is not totally free and can be very expensive for a classroom ($239/year) and even more so for a district ($2000/year).  However, there is a free trial and the iOS app is free, but limits students to fifteen questions/day.  Given the attention span of little ones this might be enough anyway. That being said, I'm looking from this from a parent's perspective first and secondarily a teacher.  The free trial gives you access to limited lessons, but by inviting five people you can get access to unlimited lessons for a month.  This is long enough to decide whether or not you want to purchase the program.  The strengths of this program are the diversity of skills taught to the students, the curriculum alignment to common core, and the tools with which a teacher/parent can monitor their students.  

As I mentioned earlier, SplashMath is available as a native app on the iOS store and can be accessed on an Android tablet as well; if there's a native app for Android I haven't found it yet.  Overall I am very pleased with this tool and plan on continuing to use it with my children.  Below is a quick tutorial on some of the basics of SplashMath.  I highly recommend you give it a try.  As usual, if you have any questions don't hesistate to ask.  

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Posted by [email protected] on July 26, 2015 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

As you may have read on this page before, I am a huge fan of the "flipped classroom" concept and tools that you can use to "flip" your instruction. Regardless of whether or not you're a flipper EdPuzzle is an awesome tool for formative assessment. Edpuzzle allows you to embed questions, reflective pauses, and overlay audio into virtually any video (youtube, vimeo, etc). The analytics provided by using these interactive videos are awesome as well. More importanly, EdPuzzle has a feature that allows you to have the students create their own videos using the "student project" option. Overall I give EdPuzzle five stars! Not only is it easy to use and create, but is available across all devices and has native apps that you can download as well. Please feel free to view the video below to view a brief tutorial on how you can get started using this dynamic tool.


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Google Classroom vs. Edmodo

Posted by [email protected] on May 11, 2015 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

"If it aint broke, don't fix it." I've been using Edmodo as a platform for my classes for about five or six years now. I'm happy with Edmodo and how it's grown in that time. It seems like every few months a new site that I use with my students is adding a "sign in with Edmodo" feature. However, this past year my school went Google. I'm a huge Google fan and I'm extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities of using Google Apps Ed in my classroom on a full time basis. Now the dilemma, should I have my students use Google exclusively (which means adopting Google Classroom) or should I keep Edmodo and only use Google Apps; which could possibly lead to some confusion for the students?

All year I've been toying around with Google Classroom in order to make a more informed decision. Both platforms have their benefits, but what is a teacher to do? Google Classroom would be very easy for my students to use. They will all have their usernames and passwords for GAE and all they would have to remember is a single sign in (which is HUGE!). Also, many of the 2.0 tools that I use on a day to day allow a user to sign in with their Google Account. Again, this is an immeasurable plus to anyone who's ever had to give students their username/passwords that have been forgotten time and again. The biggest plus I see with Google Classroom is simplification and organization of file/folder management for both teacher and student. Everything is right where you need it to be and easy to share and access. Organization is the strongest feature of Google Classroom. However, Google Classroom is not without it's faults. My biggest concern is that Google sometimes gets bored and forgets a service (iGoogle, Google Reader, etc). Why would I put all my chips on the Google Classroom table if it's just going to fade away? However, my biggest concern is assessments. Yes, you can run an assessment with Google Forms and an add on called Flubaroo, but it is simply way too cumbersome to do when better options are available.

Edmodo has been a mainstay in my classroom for years, and as time has gone by it has improved every year. Edmodo app store, quizzes, snapshot, and a whole other host of features make Edmodo an awesome and user friendly CMS for any teacher to use. There are things that I think could be improved. Edmodo is sometimes guilty of running before they walk. A new feature or update may not operate as intended or a change might be made that you feel is negative (no more quizzes on iPhones) but usually they are fairly quick in responding and fixing bugs. My biggest concern in using GAE and Edmodo is that this could potentially be two usernames and passwords and many students have a hard enough time remembering one.

This is a decision that will probably be made sometime over the summer. Nevertheless, I am leaning towards sticking with Edmodo. As I said earlier, "if it aint broke, don't fix it." However, I've never been one to be satisfied with the status quo. Any and all opinions welcome. Please, opine!!!

Zondle & Kahoot: Fun With Formative Assessment

Posted by [email protected] on December 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Last year I conducted and action research project on Mastery Learning using Instructional Technology.  Much of what found and researched dealt with drill and practice and it was pretty boring.  I found flash card apps, study stacks, study website, but nothing that to me seemed to catch my eye (which meant it would probably never catch a student's eye).  What I needed was something that was attention getting, fun, and easily accesible to my students.  Furthermore, I needed something could show me how my students were performing, what they knew and didn't know, and what areas I needed reteaching.  

Of all of the tools, websites, and apps that I looked at two really stood out:  Zondle and Kahoot.  Both of these tools rated highly in the three criteria I mentioned earlier and as a bonus they are both free.  Ease of use with both tools is very high and so is the set up.  A teacher with minimum experience with either tool can be up and running in no time.  However, for those that need a bit more help there are numerous tutorials available on how to set up your class, upload questions, and use the tools in your class.

Zondle is something I've been using for a few years now.  Zondle is game based which immediately caught the attention of my students.  Also, Zondle has numerous games students can play.  First you create your account and then create a class.  Creating a class will give you a class code for your students to use when they sign up.  After you've created your classes you begin by creating a study topic (or copying one from zondle).  Teachers can then set that topic as a formative assessment (with games) or summative assessment.  The students answer questions on an acedmic topic set by their teacher and then earn the opportunity to play games.  Keep in mind, these games have nothing to do with the academic topic, they're a reward and for fun.  This is what adds the "fun" element I was talking about earlier.  Zondle is also highly accessible.   It is free in both iOS, Android, and Google and has even more features on a PC.  If you're already using google or edmodo students will be able to sign in using their username and password and then join your class via class code.  The best part about Zondle is the data that the teacher gets.  Teachers can see how many times a student has played a topic, which questions they're missing, and their level of mastery.  Zondle is best used for quick review sessions in class and for (gasp) independent studying.  However, I've caught numerous students "studying" for fun during study hall on their personal devices or in the library on a PC.  

For individual studying Zondle is the way to go for me, but for a class setting and or class competition nothing beats Kahoot.  Much like Zondle the the teacher jumps to the Kahoot website and creates and account which takes no time at all.  Once there you can either create your own topic questions or copy one already on Kahoot's website. Once you're created your game you then need to launch your game.  Once you've launched the game you get a game pin for the students to use.  To play students go to Kahoot.it and enter the game pin you were given and enter a username; that's it NO USERNAMES OR PASSWORDS.  You can pace the game out and students can answer on a PC, tablet, or personal device.  Kahoot works accross virtually any platform.  Kahoot tracks student progress and can get very competitiive among the students (mine like to post a high score board throught the day on Kahoot days).  Now again, what good is all of this if you can monitor student progress?  At the conclusion of every game you have the option to download a printout of the results indicating which questions were most frequently answered correctly and incorrectly by individual students.  Again, once you have this information you can decide what needs reteaching and what doesn't.  

Formative assessment does not need to be something painful for both teacher and student; it has the potential to be one of the more entertaining and valuable things you can do for your students and teach them to do for themselves.  By properly using formative assessment in this manner I've been able to help students acheive higher levels of understanding, mastery, and improve their results on summative assessments.  However, the most rewarding thing about proper use of formative assessment is when many students realize that they can do it on their own and when they begin to ask other teachers to use these tools as well.  Rethinking how I use formative assessment has made a huge improvement in my classroom for both teacher and student.  Also, it's allowed both me and my students to have fun and learn together.  


Posted by [email protected] on June 3, 2014 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I know, it's the end of the year and many of you have only days remaining in the school year. However, if you're anything like me (an I think you are) summer is when you lay most of the groundwork for what you hope to accomplish next school year. It's also the time of year that you get a chance to test out all of those neat looking tools that you didn't get to test out during the year. The first tool that I will be exploring this summer is called Curriculet.


Curriculet is a web based tool that works on virtually any platform (no issues so far) that advertizes that you can embed a layer of questions, quizzes, media, annotations, and much more into any digital reading assignment. The teacher/creator can upload either a file or URL and then create their own Curriculet for their students to complete. Furthermore, there are dozens of premade Curriculets that a teacher can use and assign to their class. Curriculets range from novels, informational texts, short stories, and current events articles. Another nice feature is that there are Curriculets for various grade levels located in the Curriculet "store" that you can add to your library. Once you've uploaded your content you can then add questions, prompts, media, annotations or anything else you'd like to add to the reading quite easily.


A teacher can create their own classes but then has to manually imput students into classes (which can be tedious). However, if you're an Edmodo user you can purchase the Curriculet app in the Edmodo App Store for FREE! Your students would simply launch the app and the content that you want them to read would be readily available for them to complete. I did give Curriculet a short test run and it worked pretty much as advertized on both laptops and iPads. However, I did not attemp to use it on a personal mobile device.


I highly recommend making Curriculet a regular part of your curriculum. The availablity of so many Common Core alligned readings alone is enough to garner attention let along all of the extras that come along with it. The price is right and the versatility of this tools is such that it is a must try for any teacher that is trying to get their students to read more and improve reading skills. However, if a picture is worth a thousand words than I can only imagine how many a video are worth. View the intro below to see how you can begin using Curriculet in your classroom.

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Why you need to try Educanon!

Posted by [email protected] on May 13, 2014 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Those of you that are frequent visitors of this site know that for some time now I've been an outspoken proponent of the Flipped Classroom model of instruction and Mastery Learning.  While both of these methods are not for everyone, I highly recommend Educanon for you class flippers out there.  Educanon provides the best of both worlds; you can upload virtually any video to Educanon and create prompts and or questions for students to answer while they watch.  By doing this the teacher can then view the students progress, level of understanding, and reteach/redirect areas of concern.  You can either make your own videos, demos, or snag one from YouTube, Khan Academy, or anywhere else.

One of the best features of Educanon is cost, it is free!  There is a paid version of Educanon that allows you to search content that others have made, but for a teacher that wants to get started flipping, a free account will do.  Another nice feature is the single sign in.  If your school uses Google or Edmodo students can sign in with an existing account.  Anytime students don't have to remember an additional username and password is good.  Once students sign in they can search for your class by name or you by teacher and add you to their account.  In this way, multiple teachers can used Educanon and the students add classes to their account, the teacher does not have to add students.  Educanon also works on various platforms (desktop, PC, Mac, tablet,  and phone) which is ideal for a teacher wanting to implement the Flipped Classroom concept.  

There are a few things that Educanon could do better.  There are issues with certain browsers (Firefox) that won't let the video or questions appear.  I contacted the good folks at Educanon about this and they got back to me very quickly and explained how to work around this problem.  I've also witnessed some consistency issues as well.  For example, students having to add classes multiple times, questions not showing up, sudden video stopages, etc.  However, these problems have been relatively rare and we must understand that Educanon is still in the beta stage; expect growing pains.  

Quite simply, Educanon is one of the most revolutionary tools I've seen in a while.  Class notes have for the most part become a thing of the past in my Social Studies classes.  Using Educanon, students can either watch the videos at home or in class (or anywhere with wifi), answer the question prompts, and come to class the next day with any questions or concerns about what they've seen the day before.  This leaves more class time for discussion, hands on activities, or whatever you'd like to fit in but couldn't in an age of ever decreasing instructional time.  More importantly, students can go back and view the videos at their leasure.  I've been using it for a few months now and the vast majority of the students prefer taking notes this way.  It's short, they can pause it, check for understanding, and they can always go back and rewatch it later.  Better yet, I know who is "getting it" and who is not.  If you'd like to try but you're not sure where to start, just watch the video below.


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App of the Week: Educreations

Posted by [email protected] on November 4, 2013 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Flipping the instruction is all the rage these days.  If you've Flipped your class or you're thinking about Flipping your class you may want to give Educreations a try.  Educreations is one of many interactive white board apps available in IOS on the iPad however, I've found it to be the most student/teacher friendly.  

Teachers can easily create their own accounts and receive a course code that students will use when they go to sign up.  Once students have joined your course they can easily view videos you've posted and more importanly create and upload their videos for you to see.  Another nice feature of Educreations is that students can pull images from the web or photo library.  Students can annotate, narrate, and type on the presenatation and also pause and redo recordings.  

This is a tool that some elementary, most middle, and high school students should be able to use and pick up on very quickly.  Educreations can be used for virtually any content area.  Educreations truly allows a teacher to flip the instruction by having the students creating their content rather than simple direct instruction.  Instead of me presenting a powerpoint on the principles of the Constitution I simply had the students make their own presenation based on those principles.  

The only negative I found was that you cannot save a project and go back and edit that project.  Once a project had been started it must be finished during that class period (unless the student has their own device).  A typical presentation can be made in no time, but studens should have some idea of what they want to say before they begin.  It would be a good idea to have a script written out beforehand.  

I've attached a demo that I've created below to give you a little bit of an idea of what you can do with Educreations.  Please share you thoughts and experiences with this powerful tool; I'm always looking for new ideas!

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