Tech Tools for the Everyday Teacher

Web-Based Presentation

Google Summit South Korea Round One

I recently attended the Google Summit in South Korea.  After two days of Google Boot Camp training, the conference was a break from the intensity of the boot camp.   There have been so many great tools presented.  So it’s hard to decide what to share.

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 3.26.56 PM is completely different from   It’s a website that has been created to better enable you, as the teacher, to incorporate youtube in your classroom.  You can easily create lessons using youtube movies.

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Docs Story Builder is a great website for creating google docs video.  It is so easy to use and has numerous applications in the classroom.  Students can create videos as characters in a book, famous people, science elements, or historical leaders.  It doesn’t require any log in to create the video and share the link.



Have you been using Google Chrome Apps and extensions?  There are some incredible apps and extensions – one you can’t go without is called: Youtube Options.  This extension allows for you to automatically remove sidebar ads, ads at the beginning of youtube videos, comments below, and banner ads.  Check it out!

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Crash Course in History

There are a number of excellent educational youtube videos available.  Working through them to find the right ones for your class can be a challenging task.  One set of movies that I have been using recently are created by John Greene.  They are called Crash Course in World History lessons.  The animation and information presented is both engaging and right on par with the information I help teach in 6th grade.  Now, that being said, John Greene speaks so fast.  To counter this – I have Splicd the youtube to just the portion I want my class to watch.  Then I embed the Splicd edition on the class website.  There is also a toggle to show subtitles.  My students then watched the video and filled out guiding questions, at their own pace, rather than watching it together as a class.  I found this to be extremely effective.  My students told me they went home and watched it a few more times just to fully understand the concepts.  John Greene has created videos on all of the major ancient civilizations, as well as well-known wars and revolutions.  Above is the video I used to show my students (just not spliced).

Resource Hunting


Our school has often looked into getting clickers.  Unfortunately they can be quite expensive.  Some of the teachers have put it before me to see if I could find alternative technologies.  After searching I discovered Socrative and Infuse Learning as the primary two resources.  Having used both in my class now I am not overly excited about either one.  Both have their flaws and challenges.  Socrative seems to be improving the most recently with their I-pad app.  When I used Infuse Learning last my students enjoyed it.  ImageI had them answer the questions during class time.  I projected the results on the board so they could have immediate feedback.  It was really a contest in the end.  Nonetheless, in order to use Infuse learning you must have the quiz up and running on the teacher computer otherwise the students can’t log in.  There are some other options, which have less potential, but better stability.

ImageQuizlet would be a good example of a more stable resource.  Quizlet is excellent for building vocabulary.  It has games to play and practice quizzes.  Of course it is free as well.  You can even embed these games onto your class website – which I found super handy.


Honestly, kidblog is still up there as one of my favorites.  Posting a blog post and having students comment their responses seems preferable.

It’s nice that other students can’t see their peers responses until I have checked them.

Interactive Whiteboards (and cheap ways to make one)

Interactive Whiteboards have become ‘new technology’ in classrooms today.  Some of you may be saying – “we’ve had interactive whiteboards for years.”  Do you believe that you are maximizing your use of those whiteboards?  Others may be asking, “What’s an interactive whiteboard?”

Interactive Whiteboards are just what they’re titled.  They’re ‘often’ special whiteboards (smart boards), or devices that are placed on standard whiteboards (mimios…) that allow for users to touch the whiteboard to operate the computer. 


  • Students can come to the board and not have to worry about ink
  • Raises level of student engagement through it’s interactivity
  • Increases student motivation
  • Promotes enthusiasm
  • Supports learning styles


  • Learning Curve
  • Expensive
  • Can become time-consuming
  • New applications can be confusing
  • Technology hazards

So what if you can’t afford to have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom?  Johnny Lee, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, has created a new way of creating your own interactive whiteboard.  Watch the following film to see how easy it is to set up your own system.

You can easily purchase the wii infrared pen on as well as a bluetooth adapter (if your computer doesn’t already have it) = all of that is less than 30 bucks.  The software for your computer is free on Johnny Lee’s website.

I am currently installing this at school and hope to present pictures and reviews of this being used in the classroom.

A new year… a new way to present

Each school year our 5th grade has exhibition.  That means that the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program is coming to an end.  That also means that my 28 5th graders are going to have to present an issue to peers, teachers, and the community.  So how are we going to do this in a new, refreshing way?  We could be creative with a play, create puppets, or discover new presentation software.  Last year we played with a few forms of presentation software, which I blogged about in my first-ever blog post.

We used WIX – which is a flash, website editor – the students loved creating their own websites.

We used Prezi – which by now I’m sure all of you have heard about.  Very pretty – but can cause headaches if not used properly.

We used Sliderocket – which is great, easy to use slideshow software.

I recently discovered an even simpler presentation tool.  It’s called: Prezentit.  So why use Prezentit?

  • It’s free
  • It is so simple!  You can’t beat it’s simplicity.  Transitions – add text – add images… color, background…
  • Easy to upload images – you get 250 megabytes of free storage.
  • You can download your presentation after you have created it – which means that you don’t need the internet to play your presentation.  This is a huge bonus – which sliderocket does not offer.

Give Prezentit a try.  You do have to sign up – but it’s free, and you don’t have to check your e-mail to log on…

Digital Vaults – more than just another vault

I have recently been exploring a website called Digital Vaults.  Digital Vaults is a website created by the National Archives – a government organization.  The website is full of very informative artifacts related to American history.  There are teacher lesson plans and units available, as well as loads of records including: primary documents, photos and films – all pertaining to our nation’s history.  The website would be great for researching anything related to American history.  The website does offer easy help to how to research on the website: just look at this page to get started.

In addition to being our Naitonal Archives, the website also offers something very unique.  It allows for students to use information from the website to create a poster full of images and records, or a short film.  Students can apply there findings to a presentation form right there!

So – make sure you take a look at this website.  It is an excellent tool when studying American history and allows for creative presentations.

A little Gaming variety?

I took a class on gaming in education today.  That’s right – you heard me, gaming in education.   Don’t get me wrong, this is where modern education is heading, that being said – our educational structure and system won’t keep up with the modern philosophy and innovativd 21st century ideas.

Do you think the class was fun?  Absolutely!  Game-based learning is fun.  What are we seeing when we observe game-based learning?

  • Students work hard to solve problems and complete tasks.
  • Games are low risk because students feel safe to fail.
  • Students are able to share/borrow/discuss strategies they are using to be succesful in the game (collaboration)

Those are just a few reasons for game-based learning – above all else, though, games are engaging.

So here are three free web-based games I discovered today.

1. 3rd World Farmer – This game is great because it teaches students about investments, agriculture, and real-life challenges.  Students try to expand their family, while deciding what crops or livestock they will invest in.  After they have decided this they click the yearly play button, which provides them with an annual budget report displaying their profit or debt.  I found this game very addicting, because it took me multiple tries to figure out the best way to succeed.

2. Grammar Gremlins – This game provides various grade level options.  Students try and defeat the gremlins through inserting correct grammar in sentences.  Grammar can be one of the more difficult subjects to make engaging in school.  This seemed like a simple game to have on a choice list.

3. Energyville – Energyville is a game where students determine what energy sources they will tap into to power a city.  They must take into account the environment, the expenses, and the security.  The game shows the production of energy for the different types, and explains why and how each type of energy should or should not be used.

Your own Online Museum

I think you’re going to really like this website.  For the last… who knows how long… I have been going to my team at school and saying, “so I discovered this new website.”  I have begun to realize how overwhelming all these websites can be.  Which do you choose to use? Is it based on ease of access?  application? fanciness? engagement/student interest? …

Well, I recently discovered this website called: Museum Box.  If you haven’t seen it yet – it’s worth taking a look at.  Musuem Box is a platform for allowing students to organize information and store it in a ‘musuem’ like setting.  Each box contains six sides where students can place images, movies, documents, or links pertaining to that topic.  The site is built especially for teachers, even allowing teachers to build student accounts.

So how can this be applied in the everyday classroom?  Musuem Box is great because if students have book reports, or presentations of any kind that allow for them to use web-based resources – they can organize that information in Musuem Box and present through the website.

An example?  Okay: Suppose students are learning about the Revolutionary War and you want them to understand key people, events, artifacts, or dates.  You could have students use the web to access pictures, videos, or links that they could put on their boxes.  Students could also write documents or find primary sources.  I see musuem box as an opportunity to be more creative with presentation – and allow for students to figure out what’s important and what isn’t as important.



One of my biggest weaknesses as a teacher is my organization.  I seem to always lose things on my desk, in my desk, and around my desk.  It’s something I work hard on each year to try and make better.  Though, I’ll be honest, when I moved schools it got even harder.  Tangible items are not the only things that need to be organized, web-based resources may need to be organized as well.

Why would web-based resources need to be organized?

What if students are doing research on a specific theme?  Then you, as a teacher, could search websites ahead of time and organize those websites so that the students won’t be searching through the entire ocean known as the Web.

or you could create web lists according to subjects: Have a math page, a writing page, a history page, a science page…

or create a web list that links to great books that you would advise the kids to read.  Tell the kids to get on the web list and look at different books and write down the ones that interest them.

or upload student projects: writing, video, podcasts… and create a weblist that parents or kids could visit.

There are a number of reasons for you to organize websites.

So what can you use to organize websites?

Well, I have already written a website about Symbaloo.  This is a great resources because it is very sleek looking and easy to add urls and thumbnails.

Another website that you could use is called: WebList. Here are some reasons why: 

  • It’s free.
  • WebList allows for you to create url lists and have one navigation page for students to use for all of your urls.
  • The website automatically creates thumbnails for the urls that you plug in.
  • You don’t even need to sign in – you can create a list right away.  It is very simple to use.
  •  It is really easy for students to use because the websites become embedded in WebList so that students don’t even have to leave the page.  This way they can easily navigate between pages on the list.
  • WebList also allows for students to vote on the websites that they found the most useful – which allows for you, as a teacher, to quickly assess the websites that you uploaded.

Creating Class Websites: Totally Popular

Every class needs a website.  True or false?  The biggest issue I see with class websites today is their functionality.  What’s the purpose of the website?  Is it practical – with daily homework assignments posted?  Is it entertaining with game-links?  Is it memorable with pictures and classwork?  Does it allow for students to hit the 3rd stage of technology education – allowing the student to be the producer?

As a teacher – I have become overwhelmed with creating a class website.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s simply – what is going to be the purpose of the website?  I have built, now, four class websites with four different companies – I will highlight these now:

1. Google Sites: My first class got a class website from Google Sites that I created.  It wasn’t super engaging, but it served a very practical purpose – to outline the expected homework and curriculum taught that week in 6th Grade.  All the teachers in our grade got together and posted the work expected to be completed that week.  Also, all homework and notes were uploaded to the site for students to download at their own leisure.

Was the site used? Yes.  Most definitely, but only for the purpose of notes and homework.

2. Glogster – My third class received a website I constructed from Glogster.  Glogster is really fun to use and allows for teachers to do a lot of ‘crazy’ stuff.  Unfortunately, I found myself getting carried away with pictures and random ‘junk’.  I also found my site difficult to navigate.

Was the site used? Somewhat, students visited to see videos uploaded of their projects and to click on links to websites I suggested.

3. Wix – My third class received a website from Wix in the second semester.  Wix is flash based and allows for much sleeker looks than Glogster.  That being said, Wix was not created for the same intent as Glogster, thus not having some of the educational functions that Glogster has.  Wix is still was snazy looking.

Was the site used? Perhaps – to view pictures and to check out my book list of books that students should read.

4. Weebly – This is the newest website creator that I have played with.  It is more user-friendly than any of the other website creators (Really easy to use - just drag the templates or formats you want onto the page).  Unfortunately, Weebly does not allow for all of its tools to be used unless you are a ‘pro’ member.  Nonetheless, Weebly has an educational function and support unlike Wix.  It’s a mixture of Wix and Glogster.

Those are the four website builders I have played with thus far.  None have wowed me out of my socks.  I am considering creating my own HTML script and using that within one of these builders.  I first need to know what purpose my website serves.  Either way, I am going to make sure I incorporate Symbaloo this next year – because I believe that will organize links or films very well for my classes.

It’s not an airline… it’s a website.

TED. Technology. Entertainment. Design.

If you’re like me – you’re always looking for something to inspire you or entertain you while you are working out, or driving to work.  This website is perfect for that.  There are hundreds of inspiring talks about technology, entertainment, education, and design at your fingertips.  TED is a free website with easy-to-download talks.

I shared one of the talks in an earlier blog post about the Sixth Sense Technology.  I also shared a blog post on The Khan Academy.  If you didn’t get a chance to watch either of those films – I would take a look at them.  They are both incredibly intriguing.

That being said, there are numerous talks that apply to education.  I watched one today by a 4th grade teacher, John Hunter, who created a World Peace Game that encourages students to think creatively and problem solve real world conflicts and disasters.  Watch this if you get a chance.

Another excellent educational TED video was on Dan Meyer – a highschool math teacher.  In his talk he breaks apart math problems and shows the flaws in our textbooks.  He also highlights the skills students do need to learn to be successful – and how to make math class engaging to students.  This is a great video if you are looking for new inspiration and insight into preparing for math lessons.

In this talk Conrad Wolfram discusses the major components of math.  What is math?  What should be taught?  He talks about the dangers of emphasizing too much computation.  He believes that in our modern time computers can do the computation, therefore education should be focusing on other aspects of math curriculum.

To download a TED talk:

1. Go to the TED talk you want to download

2. Click on the download tab under the talk

3. Right click on the type of download you want (sometimes there are options audio/video – mp4

4. Click “Save Target AS” and save your download – VOILA – it’s done.


Creating posters? Trying to figure out a cover design?  Looking to present a variety of vocabulary in one picture?

Wordle is for you.

Wordle is an excellent, easy-to-use website where you can insert text – then the wesbite will generate text puzzles that can look very slick.  You do have some control- if you want the words horizontal/vertical/both – or what color gradient you desire.

How do I use this with students?

  • It can be used to present vocabulary for a new story or unit.  Students can use the vocabulary to try and guess the story or unit content.
  • Students could create a wordle for each book that they are reading to show the main ideas and characters from the book.
  • Students could create wordles for presentations – highlighting the key ideas.

It is free – which is always great.  When I have created a wordle I click the print screen button on the computer keypad.  I then open paint and click paste.  Then I crop the wordle and save it as a jpeg.  Althought that is a process - I have found it works fine – and once you get the hang of it – it’s really quick.

Website Creation

My students loved using the web-based presentation software.  Nonetheless, I didn’t want it to just be an in-class presentation – I wanted parents at home to be able to view the presentations as well.  Some teachers like to create websites through and others use, but I found a much sleeker looking website called WIX.

What’s good about WIX?                                                                             

  • It’s free.
  • It’s flash-based.
  • It is very sleek looking – and it’s photo galleries are fancy.

Here is an example of how I used the picture gallery to make book-finding more interesting for my kiddos.     Here it is.

Here is an example of an Energy unit I am working on creating through WIX.  Here it is.

Web-based Presentation Software (Prezi and Sliderocket)

Over the past two months I have lunged into a world of web-based software.  The school where I teach 5th grade is IB (International Baccalaureate).  One of the great things about teaching 5th grade at an IB school is the capstone event – where 5th graders get to experience their first real research project/presentation.  This year my 5th grade team wanted to jazz up the presentations – and so we decided to integrate more stylish presentation software.  The great things about the following software is that it is free and it is not power point.

1. Prezi:

  •     This stylish presentation software allows for users to create paths on a large, internet “white-board.”
  •     It provides easy ways to incorporate youtube videos and import media from desktops.
  •     Clearly organize information through font sizes and path choices.
  •     One con of Prezi is that (with the free version) there is no way to hyperlink text or import bmp’s…

Tip: With students – you only need one username and password – every student can be working through the same account at the same time – just on different prezis – so I just made one account ahead of time.

Here is an example of a prezi: EXAMPLE

2. Sliderocket:

  • Sliderocket is like a beefed-up powerpoint.
  • It has fancier transitions and sleeker text and themes.
  • Directly upload from flikr

Unfortunately with Sliderocket students each need their own account -because they cannot work simultaneously on the same account – we just made up e-mail addresses for the students.

Here is an example of sliderocket: EXAMPLE

There are other excellent web-based presentation software including: 280slides , Google Docs Presentations, Zoho Show , and slidesix.


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