Tech Tools for the Everyday Teacher

New Technology

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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I know that I mentioned this website on my last post – but it’s so good that I had to mention it again.  I have recently been using Zooburst in the classroom and it’s been terrific.  Zooburst is a 3d pop up book creator.  It is free and relatively easy to use. 

I began my lesson having students write poems about our school.  I then introduced them to zooburst.  Zooburst has its own database of pictures that you can search through, or, like many of my students, students can find pictures on google images and upload them to Zooburst. 

Because the “teacher-student” account costs money – I created a teacher account and had all my students login to it.  They can all work on seperate books on the teacher website at the same time.  Unfortunately, there is a maximum of 10 books you can create for an account.  You also need to make sure you have an e-mail address because the password for your account will be e-mailed to you.

The actual 3d pop up book, is awesome.  You can move it and rotate it by clicking with your mouse and dragging.  You can change colors and even add quotation bubbles.

But… the coolest thing about this website is that it has the potential for Augmented Reality.  Augmented Reality is where 3d images are displayed through a webcam.  It’s like virtual reality. 

So I started one of my students poems.  At the top there is an option (if you have the capability) to go to webcam mode.  When you go webcam mode, there is a printout for you to print.  Then – if you display that printout in front of the webcam the book will come to life in your webcam.

It’s awesome!

To review:

  • Zooburst: free
  • 10 books maximum for an account
  • 3d
  • Upload images or search for images
  • Augmented Reality available with web cams

What have I learned recently?

I have been trying to incorporate a lot of technology in my classroom recently.  Like I said in my last post, I constructed the interactive whiteboard that Johnny Lee geniously created.  It works.  That being said I do believe the software he recommends on his website is really the only software that works ‘well’ with this contraption.  Another thing that is important to remember is that the placement of the wiimote is vital – and if it shifts than the whole touch-display is off-put.  I have not done the interactive whiteboard with my students yet because I want to make it a little more fool-proof.

I recently acquired an ipad2 from my district to see its functions in the classroom.  I have been using Doceri – which enables the ipad2 to link to your laptop and then you don’t have to stand up at the front to control your laptop – it also allows for you to write or draw on the ipad2.  It’s actually a very handy program.  I have not had the freedom to use other apps yet – but I’m hoping the district loads some on the ipad2 soon – as its very limited with its capabilities, or I just can’t figure out all its uses. 

That being said, the students have never been more engaged with the lesson? or with the ipad2? than when I pull out that device.  They love it.  It just has a pretty steep learning curve.

There you have it.  I will keep you posted on the interactive whiteboard and try to get some pictures of it in use.


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 world of gaming

It has become very clear that this 21st century generation is engulfed in a video gaming world.  No longer is it the ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’ who sit in front of their computers or game consoles and play video games all day.  Now video games are accessible through cellphone and, essentially, any handheld device.

So what’s the deal with these games?  They can be very engaging.  Some of them have a clear goal that serves as an impetus for the gamer to keep playing (Angry Birds) others are colorful, and still others require the player to problem solve.  All of these games have some sort of value whether its asthetic or goal-oriented, and – all of these games can be placed under the category of Instructionist.

There are – really, two types of games out on the market.  First, the ever so popular Instructionist.  These games allow for players to work within their world to accomplish the goals that they have set up.

On the other hand, there is the Constructionist-type game.  This type of gaming allows for the user to develop their own goals and their own world.  Although this type of gaming is not as prevelant as the first, I believe that if students are presented with this type of gaming and it’s engaging, and they feel like they know how to work the medium that allows for them to create then students will embrace it.  This type of gaming is also much more stimulating for the mind.  Students need to create goals and boundaries for their game in order for the game to operate.

I have been thinking about this Constructionist view for some time.  Something I enjoyed doing in highschool was programming ‘choose your own adventure’ type games on my calculator.  My students love them.  Every year the students get fascinated over the games and can’t believe that I created them.  Our summative assessment this year in our human body unit was for students to create a board game using the human body.  The students loved the project and it was such a different thought process because the game had to function.

There needs to be educational, technological devices that are easy and accessible to students to allow for them to create their own games.

Augmented Reality (AR)

One incredible emergent technology is Augmented Reality.  The aim of Augmented Reality is to enhance the users’ understanding of the world around them.  It does this by creating interactive 3d aids that can be viewed through a webcam on the computer.  Essentially, software reads an imprint on a paper and tells the computer to produce this 3d, interactive image on the screen.

When used, the Augmented Reality is able to not only be interactive with the user, but also interactive with other AR items on the screen.

Imagine the implications for education.  With a pack of cards teachers would be able to create interactive, computer generated models of what they are teaching.  Students would be able to interact with the 3d model.  It would be incredible!

After viewing this film – I looked online to see if I could create the software to do similar things through my webcam.  Although it was complicated  – I was able to do it!

Watch the following film to further understand how this technology could be used in education.

To the cloud

By now many of us have seen the commercials with the slogan – to the cloud. So what is cloud computing.  Over the last many months I have had an idea of what cloud computing is, but I didn’t know how you could use it deliberately.

So what is it?

In the past people have kept their files safely packed away on personal hard drives (on their own computers).  This way they could access their own information whenever they needed it.  In this day-in-age, though, many of us require something more because of four (easy to see) reasons – I’m sure there are others as well.

  • We don’t have enough hard drive space to hold all of the information and media we want to hold on our computers
  • We need to access our information anywhere in the world
  • We want to access our information/data/media at any time we want
  • We want to share our information/data/media with anyone at any time.

Cloud computing allows for people to accomplish this goal.  If you think of all of the web-based storage systems we have right now – email, google accounts, yahoo accounts, facebook accounts.. or others – much of our information is wherever we need it to be.

That being said – there are more deliberate ways of allowing for your information/data/media to be placed in the web – where you can access it anytime.  Let me give you a few examples:

a. Pogoplug – This is a website that offers you a space to store files.

It is free

It offers 2 Terra-bytes of storage

It is so easy to use – just click and drag into the Pogoplug folder created in windows explorer after you have download the program

It is safe and secure

b.  Dropbox – Dropbox is also a website that offers space to store files

It too is free

It offers 2 Giga bytes of storage

Also very easy to use.

c. Google Docs – Set up a google account and you have access to Google Documents/Google Spreadsheets…

Hopefully this can help those of you who need access to your information anywhere and everywhere.  Some of you may be wondering how this could be helpful to educators.  First of all – these resources can allow educators to back up their files easily so they won’t lose work from year to year.  Secondly – it would allow for a whole school to place their resources on a network – accessible by everyone.  Thirdly – this may be one way of having homework electronically available to students who are absent or who need a copy at home.