Thing 30: DIY

I decided for this Thing, I would do a hodgepodge of things. First I wanted to delve into Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. I have used several of her resources in the past just by stumbling across them as I was searching for something for a project but I’ve never taken the time to just look at her site to see what ideas it might generate. Some of her information is dated but it did jump start my brain to look for updated information or research covering the topics. In looking at her webpage on Information Literacy I decided to do a YouTube search for evaluating websites for research and ran across this one. It is basic but does a good job of covering the information although the narrator could use a little more umph in his voice. I love these two nutty women and their take on the CRAAP test for evaluating websites.

I was also looking at Thing 26 on Media Skills and checked out BeFunky! Love it!!! I discovered it at the same time as I was preparing a site for an Everglades research project with a small class of special ed students and was able to use it to create a couple of collages, one of which I used as the header on the mammal page of the site. The collage to the left is another I created but didn’t use for the site. It isn’t the easiest site to figure out in terms of creating new images and selecting gird layouts but with some exploration and by watching a couple of the tutorial videos, I was able to figure most of it out. Instead of a create new option, you have to save the image you are working on and then select the Reset icon on the bottom right of the screen to clear the page and start fresh – there is just something counterintuitive to hitting Reset!

ClassHook came across my radar through Richard Byrne’s blog and it seems like a great tool to have available. The site allows you to “Easily find educational videos from TV shows and movies to use in your lessons” while at the same time you can put it what it calls a “pause prompt”. Pause prompt allows you to imbed a question for class discussion within the video. The video pauses at that point and your question appears, allowing for a set time (determined by you) for the class to discuss the question. They also have some playlists for specific topics. The one for American History (1800s-1900s) is particularly good for 8th grade social studies. When I think of the amount of time teachers have spent looking for that perfect clip to introduce a topic or hook the students it makes me wish I had known about this earlier. When I shared the site with the staff here at our middle school, many of them were very excited about it. Hopefully, it will continue to grow and more video clips will be added.

As always, thanks Polly for the opportunity to learn something new!


Thing 28: Anything Google


So I’ll admit right here, I am a BIG fan of Google. I use it almost exclusively now because it is accessible anywhere and so easy to use for collaboration! But there is always so much more to learn! This Thing was full of information on Google that I either knew nothing or very little about.

Google Keep is really great! I am now going to use it to replace Evernote and Wunderlist for many things of the things I currently use those 2 apps for. I like the ability to organize by color and label as well as the ease with which you can add images and graphics to the notes. Because I have such a poor ability to remember the names of things, the fact that you can so easily add pictures right in the notes makes it really valuable. Although definitely not an educational application, I can now organize all the pictures I’ve taken of wines that I like and actually be able to find them when I need them!!! The other memory aide that will be very helpful is the GPS based reminders – if only it would work for different rooms in my house so I could remember why I was going to the kitchen! 🙂 The Ditch That Textbook video on Google Keep is definitely worth watching if you are at all interested in using Google Keep. We have access to Google Keep at my district but it is not available under the tools menu of a Google Doc so I have reached out to our tech department to see if they can make that available so students can use Google Keep and easily drag notes for a research project directly into a document.

Fingers crossed!



Tips for Creating Stop-Motion Slides was fun to try. I’ve tried to do this before but without some of the tips and tricks he offers in this post, it was way too time consuming. It still isn’t the fasted thing to do but his method does speed it up considerably. It would be a fun way to introduce someone to some of the keyboard shortcuts available on Slides; some of the tools available to position and modify images right in Slides; and, how to publish your slides to the web. I also liked his suggestion for using a screencasting tool to make an actual video of your stop-motion creation. Here is my example. Just push the play button to start it.

I love the short cuts for creating new Google docs, slides, sites, forms and sheets. As long as I can remember to use the singular of the app followed by .new, I’ll be all set!

As always, thanks Polly for all the great ideas and information!

Thing #20: Social Reading and Book Stuff

Is anyone else tired of winter? As I’m writing this, it is currently -10 degrees and snowy! I don’t ever want to live in the south again but I’m definitely ready for a long visit to a sunny, warm beach somewhere!

I love learning all the new things that Cool Tools shows me but the other added benefit is it reminds of tools I’ve used in the past and completely forgotten about. One example of that is LibraryThing. When I went to subscribe, I found I already had an account! (Brain like a sieve!). One of the 6th grade special education teachers I work with had asked me to do a book talk with her EI class. The students in the group all read below a 3rd grade level but of course don’t want to be seen with “baby” books. Although I am not a fan of leveled readers, I did do a Lexile search on my catalog for titles I have in the appropriate range and then selected from them ones that I thought would appeal to 6th graders. Because middle schoolers don’t absorb all the information we throw at them in a presentation, I decided I would create some type of visual for the books they might enjoy, as well as doing book talks for some of them. LibraryThing was a perfect way to do that! I was able to create a Collection in LibraryThing of some of the books I would like to share with them and embed it on my website. I love that you can add tags to the books as well, so the students can further sort them. So far I’ve added a “novel in verse” tag to the collection as those are very popular with many of my students who are either lower or reluctant readers as well as those who are avid readers.

Ooh, I love Freebooksy! Thanks for the info on it. I already get BookBub and BookGorilla, now I have one more way to get my book fixes!

I signed up for NetGalley quite a while ago but I have so little time just to keep up with reading for middle school books that I just couldn’t do it. I’m hoping when I retire next year, I’ll have time to actually participate in either or both of the programs, NetGalley and Edelweiss. In the meantime I’ll just keep referring back to the lists on Mackin, reviews on SLJ and for the latest adult fiction and non-fiction, LibraryReads. Between keeping up with the latest tech and the latest books, there just isn’t enough time!!!

Stay warm everyone!


Thing #8: Digital Curation Tools

I love digital curation. I am addicted to Pinterest and have used Diigo, and Padlet in the past. I was excited to try some of the new to me tools on this Thing!

Before I write about the 2 new tools I tried on this post, I wanted to share a great one I discovered while reading through the article 6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2019 I discovered and tried out a new Padlet-like tool and it looks like a great alternative. It is called Webjets and it seems to have a little more organizational ability than did Padlet. I have been playing around with it and I have to say, it is so much better than Padlet. I love that you can just drag any type of item onto the board and organize it into lists, folders or mind maps. This could be a really great tool for organizing research projects and because it can be shared with collaborators, it would also work well for students and/or teachers who are working on group projects. Because it allows you to log in with Google, it is great to use with students! Here is a quick one I created.

Wakelet is an easy tool to use to gather resources and it allows you to log in with Google – that, as I’ve said before, makes it so much easier to use with students. I tried using it to gather a small number of resources for a Digital Citizenship unit I was preparing for the 6th grade tech students and it was very easy. I was able to easily embed it in my Google Sites website so it could be shared with the teachers, students and parents. I could see it being a great tool for students to use collaboratively to gather and share resources for a wide variety of projects. It has 3 levels of permission, unlisted, private, or public which I also like. This is one I will definitely add to my toolbelt!

I also played around with eLink and found it easy to use. Here is my first eLink (sorry about all the links but because I don’t have Pro I can’t embed on this blog). It was very easy to embed it on my website. It won’t be one I will use with students though because it doesn’t allow for login with Google. Any time students have to create a account using their own email and password, it causes issues because of the need for parent permission for those students under 13 or under.

Thanks for giving me more tools for curation!


Thing 7: Presentation Tools

So, I wasn’t going to do thing 7 because I’ve used so many presentation tools in the past and have been using Google Slides almost exclusively for a while but I decided I would just look at it quickly. I am so glad I did. I love Beautiful AI and I like Ludus although it is much more difficult to use. I can see where someone who has a real artist flare would really love using

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Ludus. Through the tutorial they set up on Ludus, I discovered Unsplash. I don’t know how I missed this source for free images but there are some absolutely beautiful pictures on the site. To the right is an example of one that I found when looking for Christmas pictures and the Buncee below contains a beautiful image of a terrier from the site as well. (The other image was on Buncee.)

Adobe Spark is a wonderful tool and I love that you can sign in with a Google Account because that makes it much more useable with students. The tool gives you so many options for making a really well laid out, quality looking project with minimal tech skills. I could see it being used by students in the classroom, especially for a infographics project or other image rich products. This is a poster I made about librarians using Unsplash for all images sources. I just had a great idea for how to use this with students. I run our Pride Club and one of the things the students have talked about doing was creating posters to promote more acceptance and tolerance in our building. This would be a great tool to use for that purpose! Oh, boy!!!


Sample Focus is a lot of fun! I now have a new source for video sounds!!!

P.P.S.: Ok, so after I published this I came across this article on The #tlchat Daily and I wanted to be sure to share it with everyone. It is a collection of Seven Great Google Slide Templates for Creativity and Critical Thinking and they look absolutely great! I shared them with all the teachers here and I’m hoping someone jumps on one of them!


Thing 22: Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources

I just finished the primary sources project I do with a group of sixth grade social studies students. I begin the project with a presentation on primary sources that starts with this Shmoop video and we then discuss as a class what makes something a primary source. Following this we have the students proceed through 10 different stations with information about King Tut and the discovery of his tomb. There are a variety of print and web resources that they are viewing. At each station they have to determine the type of source, primary or secondary, whether or not it is reliable and gather the required information to answer the questions for that station. They will then use this material to write a CRQ (the new name for a DBQ) essay in class. Reading through the various resources on this “Thing” really helped me clarify and more deeply understand what a primary source is and how to better help the students reach that understanding. One of the questions a student asked when we were talking about how a picture can be a primary source, was what if a photo of a primary source has been altered in some way? This was a great segway into the importance of evaluating the source from which you are getting the image and whether or not it is a reputable and reliable source. I love those students who seem like a plant in the audience! 🙂

Engaging Students with Primary Sources is a great resource and I especially like the Tips for Reading Documents on page 12. It is definitely not something that a student is going to do each time they consider a new resource, but as with many of the skills we teach our students, it is about helping them think critically about what they are looking at before utilizing it or accepting it at face value. This would be a great process for the students to go through as they are initially learning about analyzing and using primary sources.

DocsTeach as presented in the article from Richard Byrne, 5 Online Activities for Teaching With Primary Sources, (although his link to docsteach is no longer working) looks like a really good source. Some of the others seemed a little less appealing and seen like they might be hard sells for teachers and students especially as they are already dealing with changes in the new Social Studies FrameworkZoom In, another source mentioned by Richard Byrne in 10 Resources for Teaching With Primary Sources is one I shared with the social studies teachers in our middle school. I like how it gathers resources into historical periods and allows for the teacher to be able to assign them to a class. The best thing, at least at this point, it is free!

I have a Primary Sources pathfinder that I created a while ago. Reading through this, motivated me to at least go through and check all the links, add some of the new ones I discovered in the readings for this post and remove some of the ones that seemed to be of a little lesser quality. Now I just need to go through them and organize them by themes and/or eras.

Thing #24: Google Drawings

Google Drawings is a really great tool! Our technology teachers here at the middle school use the graphics program Canvas with the students and I have never been a fan. It is a very complex program, that even I, as a pretty tech savvy person, have trouble using. It is also very expensive and not likely to be something that students will have access to outside of the school setting. I would love to see them at least show the students some of the things you can do with Google Drawings, something that is freely and readily available to our students.

Just a few days ago I had a teacher who had a document for a project we do together but she didn’t have the original file and there were changes that she needed to make. She scanned it using our copier but that of course creates a PDF and unfortunately, we no longer have access to the version of Adobe that allows you to edit PDFs. I tried a few of the free online converters but they didn’t work for us. So… I used the snipping tool to take a snip of the page in two parts. I then opened Google Drawing and pasted the two snips into it after setting the page settings for the drawing to a standard size piece of paper. Using text boxes I could then make the text changes that needed to be added and we could then just print it out! That way we didn’t have to recreate the entire document before we have to present it to the students!

I ran across this site the other day through one of my feeds,  Recovering the Classics and I think there is a lot of potential for doing this using Google Drawings. I love that is it not a contest! I wrote to the group and asked if there is a way to submit the students’ works as a class or as a school. They responded the next day saying it definitely is! I spoke with one of our art teachers about trying this and she really liked the idea. We are going to try this sometime next semester with her Studio Art students. I’m also going to offer this opportunity to my students in MakerSpace and encourage them to use Google Drawings, specifically vector drawings as demonstrated in Joshua Pomeroy‘ excellent video demonstration.  I think this would work especially well

for those students who feel they don’t have a lot of artistic abilities, like me. The image of Snape (one of my heroes from Harry Potter) is one I created following Joshua Pomeroy’s techniques. It is not finished (I am much slower than he is) but it came out fairly recognizable.

I love the Sticky Notes templates! What fun! It is a great way to personalize your interaction with students! Using icons from The Noun Project would be such a great combo. The Noun Project is one of the few free services that I actually pay the annual subscription price for because it almost always has some icon to meet my needs and I don’t have to worry about rights or attribution with a paid membership. You can also get an add-on for it in Google so you can insert the icon within your document.

Google Drawings should definitely be part of everyone’s tool box. It really is a very powerful, yet simple Google app to use!

Thing 21: Supporting English Language Learners

My district has a very small number of ELL students. In my 12 years here I think we’ve had at most 6 or 7 students and they have all been either Spanish or Chinese language speakers. Two years ago the ELL teacher came to me regarding a wonderful young man we have in our district who was born in the Dominican Republic and spoke and read only in Spanish. He loved to read but was really struggling with the books we had in the library, all of which were in English. I immediately met with him and his ELL teacher to find out what types of books he was interested in and together we selected a few to add to the library – first and foremost a Spanish language copy of Hunger GamesLos Juegos del Hambre. I ordered the books and added them to the collection and added a few more books again this year. In “10 Ways to Support ELLs in the School Library”, Jacqueline Jules presents the simplest idea that I can’t believe I didn’t think of – mark the section where these books are located with bilingual signage – duh! I had them marked with the sign Spanish Language Books but as of today, the sign now says Libros en Español. 

The recommended webinar, Teach Diverse Books, was a great resource. I really had no idea how robust this database is, especially as related not only to ELL students but any other students who need more support or scaffolding in their reading. I definitely plan to share this video and the resource at one of our next faculty meetings so that the teachers know it can do more than provide students with a great resource for author studies.

The other thing I got from this Thing is all the various websites and resources that are out there. I am in the process of creating a resource page on my website for ELL Resources so that it can be easily accessible for students and teachers. It is a work in progress but here is the link for what I have published so far. I would love to hear if anyone has any other great resources to add to the page!


Thing #14 – Bitmoji Fun

OK, so I had added the Bitmoji extension to Chrome quite a while ago and tried to use it but for some reason I just found it very frustrating. In large part this was because, for some reason, I didn’t realize you could just copy and paste the Bitmojis. Reading some of the articles for Thing #14 clarified that and other aspects of the extension and now I can say I have thoroughly enjoyed using it in some of my slide presentations and adding it to emails.

I am using Bitmoji Deluxe. I found the other versions are a little too cartoonish for me. It was interesting when I changed my welcome sign by my sign-in desk to include the Bitmoji to the left, several of the students immediately recognized the image as a Bitmoji. Just that fact leads me to think using them as “stickers” for students might be very motivating to them or at least make them think their teachers are kind of cool! 🙂

You can view a really quick Google Slide presentation I made ala Slyvia Duckworth’s post Creating Comics with Google Slides. To the right is the bookmark I created using Canva as discussed in Back to School Bookmarks . I haven’t quite decided yet whether or not I’ll actually have them printed but it was fun playing about with it.

After taking this opportunity to become more familiar with Bitmojis and reading about some of the potential uses for them in the classroom (and for personal use), I really encourage anyone who hasn’t tried them to give it a whirl! It is a lot of fun!

Thing 24: Makerspaces (part 2)

20160411_081049This is my second year running our middle school after school, MakerSpace. I am definitely more comfortable than I was last year, especially with the idea of just letting the students run with their own ideas – I just have to make sure they don’t run amok! I have also learned more about coding, robotics and electronics than I ever thought I would know. The image above is of some of the Passive Dynamic Mini Walkers the students made both in MakerSpace and in the gifted and talented STEM program I run. There were basic directions for this robot that I took from Kathy Ceceri’s book, Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future. Kathy was the instructor at the Monthly Maker Project Group that I participated in this year through Model Schools and the walkers were one of the projects we did. This is a great example of a very creative project that requires no motors, electronics or technology of any type. Although this project is more structured in terms of instructions, the students were still able to modify their robots in any way they wanted, with the goal being to get their robot to “walk” down a ramp using only the power of gravity. Although the project appears simple, it really isn’t. There is a lot of trial and error in where to place things for balance and to give it enough weight to actually move down the ramp. As always you 20160411_081057have those students who just follow the directions as presented and those who add their own embellishments such as drawing faces on their robots, or in the case of the image to the right, giving their robot spears (at least I think that was the intent). I also feel that one of the greatest aspects of a project such as this, is that it appears easy so students jump right in and think they can proceed without really thinking very hard about it (as they do with many of their classroom assignments) and then they find that it doesn’t really work the way they want it to. It is at this point you really get to see who has a Fixed Mindset and who has a Growth Mindset. You can then start the conversation about why failure is important in learning and how the true test of character is not in whether or not you are the first to finish the project but in whether or not you are willing to fail and still try again, and again…


This year, in addition to the after school program, I have started putting out jigsaw puzzles and coloring pages at a table in the library for students who have finished all their work. This was a real eye opener for me. I would have anticipated that I would have more girls than boys taking part in these activities but it was just the reverse. The boys have really been into both of these activities, and often it is those boys who’s names you hear called to the office a lot who are there the most – I seldom have any issues with their behaviors when they are working at the puzzle table. Students who you would never see together anywhere else, would work really hard to find a puzzle piece to complete a section and then high five each other. They were so proud when we glued the completed puzzles together and put them on display in the library. One issue we have had with the puzzles is students taking pieces. The students who love working on the puzzles really get upset when this happens and really put in an effort to track down the piece and the “culprit”.

20160411_081242The big event this year was the arrival of our new 3D printer in March! Thanks to a grant I received from the Scotia-Glenville Education Foundation, we now have a FlashForge printer (the district’s choice). It has taken me several weeks to learn some of the ins and outs of using a 3D printer. At least with this model, it isn’t just load the design, set the slicing rate and temperatures and go. One time a setting will work well and the next you end up with a mess (the image below to the left is a pile of some of the mistakes). The 20160411_081220image to the right is my attempt to scientifically establish the best setting for printing but even that didn’t fully 20160411_081213solve the problem. You absolutely must stay and watch while it is printing at the beginning to make sure it is off and running correctly and then you have to check back frequently to make sure nothing goes wrong.

All of the students in the building are totally fascinated by the printer – when it is running I usually have a few standing in front of it most of the time. The students in MakerSpace and my gifted and talented program (and me) are in the process of learning 3D design using Tinkercad via Project Ignite. Project Ignite allows me to set up classes and give the students assignments to work on. Once they learn the basics of 3D design they will be able to make their own creations that we can print out for them. I have had one student create a small basket and after 2 failed attempts at printing we were finally able to get a completed print for her! She was so excited! It took four and a half hours to complete the print and her design was only about 5 inches square, 3 inches deep and totally open inside! Because of the length of time most items take to print, I have been very clear with the students that they will probably only get to print one design this year and when they give me the completed file for the design, it make take several days before I am able to print it. The whole 3D experience has been a real learning experience for me and has forced me to have more of a Growth Mindset!


Just one more note about the material we are using. The machine came with 2 different spools of plastic. The white plastic is ABS plastic and the blue is PLA. ABS is a petroleum based product and gives off a somewhat unpleasant odor. The PLA is made from “Polylactic acid or polylactide is a biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch, tapioca roots, chips or starch, or sugarcane”. Wikipedia It does not have an unpleasant odor and is not harmful to the environment so we will be using it. I also have red, green and purple filament and as soon as I figure out how to remove the white filament that is already loaded, I will add one of the other colors!

Wish me luck!!!

OK, one more thought because I just ran across this video I remember from a while ago and it just seems to fit in this post although in a very odd way. The Growth Mindset or the maker mentality, or what ever you want to call it, really is important for us to cultivate with our students. It is what is needed in our complex global world and it is definitely what most employers are looking for. When you have a few minutes, take the time to watch this great video.