Edutech for Teachers

Cool Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

Create Powerful Learning Experiences with Visuals


Did you know that the human brain can process visuals way faster than text? Yep, not only are they more interesting and eye-catching, it’s a proven fact that we’re actually wired to respond more favorably to visuals. Furthermore, according to a recent study, 65% of the population now consists of visuals learners which would explain why our society is so hooked on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram—all technologies that are essentially image-based.

Obviously, we are living in the age of visual information. So, if that’s the case, then shouldn’t we be teaching and learning in that same age of age of visual information as well? As educators, shouldn’t we be leveraging the power of visuals in all types of instruction?

Of course, these are rhetorical questions because it’s apparent that images are clearly the key to engaging students. They quickly transmit messages, improve comprehension, strengthen retention of knowledge and motivate learning. That said, check out the infographic shown below that illustrates the types of visuals that ignite our brains.

types of visuals

A shout out to SH!FT eLearning for sharing this useful graphic! Learn more about how each visual shown on the infographic can impact learning here.

Classroom Connection:

This “visual about visuals” focuses on the type of content that should be used to create a more engaging online course, but this info can be applied to all types of learning situations.

If you would like to read more information about the power of visuals in learning, check out an interesting article here.

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Operation Recycle Part I: Get Your Breakout On!


What do you get when you combine cans, bottles and other recyclable materials with locks, ransom notes, equations, a card sort, maps, puzzles, ingenious treasure boxes and more?

Operation Recycle: My super cool breakout game designed for our school’s sixth grade environmental field trip!

Stay tuned for more details about my brand-new escape room experience that teaches students about the importance of recycling.

Unlock the fun… Only at Camp Kanesatake!

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Tech-knowledge-y Lives Here!


Introducing… A short promo video I created to share on my social media spaces. The end goal: To encourage educators to check out the Edutech for Teachers blog for digital resources that can be integrated into classroom activities.

Critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and research skills… All of these matter in today’s flat world. Therefore, a tech-knowledge-y infused curriculum that reinforces them matters too. After all, #kidsdeserveit!

Thanks in advance for sharing the #edtech love! ♥

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No Coins Needed: Retro Arcade Game Project Update


A few weeks ago I shared the scoop about a few of my high school independent study Tech Club students—also known as the SWAT Team (Students Working to Advance Technology)—who are working on one totally awesome DIY project: Building and programming a tabletop retro arcade game—completely from scratch!

For the first two weeks of this ed-venture, they—Kermit, Corey and Bailey—worked on programming the Raspberry Pi (a credit card-sized computer), connecting it to the monitor, wiring the buttons, assembling the buttons and joysticks on the control panel and building the casing. You can read all about that here.

Since then, they have been busy completing other aspects of the project. Check out the progress we’ve been making on our ultimate tech-infused hands-on activity shown via the visual timeline embedded below…

OK, so I get that I’m kind of like bragging about them. Actually I do that a-lot! Mostly because each day I’m amazed at their hard work, dedication and perseverance to make this project come to life. And honestly… I’m just super proud of them—even though they totally kick my butt at every game they have installed on the console, including Ms. Pacman, my all-time fav. (Um, yeah… We have competitions!) ♥

Here they are in action…

Tweaking the coding that operates the power button and wiring the lighting strip for the marquee.

Using the Cricut to generate the vinyl logo for the marquee and assembling other parts of the wooden cabinet.

Additional work on the wooden cabinet…

Testing the lighting for the marquee and making sure it fits within the cabinet.

Prepping the wooden cabinet to be painted.

Continuing to prepare the electronic components for our arcade game.

Stay tuned for additional updates as we finalize our swanky project!

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Reinventing Education with Makerspaces


Last summer my good friend, colleague and our elementary principal, Dr. Terri Harpster, and I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Pittsburgh FabLab hosted by Dr. Todd Keruskin and the Elizabeth Forward School District. This four day event exposed us to the super popular maker movement sweeping our country and more importantly, inspired us to reinvent learning for the students in our district.

Upon our return from this experience, we developed a blueprint to transform some of our existing spaces into modern-day learning areas that encourage students to become makers, inventors, coders and responsible digital citizens. And then we actually worked with a number of individuals—the B-A School Board, administration, the BASD Foundation, community members, teachers and students—to make the vision become a reality!

This is our story…

Getting into the Zone

The concept of makerspaces has been around for quite some time. However, within the past few years educators have realized the potential of the Maker Movement in revolutionizing education—to move from consumption of information to creation and then transforming knowledge into action.

If we want our students to have 21st Century career awareness and opportunities, they need to have authentic experiences that allow them to critically think, create, collaborate, and communicate.

One of the most effective ways for students to develop these skills is to provide them with a space to imagine, plan and “make” with their peers.

Welcome to the Imagination Zone, the new makerspace located at Myers Elementary School, a room where students can explore interests and learn to use a variety of repurposed materials and tools, both physical and digital, to develop innovative projects.  This low-tech place also contains Little Bits kits and Osmo robots which give students the chance to learn circuitry and computer programming skills through hands-on activities.

Since its inception at the start of the 2016-17 school year, K-4 students at Myers have designed and created a number of projects that include state floats, dog houses, boats, windmills, parachutes and a Sioux Native American village.  All of these tasks are part of Pennsylvania Common Core standards-aligned units; however, instead of taking a test, students are demonstrating their knowledge by creating museum artifacts and solving problems, which requires the use of higher order thinking skills.

Scenes from our recent ribbon cutting ceremony in which groups of elementary students demonstrated their makerspace knowledge and skills with our School Board, parents and other community members…

Media Center Makeover

Project Reimagine provides the same functions as a library but with a modern twist intended to encourage digital citizenship and more informal avenues of learning.  Our recent makeover included…

  • Café – A place where students can purchase drinks and snacks; Managed by our Life Skills and Autistic Support Classroom teachers and students as well as other members of the student body
  • Book Lounge – A place for collaboration and social interaction.
  • A Student Help Desk – Members of the high school’s SWAT Team (Students Working to Advance Technology) assist teachers and students with use of the iPads, troubleshoot issues and develop digital projects to highlight school activities. Students are currently building and programming a tabletop arcade game for the media center.
  • The addition of contemporary furniture and a splash of vibrant colors to promote creativity.

Project Reimagine opened at the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Tinkering Forward

In order to continue providing students with real-life, engaging, authentic and lifelong learning experiences, plans are being formulated to open a second makerspace at Myers during the 2017-18 school year.  This area will include high-tech equipment such as laser and vinyl cutters, 3D printers and additional robotic programs.

Proposed changes to the existing middle/high school media center for the 2017-18 school year include:

  • Revamp the section of the media center which currently houses reference books into a makerspace for middle school students, one that is similar to the Imagination Zone at Myers Elementary

This area will include low-tech and high-tech equipment that provides students with the opportunity to experiment with 3D printers, robotics, circuitry, computer programming and gaming software/hardware.

  • Convert the library classroom into a TV/Movie Production Studio

This room will be used to broadcast the high school and middle school announcements each morning. This space will also be utilized for the filming of curricular-related videos and presentations as well as the recording of podcasts, music and audio for multimedia projects. Green screen technology will also be leveraged in this area. Plans to incorporate STEM Labs and the Escape Room concept into these areas are being made as well.

  • Add additional TVs to display current events, replays of sporting events, concerts and other school activities (similar to a digital billboard containing school news, info, etc.)
  • Add study carousels and charging stations to the existing areas
  • Update the current computer lab area with new furniture
  • Extend the new ceiling, flooring and paint colors to match the remainder of the media center

Stay tuned to see where our next maker ed-venture leads us!

In the meantime, check out some of the wicked cool activities our elementary students have completed in the Imagination Zone with the assistance of my high school Tech Club/independent study students.

Ms. Longo’s class learning about circuitry via Little Bits challenges…

Ms. Longo’s students building a dog house for Chadwick, their stuffed class pet…

The final product…

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Print Custom Sticky Notes with Google Slides


What do you get when you combine sticky notes with Google Slides? A super cool idea from Tony Vincent that shows teachers how to create customized messages for all kinds of classroom uses: Personalized notes, reminders, to do lists, paper tweets, exit tickets, motivational remarks and more!

There’s even a wicked awesome template for generating sticky notes containing customized avatars using the Bitmoji Chrome extension.

Get the scoop, including step-by-step instructions, design tips and templates, by visiting the Learning in Hand blog right here, right now!

In the meantime, check out this instructional video demonstrating how educators can make this concept happen!

A high five to Tony for giving me the thumbs up to highlight his innovative idea on my space!

Classroom Connection:

As simple as they are, sticky notes are powerful educational tools that can motivate and inspire students before, during and after all sorts of classroom activities that span the K-12 curriculum.

Use the resources found within the Learning in Hand blog post to create personalized learning experiences for your students.

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The Google Easter Egg-stravaganza Sequel


Back by popular demand, it’s the Internet Easter egg hunt brought to you by Google…

If you’re a fan of these activities, then you won’t want to miss out on the hidden “Easter eggs”, or tricks, games and other fun stuff the programmers at Google have tucked away in their search engine for your entertainment.

How in the world do you find these super cool nerdy treasures, you ask? Well, give some of these search tips a try and see what pranks you can locate!

Just open Google in your favorite browser and search…

  • Do a Barrel Roll—See the results page roll over.
  • Super Mario Brothers—Be prepared for a flashback to the 90s!
  • Festivus—Adds a Festivus pole to the left side of the screen. If you don’t know what that means, you must not be a Seinfeld fan so do a regular Google search for more info.
  • I’m feeling curious or fun fact—Snag random trivia and the chance to get additional fun factoids. Warning: This can be the beginning of an addiction!
  • Tilt or askew—The results appear slightly tilted to the right.
  • Google in 1998—The page will look like it did about 18 years ago.
  • Super Mario Bros—View an info card to the right with details about the game. Added bonus: Click the coin block to collect coins and earn a 1up.
  • Zerg Rush—Watch your search results get attacked by the Google Os, which you can defeat by clicking on them.
  • Flip a coin—Prompts a card with an animated coin flip.
  • Roll a die—Prompts a card that randomly rolls a standard six-sided die.
  • Atari Breakout—Get your big hair on and play a version of the hit game Breakout from the 80s.
  • Play dreidel—Enjoy ten seconds of an interactive dreidel-spinning game.
  • Webdriver torso—Transforms the Google logo into a series of blinking blocks.
  • Anagram—Triggers a response asking, “Did you mean: Nag A Ram.” (Get it? Ha, ha!)

And my all-time favorite:

  • Google Pacman—Returns a card that that links to a pop-up screen of the famous 80’s arcade game

Recently added:

  • T-Rex Mini Game—We’ve all seen the dreaded “no network connectivity” T-Rex show up when the internet isn’t working, but what you may not realize is that this is also a game. It’s an endless runner where you, as T-Rex, have to run as far as you can, jumping over cacti and pterodactyls as they come your way.
And there you have it: A few of the thousands of lines of code hidden in popular software around the web. For more of this geeky goodness, just… Yep, you guessed it: Google it. You’ll probably be pretty amazed at how many of these secret gems are waiting to be discovered!
Google makes many super useful products, but it’s also cool to see the “fun” side of the company. Enjoy!

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Become an Edtech Mixologist with PicCollage


A few weeks ago The Techie Teacher (a.k.a. Julie Smith) shared a post about how PicCollage can be incorporated into app smashing activities. If you missed this wicked cool info, you can still check it out right here, right now…

Because I just love, love app smashing—the art of merging content from a variety of apps to generate a unique finished product—especially when using PicCollage as the basis, I thought I’d add to the edtech goodness with another idea that can be incorporated into classroom activities.

This app-solutely smashing example involves the fusion of PicCollage, Thinglink and Google Docs to provide students with the opportunity to complete an interactive learning journey.

Follow along as I explain how I generated the example shown below…

The Project

Dubbed “Where in the World”, this creation will challenge students to use information and research to identify an unknown geographical location.

The Learning Objective

Students will hone their ability to read for details, conduct Internet searches and complete a digital form to share findings.

The Process

First, I selected a destination I wanted students to learn more about and then located a variety of pictures to visually represent points of interest. Each photo was imported into the PicCollage app to create an all-in-one collection of images. Once finished, this media was saved to the camera roll. (In this particular instance, I used photos from a recent vacation.)

Next, I developed “fun facts” that could be linked to each picture in the collage—info students used to determine the mystery location. I also generated a Google form that students completed after further exploring the clues found within the collage. This questionnaire could be used as an informal or formal assessment.

Finally, I imported the collage into a third tool, ThingLink, to actually create the interactive mashup—one that included links to the clues and form described in the previous step.

The Outcome

Check out the live version of the “Where in the World” app smash shown below. Be sure to hover over the image to reveal the interactive “hotspots”.

Click here for a full screen version of this interactive image.

This particular app smash was created for student use, but of course—students could also design their very own Virtual Destination mash-up to share with classmates.

The Connection

App smashing encourages the meaningful use of technology to meet a chosen learning objective. It promotes critical thinking and problem solving in a challenging yet fun manner.

But wait… There’s more!

Not only do students benefit from participating in app smashing activities, but affording students with the opportunity to utilize interactive activities engages them in learning that is meaningful, relevant and thought-provoking. Plus, completing a project of this nature allows them to demonstrate the use of a variety of digital skills in the process.

The Real Deal

As I’ve mentioned before, the more you use PicCollage, the more ideas your mind will generate! Trust me, it’s a must-have tool for students of all ages!

In the meantime, check out the slide deck I created to share some really awesome ways PicCollage can be integrated into the classroom. Not only can you view various projects other educators have utilized with students, but you can also submit your own idea(s) to this super cool crowd-sourced document!

The PicCollage Teacher Ambassador Program

Love this app as much as I do? Learn more about becoming a PicCollage Teacher Ambassador here and/or by following #PicCollageEDU on Twitter!

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No Coins Needed: Students Designing Retro Arcade Game for Media Center


Here’s one for the Throwback Thursday fans…

Who’s up for a game of Ms. Pacman? How ’bout Donkey Kong or Frogger? Well, it won’t be long until middle and high school students in our media center will have the chance to take a trip back to 80’s to experience some of the coolest video games ever created.

Yep, my high school independent study Tech Club students—also known as the SWAT Team (Students Working to Advance Technology)—are working on one totally awesome DIY project: Building and programming a tabletop retro arcade game—completely from scratch!

Check out the progress we’ve been making on our ultimate tech-infused hands-on activity shown below…

Kermit, Corey and Bailey working on programming the Raspberry Pi (a credit card-sized computer), connecting it to the monitor, wiring the buttons and building the casing.

Corey and Kermit assembling the buttons and joysticks on the control panel.

A shout out to Dr. Todd Keruskin from Elizabeth Forward School District for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2016 Pittsburgh FAB Institute last summer.  That experience has been the driving force behind many changes that have been implemented in my district since the beginning of the school year—including giving our students the chance to build their very own arcade game! ♥

Stay tuned for additional updates…

(Check out an update from April 28 here.)

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The Easter Resources Collection: Part VI


Hop on over and check out an updated collection of Easter resources that can be utilized to bring some holiday learning and fun into your classroom. So, whether you’re in need of some lessons that contain a spiritual theme, or maybe you’re just looking for some seasonal fun, there’s a little something, something for everyone. Happy, happy!

» Kids will not only love this egg-citing science activity, they will also learn about the cool chemical reaction that makes it happen. Check out the Easter Egg Rockets, a super cool experiment brought to you by The Stem Laboratory.

» Get your Easter on with 25 quick and fun activities from ThoughtCo.

» Celebrate Easter in your classroom with this collection of resources displayed on ese arts and crafts ideas, educational activities, and printables.

» Do you and your students have spring fever? Then be sure to hop on over to TeachersFirst and check out these resources about Easter. Here you will find a variety of activities to incorporate into your math classes, social studies lessons, writing workshops, and more!

» Need some secular and/or Easter activities and teaching ideas? A to Z Teacher Stuff has you covered!

» Lots of Easter games, puzzles, stories, crafts, poetry and more live here:

» The Busy Teacher provides educators with 64 Easter-related worksheets that can be incorporated into classroom lessons.

» Easter Teaching Resources is a Pinterest board filled with arts and crafts ideas, educational activities, and printables to help you celebrate Easter in the classroom.

» The abcteach Easter category page features hundreds of fun, educational activities for classroom or home use, including coloring pages, crafts, board games, readings, puzzles, interactives, and much more!

» Teaching Ideas offers an extensive range of ideas and resources to teach and learn about Easter—poems, stories, puzzles, curricular activities, images, banners, fonts, videos and Easter Egg Hunts.

» Poetry activities, interactive games, scavenger hunts, sequencing cards, puzzles, a variety templates and more await you on TES Connect—the largest teacher network in the world.

» Larry Ferlazzo’s Web Site of the Day is another site packed with online resources for teaching and learning about Easter and Passover. A few that stood out for me include a variety of Easter videos and articles from the History Channel, the Easter Bunny Rap, How Easter Works and Easter by the Numbers—a fun infographic about this holiday.

» Education World contains resources for teaching science, graphing and creative writing that fit perfectly for Easter fun and learning.

The Activity Village: Easter Activities has a huge selection of Easter activities to explore with elementary students, including coloring pages, printables, jokes, crafts, puzzles and more!

Brought to you by About Education: Easter Resources, this collection of 25 quick and easy Easter resources are sure to keep you and your students busy throughout this spring holiday!

» Harry Kindergarten: Check out this video entitled “The Bunny Goes Hop”, an Easter pattern song for kids, produced by my colleague, Pete Harry. (For additional educational videos and songs, visit the Harry Kindergarten YouTube channel and/or website.)

» And my favorite resource to date? A recipe for creating a really cool and yummy dessert with one of the best holiday treats money can buy! Check out Easter Peeps Casserole here. Your students (and family) will just love, love it! ♥

Classroom Connection:

Use these themed lesson plans, activities and materials to teach students about Easter and Passover.

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Hey, edu-tech gurus!

Looking for some technology integration ideas to enhance your classroom lessons? Then be sure to check out my "Tech Tips" for the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools, applications and web sites that can be incorporated into activities and/or projects. Although some posts may not be applicable to your content area or grade level, be sure to check back often as I will be varying ideas in order to provide resources across the K-12 curriculum.

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