Edutech for Teachers

Cool Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

BAMS Tech Club: Producing Media for a Real-World Purpose


photoA few weeks ago I shared a local newspaper article about the partnership my Middle School Tech Club students and I have formed with the Mending Hearts Animal Rescue located in Central Pennsylvania. Since establishing this community service project, the students have been busy creating content and media to promote the adoption of dogs and cats that currently live in the shelter. Our latest project—a video entitled “Mending Hearts Animal Rescue: Saving Lives One Fur-ever Home at a Time”—was added to the group’s Facebook page earlier this week. Check out one of our most meaningful videos ever below. ♥

Classroom Connection:

Besides learning the importance of volunteering their time and talents for a greater cause, students are honing a myriad of digital literacy skills by planning, writing and producing digital stories that are having a real-world impact. Education really doesn’t get much better than that!

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The Future of Edtech Lives Here!


multimedia iconsDid you hear there’s a new Geek Squad on the block? Yep—nine members of my Tech Club had the awesome opportunity to assist the IT Department with the deployment of 60 RT Surface tablets that will bring mobile technology into our elementary classrooms. Beginning with unpacking the devices and labeling them, then scanning serial numbers and eventually placing them into charging carts, these geeky girls and boys stepped up to the challenge—and then some. Not only did they get the job done, but they superseded expectations by doing so in record  time—50 minutes to be exact! According to my calculations, that means they were able to power up one device every minute! Pretty impressive, eh?

What a great learning opportunity these edtech rock stars experienced! Check ’em out in action below!

tech club  tablet collage

BTW—the Geek Squad collage was created using the Pic Collage iOS app. For more info about this “cool tool” and how it can be integrated into the classroom, check out my original post here.

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BAMS Students Help to ‘Mend Hearts’


mending hearts and tech clubIt’s been an ongoing, but productive project since last month, and so far, the kids in Bellwood-Antis (B-A) Middle School Tech Club are making a difference. Twenty-two sixth through eighth graders have taken on the task of using their skills to help non-profit Mending Hearts Animal Rescue,
based in rural Hollidaysburg, and its inhabitants.

“Initially, I called [Mending Hearts] because I was interested in volunteering,” said Tech Club advisor Jamie Forshey, who soon realized the needs of the sheltered animals who are awaiting forever homes. “We as a Tech Club couldn’t adopt an animal, so what we decided to do is adopt the whole organization.”

The task sounds daunting, but the students charged full-steam ahead and two of them introduced some ideas to the four primary individuals operating the rescue facility.

“I wanted [the students] to explain what they’d like to do with the animals and digital projects,” said Forshey. “I wanted them to hear from the kids.”

Mending Hearts founder LuAnne Wolf was “extremely excited,” “very thrilled,” and said the crew is “always open to new ideas and ways to make Mending Hearts better and to forge a partnership with children as well.”

So far, the students have taken over the Mending Hearts Animal Rescue Facebook page, “creating digital content and writing information,” Forshey explained. “Students are using their skills in photography and video-creating images, collages, and video montages of animals that are up for adoption or animals that have been adopted.”

They have established “Totally Adopt Me Tuesdays” and “Furry Fact Fridays” to help feature animals up for adoption. The projects are helping to promote the rescue of the animals, and soon, Forshey foresees the students taking trips to the shelter and interacting with the animals, taking their own photos and videos to show the personalities of the dogs and cats.

“We want to cycle the kids through the shelter in groups so they have the opportunity to be there, see the shelter, meet the animals, and create the content,” Forshey shared. “I think when the dogs or cats are seen with kids, it makes the animals seem more real.”

Currently, the content is provided through e-mail and text messages by the shelter, but is “turned into a work of art” by the students. The Tech Club plans to take more ownership of the Facebook page, and Wolf added that the students give the content “pizzazz” and “make the animals’ pictures look better.”

“They give us all of the background information about the dogs and cats and the students then develop captions about the animal and what it’s like, to give people and idea that the animals really have a story and need a forever home,” Forshey said.

Mending Hearts is enthusiastic about a flexible partnership in which the Tech Club will offer ideas that may be tweaked or taken back to the drawing board. They are certain the students “will be amazing in helping us.”

“They have the ideas, the means, and the knowledge,” said Wolf, calling the partnership a win-win for both groups. “They have offered so many different ideas in the tech world, like blogging to help share our animals. They are just helping us in so many ways.”

Coming up with different, current ways to network adoptable animals through Facebook, Twitter, and other sites is something Wolf noted the volunteers don’t have much time for or experience with.

Eventually, the effort may bridge to the B-A elementary and high school tech clubs, and may take over the Mending Hearts Web site.

“It has been kind of neat,” Forshey said of the endeavor that is helping to teach the students empathy and concern. “It gives the students a real world experience using their skills and knowledge.”

With a goal to do whatever can be done to get the animals’ stories out, get them noticed, and find them a home, Forshey noted there is a small celebration and it’s a “really cool experience” to learn when an animal is adopted. As a community service project to help Mending Hearts’ 24/7-365
mission, it’s “an awesome thing.”

Wolf hopes the kids develop an excitement and enthusiasm for rescue as they watch the animals who come in neglected or abused with “no life in their eyes” develop and change. “It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it’s a labor of love,” she said.

A special shout out to The Daily Herald editor, Adeena Harbst, for not only writing this fabulous article about my Tech Club’s community service project, but for giving me permission to post it on my blog. ♥

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Another Reason to HEART Digital Storytelling!


BeFunky_heart team group pic.jpgWell, my sixth grade Tech Club kids have been at it again! This time to promote the middle school Student Assistance Program known as the HEART (Helping Educate At-Risk Teens) Team. That’s right! When some teachers approached us to create a video promoting our student assistance program, of course, these digital wizards once again rose to the challenge.

Our latest adventure began with developing a story line, which included the purchase of an actual heart costume. Yep, you read that line correctly! This very creative—not to mention humorous—addition to the video was the brainstorm of Travis (a.k.a. Mr. T) who insisted that our project wouldn’t be complete without this prop. I must say—he was absolutely right! See for yourself by checking out our latest masterpiece shown below.

I bet you’ll never guess who played the starring role of the heart? ♥

BTW—In addition to writing the script, this group of students directed and produced the video which involved choosing the location for all of the scenes, taking pictures, creating text slides and selecting the music.

Don’t you have the feeling that the HEART Team is here for you!

Classroom Connection:

I have previously mentioned the educational value of providing students with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and knowledge through digital storytelling, but I’ll say it again…

Not only can teachers create digital stories to introduce, teach and/or review concepts, but this strategy can be used for a variety of project-based assessments. More importantly, students have the chance to imagine, plan, design, compose and invent—skills all crucial to 21st Century learning!

And the best part for me as an educator? Witnessing the pride the students have when sharing a really neat finished project they can truly call their own—especially when they are invited to share them at school board meetings (which they did last week!).

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We’re Wild About Technology!


psba conf 2013For the second consecutive year, my Tech Club students were selected to participate in the Pennsylvania Education Excellence Fair on October 17 in Hershey, PA, at the joint conference of the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA).

During the three hour event, two of my 22 tech savvy students—Kermit and Aubree—had the opportunity to speak with administrators, teachers, and school board members from across the state about our Tech Club program and how we promote the school’s events, programs and activities through the use of web tools and apps. They were also able to share some of the award-winning videos they have created.

Congrats “Tech Kids” on this accomplishment! A special thanks to Kermit, my do-it-all wing man, and Aubree, my Geeky Girl, for doing a fabulous job of representing our club, school and district at this conference. I am very proud of you! The BAMS Tech Club definitely rocks! And that’s because of your hard work and dedication to our program!

To view BAMS Tech Club projects and videos, be sure to check out our web site located at Also, be sure to take a look at Aubree’s blog, Simply Aubree, and you’ll see why her nickname is very fitting!

A shout out to Mr. Trexler for helping us create our “Wild About Tech” themed booth and for providing us with lots of laughter throughout the day! You’re the best!

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Introducing Simply Aubree: A Must-See Student Blog!


i_love_bloggingEvery teacher has one of those students… You know, the one who comes to school every day eager to learn, the one who never complains—regardless of the request, the one who is helpful in every way possible, the one who brightens your day—especially in those not so swell times, the one who wants to do everything you do—only better! Yep, you’re shaking your head as you read this because you have/had this student in your classroom as well.

Fortunately, I have encountered many of these shining stars throughout my career, but the student I described above has earned a special place in my all-star book…

Aubree not only excelled in the classroom, but she especially thrived in my Tech Club where she continually demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of apps, tools, programs and equipment through the creation of various projects—videos, images, collages, and slides for our morning announcements program.

But wait! There’s more…

This summer Aubree began following my Edutech for Teachers blog via Twitter, and we continued to share ideas—mostly about the discovery of new apps. After several questions about techie stuff, I realized Aubree was still interested in learning. Eventually, I suggested that she consider setting up a blog. Her initial response was the she would “think about it”. OK, I thought… Maybe doing something productive—like thinking and writing—isn’t the most appealing summer activity for an 11 year old!

Fast forward to about seven minutes later… Yeah, seven—ha, ha! That’s how long it actually took to receive the response I was hoping for! And so began Simply Aubree: The Ramblings of a Country Girl.

In about six weeks, this Geeky Girl Jr.—as I call her—has managed to post nearly 20 quality articles, complete with images, videos, categories and tags—most of which she learned to do by herself. She even figured out how to add a Clustrmaps widget that displays visitors to her blog from around the world! How exciting that she is now a published author sharing her writing with a global audience! Obviously, she has exceeded my already high expectations! Best of all, Aubree can serve as an inspiration and example for other students who wish to do the same.

For Aubree: I’m proud of you and your accomplishments—and you should be too! You’re well on your way of fulfilling your tech goals and dreams! Rest assured—your teacher will continue to support and cheer you on every step of the way! Keep up the terrific work!

Classroom Connection:

The educational benefits associated with providing students with the opportunity to blog are countless. This activity is an innovative way for students to express themselves with an authentic audience. From brainstorming to organizing to writing, revising, and peer review, blogs are natural tools that lend themselves to the writing process in any content area. Because blogs can have viewers in addition to the teacher, students are engaged in sharing, communicating and exchanging ideas on a larger scale and see a permanency to their words that an essay or research paper can never equal.

Blogging in education provides a communication space that teachers and students can utilize to develop a concept, share ideas and/or reflect on current and past assignments. Not only do these networks promote reading, writing, and critical thinking, blogs create a viable classroom outside of the traditional learning environment, giving the students and the teacher more flexibility in the learning process.

Blogging is incredibly easy to do. It takes very little time, it’s free, and it’s a great way to open your classroom to a world of ideas!

That said, if you haven’t experimented with integrating one of the many blogging tools—like Edublogs—into your lessons, you should really give the idea some serious consideration. Not feeling that adventurous? Then start small with the Aubree that lives in your classroom. Trust me—it’s a win-win situation for both the student and teacher!

In the meantime, be sure to check out some great app reviews and other neat stuff that makes this blog… Simply Aubree. And while you’re at it, give her a shout out and/or follow on Twitter!

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Introducing… A Multimedia Mash-up Masterpiece!


thinglink-logoSo, what do you get when you combine cool apps, awesome web tools, an unforgettable field trip and two tech savvy middle schoolers ? A terrific mash-up highlighting one of the most favorite BAMS activities of all time—the Camp Blue Diamond adventure—created by students for students.

That’s right! Every spring our sixth grade students journey to Petersburg, PA for a three day two night once-in-a-lifetime environmental educational  experience that allows them to get up close and personal with the great outdoors through a series of fun and motivating lessons, activities, projects and guest speakers. From learning about birds of prey to canoeing and geocaching to dissecting owl pellets and building bluebird houses, this trip is is truly a memorable one!

And that’s why each year my Tech Club students create a digital keepsake highlighting the annual event—only this time around we added a few new cool tools to the mix. In conjunction with utilizing Animoto to produce a snazzy video, we also created an interactive image using two additional edtech gems—Thinglink and the InstaPlace app—to create a multimedia mash-up masterpiece!

Check out the results below! Be sure to hover over the image to view the hotspots!

Awesome job, Aubree and Riley! Your mash-up is the bomb diggity!

Classroom Connection:

OK, so we all know how vital it is for our students to possess digital literacy skills—or at least I hope that’s the case! Well, in the event that you missed the memo, digital literacy is more than simply knowing how to use digital tools. It is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology. Being literate in the 21st Century is also about knowing what info to share, who to share it with and how to do so in a safe and secure manner.

That said, providing opportunities for students to create mash-ups—to organize, to collaborate, to produce, to think, to share, to demonstrate skills using a variety of tools—not only addresses essential digital literacy competencies, but these kinds of activities allow students to acquire and/or hone 21st Century skills as well. Plus, it’s alot of fun!

So, what are you waiting for? Dig into that tech box and find a few of your favorite tools to mash together!

For more information about integrating Thinglink and/or the InstaPlace app into classroom activities, check out my Educate with Thinglink and Create Virtual Postcards with InstaPlace posts.

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And the Winners are…


Not long ago I wrote a post about one of the many brainstorms of my Tech Club students: Sponsoring an anti-bullying paper slide video contest for students in our middle school.

Well, we did just that and after a terrific response, we are now proud to publicly share the winners of this year’s first-ever competition.

Check out their submissions below. Trust me, you’ll be impressed—especially by the fact that all of them were created by sixth graders!

First Place—Quintin N.

Second Place—Owen S., Nathan W., Alex S. & Daniel K.

Third Place—Jenna B.

Congratulations to all contest winners as well as all of the students who took the time to create entries for this activity!

Classroom Connections:

As previously mentioned, paper slide videos provide students with the opportunity to participate a powerful yet simple, low-tech digital storytelling activitity which includes reading, writing, speaking, listening, collaborating and creating—all essential 21st Century skills. Best of all, these “one shot wonders” allow all students—regardless of academic ability—to participate in a meaningful activity with their peers.

Regardless of content area, paper slide videos can be used as an authentic assessment, enrichment activity, an alternative to a traditional book project, and much more… For more info related to integrating these activities into the classroom, check out additional blog posts here and here.

BTW—if you like the effects in the Tech Club image shown above, then be sure to check out the BeFunky photo editor, one of my favorite online tools!

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Paper Slide Videos: Anti-bullying Style!


Looking for another cool way to utilize the paper slide video concept in your classroom? Then how about organizing a contest for your students or for the really ambitious—your entire school?

No, I’m not completely crazy! It’s just the latest brainstorm of my Tech Club: To sponsor an anti-bullying paper slide video contest for students in both our elementary and middle schools. No kidding! They not only generated the idea, but I challenged them to create a sample video to explain the details of the competition via the morning announcements program. Of course, they more than met my expectations as their example also served to show the student body what a paper slide video actually is! Yeah, I know—these kids are ingenious!

To see what I mean, check our their example included below.


Stay tuned to see the winning entries of our first-ever Paper Slide Video Contest!

Classroom Connections:

Despite the theme, paper slide videos provide students with the opportunity to participate a powerful yet simple, low-tech digital storytelling activitity which includes reading, writing, speaking, listening, collaborating and creating—all essential 21st Century skills. Best of all, these “one shot wonders” allow all students—regardless of academic ability—to participate in a meaningful activity with their peers.

Paper slide videos can be used as an authentic assessment, enrichment activity, an alternative to a traditional book project, and much more… For more info related to integrating these activities into the classroom, check out additional blog posts here and here.

BTW—In case you’re wondering, I tweaked the Tech Club image with the BeFunky photo editor, one of my favorite online tools!

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BAMS: We’re Not Gonna Take It!


As educators, we are all very aware that bullying exists in our schools. At the same time, we also know that it is our responsibility to do our very best to create a climate in which all students can learn in a safe environment.

With that said, my Tech Club students put their collective minds together to develop a way in which we could help put an end to this issue at B-A. The consensus: Write and produce a school-wide antibullying video starring all of the students in the Bellwood-Antis Middle School—one that can be used to promote positive behaviors in our district and beyond!

That’s right! Check out our unique way of showing how we will not tolerate negative behaviors in our hallways!

Disclaimer: Because this is not your ordinary anti-bullying video, you won’t be able to watch it just once!

To view this video on a mobile device—click here.

In addition to combining a variety of tech skills and tools to create the finished product, my Tech Club students learned how communicate, collaborate and problem solve in order to organize and facilitate a project that involved all members of our faculty and student body—all essential 21st Century learning goals.

Just another reason why I think the BAMS Tech Club rocks!

Classroom Connection:

Show the BAMS: We’re Not Gonna Take It! video as part of an antibullying campaign in your school. Better yet—create a video of your own to promote this very important topic.

A shout out to all of my BAMS colleagues—especially Mr. Trexler—for your help in making this video project a huge success! And a high five to my “tech kids” for all of your hard work and dedication—during and afterschool—to accomplish your goal of creating a meaningful video!

For those who may be wondering—we used the following tech tools to create the video:

» Digital video recorder

» iPad—QuickVoice app to record the voice over; Intro Designer app to create the video credits

» Digital Hotcakes web site—Film effect for video intro

» Movie Maker

» MS Word—Small signs

» Banner and large signs—Drawn and painted by the Tech Club students

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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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