Monday, December 22, 2014

Teacher Feature - PCHS ELA

I want to feature a few teachers from Pinecrest ELA department that have integrated technology into writing poetry and an independent reading project.

Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. Klingenschmidt had their students create a video from their poetry using Animoto. Animoto is an easy website to use in which you can quickly create a professional-looking video that flows to the music chosen. Students used computers, phones, tablets, etc. to complete this project. Mrs. Klingenschmidt even set up a cafe-style classroom when the students presented their projects to the class.

Check out these projects:

I also wanted to highlight a project that Mrs. Scruggs used with her ELA classes. The students had to create a Google site as a final project to an independent reading. What I liked so much about Mrs. Scruggs project was that she gave the students choices of what they would do in each section. She broke her project into five main sections: Characters (30 pts), Setting (10 pts), Comparisons (10 pts), Artwork (30 pts), Vocabulary (10 pts) and Review Game (10 pts). Students had several options to choose under each section. Some options were to create a timeline, create a 25 word dictionary, write a 400-500 word essay, create a collage to represent the setting or create a comic strip about the book. 

Check out the very detailed project created by one student:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet Davis, a 4th grader inspired by the Global Read Aloud

Sometimes in the everyday, enjoyable chaos that is the edtech world I get a stark reminder of why we all do this.  This always seems to happen when a student is doing something GREAT in school that has a huge impact on them, using tools that have never before been available.  These are opportunities that simply didn't exist for students before the tools and access caught up to our imaginations.

This is exactly the place I found myself when I ran across a 4th grade teacher named Ms. Kaylor Kaemba, who had a student that she told me had found a ton of motivation for reading and writing through their participation in the Global Read Aloud (read more about the Global Read Aloud, created by Pernille Ripp).  So I decided to go meet this young reader, Davis C, so I could feature him and his progress on our blog.  It was the highlight of my week!

So without further ado, I introduce you to Davis!

Davis is a 4th grader at Carthage Elementary School in Carthage, North Carolina.

This year, Davis' teacher, Ms. Kaemba, was exposed to the Global Read Aloud by the Digital Integration Facilitator at her school, Kelly Priest.  Mrs. Priest helped this class get started with the project and assisted in setting Davis' class up to also Skype with a class from San Diego.  The two classes engaged with each other via Skype and through Kidblog blogs, where they discussed the book The Fourteenth Goldfish.

As Mrs. Kaemba reports:

"Davis has so much to share but putting it down in words is not always easy for him. He did not eagerly participate in writing activities, that is, until Davis was introduced to a 4th grade class from San Diego via Skype.  After his experience with one student in that class, Davis began to ask to write on his blog.  He would eagerly check the comments left by students all over the United States.  Davis found motivation to grow as a writer and as a reader."

I found Davis to be an exceptionally bright and articulate young man, who gives an outstanding interview.  Below are the questions I asked him and his (paraphrased) answers.  I hope you enjoy him as much as I did!

How did you start blogging?
We read The Fourteenth Goldfish and got to blog with other people, kids, from across the world.  We were all reading the same book.  The other kids were way ahead of us at times but were nice enough not to spoil it.

What would you write about?
Things like our favorite parts of the book and we would ask questions of the other class.  It was cool to see what they thought about the same book and parts of the book.

What did you like about blogging?
I like blogging because it's really nice to know what others around the world are like and to know their names.

What was your favorite part of connecting through Skype?
We got to see them on the webcam!  There were lots of kids all over the place.  There was a student in the other class named AJ that I really liked reading his posts.  He would talk about his family and what kinds of things he liked to do over the summer.  When we got to see the other class I was really excited to meet AJ since I had read all his posts.  He looked a lot different than I expected and that was neat.

How has blogging and connecting with this other class helped you become a better reader or writer?
Before, I didn't really like to write or read that much.  I did write one comic book but that was about it.  I got to be a better reader because I saw that the things that others were blogging about were really interesting so I started reading all their stuff.  Now I like to write on my Kidblog blog.  And now that I'm reading better, I'm starting to read a series of books called The Amulet and it's really awesome- I can't wait to read the next few after they come back to the library!

So there you have it- it was a great experience for me to sit down with Davis and I can't thank Ms. Kaemba and Mrs. Priest enough for being bold enough to try something new with digital tools to make learning relevant and motivating for students!

And Davis- keep reading, writing, blogging, and connecting!  

~Steve Johnson
Lead Digital Integration Facilitator, Moore County Schools

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Make Beliefs Comix

Are you looking for an innovative way for students to summarize information, practice new vocabulary, work on conversation skills or collaboration skills? Make Beliefs Comix may be the tool you are looking for!

Make Beliefs Comix is easy to use and engaging for students. After you choose the number of panels you want to create, you can begin adding your content. Start with a background or background color. Then add characters, speech bubbles, thought bubbles, objects and panel prompts. Add your name and a title before you share it. Your students will amaze you with their creativity!

– School Library Journal (January 9, 2013): "One of the true pioneers in the field, Bill Zimmerman launched only a few years ago, and now it's in use in countless classrooms, libraries, and technology labs throughout the world. Not content simply to provide one of the premier 'comics generators' available, Zimmerman and Make Beliefs are constantly coming out with new, highly topical templates as well as free printables (now numbering 350!) that allow educators to help kids write comics without a computer in sight."

 -- Connect the Pop Blog by Peter Gutierrez, School Library Journal (January 9, 2013)

"This website is great! My students have had fun using it. We used it to summarize the different types of waves associated with an earthquake."

Student Work

21 Ways to use

5 Steps To Get Started

Open the website: Make Beliefs Comix

1. Choose the number of panels for your story.

2. Highlight a panel. 
      *Choose a character - be sure to check out all the options for that character 
      *Press enter to add the character to your panel. (You can add more than one character per panel.

3.  What is your character thinking or saying? Add a thought or speech bubble.

4. It's never too late for a background or some objects. 

5. Proof and add your e-mail information. 


You can change the number of panels at any time.
Items can be scaled, moved, flipped, and layered/ordered
Can edit before finalizing
Option to print
You can send the file to more than one person 

The only drawback that I can see with this tool is the inability to save partially finished work. I have used this with 6 - 8th graders. They love the tool and have worked diligently to complete all assignments. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Computer Science Education Week

This is my first year getting my feet wet with coding, but after I realized that I wouldn't drown in all of the computer science programming mumbo jumbo, I dove in head first! I'll admit, I was a little intimated when I first clicked on to try my hand at what over 61,000,000 people had done, learn the basics of coding. I've been a part of meetings with our technology department and looked over the shoulder of one of the lead technicians while he went into the "guts" of some of the programs we use in our county. It wasn't pretty. It was foreign language. So to say I was hesitant to try my hand at coding would be putting it lightly. Then I watched this video from our President and I was inspired to give it a shot. Take a look.

That's when I hoped over to to start coding. I was amazed at how well the instruction for coding was organized. You start simple with drag-and-drop coding with blocks to create snowflake designs with Anna and Elsa of Frozen. They even have cameos from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. If you really want to challenge yourself, you can even create your own app or game with tutorials to help guide you along. 

By the end of the night (more than just one hour) and with the help of's training wheels, I was caught up in the excitement of creating my own code! I was wrapped up in the ability to create something just by writing the code for it. To get an idea of how powerful coding can be, check out this Google Hangout with Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter.

I want to challenge YOU and your students to make some time for an hour of code. Give your students the opportunity to build something impactful, something meaningful, something they can be proud of. "It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path." -

Here are a few resources to help you get started:

-Clint Rogers

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Teacher Feature - Stacey Deaton

This past week, I had the pleasure of visiting Vass-Lakeview Elementary and see how some of the 5th graders there are using their Chromebooks.  VLE has only been 1:1 with students for approximately 7 months and it was great to see the creative work the students are already deeply involve with!

One of the teachers' rooms I visited was Stacey Deaton.  Stacey has been teaching for 7 years, all in Moore County Schools (and she is also a product of MCS!).  After 1/2 a year teaching 2nd, she has spent the last 6.5 teaching 5th grade.

It was immediately obvious that Chromebooks were not an add-on in this room- they were very much a natural extension of the learning tasks at hand.  Some students were working in inquiry-based ways, creating Google slideshows of images that represented current vocabulary words (which they will subsequently show their classmates, who would have to guess which word was being alluded to). I also saw some great, creative examples of students showing mastery of content.

"Using Chromebooks have benefited student learning in my classroom because they are more engaged than ever before.  They have fun working on projects and they are able to do more creating.  It is also more relevant to the world that they are living in now."

-Stacey Deaton, 5th grade teacher, Vass-Lakeview Elementary

Student Work Samples:

Movenote   (Support Materials here)

Jordan C - Vocabulary Movenote
Journie T - Vocabulary Movenote

GoAnimate  (Support Materials here)

Rebecca C - Animation about Thomas Paine
Kaden T - Animation about John Adams

Thanks so much for all the work you do for your students, Ms. Deaton!

-Steve Johnson
Lead Digital Integration Facilitator
Moore County Schools

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

SpiderScribe - Cool Tool for Collaboration

SpiderScribe - Cool Tool for Collaboration

picture from has an app available in the Chrome Web Store and is my focus for Collaboration tool for this week.  SpiderScribe is a mind mapping tool that gives you the ability to embed a variety of content into your map.  The best part of this tool is that  students can work on the same map, at the same time, to collaboratively edit and share ideas.  

 Students will choose from the various tools listed on the left hand side of their maps to import content.  They can insert text they type themselves, documents from their Google Drive, pictures, maps, and important dates.  All students need to do to add content, is drag and drop the stencil for the type of content they would like onto their map.  Then students can draw arrows, linking various content.

Maps can be private, or public, depending on what you are wanting students to do with them.  Just like working with a Google Doc, students can collaborate in real time with SpiderScribe allowing them to work together on projects.  This feature really makes it stand out among the many other mind mapping tools available.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Have you ever wondered what Rosa Park's Website would look like?  
What about Albert Einstein's? 

Why not have students create one using 

Students don't have to "sign up," they just "log in" using their School Google Accounts.

Student Work Samples from Mrs. Oakley's Classes at 
New Century Middle:

More samples coming soon :)

Last year's MCS Pilot Websites:

Step by step:

Log in and choose your theme.  

It's just like a Word Program!  Just click on the words to add your own titles.

Just like this...

Just drag and drop these tool boxes right onto the site to display pictures, embeds, extra text, slideshows, contact forms, etc...

When you are satisfied with your newly created website, click the "PUBLISH" tab.

You even get to choose your own domain name!

And that's it!  You have a free, published website for the world to enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 is a website that you and/or your students can use to create their own flash cards. 

What makes this website different from other websites like First of all, it works really well with Google Drive. All you have to do is visit the website and make a copy of the template. Use the template to create your cards. Cards can be created quickly because the template is in a spreadsheet format. Secondly, your cards can contain video. This is a great feature. Once you finish creating your cards, just publish the spreadsheet and copy and paste the link in the template. It is very easy and quick. Visit the website because it walks you through step-by-step directions. 

Once you get your link for your cards, you can also print off a paper version of a quiz. Students can also view all cards at once on the screen. There is even a template that works the same way for a jeopardy game. Check it out. I really believe you will like this website. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inform and Animate with
 this week’s Creation Cool Tool
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This week’s creation tool isn’t that new but it I think it has been largely overlooked in our district in favor of some less engaging but easier to use tools. PowToon is a presentation app available in our Moore@School Webstore. The app though is really just a shortcut to the web-based site so there should be appropriate thought given to the digital divide before it is assigned for homework. PowToon lets the producer create those fun, Sir Ken Robinson or UPS style whiteboard drawing presentations.

PowToon supports single sign in with their account & willl connect to their Drive accounts. Students can start with one of several free templates or a blank presentation. There are four predetermined backdrops for the scenes but images can be uploaded as backgrounds, props or characters. Among the pre-loaded characters are a handful of silhouettes and cartoons with simple animations. Those animations and a “finished” look in the image quality make the PowToon presentation more engaging than the PowerPoint or Slides programs.
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Most common text editing options are available PowToon. Simple shapes, objects, and transitions can be added by clicking and dropping from the right side tool bar. Much of the tools options and slide navigation features closely resemble those of both PowerPoint and Slides. Users select between slideshow or movie mode by clicking their choice on the slide bar. The movie mode will produce a self propelled final product but give up the option of embedded video available in slide mode.

This would be the next step if your students are proficient with PPT, Slides, or other static presentation makers. Additional paid features include voice over, but I would consider combining finished products with Screencastify or Movenote to achieve the same impact at no cost to the student, teacher, or LEA.

Look here for just a couple of practical ways to use PowToon in your room:

Here is the summary of the Graphite Review. Click HERE to navigate to the full review
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Will Herring MEd-IT, NBPTS
Moore County, DIF


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Online Bulletin Boards with Padlet

   As teachers, we are always looking for new ways to spark discussion, share resources, and communicate with students. Padlet is a multi-functional tool that has various benefits in the classroom. Not only is Padlet a free website, but contributors do not need to have an account in order to access it. Below is a list and short description of ways to use Padlet in your classroom!

Option 1: Group Discussion
  • The teacher can post a question onto his/her Padlet wall and share it with students. Padlet walls can be shared through email, QR codes, links, or even writing it down on a whiteboard.
  • As students access the Padlet, they can begin to discuss the question or topic. The discussion occurs in real time, so as students respond, their responses will appear immediately.
  • Students do not need an account in order to respond to a discussion!

**There is now a layout option on Padlet, that allows the teacher to effectively organize responses.

Option 2: Anticipatory Sets/Closures to a Lesson
  • At the end of your lesson, you can assess your students' understanding by having them comment on their learning. 
  • By switching on the "moderate" option, it will prevent students from seeing each other's posts.
Option 3: Assignment or Project Sharing
  • As students complete a project, have him/her share the link to their assignment/project on a Padlet wall, so others can view.
To start using Padlet, go to and begin creating engaging, digital bulletin boards for your class!

~Deanna Boesch

Friday, November 14, 2014

Haiku Deck - Transform your Presentations

Don't get me wrong, I love Google Presentations just as much as the next guy. But sometimes I want to create a presentation that's got some flavor to it. That's when I found Haiku Deck. This award-winning creation tool allows its users to create simple, yet beautiful and fun stories. These presentations can easily by shared, posted, embedded on a website or blog, or viewed on a web-based device. Some of the game-changing features of Haiku Deck include: 
  • a range of stylish themes
  • the ability to upload images to use as your background including millions of free images
  • text that makes your presentation pop
  • charts that provide sleek visuals to represent your data

Whether your students have Chromebooks or iPads, this free software will be sure to turn their ordinary stories into inspirational presentations. To learn more about Haiku Deck, including a gallery of featured decks, tips on how to optimize your decks, and more reviews, be sure to visit and begin creating your own engaging presentations. 

-Clint Rogers
Collaboration Cool Tool
RealtimeBoard for Education

Good Looking, Powerful, and Chrome-Ready Mindmapping

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 6.00.19 AM.png

In my research to write this article (Cool Tools for Collaboration) I saw tons of workspace apps for the iPad and Chrome. They all give the students a virtual space to collaborate with similar features. The Apple Apps were more pleasing aesthetically and easier to teach with than the Chrome alternatives with which I was familiar. Chrome apps had a little more functionality than the Apple Store offerings, but those are typically more distracting than helpful in the classroom. I like the versatility of Lucid, but the design space is clunky. The Chrome version of Popplet is attractive, but lacks function and has lost the trust of our teachers because of some connectivity issues.

In my search to find something easy to use, powerful, and attractive for my Chromebook users I stumbled upon RealtimeBoard for Education. It is already loaded into the Moore@Schools Webstore and ready to use now.
Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 6.03.50 AM.png
RealtimeBoard EDU supports single signin with edu gmail accounts.
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If allowed to do so it will also link to Drive like Lucid (very handy) and collaborators can be located and added through gmail. The user can also add an extension to capture whole or partial screenshots that will be automatically added to the RealtimeBoard Library (handier than I originally thought it would be).
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RealtimeBoard EDU has a great, clean space for the students to collaborate synchronously. It utilizes pretty common features for this type of program including drawing tools, shapes, connectors / arrow lines, and text boxes. The types of shapes & text bubbles are far fewer than Lucid but more than adequate for our needs.

RealtimeBoard EDU Lucid
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Students can embed video as with Popplet using the URL. Additions to those common tools include very easy to generate tables and charts (pie and various bar graphs).
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Students communicate in the workspace by generating post-it type notes, screen-share or by the onscreen “board chat” feature.
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What is unlike similar applications? RealtimeBoard lets users import entire documents, pictures, screenshots (very easy if you add extension--not currently in the Moore@School WebStore).

As students analyze these pieces and begin to see how they work together they can organize or combine the elements to convey a larger story.
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Student/students can save their work to Drive, download as PDF, add the instructor as collaborator, or send them the link. This many ways to submit make it quick and easy.

I really like the application at this point and I am happy to have an attractive alternative for my teachers. I anticipate this will be a big hit. Instructionally it could be modified to fit most assignment types and levels of Bloom’s framework.

Ideas for Instruction:

Science: Lab & Experiment Reporting, Categorization

Social Studies: Biographies, Primary Doc Analysis, & Complex Cause-Effect

Math:Terminology, Illustrations of Real World Application of Skill

ELA: Character Development, Thematic Strands in Story, Types of Poetry, Mood/Tone/Theme

Foreign Language: Cultural Elements, Dialectic Variations, Topically Related Verb/Nouns
If you have found any other great alternatives or have something to add to the discussion here just post a comment below.

Will Herring, MEd-IT NBPTS
Moore County Schools, IDI DIF