Sunday, October 5, 2014

Digital Toolbox

In life, we use physical tools to help us accomplish various tasks: hammers to pound nails, scissors to cut paper, and shovels to make holes. These tools are certainly helpful, but in today’s digital world, our students also need access to digital tools. According to the National Education Technology Standards (NETS), students need to develop the necessary skills to evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks. The resources below are just a small sample of the tools we use with our students. These tools are subscription based and require a username and password. Students are encouraged to use these tools at school as well as at home to help them with their homework or to simply enjoy learning for the sake of learning!

BRITANNICA – an online encyclopedia with thousands of articles, images, videos, and web sites.

EBOOKS - available via Cooper’s library card catalog, which can be accessed from the Media Center button on Cooper’s home page.
BRAINPOP - provides educational movies, activities, and games. To access this resource, go to

DISCOVERY STREAMING - provides thousands of digital resources including instructional videos, skill builders, games, audio files and images. This research tool is only available via Cooper’s library card catalog, which can be accessed from the Media Center button on Cooper’s home page. Students then need to login using their school issued username and password.

MeL - Michigan Electronic Library - provides all Michigan residents with free on-demand access to full-text articles, full-text books, images and other valuable research information. A Michigan driver’s license is required to login from home. No login is required if accessing this resource from a Michigan public library, school or university. To access this resource, go to

Monday, September 22, 2014


Finalize your class list. Create a seating chart. Take attendance. Assign grades. Maintain your schedule. Attempt to call on students randomly. Keep track of students with a 504 plan. Keep track of students that have accomodations and be sure to document the accommodations that you make. Record student behavior. Help your students stay organized. Generate reports. And as soon as you think you've got a handle on everything, two students move out of your classroom and a new student moves in to your classroom. Do you ever feel like your head is spinning from trying to stay organized with everything? Imagine streamlining all of these tasks into a single program. Well, imagine no more because there is an app called iDoceo, that will manage all of these things for you in a very user friendly environment. This is an especially helpful app for those who juggle multiple classes. It does cost $7.99, but it is well worth every penny! Download it here and start getting organized today!

Monday, September 15, 2014

International Dot Day

We began our celebration of International Dot Day by reading Peter H. Reynold's beautifully illustrated book, The Dot. Like so many of our students, Vashti is convinced that she can't draw. Her teacher finally convinces her to make her mark by drawing a single dot and signing her name. She then lets her mark take her on a creative journey of making even more dots, each more creative and beautiful than the previous one. After a brief discussion, we were on to making our own marks (dots) using the ColAR dot coloring page and app. Squeals of delight along with some oohs and aahs were heard as the students saw their dots come to life! It was such a fun activity to introduce augmented reality, to enjoy a heartwarming book, and to jumpstart a successful school year by making our marks!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

American Revolutionary Leaders Come Alive With Augmented Reality

How do you get fifth grade students excited about research and learning about leaders during the American Revolution? Make it come alive through augmented reality! Each student researched a different leader (i.e. George Washington, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, etc.) and wrote a personal narrative about their role as a leader during the American Revolution. They then dressed in character and were filmed in front of a green screen, so that a background from that time period could be added. Lastly, they drew a portrait of themselves, which would ultimately be used as the target image for their augmented reality. Using Aurasma, their target image triggered their video. The level of engagement throughout this project was exhilarating! The students learned so much about the American Revolution from their own research as well as that of their clasmates. As an added bonus, parents were able to view all of these from home via their mobile devices whenever and wherever they wanted! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Blogging Around the World

Back in the day, when students wrote anything, it was for a one person audience, the teacher. Their purpose for writing, a good grade. Did this encourage them to write? Inspire them? Give them a purpose? For most students, I would hazard to say no. They wrote because it was required. It was less authentic and creative. With the explosion of Web 2.0 tools and social media, the potential for a global audience is now at the fingertips of every child. In most cases, our students are already using these tools to share their stories, connect with others, and create new knowledge, but are they plugged in at home AND at school?

Digital writing fosters creativity, collaboration and gives students the opportunity to write to a broader audience. As a result, more effort is usually put into their writing because they know that what they write is going to be read and commented on by others. It is authentic and gives them purpose. One of the easiest ways to get your students up and running is to have them blog. Although there are many blog tools available, my favorite tool to use with students is Kidblog. It's simple and safe for them to use! It is a blogging platform that was created by teachers for teachers and allows students to get the most out of the writing process in a safe and secure environment.

Once you get the blogs up and running, you need to actively market them so you can get some blog readers and broaden the audience. Share it with parents and your school community. Tweet it out! If you are looking to blog with other classrooms around the world, then Quadblogging is the way to go! By registering your class on this site, you are partnered with three other classrooms around the world who are also blogging. The premise is that you get on a cycle where each class is in the spotlight for a week in which the other classes comment. This gives your students an authentic audience for their blogs and the opportunity to comment on the blogs of others, which is great digital citizenship practice. In addition to improved writing, blogging with classes from around the world helps them think globally and makes the world a smaller place!

Blog Resources
Why Have Students Blog?
  • Give Them a Voice
  • Write to an Authentic Audience
  • Share Reflections
  • Share Learning in Any Subject Matter
  • Increase Writing Motivation
  • Track Writing Progress
  • Leave a Positive Digital Footprint

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mystery Skype

The world felt a little smaller today. Rather than simply studying geography and practicing map skills in our classroom with books, globes and maps, we made it come alive with our first ever #MysterySkype! This is a guessing game that was invented by teachers in which two classes ask questions of one another until they guess the location of the other class. I've never seen students so engaged and excited to put their map skills to the test. We started by introducing ourselves and then alternated asking yes or no questions of each other. Are you east of the Mississippi River? Do you border the Atlantic Ocean? Do you have a lot of snow? Does your state have a mountain range? Do you border Canada? Are you in the Northeast? Once the students felt fairly confident that they knew the state of the other class, they made a guess. Our first class was in Massachusetts! When guessed correctly, the kids cheered as if their home team had just scored the winning touchdown! In all my years of teaching, no one has ever cheered when they got a correct answer, let alone a whole class. A lot of learning took place today, but this activity wasn't just a geography lesson, it was synergy! It was a classroom of kids working together for a common goal. It was realizing that there are students elsewhere in this world that are in school learning just like them. Social Studies definitely came alive today! This may have been our first #MysterySkype, but it certainly will not be our last!