Creative Writing App Smash

Earlier this month I decided to participate in the Thinglink App Smash Challenge, facilitated by Susan Oxnevad. The goal is to use ThingLink as a presentation tool to demonstrate how to combine the functionality of two or more apps to create, publish and share content. It was more difficult than I thought because I had a hard time narrowing down which apps I wanted to use in my submission. I finally decided on Book Creator because of its cross-curricular nature, and its ability to include various types of media. Here is the flow of the lesson:

  1. Students choose a scene maker app to create an original visual writing prompt
  2. Students upload their image to Book Creator
  3. Add original composition using the text feature
  4. Add narration by recording
  5. Publish final project as e Book or movie

Thanks, Susan, for another great challenge! Click here to view all of the challenge submissions.

Tool of the Month: Canva

All you have to do is scroll through my past blog posts and pages to realize I use Canva for EVERYTHING! I honestly don’t think I could do my job without it. If you’re not aware of Canva, it is a free graphic design tool that allows you to easily create images for a wide variety of uses. They just recently launched an iPad app for simple graphic design on mobile devices (My mind is spinning with all of the additional app-smashing projects I see in the near future). What makes Canva so incredibly simple is the hundreds of templates you can choose from to create anything from a simple image with text to a collage with multiple images and design elements. All you have to do is drag and drop your items onto your workspace. Canva also includes an entire section dedicated to design essentials: simple tools and techniques that guide you through the graphic design process. 

Another reason I love Canva is they don’t require a monthly or yearly subscription to use any of their premium images or backgrounds. If you would like to use one of their backgrounds, it’s just a one time fee of $1.00 each. 

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been introducing a group of 1st graders to Thinglink (my other go-to tool). I used Canva to create the initial image that the students would be adding tags to. Since it was their first experience with Thinglink, I kept it simple with just text. Later in the year, they will be uploading student created videos from their iPads. If you would like additional information on using Thinglink, check out my other blog post.

TEKS and Student Expectations: 8) Earth and space. The student knows that the natural world includes the air around us and objects in the sky. The student is expected to: (B ) observe and record changes in the appearance of objects in the sky such as clouds, the Moon, and stars, including the Sun; (C)  identify characteristics of day and night; 

Here are some other examples of how I’ve used Canva:

November Themed Technology Lessons

It’s a new month, which means a new holiday, which means new themed technology lessons. Of course, I have to begin by sharing a Thanksgiving Google Doodle from last year.  My favorite lesson you should try is the Thanksgiving Timeline virtual field trip using Google Earth. I taught this a few times last year and it will take at least 2 lab visits to complete.  It’s well worth the time investment!

To access the Google Earth tour:

  • Students login to Active Directory and open Google Earth
  • Go to File>Open and navigate to the Student Shared Drive
  • Click on the KMZ file named A Thanksgiving Timeline (teachers need to save the KMZ file to the student shared drive prior to teaching the lesson.)
  • You will see the tour on the left side of the screen. There are 7 place marks total with information and links to online activities.

  • Double click on the red letter in the left pane to advance to each location. Double click on the red letter in the center to view the content within the placemark.

  • Advance through each placemark while completing each interactive until students reach the final destination where they describe family customs and traditions celebrated by their own families.
  • Students can document their learning by filling out a timeline graphic organizer or they can directly comment inside each placemark by right clicking and choosing properties. This will open the placemark for editing purposes. When complete, simply right click on the Thanksgiving Timeline folder located in the left panel and choose Save As.
  • Resources to download

The following list contains free sites and apps that you can use in the classroom or computer lab:

Tool of the Month: WeVideo

WeVideo is a web-based video editing tool that can be used on all devices – mobile, tablets, laptops, Chromebooks & desktop computers. Students can create from computers both at school and at home, as well as on their iPad from anywhere. WeVideo also integrates with Google Drive environment that students already are familiarized with, giving access to your files and exports all in one place. All the tutorials you need to get started on your digital storytelling journey can be found in the WeVideo Academy.

WeVideo Tips #1- Create a Digital Story

Thinglink for Educators

Thinglink is a free, easy to use online tool that allows you to make any graphic or photo interactive. Create multiple hot spots on specific parts of your image that link to a website, video, music, text, or audio file. Thinglink education accounts lets teachers and students store an unlimited number of images. ThingLink works on all modern web browsers as well as iPad, iPhone and Android.

Follow the directions below to create a free educators account for you and your students.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Once accounts have been created and you have printed the initial log in credentials provided by Thinglink, you can go in and change the username and passwords of each student to match their Google Drive credentials. Older students should be able to do this step by themselves.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Below is a slideshow with examples of how Thinglink can be used to support classroom instruction. Click on the arrows to advance through the presentation. Additional resources can be found at the bottom of the page.

Additional Resources:

Interactive Websites for Your SMARTboard

There are so many great interactive websites that work perfectly on your SMARTboard. They can be used for whole class instruction or small group center rotations each week. I’ve compiled about 30 of my favorites, organized by subject area, for the SMART Users Conference held this past summer. Many of the websites featured in this Notebook file are free and easy to use. Some are more complex and require a user guide for deeper understanding. Click on the attachments tab to download user guides or view quick video tutorials to assist with site navigation. My favorite site to use with the board or in the computer lab is Elementary Science from Discovery Education (NEISD login credentials are required). Below is an archived webinar from Discovery Education.

The New Interactive Classroom

Interactive Classroom

Imagine a bulletin board that plays videos created by your students, or a word wall that actually pronounces vocabulary words and provides definitions. Display student work that, when scanned by parents or other class members, gives a brief description of how it was made and learned concepts explained in their own words. Create a collaborative timeline of a historical event that comes to life. Easily gain instant insight into how well the class grasps a lesson. Create a video production area in your classroom to facilitate creation. All of these interactive ideas are possible with just a few digital tools and a creative mind. Below are a few examples of interactive projects that you and your students can create.

      Augmented Reality Tools                                     Augmented Reality Examples                               
     QR Code Tools      QR Code Examples
     SMARTboard Tools      SMARTboard Examples
     Formative Assessment Tools       Formative Assessment Examples
     Collaborative Wall Tools       Collaborative Wall Examples

Aurasma Video Tutorial


LMS Blog Challenge: Interactive Thinglink Widgets

Lisa Johnson (@techchef4u) recently wrote a post for Edudemic titled, “These Real-World Professional Development Setups Actually Work“. Lisa talks about the growing trend of differentiated professional development opportunities and resources for educators. She included a quote from Austin Kleon that really resonated with me:

“There’s only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that’s not worth stealing.”

Many teachers in my district think I’m so “tech smart”. Sadly, I’m really not. I just surround myself with extremely smart and creative co-workers and members of my PLN. The entire purpose for having a PLN is to gain the necessary knowledge needed to become better educators for our students. If you have a great idea, share it! 

Lisa recently tweeted a request:



I immediately responded with my confession. I stole it. Yes, it was an idea worth stealing from the incredible Susan Oxnevad (@soxnevad). I participated in the Teacher Thinglink Challenge over the summer and noticed she had utilized Thinglink as a PD calendar widget located in the sidebar of her blog. This is a great way for me to let teachers know when and where I will be offering PD in our district. Now that I’ve fessed up, here’s how to do it.

  1. Create your own calendar image using software of your choice or search for royalty free stock images from sites like this one.
  2. Upload your calendar image to Thinglink and add media tags providing additional information.
  3. Copy the embed code from your interactive image and paste in your sidebar widget. In my case, I used the text widget in Edublogs. You can play around with the width, if needed, within the html code.

That’s it. Easy Peasy. 

So, I would like to start a challenge (much like the ALS bucket challenge). I’m starting with the 3 people from which I steal the most, Lisa Johnson (@techchef4u), Terri Eichholz (@terrieichhotz), and Susan Oxnevad (@soxnevad). What is one idea worth stealing that made you a better educator/blogger? Share your experience through a blog post, tweet, or whatever platform you prefer. Make sure to pass on the challenge so we can all benefit from new knowledge. Use the #LMSchallenge. GO.