Parallax Digital Storytelling

Website design has really evolved over the past few years to include interactive experiences that provide depth and movement. Parallax scrolling is a technique that involves objects and layers within a webpage moving in different directions or at different speeds. The result can be mind-blowing. The first site I visited a couple of years ago was NASA Prospect, an interactive story of the planet prospectors, left behind by NASA to recover the golden objects of humankind scattered across the solar system by a global disaster. It propelled me to begin a quest for similar digital stories that could be used with students. 

Every Last Drop is a visually stunning public service announcement to inform people living in the UK how much water they actually use in a day and ways in which they can conserve water usage. You will find yourself scrolling up, then down, then up, then down again to see how all the graphics work together to tell this story.

The Boat is a Vietnamese graphic novel that includes text, sound effects, and images that sway back and forth to make you feel as if you are really traveling on a refugee boat across the ocean. This story is particularly relevant to today’s current events as it provides empathy and insight into families seeking refuge in other countries. Turn up the volume for this one.  

The Fallen of WWII is a data-driven interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the Second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history. The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

After 6/4 is an incredible study of The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The event is told from 2 different perspectives, those that believed it was a massacre and those that perceived it to be a riot. It includes actual resources and interviews with participants in the movement.

Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is a short infinite-canvas parallax webcomic about a wolf and a town, his woodwind, and their rat problem.  

Journey to the Center of the Earth explores how far you would have to travel to reach the Earth’s core, and what you would see along the way.

After the Storm is a message to future disaster survivors. It chronicles one family that survived a devastating tornado that touched down in Alabama in 2011.

Draw a Stickman absolutely blows my mind. It may not be a great example of parallax scrolling, but it takes interactive storytelling to a whole new level. You draw the main character and props that are key to the story and the website takes care of the rest.

The Walking Dead (ok, not so much for elementary) is perfect for the zombie apocalypse obsessed fan who wants to take a gander at the inner workings of the show. The entire experience is told in the form a graphic novel. The direction of the moving screen scrolls horizontally as you learn what it’s like to be a zombie extra for a day.

Weltrade isn’t exactly educational in nature. In fact, it’s a commercial for traders looking for opportunities to increase their capital. Learn how to pose with confidence, dare I say arrogance, while listening to some smooth jazz. Have fun with this one.


Level Up with an If FUNction HyperDoc

About a month ago I published a post about using If Functions in Google Sheets to facilitate student learning adventures. Since then, I’ve been playing around with combining if functions and a HyperDoc learning cycleI thought about the way the workspace within a sheet was laid out (cells made up of rows and columns) and decided multiplication would work best. During the creation process, several more unique features naturally fit the task I had in mind.

Data Validation – This handy feature allows you to create a dropdown list inside of a cell. Students have to answer multiple choice questions in the Evaluate tab.

Sharing a Spreadsheet with another student allows for collaboration and peer feedback. Students answer a word problem created by their peers on the Share tab.

Fill tool to change the color of the cell is perfect for creating arrays or skip counting on a number line. Color coding direction and answer boxes allowed for some consistency. Blue boxes contain directions while white boxes identify where the students type in their answers.

Assigning a script to an image is the feature I used on the Apply tab. When students click on the dice, a random number is generated to replicate the roll.

The lesson may not be intuitive to you or your students so I created a walkthrough video. Click here to make a copy of the If Function HyperDoc. Let me know how it goes in the comments section.

18 Lessons to Try in 2018

My personal explorations in 2017 involved anything and everything Google. Alice Keeler redefined Google Classroom for me through her Go Slow Workshops, and George Couros inspired me to be innovative via his book, The Innovator’s Mindset. Reflecting back on all of the great stuff I learned prompted me to created an interactive Thinglink image that contains a few lessons you might want to try with your students in the new year. Hover over each icon to access a link where you can make your own copy. 

Happy New Year!

Tour the Earth with Voyager

Google Earth Voyager is a great way to get lost and quickly lose about 3-4 hours of your day if you’re not careful. Their partners, including National Geographic, PBS, and The Ocean Agency, have created a collection of map-based stories that’s updated weekly. Topics include travel, culture, nature, history and education. Students can enter a 360 photo sphere of the coral triangle located in Raja Ampat to view an incredibly rich center of biodiversity, or travel back in time to explore the evidence from around the world that finally explained the disappearance of dinosaurs.

There are many expeditions to choose from and many are relevant to elementary curriculum. I’ve gathered some of these together on an interactive Thinglink image. Hover over each pin icon to open a Voyager adventure. 

My favorite one has to be Celebrating Harry Potter. Below is an Explore, Explain, Apply HyperDoc that includes this voyage in the explain section. Click here to make a copy.

Digital Advent Calendars

Have y’all noticed the really cool digital advent calendars on Twitter lately? This is a great idea to use with students or even with your faculty. Each day is a challenge to learn something new that you can implement in the new year. Here are a few that I have found. Cheers!

Ryan O’Donnell’s (@creativeedtech) Holiday Advent Calendar. Posting began Dec. 1st. Check back daily for new ideas and resources. 

Eric Curts (@ericcurts) 12 Days of Tech-mas. Eric will publish one blog post daily for 12 days. Each blog post will provide a list of useful resources corresponding to the number of that entry, from 1 through 12. Grow your PLN with Eric’s suggestions.

Mariana Garcia-Serrato (@MarianaGSerrato) Hour of Code Advent Calendar  Mariana created a Thinglink interactive image for students to explore a different coding activity every day (top). The one under it is for teachers to explore possible tech tools to use with students.

Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell) Digital Click and Learn December Calendar.  Students can count the days till the break or count the days towards class starting again in 2018. Shelly also provides resources on how to make your own Click and Learn Calendar.

Hour of Code 2017

The 2017 Hour of Code begins next Monday, December 4th and continues throughout the week. I’ve updated the HOC page on Rock the Lab to include the most recent courses and activities from which students can choose. I’ve also made a quick video to help you navigate the page and point students to the most appropriate activities for their experience level. Remember, Hour of Code doesn’t have to be just one week out of the year. Have students revisit this page often to help them become digitally literate.

Create FUN Adventures Using IF FUNctions

My obsession with Alice Keeler is still going strong. I took several of her Go Slow Workshops over the summer and I’m finally ready to share my favorite thing I learned with you. My first introduction to IF functions came in the form of poo. Yes, poo. Alice created an assignment that blew my mind. In this activity, your task is to discover how equations make operations of a farm in Tanzania more efficient. As you progress, personalized directions facilitate the various tasks embedded within the lesson. It makes you feel like the teacher is sitting right next to you, guiding and cheering you on as you learn. Click here to make a copy.

A Google Sheets IF function allows you to use decision making in a worksheet. The IF function tests to see if a certain condition in a cell is true or false. You then use cell referencing to pull data from one sheet to the next. The result is pretty amazing. After we learned the basics, we were tasked with creating an IF function adventure of our own. I chose place value for 2nd grade to be my learning objective. I recorded a video that walks you through the student experience. (Sorry about the dog in the background attacking the UPS guy. She does it out of love.) Click here to make a copy of the lesson.

I highly recommend Alice Keeler’s Go Slow Workshops to learn more about using G Suite with students. Find Teacher Tech blog posts and tips at Follow @alicekeeler on Twitter.

If you plan it…

The following post is from guest blogger Erika Neuman, 5th grade teacher at Bulverde Creek Elementary, San Antonio, TX. Follow her on Twitter @TeamNeuman

First and foremost, I must thank the owner of this very blog for all of her enthusiasm, organization, planning, and inspiration for our first STEM Day. She truly took the event above and beyond what I envisioned.  So – Thank you, Laura Moore.

So STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Day was amazing, and I am not just saying that because it was my brain-child.  Students and teachers were all working around the entire day with a pep in their steps and an energy that was palpable.  

The idea sprang from the misconception, which I had for a long time, that STEM had to include the latest and greatest Technology available and all the other letters played a supporting role.  This one misnomer deterred a lot of teachers from ever attempting STEM in their classrooms.  I don’t believe that any teacher is opposed to technology, it is constantly changing and growing and this can be intimidating considering that our standards, students, parents, and environments are constantly changing as well, and this is all a lot to juggle. Finding time to learn and integrate something that isn’t a necessity is tough. Enter, my epiphany.  If teachers realize that STEM doesn’t have to be all about technology, maybe they will be more inclined to try it, which will help them understand it, which will make it easier to integrate that new technology that they’ve been avoiding.  

The plan for STEM day started with two activities, one led by 5th grade students, and one with a literacy connection and a lesson plan that the teachers would be able to teach themselves.  This is where Laura comes in.  I asked her for some suggestions and next thing I know, she has a whole crew of Instructional Technology Specialists hopping aboard.  In my attempt to show teachers how friendly STEM can be, I didn’t think that the ITSs would be able to do the same with that spooky technology.  The plan snowballed from there. I got confirmation from FIRST Robotics and Mad Science.  Mathnasium offered stations as well.  My principal sent out a digital flyer inviting parents to volunteer and we got some support there.  Our librarian used funds to purchase a book for each teacher for the literacy connection, PTA donated funds for Dash Cleverbots and Snap Circuit boards, and we created a Sign-Up Genius for each grade level to get donations of toothpicks, marbles, dixie cups, and other consumable items.  

The toughest part, was scheduling.  We literally had so much to do and so little time.  We were squeezing presentations into our schedule up until the day before.  I created an individual schedule for each teacher working around their lunch and specials and also around other presenters.  It was like a giant puzzle, but once it was complete, all was well in my world…mostly.

Then we had materials to disperse, 5th grade students to train, and presenters to confirm.  Then the long awaited day arrived, and of course, there had to be some hiccups.  One of the presenters showed up an hour-and-a-half late, iPads weren’t bringing up apps, and classes were going every which way at any given time.  All in all though, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.  The students were so ecstatic to be learning from the 5th graders and learning in ways that they usually get to learn.  The teachers enjoyed having STEM brought to them and experiencing it for themselves.  And as for the planners, the buzz of excitement from everyone involved was more that we could have asked for.

Thank you to Erika, Bulverde Creek 5th grade students, guest presenters and NEISD Instructional Technology Specialists for making this great day happen. Read more about the Bulverde Creek STEM Day here. Enjoy the slideshow below:

Slideshow created with DriveSlides Chrome Extension by Matt Miller and Alice Keeler.

Wouldn’t it be Cool if…

… you could design a lesson any way you wanted without platform limitations?

The term App Smash was coined by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec), who shares much of his work and thinking on his website, The History 2.0 Classroom. After working with iPads for some time, he quickly realized the following, 

“Most processes couldn’t be completed with just one app.  While many apps slightly overlap in terms of functionality, there tends to be a few black holes in each app that require the use of another app to complete the process.”   

The same can be said for web based tools such as G Suite. In a perfect world, I would have the ability to embed content within a Google Doc. There are a few hacks you can use to embed a YouTube video, but it’s really not the same. When platforms allow you to work in conjunction with other platforms, then your “what if?” can become a reality.

Recently, Sutori announced a game changing addition to their product. You can now embed content created on other sites. Over the past few weeks NEISD Social Studies Specialist, Carly Dodd, and I have been collaborating on a project for 4th grade students using Sutori and my other favorite web based app, Thinglink. Many times when a platform has functional limitations, you have to reshape the learning objectives to fit the nature of the tool. What we noticed when designing this lesson was how the learning objectives came to the forefront because the tools had so many functionality options. Carly and I were able to frantically brainstorm ideas and we never once said, “This tool won’t allow us to do that.” We wanted to create a lesson where students could travel back in time to the year 1836 to see the Alamo before the infamous battle. Because we live in San Antonio, many students have visited with family or on school field trips. What most people from outside the state of Texas don’t realize is that only a very small portion of the Alamo still stands today. It’s located in the heart of downtown surrounded by tall buildings. Our learning objective was for students to be able to tell us why the Alamo is an important landmark in Texas and the significance the battle had on the road to Texas Independence. This is where you meet our 3rd collaborator, the amazing James Boddie.

James has been working on an incredible project called Alamo 2.o. He’s using CGI technology to build a 3D model of the Alamo in 1836. This was the perfect background image to use with the Thinglink 360 video editor. I was able to upload his 360 image and annotate it with additional 3D content created by James. The end result is a totally authentic, immersive experience that makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time.

Having the ability to embed this Thinglink resource allows content to be brought to the students. Everything they need to master these learning objectives can be found, for the most part, on one landing page, thus making Sutori the perfect vehicle to facilitate engaging experiences for students. Click here to view the lesson on the Sutori website. I’d like to thank Carly and James for collaborating with me on this project.

The Edtech Alphabet for Today’s Learners: 2017

It never fails. I make a video of how to navigate an interface or take screenshots of how to do something, and the developers immediately push out a new update. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the world of Edtech over the years, it’s to be adaptable. Change is inevitable, so let’s teach students and teachers how to embrace it. My recent bout of insomnia made me think about all of the current tools, ideas, pedagogy and leaders in the field of Educational Technology that teachers should know about. I put together an interactive Thinglink image that will probably need to be updated every year. Some of the resources I tagged are here to stay, such as robotics, virtual reality and the 4Cs. I must admit, I’m looking forward to seeing how this image will change in 2018. Let me know what you think should be added or removed.

Using Google Fonts

I don’t know about your district, but our Technology Department won’t let us install anything on a district issued computer. I totally understand why and agree with it…with the exception of fonts. Fonts are the most important thing to an elementary school teacher, except for their students, of course. I recently discovered the Google Fonts page and figured out how we can use them in our district. Below are 2 videos. The first explains how to add and use a Google font add-on called Extensis Fonts, and the second will show you how to download and install Google Fonts to use in a Word Document. I hope this brings you peace and joy.


Google Jedi Training Academy

I’m usually not a fan of teaching technology skills in isolation, but lately I’ve noticed students struggling when trying to use Google Apps in the computer lab. When a project takes twice as long to complete because students don’t know how to manipulate objects on a slide or share a document for peer feedback and collaboration, then technology no longer enhances the learning. It actually gets in the way. Every single lesson you design should have at least 1 of the 4Cs (Read more about Using G Suite to Foster the 4Cs here). The flow of your lesson can come to a dead stop if students aren’t proficient in even the basic skills of navigating G Suite. I’ve been working on a new section of Rock the Lab where students can earn Jedi Lightsaber badges to demonstrate mastery of Google Docs, Slides, Drawings and Sheets. 


When students click on one of the badges, it will take them to a page where they can choose the K-2 or the 3-5 Lesson. Upon completion, students will share the documents with their teacher. Each page has a link to a Google Form where the teacher of record then fills in the information so students can be sent their badges. For logistics purposes, the badges are only available for NEISD students, however, anyone with the links can access the activities. Feel free to use and modify to fit your needs. 

Wicked Star Wars Gifs. (2017). Retrieved 22 October 2017, from

To access the Google Jedi Training Academy, click on the Technology button located on the homepage of Rock the LabI highly recommend you preview each activity before you allow students to begin. Directions and gif tutorials are embedded throughout, but be prepared to provide additional support if needed. Taking the time now to teach these skills will allow for more content creation and use of the 4Cs throughout the year. A student’s future teacher will thank you!

Google Classroom Vs. SeeSaw

The question most often asked by teachers is, “What’s the difference between Google Classroom and SeeSaw?” It’s then usually followed by, “Which one should I be using?” The tech nerd in me always says BOTH, however, I do see how maintaining 2 different digital spaces can be time consuming. I recently created a professional development for teachers to learn about the similarities and differences between the two platforms. We start off as a whole group by discussing the purpose and functionality of each, then the rest of the time is spent independently exploring the teacher’s preferred platform. Feel free to use and modify if you wish. Click here to make a copy.

Learn Smore Stuff

Smore was one of the first online tools I discovered that allowed me to create engaging resources for students, and served as a tool for student content creation. The Smore blog recently featured one of my lessons, which made me revisit the flyers I created a few years ago. I thought I would dust them off and share some with you. 

Made with Padlet

Tips for Making Engaging Flyers

Begin by focusing on the learning objective then find multimedia resources that support the learning objectives. Include them in your flyer using a scaffolded approach. Use videos to engage the student followed by interactive websites that allow the student to practice skills that reinforce the concept discussed in the videos. Finally, provide them with opportunities to independently demonstrate mastery of content.

Students work best when given multiple ways to learn concepts. Provide various types of multimedia content such as text, videos and interactive games that help students master learning objectives. Also provide them with a way to record their learning and be accountable for their time on the computer. They can make a screencast, write strategies in a math journal, or take screenshots of online quiz results that will help you determine their level of understanding.

Make sure that the interactive content you are linking to works on all devices and in multiple browsers. Test your links prior to publishing your flyer and include any directions that will help the end user have a positive experience. For example, “This site works best on Chrome.”