End of the Year Ideas to Keep Students Engaged

You’re tired. You should be. Fortunately, there are plenty of educators willing to share lessons and Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.02.44 AMresources you need to keep students engaged and learning until the very last day of school. This happens to be an exciting time in our country with the upcoming Presidential elections and Summer Olympics. It’s the perfect opportunity to embed current event themes into review activities or end of the year research projects. Matt Miller from Ditch That Textbook has created some amazing end of the year review activities with an Olympic theme. He utilizes Google Drawings and Kahoot and gives detailed explanations as to how the review games work. Visit his blog post to read more.

PBS Learning Media created an entire site dedicated to teaching students the process of U.S. elections. It includes information outlining debates, an interactive map that shows the amount of electoral votes allotted to each state and the current location of the candidates, and virtual field trips to important destinations in Washington D.C. 

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I’ve added both of these resources to my list of End of the Year Tech Ideas that you can view below. Let me know in the comments section if you have a great lesson or resource to add to the list.


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Comparing Virtual Spaces for Curation

Showcasing student work is a vital part of the content creation process. I’m constantly looking for the easiest way to curate examples or have students submit work without having to login to yet another account. My usual go-to tool is Padlet, however, sometimes it does not play nice with some of the tools I work with. Here is a specific example:

Screenshot of Voki uploaded to Padlet.

Screenshot of Voki uploaded to Padlet.

Recently, Sherry Philippus, librarian at Northwood Elementary, had her 4th grade students create Vokis on Lone Star Legends. She needed a way to embed them all in one place, but Padlet would not embed or link to the original Voki. Bindrs is a website I discovered about a year ago when looking for a way to curate Thinglinks along with a written description for each example. When I tested embedding a Voki in a Bindr, it worked perfectly! I’m including a quick video showing how to make it work. You need to make sure to check the box that says               Use HTTPS to embed in a secure page.”

Voki and Bindrs

It would be wonderful if there were that one perfect tool that was compatible with all online platforms, but alas, it still eludes me. Here are the ones I use on a regular basis along with some comparisons of what I think are the most important features and examples. Hopefully this will help you match the perfect tool with your project.

Some additional information on the chart above:

  1. Logging in for elementary students can be very time consuming and distract from the content of the lesson. If a website does not offer the ability to sign in with their district Google account, it’s a deal breaker for me. I say move on and find something else.
  2. HSTRY, one of my most favorite sites ever, has new features in development. Here is what Thomas Ketchell shared with me the other day, “We will have collaboration integrated by the beginning of the next school year and hopefully the embedding of other content will be ready sooner than that over the next couple of months. You will be able to embed iframes and resources such as Thinglinks and Google Slides to a timeline!” I’m a happy girl.
  3. I included uploading files in my chart, however, with GAFE (Google Apps for Education) this feature may not be as necessary as some of the others. 
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HyperDocs Make Me HyperExcited

I want to personally thank Lisa HighfillSarah Landis and Kelly Hilton for introducing me to my newest obsession, HyperDoScreen Shot 2016-03-25 at 3.37.57 PMcs. Ever since I read this blog post about using GAFE to facilitate a learning adventure, I’ve lost sleep, ignored my family, and recorded copious amounts of favorite TV shows on my DVR. Needless to say, I have put their HyperDoc Template to good use. Below you will find my fledgling attempts that I recently posted on my Rock the Lab website for students. To learn more about HyperDocs, check out their HyperDoc Tour.

Rock the Lab: 4th Nine Weeks

The final grading period is here and Rock the Lab is open for business. All of the K-5 grade level buttons have been flipped over to the new lessons that support the 4th nine weeks grading period. All lessons follow the NEISD scope and sequence. If you are not a teacher within North East, check them out anyway. You might be able to use some of the lessons located in either the current or last 9 weeks. Just click on “9 Weeks” in the main navigation toolbar at the top. I will be working on the rest of the lessons over summer break. Many of the activities require student accounts, so please check out the teacher section of the website for tutorials. Please let me know if you have any questions or need in person assistance.  

May the lab be with you.


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Collaborative eBooks Using Book Creator

One of my all time favorite apps for student created products is Book Creator. Recently I worked with 2 IMG_4453of my campus librarians to complete a collaborative research project. Rosa Roberts (@RivitingReads) from Encino Park Elementary worked with all of the 1st grade students at her campus to learn about different animals that live at the San Antonio Zoo. This project was done before their field trip in order to build prior knowledge about the animals and how they interact with their natural environments. Before they used the Book Creator app, Rosa provided them with a research recording sheet so they could plan all of the components on their page. Each student added text, an image of the animal from Encyclopedia Britannica, and a picture that they drew of their animal living in their habitat. Once all of the pages were complete, Rosa and I combined them all on 1 iPad using Air Drop. 

Jennifer Oldham (@battyforbooks) from Cibolo Green Elementary helped me with a similar 2nd Grade research project on the different states that make up our country. Students learned how to add text, images and audio to complete their class ebooks. Below is a quick video that will walk you through the combination process. I did experience a couple of scenarios you may run into:

  • The iPads need to be on the same network in order for Air Drop to work. (Either iTouch or WPA2)
  • You may want to turn Air Drop off with the exception of the 2 you are working with. Otherwise, it gets confusing as to which device you want to select for transfer.
  • Make sure you are aware that the free version of Book Creator allows for the creation of only 1 book, however, you can add as many pages as you need. Fortunately, all of our campus librarians have the paid version. Please contact them if interested in co teaching a lesson.



NEISD Thinglink Challenge: Winter Traditions

You could say I have a slight fondness for Thinglink. I’ve spent the past 2 summers participating in the Thinglink Teacher Challenges facilitated by Susan Oxnevad. One of my professional goals this year was to try and replicate a similar challenge for our NEISD students and teachers. Last year we implemented the District Verified Organization offered by Thinglink Edu and have had great success in recruiting more users. This past winter we introduced our first ever district wide challenge. The goal was to create an interactive image explaining a winter tradition celebrated from anywhere in the world. It was open to all K-12 students and the grouping options included individual, pair, small group or whole class entries. We were hoping for a diverse group of submissions and that is exactly what we received. 5 interactive images were chosen from over 70 total entries. Before Spring Break, Cindy Gregory and I showcased the winning images by sharing screencasts of students explaining how the image was created and what they learned through this experience. The webinar can be viewed below.

View the channel below to see all of the great interactive images that were submitted for this challenge. We hope to have future Thinglink challenges, so please contact your campus ITS if you would like assistance getting started.

Facilitate Interactive Learning Adventures Using Thinglink, Hyperdocs and App Flows

The Internet can be a very overwhelming place for young students. There are many kid friendly search engines and databases, but they still provide a large amount of information that may or may not aid in accomplishing learning objectives. Collecting resources ahead of time and placing them in an appropriate container can be a huge time saver when students are asked to create projects. Over the past couple of years I’ve been tinkering with this idea and have gotten many great ideas from fellow educators online. 

app-flows-landingMy first example to share is the app flow framework that I found on Graphite. An app flow (now known as Lesson Flow) is an interactive framework tool that enables teachers to seamlessly flow apps, websites, and games throughout lessons. This gives students guidance and the ability to complete a purposeful lesson independently in a workstation, thus giving the classroom teacher the opportunity to work with individuals or small groups. I have some examples below for 4th and 5th grade Math.

Susan Oxnevad, Thinglink Education Community Manager, is a master of creating interactive learning thinglinkadventures using Thinglink. She has inspired many through her countless examples. My favorites are her interactive images combined with Google apps. Click here to check out her latest blog post that includes presentation resources from EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit. Thinglink allows teachers and students to create interactive images that contain embedded multimedia content. It has become my favorite online tool because of its ease of use and cross-curricular implications. Here are a few examples that will hopefully inspire:

Hyperdocs are new to me…kind of. Back in the day I used to use Word to create a hot list, but never really thought about using it as a framework for instruction. Earlier this week I read a Technotes blog post listing free Google Templates for Students. On that list was a resource from Lisa Highfill explaining Hyperdocs and giving several examples. To learn more, you can take the HyperDoc Tour. This really made me think about how I can utilize the functionality of multiple Google Apps in one lesson. Below are some excellent examples from Lisa’s post:

Using digital tools to facilitate learning adventures is a great way to engage students in the lesson and allow students to progress at their own pace. It does require some preparation in advance on the part of the teacher, but fortunately there are many experts willing to share their creations. Hopefully this list will inspire you to create your own interactive learning adventure.



So, insomnia struck again on a Sunday morning. Twitter can be a truly inspiring resource. First, I found @ValaAfshar which led me to #MakeMeThinkIn5Words. I could explain the idea to you, but I think you get the gist. Here are a couple … Continue reading 

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