Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hour of Code

Jill Westerlund, a teacher at Hoover High School, recently talked to the tech coaches about the Hour of Code coming up December 9-15.  You can check out to sign your class up and out a few different activities.  The video below talks about why coding is so important for our young children.  I personally love teaching coding to kids because of the problem-solving involved.  I love that the kids must make mistakes in order to learn.

 To be honest, I was at first hesitant because of my lack of knowledge of coding but I decided to let that go and learn along with the students.  They never fail to amaze me around technology.  There are many tools, games, and apps on to try for all ages and ability levels.  There are even some that don't  require a computer!  Because I'm typically only in a lab setting for about 40 minutes I have had the most success with this game.  The kids love it because they love Angry Birds but also because it gradually gets harder and even has video hints.  I've attached this link to the Computer Lab Home Page under Project Wikis and then under Hour of Code.  Let me know if you try it with your class!

PD Opportunity- Google Online Training

Have you ever checked out the website  I often see Tweets referencing articles on the website.  Recently, I have been working with teachers on Google docs and many mentioned they would like more training.  I saw this article and thought some of you might like to take advantage of the free webinars if you prefer video or online training.  I plan on taking advantage of several of these myself.  Check them out!

Brain Breaks Cont.

So I'm still in love with  You can read the post about it here.   Did you notice they added Zumba to the options this week?

Mrs. West's class trying out Go Noodle.

Have you tried GoNoodle?  Comment below.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tools to Help our ELL Students

  • Recently someone asked for help finding a program to translate a web page into another language.  I've included information below (link) on how to add a Chrome extension that you can click and it will translate a web page into another language.  Of course, this is not a perfect translation, but it's a start!

  • I would love to hear from anyone else if they know of any great ESL websites!!!  Comment below.

Google Apps Article

This was an article sent to me by a colleague.  Many people asked why are we using Google and what are the advantages to using this product over Office.  I love how this author explains it!  Check it out!

5 Fabulous Ways To Use Google Apps In The Classroom

PD Opportunity- US Ed Chat on Twitter

This summer I was reintroduced to the power of Twitter as a Professional Learning Community for teachers. Our very own, Holly Sutherland and Jennifer Hogan from Hoover High School, started and moderate Alabama Ed Chat on Monday nights.  They will be guest moderators next Monday on US Ed Chat.  Check it out!  Below you'll find a message and explanation from Holly about the chat:

Next Monday night, October 28th, is the quarterly #USedchat twitter chat moderated by Jennifer Hogan and me. We are very excited about the topic: Are Schools Still Relevant? With today’s technology and the increased access to instruction and information, is it necessary for kids to come to school? Is the school the one place where some students’ basic needs are met? What do educators bring to the table that keeps school relevant?

We have three special guest moderators who will be helping us that night. They are three very respected educators from across the country.

Co-founders and co-moderators:
Jennifer Hogan, @jennifer_hogan
Holly Sutherland @BUCSlead

Guest moderators:
Dr. Laurie Barron, Superintendent in Montana, 2013 National Middle School Principal of the Year  @LaurieBarron
Brad Currie, Assistant Principal in New Jersey  @bcurrie5
Scott Rocco, Superintendent in New Jersey  @ScottRRocco

We would love for you to join us – either live or virtually! We love learning from the participants in the many state chats, and the #USedchat has participants from all different backgrounds and educational settings. We will be hosting a twitter chat party at Hoover High School in the library from 7:30pm – 9:00pm. The chat starts at 8:00pm and ends at 9:00pm. We will provide snacks and a fun atmosphere – feel free to join us if you can! Use the link to make your reservation. (We want to plan for enough snacks/refreshments!)

How to join the chat:
The best/easiest way to participate if you are on a computer/laptop is to go to the website and sign in with your twitter info. You will see a rectangle at the top, where you enter USedchat and you will only be able to see tweets that have #USedchat in them (it's not case-sensitive).    **Also, on, it will automatically put #USedchat at the end of your tweets for you.

The format is Q1, Q2, Q3, with corresponding responses A1, A2, A3, etc. Be sure to use the hashtag

If you are on your iPad, there are two ways to participate. You will want to open twitter and type #USedchat into the search bar to see only the tweets with #USedchat in them, or you can download the Hootsuite app onto your ipad and create a column with the keyword #USedchat. (If you’re not tech-savvy or not familiar with HootSuite, this option may be more difficult.)

Hope you will join us!!


Holly Sutherland, Ed.D.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Conferencing Made Easy

A teacher recently asked if I had a recommendation for recording conference notes on an ipad or computer. He and I got our minds together and created a Google Form which collected data from reading conferences. He had a notes page he liked and used from Making Meaning, and we created a Google form from that.  I tested it out with a student and liked the ease of the drop down boxes and also the direct link for Scholastic Book Wizard so we could quickly look up a reading level while conferring with a student.  I also thought it was nice to have all data in one place to quickly look at strengths and weaknesses.  Because the data is put into a spreadsheet, a teacher could sort the data anyway she or he would like.  I've attached the two different forms we created below to give you an idea of what it looks like.  Feel free to add in 'play' data so you get a feel for how the form works.  We are also working on a status check form!  Check that out below too.


  • Ease of use once the form was created
  • Can sort data for better analysis 
  • You can create several conference forms, make a QR code for each, scan with ipad to take you directly to which form you want.


  • The resulting spreadsheet of data is not printer- friendly, but we decided we really didn't need to print it anyway.  The teacher could just carry their ipad to meetings or copy data from one child into a new spreadsheet to print off for documentation.
  • The creation of the form takes a little time.  Feel free to email me and I can add you as a collaborator and you can use the forms below.

Making Meaning Conference Form

Simple Conference Form

Status Check Form

Do you have a digital conference form you use and enjoy?  What tool do you use?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

PD Opportunity- UAB Tech Tailgate

On November 16,  UAB along with surrounding educators will be hosting a Technology Tailgate.  The event will be on a Saturday from 8am to 3pm.  TECHNOLOGY TAILGATE is very similar to EdCamp with the exception of some sessions are already in place.  Any participant/attendee is free to present and share ideas.  Tickets are $20 which includes a box lunch and admission.  I've heard it is a fantastic workshop!  Hope to see you there!

Tickets can be purchased at :

Example of Presentations and Presenters (More to Come) :
Dr. Gayle Morrison and Laurie White - Interactive Reading Journals and Google Forms All Elliot - Quick Response Holly Sutherland and Jennifer Hoagland (creators of aledchat) - will host a live TweetChat Amanda Stone and Dana Joyner - AR you READY for THIS?  Augment Reality

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brain Breaks

Rand Payton, the PE teacher from Greystone Elementary, shared a site with his faculty called  After creating a free account, teachers can play five minute videos to get their kids up and moving.  Teachers can play the videos on their projector and use the website with their whole class.  

Mr. Payton says, "It is a brain breaks website incorporating physical activity and classroom concepts. Each brain break is hosted by an ex-Olympian and lasts about 3-5 minutes. The students can choose which character they want at the first, and the character grows bigger muscles the more brain breaks the teachers use."

We have all had those days when our students just need a quick way to get out their energy during class!

The modules descriptions from the website are below:
  • Airtime- Propel your bubble across the United States by practicing 8 deep abdominal breathing. Earn postcards from 102 unique locations as you journey through each state, landing each time in a new loaction — and a calmer, more focused classroom.
  • Run With Us- Let a real US Olympian coach your class to the gold medal and introduce vigorous, attention-focusing exercise into your classroom. You'll train and race your way to the world championship in your chosen event, earning medals along the way!
  • To the Maximo-Let Maximo - the most suave of stretching instructors - lead your class in some unique stress-reducing stretching exercises. Complete enough routines to reveal hidden pictures on the game board.
  • Boogie Down-Help students release some energy by getting some dance instruction from Clucky McFeathers -- the funkiest dancing chicken around! Complete a dance routine to see what Clucky has hidden behind the game board.

Thanks, Mr. Payton!  Great suggestion!

On that same note, here is a Symbaloo with several bookmarks of short "Just Dance" videos you could use in your classroom:

Want to try it out in your classroom?  Take a picture of your class (not showing faces or make sure media releases are signed).  I'd love to post it here!

Smithsonian Quests program

I received the following email from Cameron McKinley, one of our amazing HCS tech coaches.   

Looking for a quality place for students to learn where outside experts evaluate the work?

The Smithsonian Quests program is really an amazing FREE online program for all grade levels K-12 and even adult learners.
Read the details here.

All quests will be reviewed and badges awarded by a team of Smithsonian experts. I have actually evaluated submissions and the students are submitting good quality work and the quests are well designed!

Sign up here:

Cameron McKinley
Technology Coach
Hoover City Schools

Games to Teach Empathy

I have subscribed to Common Sense Media's Education website called Graphite.  I received an email with a review Graphite did on 4 games that teach empathy.  You can read that article here.  It highlighted 4 total websites, but one of the websites really caught my attention.

The website,, is a fun, interactive game for students in grades K-2 that focuses on "social, communication, and problem-solving skills that promote conflict resolution through negotiation, compromise, cooperation, and reconciliation." (quote from the creators of the page)  When the game begins it asks for some demographic information such as gender and age.  The students do NOT have to put in this information to play.  They should just click "don't submit and play game".  The graphics are colorful and everything is narrated for younger students.  The students travel through the map of the school campus where they watch a video of a situation happening between two characters.  The students are then given a few choices of how one of the characters could react.  Based on the answer, the story continues and the students see the result of the choice combined with advice from a narrator.

Bottom Line:

  • A great way to begin the conversation of empathy in an engaging and age-appropriate way!  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Paper Blogs in 2nd Grade

Last week, I had the great pleasure to observe Carol McLaughlin teach one lesson in a series of lessons on how to blog.  She has her students create blogs on Kidblog each year.  Before she puts her second graders on the actual blog she teaches them about digital safety and also how to write a good blog post.

The students started off by writing about something in their life they know a lot about and then other students commented on the paper blogs with sticky notes.  Carol emphasized that it's important as an author to always go back and answer questions or to respond to the blog.  The kids did a great job!  There were a few blogs where the trail of sticky notes with questions and comments trailed off the desk!  In the past I have seen my fourth graders struggle with understanding how to comment on a blog effectively.  I think this would be a great way to demonstrate!  Way to go, Ms. McLaughlin's class!
What I love about blogging is having a platform for the students to publish their writing to a real audience.  I believe this gives the students a real purpose and passion for writing.  

Does your class blog or Tweet?  Email me the address or handle and I would love to have a running list of links and feeds on this page.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Aurasma Number Talks

Last Tuesday was RES's math night.  On a whim, a teacher and I decided to try out Aurasma which is an up-and-coming Augmented Reality app.  It's been said to be almost a QR code on steroids.  When you scan an image (called a trigger image) with an ipad or iphone a video or picture (called an overlay) will pop up.

Check out how Auramsa works here:

And here:

For math night, Mrs. Rogers' kids and I created virtual math talks.  The students discussed a math problem with each other and recorded their work on paper, I recorded them explaining their thinking, and then we quickly and easily created the "Aura".  The resulting picture was a screenshot of what my phone was showing.

Examples of how to use Aurasma in the classroom:

  • Book talk videos shown when you scan a book cover
  • Project explanations when you scan the project
  • Self-portraits with the child telling us more about him or her
  • And the list could go on...

Want to try it?!  I'd love to see what you create!  Better yet, let me help!

To get started, download the free Aurasma app:

Writing Stories with Toontastic

This past Wednesday, BrainPop offered a free webinar on using Toontastic in order to create digital stories. Anyone want to volunteer their class to try it out with me?!

Here are some resources to get started:

Toontastic Webinar  Digital Storytelling With Toontastic 

Useful Links:

Toontastic iPad App Task Card from Teachers Pay Teachers- FREE

ToonTastic iPad Activities from Teachers Pay Teachers- FREE

Article Share- Word Clouds

Great article on creating word clouds on an ipad.  I'd love to try some of these tools!  Has anyone out there already tried one?  I wonder if there are any apps for the Nooks that would do the same thing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sign Up Genius

Want to know the great thing about this job?  The sharing.  I get to hear so many great ideas across the district!  I’m in the process of working on a blog but thought I’d go ahead and share this time-sensitive tip.  Many teachers wanted to create Google calendars with appointment slots for parents to sign up for fall conferences; however, sharing outside of the district can be a little tricky and parents would then have to have a Google account.  One teacher thought of the idea of using and setting it up for parents to book appointments for fall conferences.  The website is free and is intended to get volunteers for certain times. Even though this isn't the site’s purpose, it worked well for parent conferences!  Much easier than shuffling through papers and sending back confirmed times!

Below is a screen shot from one teacher’s page:

Google Templates

Google templates for EVERYTHING! 

Global Read Aloud

Recently, I've heard several teachers around the district talk about participating in Global Read Aloud this year. Global Read Aloud is a way to connect students from around the world with a common book.  Certain books have been chosen for grade levels and students share their thoughts and reactions on tools such as: Google docs, Wallwishers, Skype, and Edmodo. 

Here is a quote from the website that explains more:

"Why the Global Read Aloud?  Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part of something bigger than them. That the world needs to be protected and that we need to care for all people. You can show them pictures of kids in other countries but why not have them speak to each other? Then the caring can begin."


Edmodo Apps

Did you notice Edmodo now has an app shop?  Looking for some good suggestions for Edmodo apps?  Join the HCS Edmodo page at:  Be sure to tell us apps you enjoy!


Create Free Apps!

Last week I was lucky enough to go to EdCamp Atlanta. One of the cool new tools I learned about was Yapp.  ( )  On this website, teachers or students can create an app...for free!  The app can include a picture feed, announcements, a calendar, videos, or a twitter feed.  Students could use this to share research or a project with others.  Teachers could create an informational app for their classroom.  The apps will work on Apple and Android products. 

Have you tried Yapp?  Do you like it?  If you try it out, let me know what you think!