I Went Browsing and This is What I Found . . .

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

When I was a little girl going on car rides with my parent and/or grandparents (sitting on the fold down arm rest in the front was always a treat albeit an apparent danger but it was the 70s, who knew?), aside from listening to show tunes, Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, and Frank Sinatra, we played car games. One of the family favorites was, “Going Shopping”. Each person would start with “I am going to Pathmark, Shop ‘n Bag, the A & P (fill in any supermarket of the 70s and 80s here) and I am going to buy (something that begins with an A). The next person would then go to the market and buy what the last person bought and then whatever comes next in the alphabet. It was always fun when people would buy these obscure or even funny-sounding or embarrassing items (my mother loved to throw a Kotex in the cart). And then of course having to remember everyone’s previous purchases was always a challenge, especially as we neared the latter part of the alphabet. Anyway, browsing around thinking about this blog post reminded me of that game and those fun car rides. And now, on to the point of the post!

Here is what I put in my cart today . . .

I went browsing and I found ClassHook. A great FREE site for finding movie and TV clips to use in your class for any topic. Search by decade, grade level, topic, series, and clip length. You can even check the box to leave out the profanity.

I went browsing and I found Edulastic, a great FREE too for formative assessment that integrates nicely with Google Classroom. Upload your own pre-made assessment, browse their library, create your own from a variety of question types, and you are good to go.

I went browsing and I found Formative an in-the-moment way to visually assess your students and give immediate feedback (which, as we know, immediate or timely feedback is best to correct misunderstandings). Like Edulastic, it’s FREE, you can create from scratch, you can browse their questions and add them to yours, and you can upload one you already have made as a doc or pdf and transform it by adding to it and allowing your students to answer right there. The best element is the ability for your students to draw their responses (great for math) and your ability to see all your students’ responses at the same time. Check. It. Out.

I went browsing and I found Infographics in Foreign Language Classes. If you teach a world language, you just might want to have your students share their research using an infographic. This post will explain how.

I went browsing and I found over 500 High School Math Videos. Mr. Robb is a high school math teacher who has created videos for his AP Calculus AB and Integrated 3 Math courses. His Xtranormal video on his home page introduces the idea of having the students watch the videos before they are introduced to the content in class so that they have an idea and familiarity when the teacher intros the topic (Flipped classroom model). For more help with PreCalc and Calculus, take a look at the 100+ videos from Mr. Berberian. He started making these before Khan Academy was a household name. Looking for Algebra or PreAlgebra help? My colleague has created more than 120 videos and several playlists teaching concepts and going through whole chapters to help his students. Check out the videos and playlists on his YouTube page.

I went browsing and I found Story Maps. If you have a location-based story or event, or series of events, what better way to tell it than through maps using pictures, videos, and text. StoryMaps is similar to Google’s Tour Builder.

I went browsing and I found the Visions of Education podcast episode 100, Teaching Racial Literacy and Controversial Issues with Genevieve Caffrey. I have the tab open and have started to listen and looking at the accompanying links and resources I already know it’s going to be good. Within the first fifteen minutes Caffrey talks about why teachers fear having these controversial conversations or discussions of current events in their classroom, which, if you were part of our recent in-service, much of what she says will sound familiar. Caffrey talks about the “risks of silence” in not having these conversations and how we can start using the acronym, LET’s ACT to start. We are currently reading Not Light, But Fire by Matthew R. Kay and discussing creating the safe, caring, trusting communities in our classrooms for having meaningful conversations (and then how to have them), and this podcast and it’s accompanying resources is a good pairing. Browsing the titles of the other episodes on the podcast I found episode 67, American Indians in Children’s Literature. I encourage you to look around and listen in. Great quotes from these episodes: “Who’s past and who’s future are we talking about?” and by not talking or learning about others’ perspectives, we may be inadvertently saying, “Some people’s experiences is not important or worthy of discussion.”

Whose Choice is it Anyway?


Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

I had a moment today. It was kind of big.

I like giving my students feedback forms. I use them a lot! I use them in the beginning of the year, after big projects, check-in times, and at the end of the year.  I like the feedback and the information that these check-ins provide. One of the questions I asked my students at the beginning of this year was, “What is one thing Mrs. Finger can do to improve your experience in this class?” Kids responded with several, “Nothing, Mrs. Finger is great!”, (which is lovely. I could stop looking at the others and rest on my laurels)- “More coding,” “Learn more tools,” and “More freedom.” There were other similar responses, all of which I have tried to incorporate into class so that my students would feel more engaged and empowered. Thankfully, no one said, “she can leave us alone to do as we will.”

The end of the year we do a big project that basically lasts from April until the end of May and in the past, this has been a coding project. I love to teach the kids coding and this end-of-year project has been a highlight (for me).

The children have learned about several ancient civilizations and using Tynker, they share their learning about three of the five civilizations. This year I have decided to make a change: I decided I would let them choose which digital storytelling tool they would like to use share their learning. They will all have the same initial content from which to work: the GRAPES of the civilizations (Geography, Religion, Achievements, Politics, Economy, Social Structures) as that is the lens through which they studied, and from there they can choose their storytelling tool and go. This year they have used Google Slides, Animoto, Tynker, and MySimpleShow. Since Adobe Spark just became available as an edu tool, I won’t have time to introduce it for this year but will definitely add it next school year.

The introductory class went off without a hitch. Kids were excited about the project and eager to get started drafting their outline. They loved the idea of having a choice to use one of the tools they used this year. I figured with choice, they would choose something they felt comfortable and skilled using and therefore would be more engaged in the project (this is not to say that the previous years’ students using Tynker as their sole option were not engaged- they definitely loved the project, but it was easier for some than others).

So today I had the first group of students ready to get started and I was excited to  hear their choices.

Until I started to hear their choices.

Until many of them said they wanted to use Google Slides.

Not that there is anything wrong with Slides. There is not!

I guess I was just expecting them to go another route. Animoto or My Simple Show. Or Tynker since I know a lot of the students like to code.

And so I asked them why they were making the choice they were. I figured it best to hear their reasoning.

  • No text limits (like in Animoto and My Simple Show)
  • Freedom to be creative with text boxes, shapes, arrows
  • Easy to manipulate
  • Limitless images and creativity

OK. I took some deep breaths. I reminded them that they should choose something that will highlight their creativity and skills and not choose the easy way out. Perhaps I was trying to sway them into making a different selection.

That is where the big moment came for me.

I gave them a CHOICE. They made it. I have to live with it.

I suppose one cannot give a choice unless one is ready to hear the answer.

And, one cannot give a choice hoping to hear an answer.

I still have two more classes to introduce this project and I have two more classes to get myself ready to hear their choices.

I can do this.




A Trio of Tools

29848464932_1aeb40a637_qThis week I am excited to present 103 great tools! Now you may be wondering if I was sharing that many why did I only mention a “trio” in my title? Well, the extra 100 come from this list of Top 100 Tech Tools for Education, many of which you will see that you know.

While I do know a good number of these, here is one I did not know: Moovly. Moovly is similar to MySimpleShow that I introduced last week yet offers more editing tools and options. Where MySimpleShow is simple and you can put your presentations together in 3 fairly quick and easy steps, Moovly is simple in a more involved way. You can easily spend hours building your RSAanimate-style presentation (but you don’t have to!). Moovly has an education platform that will allow you and your age 13 and up students the ability to create, present, co-edit, and share animated videos. Here is the one I am working on about best practices in professional development for a course I am currently taking.


This next tool was shared with me by our head of middle school and I must say, it looks excellent and has amazing potential! Let’s Recap is a web and app-based platform for video feedback for your classroom. You create a free account, assign a prompt/problem/question to your students who then use video to respond. You can see your students’ thinking as they reflect on the assigned prompt. This is a great tool for formative assessment, for students who find it easier to talk through problems (or for whom typing or writing is difficult), and for fostering the habit of reflecting on their learning. I am pretty excited to give this a try!

Last are two short lists of great Youtube channels for history and social studies teachers. The first is a list of 7 to which I would add History Pod (for their daily what happened on this day in history), HistoryTeachers (if you like music, you’ll love what history teachers does), and Schoolhouse Rock (because I love when learning is put to music!). Interestingly enough, when I opened this week’s Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition, I saw on the front page this next list of 20  great channels for social studies teachers that includes many of the 7. So whichever you choose to check out, I think you will find at least one channel to which to subscribe!

photo credit: Marcus Rahm tooltime via photopin (license)

Simple Share

This week I am excited to share a brand new, very cool, easy-to-use, FREE, simple sign-on (sign up with your Google), digital storytelling tool I learned about from Richard Byrne at Free Tech for Teachers. It is called, “My Simple Show” and it turns your stories (and uploaded powerpoints) into Common Craft-esque videos (like this one on elections). You can start from a blank slate or choose one of their templates; use your own images or theirs; and record or upload your own narration or let them narrate for you. I can see students using their templates to explain historical figures, events in a novel, introduce themselves to you; or you creating short videos to introduce a new topic to your students. This can be used for almost anything else you can imagine! Take a look below at one I quickly put together because I was so excited to give it a try. Disclaimer– I am a child of the latter half of the 1900s- the 70s and 80s to be specific. The technological advances I mention were big to me when they first came out- especially the microwave!


It is always good to have and know your options. Last week I shared the JoeZoo Express add on with you for offering feedback to your students – including creating and inserting rubrics into each student’s document. If you like to use rubrics, you will love this additional option from Alice Keeler. Take a look at what Alice Keeler has done with her Epic Rubrics for Google Sheets. Let me put it this way, personalized rubrics for each student on their own tab in a set of sheets that you can email and give students a copy in their drive. Sounds like a mouthful, I know, so best to just pop over and take a look.  Keeler has such great creations on her site that you should spend some time browsing her Google apps templates like Tweet my Class and more!

Today I heard about a brand new professional learning platform, Edchat Interactive. You may remember me posting about weekly #edchats on Twitter which I enjoy participating when my schedule allows. Two of the same fantastic educators who began that (Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson), along with Mitch Weisburgh have now founded this new online,  interactive professional learning experience. These will be live video conversations with a leader introducing a topic and then the participants breaking into small groups to discuss via video chat. The groups will then come back together to share, reflect, and discuss with the presenter and members of the other breakout groups. The schedule of seminar topics looks fantastic and I am excited to participate in these professional learning experiences.

People don’t learn just by watching. We need to interact, reflect, and participate. That’s our model, in 45 minute segments that fit into the busy lives of educators.

Lastly, I watched a very inspiring TEDWomen video last night, Linda Cliatt-Wayman, “How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard”. Cliatt-Wayman speaks about her experience as the new principal of a failing high school in North Philadelphia. She speaks passionately about leading with love in this very moving talk.

First Days of Spring, Time to Share


“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a multi-tab week on my laptop with many articles, tools, and thoughts to share with you.

First out of the gate are two posts on an oft-discussed and debated topic- homework: one from Time titled, “Why Parents Should Stop Making Kids Do Homework”,  in which it talks about the age groups homework actually is shown to benefit and how homework has become the “‘new family dinner'”. The other is from Alice Keeler titled, “Stop Giving Homework”.  Keeler gives many reasons why we as teachers should stop giving homework including kids should have time for other activities, it takes time to grade and go over homework so by not giving it, you are buying back instructional time, and often times there are gaps when some students’ parents are able to help with homework while others are not. She offers many other reasons in this thought-provoking post.

The next is a new digital storytelling tool I recently learned about called while reading about this Earth Day global collaboration opportunity, Buncee Buddies.  EduBuncee is a multi-media, drag-and-drop canvas that combines drawing, animation, slides, video, audio, images, and QR codes into one neat little product. EduBuncee is free to sign up and the paid version offers more options. For the Earth Day project, classrooms will be paired up with Buncee Buddies and all will be given the paid version of EduBuncee for free for the rest of the school year. So why not sign up to share how you celebrate Earth Day in your part of the world and try a new tool at the same time- two great things for the price of none!

We have all been there either with our school children, our personal children, or other’s children- they have just completed something, tried something, accomplished something and we are ready to offer our accolades. What can we say beyond the usual? This article gives us 25 Things to Say Instead of “Good Job”.

This next post is absolutely fantastic. Mrs. Lifshitz, a Fifth Grade teacher, has engaged and empowered her students and altered the way she is teaching writing (and so much more) as you will see when you take a look at Giving Writing Workshop Back to Our Writers: Choose Your Own Mentor Text and a Student-Led EdCamp. The post is lengthy because Mrs. Lifshitz has painstakingly described and documented how she transformed both her thinking about teaching and how it all went down in her class and the result- a Student Wonders site akin to their inspiration, Wonderopolis. It is a worthwhile and mindset-shifting read.

Finally, many of you– hundreds of thousands of you- participate each year in the Global Read Aloud. Well, it is time again to sign up for GRA2016! Don’t be confused by the header when you land at the site as it still shows the 2015 book pics. Scroll down to the form which has been updated for this next school year. If you have been part of it, you know what an amazing experience it is for your students; if you have not, take the leap!

Rest on Your Laurels with Tynker

laurel-wreath-297040_640As part of the Fifth grade Laurels, the students used Tynker, a block-based programming platform, to show evidence of learning about each of five ancient civilizations: Sumer/Mesopotamia, Egypt, Maya, China, Greece. This was a multi-level process as it involved first the gathering of the facts in a skeletal outline, finding and saving images to illustrate these facts, uploading these images to Tynker, then writing the code for each “actor” including the “Stage”. The students worked for approximately three class periods on their outline, basically scripting their story. Each civilization represents a scene in Tynker, and each artifact from the different civilizations will become the actors. We likened this to writing a screenplay and the students were the authors and directors. Once the outlines were written the students used Pixabay, WpClipart, Pics4Learning, or Wikimedia Commons to find images that are in the public domain. Occasionally they could not find what they were looking for so they used an advanced search on Google for images labeled for reuse. Some students chose to find and gather all their images for all the scenes prior to getting started in Tynker, others chose to do this one scene at a time and then gather for the next. Writing the code in Tynker was painstaking. The students wrote hundreds of lines of code for their story to run, many without any actions on behalf of the viewer. They encountered “bugs” (problems with how their story ran) and had to go through the lines of code to find the problem. They used creativity, perseverance, persistence, problem-solving, logical thinking, and digital citizenship skills throughout the process all while leaving their legacy and effectively using technology. Please enjoy. More to come as they are completed.

Laurel Project Showcases

Image from Pixabay

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ~Henry Ford

This is a huge WOW! This teacher whom I follow on Twitter (@MrsEvon1) is sharing how her 4th grade students are using their ipads in a 1:1 environment. All throughout the day the technology and creativity is embedded in their learning and in everything that they are doing. It is truly amazing. Just because you might not be using ipads does not mean you cannot do what she, is doing. Many of the apps that she is using are also websites (Haikudeck, Vocabulary and Spelling City, Storyline Online, Kidblog, Quizlet, Wonderopolis; the ones that are not also web-based can easily be found in other tools). 

I especially like the ipad menu of activities that Mrs. Evon is using to keep her students responsible for their learning. 

You know how much I love all things Google. Well, Google has another new add-on which will make using Google forms for sign-ups like appointment times or bake sale donations even better. Now Google has added Choice Eliminator— when a selection is made that should no longer be available, Choice Eliminator gets rid of it. Now you will no longer have 5 people bringing paper plates or signing up for the 4:00 appointment. Yay!

More Google (because we could all use more Google in our life)- this from Kyle Pace in my Feedly (used to be Google Reader but, alas, sadly, that went). Anyway, when you go to Create something in Google Drive, your default choices are Folder, Doc, Sheet, Slides, Drawing, and Form; but if you look closely, you will see at the bottom of that list, “Connect More Apps.” There are many wonderful apps that once connected, can offer you and your students a lot of benefits and assistance. You can find the ones that Kyle B. Pace recommends here. I am a fan of Lucidchart, Pixlr, and Powtoons, but there are really so many options.

This next set of tools are great! I came across Wideo over the weekend, and have had it open in a tab so I could try it out (still open, am going to help my daughter make a math video for her class). Then I saw that Richard Byrne, aka Free Tech 4 Teachers, had a nice post about this and 2 other video creating sites. I have used We Video and found it fairly easy, but I have not tried Magisto (which seems to me to be similar to the easy and simple-to-use Animoto which I and my 5th grade students love). Anyway, you can read here about all 3 sites that will allow you to create your videos in the cloud (aka Web-based) then easily share them or embed them. I would say that in order of ease-of-use you should try Animoto, Magisto, We Video, then Wideo (which makes animated-style videos).

Last, for our folks teaching current events or doing current events with your students, here is Newsela— a site that allows you to search for topics by grade level, reading standard, or quizzed articles. You can sign up and create a classroom for your students and assign them articles, or just make it a job for our student to bring a piece of news to your morning circle. 

Looking for more classroom jobs? Have a class public relations person tweet out what your class is learning. Have an historian of the day find out what happened on this day in history and see that today is not just another ordinary day. I have more ideas but if you have been reading and you got to this point, you can ask me.

Shared in late October with my colleagues

8 Tools, Tips, and Ideas to Start Your School Year

After a bit if a hiatus, I am trying to get back in to regular posting on my blog. Since I share tips with my colleagues in and out of my school, I will double-dip so to speak, and at least have a post a week that is accounted for!

  1. Innovations and Conversations is a live Google Hangout that will feature education giants and Twitter stars Steven Anderson and Tom Whitby. This event is free and will take place on September 15th from 5-6PM. This particular conversation will focus on their book, The Relevant Educator, and why connected educators are important to teaching. It should be a great, thought-provoking conversation.
  2. Gathering and using images is often a big part of student projects. Finding and using images that are labeled for reuse (Google images—search tools— labeled for reuse), or are copyright free, or that are made specifically for students and teachers to use can be another story (though there are several sites and ways to do this which I have shared in the past). If you and your students are used to doing this, it’s not a big deal, but if they are not, then they need to know which sites to go to. This past July, millions of historical book images were uploaded to Flickr and are now ready to be used freely by you and your students. Take a look— they are pretty cool.
  3. Many of you are doing some form of Writer’s Workshop or are having your students do different forms of writing in your class. Here are 15 ways to get your students to stop groaning that they have nothing to write and inspire them to pick up their writing instrument and go. For a fun, possibly motivating class writing activity, your K-4 class could participate in Mrs. P’s Annual Writing Contest between now and November 15th.
  4. Continuing along the lines of images, digital storytelling is a great way to share what your students learned about a topic in history, a character in a book, a class trip, and much more. Animoto for Education allows you and your students to easily create beautiful music videos in minutes. It’s as easy as uploading your images and/or videos, adding music from their huge library or your own, putting in some (optional) text and then asking Animoto to process it. It’s just as easy to then share these videos on a blog, via email, youtube, or download. Your free educator account gets you 6 months and then you can renew for another 6.
  5. A picture is work a thousand words and this is true when it comes to your presentations. HaikuDeck is another beautiful way to share what you and your students know using your own or their vast library of images. Here are 10 new additions and improvements that HaikuDeck has made to their already great tool. #s 2, 4 and 10 are pretty great.
  6. Many of you like to offer alternative project ideas to your students to celebrate the completion of a unit or a book. Here are 10 fun art project ideas that you might want to try.
  7. I know there are a few teachers who are thinking about using Twitter in their classroom- Yippeeeeeee— I think this is an excellent idea because it is a GREAT way to 1- keep your class parents in the loop; 2- connect with other classrooms; 3— have students share what they are learning at that moment; 4- see what others are learning; and 5- teach students how to get to the point in 140 characters or less. Here is a video to help get you started. You can view it within the paper.li, but this link is directly to the video on youtube. There are additional ones in the suggested video-sidebar that might also be helpful. Ready to get started? Check out this Using Twitter in the Classroom wiki for 35 ways to use it, how to use it, and more, and THEN ask 4WJedis how their class used it.
  8. Last, this video from Seth Godin, “Stop Stealing Dreams” which was also an education manifesto, is one that I have watched many times, read, and blogged about. It is that provocative and will cause you to think about education in a way you might not have before.