Friday, October 17, 2014

Top Ten Apps for your 21st Century Classroom

All links for this session are located at:

10: Screen Recordings! Jing, etc.
My favorite free tool for quick and easy screencasting on your PC or Mac is with Jing. Downloads can be found at 

Plan to do more screencasting or flipping your library? Purchase the full version of Camtasia.

9: Video Creation: Quietube, ViewPure and Animoto
Want to eliminate distractions around a youtube video? Use the free programs Quietube or ViewPure. 

Want to create a quick, fun video from your pictures or recordings? Use Animoto! The education version is free for teachers and allows longer length videos!

8. Questionaires: Google Forms
Who needs SurveyMonkey when we have the free Google Forms built in? 

7. Blogging: Kidblog, Blogspot
Kidblog is a free tool teachers can use to blog with their students. It is safe and secure, with no advertising. Kidblog allows you to create a unique blog for each student in your class.

Blogspot (Blogger) is now a part of the Google family, so if you have a Park Rapids teacher account you have a blog space. You may create as many blogs as you like in this space. Give it a try today!

6. Projecting: Airserver
Project your iPad's image through your computer! This app allows you to connect any iPad (2 or above) through your wifi network. Use it to share projects created on the iPad, your video or pictures, most apps, or use it like a document camera. 

Want to screencast your iPad? Connect it to your computer through Airserver. Open Jing and record your Airserver window.

5. Presenting: Class Flow, Nearpod
Both ClassFlow and Nearpod allow you to project your lessons to your students' devices! This is a great way to keep them engaged, to share information, and to even provide instruction from a distance. 

4. Engaging: Kahoot!
Love game shows? They engage your students and are a fun way to check for understanding. Kahoot is one of the easiest sites to use - and it works on all devices and computers!

3. Photographing: Shutterfly, Photosync
Shutterfly is an amazing FREE way to store your photos and share them with others. Shutterfly Share Sites are perfect for your class, team, family or other group.

The Photosync app does come with a small pricetag, but it is worth it if you want to easily transfer pictures wirelessly between devices and computers.

2. Sharing: Google URL shortener, GoQRme
Google's URL shortener has some definite pros, especially if you already have a Google account. Want to try QR codes? Give a try!

1. Organizing: Symbaloo
Symbaloo allows you to embed URLs, PDFs, widgets, videos and more - making it easy for your users to access all of your resources. Check out the whole range of Symbaloo webmixes we use at Park Rapids Area Schools! 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Get Kahoot!

I want to share a great website that I've enjoyed using with students and staff recently. It isn't an app, but a website. This is wonderful, because it works on all types of devices, from smartphones to iPads, to Chromebooks to desktop computers. It really gets kids involved in a fun gamey activity.

The teacher begins by getting Kahoot at: You will need to create a username and password so that all of your activities will be saved to your account. One of the easiest ways to start is by using a precreated Kahoot. There are tons for you to choose from on a wide range of topics and grade levels.

Having two devices with you is the best way to see what the entire Kahoot looks like. As the teacher you will open your Kahoot, which can be in the form of a quiz, discussion or a survey. This video will give you a better idea of how engaged the students are in the activity:

As you can see the students really get into the activity!

Once you've created your Kahoot it goes into your own list of Kahoots so you can easily find it again. Of course, you also have easy access to the public Kahoots - and you can make yours public, so others can use it, or keep it private.

A positive note about all Kahoots that are public is that anyone can save them as their own and then edit the Kahoot for their own personal use.

When you're ready to launch your Kahoot there are many options to choose from. I recommend displaying the game pin throughout the entire game. It sometimes happens that a student is kicked out, but if they know the game pin they can log right back in and continue playing. Here are the other options:

The students log into Kahoot from an entirely different website - a simple web address that is easy to remember: This clean screen displays a spot for students to put in their game pin (which is displayed from your screen and should be projected from your device.)

In a typical game the students are asked to put in their "nickname" (and you should discuss ahead of time if you want students to put in their real first name or if they should use some kind of nickname. Students will try to put in silly or inappropriate nicknames and these can be rather distracting. Plan ahead and tell them what is acceptable.)

As your students enter their names you will see them appear on your device. You will always be able to see how many students are playing along, how many have put in their answer, and what the scores are.

You are in charge of the Kahoot. When all students have put in an answer it will display the correct answer and the amount of points each student has earned. It will display the top students and their points on your device. Once you've done the discussing you'd like to do it is up to you to move on to the next slide (unless you've selected the option to automatically move through each question.

It is important to play Kahoot with a projector so that students can see the answer options, as these are not displayed on their device.

A Kahoot! is a wonderful way to keep your students engaged. Take a look at today!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thing 23: The Final Thing

I've enjoyed sharing 23 Things with you - so for my final thing I want to spend a little time talking about Minnesota's ELM databases. For some reason these databases, which are funded by our state legislature and available free for every library (and citizen) in the state, seem to be a well-kept secret. And that's just a darn shame! They are quality databases that are awesome resources for all ages and stages, that can be easily accessed on computers and mobile devices. If you are not familiar with them you are definitely missing out!

Right now you can find these excellent resources at One of my favorites is Encyclopedia Britannica. The most incredible feature in Encyclopedia Britannica is the way users can adjust the reading level to suit their needs. This allows students to move up and down in reading range while gathering the same content, and allows teachers to adjust difficulty for their students as needed. The text can be read aloud, translated into a variety of languages and shared simultaneously with an entire class.

For younger students, Kids Infobits, KidSearch and Searchasaurus are research databases specifically created for elementary students. They are easy to use and provide students with magazine and journal articles, images, multimedia files and more. The reading level in these also has some range, and again, translating is a breeze. In addition, creating a citation from all three of these is slick and teaches students the value of citing your sources.

For older students you won't want to miss the great research found in Student Reference Center and Student in Context. And if your topic is something related to science, the Science Reference Center is the one for you!

If your research leads you to arguing one side of an issue, be sure to visit the Points of View Reference Center.

The best part? All of these databases are provided for people living in Minnesota! There is no added charge for subscribing. So if your school isn't directing you to these resources you'll want to visit them on your own at

Monday, March 31, 2014

Thing 22: Discovering Apps

I love Apps Gone Free and I have been a fan for quite a while. This is a great way to try out apps you have heard good things about but aren't ready to pay for, or just a wonderful place to search for apps.

I have this advice for teachers looking for educational apps. Apple has provided many lists of apps for teachers in the App Store. However, they have hidden it very successfully. Here are the directions to find the lists, along with some tips to make your searches easier.

Begin by going to the App Store, selecting "featured" from the bottom menu and selecting "More" in the top menu. From the drop-down menu choose Education.

You will now see many wonderful educational apps, and could do your searching from here, which would give you only apps from the education category.

However, look down and you will see Educational Collections. These are excellent, and are in logical categories like:

  • Special Education
  • Kickstart Your School Year
  • iTune U
  • Astronomy, Stargazing and More
  • Learning Made Fun
  • Painting & Drawing
  • Calculators
  • Apps for Writer
  • and so on
Click on any set of educational apps and you can look through all of the offerings. 
I have found this to be a wonderful way to explore apps that are educational.

Please note that not all apps here are free. In fact, many are quite expensive, but the selection is terrific!

A few other helpful hints to make sure you find all the best apps:
  • Sort the apps by cost, relevance, ratings and more.
  • Add apps to your wish list, so when you do have access to an iTunes gift card you can use it right away on apps you really want. 
  • Keep your eye on blogs, journals, announcements, emails, and any other place you might see recommended apps. 
  • Even if you can't attend a conference, check out the handouts and links attendees receive. These have wonderful app suggestions!
  • Talk to people ALL THE TIME. Share your favorite apps and have people recommend theirs to you. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thing 21: Free For All

There are times when a person must listen to something over and over before actually hearing it. This is true of me and the incredible app I want to share: Nearpod. Yes, I had been told that Nearpod was a great app. I had been told that multiple times. But did I try it out? No. I did put it on my iPad, created an account, and even logged in a couple of times. But did I watch the video, try out the tutorial, or give the app a try? Nope. I was an idiot.

Until now, that is.

For now I know that Nearpod is one of the greatest apps, especially for those teachers who want to use their iPads to teach a lesson but aren't quite sure how to manage it all. They want to engage their students, but they just don't really know how, and controlling a group of students, all of whom are perhaps listening, but just as easily are texting, surfing, playing games, or any number of things, frankly, overwhelms and terrifies them. Nearpod is truly a gift for them.

Nearpod allows you to share content, open a whiteboard where are students can illustrate, take a poll, give a quiz, show a video. Do I have to say more? And to top it off, Nearpod is EASY!

The very best way to experience Nearpod is to grab two devices of any kind. Seriously, any kind! Smartphone, iphone, ipad, Android tablet, laptop, desktop, you name it. Use the app or use the website - it all just works! There is a perfect tutorial to start with. Simply sign up for your free account on one device and then go through the tutorial on it, with the other device as your "student". You will truly experience every activity and see how seamless it is. And any device can be the "teacher" - so if you want to project on your SmartBoard as well, you can do that through your computer. But if you'd rather run it all off your iPad, that's fine too!

Give a poll through Nearpod.
Allow students to work at their own speed!

Provide a quiz or test.
Provide a space for students to draw or illustrate.
A student closes out? You see it right away. Someone comes late? Give them the pin and they can join right in where you are. Heck, want to give an assignment through it but school is cancelled? Send them the link and they can go through the lesson at home. Need a quick lesson tomorrow? Search Nearpod's growing number of lessons and find one that fits the need - but you can totally rearrange it to fit your lesson.

These pictures show my iPad (the white one on the left) sending out the lessons to the iPad Mini and the MacBook. This is the most interactive and intuitive app I have probably ever used! This is an app that you can share with every teacher - preschool through college (and beyond), and one that includes such an awesome sales pitch through its interactive tutorial that once you've shared it (allowing all your coworkers to participate) they will be using it immediately and wondering how they ever got along without it.

There is really no limit to the things you can have students do through Nearpod. An amazing feature is the one that opens a webpage through the app. The students have time to peruse the webpages on their own, looking for information, completing an activity, reading, or whatever you want them to do. Once you're ready to move on simply swipe to the next page on your device and all of the student devices will do the same. Magic!!

So - quit reading this blog and head over to, or to your app store to download the app. Or, if you aren't convinced yet, take a look at this video. It's sure to win you over. Get engaged with Nearpod today!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thing 20: Games

I must admit it. When I look at the iPad for playing games all I can think of is the wasted time. However, as one who has logged thousands of miles on Bejeweled (and, years ago, spider solitaire), I know what a big thing gaming is.

I never joined the Candy Crush phase, so to help me with Thing 20 I installed it on my iPad and I'm going to try to get addicted to it. We'll see. 

I was most impressed with the idea of creating games, and loved reading this recent news story about Sartell High School graduate David Hanson and his wife, Jackie Anderson, who have taken David's love of programming and created a game called 'Shuffling Sheep' for both the iOS and the Android operating systems, and a new company aptly named Frigid Turtle. There's a great article and video about them in the St Cloud Times at I can't help but think how cool it would be if we had some students in my high school (or my own son!) who would spend less time playing games and start creating games!

I did spend some time enjoying David's Sheep Shuffle game and I have to admit I did enjoy it! 

One summer in my youth my younger brother and I began a backgammon challenge. We probably played thousands of games and although we kept track of who won each game I have no idea who the final victor was but I know I loved the competition! I would guess that until I had an iPod I hadn't gotten caught up in game-playing in that way since then. 

Other games that would cause great embarrassment for me if anyone ever saw the number of hours I spent on them:

Temple Run: I am really good at this, if I do say so myself!

Words with Friends: fantastic game for those of us who love Scrabble!

Word Warp: Gotta love those word games!

I also have to give a shout-out to all the amazing games for young children these days! Whether you have a little one who lives and breathes Legoes, horses, dinosaurs, or trains, there are certainly many options for all!

And that's enough for Thing 20...for Candy Crush awaits!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thing 19: Hobbies

This topic makes me feel hopelessly boring and uninvolved! I guess I have very few hobbies that are unrelated to education, because I don't feel like I have much to share! At least, nothing that I haven't already shared.

One app that I use all the time is my DISH Anywhere app. I can use this app to connect with the DISH Network receiver in my house. This receiver is connected to the wifi in my home, so as long as I am in wireless access I can view live TV and do a number of amazing things. If there's a show I want to watch that I've forgotten to tape I can set my receiver to record it. In addition, though, if there's a live show I want to see I can watch it LIVE on my iPad! This has been great when I'm away from home but really want to catch up with this week's showing of Downton Abbey - or even if I'm sitting in the living room with my husband who has sports on the TV I can watch The Voice on my iPad. This addition to my network TV subscription has been amazing and has really changed the way I watch TV.

I go in streaks with my health consciousness as well, and so apps that help me keep track of the steps I walk or the foods I eat are top priorities on my iPad. Two apps that I have enjoyed using the most are the Fitbit app (which connects with my Fitbit Flex). I have used a variety of diet and exercise apps and have found them to be excellent. Many of them do the same thing. They allow you to keep track of the food you eat and the calories you consume, and also keep track of how much you exercise. Since these often give us the motivation to exercise more or eat better, these are great apps for any user. Most also have communities, where you can share your successes and frustrations and receive that extra support you need. One that is pretty highly recommended is Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal, but seriously, there are many, many top contenders in this area.

I am also a big sports fan, following Minnesota teams in all sports, as well as some college teams. I like using the ESPN Sports Center app for continual updates on all your favorite teams. If you're a sports fan you'll know that there are many different apps to follow. Try one out today!