Simple Video Editing to Enhance Your Instruction

Even though this school year is winding down, it’s never too early to start thinking about the new year ahead.  With the advent of 1:1 technology initiatives, we will be expected acquire new digital skills as well as refine the ones we already have.  Those skills may run the gamut from editing and annotating video for flipped and differentiated learning to archiving and sharing digital resources to creating online portfolios both for students and teachers alike!  Let’s start with some options for annotating video.

EdPuzzle is available for free and works on computers, iOS and Android devices, and as a Chrome extension.  You can set up your own online classroom and create both ‘explainer’ videos that allow students to gather background information and use for review purposes and videos that engage students by presenting quiz questions.

The explainer video below on the Constitution was created by a teacher to explain the content while highlighting and drawing on the screen to emphasize important points.  The quiz video on the right uses a School House Rock video from YouTube on grammar.  It stops periodically and asks the student to point out specific parts of speech in an open-ended quiz question.  This video is engaging and entertaining at the same time!   Take a look at the examples by clicking on the images and think about how EdPuzzle might augment your instruction as a center, homework, or as remediation.


YouTube Video Editor can be used add all kinds of text bubbles and sound effects that will help you make explainer and instructional videos that will grab your students’ attention.  You can also make a video pause automatically where you might want your kids to write something down or add to a part as they are assembling their latest STEM project.  You can also “stitch” separate YouTube videos together, edit unwanted sections and add opening and closing credits!  Check out this “how to” video by YouTube expert, Derrel Eves to see just how easy YouTube Video Editor is to use!


How can video editing transform your teaching? 

Coming up next:  Sound recording and editing apps and sites that can make a real difference for your learners.

Computer Skills, Digital Skills for Teachers, Instructional Technology

Free Classroom Management Tools on the Web

No matter how engaging your lessons are, there is always the chance the some sort of disruption might occur.  I can’t tell you how many times my “perfect” lesson has been blown to smithereens because of some sort of problem brewing between kids or by a student who may have been

having a bad day or week.  My fellow “specials” teachers have complained endlessly about behavior issues and we’ve all felt badly for that one classroom teacher who got “that class from you-know-where!”  This is especially true if you work in a small school or a year round multi-track school where the kids can be in the same class for several years.

While we can’t control what goes on at home,  we can certainly control what happens in our classrooms and labs in a positive manner.  Effective classroom management will be a sanity saver for you and create a respectful culture in your class.  After you’ve analyzed your lesson engagement, behavior expectations and routines, you can also add some of these free web based tools to your toolbox to help make life run smoothly.

  1.  Try a new room arrangement.  Sometimes a change can help you “reboot” your class.  Instead of dragging around heavy furniture, make some virtual arrangements first.  Scholastic’s Class Set-Up Tool is a great way to get your inner “interior designer” on!  Once it’s arranged, you have the option of plugging in student names, saving you the time of making a hand made chart for substitutes.
  2. Classroom Architect is another alternative to dragging your furniture around only to find that it doesn’t fit.  You can input the room dimensions and drag scaled furniture pieces around a diagram
    to design the best learning environment for your class.
  3. There are several random name generators online.  These are great because they take the whole idea of favoritism out of the equation and keep everyone on their toes because no one will know when their name might pop up during a class discussion.  The Random Name Selector is one where your kids will see their name in big and bold letters.
  4. Grouping students can always be a chore when trying to match personalities or keep kids from picking their friends when they get a collaborative assignment.  The Random Student Generator.    You can arrange your class groups into multiple configurations using the random generator or manually select which kids will work together.
  5. is an oldie but goodie!  A Wheel of Fortune name selector, customizable calendars and vocabulary arcade games are just a few of the easy to use features of this site.  You’ll benefit from the management tools and your students will love many of the activities that you can incorporate.
  6. The Calmness Counter is one of many noise meters available.  It uses the microphone on your computer to measure noise displayed on a large meter.  I find it a little less distracting than Bouncy Balls but remember to turn your volume down or your class will think it’s being invaded by aliens!
  7. Of course, no list would be complete without ClassDojo!  Dojo is an excellent way to motivate elementary students by giving them automatic feedback on their behavior.    In addition to having a point system, ClassDojo has free monster clipart that kids love and great lessons called “Big Ideas.”  You’ll find lesson plans and entertaining videos on Growth Mindset, Perseverance, Empathy, and Gratitude.  Even if you don’t use the Dojo point system, the videos are an excellent addition to any character ed lesson.  A big plus is the open channel of communication with parents.  Just plug in their email address and you can message them immediately and they can monitor their children’s behavior.

These are just a few free online tools available.  If you have an iPad or iPhone, check out the App Store for classroom management apps.  There are also several commercial products available for a fee, that can help you make life in the classroom or lab peaceful and productive.

What sites do you like?  I’d love to hear your recommendations!











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Computer Lab Management Tips

With the advent of 1:1 technology, many are predicting the demise of the computer lab. This is probably true, but it will take many years before they are completely phased out. Many schools have to direct their resources to other needs so this transition will take a long time.

There are some great computer lab specialists who do extraordinary things with their students that rival the 1:1 model in this setting. In order to extraordinary things in your lab, you must have a management system that is effective and maximizes student learning. Here are a few suggestions that have worked well for me.

Give your kids an idea of what they’ll be doing before they enter the lab. Quite often, my classes show up at the door a few minutes before their class is supposed to start. While the other class files out, I always greet the incoming class to set off a positive note and let them know what activities they will participate in.

Make sure that your equipment is in good working order. Let’s face it–kids are hard on computers and printers and I’ve run into some teachers who are just as hard! Malfunctioning or broken equipment can really throw a monkey wrench into your lesson. The more you can learn about hardware trouble shooting, the smoother things will run. There is a tremendous amount of information online that you can access. I learned to change the fuser and rollers in my laser printer with a tutorial I came across. Had I not, I would have had to wait weeks before the school system’s printer tech to show up.  I’ve swapped out hard drives, CD-Rom drives, and internal speakers.

Make sure you have tested your lesson! Nothing is worse than finding out that the cool website you found has been taken down or trying out a new program that you have never used in front of your class. My students tend to run off the rails if there is any down time whatsoever so I keep them on task the entire time. If I am fumbling around trying to remember how to do something, havoc will result. I also put all the links to any online activities on my website where my kids know where they will be. In fact, I am a huge advocate of flipped learning; I create videos where I state the objective and model the process for just about every lesson I do. Yes, it does take time, but I’ve had excellent results in terms of on task behaviors and student made products.

Make your lesson meaningful. If your kids aren’t interested or are bored, your lesson is probably history. My administration wants all the specialists to use science and social studies content as part of our lessons so the kids get a double dose. When the third grade studies the Solar System, I have measuring tapes around the lab so kids can measure how far they can jump. We plug their findings into a spreadsheet and calculate what the length of their jumps would be on the moon and other planets. It’s a great way for them to review the concept of gravity, learn to enter data correctly, and select the right type of graph to display their data.

These are just a few suggestions–there are many more to consider. If you haven’t adopted any of these ideas, try them out! Consistent routines that utilize these suggestions are bound to improve what happens in your lab! I’m anxious to hear what you do! Please leave some suggestions in th
e comments below.

Computer Lab, Computer Skills, Instructional Technology, Life in the trenches

Going Digital in Science with Google Drive

Good morning! It’s Thanksgiving week which means for many of us, we will only have three days of school this week!  It also means that we are looking ahead to the second part of the school year as January will sneak in in just a few weeks.  These are times that I spend reassessing how I am helping students learn the technology tools they will need to be successful both in middle school and high school and beyond.

Our school system established Google accounts late last year which have been used on a hit and miss basis around my building.  The kids are almost always more willing to jump into something new than the grownups because their fear of failure is far less so that willingness made students a “no-brainer”
i-can-collage for rolling out all things Google Drive.

As with the majority of my activities, I use either science or social studies as the content that I want the technology skills to enhance. (Occasionally, I throw in something of high interest to the kids such as music artists, television, video games, etc.)

I created a Digital Interactive Notebook to be used in Google Drive (but can be easily converted to Microsoft OneDrive) on Simple Machines.  In North Carolina, the students must take an End-of-Grade Science test in the fifth grade.  The test covers content taught from kindergarten through grade five so this digital INB could be used to introduce new content or reinforce prior learning.

The DINB includes a cover page like any notebook, as well as some “I Can” statements to keep kids focused.  As with every lesson, I still stop class at least once to bring everybody back to the lesson objective.slide14

As the kids worked their way through the notebook, they viewed a video about the six simple machines and had to define and identify real life examples, sorted and classified eighteen pictures of all six machines on a digital sorting mat, played one of the most engaging simple machine games and wrote about it, ansortd applied their knowledge of simple machines to help solve  production problems in a candy factory.  The final activity included the famous video of first grader, Audri Clemmons’ and his fantastic Rube Goldberg machine!

Covering the concepts of Simple Machines through a Digital Interactive Notebook was beneficial in many ways:

–It truly was a paperless learning experience. (At times, I think I use more paper now with technology!)  Now the students have a permanent record of their learning that they can use when they prepare for the state science test later this spring!  We all know how kids lose things, and this is something they will be able to find easily and keep organized!audri

–It was engaging and self paced.  Students who process information a little more slowly were not rushed along because a teacher or class was ready to move on.

–It allowed students to use their computer skills to navigate through a new environment.

–There’s no doubt that I will be creating more units like this both for teaching instructional technology skills, but for using them in core areas such as science and social studies!

If you are interested in finding out more, please click here to see it in my TPT shop.

Wishing you a wonderful week!




Computer Lab, Computer Skills, Digital Interactive Notebooks, Google Drive, Instructional Technology, Maximizing Lesson Impact, Science, Teachers Pay Teachers

Revisiting PowToon-Digital Storytelling on a Desktop

We are all familiar with a number of neat storytelling apps for the iPad.  If your school doesn’t have iPads that can be checked out, or you’re in a computer lab that hums with the sound of PCs, digital storytelling projects still can be carried out with ease on a number of online sites!  Digital storytelling allows students

  • to demonstrate their understanding of a topic,
  • express their opinions and feeling, and
  • experience a sense of ownership of their creations.

This is the first of several posts on easy to use, online sites and applications  that a classroom teacher or the technology specialist can use.

PowToon is a really fun way to create a short animated movie, which totally captivated my  students.  There is a free and paid version available with several templates to help you and your students design engaging and eye catching videos.  Uploading your own pictures is quick and simple.  It’s a great way to introduce both animation and digital storytelling for just about elementary school students.

Some examples acress the grade levels, here’s a Powtoon of a kindergarten student retelling the story of the 3 Little Pigs,


to this more sophisticated video created by a 5th grader that was posted on the teaching blog, Ms. Ashley’s Tech World.


0r a teacher made video celebrating student accomplishments on your school’s morning news show!


The PowToon site has an excellent blog, including this post on 13 Simple Ways to Integrate Technology into any Lesson Plan.  Here is an excellent “how to” I found on Google Docs that was public for all.

If you haven’t tried PowToon in a while, go back and pay a visit.  If your kids in your Computer Lab special have that glazed over look in their eyes and need something to get them going, throw out a topic and see what they can do with it on PowToon.  They may surprise you!

Computer Lab, Digital Storytelling, Instructional Technology, Internet Activities, Maximizing Lesson Impact

Extend and Enhance Your Instruction with Screencasting

By now, just about everybody has heard of screencasting.  I’ve used it extensively in my technology classes, especially when I have a substitute so my kids still receive instruction on what ever project or skill we are working on.   I use YouTube to host my videos and embed them in my class webpage.  My students know that they will hear my voice along with my expectations and directions.  Even on a normal day, I’ll use screencasting to help focus my students’ attention.  Once everybody dons their headphones, the “chit-chat” stops and the students  are engrossed in the the upcoming lesson!

During an Early Release Professional Development Day, I conducted a short training on screencasting with Screencast-O-Matic which is my favorite of a large assortment of online software available.  It offers a free version where you can capture anything on your computer’s screen, including what you can broadcast with a document camera if you are using manipulatives or an iPad if you have Reflector or something similar.  The staff at my school loved it and began to see how they could use it in the academic classroom setting.  I use it so much that I pay the $15 to get all the extra features that you can see here.

My biggest success story came about a year later when a lead teacher talking about something he heard coming down the second grade hallway.  “I thought that Ms. R. was out of state with her parents but I heard her teaching away in her room.  I poked my head in the door only to see that she had prepared screencast videos for all of her lessons!”  I was thrilled to know that I had a small part to play in this!  As Oprah says, teachers had an “A-Ha” moment and realized that screencasting wasn’t just for the technology teacher.

Here are some of Ms. R’s instructional videos:

Telling Time Introduction


Expanded Form of Addition Introduction



Screencasting is a wonderful way for you to continue instruction if you are absent, or provide some extra support for students who might need it.  Don’t have a document camera?  Here’s a very inexpensive one that works great!  You can purchase it here  (this is not an affiliate link–it’s a nice little doc camera with no bells and whistles but very inexpensive and does the job).

I’d love to hear how you use screencasting in your classroom.


Instructional Technology, Maximizing Lesson Impact, Screencasting, Uncategorized

Congratulations, Win $100 TPT Gift Card, and a Halloween Freebie!

Congratulations to Jessica L. Johnson for winning the $10.00 gift card.

I’m so happy to be participating in another giveaway!  screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-9-03-34-pm

Holly at the Appleyever After blog  is celebrating her 1000th TPT follower by giving away three $100 TPT gift cards! Think of the fabulous products you could purchase with a hundred buckeroos! ?

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Also, if you teach Kindergarten through Second Grade either in a regular classroom or computer lab, here’s a little freebie with a Halloween theme.  Simply open this pdf on a computer and hide the menu (directions included) and you’ve got some

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Teachers Pay Teachers, Uncategorized

Win a Teachers Pay Teachers $10.00 Gift Card!

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All you have to do is enter your information in the boxes  under the “You” heading in our sidebar on the right.  On October 10, we’ll pick a winner from all the tpt-gift-cardentrants!  P
lease rest assured that we hate spam as much as you do and we will never sell or give your email address to anyone!

Stay tuned for more giveaways!  Our next one includes three of our products that list under $5.00 each.  What a great way to supplement your elementary technology curriculum!

Thanks for reading!



Instructional Technology, Teachers Pay Teachers