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Instructional Technology

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

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

Win a Teachers Pay Teachers $10.00 Gift Card!

Who doesn’t like to score some freebies?  Now is your chance to buy $10.00 worth of fabulous Teachers Pay Teachers products on us!

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

Oh no! The server is down! Now what will I do with these kids?

Those are words that no Technology Specialist or Facilitator ever wants to hear.  Luckily, I haven’t heard (or said it myself) for years now except for some extremely short events of less than an hour.

That wasn’t the case twelve years ago, though.  I was working as a Technology Facilitator at a middle school when the server went down for six school days!  The staff really scrambled and made it through, but I really felt for the business computer teachers.  What do you do when you are supposed to be teaching keyboarding to six classes a day?

There are slide1very few engaging low tech/no tech activities out there when this happens.  The server might not even be down but the tech specialist might be asked to vacate the lab for some sort of testing or training and end up holding classes in an empty classroom.  Add in a few unruly kids, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!

That very possibility lead to the development of these “no tech” games.  Inexpensive and requiring very little prep, “Scoot” games have been a staple in academic classrooms for years.  So far we have made two versions, “Elementary Digital Citizenship” and “Word Processing,” both aimed at elementary classrooms.  Simply cut apart the cards and place them in order around the room and duplicate the student answer sheet.  This “old school” game is a lot of fun, complete with giggling, as well as an excellent way to review and assess what your students may need in terms of remediation.

If you’ve never played Scoot, here’s a great blog post from the “Learning Resources”  blog.


We’ve included thirty stations in each game that will keep your kids busy and engaged.  Even if everything is running smoothly, Scoot can serve as a great review, substitute teacher activity, or a break and opportunity for your students to get up and move!

Tell us, what are your strategies to make it through these kinds of situations?


Computer Lab, Computer Skills, Instructional Technology, Life in the trenches, School, Word Processing

Rockin’ Out!

One of my jobs as a Technology Specialist is to help teachers brainstorm and plan how technology can make their lessons more engaging for their students.  We have a fair amount of laptops and desktops at our school, plus 600+ iPod Touches and a cart of iPads for checkout.  Although we are fortunate to have more than many schools, classroom teachers are so overwhelmed with the demands placed on them.  To add to that load, students must take a Science End of Grade Test in the fifth and eighth grade in addition to the traditional Math and Reading test.  Being at a high poverty school, the word “test” is almost a dirty word because that is how hardworking teachers are measured and many put emphasis on scores, not academic growth.  In additon, no one measures how students learn to be emotionally stable, productive citizens through the hard work of the instructional and support staff.

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox and back to science.  A fifth grade teacher and I got together to try to come up with an unit on the Rock Cycle that her kids might actually like.  She was a true novice when it came to technology use, not to mention totally terrified!  She provided me the content and I had to plug that content in to our available resources.

After many hours, I came up with several stations where students could work with a partner or small group and rotate through them.  Some stations used iPads or iPod Touches, while others used laptops.  All the stations could be deployed with any one of the three devices we used. After a few days, they were asked to create a Popplet to show the relationships within the cycle as well as the terminology.

The stations included:

Introductory Video that everyone watched together
Station 1      rock bookWhat are Igneous Rocks?
Station 2     Where are Igneous Rocks in the Rock Cycle and
collect 3 pictures
Station 3     What are Sedimentary Rocks?
Station 4     Where are Sedimentary Rocks in the Rock Cycle and
collect 3 pictures
Station 5     What are Metamorphic Rocks?
Station 6     Where are Metamorphic Rocks in the Rock Cycle
and collect 3 pictures
Station 7      Play an online Rock Cycle game
Station 8     Play a Rock Cycle Sort card game
Station 9     Go online to learn more
Station 10   We Will Rock You! music video and lyrics
What do terms can you hear?

Each student was equipped with a booklet to record information as they made their way through the rotation.
preview one-rock

After rotating through all the stations, each student had a collection of pictures and information to use to create a Popplet,  which is available on the iPad or on online for free.  They created their Popplets, bouncing ideas

preview 2-rockoff of each other in terms of organization and appearance. Each student project was evaluated with a rubric that was provided to the kids before beginning their project.  You can see an example below.

The teacher I worked with was nothing short of amazed!  She had never seen her kids so engaged and happy as they worked.
At the end of the year, our End of Grade Science scores had improved over the previous year.

Secretly, I’d like to think I had something to do with that!

I’d love to hear how you have used technology to make your science lessons more effective!


If you would like to learn more about this activity, visit my TPT store here by clicking on the picture:



Instructional Technology, Internet Activities, iPad, School