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Maximizing Lesson Impact

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