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Instagram Template for … anyone, really

At the request of a teacher who wanted her 4th graders to create Instagram-style posts without actually going on Instagram, I created a Google Slides template for her to share with them so they could edit it. I was inspired by Ryan O’Donnell‘s post on Fictional Twitter Profiles to share it here.

Instagram Template

This template could have many classroom applications. The teacher who asked me for it wanted to have her students post as Levi Strauss after reading each chapter of Mr. Blue Jeans, the novel by M. Weidt about his life. She was originally going to use photos found online for each post, but instead decided to have the students draw their own images, photograph them, and upload them into Google Drive for use in the template. At the end of the novel, each student would have an Instagram type summary of the events of the book, hence the decision to make the template in Slides instead of Drawing, so the slides created by each student could be shown as slideshow.

Other possible classroom uses:

  • Post to show the same event from the point of view of different characters in a novel
  • “Historical” posts: Francis Scott Key posting a picture of a tattered flag with the first lines of The Star Spangled Banner
  • Animals posting pictures of places along their migratory paths
  • Mathematical formulas or theories posting pictures of ways to apply them

Having students use this template will help them think critically about their topic so they can demonstrate their understanding by sharing an image with just a few words. Allowing them to create usernames for themselves and those who liked the photo makes it engaging. They will also learn about the photo manipulation tools, which are the same in Slides as they are in Drawing, and how to use the view menu or magnifying glass to zoom in on the image, since some of the items they need to edit are a bit on the small side.

If you would like to use this template, click here to view it, then choose File > Make a copy.

child holding up hand

5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending

child holding up hand
Image by Pezibear via, Public Domain

Today I was challenged by @jaygreenlinger to share my list of 5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending in education to #makeschooldifferent. Challenge accepted.

Right off the bat, I had several ideas but, like Jay, I had to struggle to whittle them down to five six sentences. I’m sure I’ll change my mind as soon as I hit Publish, but here they are.

  1. Today’s students are digital natives and already have all the skills related to safe, appropriate, and ethical technology use. (Corollary: Most teachers are familiar with these skills and can teach them to students.)
  2. Good teachers have no need for an online PLN (personal learning network).
  3. When it comes to staff development, one size fits all.
  4. Having students connect to the world outside the classroom is nice, but is not a necessity.
  5. Giving out grades is the best way to assess student learning.

You can read Jay’s post here. I am passing on the challenge to five educators whose ideas I really respect. I hope that Karl Lindgren-Streicher, David Theriault, Alice Chen, Moss Pike, and Jen Roberts will share their lists of 5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending in Education.

Teach Image Citation with Padlet

Our students need to be able to find, use, and cite copyright-friendly images in their projects. You can use Padlet, a free, online bulletin board, to help them learn how to do this.

Depending on the age of the students, you can modify the requirements for citing the images you find. Ideally, you should include the following (or as many of them as you can find for your image):

  • Title of the image
  • Author
  • Source
  • License (Creative Commons type, note that the image is public domain, or a statement that the image is used with permission)
The example below was created by 3rd grade students. They were only instructed to include the photographer’s name below their own. Older students would of course be asked to include more complete information and follow a stricter format.

Lesson steps:

  1. Before the lesson, create a Padlet wall where the information will be posted.
  2. Discuss the importance of citing sources for anything students have not created themselves. Explain the citation format you want students to use.
  3. Instruct students to find an image by using This will ensure that any media they find should be licensed for reuse. The students doing the project above looked for landforms and the natural environment.
  4. Students copy the image url.
  5. On the Padlet wall, students double click to add a note. They paste in the url and add the citation information.

Although it seems fairly basic, this lesson packs in many skills.

  • Digital literacy and digital citizenship
    • How to find and cite images licensed for reuse and why it it important to cite your sources; while we didn’t do a full citation, we did lay the groundwork for future lessons
    • Identifying the author, title, and license information for an online image
    • Safeguarding personal privacy by only including their first name on the image
  • Technology skills
    • Copying and pasting (new to most of the 3rd graders)
    • Control+click to find the image url
    • Sharing work using an online tool like Padlet
  • Collaboration
    • Early finishers helped peers to find and post their images on the wall

The students participating in this lesson enjoyed it so much they asked if they could do it again next time they were in the lab. If their teacher agrees, I am up for it.

For more specific information about image citation, see this page on the Creative Commons wiki.

This post originally appeared in a shorter form on the LVUSD Forward Learning Resources blog.

First Grade Writing with StoryKit

Just before winter break, I was in need of a quick project that first graders could do independently while their teacher and I pulled individual students to work with us. We decided to use Storykit and have them create books about the holidays.

Storykit is an iPhone app created by the International Children’s Digital Library. It works well on the iPad, but if you are looking for it in the iTunes Store, you need to look in the iPhone Apps category. It allows users to create an electronic story book that they can enhance by adding pictures, drawings, text, and audio. Books can be accessed through the StoryKit app or shared via email.

We showed the students how to create a page, take and insert a picture, and add text (about 5 minutes total), then paired them up. The children were asked to take a picture of their partner, ask the partner what he/she liked about the holidays, and then type the response using the format “He/She likes…” After the first child had taken a turn, the second partner took the iPad and created a page about the first child.

The whole project went much better than we ever expected. When there was a problem the children collaborated and solved it themselves. They helped each other spell unfamiliar words, use the camera, and troubleshoot problems. Using four iPads, the first graders were able to create pages for 26 children in just under half an hour. No adult help was required, the kids were engaged and empowered, and the resulting books were adorable.

They could have been published just as they were, but later that week, to complete the project, the teacher had the students draw cover pages, which they photographed and added to their books. She also worked with small groups on the spelling. Had she wanted to, she could also have asked each child to record a sentence. The books were saved on the iPads for the students to read and were also shared with the families via email. Here is an example (children’s faces blurred for privacy).

Screenshot of book

I could see this project being used in many ways at different times of year. It could be a “get to know you” book for the beginning of a school year. Kindergarteners could create an “I see” sight word book, perhaps with pictures the teacher has already added to the camera roll.

Mystery Skype (or Mystery fill-in-the-videoconferencing tool)

My 4th grade team is about to embark on their first Mystery Skype. If you are not familiar with Mystery Skype, I will tell you that it is an excellent way for students to connect with learners in other classrooms. Basically, a Mystery Skype is when you use Skype (or Google Hangouts or whatever videoconferencing tool is available to you) to contact another classroom and neither class knows where the other is located. Students take turns asking the kids in the other class yes or no questions to try and figure out where the other class is located. Mystery Skypes are great fun, involve the whole class, and get students working collaboratively and thinking critically. Although there is some prep involved, especially before the first time you do it, as you explain to the students what they will be doing, the actual call goes fairly quickly, about 20-30 minutes.

Once you have the system down, less prep is needed. Students soon learn what to ask to pinpoint the location of the other class. They will also learn how to use geographic vocabulary, how to work with students of other cultures, and their collaboration skills will improve.

Here is a very brief list of some Mystery Skype resources. There are many more out there. I also highly recommend Twitter if you are looking for a classroom to connect with.

When are we gonna do that again? by Craig Badura
4th grade Mystery Skype sign up page
So you want to do Mystery Skype? by Pernille Ripp
Skype jobs video and chart
Edudemic: 5 amazing ways to collaborate with another class
Mystery Skype page from
Mystery Skypes

One great hint I learned from Holly Clark at CUE Rockstar Solana Beach: When doing a Mystery Skype, make sure your classroom flag is not visible to the other class. It narrows down the country pretty quickly!

CUE Rock Star Solana Beach Reflection, Day Two

Another day, another pair of fabulous CUE Rock Star sessions filled with learning. Today’s session were all about using mobile technologies. Both the sessions I chose focused on iPads.

The One Ipad Classroom

My first session, the One iPad Classroom, was led by Jen Roberts. Although we don’t have any one iPad classes at my school, we are far from 1:1. This year, each class will have from 5-8 iPads, so I was interested in learning strategies to use and share them effectively.

One of the best ways to use a single iPad is to connect it to your computer or projector via a dongle or the inexpensive Reflector application for your computer. Once students can see your screen, there are several things you can do.

  • Use the Presentation Clock app ($0.99). It displays a countdown that changes from green to yellow to red as the time winds down. The visual feedback is very helpful for students who need to meet time goals for presentations. It can also be used as a timer for any classroom activity.
  • Use ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard app (free) to record a voice-over as you write on your iPad and teach your lesson. You can add pictures from your camera or those stored on your tablet.  After you are done, you can upload your lesson to the ShowMe website, copy the embed code, and put it on your website for absent students or for those who are struggling and/or would like to review. There are also many other videos on the website that you can share with your class.
  • Walk around the classroom as students are working and use your iPad as a mobile document camera to showcase exceptional work.

There are other ways you can use your iPad without projecting it. Plickers is a free Android app that is coming soon for iOS devices. The teacher gives each student a paper barcode and students answer multiple choice questions by holding their codes up. The teacher scans them with her smartphone and gets a bar graph showing the answers. Data can be anonymous or stored by student. If your students don’t have iPads, but they have smartphones or other devices, you can use Socrative to participate in class discussions and take quick quizzes. The results are saved in a Google spreadsheet.

Because so many of the participants at this camp are rock stars, when there was a little extra time at the end of the session, they shared some other apps that they love. Most of them are free as of this writing.

  • Subtext (best with 1:1) for collaborative reading.
  • Too Noisy to monitor classroom noise. An alarm goes off when it gets too loud. You can set sensitivity levels. When kids are monitoring their noise level, they are also monitoring their on task behavior. It is worth 99 cents for the pro version. 
  • Confer is a notetaking app for teachers. You can take detailed notes as you observe students and review their work, then sort and share them in a variety of ways for many different purposes.
  • Stick pick to select a random student.
  • Pick me buzzer to use your iPad as a buzzer when playing games.
  • Puppet Pals to create puppet shows .
  • Remind 101 to text parents and students without them seeing your phone number (not an iPad app, but still very useful).
  • Haiku Deck to create beautiful presentations with Creative Commons licensed images. One way to use this app in class would be to create a group presentation, passing the iPad around, and having each student add a slide according to the theme of the presentation (adjectives, a 6 word story, etc.).
  • Common Core Standards so you have the standards in an easy to use format.
  • Snapguide to create step by step guides with pictures and text.
  • PixnTell to take pictures, put them into a slide show, and add a voice-over. 
  • Snapseed to enhance the pictures you take with your iOS device.
  • Number Pieces, an app with virtual manipulatives to help with understanding place value.
  • Cheater Pants Calculator to show you not only the answer to the problem but the steps to get there.

Content Creation

In the afternoon, I went to Will Kimbley‘s session on Students as Creators of Content, not Mere Consumers. Will showed us (and we got to play with) several apps that could be used for this purpose. Some of them have web and/or Android versions with similar functionality. When students create content, they are more engaged, learn to think critically, understand the content better, and retain the knowledge longer. Below are some of the apps we got to experiment with. Some of the apps are free; others cost a few dollars.

  • iPevo Whiteboard Somewhat more for direct instruction, although you can also have students create their own tutorials or instructional videos to demonstrate learning.
  • ThingLink to create interactive images on virtually any subject. See my earlier post on this app.
  • Venn Diagram to create Venn diagrams. Students can save the diagrams as images. They can even use them to create ThingLink images or add them to a whiteboard app, Animoto, or similar. (Has logins for multiple users.)
  • Trading Cards to create trading cards for famous people, animals, historical events, chemical elements, or anything else you can think of. (Has logins for multiple users.)
  • Animoto to create slideshows with text, images, and music. Animoto offers a free educational account.
  • SundryNotes to create and share notes with text, audio, images, maps, and more. Students can collaborate with others on the same wifi. Some ways this app can be used include creating field journals or recording scientific experiments.
  • Notability is another note taking app with similar capabilities.
  • Explain Everything is another screencasting and interactive whiteboard app that lets you annotate and animate as you record your voice-over. You can even annotate over your video.
  • Ask3 is an app that lets teachers and students collaborate on lessons inside and outside the classroom.

What I really liked about the apps that Will showed us was how flexible they all were. It didn’t matter if you taught elementary school or high school. Almost all the apps could be used for students of any age and for any content area. I look forward to introducing them to the teachers at my school and seeing what wonderful ideas we can come up with.

It was a great day. I am looking forward to another one tomorrow.