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Tech Tuesday: VideoNotes

I have been using, a web application that lets you watch YouTube videos and take notes side-by-side in a Google Doc. We all remember more of what we see, hear, and do than if we do any of those activities alone, so why not use to have students interact with the material by watching the video and answering questions in a document as they go? Perhaps they still have questions after they have watched the video. They can share it with you so you know which concepts need to be addressed later. These are only two of the many possible applications of this tool.

Below is a video I made showing you how to use If you would like to try out the service for yourself, copy this url [], head over to, and watch it there. (You will have to authorize the site to access your Google Drive before it will work.)

Happy note-taking!

Tech Tuesday: Listening Booth

The Common Core standards emphasize the integration of digital media as early as kindergarten. Speaking and Listening Standard K.2 states that students will “Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood” (italics mine).

April is National Poetry Month, so what better way to address the listening standard than to hear poets read their own works aloud? At the website, the Listening Booth allows you to do just that. Search over 400 audio clips of famous poems, most of which are read aloud by the poets themselves. Most of the poems are suited to students in the upper elementary grades and above, but the list is growing all the time, and I hope that more poems for younger children will be introduced soon.

To use this in the classroom, teachers could have students listen and then draw a representation of the poem. Students could read the poem first and then discuss how their impression of the poem changed after they heard it read aloud. Teachers could find other versions of the poem real aloud and students could discuss them. The possibilities are endless.

If you would like more ideas, take a look at this Teachbytes post on ten ways to celebrate National Poetry Month with technology.

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.

Tech Tuesday: Story Starters

The Common Core standards are coming, and with them will come new emphasis on writing, and especially on producing and publishing writing using digital tools from a very early age. In fact, English Language Arts Writing Standard 6 for kindergarten states, “With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.” The five paragraph essay is no longer the star of the student writing pantheon. Students will need to become accustomed to different types of writing produced for different, authentic audiences. Some student writing will be produced in ten minutes and some over the course of a week or more.

Here are two story starters that may help.
PictureScholastic Story Starters generates creative writing prompts that allow students to practice using different voices and formats for different audiences. Students (or teachers) can select a genre and then spin to get a prompt. You can spin all four wheels at once or do one at a time until you get something you like. Need to practice vocabulary? Have your students write a to-do list so they can focus on using higher-level words. Are letter writing skills what you are looking for? One of the prompts has students writing a letter. You can also choose a grade level to produce simpler or more complicated prompts. Here are some that I generated:

  • Grade level K/1: Describe a pet for a silly elephant who swims in the ocean.
  • Grade 2: Write a one-paragraph newspaper article about a nervous parrot who wants to be invisible.
  • Grade 4-6: Write a birthday party invitation for a stubborn dentist who only looks at things through a microscope.

If you choose to write online, you may add a drawing and publish your work in one of four formats: notebook, letter, newspaper, or postcard. You can then print it or save it to iBooks, to Edmodo, or a number of other places. See Scholastic’s Teacher Guide to using this activity.

The Story Starter and The Story Starter, Jr. work similarly, however, they provide randomly generated complete sentences which would typically be used to begin a creative writing piece. The sentences are usually funny and will appeal to students. Here are the first few prompts I got:

The Story Starter:

  • The brilliant accountant polished the table near the submarine for the hunter.
  • The tired sock inspector rode the bicycle into the backyard to wake up the President.

The Story Starter, Jr. (more basic vocabulary and simpler, shorter sentences):

  • The pilot was digging in the sand in the desert.
  • The girl was carrying an envelope in the haunted house.

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.

Tech Tuesday: Guided Access

Guided Access is a feature of iOS 6 that allows users to prevent app switching and/or disable parts of the screen. It does not affect the way the app works unless you specifically set it to do so.

There are many reasons teachers might want to enable this feature on iPads in their classrooms. It may be a simple matter of keeping the students on task. Teachers may want to prevent students taking online tests from having access to Google or other search engines. Teachers using iPads in small groups may find that the minute or two spent enabling Guided Access is time well-spent when the iPads are ready for the next group without need for further teacher intervention. Guided Access can also be helpful if you want to disable areas of the screen, whether it is because you want to prevent students attempting to make in-app purchases, pressing the pause button, saving to the camera roll, or for any other reason.

First, enable Guided Access on your iPad. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access. You will need to set a passcode so you can turn Guided Access on and off and control the settings for each Guided Access session.

To start a Guided Access session, open the app you want to use and triple-click the Home button. If there are any areas of the screen you want to disable, circle them. You can use the handles to adjust the area. You can also set the iPad to ignore all screen touches by turning off Touch and keep it from changing orientation by turning off Motion. When you have set everything the way you want it, click Start.

To end a Guided Access session, triple-click the Home button and enter the Guided Access passcode.

The video below will give you a quick overview of what Guided Access looks like and how it works.

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.

Tech Tuesday: Using Weather Apps


“…after all it is more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be” (Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth).

Perhaps. However, weather is an important area of study for our students. They examine different aspects of weather as early as kindergarten. The weather apps on the iPad can help with this, but they also allow students to do much more. All require an internet connection to download current weather.

InstaWeather Pro (regularly $1.99; free for a limited time) adds a weather overlay to your images. You can take your own pictures or use images from your camera roll, apply the skin, and then share.

Educational applications: Class weather book, compare predicted weather with actual weather, add weather to 365 project photos, tweet your weather, take a picture of the same plants at regular intervals and see how weather affects their growth, etc. Matt Gomez is using it to document the weather in his Texas kindergarten classroom.

Apple‘s default weather app and other similar apps* can be used not only to check the weather, but may be incorporated into the curriculum in a variety of ways. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Mathematics ideas: Use a weather app and Easy Chart (basic version is free for iPhone, also compatible with iPad; $0.99 for iPad HD version or iPhone advanced pack to add more functionality) to compare temperatures or wind speeds over time, in different places, or at different times of day. Compute mean, median, and mode of high or low temperatures over the course of a week. Give students a temperature and have them try to find a city with that mean temperature this week. Graph the difference between expected highs and lows.
  • Language arts ideas: Use the information from the weather app to list facts or write an informational paragraph. Write about how the weather influences your activities. Use the InstaWeather image as the background for a haiku or weather-related senses poem. Create a PuppetPals video to explain a weather phenomenon.
  • Social studies/science ideas: Compare local weather to weather in other parts of the world. Use one of the video capable apps to observe the ways weather moves across the continents.

*For example, there are apps by the Weather Channel, Weather Underground, AccuWeather, Weather +, WeatherBug, and others.

Please share the ways you might use weather apps in your classroom in the comments.
Image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures from

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.

Tech Tuesday: Bluster!

App: Bluster! (Free)
Subject: Language Arts
Grade level: The stated grade level in the app is 2-4, but it could be used by 1st graders who are already good readers and would be a good review for many 5th graders.
What it is: A word matching game from McGraw-Hill where players can work on rhyming words, prefixes and suffixes, synonyms, homophones, adjectives, and other skills. The app comes with over 800 words. More words are available via in-app purchase ($0.99).

This game uses weather sound effects and backgrounds to engage players. Each game consists of three rounds in which players need to sort 30 words into the three spaces in the center. Players swipe through the word list to find words that match according to the selected type. When all three words in the center spaces match, they are cleared from the list. The object of the game is to make all ten matches and clear the word list as quickly as possible. The game keeps track of the fastest times. The game times a player game in which you are timed as you place the matching terms in the given boxes from the list until all words are used. 10 matches wins one round. In addition, students are able to play the game in a team mode in which students are able to collaborate to complete the task together. The object of the game is to make all matches from the word list provided as fast as possible to get the best time.

Two things that would greatly improve this game would be to have the game pronounce the words in the list and to display the type of match players need to make during game play, but even with these shortcomings, it is still an excellent game and one that students will enjoy.

Note: When setting up the game, it may be best to refer to the “grades” as “levels,” since students may need to play either above or below their actual grade level to be challenged.


  • Single-player mode: Students play at their own pace and can tap the sun to pause
  • Team mode: Students share an iPad and work together to find matching words
  • Versus mode: Students compete head-to-head to see who can clear the word list first

Extension idea:

  • Have students who are playing alone or in Team mode note unfamiliar vocabulary words while playing, then use the Dictionary app to look them up. They could even illustrate them with a drawing app and add to a class vocabulary book on the iPad or in the class library.

Key for success:
Make sure students know how the game works ahead of time. In Team mode, there are weather elements that can freeze the opponent’s move if properly timed, allowing the player to get ahead.

Additional links:
Using Bluster! during RtI

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.

Tech Tuesday: Puppet Pals HD

Puppet Pals icon

App: Puppet Pals HD (Free)
Subject: All
Grade level: All

What it is: An animation and story-telling app for the iPad that comes with several characters and backgrounds. Students select characters and backdrops, then create a movie by moving the characters with their fingers while recording narration or dialog.

Upgrading to the Director’s Pass version ($2.99) provides access to many more characters and backdrops from the developer and also allows users to create their own puppets and scenes.

Educational applications:

  • Demonstrate understanding of a lesson
  • Create a news story about a current or historical event
  • Provide opportunity for ELL students to use language in an engaging way
  • Create presentations for classroom projects
  • Reader’s theater or poetry reading for fluency
  • Persuasive writing
  • Many, many more; please share in the comments if you have a wonderful idea

How to share with the outside world:

  • Save your project
  • Export it to the Camera Roll
  • Open it in the Camera Roll and email it or upload it to YouTube

Key for success:
Planning! Students can re-record while working on their project, but there is no option for editing saved work. Students working on more sophisticated projects should decide beforehand which characters they will use and what will happen. If they are working in groups, having a script, or at least discussing who will say what and when is important. Having a storyboard would be very helpful.

Download printable directions for using Puppet Pals HD.

Additional links:
Introduction to Puppet Pals HD
Practical Lesson Plans Using Puppet Pals HD
Persuasive Writing and Puppet Pals HD

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.