Monday, June 22, 2015

Making it Better with SAMR

In a previous post titled SAMR Model: A bright idea for using Educational Technology I researched and presented what the SAMR model was all about.  I had a chance to apply the SAMR model to an existing unit of study that I teach in second grade.  My challenge was to analyze the existing components in a unit that I teach using the lens of the SAMR model and then modify the unit with new technology components.  Below is a quick refresher on the SAMR model:

I chose an insect research unit from our curriculum for this project because I had already added some new components to the unit last year.  This four-week research project is based on a Common Inquiry Process where students find answers to their questions about insects while researching a specific insect of their choosing. The choices of insects are intentionally limited to ensure that print and electronic resources are available, of good quality, and are as age appropriate as possible. Collaboration is encouraged for students who choose like insects.  Students begin by sharing what they know about insects and then learn about common traits such as body structure.  Students use a flow map to guide them through this project which culminates in presenting their research by developing a Google web site.

 I've put together a presentation on Prezi that outlines the current insect unit and the modifications I incorporated into the unit using the SAMR model as a guide.  Check it out!

Thanks for viewing my Prezi.  I've also included a document below that outlines this unit in more detail along with analysis and rational for the modifications using the SAMR model.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Google Earth and Virtual Field Trips

I have always been fascinated with geography.  Seeing different places and features of the earth is exciting and naturally evokes my curiosity.  Most elementary students share the same excitement and curiosity when it comes to seeing new places and learning about things near and far.  Google Earth and organizational websites utilizing interactive geographic software open up a huge resource for investigating places all over the world.  Teachers can use these resources to provide students with unique learning experiences in a wide variety of academic areas.  Google Earth is a free interactive geographic browser that interfaces with the internet.  Teachers can use it to take students on virtual field trips to places around the world; cities, oceans, mountains, volcanos, museums, even outer space!

At a recent educational technology conference, a presenter demonstrated how he used Google earth with his students to explore the White House in Washington D.C. .  His demonstration was fascinating and it demonstrated how easy it was to use Google Earth to explore the many rooms within the White House. As a introduction, he used Google Earth to show the exact path taken by the man that jumped the fence and trespassed into the White House.  Very cool!

Besides following sensational events, why use Google Earth in the classroom.  Here a graphic from SERC (Science Education Resource Center) at Carleton College that highlights the values of using Google Earth in the classroom:

Getting started with Google Earth takes some exploration on your own.  First, you want to get the application.  Then, it's important to learn about the features in this app and how to use them before using it with students.  Google has put together a collection of tutorials on the tools available in the Google Earth app.  One very useful tool is called Tour Guide.  Here is a tutorial on Tour Guide:

I'm excited about using Google Earth in my classroom.  It's a powerful application that can be used in a variety of ways to engage students in their learning.  From visiting the setting in a story that students are reading, to seeing what a volcano looks like when it erupts, or visiting the White House, Google earth is an amazing tool to have in the classroom. 

The following resources are helpful to learn more about Google Earth and virtual field trips:

Visit historical/culturally significant places and artifacts through the Google Cultural Institute

The White House through Google Cultural Institute

The resources above were also used in part for creating this blog post.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What is Digital Citizenship?

School safety is a top priority.  As educators, we work to ensure that our students are safe physically, socially, and emotionally.   With more and more media and technology in our student's lives, helping students be safe online and using technology responsibly is crucial to their development and well being.  

We live in a digital world where we interact digitally everyday. To be successful in this digital world we have to know what is right and wrong, be able to capably use technology, and exhibit responsible behavior when using it.  This is the concept of digital citizenship. 

To be a good digital citizen, you need to be digitally literate, and teaching students digital literacy is crucial for them to be good digital citizens.  Below is a video that offers some perspective:

In my school, we have focused on teaching digital citizenship to students beginning in the early elementary grades.  It's appropriate and needed. Well before kids begin formal schooling, chances are they have already had many experiences with media and technology.  So, what can an elementary teacher do to teach digital literacy and digital citizenship to young learners?  
Mary Beth Hertz, a k-8 Technology teacher in Philadelphia, writes about digital citizenship in the elementary classroom in two of her blog posts on edutopia.  These are good articles to begin thinking about teaching this topic: Digital Citizenship in the elementary classroom and How to to teach internet safety to young students .

Here are a few great resources I found for teaching digital digital literacy and digital citizenship with elementary students:

I hope this blog post and the included resources are useful to you and your students.  Thank you for reading!


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The SAMR Model: A bright idea for using Educational Technology

The S.A.M.R model is a tool for teachers to use for evaluating technology integration in the classroom.  It was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the founder and president of Hippasus, a consulting firm that concentrates on applications of informational technologies in education.  He developed the SAMR model as a guide for selecting, using, and evaluating technology in teaching and learning.  I have found the SAMR model to be both enlightening and useful.  The SAMR model works similarly to Bloom's Taxonomy; moving up through the different stages in the SAMR framework are associated with higher levels of student learning and achievement. The frame work looks like this:

Dr. Puentedura equates his model to that of a ladder; climbing up the latter you move from enhancing lessons with technology (Substitution, Augmentation) to crossing a threshold by transforming lessons (Modification, Redefinition).

Here is a quick overview of the SAMR model:

I've put together a Screencast that further explains the SAMR model.  This presentation was developed with my school and colleagues in mind.  However, the presentation includes details and examples that could apply to many elementary settings.  

Thanks for your interest.  I hope the information I have provided and the presentation I developed are useful to you in your teaching practice.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Digital Writing with Storybird

While attending the EdTech Team Minnesota Summit, I went to a session on digital writing in the classroom.  One of the tools that was highlighted during the session was a digital book-making website called Storybird.  At the heart of this site is the notion that images have the power to inspire. The phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words," suggests that a single picture can convey what might take 1000 words to express.  The digital writing website Storybird leverages this concept for writing and publishing.

Storybird is a digital writing website in which students can create their own stories using curated images from illustrators and animators from around the world.  Students can use the website to publish their stories for others to read and enjoy.  Storybird works on any device with web access, it's free for teachers, and it's easy to use with any size class.  My second grade students love to make their own stories.  Throughout the year, my kids would be constantly making their own stories, and they would always want them to be read to the class by me for our daily story time.  When I learned about Storybird, I got really excited about the writing opportunities Storybird could offer my students.

As I learned more about the site, I began thinking about how early readers depend on illustrations and pictures to help them create meaning to what they are reading.  And, in developing readers and writers, we often ask elementary students to add drawings or illustrations to their writing.  Kids love to draw, and they have a lot to say when it comes to images.  A large curated collection of images students can use to inspire their own stories is what Storybird offers to get students writing.

Shawn Avery, a 6th grade teacher in Plympton, Massachusetts, put together a great tutorial on Storybird.  Check out his blog and view his Screencasts on signing up and using Storybird.  I know I will be referring back to Shawn's blog as I incorporate this digital writing tool into my classroom.

The following resources were using in this blog post:

Avery, S. (2011, September 5).  Re: Storybird: A Collaborative Storytelling Tool [Web Blog Post].
     Retrieved from

Sad, (2009, November 25).  The girl who wished to be a mermaid; Storybird Example.  Retrieved

Storybird. (2015).  Visual Storytelling for everyone.  Retrieved from

Sunday, May 17, 2015

YouTube Your Classroom!

On Saturday, May 9th, I had the opportunity to attend the EdTech Team Minnesota Summit; Featuring Google for Education.  One of the sessions I attended was on utilizing YouTube in the classroom.  I have some experience using YouTube both personally and in the classroom, but I wanted to learn more about how to use videos with my second graders for blended learning and in-class flipped lessons.  The presenter was Tracy Purdy.  She is a former classroom teacher and now serves as a technology integrationist for Edina Public Schools.  Her presentation was interactive and informative, and I want to share some of the things I learned about using YouTube in the classroom.

As mentioned above, I have had some experience with YouTube and have already created my own YouTube account.  Here is a link to a help page for 
getting started with YouTube.

Create Your Own YouTube Channel and Make Playlists

With a Google account within YouTube, you have the ability to watch and like videos, plus subscribe to channels. However, without your own channel you cannot make playlists.  Playlists are a way to organize videos for different teaching purposes.  Playlists are beneficial in supporting units of study, overarching themes, or other academic topics that can be organized into specific categories.  These are two links that were shared that show you how to create your own channel and begin

Educational Channels-Playlists-Subscriptions

The following links are great examples that were shared to help get started using YouTube in the classroom.  I'm solidly in the "getting started" camp, and Tracy compiled many great resources that are key to getting teachers up and running with YouTube.  I often get overwhelmed with the amount and complexity of so many tech resources that are available.  Here is a short list of resources for teachers starting out with YouTube and incorporating blended learning:

  • YouTube EDU- Filtered educational YouTube content
  • YouTube for Teachers- Teacher curated videos plus tips and tricks for educators
  • TedEd- Easy to use site to Flip your classroom (make a lesson video on TedEd and place it on your YouTube playlist)
  • Khan Academy- Video tutorials on many subjects that can be placed on your playlist.  
  • EdPuzzle- Edit videos to create lessons (great for flipping lessons)
  • Zaption- Create learning tours and interactive lessons
  • Flocabulary- Educational Hip Hop!

Useful YouTube Extensions

During the YouTube session, two extensions were shared that really stood out as useful for making YouTube easier to use in the classroom.  Adblock Plus is a free extension for Google Chrome that automatically blocks YouTube video ads.  This is so useful for the classroom teacher!  No more ads that distract students and get them off track.  TubeChop allows you to show a pre-determined part of a video.  Sometimes you only need to show only a portion of a video to highlight a concept or an example in a lesson with students.  This application makes it easy to capture that interesting section from a YouTube video.

Using YouTube Effectively

James Sanders was the keynote speaker at the EdTech Team Minnesota Summit.  He is a teacher, EdTech Team innovation officer, and founder of Breakout EDU.  He produced a fantastic slideshow presentation on using YouTube in the classroom.  I know I will refer back to this slideshow many times as I continue integrating YouTube into my classroom. I feel fortunate to have attended such an outstanding workshop with phenomenal presenters such as Tracy and James.

The following resources were used in this blog post:

EdTech Team. (2015).  MoonShot Thinking: Minnesota Summit.  
     Retrieved from:

Flipped Education. (2015).  Create Channel-YouTube. 
     Retrieved From:        youtube

Purdy, T. (2015). YouTube. 
     Retrieved from:

Sanders, J. (2015). Classroom in the future.  Retrieved from:

YouTube. (2015).  YouTube Help.  Retrieved from: