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: