SAMR – Flexible Toolkit Slideshow

I enjoyed presenting the Infinitec webinar today and truly appreciate all the attendees! Here is a link to the interactive slideshow with resources.

The final webinar in this series will be held on December 3rd at 4:00 PM CST. SAMR Through the Lens of the Common Core. The webinar is free and registration is open to all.

Back to School with Google Docs

Google Docs is truly one of my favorite tools for teaching and learning because of the features it offers to support research, writing and collaboration in the 24/7 classroom. Here are some things to try with Google Docs as you make plans to use a little more tech and embrace change this school year.

Google Docs for Research

Google Docs supports a full-featured integrated Research Tool that is conveniently located right on the page of any Google Document or Presentation. This powerful Research Tool provides students with convenient access to information in manageable chunks that are ready for use. Students can narrow search results to find images, quotations, definitions, and more. 

In addition to helping students efficiently find information, the Research Tool can help students engage in real world writing by streamlining the process of creating hyperlinks and appropriately formatting citations. All this can be done with the click of a button found directly under each source in the Research Toolbar. The push button features provide teachers with the opportunity to introduce important digital citizenship skills to students as part of the research process in a way that is efficient, timely and manageable. 

Google Docs for Collaborative Writing

According to Sharon J. Washington, executive director of the National Writing Project: 
“Today’s young people are using a range of digital tools to compose and create in new and exciting ways. It is a game-changing moment for teachers of writing. The very notion of what it means to write is shifting, and educators are faced with adapting their teaching practices to integrate new technologies while redefining writing and learning for the 21st century.”

Google Docs provide teachers with a great starting point for helping students develop 21st century writing skills because they are collaborative, available 24/7, and stored in the cloud. The tool is well-suited for facilitating digital writing workshops that combine peer editing with cooperative grouping and small group fine-tuned writing instruction. Here are some of the powerful writing features:

Sharing and Commenting
Sharing and commenting options provide students with opportunities to receive immediate feedback on their writing from teachers and peers in the 24/7 classroom. Student can write, edit, revise, collaborate and share one copy of a live document, providing them with the resources and opportunities to significantly improve their writing. Students can collaborate in real time, creating opportunities for virtual mini-conferences. Of course, students are more likely to revisit their work if they know someone else will be commenting on it and they are more likely to edit their writing if they have the opportunity to publish it for an audience.  

Integrated Writing & Reference Tools

The integrated writing and reference tools provide students with convenient writing support right on the page.  A built-in dictionary  supports 12 languages and allows user to look up words without leaving the  document. Word Count capability provides feedback on number of words in a selection or the entire document. Built in Google-powered smart spell check allows students to easily identify spelling and grammar errors and access  suggestions as they type. For students using a variety of sources, EasyBib will save a bibliography in a student’s Google Drive with the click of a button. 

Revision History

The revision history features provides users with access to digital documentation of changes made to any Doc. Review edits or revert to a prior version of a document at any time. Use the Revision History to track contributions made by individual students or to measure progress made on a document. 

Final Thoughts

Google Docs is an efficient tool for for use as a starting point for teachers who want to provide students with opportunities for research, writing and collaboration in a digital workspace because of the availability of so many amazing features. If students in your school have access to Google Docs, it is definitely worth exploring beyond the basic features to discover the benefits of the using the tool for teaching and learning. If you are looking for more ideas, be sure to check out additional resources on this blog.

Google Docs for Teaching and Learning

Why Blog?

Teachers who regularly blog are creating chronological and searchable records of their own growth and development. This is a good reason for teachers to blog.

Why Teachers Should Consider Blogging

A blog is a journal that is filled with ideas, your ideas. It is flexible, visual and user friendly. A blog can be a tool for self-reflection. One who blogs as part of the regular workflow must dig deeper in order to explain. 

One Example of Growth: My Journey with Wordle

Since March of 2009 this Cool Tools Blog has been my primary tool for teaching and learning, which means I have blogging for four years. One example of my own learning and growth can be found by taking a closer look at the tool I chose to introduce in my first post, Wordle.  Explore this interactive image to see how I adapted and fine tuned my use of this one tool to meet some teaching challenges and needs over the course of the past four years. Find all of these examples on this blog, of course.

Why Blog?

  • To keep a journal of your professional growth.
  • For something to strive for. The best blog posts are those that reflect on successful experiences.
  •  To document and share the great things you’re doing in the classroom through vivid samples and snippets of what’s going on.
  •  To teach students about digital citizenship and web etiquette as you engage them in discussion about what’s going on in the classroom.  

    Who Should You Blog For?

    Blog for yourself. Blog about the learning that occurs inside and outside of your classroom. Blog about ideas. Blog to document the great things you are doing.  If you decide an audience might benefit from reading your blog, promote your blog to that audience. Just start blogging.

    How to Get Started

    There are many free and user friendly platforms to suit a variety of blogging needs. 
    Check out Blogger, EduBlogs, WordPress and KidBlog to see which tool works best for you. If you are interested in joining an online community of bloggers, check out the EduBlogs Teacher Challenge, a self-paced learning adventure that’s sure to keep you engaged.

    Final Thoughts

         With the end of the school year in plain sight, this Spring just might be the perfect time to try blogging. If you don’t like it, you can end your blogging career with the end of the school year. If you do like it, you might appreciate having time to explore and fine tune your blogging skills during the summer.

    An Updated Digital Differentiation Model

    This is part of a Digital Differentiation model, my way i of weaving a web of flexible tools together for teaching and learning. To keep the model relevant, frequent updates are required, as new tools and trends emerge. 

    To access the most current resources, please click on the tab at the top of this blog:

    Digital Differentiation – Current 


    Ten months ago I published a Digital Differentiation model on this blog. I’ve been using the model to guide the work I do each day and I’ve been sharing it via webinars and hands-on training sessions.

    Of course, ten months is a long time in the world of edtech, and I’ve added some new tools and resources to my personal teaching toolkit, so I decided it was time to update the model and tweak it just a bit. The original article and interactive graphic can still be found on this blog. Here is the new post:

    Technology is a tool that can be used to help teachers facilitate learning experiences that address the diverse learning needs of all students and help them develop 21st Century Skills, an idea supported by the Common Core. 

    At it’s most basic level, digital tools can be used to help students find, understand and use information. When combined with student-driven learning experiences fueled by Essential Questions offering flexible learning paths, it can be the ticket to success. Here is a closer look at three components of effectively using technology as a tool for digital differentiation.

    The goal is to design student-driven learning experiences that are fueled by standards-based Essential Questions and facilitated by digital tools to provide students with flexible learning paths.

    3 Components:

    Essential Questions

    Student-driven learning experiences should be driven by standards-based  Essential Questions.  These questions should be open-ended to allow for flexible learning paths. Devise question by looking at the standards that determine what we teach.  
    Click on the tiny circles in the graphic for more information.


    Flexible Learning Paths

    Use digital tools to provide students with flexible learning paths to meet their unique learning styles.

    Teacher as Facilitator

    The role of the teacher shifts to facilitate student-driven learning experiences. This new role allows teachers to maximize instructional time because the classroom structure provides opportunities for frequent interaction with individual students for assessment, modification, reteaching and enrichment.


    A Guide to Facilitating an Interactive Learning Project

    I have been creating a lot of student projects that use ThingLink as a tool for learning. I have also received a handful of questions from teachers who are highly interested in facilitating a similiar project of their own, but need help with the management involved.

    “With so much active student engagement, how do you manage a project like this?”

    To answer that very good question, I used MentorMob to create a playlist to guide the project you see below. The playlist takes you and your students through the step by step process of managing the work flow and collaborative group roles, integrating some free and user friendly web 2.0 tools to facilitate the learning process, building the project and turning it in.

    A Guided Playlist to Facilitate the Project

    The Final Project


    Adapt the Playlist to Launch Your Own Project:

    If you think a playlist like this will help you facilitate this type of active and engaging student  project, you can make a copy of it for your own use, then edit it to fit your project. You will find the option to copy at the top of the page when you are viewing the playlist.

    Check out more project 
    examples on the ThingLink Toolkit

    Edmodo & ThingLink: Extend the Walls of Your Classroom

    Edmodo is a free and secure social learning platform for teachers and students to collaborate and connect in the  24/7 classroom. The design and functionality of Edmodo is similar to Facebook, but the focus is on teaching and learning within a protected environment. Students don’t even need an email account to sign up.

    Teachers and students can extend the learning by posting messages, holding online discussions, picking up work and turning it in.  Edmodo supports a variety of multimedia to provide students with flexible learning paths  including links, images, video and interactive graphics created with ThingLink.

    Perhaps an engaging assignment for students would be to publish an interactive graphic to be explored prior to class. This type of assignment can provide students with background knowledge, front load the learning and  level the playing field to prepare students for success in class

    The folks at ThingLink have made it very easy to use ThingLink with Edmodo and they’ve even created some video tutorials to help you learn how.

    For more tutorials, Common Core Aligned Lesson Samples and tons of resources for using ThingLink in the classroom, please visit the ThingLink Teacher Toolkit.

    An Interactive Tutorial: Google Presentation

    Google Presentation is a great tool for helping students construct knowledge about a topic as they create. Here is an interactive tutorial designed to demonstrate how to use some of the handy built in features.


    If you are interested in learning more about the features in Google Docs Presentation, you might want to check out my recent post on

    Google Presentation for Collaborative Learning

    A ThingLink Toolkit for Teachers

    I am excited to share a ThingLink Teacher Toolkit of Resources.

    The toolkit is designed to provide teachers and students with all the resources needed to use ThingLink as an efficient and effective tool for teaching and learning.

    • Several samples of Common Core aligned projects by grade level.
    • A collection of quick video tutorials to demonstrate how to use ThingLink. The tutorials can be used with students to provide tech support right when needed. 
    • How to integrate with Edmodo, Flickr and Facebook.
    • Resources for creating original artwork to be used as a starting point for a ThingLink image.
    • Samples of images used for Professional Development
    • A help button for support from a real teacher. (That’s me!)
    • An opportunity for sharing.
    • A brand new blog for sending updates. Sign up!