ISTE 2019 Recap

Summary of my favorite finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a month since the amazing ed-tech-a-palooza celebration known as the International Society of Technology in Education Conference or ISTE. There was so much to see and do this year that it has taken me a while to try to boil it all down into a recap. I have so many notes, flyers, and resources that it will probably take me until ISTE 2020 to really process everything. Good news, I have lots to explore for my next 30 tech tools in 30 days series coming this November. But, for you, my loyal readers, I will try to narrow down all that information into my finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

Old Favorites. New Tricks.

I typically spend a good chunk of my ISTE time in the expo hall checking out my favorite tools and looking for new ones to explore. It is great to reconnect with some of my favorite go-to tools and see what new things they have in the works. I love being able to talk to both the developers in making these tools possible and the educators who are leading the way in the classroom. These are some of my most valuable conversations. Here is what some of my old favorites are up to.

Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
  • Adobe Spark – Adobe’s booth is my first stop every year. This year was no exception. Not only got to meet the amazing Michael Cohen (aka The Tech Rabbi) and hear how he uses Adobe Illustrator to teach creativity and Math, I also got to talk to one of the developers of my favorite, favorite, favorite, tools – Adobe Spark. Animations are now available as part of Spark Post apps. (Coming soon to the web). Students can also now collaborate on a Spark project.  If you are not yet using Adobe Spark, then these should give you a reason to give it a try. Also, check out Camp Adobe for some amazing learning opportunities. You can read more about my feelings on Adobe Spark on some of my past posts – Spark Post, Spark Video, Spark Pages.
  • 3D Bear – One of the darlings of ISTE 2018 was 3D Bear an augmented reality app. Well, they have had a great year and showcased a lot of ideas at their booth. If you have not played around with 3D Bear, go check out the free trial and start creating. They have lesson plans and challenges that will help get your students creating in AR. Tons of fun. And I’m not just saying that because they have a dancing unicorn that you can play with.

    NASA Learning Labs
    NASA Learning Labs
  • NASA –  NASA was everywhere at ISTE this year. In their playground, they featured new lessons and activities from the STEM Innovation Lab. My favorite was the Eclipse Soundscape. An app that allows you to experience the solar eclipse through visuals, audio, and other sensory displays.  On the expo floor, they had more resources such as their materials that let students learn about all the amazing things going on on the International Space Station. You can find a ton of resources on the STEM on the Station website.
  • Bird Brain Technologies – Finch 2.0 is coming! I repeat Finch 2.0 is coming!! Learn more on their website and see what makes the Finch 2.0 a cool new addition to the Bird Brain family.
  • CommonSense.org – Everyone’s favorite ed tech review and digital literacy site brings you a curated list of their 50 favorite EdTech tools of all time. This one is well worth the browsing time.
  • Flipgrid – Flipgrid fever infecting the ISTE crowd. Shortly after the conference, Flipgrid announced a new Augmented Reality feature. The new FlipgridAR app update lets you add Flipgrid to everything!

New Finds

In addtion to exploring my old favorites, I collected a list of new finds that I want to explore further. They are everything from new STEM activities to new technology. My list is long but here are the first ones I’m going to dig into.

  • Stitching the Loop – Free curriculum for students to explore computer science through e-textiles.
  • Wildcards – A new programmable expandable circuit board and an inexpensive and easy to use tool to help students explore electronics, computer science, and engineering. Designed by a team of electrical engineering dads.
  • 826 Digital – Free mini-lessons, lessons and other resources to ignite a love of writing in your students.
  • Pinna.fm –  Streaming audio service for students. On-demand access to podcasts, audiobooks, and music for PK – 6th grade.
  • Creator Bot Mini Bot – I would love to get my hands on this little bot. It is an Arduino powered robot kit that has everything you need to create a robot.
  • Get Media L.I.T. –  A new graphic novel series by Weird Enough Productions that helps students explore media literacy, social-emotional learning, and 21st-century skills.
  • Synth – This one is a new-to-me tool. You can create 256-second podcasts and share them with the world.
  • Science Journal by Google – Turn your device into a scientific tool through this app. It takes advantage of the sensors built into our devices phone and allows your students to collect data.

New Ideas

So, what are the hot topic ideas on the horizon of ed tech? There were several topics and ideas that stood out this year. From the playgrounds to the Mainstage, people were talking about creativity, computational thinking, and innovation. I left the conference with some new learning goals of my own. My top three: artificial intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. Google has experiments and activities for you to get started with AI. And I’m ready to start building with CoSpaces and Merge Cube. 64832451_10220359185996876_5431999139598565376_o

Whew! That is just the tip of the ed tech iceberg when it comes to new ideas from ISTE. Even with all of these new tools, my MOST favorite part of the conference was connecting with all of the amazing educators from around the globe. I get to see some of my education heroes and meet many new ones. I’m looking forward to all of the new collaborations and conversations that will fill the time until we all meet again in Anaheim at ISTE 2020.

Big thank you to all the folks who worked hard to make ISTE possible. And thank you Philadelphia! I had never been to Philly before. I got my first “real” Philly Cheesesteak and saw pieces of our history. It was a winning trip all around!

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Were you at ISTE in Philly this year? What were your big takeaways? I’d love to hear from you!

Green Screen Magic with Do Ink

If you are not making fun green screen adventures with your students yet – what are you waiting for? Go find a green blanket, grab your iPad, download Green Screen by Do Ink and jump on this bandwagon before you miss out!

If you are not familiar with green screen effect, or chroma key effect, here is the basic idea. Chroma key is a special effect technique where multiple images are layered on top of each other. Using a chroma key filter, you can make a color range of the top image transparent so an underlying image can show through. Any color can become transparent, however, a high key green is commonly used, hence the term green screen.

Why would you do this? Well, what if you want a picture of your friend on top of the Bean in Millenium Park in Chicago? You could go to Chicago, climb on top of the Bean and try to get a picture before security arrives (I would not suggest this option). Or, the easier and more legal way, take a picture of the person on a green screen and overlay it onto a picture of the Bean using editing software. Viola! Your friend is on the Bean and no one got arrested. Yay.

Anyway, chroma key photography and video production have been taking the classroom by storm lately because of a great iPad app called Green Screen by Do Ink. It is one of the easiest tools out there for making green screen projects.

Full disclosure – I do not have an iPad that supports the Green Screen app. Yes, it is sad. I hope to remedy that soon. However, I do live vicariously through the projects of others by following Do Ink (@doinktweets), #doink and  #greenscreen on Twitter. The projects students and teachers are creating are amazing!! 51K1TKetnVL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_

I also had an opportunity to play with Do Ink back in October thanks to the incredible Todd Burleson. Not only is he the type of creative librarian you wish you had as a kid, he is also the author of The Green Screen Maker Space Project Book. He was at STEMfest this year to host a green screen workshop. I was lucky enough to attend and had a chance to give Do Ink a try. It was tons of fun!

Green Screen Features

The Green Screen by Do Ink works on any Apple device that supports iOS 10 or later. You can download it from the Apple store for $2.99 a device. A steal considering all of the amazing features packed into this app.

Features — Do Ink
Screenshot from doink.com

Using this app you can combine up to three layers of images/video using the editor screen. As you can see from this screenshot, the editor is simple to use and easy to navigate. You have a preview window, a timeline and some tools to help you create your video.

As far as timelines go, this one is pretty simple to understand compared to other video editing software.

The chroma tool is where the magic happens. It allows you to select the color you want to make transparent, as in that lovely green color seen above. The app also has a Mask tool so you can draw custom transparency masks not based on color.

img_20181027_142607124.jpg
Green Screen Workshop at STEMfest with Todd.

Green Screen lets you use images and video that are already on your device or that you record live. You can even add animations you created using Do Ink’s other app, Animation and Drawing.

When you are done with your project you can save it on your device or export it to the cloud.

If you need some guidance while creating your project, visit the Do Ink Documentation Page for some in-depth information on how to use the app. Also, visit their Tips Page for some creative ideas on how to make the most of your own green screen studio.

img_20181027_141830228.jpg
Anything can be a green screen!

The best part about green screen production with Do Ink, is that you do not need a lot of expensive equipment to get started. Don’t have a green screen? Use a bed sheet or a shower curtain taped to your wall. Or, create your own mini green screen by painting the inside of a clean pizza box green. Anything can be a green screen! Add an iPad with the app and you have a green screen studio.

There are more classroom uses for this app than I can list in this post. If you want to get your creative juices flowing, then click on over to Twitter and check out what teachers are sharing with Do Ink (@doinktweets), #doink and  #greenscreen. There are tons of inspiring examples of what students can do and create with this app. If you need more ideas, then head over to Amazon or your local independent bookstore and pick up Todd’s book, Green Screen Maker Space Projects.

How are you using Green Screen in your classroom? What amazing things are your students creating? Share!

 

 

Beautiful Web Pages Made Easy With Adobe Spark Page

This is not the first time I have written about Adobe Spark. For last year’s 30 tools in 30 days, I reviewed both Spark Post and Spark Video. You can read my review of Post and Video by following the links. However, I did not review the final tool in this suite – Spark Page.

Visual Portfolios and Digital Stories

Adobe Spark Page gives you the same simple tools you find in Post and Video. In a short time, you can create visually stunning web pages. Like Post and Video, Spark Page’s main focus is on the images. There are several tools to help you create a page that highlights your images.

Here are a couple of examples of pages made using Adobe Page.

The first I created for the STEM Read Podcast to display pictures we took while recording an episode with author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and Dr. Rhonda Robinson. (Here is a link to the episode if you would like to give it a listen.) The second is a sample of my photography and the third is my daughter’s art portfolio.

You can see from the examples that the pages you create are more than just static web pages. There are some nice scrolling and image display features. Want to see more, check out their inspiration gallery.

Key Features

Make Images  Videos and Web Stories for Free in Minutes   Adobe Spark.png
Adobe Spark Page – Easy Editing

Adobe page has a ton of features that make this an easy tool for building a visual web page.

  • Formatted blocks – You build your web page in blocks. You can select the type of block you want and then add your images, text, video, or buttons.
  • Embed videos – You can add videos easily to your site. Create videos with Spark video and then add them to your page. with a simple click.
  • Upload images from anywhere – Not only can you upload images from your computer, Spark Pages also connects to Lightbox, Dropbox, Google Photos, and Google Drive. If you don’t have your own images, you can search through Adobe’s bank of stock images.
  • Apply Themes – Change the look and feel of your page by applying different themes. If you have a paid account, you can set up a custom theme using your brand management settings.
  • Free – Just like the other Spark tools, Page is free. However, you can upgrade to the premium account if you want to manage the look and feel of your brand and remove any Adobe branding. Read more about the pricing on their Pricing Page.
  • Adobe Hosting – Adobe hosts all of the pages you create using page. You do not need an external host.
  • Sharing – When you publish your page, you get a shareable link. You can also share your page through Facebook, Twitter, Google Classroom, or email.
  • Link updating – If you update or modify your page, you can update the link to push out the changes. No new URL needed.

In the Classroom

All of the Adobe Apps are wonderful tools for the classroom. With Spark Page, your students can create amazing visual stories that look like they have years of training. Here are just a few ideas for how to use this with your students.

  • Art portfolios – As you can see from the example above, Page is a fantastic tool for creating visual portfolios. I like the combination of text and images that allows your artists to write captions and artist’s statements about their work.
  • Informational web page – Instead of having them write a research report, have them put together an information page about a topic they researched.
  • Visual resume – Have students create a visual about me page. Focus on different audiences. What would a professional page look like versus a personal page? This is also a good time to talk about what you should and should not share online.
  • Science journal – Create a science journal that documents an inquiry project through text and image.
  • Reflective journal – In my visual literacy class, I do a Photo A Week challenge. Having my students create a reflection journal using their images would be a great way to capture their learning.
  • Digital Stories – Whether your students are creating works of fiction or non-fiction narratives, have them tell their story through building a page.
  • Class magazine – Turn your students into journalists and have them create a class magazine. Assing different content sections to different teams and let them work together to publish a magazine. Create multiple pages and pull them together into a Google site or other website tool.

There are so many other ways you could use Spark Page in your classroom. You could even create your own visual resume to highlight some of your own professional wins.

If you do not have a free account yet, go sign up for one today and start playing with the amazing set of tools!

HoloGLOBE: A World of Data in the Palm of Your Hand

I’ve already written about the MERGE Cube but we have only touched on the different MERGE Cube apps you can use in the classroom. If real-time data visualization is your thing then you need to get HoloGLOBE by Institute for Earth Observations at Palmyra Cove.

Data in Your HandScreenshot_20181114-055240

Using the MERGE Cube, HoloGLOBE uses satellite imagery to create a beautiful 3D image of the Earth.  Viewers can then add overlays of near-real-time data from NASA and NOAA.

There is a lot of data packed into this handheld version of our big blue marble. Using the in-app controls, you and your students can view current weather conditions and clouds, land and sea temperatures, wildfires, drought conditions, snow and ice coverage, and real-time earthquakes. It is amazing to see the data mapped across the surface of the earth.

In the satellite view, you can track satellites and see the relationship between the position of the sun and the seasons. There are also some videos embedded in the app that display on the virtual Earth. Learn about tracking the big three hurricanes from the 2017 season.

Different data views from HoloGLOBE.
Different data views from HoloGLOBE.

HoloGLOBE is intended to be a tool for exploring the Earths systems through satellite data and helping students learn how to make observations from data. According to the Palmyra Cove website, there are some expansions under development that will allow students and citizen scientists to share their observations and interpretations.

The Details

HoloGLOBE is free and available for both Andriod and iOS platforms. You can use it without the MERGE Cube but there is something cool about holding the Earth in your hands. You can also pair this with a VR/AR headset, such as the MERGE Goggles, for a stereoscopic view. The app is recommended for grades 5 – 12.

In the Classroom

There are many different ways to use this in the classroom. In addition to having students explore the data available, you could have them connect their observations to current articles, news headlines, or research reports to see if the data supports the claims made in the texts. Or, they could start with the texts and make predictions about what they will see when they look at the data. For example, have them research current earthquake reports or wildfire reports. Based on their research, what would they expect the data to look like? Then have them explore the data visualizations to see if their predictions were accurate. Spend some time reflecting on what they read versus what they saw. For me, I was surprised to see the number of earthquakes mapped across the globe.

For some virtual collaboration, why not have classrooms in different parts of the world, discuss their local data. The students could share photographs of their environment compared to screenshots of their HoloGLOBE data and discuss how they are experiencing the conditions found in the data.

There are a lot of great classroom applications for this app. Whether you are integrating it into a classroom lesson or just using it to give your students a different view of global data, HoloGLOBE is a beautiful application that will help you and your students appreciate this amazing planet.

 

CoSpaces Edu: Virtual Reality Builder

I want to build amazing worlds. I’m a little intimidated by virtual world builders and 3D modeling tools. Fortunately for me, and other aspiring world builders, there are new tools out there that are easy to use and can help us create our spaces. CoSpaces Edu is one of those tools.

CoSpaces Edu Overview

I want to start this post by saying that this tool is amazing. There are so many features that I cannot cover all of them. I’m going to try and provide a basic overview that answers the question – What the heck is CoSpaces Edu? Hopefully, that sparks your interest and you can take it from there. There is just so much to cover on this application. I spent about an hour playing around so I know I did not uncover everything it can do. I also only explored the free version, not the pro version. My overview will be limited but hopefully helpful.

What the Heck is CoSpaces Edu?CoSpaces EDU

CoSpaces Edu is a virtual reality world builder for the classroom. According to their website, CoSpaces Edu is a place where teachers and students can create virtual reality experiences and animate them using code. To learn more, read through their brochure.

CoSpaces is browser based but you can also download an app for your mobile device so you can view your creations.

To give it a try, set up a free basic account. This account will allow you to create two virtual spaces. If you want to create more spaces and unlock a whole host of advanced features, upgrade to the Pro plan. The Pro plan starts at $3.50 per seat with a minimum of 30 seats. If I were teaching on a regular basis, I would consider this. It seems like a reasonable price for all of the features you unlock. There is even a new MERGE Cube Pro add-on coming soon. Read more about this add-on over on the CoSpaces blog. That could be the tipping point for me. Learn about the pricing plans on the Plans page.

Key Features

CoSpaces is a pretty powerful, yet easy to use VR creation tool. As I said earlier, there are too many features to list in this one blog post, so I’ll list some of my favorites. Tutorial Welcome

  • Support and tutorials – Getting started with creating VR experiences can be intimidating. When you first sign-in to CoSpaces, you are launched into a great tutorial. I walked through it in about 10 minutes and was ready to make my first space. The Welcome space takes you step-by-step through creating your own space and working in a 3D environment. Don’t skip this. It is very helpful.
  • Easy to use Toolbox – I created my first space in a matter of minutes. I set the environment. Then added a bunny and made the bunny eat. I needed a tree so I added it and changed the scale. I then added a flying butterfly and a pink backpack. Because, well, why not. The drag and drop interface made it easy to add. The grid and 3D guides also make it easy to get your assets right where you need them.
CoSpace Bunny
The toolbox as I created my first bunny.
  • Class Management – CoSpaces is made for educators. From your dashboard, you set up classes and manage assignments. Students join your class using a join code. I really like that CoSpaces is COPA and FERPA certified. Good to know.
  • Resources and Support – If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I am a stickler for high-quality resources and support. For me, a tech tool is not useful if it does not include good support resources. CoSpaces passes the HoPinkTech support test. There are some great onboarding resources including a handbook and tutorials. There is a nice bank of lesson plans for STEM/Coding, Social Science, ELA, and Arts and Media. Not a huge list but some great ideas to get you started. They also have some IRL goodies for your classroom such as posters and student certificates. On the support side, there is a Tech Check to make sure you are using the right tech, FAQs, a list of teacher Ambassadors, and a user forum that looks pretty active.
  • Gallery – All registered users have access to the Gallery. Here you can browse through VR spaces created by other users. It is cool to see what folks have created. A good place to get some inspiration.

Bottom Line

As I stated earlier, there is too much to this tool to fit into a short blog post. I’ve only scratched the surface. The bottom line is that CoSpaces Edu is a great way to get started in VR creation. The free basic account gives you enough features to explore so you can decide if you want to start using it in your class. It makes VR creation accessible and not so scary. Believe me, VR creation is scary for me. I am excited about the new integration with MERGE Cube. That is a feature to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing what teachers and students create.

I’ll close with a short virtual tour of my Bunny Tree space. Let the little butterfly and sweet bunny take you to a relaxing space while you wonder what’s in the backpack and why it was left under the tree. Enjoy!

Make your classroom eLibrary Epic! – Epic! Books for Kids

This post goes out to all you bibliophiles out there who can’t seem to get enough books for your classroom. Epic! is a digital library with, according to the website, “over 25,000 books, videos, quizzes, and more!”

Build Your eLibraryEpic

Anyone can create an account and start reading some of today’s most popular picture books and early reader chapter books.

For parents, the first 30-days is free. After that, it is $7.99 a month – which includes no ads and no in-app purchases.

For educators and librarians, registration is free. This comes with a whole host of great resources.

Epic! for Educators and Librarians

I was so impressed by all the resources available for educators and librarians on Epic! Here’s a quick rundown of my favorites.

  • Class management tools – Educators can invite their students to their elibrary using a class code, copy/paste in a class roster or import a roster from Google Classroom. From your class roster, you can assign books and quizzes and share information with your student’s families. Your class roster also lets you monitor student progress on assignments and quizzes.
  • Curated Library – You can build your own custom collections by exploring the entire library. You can share your collections with the educator community or browse through collections from other community members. I have already started building my Unicorn collection. Not only do they have some of the newest titles, I  even found one of my own childhood favorites – Morgan and Me. The Serendipity Book by Stephen Cosgrove. Yay!
  • Vast Collection of Media – Epic! is not only books. You can also find videos, audiobooks, and read-aloud books.
  • Integrated assessments – You can create quizzes right in the books to check for student comprehension. Go to your dashboard to see how your students did on their quizzes.

    Epic! Resources for educators.
    Epic! Resources for educators.
  • Resources – I am most impressed by the resources available for educators. Everything you need to get started is included right there on the website, including a Quick-Start Guide, full guidebook,  a parent letter, a Back-to-School presentation, lesson plans, classroom decorations, and (my personal favorite) the Readerpillar! Look at how cute it is. Your students will love reading and adding to the Readerpillar.

If you have a classroom and struggle to keep your class library up to date with new books or you want to create collections based on the ever-changing interests of your students, then Epic! is the eLibrary for you. Head over to Epic! to create an account and start building your Readerpillar today!

Epic! might just be what you need to help cure your book addition. Ok, not really, we know that that can’t be cured. Just go read.

Travel the World with Google VR Tour Creator

Virtual field trips are my new obsession. I love them. They curb my wanderlust just a little. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at creating my own but my lack of a 360 camera makes it difficult. And, no matter how much I beg, no one will buy me one. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Here is what you need to know about 360 cameras.) I should have known that Google would have a tool to help me solve my lack of 360 camera dilemma and fill my need for creating VR tours.

Google VR Tour Creator

Google VR Tour Creator is an easy to use tool for creating VR tours using either the 360 views from Google Street View or your own 360 images.

Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.
Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.

Google VR Tour Creator has everything you would expect from a Google tool. Easy log-in with your Google account, intuitive interface, and easy to use features. In a matter of minutes, you can create interactive 360 tours of anywhere Google street view has been or, if you have your own 360 footage, you can upload your own images.

Key Features

There are so many cool features of this tool. I’m shocked that I have not played with it earlier. Here are just a few.

Search Google Maps for street views.
Search Google Maps for street views.
  • It’s free.
  • Use Google Street View to find 360 images for your tour. You can easily search Google maps and move your little street view person around to find the perfect shot.
  • Add interactive features to your tour. Using the development screen you can…
    • add a scene description,
    • ambient music,
    • scene narration,
    • identify points of interest,
    • add image overlays (you can only add images, no video or 3D models),
    • and points of interest narration.
  • If you are not sure how to get started, you can choose from the wide variety of templates to help you. Each template is a sample virtual tour with editable elements.
  • Once complete, your tour is published to Poly. You can choose the visibility level. List it publicly or leave it unlisted.
  • Device agnostic. You can view your tour on the computer or use VR apps.
  • Easy to use. My little sample tour below took less than 20 minutes to create.

In the Classroom

Google VR Tour Creator is a great way to get your students started in creating VR experiences. Imagine, instead of reading a report on a location, you can view a 360 tour that includes music, narrative, informative pop-ups, and photos. Not only are your students researching and writing about a place they are also building important media skills. The best part is that there is no special equipment is needed, just a computer and a Google log-in. Even your youngest students should be able to navigate through this application and create their own virtual tour. If you have a 360 camera, they can even take their own footage and incorporate it into their creation.

If you are like me and you do not have the joy of a 360 camera in your life, never fear. Google once again has your back. Download the free Google Cardboard Camera app. I have not yet tried it but, I will give it a shot this weekend. It might be a no-cost alternative to a 360 camera.

There are so many ways you can use VR Tour creator in your classroom. I’m excited to start creating my own virtual tours and playing around with all it can do. What are you creating with VR Tool Creator? Have your students used it? Share your ideas!

Interactive Lessons with Nearpod

I create a lot of presentations and facilitate a lot of learning sessions. I’m always looking for new ways to spice up my sessions and engage my students. Nearpod is a web application that might be the answer to my engagement challenge.

Nearpod Overview

I’ve been hearing about Nearpod for quite some time now but have not had an opportunity to explore it. I feel like a am a little late to the Nearpod party. Better late than never, right?

Nearpod is basically a library of interactive presentations that you can use with students. You, the teacher, can launch a presentation and present as usual. Your students can join your presentation on their device by using your presentation join code. Once they join, they can follow along on their device. As you advance, their version advances too.

In addition to the regular slides, you can include interactive slides for your students. This includes open-ended questions, quizzes, slide they can draw on, interactive simulations, VR tours, and more. As you move through your slides, your students can respond to questions so you can do an on the fly check for understanding. This is what excites me about Nearpod. Below you see an example of one of the interactive slide. I’ve added the Draw It feature so my learners can respond to my question by adding hand-drawn notes.

A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.
A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.

Features

Nearpod has many great features.

Lesson Library
Lesson Library
  • Content Library – You do not have to create all of your content from scratch. There is an extensive library of content. You can explore the bank of free and for purchase lessons, preview content, and save the ones you want to your personal library. Lessons have been created by Nearpod partners such as PhET and iCivics as well as Nearpod educators.
  • Customize and Create – You can customize lessons from the library or create your own. I uploaded one of my presentations and it was super easy to add interactive slides.
  • VR Integration – You can add VR field trips right into your presentation. Students can explore 360 images and then respond to questions.
  • Student Reports – As your students interact with your content, all their responses are displayed on your dashboard. You can view reports to see how your students are understanding the content.
  • PD and Support –  For me, one of the most important features is available support for teachers. Nearpod does not disappoint. There is a great, self-paced tutorial. I walked through it and found it easy to follow and clear. In addition, on their resource page, you can join live webinars, watch on-demand webinars or watch one of the many video tutorials. I love that the videos tutorials are only 60 seconds. You can also join the Nearpod community on Facebook or get tons of ideas on the Nearpod blog.
  • Sign-up – You can use your existing credentials from Google or MS O365 to create an account. Or you can sign-up with your email.
  • Pricing – Nearpod has several tiers of pricing.  You can find them outlined on their pricing page. It is free to sign-up and get started. There are also several free lessons you can use, with many more that you can purchase. Lessons seem to run from $2.99 and up. With a free account, you can create your own lessons and add some of the interactive features. Others, such as the Draw It tool, are only available with a paid account. However, you can sign up for a free trial to give it a test run.
  • Notes – It looks like there is a new feature that allows your students to take notes on their own device as you give your presentation.

As you can see there are many great features to Nearpod. I know that I have missed many.

I’m excited to give it a try as part of my professional development workshops and with the students we work with. Are you using Nearpod? How do your students like?

Create Interactive Lessons from any Web Page with InsertLearning

The internet is filled with amazing content. I am always assigning web articles, blog posts, and other web content to my students. I hope they read it deeply and critically think about what they are reading but, I can’t really be sure.

Insert, InsertLearning, formally known as DocentEDU.

Add Interactivity

InsertLearning is a Chrome extension that lets you embed interactive elements, such as discussion questions, multiple choice questions, and other media into any web page. Below is an example of a web page with highlighted text and a discussion question.

Common Core in Action 10 Visual Literacy Strategies Edutopia
Highlight text and add questions to any site using the toolbar.

You can even embed other media such as YouTube videos, Google Slides presentations, or anything with an embed code.

Common Core in Action 10 Visual Literacy Strategies Edutopia (1)
YouTube Video embedded in a website.

There is a long list of apps that can be added to a web page. I’m sure all your favorites are there. Such as FlipGrid, Thinglink, Edpuzzle, and more. The complete list is available once you have created your free account. It even includes easy to follow tutorial videos like the one below.

As you can see, it is super easy to add interactive elements and there are several templates that can help you based on the type of webpage you are using. For example, if I am assigning a current event news article, InsertLearning has sample lessons and discussion questions. Take a look here.

Key Features

There are tons of great features with this tool. Here are just a few.

  • Free access to all features –  InsertLearning is a free Chrome extension. With the free version, you can create an account, create 5 lessons, manage unlimited students, and use ALL the features, not just a limited set. If you want to create more than 5 lessons, there are a few tiers of pricing. An individual teacher can add unlimted lesson creation for only $40 a year. Here is more information on the pricing packages.

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    Easily assign lessons to multiple classes.
  • Assign and Manage Lessons – The dashboard is simple to use. You can create classes and assign lessons to one or multiple classes. Students join classes using a join code. You can even push your lesson out using Google Classroom or via an assignment link. You can also manage student scores through your dashboard.
  • Student Dashboards – Students can use their Google login to create a student account. Once they are signed in, they can use the class code to join the class. They now have a list of all the lessons assigned.
  • Tutorial videos – Ther is a substantial video tutorial library to help you make the most of all the features. You can find them on YouTube under DocentEDU. I already mentioned that this tool connects with many of our other favorites. The video library has videos that will help you incorporate those tools into your lessons.
  • Teacher Ambassadors – InsertLearning was developed by two classroom teachers. They have also created a community of educators called Ambassadors.  It seems like a wonderful support community. You can even become an Ambassador by running your own PD session. InsertLearning supplies all the training materials.

I am excited to start using this in my classes. My courses are mainly online and I’m always looking for discussion board alternatives. I think this has a lot of potential to add engagement to my online readings assignments.

Thank you InsertLearning for a powerful online learning tool!

An Interactive Story with 57° North for MERGE Cube

This app goes out to all my fellow children of the 80s who loved a good Choose Your Own Adventure book. The team at Mighty Coconut have created a beautiful augment reality choose your own adventure story for the MERGE Cube called 57° North.

The Story

57° North is the story of two cousins who are stranded on an island in the Alaskan wilderness. Their survival is in your hands as you choose the direction of the story. The story is intense and action-packed. (I’m going to try to give no spoilers here – so this will be vague.) It is part survival, part mystery as you help the two main characters navigate through the plot. According to the Mighty Coconut website, the story is for 10 and up and should take about an hour to go through once. However, just like any good CYOA story, you have to go back and try all the different paths to see how the story changes.

The Artwork

As you can see from the video and the screenshots, the artwork is gorgeous. Viewing this on the MERGE Cube gives you some depth to the artwork. As you can see in the video, you can move the scene around. The music also pairs really well with the feel of the story. Overall, it is a very nice piece of media.

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To watch the story, you need a Merge Cube (read more about MERGE Cube here), a device, and the 57° North app. The app will run on both iOS and Android. It costs a mere $2.99, less than an ebook. You might also want a set of headphone. The sound works best with headphones and you won’t have nosy folks looking over your shoulder won=der what you are watching. To start the story, open the app with your device and scan the MERGE Cube. The story will launch. What I really like is that you do not need to finish the whole story in one sitting. If you close the app mid story, it will remember where you are and pick up where you left off. You move through the scene by rotating the MERGE Cube. As you can see in the video, when you come to a decision point, you rotate the cube to make your choice. It is a fun way to experience the story.  You can also play this using MERGE VR/AR goggles instead of the MERGE Cube.

In the Classroom

There are many different ways you could use this in the classroom. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Engage those reluctant readers. Get them hooked with this type of interactive storytelling and then hand them a vintage CYOA book or a great graphic novel.
  • Use the plot points in the story to explore STEAM concepts – STEM Read style. Visit the STEM Read website for inspiration. There are some great STEAM concepts in this story to explore.
  • Have your students create their own branching story. They can write one and leave it as a text-based story or turn it into a graphic novel.  Have them create a virtual version of their story. Go old school text-based with a tool like Twine. Read my review of Twine from last year’s 30 in 30. Or use visual tools like PowerPoint, Google slides or even Prezi, to create a digital version of their non-linear story.  I would love to figure out a way to have students create their own virtual stories on MERGE Cube. Maybe I will discover that as I explore the other apps.

I hope this is just the beginning of this type of storytelling. I also hope that Mighty Coconut continues to make interactive stories. I visited their website and there are a couple more VR/AR games available. They are not stories like 57 North but they do look cool. I really want to check out Laser Mazer! I might have to add that to this months list!