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.
  • – 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.
  • –  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!


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

360 Images Made Easy with Google Cardboard Camera

I have lamented before about how I do not have a 360o camera. In fact, I complained about it extensively in my Google VR Tour Creator post. It makes it difficult to hop on the 360o image bandwagon and create VR experiences. However, I did find that the Google Cardboard Camera app that helps to satisfy my 360o cravings.

App Overview

The Google Cardboard Camera is a very simple app that allows you to create 360o images with or without sound. These images are saved to your device, or in Google Photos so you can use them in other applications such as Google VR Tour Creator. This app is available for both Android and Apple products.

For a free app using your phone’s camera and not a real 360o camera, these are not bad. When you take a picture, a center line guides you as you rotate to capture your surroundings. If you go too fast, the app will tell you too slow down. When complete, you have a super panoramic image.

Using my phone’s camera, the center of the image looks pretty good, not a lot of distortion or vertical banding. However, it doesn’t capture a really wide angle top to bottom. So, it is not true 360o, more like 270o. You can see my full image below.

360 view of Chicago on Columbus
360 view of Chicago on Columbus

When viewed through a Google Cardboard or other VR viewer, it looks pretty cool.

My VR View
My VR View

In the Classroom

Your students will really enjoy this app. It is a great tool for them to get started with creating their own virtual field trips. Using their devices they can quickly and easily take pictures and then use them in other applications.

If you are looking for a high quality 360o camera alternative, this is obviously not it. If you are looking for a free tool to get you started in creating 360o images and VR, then this is most certainly something to try.

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!

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 26

Day 26:

If you use videos in your classroom in any way, you need to check out is an open source notetaking tool that integrates into Google Drive. Welcome Screen
To begin, load a video.

Load any online video into and takes notes as you watch. Your video notes are time-stamped and synced to the video.

Time stamped notes synced with the video
Video notes are synced and time-stamped.

Notes are saved into your Google Drive for easy access and sharing. They can also be shared or exported into Evernote.

Key Features

There are several features that make a tool worth exploring for your classroom.

  • Simple video upload. All you need is a URL. (Note when using YouTube –  I first tried to use the URL from Share but it did not load. I had to copy the URL in the navigation bar and then it loaded perfectly.)
  • Adjust the video speed to slow down or speed up the video as you watch.
  • Notes synced with video. If you edit your notes, you automatically jump back to that point in the video.
  • Save notes so you can review, edit, or add later.
  • Easy to use with no training.
  • Share your notes with others. Support Screen
Support Screen

Since is an open source tool, I did not expect much in the way of support. However, they do have a Feedback and Support button that leads you to their Knowledge Base. It contains some good tutorial videos and articles on how to use You can also leave feedback or browse active discussions.

Classroom Connections

There are so many different ways you can use in your classroom.

Teacher Uses
  • Take notes on videos you share with your students to highlight key ideas or draw attention.
  • Write reflection or comprehension questions and sync them to specific points in the video.
  • Use as an assessment tool and share feedback on student-created videos.
Student Uses
  • Turn watching assigned videos from passive “Sit and Get” into active listening. They can share their notes with you so you can assess comprehension.
  • Make it easier to incorporate videos into research. Students select their own videos and take notes that support their research.
  • Support collaborative video editing. If student teams are producing videos, they can watch rough cuts and share production notes.
  •  Promote active questioning. Students watch assigned video and use to capture thoughts, ideas, and questions.

Use anytime you want students to engage with videos on a deeper cognitive level. is an easy to use notetaking tool that can promote active listening skills. Use with your students or for your own video watching needs.

For more video tools check out my past posts on Edpuzzle and Adobe Spark Video.


30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 18 QR Codes and Google Forms

Day 18: QR Codes and Pre-filled Google Forms

Today’s tool is not a tool but a tip for a tool most of you already use mashed with a tip for another tool you already use. In simple words, how to create QR codes that open a Google form with pre-filled fields.

Why would you want to do this you ask. Isn’t the better question, Why would you not First the how, then I’ll give you some whys.

The steps are simple.

  1. First, open your form. (Be sure you are in edit mode, not preview.)
  2. Open the More menu. Up in the right hand corner of the screen, you should see the More menu, the three vertical dots right next to the smiling face associated with your Google account.
  3. Select, “Get pre-filled link.” This will open your form so you can enter date.
  4. Enter the information in the fields you want pre-filled. Choose one or all. Its up to you.
  5. Click submit.
  6. A URL will appear at the top. This link will open the form again with the data you entered already filled in.
  7. Copy that link into your favorite QR code generator.
  8. Save it. Print it. Scan it. Boom.

That’s it. When you scan the QR code, you will open the form with your data pre-filled.

Cool, right?

One way to use this in the classroom is to give each student a QR code with their name pre-filled into a form of your choice. When scanned, they open the form and it already has their name. Your form can ask them if they understood today’s lesson or if they need more information about a topic. You could use this for:

  • Attendance
  • Check ins
  • Exit slips
  • Sign-up sheets
  • Formative assessments

The possibilities are endless. Any time you want to have some pre-set data combined with custom entries. For example, I just set this up for a game we did as part of our STEM Read program. We created a store scenario where teams had to buy goods. Each item for purchase had its own QR code. When scanned, the item name, price, and other details pre-populated. The players entered their group number and the quantity they wanted to buy. It was a super easy way to track what they bought as the game played out.

Next time you are using a Google form to collect data and want to simplify the process by having some data pre-entered, think about using QR Codes that open pre-filled forms.

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 16 Fireshot

Day 16: Fireshot

Almost every day, I need to capture a screenshot for some type of project. Whether I’m writing a blog post or a user guide or creating a presentation for a workshop, a quick screen capture of a web page helps to enhance my work.

There are many screen capture tools out there such as the incredibly powerful Snagit from Techsmith. However, there are some powerful free tools out there that also do a great job. I have just started using the Chrome extension called Fireshot.

Fireshot is a free tool that allows you to capture full web pages or custom selections. It is available for several different browsers. I use it as a Chrome extension. When I am on a website that I need to capture, I click on the Fireshot icon in my extensions, select the type of screen capture I would like to take, and take my shot. It is fast and easy.

With Fireshot, you can capture an entire page, only the visible part of the page capture a custom selection (my favorite tool). Save your images in different file formats, including a PDF, or send your image to applications such as OneNote or email. Vey handy.

One thing to note, the default file name of your captured image is really long. You are going to want to change the name before you save.

There are more advanced features available in the Pro version. However, I’ve had good luck with the free version.  I have to admit, I’m currently using the 10-day free trial of the pro version. Meh. I miss the simplicity of the free version. I wish I could cancel my trail and go back to the other version. It’s not bad. There are some great features, but I’m not a huge fan of change and my tool has changed. I’m sure that by the end of my trail I will love this version too. (Granted, I’ll still go back to the free version because, you know, its free.)

In short, Fireshot is a useful Chrome extension. Since I added it over a week ago, I have used it every day.

Yes, I have noted the irony that this post is about a screen capture tool and I have not included a single screenshot. So, here you go.

Obligatory Screenshot

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 11 Awesome Table

Day 11: Awesome Table

While working on a project for work this week, I was on the hunt for a way to take data from a Google spreadsheet and display it in a dynamic leaderboard. I know that I could have just spiffed up my Google Sheet, but I was looking for something more dramatic. My other problem was that it needed to be easy to set up and update without a lot of coding. It has been a long time since I have coded from scratch and I did not have the time or patience to teach myself on the fly. A colleague came to my rescue and suggested I try the Web app Awesome Table. So I did. I was rather pleased with the results.

Awesome Table integrates with Google Drive and links to a Google Sheet for the data source. To make the sheet compatible, you might need to tweak the format. The sheet headers must follow the given format (no special characters) and you must include a blank row under your header row. This row is reserved for parameters and filters. It sounds a bit complicated but if you follow the clearly written support documentation, it should be no problem to set up. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was.

I was able to create an interactive leaderboard from an existing spreadsheet in about five minutes. It even updates if my source data changes.

Leaderboard sorted by Brag Totals.

My leaderboard is not really pretty but if you are more tech-savvy than I, you can create an HTML template and Custom CSS to pretty it up. I might shake the rust off of my HTML skills and see if I can make my leaderboard a bit more dramatic.

Awesome Table has other templates for visualizing your data. From creating custom maps, photo slideshows, and data dashboards to visually pleasing announcements, product lists, and people directories. I have not played with these templates but if they are as easy as the leaderboard then I’m excited to give it a try.  I’m intrigued by the photo slideshows and custom maps.

Screenshot of some of the available templates.

I can also take this leaderboard (or any of the Awesome Table views) and embed it in a Google Site or other website. I used the new Google Sites and the app integrated nicely. As I mentioned before, the support documentation is fairly good. It was easy to follow and answered most of my questions. It looks like there is also an active G+ support community.

I know that I have just scratched the surface of what this app can do. I’m adding this to my “Explore Deeper” list. Definitely, one to check out if you want to take your data tables from “Blah.” to “Whoa!” or if you want to gamify your classroom with custom leaderboards. I’d also like to see what a data dashboard might look like. Oh, did I mention it’s free? Yea. That’s 50 bonus points right there.