Thing #19 – Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling!

I was able to play around a bit with the Storybird tool ( and create a story problem for my students to solve.  In the spirit of Dan Meyers and his Three Act math problems, I created a problem that didn’t necessarily give every piece of information to students, but instead gave them the chance to explore a relatively real world situation and answer in a way that makes sense to the student.  I probably gave away too much information as it is, but it’s a start.  After going through and solving the problem that I have presented, students will be asked to create their own digital story problem.  Not only have I modeled digital storytelling, but I have redefined and modified my original lesson to make a richer, more meaningful experience for students.  I would say that creating their own story problems, sharing, and solving would be much more beneficial than completing a worksheet of story problems.  Every year, I have students that routinely skip the story problems in the homework assignments in the book because they say they are too confusing.  If they begin to create their own story problems, students will be looking at the problem from the other side, hopefully not nearly as intimidated by all of the words anymore!  Here is my Storybird, entitled “Karl Gets Lost”.

Karl Gets Lost


Reactions From Others!

Two of my colleagues looked at this, and they were both amazed.  One happens to be an English teacher, and she couldn’t wait to get her students working on one of these this fall.  The other was a math teacher, and I don’t think she’s stopped talking about it yet.  We have been struggling in the math department for years trying to get students to tackle these story problems.  Perhaps by putting the power of the students’ education into THEIR hands, they will have more of an investment and interest in moving forward.  As much as I loved Storybird, I felt a little limited by having to make my story match the pictures, and I would like to try another source the next time.  Using my own photos and videos to create real world problems might be easier.

Practice with SoundCloud!

I created an account in SoundCloud, and discussed the benefits of digital storytelling for students.  Students reach a different level of thinking as they go through the assignment, and they are provided with multiple means of expression, content, and technology standards.  The audio file is linked below.

SoundCloud Audio Clip on Digital Storytelling


ISTE Standards

1b – Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources – Though the original intent of this thing was to create a story through digital means, I was able to turn this into a story problem for students.  Students can solve the problems and then create their own through the use of the digital storytelling resources.

2c Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources – Not every student thinks like I do, especially when it comes to math.  I am very linear and procedural, but more and more students crave that need for creativity, especially in this digital age.  With digital storytelling tools, students are able to access those types of learning styles that they maybe couldn’t before in the typical math classroom.

3d Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning – The use of digital storytelling tools allows the instructor to model a different way to solve math problems, opening the door for student learning.

4a Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources – Though I have been guilty of  letting this idea slip in the past, through consistent modeling, students will learn the importance of protecting themselves, their creations, and their ideas.  I was sure to include the Creative Commons license on both my Storybird book and my audio recording.

5d Contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession and of their school and community – The SoundCloud resource allowed me to easily share my thoughts and ideas about digital storytelling and its benefits.  Sharing these thoughts on my face of the classroom and the blog shows that I have made a contribution to the teaching profession.

CITW – Best Practices

Summarizing and note-taking – There were a number of storyboard organization sites that were shared in this thing that would allow students to take notes and include the elements of digital storytelling.

Non-linguistic representations – Using photographs, videos, and provided artwork is the essence of digital storytelling.  Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of objectives without the use of the written word.

Setting objectives and providing feedback – A SoundCloud or Audacity audio recording would allow the instructor to upload and provide feedback to a student’s work directly.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The digital story problem book that I created includes questions within the story.  Students are asked about halfway through the book as to what information would be necessary to complete the problem.  Also, there are elements of creating a storyboard for a student’s own story problem that help him/her to organize thoughts.

Identifying similarities and differences – As students work collaboratively and explore the work of others, they will quickly be able to compare the similarities and differences in their stories with that of their peers.  In my particular situation, it would be great if they could see that the stories that they are creating all result in linear functions!



Thing #18 – Dig the Data

Spreadsheets and Charts from School Data!

Using Google Sheets, I was able to take a closer look at my district’s data for the 7th Grade MEAP testing in math.  I looked over a 5 year time-frame, and I was able to investigate how the economically disadvantaged students compared to those without an economic disadvantage.  I sorted the Sheet in the year column, only because it made the most sense.  You can find the Sheet as well as a bar chart by following the link.


Perception and Process Data!

I had to change the questions a bit in my Perceptions and Process data from Thing #17 in order to get some data that I could actually analyze.  I ended up re-asking teachers how many hours they spent outside of the regular class time with students per week, on average, and then what they actually did with students.  From there, I asked teachers if they felt the school was safe and how many referral forms they handed out to students, on average, per week.  The results were quite interesting.  It looks like the more teachers were involved and willing to be advisors, coaches, and tutors outside of the regular class time, the more likely they were to view the school as safe and to give out less referral forms.  I was able to sort the data by first names only, which are fictitious to protect those that were willing to help me out again, and I calculated both sums and averages of the numeric columns.  The chart gives a clear picture of the information.  You can see that they higher the time spent with students, the lower the referrals.  Also, the less time spent with students, overall, the more referrals.  You can find this information in Google Sheets.

In the Classroom!

Online polling could be used in the classroom at the end of a unit exam or test.  I could quickly ask students how much time they spent studying for the assessment, total.  I could then ask them to reveal their letter grade.  I could take those two pieces of information and quickly create a quick and easy spreadsheet and chart that would allow students to see (hopefully) that they more time spent studying does pay off in the end.  This would be done anonymously, of course, to protect student grades.  We could also collect data about how much time students spend watching tv or browsing the internet and compare that to the current grade in the classroom.  I am pretty sure the results would not be surprising to educators or parents.

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – Collecting data and analyzing into some form of useful information certainly models that creative and innovative thinking.

2d Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching – Taking the information from a recent test or even an informal exit slip will give the instructor enough information to inform the direction of the curriculum.

3b Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation – The data that is collected and analyzed could be shared with students, parents, and even members of the community so show progress.  It’s difficult to just say the students are performing better in math, but when you can show them a tangible piece of evidence that supports that claim, the results are difficult to argue.

CITW – Best Practice

Setting objectives and providing feedback – With spreadsheets, it is easy to set a specific objective and track the results.  Perhaps an instructor collects data, ensuring that all students will perform at grade level by the end of the school year.  Through frequent assessments an analysis of data, an instructor can adjust the instruction methods to make every student successful.

Reinforcing effort and providing recognition – That same spreadsheet could be used to determine which students are still struggling and need some extra help.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The very format of a spreadsheet and the chart itself lend themselves to belong in the advanced organizer category.  Encouraging students to look for and understand what the spreadsheet means can allow them to begin to clarify the information.

Non-linguistic representation – The quick and easy charts that can be created with the information provided in the spreadsheet can simply tell the story of the data.

Assigning homework and practice – Students could be assigned the task of creating a spreadsheet and chart, and then analyzing the information.

Identifying similarities and differences – Through some quick analysis of the information collected in the spreadsheet and the chart, the user will easily be able to find some comparisons.  For example, in the chart provided above in part 1, a pattern quickly develops, showing that the economically disadvantaged students are doing poorly both in our district and across the state.  Gaps in the data can be found.

Generating and testing hypothesis – The analysis of this data will allow students both to make a prediction of what the data will show, and to test that prediction.  Students can predict what will happen if they study more, and when the spreadsheet and chart are created, chances are that they will see that the more you study, the better your grade on the test.

Thing #14 – Powerful Presentations


Have you ever had a complete and TOTAL “aha” moment that hit you so hard, you had the strong desire to do 4 weeks of work in one night??  That’s just about where I am with Blendspace.  I have been thinking and experimenting with a number of different tools and ideas for over a year, trying to find what would work the best for my students as I try to move my classrooms to a more blended environment.  I’ve tried a lot of really cool things, but nothing ever really seemed like Goldilock’s “just right” web tool… until NOW!!  I love love love Blendspace, and my mind is reeling with everything I want to do before school starts.  I have created PowerPoints for nearly all of my lessons, but it’s just not enough anymore.  Blendspace allows me to include practice handouts, videos, games, interactive practice…even links to the textbook.  The Blendspace presentation I created for this “thing” has already been posted on my Weebly site, and it will be our first lesson in Algebra this fall.  I can’t WAIT to create even more!

During that first review week of school, I always find it necessary to revisit the order of operations with students as well as the properties of real numbers, and that is exactly what this presentation does.  I intend to get students hooked up with gmail accounts and access to this first Blendspace lesson as soon as possible.  We have an iPad cart that I can use, or I’ll be signing up first thing to get into the computer lab.  Students will go through each page of the presentation, learning and practicing the reviewed skills.  I plan to facilitate this web experience by speaking with individual students or small groups to answer guiding or specific questions as the students are working on the lesson.  This particular lesson addresses each point of the SAMR model.  For substitution and augmentation sections, students will be going through the content pieces (such as the PowerPoint or the graphics that have been presented) and writing down their own notes, interpreting and explaining in their own words, constructing their own methods for understanding the order of operations and properties of real numbers.  For modification, students will have an opportunity to critique, offer suggestions, and give their opinions in the forum as classmates post responses to where the properties of real numbers can occur in real world situations.  Finally, the redefinition comes in as students develop and create a presentation of their own version of the PEMDAS acronym.  There are also a number of “best practice” components built into this presentation, most importantly setting objectives and providing feedback.  Students will be fully aware of what they are learning, and as I am able to be available to individuals and small groups, the feedback on how well they are understanding the material will be very fast.  The built-in quizzes and provided answer keys will also immediately provide that critical feedback students thrive on.


This is a resource that I have been aware of, but I’m not quite sure why I haven’t used it more.  I think the way I will handle each of these lessons is through a multimedia rubric.  Students will be able to earn points based on the handouts they turn in, the tasks they must complete, and the online assessments.  This puts the power of learning into the hands of my students, where it should be… and I can spend more time moving individuals forward, no matter where they are on the learning continuum.

ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – With something as flexible and user-friendly as Blendspace lessons, students will be able to move forward in their math content knowledge through videos, interactive sites, practice, online quizzes,…something above and beyond where they’ve been with their education.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – There is such a wide variety of digital age learning resources, and through the use of Blendspace, I am able to design and develop lessons for students that will take them beyond the walls of the classroom.

Model digital age work and learning – By bringing in an iPad cart and/or taking students to the computer lab on a regular basis for math class, students will be exposed to a different type of math classroom.  The Blendspace lessons that I create for my classes will show students how well the digital age tools can be used for work and learning.

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – Students with special needs can certainly access the Blendspace lessons that I create.  Students with specific learning disabilities can complete certain portions of the lesson.  The videos and additional PowerPoint presentations can be accessed an unlimited number of times, and rather than copying down notes, special needs students can print out the necessary content.  Those with hearing impairments can certainly use the closed-captioned feature on the videos.

5c Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning – The Blendspace lessons can easily be adapted to the newest and best researched digital tools as they become available.  As I read through the updated materials, I can make changes to my Blendspace lessons.

CITW – Best Practices

Setting objectives and providing feedback – As mentioned above, this is the most prominent best practice of the Blendspace lessons simply because the objectives can be plainly stated at the beginning of the lesson for the entire class to see, and then there are multiple opportunities throughout the lesson for both teacher and interactive feedback for students.

Non-linguistic representations – The video and image feature make the Blendspace presentations the perfect opportunity for students to access this best practice.  Students could be asked to make their own Blendspace presentation to teach a particular standard using any of the non-linguistic tools available to them, such as world clouds, images, videos, and so on.

Summarizing and note-taking – As I provide the content to students in the form of PowerPoints and videos, students will have the option to take notes and summarize what they have learned.  There will no longer be the need to copy down every single word they see on the board because it will be there for them throughout the year.  They need to use this best practice to really learn the material.

Cooperative learning – Students could collaborate and work on a Blendspace presentation of their own, sharing the lesson with other students, and perhaps even presenting the information to classmates.

Final Thoughts

I’ve used PowerPoints and Prezi, and even Google Presentations, but I sincerely believe this Blendspace idea is the beginning of something fantastic for my students!  Thanks for bringing this “thing” to our attention!

Thing #13 – Digital Images


Have you noticed yet that there are exclamation points behind every one of my topics in these postings??  It’s only because each and every “thing” I encounter is better than the last, and I’m SUPER excited about sharing all of it in my classroom!  The newest, most exciting thing of all was found at Voki.  I was able to create my own ultra-cool avatar at, I included a background image of my favorite place in the world, Aruba, and I recorded a welcome message before posting it all to my Weebly site.  Take a look at that!


Voki Avatar


I plan on including the link to my Weebly site with the orientation letter that will go home to parents in mid-August, and I’m anxious to hear reactions from students when they encounter my Voki!



This is another site that I can imagine using frequently.  My Student Council representatives take a lot of pictures for the yearbook, and I have typically stored everything on my classroom computer.  This year, the switched out my computer halfway through the year, and I ended up having to download all of the pictures all over again.  With a photo-sharing site such as Snapfish, this would have been so much easier!  As I am looking at this site, I see that there are so many gift options and projects to create.  The possibilities are endless!  I uploaded a beach scene, taken from our last vacation.  The site below should take you to my saved Snapfish photo.


I have heard educators talking about Photopeach before, but I was never sure what all the fuss was about.  Wow!  Yet another amazing “thing” that has immediately sent my mind racing.  With students always wondering where in the world they will ever use math outside of the math classroom, I put together a few slides that will get students thinking about the fact that math is indeed everywhere!  This is a quick icebreaker that I would like to start students with on the first day of school, and perhaps they could even add their own photos to upload to me.  That would definitely make the Photopeach slide show even BETTER next year!  You can find the brief show by clicking here…

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – My Voki avatar that appears on my Weebly site will be the first indication to students and parents what kind of year it will be experienced.  My intention is for my students to be more engaged, opening up that innovative and inventive thinking.

2a Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity – With the photo sharing and editing capabilities of the resources that were shared, student creativity has not limits.

3b Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation – Again, the photo sharing and editing resources will make for an excellent yearbook this year.  Academically, students can use their own photos to create unit projects that will speak volumes as to what they have learned.

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – When students are allowed to edit and share their own photos, they quickly become aware that they are in charge of their own learning.

CITW – Best Practice

1 Non-linguistic representations – Working with photos, editing them, and even creating their own avatar, students will be working with the best practice of non-linguistic representations.  There are no words, but each pictures if worth a thousand of them.

Identifying similarities and differences – Students could take a look at two different pictures, determining what the similarities and differences are in each set of pictures.  Furthermore, they could create a Photopeach slide show that would highlight the similarities and differences in two different math concepts, such as linear and exponential functions.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The instructor of a math classroom could have students create an advanced organizer that will show real world connections that can be made when discussing integers.  There is just SO much that can be done with this “thing”!

Thing #12 – Interactives

Google Earth!

I simply adore this interactive site, and have often been found looking up places here.  For a math class, I could have students locate the birthplaces of famous mathematicians as we explore the history of mathematics.  For our good friend Pythagoras, we need to locate Samos, Greece.  Nearby, there is Vathy, a natural harbor that is near the home of Pythagoras.  It doesn’t appear that Google Earth will allow me to put a placemark, and my desktop was not playing nice with Google Earth, but you can see from this screenshot that there has already been a point created at Vathy.




Vocabulary is something that I struggle with and promise myself that my students need to do more with EVERY year.  With Quizlet, I may actually have found a resource for my students to become more familiar with what vocabulary words we will be using in class.  I created a short set of flashcards with ratio vocabulary words at .  I plan to provide a set of flashcards at the beginning of each unit, encouraging students to practice the words with the promise of a quiz on those same words at the end of the unit.  In the SAMR model, I think this would be an example of the ‘substitution’ area simply because with a given list of vocabulary words, students will not be creating or analyzing anything, they will simply be defining, explaining, comparing, and so on.


Students LOVE games, regardless of what they may or may not be learning along the way.  With MangaHigh (, students can practice specific math content areas through high interest games.  Hovering over each game will give the user an idea of which types of skills will be addressed in the game.  This would be a great site for my Math Remediation class.  These are the students that already feel as though they aren’t very good at math, and the majority of the hour is spent building their confidence.  If students can be successful through a short, interactive game, they may slowly build the positives for math.

ISTE Standards

1 – Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – I think that any instructor that can provide the high-quality, interactive resources that were described in this “thing” will have students eager to take part in their own education.

2b Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress – The Quizlet site, in particular, will allow students to quickly see how well they know the given vocabulary.  They would be able to set individual goals (such as getting at least 80% of the vocabulary words correct) and through the site, the students will be certainly be able to see how well they have achieved these goals.

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – With math interactive sites such as Illuminations and IXL, the instructor is able to provide a variety of lessons that are geared towards several different learning styles, meeting those diverse needs of students.

CITW – Best Practices

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – Students can be asked to locate two cities in the United States that they would like to visit.  Using Google Earth or Google Maps, the students could calculate distances and develop a budget for a vacation that would include the two places.

Assigning homework and practice – The teacher could assign students to practice math vocabulary words through a Quizlet set or through VocabularySpellingCity.  This would provide strong and valuable practice for students.

Non-linguistic representations – The reality of the images provided by Google Earth will not leave anything to the imagination.  Students can look up an actual picture of the Eiffel Tower or the war-torn area of Israel rather than simply trying to visualize the places.  The street-view and ground-view features make the places come to life!

Thing #5 – Collaboration

                                                         Google Drive!

Google Drive

Thank GOODNESS this mystery is solved!  You would think as an instructor for the Blended Learning in the Classroom course, I would be quite proficient with this tool.  I often found myself stumbling through the documents that were shared with me, often pretending that I really knew what I was doing.  However, after being “forced” to both create a Google Doc, share it, and add comments to an existing document, I feel as though I am understanding the process.  I was even able to access the documents from the last course I taught, the same ones that I was quite certain had disappeared into the unknown!

I was able to transfer a lesson that I use in my Algebra class every year, The Shapes of Algebra, into Google Drive and provide a couple of questions in the comment section to make it even better.  I was able to personally invite a few to look at the document, but if you are currently bored out of your mind and would like to take a look, I have it open to anyone that has a link. Feel free to use the “comment” button to add your ideas.

In the classroom, teaching students how to use Google Drive and Google Docs will be an invaluable resource.  In my math classroom, collaborative learning groups could be formed.  I could put an example of student work in Google, share the example with my students in the Drive, and then have the students determine if the student solutions are correct, or if there are errors to correct.  Students could even fix the incorrect solutions.  There is room in the comment sections for students to collaborate and communicate with each other to explain thinking.  Wow!!




There are often times when I go back and forth with colleagues, students, and even parents about what time works best with whom to meet.  There are sometimes as many as 10 emails that go back and forth before a time is decided.  Where has Doodle been all of my life??  In reference to my Shapes of Algebra lesson, I asked a few people to let me know which dates/times would work best to meet and discuss some updates that need to be made to the lesson.  Rather than going back and forth in those emails, I now have the power to take a quick look at a table to determine when we will meet.  This could be used for a group of students that need help in making test corrections, Student Council member that want to meet about yearbook questions, or colleagues that want to meet about curriculum changes.  The possibilities are ENDLESS!!




Well, I must confess that I am a sticky note addict.  I have them everywhere, and even my students know that if it’s not written on a sticky note, it may not ever get completed.  I have instantly fallen in love with Lino, and I suspect this will be a long-lasting relationship.  I realize that there will be several uses for a site like Lino, and I have created a Lino board that will help students through the Shapes of Algebra lesson.  I currently have a few resources posted, and after I am able to meet with someone to update the lesson, I will add even more suggestions and resources.  If you would like to check it out…

HOWEVER, as I was watching the Lino tutorials that I stumbled across, I immediately thought of my Student Council students.  As the junior high adviser for Student Council, I thought this would be an excellent site for students to access.  There is always a list of things that needs to be addressed, anything from Homecoming games to yearbook responsibilities, and with a central location for all of those “things” that need to be done, nothing will be forgotten.  I will give students the capability to add notes, particularly if they have questions that need to be addressed at the next meeting or think of something that needs to be completed.  The different activities could be color-coded to avoid confusion, and I have also included an area for items that need to be finished within the week.  I am very anxious to get this one up and running as the school year will start right off with Homecoming.

ISTE Standards!

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – That collaboration component will allow students to work cooperatively, and their creativity will thrive in the environment that Google Drive provides.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – Without the use of the archaic flash drives and paper documents, accessing documents that are available from any computer, any place is certainly a digital age learning experience.

Model digital age work and learning – As I use resources such as Google Drive, Doodle, and Lino, students will see the technology tools in use, encouraging them to use them as well.

CITW Standards!

Cooperative learning – As students are able to comment on a specific document either synchronously or asynchronously, they will demonstrate cooperative learning characteristics.

Non-linguistic representations – The document that can be shared in Google Drive could easily be an image or organizer that can be updated and adjusted in a shared file.

3 Summarizing and note-taking – Students could easily be assigned to summarize what was learned about linear functions or even share some of the notes taken in class.  These items could be shared in Google Drive.

Assigning homework and practice – Due to the “any place, any time” feature of Google Drive, students can be given a homework assignment, even on snow days through Google Drive.