Category Archives: Apps

Tidbits from TCEA 2016

My days spent at #TCEA16 last week were motivating and extremely inspiring.  This week, I would like to select a few highlights to share with you. Today, I have a hodgepodge of some of the interesting things I learned that were new to me at the conference.

  • Some note-taking mind mapping tools from Richard Byrne: Text2Mindmap, Timeline JS, and RealTime Board
  • If you haven’t tried Seesaw yet for student portfolios, many speakers highly recommended it.  It also has Google Classroom integration (I’ve been waiting b/c I want to see if it’s right for our school, and I don’t want to ask parents to subscribe to one more thing until I think it’s a good long-term solution.)
  • Chromaholics Anonymous from Jim Holland and Kenny Pinkerton offers a ton of tips and tricks for using the Chrome browser.
  • From Leslie FisherEdPuzzle allows you to include open-ended questions with the videos. GoFormative allows students to respond on a whiteboard and supports Google Classroom. is great for video conferencing using a link or app on mobile devices, and up to 8 people can participate.

For more things I learned at TCEA 2016, check out these posts from earlier this week:

Bring People Together


My days spent at #TCEA16 last week were motivating and extremely inspiring.  This week, I would like to select a few highlights to share with you.  Today’s post is about Sway, a presentation tool.

Sway is a tool from Microsoft that some might call PowerPoint on Steroids.  Sway is free, but you will need an Office or Microsoft account to use it on your Windows 10 computer, iPhone, or iPad.  It does not appear to be available on Android or Mac.

The presentation I saw about Sway at TCEA was called, “Walk This Sway,” which you can find here.  One of the unique things that sets this slide show maker apart from others is that it allows you to create a horizontal or vertical show.  Shana Ellason, who spoke about Sway, provided this example of a horizontal presentation. According to her, Sway provides a lot of content that makes it easy to use to create interactive multimedia presentations.  It also allows for easy collaboration.

We tend to use slide shows more as collection tools than presentation tools in my classroom, but I can see how the novelty and unique features of Sway could be used to add “pizzazz” to a student’s research report.  If you’re tired of Prezi, Glogster, Powerpoint, and Google Slides, you might want to try Sway instead.

Microsoft Sway

Minecraft EDU

My days spent at #TCEA16 last week were motivating and extremely inspiring.  This week, I would like to select a few highlights to share with you.  Today’s post is all about Minecraft EDU – something I know nothing about, but will rely on the experts to advise you.

For awhile I didn’t get it.  The kids kept talking about Minecraft and showing me ridiculously pixelated figures that made me think we’d gone back to the days of Atari.  When my daughter started playing, I still didn’t understand the appeal.

But the kids kept talking about it.

So, I found myself wandering into a session on Minecraft in Education at TCEA16.

And I got it.

Nicole Hicks and Julie Dillard gave an outstanding presentation that showed real ways Minecraft EDU can be used in the classroom – from timelines to reports on cells and events in history.  Using the creative mode of Minecraft EDU allows students to truly “craft” their own learning, and the engagement is phenomenal.  Definitely check out the presentation I’ve linked for tons of resources and student examples.

So, what’s the cost?  Well, that depends.  During last night’s #edtechchat (which, coincidentally, was about Minecraft in Education) some mentioned that they use the Pocket Edition, which is available on both Android and iOS for $6.99.  I am not sure of the functionality.

Those who use the Minecraft EDU server currently pay for licensing and for the server.  However, Microsoft just acquired Minecraft EDU, and is promising to roll out some changes.  This could possibly bring more features and/or reduce the price per student.  You can read more about that here.  The presenters also gave pricing information for their particular school here.

If you’re still in doubt as to the worthiness of adding Minecraft EDU to your school, here is a link (also obtained during #edtechchat from @DD1Gaming) that will show you how Minecraft can address particular standards.

After seeing the TCEA presentation, I finally “get it.”  I’m going to wait to see what changes come down the pipe from Microsoft, but Minecraft is definitely on my radar for use in the classroom in some way, shape, or form.

screen shot from the 4th Grade Electric Circuit Museum video shared by David Lee EdTech
screen shot from the 4th Grade Electric Circuit Museum video shared by David Lee EdTech


I <3 My Readers!

Looking for ways to build on the anticipation and excitement your students have for Valentine’s Day?  Here are some of the activities I’ve recommended in past years.

I’m always looking for new ideas, though.  I ran across a couple from fellow bloggers that were posted last year around this time.

Christy at Creative Classroom Tools has these great forced association activities called, “A Very Venn Valentine’s.”  I’m totally using these (free download on TPT!) this year!

Minds in Bloom offers some fun “Would You Rather” questions of the non-mathematical variety.

Valentine’s Day Sudoku – I have some other links to online and printable sudoku puzzles here, but these free printables are particularly well-suited for Kinder and 1st graders.

Hopscotch Hearts – I thought it would be fun for my students to use Hopscotch (the iPad coding app) to make something Valentine-y, and they have been working on their own ideas on and off for a couple of weeks.  (You can see what a few of my 2nd graders have done so far here – most of them haven’t finished, yet.)  Then I saw a tweet from Hopscotch about a new tutorial they just posted to make a “Pixel Art Heart.”  My 3rd graders tried it out yesterday and really liked it.  A few of them finished the code and then started modifying it to make the heart bigger or smaller as well as different colors.  A couple of other students messed up on the code and I loved watching their peers working with them to try to figure out where they went wrong. (Because I had absolutely no idea!)

And finally, how about geeking up your day?  Check out these awesome paper circuit cards made by 7th graders! (You can find Chibitronics LED circuit stickers online, or you can use surface-mount LED’s.  Copper tape and coin cell batteries will help you make the circuits.)  For instructions on making greeting cards, visit this post. (UPDATE 2/8/16: Here is a link to the Valentine Cards our Maker Club made this year.)

Screen Shot from Hopscotch Pixel Art tutorial
Screen Shot from Hopscotch Pixel Art tutorial


Thanks to my unquenchable Kickstarter addiction, we have a new addition to our classroom called, “Bloxels.”  Bloxels will look familiar to those of you who have used the free Pixel Press “Floors” app on your iPads.  For that app, you can design video games using paper and the library of symbols provided, scan your design, and play it on the iPad.  The Bloxels kit (made by the same company who brought us Floors) makes this physical modeling even easier by providing a tray and colored cubes to insert to design your games.  With the free Bloxels app, you can take a picture of your finished product and play your game.

Two second grade girls who come to our Makerspace each Friday got to be the first to try out my Bloxels kit.  They absolutely loved dropping the colored blocks in and spent all of their time making their design, so they didn’t have time to actually play their game! The following Friday, they got to test out their masterpiece, and realized very quickly that they had made the game far too difficult to play.    They turned to the included booklet of suggested designs, and picked the first one.  That one, though, was way too easy, according to them.  So they “remixed” it to their complete satisfaction.  As the bell rang for school to start, they both cried out in disappointment, and informed me that they couldn’t wait to make new designs.

To get some more information for this post, I went to the Bloxels website, and was completely surprised to find a lot of support for using Bloxels in schools.  They’ve already created some curriculum integration ideas, and it seems promising that there will be more to come as the site has a link for potential contributors.  There are lesson plans based on the Design Thinking process, as well as recommended activities and a downloadable guide book.  I also love the 13-Bit Builders section that features a diverse group of young game designers.

What I love about this kit is the potential it has for students in any grade level and with a variety of interests to immediately engage. Although my upper grade levels enjoy the “Floors” game, some of them got frustrated when their drawings weren’t recognized by the app because of imprecision, but that doesn’t seem to happen with Bloxels.

The Bloxels app is free, and available on most mobile devices.  You can actually design your games in the app (without the kit), but I think the kit really enhances the experience.  One set is about $50, and there are classroom packs available as well.  Purchase orders are accepted, and you can find more information here.

image from Bloxels home page



Assembly is an iOS app that is particularly suited for those who like to design with shapes.  This is ideal for me because I never took a drawing class in my life.  In addition, my students have been working with Tinkercad (which is all about combining shapes to create) so I am kind of in that frame of mind.

I decided to try Assembly when I saw a blurb that mentioned it is good for creating logos.  I am even less practiced in graphic design than I am in drawing, but I have been looking for a new “Engage Their Minds” logo, and decided to give it a try.

Assembly is fairly intuitive if you’ve used other design programs. You drag shapes onto the screen, and you can then resize, rotate, move, and change their colors.  Put some shapes forward and others back, reverse the image and/or even group them if you so desire.

The free app includes 180 shapes – but I soon realized I needed more.  After about 5 minutes of using the app I decided to invest in the $11.99-never-have-to-buy-another-pack-of shapes-again option because I hate wondering if I could find the perfect shape if I just purchase one more pack, and then discovering that wasn’t the right pack at all.  I’m probably the company’s ideal customer, a non-artist with Delusions of Dazzling Design skills.

Here is my first attempt at designing a logo.  I created all of the letters in “Engage” and “Minds” using shapes in the Assembly app.  Then I imported the image to Type Drawing so I could stamp the “their” part where I wanted.  My husband, who has some experience with graphic design, actually seemed slightly impressed by my first try.

Photo Jan 26, 4 34 21 PM


I have to admit that I had a blast making the logo, even if I don’t end up using it!

Pixite, the maker of the Assembly app, has other creative app options here.  The suite of apps includes a coloring one for those of you who like to administer self-therapy with adult coloring books ;)



Well, it’s Phun Phriday again.  Once a week I post something that has pretty much no educational value, but somehow struck me as interesting during the week.  This week’s post is about an app called, “Stop.”

My daughter likes to turn me on to apps that are trending with her and her friends.  “You probably haven’t heard of it yet, but you’re going to hear about it soon,” is the way she usually prefaces these announcements.

Stop is a free trivia app available on iOS and Android.  The game is rated for 12+.  When you play, you can choose to play someone you know or a random opponent in cyberspace, which is one reason you might not want to introduce the app to younger students.

To start a game, the app randomly selects categories for you.  You can use points to change the categories if you want.  Some sample categories are: “Things you can’t bring on a plane,” “Things that you hide,” or, “My boss is…”

You then spin for a letter.  Again, you can use points to spin again if you don’t like the letter.  Once your letter is chosen, you must try to name something in each category that begins with that letter.  When finished, you pull down the “Stop” bar.  The ending time is the amount of time your opponent is given to answer the same categories with the same letters.

You can receive no points, half points (if it’s spelled incorrectly), full points, or extra points (if it’s a rare word).  Whoever scores the most points on that group of categories wins the round.  Then your opponent begins play for the next round, sending the categories he or she selected, along with the letter and time limit, to you.

Some people have the strategy to just answer one question and pull the Stop bar down, giving their opponents only a few seconds to try to beat their answer (which you won’t see until after your turn is over).  You don’t know how much time you will have if you are the 2nd person to play that round.

As my daughter predicted, I love the game.  I am absolutely terrible at it, but I keep playing – sometimes just to make my daughter laugh with the horrible answers I enter :)

images from Stop screen shots
images from Stop screen shots