Category Archives: Student Products


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


Creative Thinking with Hearts

And another bonus post for today!  (Some things just can’t wait to be posted!)  Joelle Trayers gave me this idea on her blog, and if you don’t already read her blog you should!  Her depth and complexity ideas for primary aged children are awesome!!!!!

Anyway, I showed my 1st grade GT students a die-cut heart, and asked them to turn it around and look at it different ways to see what else it could be.  I showed them some of the examples from Ms. Trayers’ class, and told them they could NOT use any of those ideas, even though they were fabulous. To be creative, their drawings would need to be different , not copies.  Then, I let them brainstorm as many ideas as they could – even though many of them said they already knew what they wanted to draw.  And here is where I think I might have improved on the last time I tried this activity – I told them to go around the room to look at everyone’s ideas.

“What does it mean if someone else had the same idea as you?” I asked.

“It isn’t unique!” one girl answered.

“So, is that the idea you want to use today?” I asked.

They all agreed that no, it was not, since we were focusing on creativity. They finally got to start their designs, and I was really impressed that most of them were so different.  Here is what they drew:

Hockey Puck
Hockey Puck
Shining Heart
Shining Heart
Air vent in the wall with a picture hanging on the wall on top left. The air is coming out of the vent (squiggly lines) and blowing the girl's hair.
Air vent in the wall with a picture hanging on the wall on top left. The air is coming out of the vent (squiggly lines) and blowing the girl’s hair.
Pencil Top Eraser
Pencil Top Eraser

Paper Circuit Valentines

This is a bonus post for those of you who keep track of my daily posts!  Our Maker Club made some paper circuit Valentines, and here are some of the results.  For instructions on making paper circuit greeting cards, you can check out this post.  If you are interested in more Valentine ideas, here are many that I have collected over the years.

The orange
The orange flower lights up.  I think the words say, “Disguised licorice penguin,” and “Squawk!”

Photo Feb 08, 3 54 31 PM

Sorry - this photo came out a bit blurry!
Sorry – this photo came out a bit blurry!
Can you figure out where the light is? (If you can't, that's because of my terrible photography skills!)
Can you figure out where the light is? (If you can’t, that’s because of my terrible photography skills!)

School-Wide Genius Hour

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.  First up, School-Wide Genius Hour.

Several members of the staff of Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Coppell ISD woke me up on Thursday morning with their incredible presentation about student-led EdCamps and Genius Hours at their school.  Not only did the teachers and administrators impress me, but some of the students also participated through Skype and videos, completely winning me over with their heartfelt comments about their school.

One significant “take-away” that I got from this presentation was that Cottonwood Creek offers a school-wide Genius Hour every Friday.  Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big proponent of Genius Hour, and I even offer a page of resources here.  However, we do Genius Hour within my GT classes – meaning that a very small percentage of our school gets the opportunity to participate.  Cottonwood Creek sets aside an hour every Friday for Kinder through fifth to participate in Genius Hour, with students traveling all over the school to work with others of similar interests.

Some of the Genius Hour projects underway include a Culture Corner, gardening, basketball, broadcasting, and more.  The keys to making this successful seem to be a combination of several things: a great emphasis on students as leaders in the school, parental involvement, requiring students to declare a purpose for their Genius Hour time, and reflections after each Genius Hour.

You can access Cottonwood Creek’s presentation here.  The slides include a list of the amazing educators who presented at TCEA and some pictures and video that will convince you that this idea is good for kids!

image from
image from

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