Category Archives: Apps

3D Stanley

The long-suffering Flat Stanley no longer has to endure the indignation of postal journeys.  Karen Bosch and her students have developed a 21st century solution to Stanley’s travel woes.  They created 3D Stanley’s!  Download one of the .stl files from their site, and print the “Stanley” of your choice with your school’s 3d printer. Then take a picture of your visitor in its new environment and share the picture in a Tweet or through e-mail (@karlyb or via email to

This is a great twist on a popular school tradition, and I love that Bosch’s students even gave their characters short bios to make them unique!

Since I recently did a presentation on global collaboration, this gives me all sorts of ideas.  How about doing some sort of mystery print, where the students download separate pieces, print them, and then have to figure out to assemble them to make something?  Or tweeting pics of 3D Stanley’s in front of moderately famous landmarks and having classes guess their locations?

I hope that you can support Bosch and her students with their project.  Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas!

For more information on 3d printing, including what you should consider before purchasing one, you may want to check out some of my other posts.

Add a New Dimension to Flat Stanley!
Add a New Dimension to Flat Stanley! Image courtesy of Jimmie on Flickr

The Scream

We all have things that scare us, of course.  In the book that my 5th grade gifted students are reading, The Giver, the main character is “apprehensive” about an upcoming event.  To help the students connect to the text, I asked them to list some of the things that worry or scare them.  Using our green screen and the Green Screen app by DoInk, I had the students superimpose themselves on the image of Edvard Munch’s, The Scream.  The students then used the WordFoto app to add their specific fears to the picture.  Here is one result. (You can click on it to see a larger view.)


When I looked closely at this student’s final product, I noticed the word, “division.”  I was a little upset because I had told the students not to put silly things just to get a laugh.  In my mind, division and multiplication would fall into that category, especially since this particular student has never had any problems achieving well in math.

“Why did you put this word when I told you not to put something silly?” I asked him as I pointed at his picture.

He looked at me solemnly.  “I meant the division of people.  You know, how war and other things divide us.”


It’s good I asked…


Apple Swift Playgrounds

About a month ago, I downloaded a beta version of Apple’s newest iOS on to my iPad so I could try out the widely advertised Swift Playgrounds app that would be installed along with the new operating system.  I’ve been a supporter of teaching kids how to code for a few years, and I was curious to see how this app might be different from the many my students have been using.

Swift is a type of programming language that was developed by Apple.  A quick Wikipedia browse will bury you in daunting technical language if you are, like me, more educator than coder.  So, I will tell you that the biggest difference between this app and many of the ones that are already out there for kids is that Swift programming uses words and symbols, not blocks.

My sense is that most “real-life” programming languages don’t use drag and drop blocks like Scratch or Hopscotch.  So, in that respect, Playgrounds (which is what the app shows up as on your device) stands out from the crowd.  However, I wouldn’t disregard block programming apps completely.  They are excellent for teaching students the logic of programming – particularly non-readers.

Playgrounds is definitely not for non-readers.  Reading is essential for anyone using the app, and I would guess it is at least a 4th grade reading level.  I would not, therefore, recommend Playgrounds for younger students unless they are paired up with a capable partner.

The graphics in the app are okay, but nothing ground-breaking.  As with many coding apps, the user is trying to direct a cute creature around paths and obstacles.

The main advantages of the app are that it is free, offers many levels and challenges, and gives users an opportunity to see how a professional programming language works.  I would recommend the app for elementary/middle school students who have demonstrated understanding of key coding concepts and seem to be ready for something a bit more advanced.

Playgrounds should be available today with the download of the newest iOS.  I’ll be curious to hear what you think!

image from Apple
image from Apple

Word Dream

Word Dream is one of those apps that I downloaded because someone mentioned it on Twitter –  and then I forgot to try it.  It is free for iOS, but there is also a paid Pro Version and there are in-app purchases to unlock all of the “goodies.”  I actually did fine with the free version, but had a gift card balance left on iTunes and decided to splurge for everything.  Now I can give my text a 3d appearance or add a fish-eye bulge to it, among other things.

I started playing with Word Dream because I read A.J. Juliani’s post about the “7 Mantras” he is displaying for the year and wanted to make some of my own.  I have a Pinterest board full of favorite quotations, but sometimes I discover an inspiring piece of text that hasn’t been graphically designed by a clever person yet.  Therefore, I wanted to try my hand at making a few of my own.

Word Dream allows you to choose a background from Pixabay or one of your own images.  Then you can add your text using numerous different options for the layout, color, and effect.  It’s not a unique idea, but I found Word Dream very easy to use with plenty of choices for design without too many to overwhelm me.  If Word Dream isn’t quite what you want, here is a list of 20 Alternatives – many that I’ve tried but deleted for one reason or another.

Here are a couple of samples I made while learning the app.  I’m not sure if I’m going to include them in my set of mantras, yet!  The black dog, by the way, is my daughter’s puppy.  (She was a bit more cooperative than my bulldog when I asked her to look adoringly at me.)

Photo Aug 30, 5 52 55 PM



Stick Pick (Reblog)

I originally posted this 5 years ago.  I was recently discussing it with my colleagues because we are trying to work on better questioning, and thought it couldn’t hurt to reblog about this app.

Stick Pick is an app with great potential as a teacher tool. The teacher can add one or more classes within the app. To each class, the teacher adds individual student names, determining the type and level of questioning to use for each student from the following categories: Bloom’s Taxonomy, Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, or ESL. Once all students are entered, their sticks appear in a cup from which the teacher can randomly or purposefully choose names. As each student is chosen, a list of question stems from their particular assigned level appears on the screen. This is a wonderful way for teachers to differentiate impromptu questions for students.

What You Might Have Missed This Summer

Summer break is over – at least for many of the public school teachers in Texas who return to work today.  Of course, many of us never really stopped working over the last couple of months, fitting in workshops and lesson planning in between trips to the beach and afternoon naps.

I’ve been saving educational articles of interest to Pocket all summer, and I thought I would share some of the news that I curated that might have some impact on your planning for the new school year.  I would love for you to share any other summer education news that I’ve missed in the comments below!

What You Missed

  • Osmo put out two new games this summer, Coding (near the beginning of the summer) and most recently Monster (described as “The Creative Set”).  My summer camp students loved the Coding game, and I’ve just ordered Monster.
  • Speaking of tangible coding, Google has announced “Project Bloks,” which looks pretty intriguing.  The Bloks aren’t available to the public yet, but you can sign up on their interest page to get updates on the program.
  • In other Google news, the Expeditions VR app is now available on Android with expectations to release it on other platforms later this year.  Also, there is a free Cast for Education app that I am really interested in that supposedly allows students to project their work without the need for other hardware/software like Chromecast, Apple TV, or Reflector.  Richard Byrne has a blog post on a new add-on for Google Docs called The Lesson Plan Tool.  By the way, if you want to keep updated on new Google Classroom features, here is a good page to bookmark.
  • When it comes to lesson planning, Amazon Inspire might be your go-to site as soon as it becomes available, with free access to educational resources.  Sign up for early access now.
  • Think about allowing your students to show off what they’ve learned during those great lessons with Class Dojo’s new feature: Student Stories.
  • You may have somehow escaped the Pokemon Go craze, but your students probably haven’t.  Here are some ways to use it educationally.
  • Words with Friends now has an Edu version that is free and can be played on the web or on mobile devices.  I haven’t tried it, but it looks like it even has materials aligned to Common Core.
  • Breakout Edu has Back to School games.
  • Canva now has an iPhone app.
  • YouCubed released Week of Inspirational Math 2 last week.  This is a great way to start your students off with a growth mindset in math.

Do you have some education news that we might have missed this summer?  Be sure to add it in the comments below!


Help Your Students Grow By Riding the Pokemon Flow

With the Pokemon Go craze in full swing, augmented reality for education may be generating more interest than ever before. Leveraging trends like Pokemon Go in the classroom can certainly provoke student engagement even though education wasn’t the original intent of the game.  Whether you choose to modify Pokemon Go, or use one of the many other available apps, augmented reality offers new opportunities to our students for learning – when used correctly.

About 4 years ago, my initial forays into augmented reality were all about the novelty of the technology with my students.  They certainly enjoyed those first augmented reality scavenger hunts, but I will readily admit now that more fun than learning took place at the beginning.  As I learned how to use tools to create my own augmented reality, I saw the power it could have for sharing presentations on static displays, or delivering messages from people who could not be there physically.  Sending augmented reality work by the students home to parents added another dimension to their projects.

Augmented reality that is interactive gives students the chance to have experiences, like mixing sodium and chlorine gas to make salt, or touring an estuary in Australia, that they might not usually have in many classrooms.

Ideas are already cropping up about how Pokemon Go can be used in the classroom, such as this article or these suggestions. Discovery Education also has a detailed blog post of Pokemon Go curriculum integration activities.  If you want your students to try to design their own version of Pokemon Go, let them try this Vidcode online version.  Once they start figuring out the code, have them branch out to include some of their own graphics and code that ties in to your curriculum.

If you want to branch out to other augmented reality apps and lessons, I have collected several resources here.  Katie Ann Wilson, author of Diary of a Techie Chick, has many classroom ideas here.  Shell Terrell also recently published a blog post that lists many augmented reality links.

There is no doubt that you will generate enthusiasm from your students by using augmented reality in the classroom.  However, I highly encourage you to read this article by Laura Callisen, which cautions you about the ways good educators should not use this popular trend.

Another thoughtful piece about augmented reality, by Stephen Noonoo, compares the “virtual reality” of our current classrooms to the “augmented reality” learning should reflect – with or without technology.

pokemongoI expect that the Pokemon Go mania will spawn more augmented reality apps, hopefully with education in mind.  My hope is that they will be thoughtful and encourage deep learning while retaining the fun sense of adventure fostered by Pokemon Go.