Category Archives: K-12

Doing More with Screencastify

Many teachers have become familiar with with screen recording tools, such as Screencastify, in the last 6 months. Of course, the main way Screencastify is being used is to, in essence, flip the classroom – allowing the teacher to record lessons that can be archived for students to view asynchronously. But there are a couple of other neat features of Screencastify that you might want to check out.

First of all, as Jake Miller points out in the embedded Tweet below, Screencastify can be used to make GIFs:

And if you have no idea on why you would need to use GIFs in an educational context, Jake has 19 suggestions for you here.

A relatively new feature of Screencastify is called, “Submit.” To me, this is Screencastify’s answer to Flipgrid. With Submit, you can create an assignment for students to make a video, either with their webcam or by sharing the screen, and submit it with a click to a Google Drive folder that has been automatically created for you. You can decide if you want students to view other videos, just their own, or none of them. For more information on how this free tool works, you can watch this video. (Thanks to @Robert_Kalman for sharing this on Twitter!)

Still have no ideas for using Screencastify outside of flipping lessons? Matt Miller, as always, has you covered. See more ways this versatile tool can support learning here.

Image by janjf93 from Pixabay

Name Picker Tools

Whether you are teaching virtually or face to face, chances are that you will need to call on students. Even after decades of teaching, I often had to make a conscious effort not to fall into the bad habit of choosing students eager to raise their hands first more often than anyone else. The best way to combat this was to employ a few “Name Picker Tools” over time. Some are online, some are apps/extensions, and some are part of other software (like Class Dojo). I’m going to stick to the free ones that allow you to save your lists. However, as always, be wary of privacy and the permissions you give when you use these tools. There are also ads on some of the pages that can be distracting to students, so definitely test them out before using them with a class.

  • Wheel of Names – Web-based, allows text and/or photos, and you can customize and save. (You will need to sign in with a Google or Twitter account to save. See more about this tool on Richard Byrne’s site, including a short video demonstrating its features.
  • Classroom Screen – Web-based. The random name chooser and group maker widgets are two of the many ways you can use this versatile tool. The free version allows you to save three class lists.
  • Flippity – Got a spreadsheet of names? Flippity can turn it into a Random Name Picker (or a bunch of other interactives).
  • Google Classroom Mobile App – Obviously only helpful if your students are enrolled in Google Classroom! Here’s a quick video to show you how to use it.
  • Random Name Picker from Class Tools – Once you create a list here, you are given a unique web address where it is saved. You can generate a link, QR code, and even an embed code to add it to a website.
  • Popsicle Sticks App – I haven’t tried this one yet, but there are free and paid versions. Only available for iOS.

If you have any other name pickers that are free, reliable, and allow you to save them, please let me know in the comments!

Top EdTech Tools for Digital Differentiation

My latest post for the Neo Blog is, “Top EdTech Tools for Digital Differentiation.” You may recognize some of the tools I recommend, such as Newsela and the one I blogged about yesterday, Immersive Reader. But you might be surprised by some other gems that are less ubiquitous right now.

One of the messages I hope that gets across with my Neo post (and everything I include on my own blog) is that differentiation should be happening for all students, not just the ones who are struggling. With technology, we can help all students to learn more, and teachers can have more time to give children the personal attention they need.

My previous NEO articles have been: From Normal to Better: Using What We’ve Learned to Improve Education, Applying Universal Design for Learning in Remote Classrooms, How Distance Learning Fosters Global CollaborationHow to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom, and How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning.

Next month’s post for Neo will be, “How to Facilitate Meaningful Discussions in the Hybrid or Virtual Classroom.” If you have any advice, I would love to hear it!

Students at Sutton Middle School use online research to answer questions during a lesson in history class. Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action


Today I am posting about a product that technically would never had made it on this blog if I didn’t break some rules sometimes.  First of all, it’s a tool for making worksheets.  Yuck.  I know worksheets are a necessary evil sometimes, but they are way, way overused to give students busy work.  Secondly, to get the most out of this tool, you will need to pay for a subscription.  I try to recommend free tools because I know teachers pay for too much already out of their pockets.


This subscription ($35.99 for a year) is a great deal for all of the features you will get – the features that also make this the most powerful digital “worksheet creator” I’ve seen.  If you don’t believe me, try the 14 day trial.

In many ways, Wizer is comparable to a Google Form on steroids.  In both of these, the teacher can create questions, push it out to students, and receive grades and reports on their responses.  But here are the ways that it’s different:

  • It currently interfaces with Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Microsoft, so you have two more option than you do with a Google Form.
  • You can design the worksheet to look much more visually appealing.
  • You can use any of the teacher-created Wizer worksheets to tweak to use as your own. Or, if you like inventing the wheel, make your own from scratch.
  • There are over 10 different question types you can use, including: Drawing, Fill in the Blanks, Label an Image, Sorting, Open Questions.
  • You can record (audio or video) instructions as well as text.
  • Students can respond using audio or text.
  • Students can design their own worksheets.

Here is an example of a worksheet for Tuck Everlasting that I found in the Wizer Community.  You can see what the Teacher Dashboard looks like below.

Wizer Teacher Dashboard

Now I think you’ll admit that those are pretty good options.  But the one that’s the game-changer, the one that made me decide to blog about Wizer, the one that is an incredible deal for $35.99/year is the option to differentiate within your worksheet.

With “The Awesome Plan,” teachers can create Learner Profiles for each of their students based on ability, interest, preferred learning mode, whatever you want.  You can create rules based on those categories.  Then, when you create a worksheet, you can use alternate questions for different Differentiated Instruction groups.  For example, do you want to have Fill-In-the Blank questions?  Some students may need a word bank, and others may not.   If you have all of your Learner Profiles done, you can just select with a couple of clicks who gets the word bank and who doesn’t.  Do you have some students who can answer open-ended questions, and others who need multiple choice?  Assign alternate questions!  You can see a quick video example embedded below.

Initially, you will have to do some work to get your Learner Profiles in order.  But imagine the simplicity of creating assessments once you’ve got your information loaded.  If you’ve got students who have their own devices, this tool could make your life much easier – without sacrificing the engagement of your learners.

If you are someone who has used Wizer, please share your feedback!

Anti-Racist Resource Guide

I apologize that I have been “off-the-grid” for the last couple of weeks, but I am resuming my schedule of publishing at least one blog post each week committed to anti-racism.  Today’s awesome website, the Anti-Racist Resource Guide, is brought to you by Victoria Lynn Alexander, who is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland.   As Alexander explains on the home page, “Within this guide, please find a variety of resources to explore practical ways to understand, explain, and solve seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity, white supremacy, police violence, and injustice.”

The site is well-organized into categories, as you can see from the screen-shot below.

Topics to be found on the Anti-Racist Resource Guide website

Each button will lead you to a concise document that offers numerous links and suggestions for that particular sub-topic.  The documents are concise and thoughtfully designed with meaningful information and examples.  Alexander plans to continue updating the site as new resources become available.  There is a lot to unpack here, but Alexander does a great job at keeping it from becoming overwhelming.

Just in case you missed my other posts specifically targeting racism, here is the list so far:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.


SEL and Community Building With Slides

In yesterday’s post about Virtual Breakout rooms, I mentioned that students who don’t like this virtual version of small group work feel awkward, especially if they have not built connections with the teacher and their peers before being thrown into small groups.  Today’s post offers you some resources to help your students with some of the social-emotional aspects of being in school in order to begin building those bridges.


If you have the version of PearDeck that allows for “Draggable” responses, you can have your students show their current emotional status using a Google Slide like this one created by Stephanie Rothstein (@Steph_EdTech) and her student teacher, inspired by her LEAD Pathway Co-Chair, Rachel Peters (@lghspeters ).  (You can also make your own hack for draggable responses by: making this your background or creating a master slide with it, creating your own dot, copying and pasting it numerous times until you have enough for the class to drag when you share the presentation.)

stress check

If you don’t have the full version of PearDeck, you can make your own hack for draggable responses by: making this your background or creating a master slide with it, creating your own dot, copying and pasting it numerous times until you have enough for the class to drag when you share the presentation.  You can also find some more SEL templates from PearDeck that are free to download here.

Copy of Social Emotional Learning Templates

For a Google Slides Choiceboard on SEL, try this one from Pathways 2 Success.

Do you want a virtual calming room?  Lindsey Denbo (@denbo_lindsey) shared the template for this amazing Slides presentation:

Calming Room Slides with Links from Lindsey Denbo

Community Building

Ester Park (@MrsParkShine), who I also added to my Interactive Slides post because of her bank of templates that can be easily adapted for many uses, has this fun sign-off questions template.

Sign Off Question

You can also find various Check-In templates on Mrs. Park’s site, as well as interactive games.

Speaking of games, check out this clever Quarantine Lucky Charms game from John Meehan (@MeehanEdu).  You can find more templates with games here.

Did you create a Bitmoji Classroom?  Many teachers are allowing their students to create Bitmoji Lockers.  Due to age and access issues, some teachers are giving students banks of Bitmojis to choose from.  Adding some personal flair to their own projects, and sharing them can give the teacher and their classmates insight into individual personalities so they can discover commonalities and unique attributes in each other.

PearDeck also has free Community Building Templates, which you can access here.

If you have any other SEL or Community Building ideas for virtual learning, please share them in the Comments Section!