Technology Tips

Minecraft Writing Prompts

One thing that I had to do in the last two years of teaching was trust my kids more. Another thing was to incorporate game playing into my classroom. One way the students assured me they could be trusted with gaming in class was to use Minecraft as the basis for writing, story telling, and video production story lines. I came across a good resource today that includes some Minecraft writing prompts. If you have a boy/girl who is breathing between the ages of 7 and 14 you've probably heard of Minecraft. If not, ask your kid.

Minecraft Writing Prompts - courtesy of In Our Write Minds


Zaption - Video Quizzes

Zaption is a free service that allows you to show a video, which you can add chapters too, and also have questions pop up at those chapter markers that students must answer. I signed up easily and toured one of their videos and I liked to format and I could see it working very well in a classroom or lab environment as an assessment tool.

From EdSurge: Zaption is a web app for teachers, trainers, and content publishers to use video as an interactive experience. Add images, text, quizzes and discussions to private videos as well as those from YouTube and Vimeo to create a “learning tour.” Teachers also have access to analytics.


Download YouTube Videos to iOS Device

Here's an interesting way to download a YouTube video to your iPhone or iPad. Pretty slick. I tried it and it worked well.
(you will need to download a free app called Titan Downloader)



Quill - Online Grammar Activities

Update on the Update: I contacted the developers and they assured me they were having problems but they are fixed and their service should work on iPads.

Update: We've tried this a few times on the iPad without a lot of success. Students can login but the activities don't display, even after we cleared Cookies and other data. It was hit and miss.

I've been on the prowl this year for grammar activities that I can use with my students. NoRedInk is a pretty good one as is Membean. Another one I read about today over at is called Quill. It's sorta like virtual grammar worksheets and the nice thing about it is it's free and open-source, which means you can share their stuff at will.

A teacher can create a free account and easily add classes. Students can login without an email address and enter the class code to be added to your course. You assign your students grammar activities based on Common Core standards and they do the worksheets and see their results. It's a good way to focus on in certain activities you know students might be struggling with and approach grammar in a less-threatening way.


FlipQuiz - Jeopardy Style Games

Having kids create their own assessments is a great way to see if they have learned what you've taught but most times kids don't want to create tests. But having them create games is usually more appealing since they have a true peer audience right in their class. I've written about JeopardyLabs and Google Sheets before when it comes to creating Jeopardy-like games but I recently learned about a new free service called FlipQuiz that allows teachers and students to quickly create online Jeopardy games.

I signed up for an account in about 30 seconds and was creating a game shortly thereafter. If kids don't have an email address the teacher could create a dummy account since the service did not ask for verification or use an email service that creates short-term email addresses, like

Here is a sample Jeopardy game created on FlipQuiz


Edmodo Snapshot - Add CCSS Quizzes

I've been using Edmodo in my 1:1 iPad classroom for about four months and I like it for three reasons. One reason is that it gives the kids a voice to discuss things they want to discuss. I don't know how many pictures of pets and Minecraft drawings I've sifted through but it gives me an authentic window into their lives and pursuits. I like that. I also like that I can use the tools Edmodo provides as part of a digital classroom, plus it's a safe chatting environment. I control who's in the class.

Today Edmodo added Snapshot which allows teachers to give Common Core aligned quizzes too. You choose the grade level, ELA or Math, which standards, who you want to assign it to, and at what time and Edmodo will randomly assign the quiz and collect the data for you. It's a great feature to take some of the burden off of teachers to create, grade, and compile data.


Chromville - Great Augmented Reality Story App

Chromville is a wonderful app that allows kids to color a character from a pre-printed page which they then take a photo of using their iPad. That photo then gets translated into a 3-dimensional character that jumps off their iPad screen into virtual reality. It would be very useful for students who are doing a writing exercise, plus the cool factor is way high (and it's free). They have about eight scenes you can download right now that correspond to chapters in a book including one of them that is somewhat customizable.

Update: There's a new player to the game called Colar that does a lot of the same things but has a lot more free printables.


LearningPod - Free CCSS Practice Questions

LearningPod is a great resource for practice test questions and they currently have over 48,000 on the site, including CCSS. Their site says you can assign questions to your students and keep track of their progress and it works on most all devices. Students are presented with a 5 question challenge to get them started. Teachers can jump right in and search for standards or subject areas. You must sign up for a free account to unlock a lot of the content but the site has you choose your interests and grade level to focus content for you.


Draw and Create an iPad Game

File this under: Wow. That's really cool. Floors is an iPad app that boys (and probably some girls too) have dreamed about all their lives. You draw your video game on graph paper, take a picture of it with your iPad camera, and it gets translated into an iPad game that you can play and share with others. Way cool. I played with it with my 6-year old daughter on a Saturday morning and in about ten minutes we had drawn a rudimentary game with a few levels that had ladders, bombs, disappearing blocks, moving floors, and a goal. It took a little bit of erasing and fine tuning but we had a great time putting it together.

It is free right now but might be paid in the near future. But it is available in the WSD App Portal and can be requested by visiting this page.

The company that made this one also has plans to make an adventure quest game and a racing game too.

from the game creators web site:

Pixel Press Floors is changing the way we experience mobile games by letting anyone be the creator, publisher and player of their own video game. With our creator platform, you can literally draw your own video game - no coding required.

Imagine playing games from around the world that all began from just an idea on paper!

By recognizing the shapes (“glyphs”) you draw on paper or in the app using our “Draw-in-App” tools, we instantly turn your level blueprint into a game that can be tested, designed, played - and most importantly, published to the “Arcade” where others can enjoy your level and you can track how many times it’s played.

Update: After playing with this today in my class we noticed it won't let you take a picture of your level with an older iPad. My kids have iPad 2s. It works fine with my iPad Air. Their site says:

**NOTE: Compatible with iPad 2+, requires iOS 7+. We are continually working to improve the capture from paper process. Currently "Create-from-Paper" runs best on the iPad 4, iPad Air, and iPad Mini Retina, and is not supported on the iPad 2 or iPad Mini at this time. “Draw-in-App” is supported on all devices.**

Download file "sketch-guide_v7.01.pdf"
Download file "sketch-guide-v2-page5.pdf"


Good Photo Transfer Apps

Update: In addition to the apps listed below I also discovered Photo Transfer Pro and it works very well. It is in the WSD App Portal and available for free for all WSD devices and it can be requested from this page.

Transferable Pro is another one of those apps that helps you get your photos and videos off of your device and onto a computer. I've written about a lot of them, most recently Simple Transfer Pro (which is my current favorite), but Transferable Pro is a close second. It's free today but it's also in our WSD App Portal, so it can be requested from this page. If you're looking for a way to get photos off of the iPad in a quick and easy way this might be your solution.


Super Easy Video Conferencing is a super simple video conferencing web-based tool that literally could not be any easier to use. You simply head on over to the site, enter in a custom name for your video chat, then click 'Create!' and there you have it. You can invite up to 8 people to your video chat, all for free. Plus, it works on all of the major web browsers with no logins or installations of any type. This would be great for students chatting about homework or assignments, or teachers needing tech support or even collaborating with other teachers around the district (world?). What will you


WSD Technology Showcase

Come to WHS on May 15th for this great annual event. There will be exhibits and prizes!


Storehouse - Visual Storytelling App

Storehouse is a great app that lets you add images and pictures and text to create a story. My first question was, "How is this different from Keynote?" The first reason is that it's free, while Keynote can cost money if you don't have a brand new iPad. The second reason is that Storehouse allows you to publish your stories and you get a a nice, neat URL to share with others. Furthermore, with the latest update you can comment on other stories. This would be very useful for kids collaborating on projects or teachers grading them. The interface is very simple to use (drag and drop images/video, add text) and the navigation is simple swiping left and right, up and down. I will definitely give this a spin in my classroom. Here's more stoke:

Share your world through Storehouse. It’s the easiest way to create and discover beautiful stories.

Combine photos, videos, and text to meaningfully document your experiences. Publish your stories for friends and followers, or share them by email, Facebook, or Twitter. Explore stories created by your friends and our community of storytellers from all around the world.

Storehouse was designed for mobile, from the intuitive touch-based interface to the way we allow you to create and share on-the-go.

We’ve made laying out photos, videos, and text so easy that anybody can create beautiful stories. Easily add photos and videos from your iPad Camera Roll, Dropbox, Flickr, and Instagram. You don’t need to be a designer to put together something stunning.

Stories look great on all screen sizes so you can rest easy knowing that you can share them with anyone.

Get inspired by exploring stories created by our global community. Instantly travel the world, learn a new skill, or discover interesting places and people, all from your iPad.


iOS to Computer Image Transfer Made Easy

There are a ton of apps that attempt to make the process of getting photos and videos off of your iOS easy, and I've looked at dozens, but none are easier than Simple Transfer Pro. It's free right now in the App Store and it's also in the WSD App Portal so you can request to have it put on your device by going here. It does its job so well because the interface to download pictures and videos is web-based and very intuitive, plus it allows you to download multiple files at the same time.

Simply open the app and look at the URL it provides. Go to that URL in your browser on your computer and your device appears along with all of your iOS's albums, including your Photo Stream. Simply enter into an album and start downloading. There's even a 'Select All' feature, which a lot of the other devices fail to include. The photos are then neatly packed into a Zip file. Or you can go in the opposite direction and send videos and photos to your device. Here is what the developer has to say:

Main Features:
● View all your photo albums and videos on your computer and download them by a single click via WiFi
● Send multiple photos and videos from your computer to your device
● Transfer unlimited photos and videos between iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch), select an album and tap on "Select All" to transfer all your photos/videos
● Optional passcode system for accessing the website
● Ability to create new albums and transfer photos/videos to any selected album
● Photos are transferred with full resolution including metadata and videos transferred with the highest quality available
● No limit on the number or size of photos/videos you transfer between devices or computers
● Slideshow photo albums on your computer's browser


CloudConvert - Convert Files Easily

The ability to convert files to different formats is always necessary because there are a lot of file types out there. I've written about Zamzar and Media Converter before but this one could take the proverbial cake for one big reason. CloudConvert is very easy to use and currently supports 181 different file formats. But the big reason that sets this apart from the competitors is that CloudConvert has an iOS app that works just as easily. Have a DocX that you need to send to someone as a PDF, let CloudConvert take care of it. The online version is free and the iOS version let's you convert 25 documents per day, then you have to pay. Here is some information from the horse's mouth:
  • CloudConvert supports the conversion between more than 100 different audio, video, document, ebook, archive, image, spreadsheet and presentation formats. Check the supported formats for more details.
  • There is no need to install any software on your computer! Upload your files to CloudConvert and we will do the job for you. Don't worry, your files are safe and only you can access them. They will be deleted again as soon as your conversion is finished.


Is it too loud? Part 2

Awhile back I wrote about an app called Too Loud? that allows you to measure the noise volume in your classroom so students can see visually if they are being too loud (or too quiet? Does that ever happen?) Today I found a cool website called that does the same thing but in a more visually stimulating way. You have to see if to understand it but basically you get either bouncy balls, emojis, bubbles, or eyeballs that fill up your screen and bounce up and down based on the noise volume in your classroom. It's one of those things I know elementary kids will love and middle to high school kids will appreciate too because it will bring out their inner child. Give it a bounce!

It doesn't seem to work on the iPad but it does use the accelerometer and make the bouncy balls roll all over the place.


ShareDrop - Easy File Transfer

If you have a newer Mac you have probably seen, and maybe used AirDrop, which allows you to send files between computers on the same network. But if you have an older Mac you're left out. That's where a service like ShareDrop comes in, in fact it even looks like AirDrop. This would be great for students to turn in digital work who don't have an email address.

I'll let them do the talking about their product:

What is it?

ShareDrop is a free app that allows you to easily and securely share files directly between devices in the same local network, without having to upload them to any server first.

How to use it?

To send a file to another device, open this page on both devices. Drag and drop the file directly on other user's avatar or click the avatar and select the file you want to send. The file transfer will start once the recipient accepts the file.



Update: I found a bunch more of these simple web page services like Page O Rama, Populr, and Dropr.

I use Moodle a lot in my classroom to deliver digital content. The web pages are fairly static but every once in while there's a need for something flashier. One service, called Tackkboard, allows you to make quick, free single-page web pages with no software, downloads or even sign-up required. It is super easy and would be a great way for students to share information or keep a digital portfolio. Here is the blurb from them:

Tackk allows anyone, to create anything, and share it anywhere. There is no software to download, no login required, nothing to join + no special design or development skills needed. In fact, those who have used Tackk, literally call it "ridiculously simple." And we agree.

Simply visit the Tackk home page and start typing. Tackk about that bike you have for sale. Tackk about your engagement or your new baby. Tackk about your band's upcoming gig. Tackk about your vacation. You can Tackk about anything.


Remind101 Update

Remind101 is a great service I've blogged about before that allows you to send one-way text messages to students and parents. It's free and has other abilities like scheduling a reminder to be sent in the future, which is neat. They added an update today that allows you send pictures (and they claim presentations and assignments, but they only show photos) right to your groups smartphones.



One great extension activity that I've often done with kids to have them create their own Jeopardy game. The reason it's so great is that not only are they accessing the knowledge of what you've taught or read in a meaningful way, but they get to share their game with their peers, which is usually a great audience. In the past it was always the coolest thing to make a Power Point that did all of the transitions for you but that's not cool anymore since the Internet is what all the kids these days are clamoring for. Jeopardylabs is a great site that allows you to create, edit, and play a game online.

Today I came across a Google Sheet that does the same thing with a 5 and 6-category template that you can share with your students. They make a copy of the original and then start plugging in their questions and answers. It's the new, old school.