Friday, December 19, 2014

Elementary Media Specialist: Kristen Burkemper

Apps I love:
Productivity: I use these apps on a daily basis.  I love that I can access my files on both my ipad and my computer.  
  • Google Drive
  • Notability
  • Evernote
  • Google Classroom

Classroom: These are all my go-to apps when I am working with classrooms on different projects.  Most of these apps are so versatile that you can use them across many grades and subjects.
  • iMovie
  • Front Row (math)
  • Popplet
  • Show Me
  • 30 Hands
  • Audio Boom - audio recordings
  • Heads Up - fun game for indoor recess, brain break, or vocabulary

Reading: I am always reading so I love my reading apps
  • Overdrive
  • Goodreads (check out Bookopolis for a kid verson of this - it is web based, not an app)
  • Flipster
  • Destiny Quest

I have been exploring a lot of coding activities recently so right now I really like both Kodable and Tynker. Hopscotch is also a great coding app, but I have not used it much yet.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

iBrainstorm vs Sticky

I wrote a little while ago about an app called Sticky. Since then I've seen it used in quite a few 1:1 iPad classrooms with success. There were some limitations to the app, most obvious of which is the limitation of creating two projects in the free version. Well, iBrainstorm is an app that has some features that Sticky doesn't. And the other way around. Here's a comparison of the two apps. 

Project Winner: iBrainstorm
Sticky only allows you to create two projects before you have to pay. You can delete and start over, but that's a pain. iBrainstorm allows you to create at least six (that's where I stopped). Much more versatile if you are using it extensively.

Multimedia Winner: Sticky
I couldn't find a way to insert pictures in iBrainstorm. Of course, I could be missing something, but if it's not that obvious then it should be. Sticky allows you to quickly take or insert pictures from Photos. Sticky also allows for embedded web resources on your page. Very handy for research.

Project Flexibility: Sticky
Even though you can only make two projects in the free version, Sticky allows you to make multiple pages within your project (one student was on page 534 before her teacher stopped her). With iBrainstorm, you only get one page per project. Very limiting.

Aesthetic Winner: Sticky
iBrainstorm looks boring. Just a plain brown background. Yuck. Sticky lets you change the background of your pages. Great for organization by color. 

Writing Winner: iBrainstorm
You can add your own writing to iBrainstorm projects but not in Sticky. It's a nice feature if you'd like to interact with your sticky notes to draw comparisons, link ideas, or add your own comment.

Overall Winner: It Depends

I think both apps have nice features that the other should have as well. I'm quite surprised that the apps haven't applied those missing features to improve their apps. I would encourage your students to have them both on their iPads to use for different tasks. After all, they are both free. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Shelli Thelen's Top 4 Apps

Shelli’s Top 4 for Fine Motor
  • Play 123:  Free. Use a stylus or your finger to trace shapes, make shapes, “balancing” shapes while making a stack, draw lines, etc.. One feature I like is that you don’t have to be able to read and it expects you to “stay on the line” in order to move forward. It is also fun to “spin” an object!
  • Pinch Peeps: Free. Really requires you to use the pincer grasp. And if you don’t bring your fingers together, you don’t get the points.  Play the timed version, it is fun!  Turn off the advertisements for this game.
  • ABC Tracer: Free Version. This app helps with letter and number formation.  Most letters are made the “cps” way. While it has an image and a word to anchor the letter, it does require you to go in ABC order. You must get A right before going to B. Can choose capital, lowercase, numbers or words.
  • Lego Instruct: Free. This app is like a step by step still image tutorial of how to make simple Lego things. Great resource during Center Time in the Lego Center.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Teaching good notifications manners

Everyone loves to feel wanted. That's one reason we want our phones and tablets to let us know when someone is connecting with us. It's only human nature. But at the same time, most teachers don't want their students' devices to pull them away from the learning activities in the classroom. It's only teacher nature. So what can we do? How about teaching students a simple way they can have all their notifications set up the way they want, but also a simple way to mute them during class? 

iPads and iPhones (and I would wager Android devices as well) have a simple feature called "Do Not Disturb". Since we have so many iPads here in CPS, I'll stick to that device. It's easy to set up and easier to turn on. Here's how you use it. 

Step 1: In your Settings app, you'll see the option for "Do Not Disturb". Tap on it. 

Step 2: There are several options to choose from within the Do Not Disturb screen. The one that's most important is the bottom option for "Silence". You want it set to "always" so the notifications will be silenced when students are on their home screens or within an app. Otherwise, it's only good for the lock screen. 

"Do Not Disturb" menu
You can also set up a scheduled "Do Not Disturb". For example, you could have students set it up during the school hours so it turns on automatically for them. 

Step 3: Make sure notifications are set for the apps you want. Usually when you open an app for the first time, you'll get asked if you want to turn on push notifications. However, if you're like me, you'll likely gloss over it to get started with the app. This is where you can make adjustments to receive the type of notification you want from the apps you want. 

Set up your notifications
Just visit your "Notifications" area in "Settings". Go through your list of apps and set the options you want. You can choose to include badges (the little numbers in the red circles), show notifications on the lock screen, and select what type of notification you want (none, banner, or alert). You can also choose if you want a preview of the message which can be handy with email, messages, or perhaps news events. Of course, previews could be detrimental if you are displaying your iPad when you receive a private message...

Reveal the control center
Step 4: The last step is to turn on "Do Not Disturb". From your home screen, swipe up from the bottom to reveal your control center. You'll see a button with a crescent moon that indicates your "Do Not Disturb" status. When on, the button is white. When off, it's grey. You'll also see the small crescent moon in the upper right corner of your iPad's screen when it's turned on.
That's about it. I think teaching skills such as these are an important part of your digital citizenship curriculum. Instead of telling students that they can't be notified, give them some tools to manage their notifications to create a win-win situation. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sending Garageband songs to iMovie

One of the coolest iMovie features is the ability to easily import songs from iTunes to add flavor to your video. However, I have the hardest time figuring out the iTunes file structures, syncing content, etc. So when I was asked to see how to move a song from Garageband to iTunes, I wasn't excited about the task. But after doing a little playing around, I found a much simpler method. Try it out.

Step 1: Create your original song in Garageband. Then from your main projects screen in Garageband, choose "Select" in the upper right corner and then choose your song.

Step 2: Tap the "Share" button in the upper left corner. Whatever you do, don't send it to iTunes. Instead, choose "Open In..."

Step 3: Now you'll get options for sharing your song. Adjust the artist, composer, and album name to your liking. You can also change the quality settings. Then choose "Share".

Step 4: Choose to send the song to "iMovie"

Step 5: The iPad will launch iMovie. From here, you'll get to choose where you want to send your original song. Choose from an existing project or create a new one.

Step 6: The song will now be added to your project. From here, you can adjust the volume, choose to loop it or shorten it to fit the movie.

Now that Garageband is free, I would definitely have students create their own background music to fit your project. It promotes far greater creativity and also eliminates those pesky copyright issues that come up when you publish your video to YouTube. 

I know you have a ton of little composers in your room who will love to create their own music. Can't wait to see what they come up with!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

App Review: Sticky Notes

With all the iPads out in the hands of fifth graders, we are getting all sorts of requests for ideas to complete traditional activities in more efficient and eco-friendly way. If you are a fan of teaching student classifying and organizing skills, but are tired of seeing post-it notes on your students' supply lists, then you should check out the Sticky app. 

Add notes, pictures, or website resources
The beauty of this app is in its simplicity. Students can create new worksheets to house different projects. Inside the worksheet, simply double tap the screen to add content. There are four options to add:

  • Basic text
  • Pictures from Photos
  • Take a picture
  • Links to websites
Once you add the object to the screen, you are free to move it around. That's the funny part: they really aren't sticky! Which allows teachers and students to move objects to sort by different classifications. Once you have them in the right place, simply take a screenshot to save your work to the Photos app. 

See? Simple. And it's free. So give it a shot. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Setting up blogs for 1:1 classrooms

Teachers should always look for a way to allow students to publish for authentic audiences. Kids just work differently when their product is going to be publicly displayed. In this digital age, there are so many tools to choose from and publishing can be easily accomplished from many different devices. So what's stopping you??

In many of our 5th grade 1:1 iPad classrooms, teachers have allowed their students to create blogs to share their learning. It's really easy to get them started. Here's a guide for how you can get your students started using Blogger.

Set up your blogs
Self-explanatory, I know. Students log in to their Google Apps accounts and access Blogger. Check out the video below for some direction on how to get started.
  • When students sign in initially, have them "create a limited Blogger profile" with just their first name. No need for Google+.
  • Determine a naming convention for the students such as "Matt's 5th Grade Blog". That will save a lot of time. The names can be changed later if necessary.
  • Remember that you can pick whatever title you want, but the address has to be unique. Remove any spaces and punctuation and you might have to mess around a bit with the address to make it available.
  • Don't mess with the templates at this time. Patience. 

Adjust the settings for commentary
Blogs are great for the social interaction, but we want to make sure our students are protected. Blogger has many settings to allow safe, moderated commentary.
  • Always have comment moderation set to "Always". This means that nothing will appear published on the blog unless the author wants it on there. 
  • Consider having "who can comment" set to anyone. This setting would allow anyone who finds the blog the opportunity to comment. Often times relatives of students love adding comments, but may not have a Google account to use. 
  • Start with what's comfortable for the teachers, students, and parents.

Adjust the widths of the blog
Because most of our publication will come from the iPad, it's important that the blog be formatted properly. We've found that if you don't adjust the widths, pictures that are published from the iPad will overrun the posting area when in landscape mode.
  • Have the students go into the template area to customize it. Go to the "adjust widths" option and make the sidebar the minimum width.
  • Play around with the widths and flip back and forth to the preview to make sure it's going to work.
  • Publish a picture that is horizontally oriented from the iPad as a test. Then go back to make adjustments if necessary. 

Give them a chance to customize the blog
It's what everyone wants to do, so let the students show their personalities by customizing the background, colors, etc. 
  • Have the students put away the mouse and just watch as you walk them through some options. Be sure they understand they'll have time to work in a moment.
  • I think it's best to only use the "simple" and "picture window" templates. Those are the easiest to figure out. 
  • Show them these areas: templates, backgrounds, and advanced. I like to show how to adjust the entire color scheme as well as individual pieces like the blog title and header backgrounds.
  • This is a great time to discuss best practices. Making sure the title is large and legible. Use contrasting colors so pieces are clearly visible. Don't go crazy and make it distracting. 

Once you have the student blogs created, make sure you find an easy way to share them. It's a good idea to create a separate spot on your classroom website or blog to add links to the student blogs. The students can find and create a shortcut to their blog on their school iPad and then AirDrop them to their peers to bookmark as well. And of course, utilize your classroom Twitter account to tweet new blog posts. A great hashtag to use to promote discussion is #comments4kids. 

Have fun! Looking forward to seeing your students's posts. 

Changing Passwords for Student Apple IDs

So after living with the Apple ID for Students program for a few months (and not just a small amount of suffering), Apple is finally starting to get the message that schools need more control over their accounts. They've just given districts the ability to change passwords for students. I'm guessing they realized they don't have the manpower to give schools the timely support needed, and it was time to hand over some control. Here's what you can do to get started with changing passwords.

Choose "Teachers"
The first step is to log in to your school account at When you get in, choose the option for "Apple ID for Students". If you haven't been there since last week, you'll now see an option for "Teachers" listed amongst the options for uploading and managing student account. Click on "Teachers". 

Next you'll have to add teachers to your site. Simply click "Add Teacher" on the right side and enter your Apple ID. You'll then be added to the list. Feel free to add any teachers or administrators you would like to have access to change accounts. 

Now, visit and log in with your Apple ID. You'll need to have the student's Apple ID and birthdate. Enter that info and press "Continue". The next screen allows the student to enter the password that he/she wants. Once it's entered, a screen tells you that an email has been sent to notify you about the changes. However, when I tested the process, no such email was received by the student or the parent. Sigh...

A note for administrators. When playing around with this process, I found that your Apple ID can only be used at one location. So if you have multiple locations set up in your school district, you'll need to have the media specialists or whoever manages that building enter their Apple IDs to reset passwords. 

Let's hope this change is a sign of things to come. Happy password management!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Get Notability App by Enrolling into Managed Distribution

Getting yourself enrolled into Managed Distribution will enable your institution (in our case, Columbia Public Schools) to distribute apps and books to your devices. It's a fairly easy process, assuming Apple doesn't make any changes. We think that iOS8 coming online has caused a new step in the process. This is the latest set of instructions for getting enrolled.

First, you need to request an invitation. Talk to your media specialist about getting the school invited. When that occurs, you'll receive an email from "External Company". I know it sounds like spam, but it's not.

Open the email on your school device. Do not do it on a computer or anywhere else. Just on your school iPad. Here's what the email looks like:

Click on the link that says "Sign In". You'll be sent to the Safari app. This is where you will sign in to the server. It requires your active directory username and password.

At this point, you'll be moved into the App Store. I first received a popup with terms and conditions. Agree to all that if you want. If you don't, you're stuck. Now you'll sign in with your Apple ID and password. When successful, you'll get a message saying that your organization can now assign apps to you. Sorry, mine was already complete so I couldn't get a screenshot. 

Once complete, you should receive the Notability app right away. If your apps are set to auto download, it should appear immediately. If not, it will be in your purchased history for you to add manually. Through this process, you are more than welcome to put assigned apps on up to five personal devices.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Use Albums in Photos App to organize student work

Here's a great tip from Leanna Guillory (@mrsguillory3rd). She's been using iPads in her room for about a year, but this is her first year for a full 1:1 environment. Her classroom, like most, hurts for wall space. Her students use chart paper all the time to document learning in the classroom. However, it was always a challenge to figure out which charts to leave up and which to remove. But with devices, it was a problem no more.

Leanna decided to use the Photo albums to her advantage. She had students create albums for different subjects, take pictures of the charts, and then organize into those albums. Then the old charts can be removed and replaced with new ones. Simple idea, but pretty smart. 

Here's a quick video to show you how to create an album and organize your pictures: 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tips for using Today's Meet in the classroom

As more and more iPads are getting deployed to classrooms, teachers are looking for easy ways to get started with their devices. One thing we've discussed in the past is Today's Meet. Basically, Today's Meet is a website that allows you to add to a comment stream. The fancy term is a "backchannel". I got to be at Parkade today with fifth grade classrooms as they got started on this process. Here are some tips to get you started.

Making a Today's Meet board is simple enough. Visit Today's Meet on your favorite browser. You'll be immediately asked to create your board. Now you can sign in and make an account, but that's something I haven't tried yet. You name your board and then assign a duration. If you create an account, you can save your board for up to a year. When you're happy, choose "Open your room".

Board naming tip: Make the name as long as you want. That way it's tougher for a random person to come across it. So if you are making it for your class read aloud, call it MrVillasanasfifthgradereadaloudboard. Or something else. 

Now that the board is open, students are free to comment. All they need to do is add their name and start posting. Simple, except you are probably wondering how to easily get your kids to the board. Well, here are some ideas: 

QR codes: since the board is a website, use a QR code generator (, QR generator, QR stuff are some examples) and post it for students to access with their QR reader apps (QRafter is my favorite). Once they are there, have them save the board to their iPad home screen for easy access later.

Link Shortener: my second choice. Use your account to shorten the link. Because you can sign in with your Google account, your shortened links will be saved for later. Then you can have students type in the address in Safari and then add the link to their home screen. Added bonus: it automatically makes a QR code for you to use as well.

A couple of tips to make the experience more enjoyable for you:

  1. Keep the conversation simple. The younger the students, the simpler you need to be. For elementary students, I would have a single question or response for each board so it's easier for them to remember. You should probably have the question posted in the room as well. 
  2. They are going to play around. Give them a chance to get their fun out in a different setting, such as a community board where they can chat with their friends. 
  3. Create multiple boards for different purposes. It's easy to create and the kids can add all the boards to their devices. They can even make a folder on the iPad just for Today's Meet boards.
Again, Today's Meet is a simple application. You can print an archive of the board, but you can't guarantee that a student is using his or her real name without looking over their shoulders. If you want to get more in-depth with discussion board features, you can use Blackboard. However, if you are looking for simplicity and ease of use, Today's Meet is a great place to start. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Adding Student Email to iPads

Wow, it's been a crazy start to the year. Which is why this is my first post for the new school year. I'll do better...

So there are a lot of you out there who have 1:1 student iPads in your classrooms. So this information is pretty important to you. Here's how students can install their email to the iPad:

Go to "Settings" and choose "Mail, Contacts, and Calendars". Choose "Add Account". You'll want to choose "Exchange".

The student puts in just their username into the email field. Enter their Active Directory password and change the description of their account as needed. 

Now's the hard part. They should see another screen asking for server information:


Domain: leave blank

Username: full email address with

Have your students give it a shot. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Evernote Field Trips

About to descend into the cave...
Ever wonder how you can use your technology to enhance the traditional field trip? Here's a great idea from John Nies and his fifth graders at Grant Elementary. John was planning a trip to a local urban (Flat Branch Park) and natural (Rock Bridge State Park) watershed. He wanted a way for students to experience a variety of activities during the study all embedded on the iPad. We decided Evernote would be the best tool. Here's how it worked.

Adding notes to this artistic storm drain.
John had several activities he wanted to embed in the day. The trick was that there wasn't going to be wireless access. In his Evernote account, John made a folder for all the students. Then he created a single note that the students would use to guide their learning for the day. A copy was made and moved into each folder. To make sure they'd have access away from school, we had each student open the note at school so it would be saved on their iPad. Then we hit the road. 

Recording info during
the scavenger hunt. 
One part of the field trip was a scavenger hunt. John walked the route ahead of time and took pictures of important objects to include in the note. Then when the group reached that point, they stopped to discuss the spot. The students then added their own information to accompany the picture. One important thing to remember about Evernote: make sure each iPad has the picture size set to "small". Otherwise, you will max out your 60mb upload allowance pretty quickly when you are sharing an account.

Another activity for the trip was a reading and analysis exercise. John copied an article from a local publication to the Evernote note. The students had time on the trip to read the article and apply the information to their location. Because Evernote doesn't need an internet connection, the students were able to read, analyze, and record their thoughts directly on the note. Then when they returned to school, Evernote would hit the network to upload each student's work to their individual folder. Pretty slick. 

Did you know the creek ran under
downtown Columbia? I didn't.
Math time. John embedded a problem directly into the note. The students could flip over to another app like Educreations to solve the problem. The completed problem could be recorded with a screenshot and then moved into Evernote as an image. 

Watching video was a bit of an issue. John had a YouTube video that he wanted students to watch about a natural watershed. Of course, they weren't able to access YouTube from Flat Branch or Rock Bridge State Park. So how did we creatively solve this problem? We didn't. We decided it was easier to just have them watch the video when they returned to the classroom and then record their responses at that time. Like all things, we could have made it happen, but the tradeoff on time and energy wasn't worth it. Don't fight it if you don't have to. 

No, they didn't take the
iPads into the cave.
Last piece of important information: test first. We decided to test this process during the Flat Branch trip. Since the park is within walking distance, it made sense to try it out there first so if something didn't work, we weren't wasting the whole day. But things went exactly as planned. Which is a bit rare, but I'll take it. That made the longer excursion to Rock Bridge less stressful. 

So there you have it. An easy way to conduct offline field trips using Evernote. If you haven't already, set up your free classroom account and get started. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Use Talkboard for realtime whiteboard collaboration

Whiteboard apps are a dime a dozen. For instance, I started to review one called Stage, but was unimpressed because it did nothing new and had a lot of in-app purchases to get basic features. At this point, many teachers are familiar with basic whiteboards like Doodlebuddy and more advanced ones like Educreations and ShowMe. However, Talkboard is an app that few people are, well, talking about. But I think it's one that you should check out. 

Create multiple boards. Swipe back and forth to access them
At a basic level, Talkboard is just a whiteboard. There really aren't a ton of features: you can draw in different colors and with a few different styles. You can erase. You can clear the screen. And that's about it. You can't insert any pictures or shapes. There is no recording feature. So with that being said, you are wondering why I'm wasting my time writing about it.

Well, the answer is with the collaboration piece. Talkboard lets you share your board with other users. Then more than one user can collaborate on a board at the same time. Sharing is easy. Simply press the "+" on your board and choose between sending invitations by AirDrop, Messages, or Mail. If the user doesn't have the app, they will be sent to the App Store to download it. If Talkboard is already installed, the board will simply open in the app. You create a profile with just a name. You don't have to enter an email, so it's easier for younger students to use.

Once the board is shared, it's open for all the users. Write your own ideas, draw pictures, whatever. Any user can add or erase, so keep that in mind. I only tried sharing it with two people, but I imagine it would support more. But I think it would get pretty distracting if you had more than two or three students (or teachers) on there at the same time.

So there you go. Another free, simple tool that I feel has real practical applications in the classroom. Give it a try and be sure to let everyone know how it works for you.