Use Pinterest to Spice up your Teaching

Hello blogosphere!  My friend Melissa invited me to compose a few guest posts on her blog, and I am delighted to share a few thoughts with you!

You may recall from earlier posts that Twitter is a wonderful tool for teachers to connect with and share ideas and experiences with each other.  From reading feeds such as #sschat, teachers can share strategies and tips to improve their abilities in the classroom.  Gone are the days of staring at your plan book, searching for ideas on general search engines, and struggling to come up with a way to make the content engaging.  Now, help is just a few keystrokes away.  Let me share with you another great resource that I promise you will be fun, and more than a little addicting.


You may have heard of it.  If you have not used it and are not familiar with it, Pinterest is like a giant bulletin board.  Basically, when you log into the main page, you will see pictures (called “pins”) that other people have posted to their own boards (organized by theme or topic).  What people do is when they are browsing websites, if they see a picture of something that they really like, they click on the button to “pin” it, and then are redirected to Pinterest, where they pin the picture to the board of their choice.  Then, when they visit their pinboards later, and click on the “pinned” picture, they are redirected to the site where the picture originated.  I have pinned pictures of scarfs from knitting websites for future reference, then, months later, gone back and clicked on the pin to go to the website to get the pattern.  It’s like bookmarking pages using pictures.

Let’s just say that when I discovered that there were educational themed pin boards out there that I went a little crazy.  Over the course of a few days, I pinned over 75 different educational ideas to my “school ideas” board.  I got these pins both from educational blogs that I visited, websites, and of course, other peoples boards.  I learned several interesting things from Pinterest that I hope to use in my future classroom.


Interesting Ideas to Apply to Your Classroom

1.  Did you know that plastic plates (the throw-away kind) can double as little dry erase boards?  Glue one to a big popsicle stick and you have an instant response paddle.  (not a people paddle…make sure you set guidelines with your class for proper use, especially if you teach the lower grades 🙂 )   

2.  Home Depot sells dry erase paint.  And chalkboard paint.  You can now paint any surface and create chalk/dry erase boards.

3.  Using salt-dough clay and a little paint,  you can have students study geography by creating a land mass with various landforms.  Make a connection with world history by having students design the ideal land area to sustain a civilization.  What do people need to survive?  How do civilizations grow and prosper?  What area would be best suited to help people thrive?


4.  Remember playing “Guess Who” as a kid?  Well, if you can find one of the old game boards (and if you have the time and patience) you can cut out and glue pictures of historical people onto the flip cards, and you have a fun and interactive review game!

All told, I have over 100 pins on my “school ideas” board, and the 4 above ideas don’t even scratch the surface of the wonderful sources that I have found.  From classroom management strategies, to hands-on learning, to links for teaching to the Common Core, to classroom organization, to writing prompts and technology, the ideas (and pins!) are endless.  Simply browse pins in the Education category and be prepared to spend at least an hour glued to your computer, reading up on a ton of wonderful resources.

Finally, one last pin for the road.  I found a pin that links up to a blog, that lists over 200 pinboards full of education ideas.  If those pinboards are anything like mine, and have about 100 pins on them each, then you are looking at potentially 20,000 different educational pins to browse and repin to your own board for you to reference later.

Enjoy and happy pinning!


This post was written by Guest Blogger- Mandi Morningstar. You can follow Mandi @Mandiamstar Mandi is a New York State certified 7-12 social studies teacher.  She worked for 4 years teaching 9th and 10th grade Global History and Geography before being laid off.  Mandi is currently looking for a classroom to call her own, and working as a substitute teacher in the meantime.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ithaca College in 2007 with her BA in Social Studies Education, and from SUNY New Paltz in 2011 with her MS in Adolescent Education with a history concentration.  Mandi and her fiance live in Beacon, NY with their cat, Yao-Man.

Teacher Kit can help you stay organized

Often teachers have little time during the school year and any app that can save you time is well worth the money. Fortunatly for you, Teacher Kit is a FREE application. It is a personal organizer to help you organize classes and students. It is very simple to use and it can help you with attendance, grades, and student behavior.


After playing with it a little it seems like it would be a very useful application to use in the classroom. As a teacher you can set up your classroom, seating assignments, grades, and save student information such as their names, emails, parent contact information. Everything is stored in one place! From the app you can even email students or parents with a simple click…. You can take attendance and monitor student behavior.

Not sure if this is creepy… but you can even take a picture of the whole class and the app recognizes faces and asks you to identify them and it can help you build a roster with names and pictures for attendance purposes.


Need Volunteers in your Classroom!

I am always looking for ways to make my classroom more  efficient. I discovered VolunteerSpot and wish I was an elementary school teacher so I could use this awesome program. VolunteerSpot is a free online volunteer coordination tool that even has an app for your mobile device. It can simplify busy parents into a list of easy to access parent volunteers for your classroom.


Schools across the country are always looking for ways to encourage volunteers in the classroom, fundraise needed funds, and improve their community. VolunteerSpot’s has actually updated the old paper and pen sign up sheet and increased parent participation!

It is also a wonderful resource for teachers and parents with “how to guides” and resource sharing materials for teachers. VolunteerSpot can save you time and improve your classroom.


#sschat has made me a better teacher!

Unfortunately, teaching has the potential to be an isolated career in terms of collaboration and support. Before I discovered Twitter I felt alone with my teaching and was most certainly not as reflective. I feel extremely privileged to have discovered #sschat on Twitter. I love observing people’s reactions when I say I use Twitter for professional development. When I was interviewing for my job my husband and I sat down and carefully constructed how I was going to approach the way I introduce twitter as a PLC. I wish more preservice teachers knew about this wonderful asset.  Twitter has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to connect with dynamic educators from around the world and learn interesting ways to engage my students.


Twitter (#sschat) has truly become one of the most inspirational ways I have created my own profesional learning community. Every Monday night at 7 PM EST teachers from around the country log into their twitter accounts and follow the hashtag #sschat. Every week there is a new discussion prompt or topic. It’s pretty AMAZING to say that I connect with hundreds of AWESOME social studies teachers from around the country EVERY week… actually everyday.  Some people joke that #sschat is one massive department meeting, one in which I truly enjoy “going to.” Monday become my favorite day of the week, which is pretty rare for most educators.


In addition to the wonderful #sschat discussions and the #sschat Ning Website  has become an amazing resource! If I am teaching a lesson and need help I can post a question or a problem and I instantly get a response and resources from teachers who teach the same subject. My lonely job is no longer isolating but inspiring! I hope to “see you” Monday Night!

Video Introduction to  Twitter #sschat –


Top 4 Apps for Students

Sorry busy week I just wanted to quickly share!

1. Dropbox to save files digitally without the need for a flash drive and storage back up Free link

2. Evernote for notes

3. My Homework- Puts all your homework in one place and it’s $2 a year!

4. Cam Scanner- makes any paper file —- digital

Timeline Eons App: A graphic representation of history

Timeline Eons is a graphic representation of the entire natural and human history. The app features an extensive and wide range of topics from Big Bang theories and evolution to historical events. The events are easily displayed and reveal interesting information about historical events. It also has a fun facts section that encourages students to expand their own learning. I really like that is has a today in history feature. Check it out today!

Cellphones in School: Contraband or Classroom Tool

Text messaging has become one the fastest and most popular forms of communication. Just a few years ago, cell phones were seen as the newest teenage addiction. Today, however, they can be an important classroom tool, although some schools regard them as disruptive, distracting, and have implemented policies that prohibit using them on school grounds. Most parents are okay with cell phone use, the students are more than okay with cell phone use, yet schools have adopted zero tolerance policies. The reality is that students still use cell phones in school even if they are banned. According to Time Magazine, “even though the vast majority of students own cell phones–something like 80% by eighth grade–more than half of schools prohibit the use of any mobile device.”


Some teachers worry that cellphones will increase cheating, lead to sexting, decrease use of proper grammar, and be a distraction to learning.  While I can’t disprove these concerns, I can state that educating students about responsible and purposeful cellphone use is needed. What agitates me most about schools banning cellphones outright is that they are missing out on an opportunity for growth, collaboration, information, and FREE technology.

Increasing  costs and disappearing school funding has made updating technology often impossible and even basic school supplies dwindle. Challenging times require teachers to get creative. Schools across the country need to realize that the technology of the future is already in students’ back pockets, falling out of skinny jeans, or officially “in their lockers.”

How long will it take schools to realize that banning cellphones is not the answer?
Why should cell phones be allowed in schools? 

I polled my students to discover that 95% of my 8th graders owned a cell phone and 55% of them had a smart device.  My students are not just making calls, texting, and updating Facebook. They are making social connections, collaborating, researching, and sharing information.


Schools across the country need to be more flexible with their cell phone policies. Cell phones can replace reference books, flip cameras, calculators, cameras, student planners, instant response devices, and so much more. They can save schools money and enhance instruction if done in an appropriate way.


With administrative and parental approval, I use a program called to send text messages to my students with reminders, announcements, polls, questions, etc. Students can text me and ask me a specific question such as “what is on the test tomorrow?” or ask “what did I miss in class?” when they were sick. Cell phones have the potential to bridge the gap between the home, school, and social media world.

How can cell phones increase parent communication?

Frequent communication with parents is a necessity, but newsletters, classroom emails, and letters home to parents are becoming outdated.  Last fall at South Western High School in Hanover, Pennsylvania, I encouraged parents to join my text messaging classroom group. I was surprised with the results. Of my 55 US history students, 35 of their parents participated. Parents commented that they appreciated the text message reminders about homework & tests, updates about their child’s progress, and even the in class texting activities. Parents are now more informed about how their kids are doing and are better able to help their children with their schooling, which is key to student success.

One activity in which I involved parents and cell phones I like to call “text a friend.” My students’ assignment was to text a family member or friend asking the question “Did you vote in the last election? Why or why not?”  Through the responses they received they learned firsthand far more than just having the textbook or teacher’s perspective. Cellphones truly brings the world into your classroom.


For More Information: Here is a previous blog post about the ways cell phones can enhance instruction in the classroom. Here is a post about 10 educational apps that can be used in the classroom.


50 Creative Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom

Skype is a free and easy way for teachers to open up their classroom. Meet new people, talk to experts, share ideas and create amazing learning experiences with teachers from around the world. Skype is a wonderful way to bring the world into the classroom. Imagine being able to bring an expert or a guest speaker into your classroom to teach a particular subject. You can even collaborate with a classroom halfway around the world. All of this is possible with Skype in the classroom.


I recently stumbled upon the article on 50 Creative Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom. She lists some interesting ways to use Skype in the Classroom and useful links on how to implement the ideas. I couldn’t agree more that Skype is a “phenomenal classroom tool.” I highly suggest reading her article find out how you can put this cool tool to work in your classroom!


Thank You: 40,000+ Views!

I know 40,000+ may not sound like a lot of views compared to other bloggers, but for me that number is tremendous. I got excited the first time it broke 1,000 and now I am averaging that in three days. My hope is that it continues to grow and improve our practice.


I started this blog when I got frustrated when I would share ideas with other teachers and it seemed like no one had time to listen or implement them. I was once asked by a former principal to “change the name of the blog, because it was insulting to other history teachers in my department (which means someone complained).” That blew my mind and you can actually tell when that event occurred because  I stopped blogging for almost two months. When I created the name I was never trying to insult any teacher but i thought it was a clever. I NEVER changed the name because I thought it showed that I am a different kind of teacher that’s willing to push the envelop. That was the only time I rebelled against an administrator (to this date).


I started this blog as a professional outlet to share my ideas and reflect on my teaching practice. My goal is that my blog can provide teachers with resources that can excite a student’s love of learning. I have met some amazing educators, fellow bloggers, and people I now call friends due to my blog.   I am now MORE excited to attend conferences because I am no longer just improving my own practice but helping to share resources and ideas with other teachers.  Thanks for following my blog and here’s to another 40,000+ views!

History for Music Lovers: World History Pop Music

I learned about History for Music Lovers by @magisterWarren. History for Music Lovers was created by  Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona. The videos on Amy and Herb’s YouTube channel – historyteachers – have been uploaded over 3.5 million times. They created the videos with the the purpose of making their curriculum fun, engaging, and educational for their students. They have around 50 plus music videos on world history topics. The videos are educational and they are catchy. The learning process becomes an enriching experience when you combine their passion for history and music.

Here’s a sample music video on the French Revolution:

They were recently featured on TEDx. Here is their TEDx project “What I learned from Napoleon and MTV?”


Who are Herb and Amy?

Amy is a 19 year Humanities teacher and is a a leader in educational technology. Her work in the History for Music Lovers project has appeared in Wired magazine, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, CBC, NPR, international blogs and media. Herb has been a classroom educator for twenty years. He is a composer, arranger, musician, web designer, and filmmaker.


Resources Share from Pete Laberge

  • Here is Amy Burvall’s Own Official Web Page (c/w Biography, etc.):!
  • This is Amy Burvasll’s WIX site:!home/mainPage
  • Here is Amy Burvall’s Tumblr Log:
  • Here is Amy Burvall’s Twitter Feed:!/amyburvall
  • Here is Amy and Herb’s HistoryTeacherz Twitter Feed:!/historyteacherz
  • Here is their Facebook Page:
  • Official TEDX Hawaii, Nov 2011
  • Ignite Honolulu 4 (Aug 2012) : “PARODY-SO: The Unexpected Lessons of a History Teacher Turned Edulebrity”
  • The Creativity Salon Interview (With the late great Neil Tepper)  Ignore the first 1.5 mins, as it is some sort of commercial
  • Here is one young lady who was inspired by them to make her own videos: She sings some really cool history parodies.
  • Another good history link (Hip Hughes, Buffalo, NY), not related to the history teachers), is here: Very good USA history, and Civics videos. And animated lecturer, who also does some world history stuff. Hip Hughes Tweets at: @hiphughes
  • Here is a good math/science link (Mr.Edmonds), not related, either)
  • Then, there is Dan Rojas at Green Power Science on YouTube (Kids, do not try this stuff at home, ok!)



Create an Infographic for your Classroom!

I learned about infographics from Twitter’s #sschat. Before Monday I had no clue how to make an infographic. Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. Here is more information: What is an info-graphic? is one of the simplest websites to design an infographic for your classroom, a lesson, for a school poster, and the ideas can go on and on. is “easy to use,” free, and within a matter of minutes you can make an infographic, unless you are a perfectionist like me, in that case it will take you a few hours.

Once you create an account you select a theme, select objectives and shapes, design the layout, add text, and you can create an infographic is a short amount of time. is not the only website that allows users to create infographics, another is, which seems to have a fewer resources. I seemed to prefer

According to Jamie Forshey author of Edutech for Teachers blog, Infographics can be used as a “visual to show students and educators the way that technology is projected to continue shaping our lives, world—and education! What a great way to motivate, encourage, persuade and guide students in post-secondary career planning! It’s also an excellent visual for stressing the importance of exposing students to relevant, real-world tech tools in the classroom setting.”

Here is a sample infographic I made for my classroom. I brought it to staples to enlarge it or you can use the Block Posters web tool to create your poster. I also embedded it on my blog.


Use Splashtop to Remotely Access Any of Your Files Anywhere

I discovered Splashtop from @mraabbe on twitter. Splashtop is an amazing program that true makes a teachers life easier and helps you deliever the “best-in-class remote desktop experience.”  Splashtop is a remote desktop service. It allows you to remote control your Windows or Mac computer from a mobile device, either via local WiFi or over the Internet.

Imagine the possibilities of using your ipad to control your computer.  I am now able to edit/play my powerpoint and play a flash video. It is truly the easiest way to access all of your content from ANY device ANYWHERE!  New York Times called it “both a breakthrough and a bargain.”


Splashtop has won the prestigious “Most Innovative Product” award from PC World, the “Best of What’s New” award from Popular Science and the ”Best of 2012 CES” award from LAPTOP Magazine.


  • view and edit files remotely (no transfer or sync)
  • use your favorite Mac or Windows programs
  • watch videos at up to 30 frames per second
  • stream music collection from another computer
  • give presentations with full audio and video to engage your audience
  • play graphic intensive games and more!


What do you have to install?

All you have to do is install FREEstreamer on your desktop or laptop computer and then download the app from the Google Play or App Store. The app costed $4.99 but it is SOOO worth the money if you want to teach while walking around the room and harness the power of your computer from your mobile device. It is quick and easy- just log in and connect your computer.




Take a 360 Panorama Image

Have you ever wondered how you can bring parents into the classroom and make them feel as if they are truly apart of the class? I discovered 360 Panorama at Edcamp Hudson Valley.  With 360 Panorama you can capture a panorama image of your classroom. Ways you can use this app: you can take a picture of your classroom to show prospective students or parents, you can use it demonstrating any class activity, demo, or lab. The ideas are endless!


It is so simple to use, with either an Android or an iOS device you can take pictures of your locations from multiple angles. You can see the panorama image being built in realtime as every picture is being added. When you’re done, you can save your panorama or share it using any social media website.  Here’s a sample 360 image. View your panoramas as photos or experience them in immersive 360 View. There is nothing else like it!


Use iMotion to display movement with images

I love watching Planet Earth and always wondered how the director showed the images and videos in slow or fast motion. Yesterday at EdCamp Hudson Valley, I discovered a basic editing software that can allow you to edit and make images move using time-lapse software. The iPad app is called iMotion, which is a powerful time-lapse software that allows images or videos to move. It is very simple to use all you have to do is take pictures, edit your movie, and export it directly to youtube or play in on the iPad. It is a technique that displays movement. I could see a science teacher or elementary teacher using this app to demonstrate the life cycle or weather patterns to students. Not sure how I could use it in the social studies classroom, but it seems too cool to not share. Check it out today.


Here is a sample Video: