Explaining Lessons with Skitch by @justinstallings

 As some of you may be aware, the Texas Panhandle is covered in snow today!  I’ve decided to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about Skitch, a awesome tool from Evernote.

What is Skitch?

Skitch, initially a web tool on it’s own but later bought by Evernote, is a image markup tool that makes explaining images much easier.  It is available on Mac, PC, Android, and IOS.  You can markup images with text, arrows, highlights, and different shapes.

Here’s a snap shot of what tools are available from Skitch:


Explaining simplified

As I mentioned previously, the Texas Panhandle has been hit with a huge snow storm today.  With Skitch, instead of just saying what the snow is like, I can show you!

By simply adding the overlay of text and arrows, the image is already explained.  This also to engages students more than just listening to you explain it.  When the student sees the image and notice the text and arrows, they are already processing what they are looking at and what “snow drifts” are.

Skitch mobile

If you have a mind of a teacher, you’ll get a lot of ideas while you are out and about and want get a snapshot of whatever you find.  Skitch, available on Android and IOS, allows you to capture pictures via your smartphone and markup the image right there.  Plus, once you are done with the markup, you can share right from your smartphone to Twitter, Google +, email or several different other options.  Here’s a good video from Evernote.com about the Skitch app for Android (there are several other Youtube videos over Evernote and Skitch available at Youtube.com):

Skitch for Android 


Evernote and Skitch

Best of all, any image that you markup or capture will automatically be saved into your Evernote account.  Once you have saved the image, your image will be uploaded to your Evernote account where you can do editing with Skitch on your PC or Mac and share when you are ready.  Once it’s in your Evernote account, you’ll have it until you delete it.

Want more info on Skitch?  Here’s some more resources from myself and Evernote:


If you are curious, here’s a another photo I took of the snow at my place.  I stand 6’6 and the snow drift was up to my knees:








Mimic a Foreign Language

Mimic was designed to assist teachers and students by augmenting classroom and textbook ESL training via hours of casual conversation practice with native speakers available for free on any mobile phone. To become conversationally fluent, students must learn and become comfortable with the fundamental sounds and rhythms of a foreign language, which cannot be easily achieved by textbooks alone.


Mimic is the next best thing to a language immersion program. With the Mimic program, students can listen to the speakers and imitate what they say, exaggerating the sounds as they improve their prosody and automaticity of English. Users can choose to explore videos by select actors or subject matter, such as Future Events, General Conversation, Greetings/Introductions, Idiomatic Expressions, Likes/Dislikes, Making Plans, Past Events, Requesting Help or Uncertain Events.


Students should be encouraged to practice at their own pace and in whatever style feels comfortable to them, but emphasis should be on finding quiet time to listen and mimic a lot. Prosodic conformance and good conversation skills will only come from hours of exposure to the English language and Mimic is the ideal product for making it easy, fun and free. “With Mimic, we wanted to create a product that was both engaging and entertaining, that could teach complex grammar and expressions in a simple, easy-to-grasp manner that didn’t feel like you were studying,” says Wayne Clifford, CEO & Founder.


Napoleon News Fodey Project @caylacluckey

Guest blog post written by Cayla Cluckey who is currently attending Ithaca College for her Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Education. Cayla is spending her final semester student teaching at a secondary school (grade 10) in Ithaca, NY.

I’d like to share with you a practical means for using Fodey, a newspaper-clipping generator, in the classroom.  I was first introduced to this website via the “Not Another History Teacher” blog.  Fodey is such a great way to get students engaged while writing.  If you are looking for technological ways to enhance the learning and writing process, this site is for you!

My tenth grade global students are currently studying the Age of Napoleon.  I used Fodey as a creative wrap up assignment for the unit.  Students were apprehensive at first about the work but found the activity to be both informative and engaging.  I gave students four genres for their newspaper articles.  They could choose to write an editorial from the perspective of one of Napoleon’s soldiers, a headline event during the Age of Napoleon, an obituary addressing the legacy of Napoleon, or an advice column written to Napoleon. Such choices get student’s thinking critically about the past and incorporate common core writing into daily instruction. I found this project to be successful because students had the opportunity to chose the content material they found most note worthy, and the section of the newspaper in which they could best convey their thoughts.


Using Fodey was powerful in that students felt as though they were actual publishers of a newspaper during Napoleon’s time period.  Fodey can be used as a means to make history come alive!  Not only that, but it is easily accessible for all students; it’s just two simple steps: type, generate, and voila…as Napoleon might say!




Words of caution: Fodey cut off some of the students who wrote lengthy articles.  To fix the situation, I had the students submit the text to the article along with the picture of the clipping.




Teaching Your Students to Go Green written by Sandy Moore

Phrases like “sustainability” and “Eco-friendly” are all abuzz these  days, particularly in the academic communities which are the lynchpins for their development. But unfortunately, at times, the value and importance of these words is lost in abstraction. Greenwashing, which has canvassed the entirety of our advertising and PR industries, has led many consumers to believe that these terms can be tossed around and fastened to any good or service that doesn’t directly puncture a hole in the ozone layer.


The truth is, sustainability and Eco-friendliness are much stronger concepts than the public discourse would indicate. And the best way to establish that in your classroom is by alerting your students to their relevance and imminence.


Start small – give your students a thought experiment. Tell them to envision their adult years with hotter summers, more expensive food and a draining water supply. It’s not concrete, but if you can tie it into a lesson plan to get the wheels turning then it might be a good idea.


If you’ve got younger students, hand each a bag to collect bottles and other recyclables. And try rewarding them for proving their earth friendly habits! At the end of a month-long period, reward students for the amount they’ve collected, and try to organize a way to celebrate their green achievements.


If you’re catering to an older audience, try bringing some environmental literature into the rubric. Books like Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring are some of the most famous pieces of nature writing, and they’re not too dense for general discussion. By integrating them into your classwork, students will get timeless, well-respected insight into the issues of conservation and preservation.

No matter how old your students are, you can always make a personal effort to set a green precedent by using Eco-friendly products and school supplies. Soy crayons, biodegradable pens and recycled notebooks are all readily available if you’re willing to go the extra mile and order them online or dig a little deeper at your local supply stores. They’re available in large quantities, too, if you want to treat your students to a little something around the holidays.


While all these suggestions are actionable for the immediate future, they’re not the only places to look in regards to green education. Keep up with the latest in the field of sustainability, and appropriate the successes according to your classroom model. With some extra attentiveness, you’ll be able to infuse greener mindset among students for years to come.


Guest Post written by Sandy Moore, who is a fellow blogger at Pennsylvania Energy 

Digital Ways to Engage your Students

I am running a professional development session after school this week about digital ways to engage your students in their own learning. These are a few of my favorite apps or web-based programs that I plan to introduce at the workshop. 

  1. Infuse Learning: (online) Infuse Learning allows teachers to push questions, prompts, and quizzes out to students’ devices in private virtual classrooms. This is wonderful for a quick assessment or review activity on the spot. My student’s love the draw something feature where I give them a vocabulary word and then they draw it and send it to my screen. I have done this with AP and regular US history, both courses had wonderful results.
  1. Socrative: (online or app) Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.  This is great for a quick assessment or review game. For sample teacher codes visit: http://goo.gl/3CRiV   
  1. Gooru-:(online or app)  Gooru Collections allow any user to have access to more than 3,000 educational materials. The website is organized into playlists and is designed for every 5th-12th grade student. The options are endless from videos to games, to digital textbooks, useful teacher approved websites, quizzes, and so much more.
  1. Today’s Meet: (online) helps you embrace the backchannel and connect with your audience in realtime. Encourage the room to use the live stream to make comments, ask questions, and use that feedback to tailor your presentation, sharpen your points, and address audience needs.  I use today’s meet to have my student’s back-channel during a classroom debate, video, or resource sharing session when I do not want “verbal” discussion.
  1. Skitch:  (online or app) Get your point across with fewer words using annotation, shapes and sketches, so that your ideas become reality faster. This works well in groups. I assign each group a different topic and they need to create Skitch slide about that topic. They send their slides to me or their mirror their ipad through the Apple TV and teach the class about their topic.
  1. Evernote: (online or app) Evernote lets your take notes, sync files across your devices, save webpages, capture inspiration, and share your ideas with friends and colleagues.  There are so many wonderful ways to use Evernote for file sharing, lesson plans, digital portfolios writing submission. The ideas are endless!
  1. Animoto (online or app) or iMovie (app) Create a digital movie with photos and text slides.  Remember to create a teacher account. For sample projects and handouts http://goo.gl/aCntL
  2. My Big Campus (online or app) My Big Campus extends the classroom to a safe, engaging online environment that balances educational use of Web technologies with network and student.

Useful Resources

-Ipads In the Classroom by Annalisa Kelly Itunes Store. Free ebook http://goo.gl/nWcVh

Don’t let Snow Days Slow You Down: Use Google Drive

Like most of the East Coast, I am home on a snow day today and can’t afford to miss another school day with my AP class with an impending exam coming in less than three months. I assigned them a google document for homework that allows them to add their own information to the trends on the Supreme Court Google Document. I will review the handout with the class rather than wasting valuable class-time having them write down the notes on the chart.


Mrs. McGrath, another AP US history teacher at my school is having her student’s create Google Presentations. Her students are collaborating even if they are not together on a project that is due on Monday.  Our students are still learning on a snow day!

My Big Campus is Amazing!!!

I have used Edmodo the past year and a half with my classes. I love Edmodo because it’s a free social learning network for teachers, parents, students, and administrators. It provides a way to connect, collaborate, and so much more.

Michelle Krill, a technology coordinator @mmkrill at my former school, introduced me to new course management resource called My Big Campus. My Big Campus is a wonderful resource that allows teachers to create a virtual classroom with their students. My Big Campus has so many features and endless opportunities to collaborate and teach your student’s 21st century skills!

My Big Campus has a resource library for websites, wiki’s, handouts, power-points, and videos, etc. Once you create an account, you can create separate classes or groups. As a teacher you can create a blog, classroom calendar, post assignments, and even grade assignments right in My Big Campus. Last semester I used the blog to have a virtual discussion before and after classroom debates. I also used the classroom “chat” feature to Back-Channel while my class watched videos.


MBC is by far one of my favorite programs. It has replaced a lot of other programs and allowed my students to go to one place to access all our classroom information. Two teachers in my department have already rolled it out, one with an honors program and another with the AP US history course. My wonderful department chair, Mrs. McGrath has actually encouraged our department to start using it for a department resource sharing. I have two trainings scheduled for this spring to teach teachers about MBC in my district. I am excited to share my passion for MBC.




Video  Citation 


Use Google Draw to Animate Maps or Images written by Chris McKenzie @mckc1

Guest Post written by  Chris McKenzie who is an English teacher and a Coordinator of Educational Technology at a secondary school (grades 8-12) in Vancouver, BC. You can follow her on Twitter handle at  mckc1


I’d like to share relatively simple idea that makes use of Google Drawing to annotate maps. This is great for historical maps because it’s easier to do than overlaying a map onto Google Earth. If you don’t know about Google Drawing, you can find it in Google Drive. Instead of creating a Google Doc, just go a bit further down the drop-down menu and select “Drawing”.

Then, when you are in the drawing window, “Insert” an image and resize the image and the canvas to your liking.After that, you and the students can use the line tool and scribble tool to draw on the map, use the text tool to write on the map, and use the insert image function to include other images. If you right-click on the lines, text, or images, you can select “comment” to add a comment to the right of the map. Move your mouse over the comment to see which part of the map it pertains to, or click on an element of the map to see which comment is associated with it. Best of all, because this is a part of Google Drive, multiple students can collaborate on it.

It may be worthwhile having students annotate a map before you teach them the lesson. As a form of pre-assessment, they could annotate it with what they know. Then, as the lesson goes on, they could revise their previous annotations or drawings to show what they’ve learned.

Depending on your purpose and the students’ ages, you may also want to have some small pushpin images or premade labels down the side so that the students have only to drag them into place.

Here is a sample map: