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:   
  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
  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

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Socrative for Review and Sub Plans!

I NEVER in my wildest dreams would assume my student’s would actually be able to play a “review game” on their mobile devices with a substitute. I have a dream US history class period 1, which means they are still tired. The classroom culture is such that they do their work, every one of them contribute to the class, and meaningful learning happens. It is one of my favorite classes. I am not sure I could leave a review game for some of my other periods, but with that being said you have to know your students and ideally have a good substitute!


I use Socrative for review games all the time. I also love Infuse Learning. I use both programs (free) interchangeably because they have different features. On Monday morning I had a review day scheduled before their test on Tuesday. I attended a conference in the city and needed to leave sub plans. My first reaction was “oh no, what can I have the sub do with them? I can’t lose another school day” (we’ve had 2 snow and 4 hurricane days this year, so far). I already had a Socrative review prepared for my students and I figured I would continue with my plans. Being my school is a BYOD my students could partner up or each use any device they owned to play the “game.”

My sub plans said:

  1. Have the students go to their Socrative app or the internet to access the website
  2. Give them this random code ##### to play the game
  3. Have them play the review game alone or with a partner

I preset the questions to have student’s see if they got the questions correct as well as a “why” if they got the question wrong. My student’s did really well and enjoyed the review game. If you want to access other teacher’s review games using the socrative share code- click this link.


After they played the digital review game I had them use white boards in pairs. I gave each pair an envelop of four vocabulary words with the definitions that were going to be on the test. They had to draw their vocabulary word. They then took turns guessing each others word. They played this game for four rounds so they reviewed over 40 vocabulary words in the period.


I graded the tests on Tuesday and my students did fabulous on the assessment! I am so happy I did not lose and day and most of all meaningful learning occurred and reviewed WITHOUT me being there. I hope you can try something like this in your class.

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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.

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Civics Resources: Games, Videos, Lesson ideas

I have used the The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands for numerous civics videos and online books in the past but was recently introduced to the Sunnylands Civics games by @melissalindinja.  The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands is developing interactive games about the Constitution. The games seem well suited for middle school or lower high school levels.


There are games about the first amendment, branches of government, laws, executive brach, couts, being John Marshall, and the constitutional convention. This games are interactive and if you create teacher and student accounts you can use the scores for progress monitoring or a classroom competition. Check it out today!

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Sheppard Software: Free Educational Games

I recently discovered Sheppard Software, which is an online website that offers FREE online educational games for nearly almost every subject and grade level. After testing out a few of the games it becomes clear that most of them  geared for middle school or elementary school. The best part about this program is that the games are tiered into different levels for students. Students can play a level 1, 2, or 3 game reviewing the same content.


Some examples of games are geography with different levels of states and capitals, and another is one game is about the branches of government. This programs reminds me of Brain Buster, which is another wonderful educational game program (that needs a subscription). What a great way to engage our students with the curriculum!

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Make Learning Interactive with Bubbabrain

I am always looking for ways to make my classroom more interactive. I discovered Bubbabrain, which has a wide array of interactive activities for all grade levels (elementary to college) and subjects. Some examples include AP Government, family and consumer science, world languages, sociology, and technology.

There are even prompts to “try again” if your student gets a question wrong, as well as the students progress through each game. Once teachers register, they can create their own games for the site. The teacher ID can be entered by students to access teacher created games.

Students can play the games inside or outside of class. Students can play the games as a class on an interactive whiteboard in the classroom. Bubbbrain is a great tool to help to students who want to study in an interesting and engaging way.



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Dragonbox- The Math Game

DragonBox is a game designed for children to learn and solve algebraic equations. Students truly learn while having fun. Players go through different worlds as they go one level up and see their dragons grow. The game’s creator, Jean-Baptiste Huynh from Norway, was a teacher who got tired of the frustrating method used to teach maths in school. He wanted his children to learn algebra in a meaning way. Using tablets such as the iPad he created an app that encourages students or children to learn math by playing a game. Christopher Wanko said his “eight year old son immediately sat down and ran through the first two banks of problems without hesitation. It was amazing.”




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I learned about TableQuiz from Technology Tidbits.  TableQuiz is very simple to use and would be great to use in a 1 to 1 environment.  Tabletquiz is an application that enables anybody to make personalized quiz and survey apps. First you create the quiz/survey on our website and then you run your app on an iPad, iPhone or Android tablet.  Tabletquiz is designed to take advantage of the mobile device screen size, ease-of-use and multimedia capabilities (pictures, audio and video). This allows to create visually appealing apps in a short time, without programming.  

The application is very simple to use. The quiz can be 20 multiple choice questions per quiz including images and videos. In order for students to access the quiz they need to either download the application on their mobile device or bookmark the website. Teachers can access the quiz results online and download them to an excel spreadsheet. This application seems very simple to implement in the classroom for a informative assessment or review activity.

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Great Ideas: 7 Uses for QR Codes in School

I discovered another great blog post from Vicki Davis author of the  Cool Cat Teacher blog. I could not agree more with Vicki that we should be encourage students to use their cell phones in the classroom. Vicky said “Let’s harness the elephant in the room instead of pretending he isn’t there. Cell phones and mp3 players provide us valuable links to the pockets and minds of the students we teach and qr codes are a great tool to leverage that connection.”   Great ideas Vicki!

Here are some great idea’s from Vicki’s Blog: 7 Uses of QR Codes in the Classroom

1 – CoverPage for Portfolios
I have my students write one summary blog post including hyperlinks to everything they have done for that period of time. For the eighth grade portfolio, we do have printed copies of many items that they save to use as reference during high school. (A sample MLA paper, instructions on creating MLA papers, proofreaders marks, etc. as well as their best of work.)

Their cover page has a QR Code on it. I can snap a picture on whatever device I need and have their summary post up on my screen in less than a second. The summary post includes hyperlinks to everything they have done online.

2 – Anything I have to assess online.
If I have 3-4 online items in a week, I have the students generate QR Codes and put them on ONE piece of paper and turn that in on Friday. Assessment is a snap and I can take pictures and use them.

3- When I want them to use an app
I would like to be 1:1 ipod touch or iPad at some point. But, for now, I share free apps with the students and try to find the Android, Blackberry, and iPod/iPhone equivalent. Put a picture of the QR Code for each of those on the Powerpoint Slide and show it on the board. The students can take a picture of the Code for their device and be taken to the app download screen immediately.

4- Take them to a website from a PowerPoint slide
If I’m using a PowerPoint and want them to go to any website, I always put the QR code on the slide.
(This needs to be standard practice at all conferences.)

5- Take them to a website as we are surfing.
Add Mobile Barcoder to your Firefox web browser. When you go to a website and want your students to follow you there on their mobile devices, you can use this handy add on to generate and show the mobile barcode on the screen. Just make sure that the link you are encoding is near the top of the screen, sometimes if you generate it low on the screen, students cannot get a good photo on their camera.

6 – Encode Homework.
This is a new one I’m testing. I don’t give a lot of homework, however, if I have some things I need them to do, I can encode the text and tape it up onto my assignment grid. They can snap a picture and put it into a text program of their choice. I’m not sure whether I’m going to end up keeping it as an SMS message or text file, but for now, I do it as a text file.

7 – To Hardlink and Remember
Our trophy case is FULL of trophies and state championships this year. We’ve just won state boys and girls track, team tennis for girls, state runner up tennis for boys and are hopeful about baseball. We’ve got movies of the assemblies and things. I’m encoding these and putting QR codes on the bottom of the trophies linking to the YouTube videos — for posterity. Eventually, we might put them in small plastic picture frames in front of the trophies, but most of the adults aren’t quite ready for that yet. (See more on hardlinking.)

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Socrative- Smart FREE Student Response System

A technology specialist at my school @mkrill suggested to try Socrative. Within ten minutes of receiving her email I had quiz created for my students.

Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers by engaging their classrooms with a series of educational exercises and games. Our apps are super simple and take seconds to login. Socrative runs on tablets, smartphones, and laptops. 

Teachers login through their device and select an activity which controls the flow of questions and games. Students simply login with their device and interact real time with the content.

Student responses are visually represented for multiple choice, true/false and Short Answer questions. For pre-planned activities a teacher can view reports online as a google spreadsheet or as an emailed Excel file.

After trying Socrative with my AP class I am planning on having them use their smart phones. This is such a positive way to use cell phones in the classroom and it is VERY simple/practical to use. Thanks @mkrill. I hope you check it out today.



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Take a Virtual Tour of the White House

Take your students on a virtual field trip to the White House. Travel floor-by-floor as you take an interactive tour of the White House. View official White House photos of rooms as well as the history inside those rooms. Also learn the significance each room has in the day-to-day workings of the White House.

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Free Tools Challenge

My friend from upstate NY is possibly getting a 1:1 classroom with a smart-board. Before I start, let me say that I am JEALOUS. I wish I could have that kind of environment and flexibility. They called me for advice on what digital tools they should be using in their new state of the art classroom.

My Top 6 FREE and Easy to Implement Classroom Resources: 

  1. Edmodo 
  2. Google Docs
  3. Glogster
  4. Pollseverywhere
  5. Animoto
I then shared resources from the Free Tools Challenge from EDU Blogs. Everyone loves free! Here’s a list of 26 different web tools that are great for students, educators, bloggers, and more. I am proud to say I have used most of them. These are some simple ways to incorporate 21st century learning into your classroom. Check them out today!
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Jeopardy Labs- Make Learning Fun!

Jeopardylabs is a wonderful FREE website that allows you to create jeopardy games without the use of powerpoint. Jeopardylabs allows users to create a customized jeopardy template. The games you make can be played online from anywhere in the world. Building your own jeopardy template is a piece of cake. Just use our simple editor to get your game up and running.

Not interested in building your own jeopardy templates? Well that’s cool too. You can browse other jeopardy templates created by other people. It doesn’t get any better than this!

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SideVibe-Create an interesting online lesson

SideVibe is an interesting Web 2.0 tool that allows teachers to revolutionize the classroom buy putting content online and delivering it in a powerful method. SideVibe enables teachers to create learning activities on the screen in direct proximity to Web content without the problems of paper handouts or 3rd party Websites. Student thinking in context is captured providing for more focused attentive and productive responses. As well, teachers can easily gather, view, assess and respond to all student responses through their secure SideVibe Website, providing teachers with faster, more effective methods for online feedback.

There is how­ever, one small catch and that involves the free and “pre­mium” account dif­fer­ences. Free accounts are avail­able but they are lim­ited to 50, “one time” stu­dent accounts (once a stu­dent account is issued, it can’t be re-used or re-issued) for every one teacher account.

A “pre­mium” teacher account does away with this lim­i­ta­tion (a teacher can have unlim­ited free stu­dent accounts) as well as adding a cou­ple of extra fea­tures. The cost is about $6.00 a month.

As well, stu­dents will also need an email address when sign­ing up for a stu­dent account.

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Free Classroom Tools and Games

I recently read about Classroom Tools from Michael Gorman’s blog 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning.

This site offers free educational games, activities, quizzes and templates. The website even allows you to use them on your own blog and modify them to fit your needs. The site has a bunch of templates  that seem interesting and educational to use in the classroom. I just downloaded the random name sorter and the count down timer.

For more information visit:

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