Month: January 2016


by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

As with most things in my class, I love using Google Drive to store student work.  It is so easy to share between students and teachers. More and more websites are allowing you to connect an app to Drive, which enables students to have access directly from their Drive while also saving it for them!  Eliminating those added steps (no matter how easy) is such a convenient feature. One of those apps that can be connected to Drive is Powtoon. is a presentation tool that allows you to create animated presentations by simply dragging and dropping designed elements to your slides. Plus, slides can be turned into video presentation by clicking a button – literally.

Presentations can be created from scratch or by customizing a ‘Ready Made Powtoon’.

powtooncreatetemplateIn my class, I generally like to have students use those templates for quick and easy presentations, while allowing for the start from scratch option on larger projects. This helps to add some versatility in how and how often you can use Powtoons. The styles you can choose from all have their own library of characters in different poses. Although certain features are locked in the free version, this also helps when asking students to focus on the content.   It has enough features and pizazz to keep students engaged, though it may not be as customizable as Slides . Even with these restrictions, students have ample opportunities to express themselves creatively.

drag and dropMost everything within Powtoons is adjustable.  From text styles to objects, you can quickly click, drag and drop to modify a presentation.  They also have a Simple and Customized mode which can help with the learning curve of Powtoon. The text options are pretty awesome too, with some very cool animations attached to them. You also have plenty of ticks, crosses, arrows and circles to choose from, and the props go into the hundreds.  Even in a pre-created powtoon, you can always add features to a slide and voiceover recording is another great feature.

I love that tutorials are available to show how it all works. The training videos are 1 to 3 minutes and do a great job of highlighting the features in an easy-to-follow directions. Especially when students are watching, they are just enough to get them moving on a project without taking too much out of their work time.

The free account includes the ability to create your own Powtoons that last up to 5 minutes long, plus cool presentations that can include up to 5 minutes of animations.


You can make an unlimited number of presentations and animated clips and easily share them online on YouTube or through social media. The free account does show the PowToon watermark, which isn’t too much of a deal for me. If you want to export your PowToon without the PowToon watermark, Export in HD, or download to your computer, you can buy a subscription or buy credits for export.


SAVE THE DATE: 4/30 FutureNOW! Conference @Design39Campus

SaveDateFutureNOW2016We are excited to be partnering with NCPDF, STEAM Insight, and Design39Campus for the 2nd annual FutureNOW! Conference. Last year, we brought together over 250+ educators, administrators, and technologists for a full day of professional learning and collaborative networking. Sessions covered topics in Design Thinking, Creative Confidence, and Project-Based Learning. This year, we are excited to continue the momentum with more exciting learning opportunities from innovative educators from around the county and state. Please SAVE THE DATE for Saturday, April 30th for the 2nd Annual FutureNOW! Conference @Design39Campus. Details and registration to come in early February. 

Here is a glimpse of last year’s conference via Storify:

Using Lucid Press

lucidpress template

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

One of the main reasons that I used to keep getting Microsoft Office software was so that I would have access to Publisher.  I loved that they had so many layouts available to make posters, pamphlets and other visually appealing presentations quickly and easily. But the cost alone, not to mention the endless updates necessary to keep it up-to-date seemed never ending, and only managed to bog down my computer.  That is, until I found Lucidpress!

Lucidpress is a free (with the option of a premium subscription) web-based alternative to many of those creative assignments with a variety of templates for creating both print and digital newsletters, brochures, flyers, pamphlets, photo and video books, invitations, and more. I found Lucidpress to be the lucid chats commentperfect tool for the needs of both myself as well as my students. With only a free account, I have been thrilled with the products that students and I can create. It is a perfect application for meeting several English-Language Arts (ELA) Common Core standards while infusing both technology and creativity to the project.  Templates are easily modified, allowing students to personalize projects while simultaneously providing them with a format that can be simply made with a click. Templates include brochures, newsletters, magazines, reports, posters, presentations and flyers: all visually attractive and easily sharable through print and digital publishing.  The best part for me is that all of these projects are easily stored in your Google Drive.

lucid shareTo create a projects, simply drag and drop to create your content. I generally start with students using templates, but also allow them to start with a blank canvas as they become comfortable with the program. They can easily add images, video, and text from Google Drive, YouTube, Dropbox, Flickr or their computer.  The collaboration feature is another nice feature of Lucidpress. Students and teachers can collaborate in real time on projects as long as they have also added the add-on through Google. Just like many of the Google Apps, this allows you to comment and chat without leaving the project or making changes to it.  You can also track and reverse edit through the revision history.

lucid download
Once a project is finished, you can publish digitally via a customized link or download to PNG, JPG, or PDF (for printing).  This makes sharing projects a breeze for both displaying student work as well as grading.

Using Thinglink For Students to Demonstrate Mastery

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

When asking a group of kids about their research, the overwhelming response is always ‘Google’ as the main source.  No matter what sort of notes the students took, it is always the same. It’s a constant reminder that with such a vast array of material we need to explicitly teach research. Chrome is such a valuable tool for students, but teaching kids how to use Google to enhance their learning takes time. In my class, I needed something that students could use as a link their resources, the products of their work, and a way to share it all in a neat little package. It wasn’t until I was reviewing with a group about how to publish their slideshow to the web (from a previous blog post), that it started to click for me.

Thinglink, students are now able to store all of their research in one neat spot. Students begin by gathering othinglink overviewnline resources. The next step of this is finding an appropriate image to represent the project. Since I am a 1:1 iPad classroom, I will often have them either take the picture themselves or create an image. We also had great conversations about advance image searches in Google.These websites and videos need to be labeled in a manner that make the resource easily identifiable. I have started having students use different colored icons to indicate whether the resource is a website, online article/document, or video in order to be sure that they are using a variety of sources to help shape their learning.  Although Thinglink is not collaborative in itself, using the Google Apps with a hyperlink allows everyone to use those same resources, and can collaborate on an aspect of the project that is linked into the image.

Once they have finished with the research, they move on to the publishing of their own work.  I’ve found that having students start with a Google Doc that summarizes each resource is a great way to have them start to paraphrase sources and deepen their own understanding of the material.  Much like publishing Google Slides, they will publish to the web and include that into their Thinglink. Working with nine and ten year olds, I find that this step is helpful in teaching them how to share ideas in their own words, while citing the sources within the summary. Also, since Thinglink is not itself collaborative, this work around makes many aspects of the tagged image collaborative.  Students can work on multiple aspects of a project simultaneously, storing their resources in one project that a small group will have access to.

Of course, their final product is also included.  I like to give my students choice in their final products, but this is often a Slideshow published to the web. Student created videos are also popular, posting the unlisted YouTube link to their image. Regardless of how they choose to demonstrate their learning, the link is included into the Thinglink. As a teacher, I love having all of their work in one click.  I can see what students used to guide their learning, and can check back within their resources to help them improve. Although not a Google tool, the ability to quickly tag an image works so well with all the Google apps.

Thoughts On K12 Education Information Technology

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.21.59 AMby Howard Chan @socratech

Below is a compilation of my random #EduIT thoughts from years working in K12 education and information technology. The role of the technology department is continuing to evolve, and with the rapid growth of edtech in K12 schools, it is important to understand everyone’s role (teachers, operations, admins) in the success of technology implementations. This post will continue to evolve and I welcome other technologists, administrators and teachers to participate in this ongoing discussion about Education Information Technology.

  • Change happens at the speed of trust.
  • Healthy relationships and customer service are foundational to the success of any technology implementations. There are just too many diverse stakeholders involved now.
  • K12 information technology is NOT enterprise information technology.
  • Successful technology departments are not just troubleshooting day-to-day tech support requests, but rather empowering users and providing structured professional development.
  • Create “real” strategic tech plans, not compliance tech plans.
  • The more technology proficient our K12 users are, the less tech support requests are submitted.
  • When the team is focused more on educational technology, then information technology is doing its job.
  • Putting technology in the classroom without proper professional development = money squandered.
  • Just paying for tech support = adding more cost down the road. Tech support must combine with professional development, technology vision and strategic technology planning for successful integration.
  • EdTech specialists should evolve to learn and experience aspects of information technology.
  • IT administrators should observe classrooms and understand the needs of our teachers.
  • Tech decision makers should participate in academic meetings.
  • “Geeked-Out” teachers + “Education-Minded” IT admins = Happy Medium!
  • Content filtering is a must when dealing with federal dollars…but that doesn’t mean IT shouldn’t listen to their teachers about what you block. Both sides should be knowledgeable about CIPA.
  • Student data privacy is ever more at the forefront as we move towards more online content.
  • Responsible management of equipment by our teachers will go a long way to preserving the technology while lending a hand to the IT department.
  • When purchasing technology, don’t forget their is a total cost of ownership which adds maintenance, warranty, training, and support costs.
  • Cloud computing will save costs down the road while providing teachers content for engaging educational technology.
  • Technology departments should model 21st century learning. We need to empower our users to be constant learners, collaborators, and innovators.
  • The more we open our technology infrastructure to our users, the more important digital citizenship becomes a key component.
  • When offering technology professional development, remember The Boiling Frog Syndrome metaphor.
  • It is possible for a teacher to run the technology infrastructure of a school. I know many teachers who take on this role.
  • Provide technology tools and avenues to empower users to share information and collaborate.
  • The skill of patience is a necessity when supporting diverse groups of users. Don’t make assumptions about technology use, there are diverse experiences and attitudes towards technology.
  • Take the time to understand user workflow, it will help inform support and solutions.
  • Implementing changes in technology requires thorough planning and strategy when dealing with such a diverse user base.
  • Even when you are confident that change in technology is better in the long the run, there tends to be a resistance to change that dampers the process. One needs to be build a thick skin when making school-wide technology changes. Keep pushing forward and try to win the few resistors over.
  • “Find the Found” when working with end users on new tech solutions.
  • Not all users will read your first email or update, differentiate how you disseminate technology changes to the staff.
  • When users are not hollering, is it safe to assume there are no tech support issues? “All Quiet in the Western Front” or should tech support be worried that it is too quiet.
  • Tech support is a thankless job.

Field Trips With Google

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery


Over the winter break, I decided that it would be best to take a week away from the class and just explore town. It was nothing exciting or eventful, Screenshot_2016-01-05-09-02-11[1] (1)just wandering around while taking in all that San Diego has to offer. I’m the type of person who likes to find those hidden gems, places with a rich history or cultural significance that won’t show up in your typical travel guide. I came across a great app that let me take that passion for meandering around and learning: Field Trip. It’s made by Niantic Labs, a division of Google, and is designed to send you short blurbs, ‘cards of information’ about locations as you pass them. You can personalize Field Trip notifications, and turn on an audio option that will speak the title and description of a spot (although I didn’t do this myself, this would be a great option for when you’re driving).

Field Trip depends on location data from Google Maps to display location and ‘cards’, those short blurbs of information, around you. Information from  these cards come from a variety of sites: Arcadia, Thrillist, Food Network, Zagat, and Songkick to nScreenshot_2016-01-04-14-02-56[1] (1)ame a few. These cards are organized by color if you are seeing everything, but I was impressed by how deeply you can customize Field Trip. You can select the individual feeds, which are organized by interest, that seed the app; give individual updates a thumbs-up or thumbs-down; and tell the app to show you more or fewer things from any single data source (much the same way you customize your music in sites like Pandora). You’re also able to flag locations to your saved places, a nice bonus feature when something catches your eye.


I consider myself to be a well-traveled person, enjoying the history and culture around me regardless of where I am.  Strolling the streets of my hometown, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  After setting my interests to everything, I was blown away with the cool, hidden, and unique perspectives from around town!  Obviously, this app works best in larger cities, but I was able to find all sorts of new information. Historical sites and events, arts, food and drinks and lifestyle are just of few of the categories that help to customize your Field Trip experience.


Although I’ve used this to explore the town on my own, I can’t help but bring it back to how it may look in the classroom.  As students research and explore their communities, states, nation, or world, they are instantly brought into that location. A self-guided virtual field trip is at their fingertips, providing them with not only information from that location. That information provides so many initial points for research without dictating what the students will research. I also think to our field trips to Old Town San Diego and Balboa Park.  How great would it be to have this app to help inform students of not only the history of these places, but help to explain the culture and architecture of the time?!