Monthly Archives: July 2014

10 Search Strategies


I have always struggled with using search engines with my kiddos.  I am always nervous about results being appropriate, at their reading level and authentic.  So this “thing” was right up my alley!  I was thrilled to learn about the existence of MeL, Michigan eLibrary.  This is a free research tool that links you to valid and reliable sources such as eFull text magazines and newspapers and primary source documents.  So much more reliable than a google search.  I was shocked about some of the misleading sites google pulled up during the demo video about MeL.  I am going to add MeL to my symbaloo immediately!

Searching with MeL

MeL has over 40 databases you can use to search.  Two that are geared towards elementary students are: e-Library Elementary and Kids InfoBits.  I tested out both of these databases.  Since Michigan History is a big focus in 3rd grade, I searched for “Michigan fur trade” and “Michigan History” on both databases.  I started by using e-Library Elementary.  At first, I was really excited because I saw that you can choose what kind of resources you want: newspapers, magazines, books, maps, pictures, audio/video, and transcripts.  However, when I searched Michigan fur trade it mostly found books and magazines (no pictures or maps).  Also, the third link on the list was to a transcript of an interview with Kid Rock that had NOTHING to do with fur trade in Michigan. e-Library Elementary did have a number representing the reading level of the text, but I wasn’t sure what is corresponded to so I was unable to use it.   So that was a little disappointing.  I had more success with Kids InfoBits.  I found the results to be more user friendly.  Not much was located for Michigan fur trade, but I had more success with searching for Michigan History.  After scrolling through the results, I was able to locate some texts that would be great for my 3rd graders.

Infographic comparing the 2 databases using Piktochart

Infographic comparing the 2 databases using Piktochart

There are so many amazing databases available through MeL besides the ones I mentioned above.  For a complete list of ones I think my kiddos would find most useful, click here (just scroll down past my symbaloo)

Evaluating Web Resources

Unfortunately, there are people out there with too much time on their hands creating hoax websites for their own entertainment.  It is important as educators that we learn to spot these hoax websites and also teach our students how to recognize one. The Joyce Valenza Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources has given us a way to evaluate web sources to be sure they are a valid source of information.  I practiced using the Elementary(basic) version that I would have my kids use, in order to evaluate 2 sites from a list of bogus sites.

The first site I visited is:

Content = Easy to read and understand, but great for a good laugh because it is completely outlandish!  🙂  There were several working links on the site, some actually linked you to valid resources about octopuses that actually exist.  However, other links were to WikiPedia pages (which we know are not dependable because they can be edited by the public) and another link was actually to a page about sasquatch (red flag!). The dates were fairly current.  There were octopus related news links posted in April 2014.  There was great attention paid to detail.  If the idea of a tree octopus wasn’t completely absurd, the site has many things in place to make it look and feel legit.

Authority/Credibility = I truncated the URL to and could immediately see that this was a site designed for a good laugh.  The header reads “Your Source For Conspiracies & Other Diversions.”  It also seems to be set up more like a personal blog.  When I google the author, a variety of links pop up about his information being “fake” (duh). 🙂

Bias/Purpose = This site is clearly a parody.  I believe the author’s purpose is to teach us all that we can’t believe everything we read on the internet.

Usability/design = stellar!  This site is so easy to navigate, the links work and it is very organized.  It is clean, uncluttered and I noticed no spelling or grammar errors. Obviously, we can’t just rely on usability and design to let us know if the information is valid.

The next site I evaluated is:

Content = The content is organized and easy to read and understand.  However, just like the site above, the content is very far-fetched.  Upon searching for a publication date, I found this at the bottom of the site, “Note: This page was posted for April Fool’s Day – 2002.”  Not only is it dated, but since it actually states that this is an April Fool’s joke…it makes it a LITTLE easier to spot it as a hoax. 🙂

Authority/Credibility = The truncated URL actually takes you back to Google, obviously a very trusted site.  So that does not help me identify this as unreliable.

Bias/Purpose = While linked to the Google Technology page (which is completely legit), this site was created for parody/a joke.  The author’s purpose was to have a little fun on April Fool’s Day (and maybe even get a few more people on Google than usual)

Usability/design = Pretty easy to navigate, but a couple of the links no  longer worked.  I did not notice any spelling or grammar errors.

Citation makers

Next we dive into the world of free citation makers (where were these when I was in High School???).  I was astounded by how easy these sites make it to cite an article or website.  It even lets you choose the format your professor or teacher prefers.  Some free citation makers include: Citation Machine, bibme and EasyBib.  I attempted to use Google Scholar to locate an educational topic.  I searched for “common core standards” and received a wide range of results.  My frustration was that many of the journals/articles it located could not be read unless you signed up and paid for that journal.  An abstract was all that was provided.  I input several URLs I located from my search into Citation Machine and EasyBib, but every time I tried it was unable to locate crucial information on it’s own, such as the author of the article. After several failed attempts, I came up with the citation below (and this was created after I had to input some of the information manually).

Hiebert, E., & Mesmer, H. A. (2012, June 29). Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core State Standards. Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core State Standards. Retrieved July 16, 2014, from

I may have been doing something wrong, but it was not as easy as I anticipated it to be.  I see this as a useful tool for high school and college students, as well as for myself as I further my education.

CITW and ISTE Standards

Thing 10 supports the ISTE Standard: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity because using the databases from Mel allows students to access an amazing amount of information that will inspire learning and creativity.  I can also use Mel to Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences. By teaching students how to cite their resources correctly by using a citation maker, we are Promoting and Modeling Digital Citizenship and Responsibility. When students use these searching strategies, they will be able to test hypotheses they have generated and draw conclusions from the information.


9 Be Legal and Fair


Copyright Laws

Throughout this module on Copyright Laws, my eyes were opened to many things I was unaware of.  I learned that a copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the copyright owner (that’s a LONG time).  Which allows us educators to use some materials with a copyright but it depends on 4 things…

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount  taken
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market

copyright quizAfter watching several videos and reading up on copyright laws, I still don’t know everything there is no know.  I only scored a 17/20 on the copyright quiz. I thought your written work was only protected by U.S. copyright laws once it was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, but your work receives protection as soon as you write it down.  I also didn’t know that if you transform a copyrighted work enough that is adds value and attracts a new audience it would be considered fair use. I was also surprised that you are allowed to make money off fair use material.  Overall, I learned many important facts that will help protect my students and I in the future.

Once, I unknowingly broke copyright laws by showing an animated film to my students for an end of the year celebration.  We were not using it for educational purposes.  It never occurred to me that this would not be ok to do.  My actions could have affected anyone who was a part of making that film.  In the future, I will tie any movie viewing to academic content and give our viewing a clear educational purpose.  If necessary, I will seek out permission to show a film to my students.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a very helpful website that allows me to label my online work for reuse.  I can note specific requirements for use such as “not for commercial use” or “can not be modified.”  They make it very simple.  What a great way to share your work in a legal and fair way.  I created a Creative Commons license and added it to my classroom webpage.  Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to view the license icon.

website copyright

Screenshot of Creative Commons License

Plagiarism Checker

During this model we also learned about these handy-dandy plagiarism checkers.  Such a fast and easy way to check if student work is their own.  I quickly copied and pasted text from my classroom website and it immediately identified it as the source.  I found plagtracker to be the most user friendly.

CITW and ISTE Standards

Thing 9, Be Fair and Legal, clearly supports ISTE Standard 4: Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility.  By teaching my students about copyright laws, they will be more responsible citizens of the digital community.  I believe this also supports homework and other assignments because students need to be aware of copyright laws been using digital work such as images in their projects.  They also may need to copyright their own works they have posted on the web.

8 Digital Citizenship


Digital Law – my greatest weakness

Upon reading the 9 themes of digital citizenship, I realized I am particularly weak in the area of digital law.  I never thought I was breaking any laws as a citizen in the digital community.  Through further research, I learned about using images and copyright laws.  I honestly often just do a google image search when I am in need of a picture for a document or my classroom webpage.  I have now learned how to do a proper google image search that takes usage rights into account.

  • Step one – complete a google image searchgoogle image search
  • Step two – click on search tools
  • Step three – click on usage rights
  • Step four – select appropriate choice from the menugoogle image search 2
  • Step five – choose an image that is labeled for reuse

I am thankful that this is fairly simple to do and will make sure to search for images appropriately in the future.  When I instruct students on how to add images to their documents and online projects, I will be sure to go over these steps and the importance of following digital law to protect ourselves and others.

Digital Citizenship for Families

To communicate the importance of being a good member of the digital community to parents, I added a section about internet safety under the resources for parents tab on my classroom webpage.  It includes links to tips for families and a link to a kid friendly search engine.  Click here to see this page on my classroom website.

Teaching Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

In looking for lessons to do with my kids this fall, I discovered The Power of Words on Common Sense Media.  What a powerful lesson to touch on internet safety and cyberbullying.  I would like to use this lesson with my students before I introduce blogging.  I want students to understand the importance of making comments that are positive and constructive.

While continuing to search the internet for resources, I found this incredible activity about leaving a digital footprint.  Thank you to Tales from a Tidy Teacher for sharing! I definitely see myself trying this with my kids this fall.  I want them to understand that everything they post online stays with them for years to come.  The lesson also incorporates Tagxedo to give them an interesting way to show what they would want connected to their name in 10-15 years. I look forward to seeing what words and ideas my students come up with.

CITW and ISTE Standards

I feel that thing 8 is closely linked to cooperative learning.  In order for my students to participate in blogging and the use of collaborative learning tools, they need to completely understand digital etiquette, cyberbullying and their digital footprint.  They need to be able to use these tools in an appropriate, kind and respectful manner.  It also clearly supports ISTE Standard 4: Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility.  By implementing lessons from Common Sense Media, I will be promoting digital citizenship in my classroom on a regular basis.

Capstone 1-7


vanallsburgcoversI have completed my first Capstone project inspired by all of the amazing tools I was exposed to during Things 1-7.  I chose to create a lesson plan because it helped me think through how I could actually implement all of these outstanding tools into my classroom.  My lesson is going to be a culminating project for a month long author study on Chris Van Allsburg.  I have already thought of several ways to incorporate technology throughout the entire unit so students will be feeling fairly comfortable with the tools we will be using in this lesson.  I am so eager to try it!  I am thinking this will be a beginning of December lesson.  It feels so good to already have a plan in place and a rubric created so I can hit the ground running with it.

Click here to check out my lesson plan.

My lesson uses:

  • Wordle, QR Codes and Popplet from Visual Learning
  • Google Forms and Google Drive from Cloud Initiation
  • Lino from Collaboration

I just know my kiddos are going to love this!!!

7 Productivity


We live in a world today where teachers are expected to do more with less.  The amount of things we are expected to accomplish is increasing, but the amount of time we have with our students is not.  It is essential that we as educators find ways to be as productive as possible.  Thankfully, today’s advancements in technology give us many ways to maximize our time and be more efficient.

Conversion Tools

Conversion tools are used to convert files from one type to another.  I had no idea these existed and am grateful this class has introduced them to me.  I find I often need to convert files from word docs to .pdfs.  Zamzar is such a quick and handy tool to do just that!  It emails you the converted document in seconds!  Another thing that excites me about Zamzar is it’s ability to convert word documents into .mp3s!! HOW COOL!!! For my auditory learners or my kiddos who need reading support, I can create audio files for them to listen to.  So excited to try this out in the fall!  I practiced using Zamzar by taking a .pdf that was a long informative text about sharks and converted it into an .mp3.  It was so simple!  I wish I could post it here to share with you, but .mp3s can not be uploaded to wordpress.

A screenshot after I downloaded the .mp3 version of my .pdf from Zamzar

A screenshot after I downloaded the .mp3 version of my .pdf from Zamzar

Google Calendar

Google calendar makes it easy to keep yourself organized and on top of deadlines.  However, I utilized Google Calendar this past school year by embedded it into my classroom webpage to keep families apprised of what was going on at our school and in our classroom.  I love how I can make easy updates to the calendar through my gmail account and it would automatically sync with my webpage.  In the past, I have used Microsoft Outlook to keep myself organized with my obligations and deadlines at work.  Next year, my entire district will have gmail and chrome books, so switching over to using Google Calendar for everything might be the best option.  I can have a work, personal and classroom calendar all in one place.  Click here to see my Google Calendar embedded in my classroom webpage.

URL Shorteners

URL Shorteners are a handy tool to obviously shorten a URL. 🙂  I can’t even think of how many times this would have been useful in my classroom!  I have struggled on countless occasions to get my kiddos to enter in a lengthy url to go to particular webpage.  Between URL Shortners and Smybaloo (from Cloud Initiation) I will NEVER have that problem again!  We learned about three different URL shorteners:, and .  I practiced taking a long url and shortening it using tinyurl.

Here is the original URL to one of my documents on Google Drive:   WOW!!! It is long!!!

Here is the new link now that I have used tinyurl:  What a difference!!!


evernoteEvernote is a great tool for keeping track of EVERYTHING you need to remember from lessons you want to try, pictures of special events in the classroom, to behavior management ideas and notes about individual kiddo needs.  You can take a quick picture, write a small note or even record audio.  The best thing about Evernote is how it organizes your files.  You can easily search through your notes to find what you are looking for.  It can even recognize text in pictures!  I am one of those people who has held out on getting a smart phone…however, this tool makes me want one.  What a simple and quick way to note something when you are out and about or in the middle of something with your kiddos.  Once you have made a note, you can access it from anywhere. Say goodbye to endless sticky notes!   Click here to check out my first attempt at creating a note on Evernote.


LiveBinders is a marvelous tool for organizing all your online resources.  It basically makes a virtual binder.  Say goodbye to all those 3-ring binders in your cupboards!  I see myself using this to organize electronic resources for units of study.  It will help me find what I need so much faster.  I also like that you can search through other’s binders.  I found an awesome binder with 3rd grade math resources for parents.  Instead of posting the link to my webpage, I actually added it to my symbaloo which is already embedded on my classroom webpage.  Click here to check out my Symbaloo with my LiveBinder link.

CITW and ISTE Standards

I feel that thing 7, Productivity, really hits on the ISTE Standard: Model Digital Age Work and Learning.  By using these tools to keep myself organized and as productive as possible I am modeling digital age work and learning for my students and their parents.  As far as CITW best practices go, I feel like Evernote can easily be implemented with students to support Summarizing and Note taking.  Google Calendar can serve as a reminder to students and parents about  homework and other assignments.  LiveBinders can also be used to provide resources to support students and their families with homework and practice.


6 Communication


Technology has given us the power to communicate with people on the other side of the globe, to connect with experts and learn about different cultures.  These incredible communication tools MUST be used in today’s classrooms.  If used correctly, these tools can allow students to explore worlds and meet people they would otherwise never encounter.  As I explored these communication tools, my brains was popping in a million different directions with the endless possibilities to enhance my instruction and the student engagement.

Asynchronous vs Synchronous

I currently use a great deal of asynchronous communication in my classroom.  I used email and my classroom website to communicate with parents on a regular basis.  Students also had the opportunity to try kidblog this year.  They greatly enjoyed posting questions and commenting on each others’ responses.  I also tried out Remind 101 last school year which served as a great tool to remind families about upcoming events in the classroom.  After learning about Thing 6, Communication, I realized that these forms of communication are a great start, but are really just the tip of the iceberg.

Synchronous communication gives us the ability to communicate with others in real time.  I can barely even wrap my head around the possible ways this form of communication can be used in the classroom. I have yet to truly use Synchronous communication tools in my classroom.  I am most eager to use Skype (or Google Hangout) and TodaysMeet (or Chatzy).

BackChannel Chat

Using a BackChannel Chat gives students the ability to communicate and clarify during a lesson.  It is sort of like a chat room where students can pose questions, post images, take notes and receive support from their fellow classmates when needed. Today’s Meet and Chatzy are two platforms that can be used for BackChannel Chatting.  I could see myself using Today’s Meet to pose a question for students to discuss.  I think this would encourage my more timid students to participate and have their thoughts heard.

Video Chat

Video chatting allows students to have face to face communication with anyone, anywhere!  Students can communicate with same-age peers on the other side of the country or even the world.  They can interview authors or experts in a field.  What a powerful way to tie what we are learning in the classroom to real world application.  Skype and Google Hangout are 2 platforms that can be used for video chatting.  I am very comfortable using Skype for personal use.  When I lived in Arizona, it was a great way to stay in touch with my family and friends back here in Michigan.  Now that I have moved back to Michigan, I am able to stay in touch with all of my AZ friends.  I am yet to try using it in the classroom.  As I was learning about Thing 6, I immediately thought about setting up pen pals with one of the third grade classrooms at my old school in Arizona.  I think Skyping with their pen pals would make it a very meaningful experience.  I would also love the opportunity for my students to interview an author or expert.  Not really sure where to start as far as finding someone for them to interview.  Maybe it will come about naturally as the school year goes along and I discover authors or topics that are of particular interest to my students.  I did find this AWESOME resource for how to organize a Skype interview by giving all the students jobs. Definitely something I will revisit when I am ready to try a Skype interview with my students.

Video Chatting also offers another way to communicate with parents.  I could see myself using it to hold a conference with parents that can’t make it into school during conference week.  It could also be a very powerful tool for students to share what they are doing at school with their families.  If we had a special event during the school day, students could connect with their families that were unable to attend and have them watch the presentation that way.

Some of my 21T4T classmates and I arranged to try Google Hangout together.  In all likelihood, this will be my method of video chatting with my students since we are getting Chrome Books next year.  I have never used Google Hangout so I was anxious to try it out and glad I could find some fantastic people to give it a try with me.  I even got to use Doodle (from Thing 5, Collaboration) to set up a day and time for our Hangout.  What a great opportunity to put some of these new skills to use. Click here to view our Hangout.

Screenshot of our Google Hangout

Screenshot of our Google Hangout

Communication and Collaboration

Thing 5 and 6 are closely related.  All the communication tools we learned about in Thing 6 allow students and teachers to easily collaborate.  Students can use BackChannel Chat or Video Chatting to communicate outside of school so they can collaborate on homework or projects.  Another way students can collaborate through a communication tool is by using ePals.  I had never heard of ePals until this lesson and I was blown away by this program!  I immediately signed up and am starting to think of ways I could use this with my students.  EPals enables you to connect with another class anywhere in the world and collaborate on a project together.  I am hoping to develop a project idea to post on ePals.  Teachers can also use these tools to collaborate on assessments or planning if they can not be at the same place.


Thing 6, Communication, supports peer collaboration with cooperative learning (see above).  It also allows for the teacher to communicate homework and practice to absent students.  Students can also use BackChannel chatting for Summarizing and Note Taking during a lesson.