60 Second Tour of Kiddle.co – Kid Safe Search Engine

Parents and teachers rejoice! The best safe search engine for our kids is the new Kiddle.co. Not only are search results safe, they are from selected sites and prioritized by readability and depth. Icons are nice and big and image searches won’t return any random inappropriateness. News and video results actually contain quality content that kids can understand and use.

A couple of disclaimers: Kiddle looks like a Google product but IS NOT owned or operated by Google. It runs off of Google’s safe search. Also, it is not completely fool-proof. Some reports of questionable returns have popped up across the web. Thanks to Karen Bosch for sharing this article about that.

Let’s just call Kiddle “the safest search engine yet”. Always, always supervise searching and help kids evaluate the usefulness of search results.


A Simple Approach To Dealing With Personal Devices In The Classroom

I have long been an advocate for bring your own device (BYOD) in the classroom. I figure that if kids have tools that know well and use well, then there is no reason to restrict them from using them in the classroom.

Key word there: tools, as in apps for learning.

Too many of the teachers who are frustrated with dealing with personal devices often don’t take the learning tools approach. Instead of allowing for specific purposes they end up policing. They collect phones ahead of class or insist on no devices being out at any time. Kids at our high school have even started bringing old phones to turn in at the beginning of class so they can still access their working devices.

I’m not naive enough to think that every time a kid has a device out in the library, they are using it solely for a learning activity. What I do know from 20+ years in the classroom that kids for the most part respond well when you give them some clear expectations and put the responsibility on them to do the right thing.

Despite spending a lot of time on this early in the year I too have had some frustration with our students in the library who are taking online classes. Too many are “forgetting” or just seeing how much they can push our guidelines with personal devices. Usually a friendly reminder gets everybody back on track. Sometimes it takes a few reminders.

Here is a new poster adorning our work stations. The kids got a laugh out of the devices I chose but more importantly the “got” the message.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 9.22.52 AM

Teaching Math with Google Drawings – Eric Curts

Northwest Ohio Google Certified Innovator for Education Eric Curts delivers a great webinar on using Google Drawings for teaching math.

Eric takes viewers through the ins and outs of Drawings but excels when he starts to unpack Common Core standards and show practical activities for elementary teachers. The geometry examples are good but the fraction activity is really innovative.

Check out the recording of the webinar as well as some great tip sheets for using Google Drawings for any purpose at Teaching Math with Google Drawings 

Get to Know Your Community | Discovery Education

I take a turn “in the barrel” as the guest of Brandon Wislocki and Kristen Davis on Discovery Education’s “Get to Know Your Community” video series.

We talk about a fun way my students have been mashing up Discovery content with Apple’s Keynote, some Sketchnoting teaching strategies, and 20 random questions.

Apologies for the poor lighting and the Tom Brady/Go Blue informal apparel…well, at least for the lighting.

Get to Know Your Community, introduces you to your fellow community members in a way that’s never been seen before. Each week, we will interview a new community member. You’ll get to know who they are, what their favorite Spotlight on Strategies is, and they’ll play 20 questions in 60 seconds. Each participant will see how many questions they can answer in 60 seconds. You’ll get to know more about each community member in a brief amount of time.

Check it out at: Get to Know Your Community: Andy Losik | Discovery Education

Flite Test | Tile Can Help You Find Almost Anything

I have often infuriated my family by not being able to find my keys when we are all ready to go someplace. Last January they bought me a Tile ($25 on their site) that hooks on my keys and connects to an iPhone app. Now when I can’t find my keys and I am within less than 150 feet I tap a button on my phone and the tile starts to chirp. The app uses bluetooth to locate the tile and pinpoints it on a map. Even if I am a greater distance away, the map shows the last place the tile talked to my phone.

All of the above would be cool enough but Tile uses all other users with the app as anonymous trackers. That means that any time anybody gets within 150 feet of a Tile no matter who it belongs to, it’s location is registered with the company and updated on the owner’s app. Imagine losing your keys or a camera or anything at Disney World. Instead of having to look under every seat of every boat in It’s a Small World, just fire up your app and chances are it will get pinged by another Tile user.

The guys from Flite Test have created a great video demonstrating how all of these features work together. Check out the Tile Blog as well.


 #Sketchnotes | Doodling that really helps you remember

If you went back to all of my notebooks from high school and college you would notice a lot of doodling. It wasn’t random though. It was a series of pictures I created to help me remember more deeply the content being presented. There might be a crude White House next to something that was supposed to be the Washington Monument as we were learning about the Executive Branch. You’d probably find a lot of flames and snow flakes in my Chemistry notes as I tried to keep straight whether certain elements exploded or froze when they reacted with one another.

What was once perceived as random scrawlings or worse yet time wasting is proving to be an effect way for learners of all ages to help remember material more effectively.

Seeing some of the great stuff Karen Bosch was doing with sketchnotes during the 2015 MACUL conference made me realize I had been on to something since the mid 1980’s. Below are slides from the introductory presentation she gives on sketchnotes.

Susan Bowdoin wrote this past September on the Discovery Education blog about sketchnotes as an instructional strategy. Personally I like how she ties sketchnoting into the research of Robert Marzano that shows non-linguistic representation plays a powerful role in making learning stick.

Visual or graphic note taking, also called Sketchnoting, is gaining greater popularity as a strategy for increasing engagement in lectures, seminars and video presentations. When sketchnoting, learners use visual means to analyze information, make comparisons and develop analogies to better understand and communicate what they’ve learned. This requires higher level thinking. It is also directly related to Robert Marzano’s research on the significant positive affects that nonlinguistic representations have on student achievement.

Read all of Susan’s tips on SOS: Sketchnotes at the Discovery Education blog. She not only provides practical strategies for implementing the strategy but also delivers some app suggestions for making this digital.

Wow, and to think all of the mean looks I got from Mr. Stuyver in Trigonometry for “doodling” too much were all for naught. Those weren’t doodles; they were sketchnotes. Maybe if he hadn’t discouraged my use of non-linguistic representation, I would have remembered more from his class.

Sketchnote on, my friends.

Inserting Pics and Marking Them Up Is Now Easier in iOS 9 Mail

A couple of neat updates in the iOS 9 Mail app makes inserting photos and then marking them up a lot easier and intuitive.

At an Apple seminar in Jenison today I learned that in iOS 9 the Mail app now has a camera icon above the keyboard when you type in the body of the message.


Once you have inserted your picture, tap it to bring up a toolbar with the new “Markup” choice.


Mark up your picture with a set of drawing, text, and signature tools.


This is a great addition that allows us to communicate more clearly and then saves a bundle of time without having to mark up pictures in additional apps.

55 Tips from Google for Teaching and Learning

55 Google TipsAs the United States trickles back to school, Google is offering up some great tips for both educators and students.

All kinds of things from staying better organized with calendars to understanding how work is stored are covered in these quick hitting tutorials.

One of my biggest personal initiatives is to dig deeper into working with Google Classroom. A handful of the tips will help with that from both the teacher side of it and from the learner’s perspective.

55 Google Tips for Teaching and Learning.

10 Spring Break Apps and Features for your kid’s iPad

The calendar is about to flip to April and with that comes Spring Break, at least here in West Michigan. It’s been another brutally cold and long winter and I personally can’t wait to get to some warmth, relaxation, and time with my family away from the daily school routine. As families prepare to hit the road or just enjoy some time off here are ten great iPad apps and features for Spring Break 2015.

  1. Off Switch – It’s not an app but probably the best feature of any electronic device for Spring Break is the off switch. Shut down for a while and unplug. Focus on all of the natural and analog adventures you can have even if it’s just for an extended period each day. off buttonUnplugging completely might not be that easy though for the family facing a 24 hour drive, hours in airports, or suddenly now faced with a whole week at home together. The following recommendations are to help keep kids’ brains, creativity, and fun going throughout the week. They’re not in any particular order as far as one being better than another, just great apps.
  2. Keynote – This is more than Apple’s version of PowerPoint. Not only is it a really powerful presentation maker, it’s a powerful design tool as well. After a week of taking pictures and video of their adventures, kids can spend the ride home assembling all of their memories. Keynote is free on all iOS devices purchased since the Fall of 2013. Keynote is car friendly because most features aside from sharing are not wifi dependent.
  3. Maps – If you’re on the road this break, give your kids part of the navigational duties. When I was growing up, we would travel most summers across country from Arizona to Michigan. My sister and I learned so much about geography and math when we rode shotgun with the big Rand McNally atlas on our laps. The iPad’s built-in Maps app or its Google counterpart do way more than a print atlas. You can search for restaurants, upcoming gas stations, hotels, and more. Maps requires an Internet connection so in the car, kids might need to use the one on your phone.
  4. Cargo-Bot 
    Cargo-Bot app for iOS

    Here is a game based on doing work at the shipyard, but every kid I know thinks of it more as the beloved claw at 90% of America’s pizza joints and grocery stores. Kids have to program the claw to move crates in a series of puzzles that gradually increase in difficulty. This app is ladened with advanced problem solving and an introduction to computer science in that in order to move the claw, kids have to assemble directions as if they were coding an app. Building this type of logical reasoning transcends many different subject areas. No Internet needed.

  5. Replay – Here is a fabulously easy-to-use movie editor that provides stunning results. In fact, this app is so good, Apple used it in its product launch of the iPad Air 2 in October. The killer feature lies in the app’s ability to analyze your photos and footage for tempo, sound, and color. High-end effects like lens-flare, background color, and music are all added automatically and can also be adjusted manually. It’s actually called Replay Video Editor for Instagram but no Instagram account is needed. Internet is only needed for sharing projects or buying advanced features. Remember to always, always, always shoot your video horizontally! Here’s a sample of what you can do literally in just a few minutes with Replay. This was some really, really rough drone footage we took over my house.
    Screenshot 2015-03-30 12.38.30
  6. IXL – Sometimes the math drill apps get a bad rap, but I am a firm believer that in the proper dose they can do a lot of good as building computational fluency is essential. Without a strong handle on basic facts, kids are greatly hampered moving forward into more complicated math. IXL is a great app that works all math standards from Pre-K on up. Many schools have student subscriptions. Check with your kid’s school to see if they do and get the username and password for your trip. You’ll need an Internet connection so it might not be the best for the car or van, but incorporating a little math never ruined anyone’s vacation…not completely anyway.
  7. Penultimate – Here is a notebook app where kids can doodle, journal, or draw-up inventions. Because it is digital, they have an endless supply of paper and no crayons will melt all over your interior when left on a hot backseat. Any photos on the iPad can be easily inserted into sketches and if they have an Evernote account, your kids can sync their creations and keep them among their other notes on the cloud-based free service. Internet is only required to sync or share.

    Penultimate App from Evernote
  8. Google Drive – This one is more practical over exciting, but many schools issue students Google Apps for Education accounts. With the Drive app, kids can upload all of the photos and videos they shoot with the iPad to their school accounts. When they get back to school and get the “What I did over Spring Break” essay assignment, they’ll have tons of visuals to insert. Requires Internet.
  9. Kindle App If your kid can handle reading in the car or on an airplane without getting sick, load that iPad up with good books. The iBooks app lets you do the same thing with books from the Apple Book Store but if you are an Amazon Prime member you can take advantage of the lending library and can “borrow” one free book a month for the Kindle. Internet is required to download books, but not needed once loaded.
  10. Tinkerbox HD – This puzzle app is ridiculously addictive and involves engineering one contraption after another. Getting a ball into a basket gets increasingly more difficult as new conveyor belts, levers, and ramps are introduced. It works scientific concepts and logical thinking but in the end it is just fun.

No matter where you are headed or if you are just sticking around home, these apps all can fend off the dreaded “I’m bored” and keep brains firing all week. A few others to explore include Canva, Photoshop Mix, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Snapseed. Whatever you make, make sure great memories are at the top of the list.