Saturday, July 26, 2014

Class Dojo: New Features for School-Wide Use

ClassDojo teachers can now collaborate to improve student skills and behaviors, and with  ClassDojo’s  newest  features,  students  build  important skills  across  all  of  their classes and grade levels. 

ClassDojo  —  the  popular  behavior  and  skills  development  app  used  by  millions  of teachers around the  world  —  today  released  a  new  set  of  features  aimed  at  teachers eager  to work together on the application. Teachers across 180 countries already use ClassDojo daily to give feedback to students for important behaviors and skills like curiosity, participation, and grit. Until now,  teachers  could  only encourage  students  in  their  own  classes.  With  this  new  set  of collaboration  features,  teachers  within a  school  can  safely  connect  with  each  other,  give feedback within each other’s classes or for specific students, and even review student reports from other classes.

Over  the  course  of  2014,  ClassDojo  has  launched  multiple  features  which  strengthen relationships between  teachers,  parents  and  students.  As  research  shows,  students  learn important behaviors and skills faster when there is strong alignment and encouragement from all their teachers, peers and parents. Just as ClassDojo Messaging strengthens the parent-­teacher  relationship, Shared Classes and Shared Students creates stronger teacher-­teacher networks within schools:

  • Shared Classes lets multiple educators teach the same class. This feature is especially useful for elementary school teachers, teaching assistants, and any situation where an entire class is taught by multiple teachers. 
  • Shared Students enables teachers in the same school to share students across different classes  and view  their  student  reports.  Individual  students  can  now  move  between different  teachers  and classes,  but  still  build on their progress  over time. This  makes ClassDojo  much more feasible for older grades, allowing teachers to better understand how  their students are performing in other classes very quickly. 

Indeed, the company says this has been middle school and high school teachers’ greatest request. These two features have been beta-­tested for some time ahead of today’s widespread release.

As  they  are  already  well ­received  by  early  testers,  the  company  expects  to  roll  out  many enhancements  in  the  coming  months,  ultimately  leading  to  easier  sharing  and  collaboration between teachers in the same school.

“The launch of Shared Classes and Shared Students is a huge moment for our teachers,” said Sam Chaudhary, CEO and co­founder of ClassDojo. “So far, millions of teachers have enjoyed using ClassDojo individually within their  classrooms, and though it’s been effective, we believe teachers working together can unleash greater power from the platform. With [this] launch, for the first time, teachers are able to easily use ClassDojo together across their whole school or grade  level.  Teachers  have  a  simple,  no­hassle,  school­wide  system  they  can  use  to  help students build  skills and behaviors, students get more consistency across the school day, and parents finally get a unified view of what’s happening at school.”

Shared  Classes  and  Shared  Students  are  available  now, and teachers  can access  them by
signing up for a free account at

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More GoPro: Surfing & Stalking Hummingbirds

I'm not stating anything new here when I say that the more I use my GoPro Hero 3 camera, the more I love it. From taking it to the beach to capturing images in my own backyard, I'm impressed with the quality and versatility.  So far, there are only two accessories that I have invested in for the GoPro: the floaty backdoor and the handlebar mount.

Being new to the GoPro, I did not want to spend money frivously on accessories and instead researched accessories that would be the most versatile.  The floaty backdoor was purchased out of necessity: I did not want to lose the camera when filming in open-water. Poking around, I found the cheapest price on Amazon. Wanting a way to secure the camera to a pole, I chose the handlebar mount because it gave me the most options for customizing: I could attach the camera to my bike handlebars, a long pool pole, or any other bar that measured 0.75" to 1.4". Adapters were also included for a secure fit.  Again, I found the best price on Amazon. If you have any recommendations for mounts for the GoPro please share! 


To capture the video of me learning to surf, my husband stood in the ocean at a close but reasonable distance, holding the camera with the floaty backdoor attached. I've quickly realized that in order to catch great shots, the camera must be close to the action (duh!). I'm thinking about purchasing the surfboard mount for the GoPro, but, one, we are using my brother's fiberglass board for now and two, I'm concerned about the adhesive on our foam surfboard that my girls use. I also need to do some more research on the surfboard mount before purchasing.  If you have used it, please let me know! 

Stalking Hummingbirds

To capture the hummingbird pictures, I used the handlebar mount and secured the camera to the pole holding the feeder.  I then used the wifi network on the camera and the GoPro app on my phone to sit inside and wait for the hummingbirds to appear, capturing shots as the birds flew in and out of the frame.  While the videos are remarkable, I'm really intrigued by the still shots that capture how fast the hummingbird's wings move. For the most part, the birds ignored the camera, but at one point, the female hummingbird investigated the camera. The next pet-projects on my list are putting in the camera in the fishpond and harnessing the camera on my dogs. Any tips or tricks are greatly appreciated! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#ISTE2014 A Special Post for a Few **Spaeztle** Friends

While at #ISTE2014, I attended the TechSmith party at De Biergarten in Atlanta, GA. It was thoroughly enjoyable chatting with Twitter & FlipCon folks face to face over some GOOD German food. There was Foosball and even pictures with our heads atop German attired folks (Here are some pictures from Kristin D.) We chatted about FlipCon vs ISTE, general ed tech issues, the value of open-source internet, and at one point with Brian Bennett, a very important topic: how to make homemade Spaetzle (Brian Bennett & Aaron Sams make sure you read the post script).

ISTE, while a mind-blowing event in itself, can be overwhelming, and I found the small TechSmith gathering a hospitable, intimate affair.  It was so nice to enjoy the company of like-minded folks over food and drinks without having to shout over the gaggle of the throng and the cacophony of a DJ. It was so interesting to see how small pockets were sewn into the fabric of ISTE-- the Blogger's cafe and Welcome lounge being two such spaces where people collected in the conference center in addition to other small events like drinks with Class Dojo, dinner with Edmodo, and TechSmith's reception. And while I value the ways companies show their appreciation for their users, I greatly appreciate the smaller communal events more so than a big blow-out bash because in the end it isn't the product or technology that matters-- it is the COMMUNITY of PEOPLE that make an event worth attending or a product worth using.

P.S. Speaking of Spaetzle....

Back at home this week I had a hankering for Spaetzle, and as promised for Brian and Aaron, here is my homemade Spaetzle recipe and a video of the process (Sorry for the flipped camera half way through. I forgot which way I was holding my phone, but hey, you get the idea-- and rather apropos since that is how we all met!)

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (add more as suited to taste)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

  1. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Stir in eggs and milk.
  3. Use a Spaetzle maker or colander (too difficult with slotted spoon) to drop the batter--about 1-2 large spoonfuls at a time-- into a pot of boiling water.
  4. The batter will rise to the top and after about 1 minute or so (but not longer than 2), scoop out the Spaetzle into a bowl with a bit of butter. 
  5. Cover the bowl with a cloth and continue to drop the batter into the pot. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until all batter is gone.
  6. Serve.  
I usually make my great-grandma's meatballs and sauce to have over the Spaetzle in the winter. It is a red sauce, but not the same marinara sauce that you would have with spaghetti. Very hearty & comforting on a cold day. Come for a visit and I'll make it for you in person!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Summer Toy: GoPro Hero 3

My husband surprised me for my birthday with a very COOL present: the GoPro Hero 3 Black edition camera.  I'm very excited to play with it this summer and later throughout the school year and swim season. Keep checking back for new posts on using the GoPro Camera as I learn more tips/tricks.

Since I did not get the GoPro remote, I downloaded the GoPro app for my Samsung Galaxy SIII phone which serves as a remote, connecting to the camera's wifi network. This is great for simple remote-controlling  of the camera: turning it on, starting.stopping record, and previewing what is being captured.  I haven't tested how far the phone and camera can be separated, and it can still have a signal when on the surface of a pool, but the phone app immediately lost the signal when the camera was placed further underwater.  Even though the phone lost the signal, the camera continued to record, as seen in the video below. You can also spot me on the pool deck playing with the app while my daughters and nieces play with the camera in the pool.

The next video showcases my youngest daughter underwater. I am very impressed with underwater filming capabilities and I can't wait to capture my winter swimmers' strokes from an underwater vantage point.

For both videos, I compiled the footage in Windows Movie Maker, trimming the clips as needed. With my daughter's guidance, we also picked out a song to use as the soundtrack for her featured film.

I haven't yet purchased a slew of attachments and accessories for the GoPro camera itself.  I will gladly accept recommendations for mounts and tricks/tips on filming. Please share what you know and check back as I share what I have learned.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

#ISTE2014 Use Twitter & Voxer when Travel Plans Go Awry

My #ISTE2014 trip with Liz and Kyle Calderwood and Michelle Wendt was supposed to begin in Atlantic City with a flight on Spirit Airlines to Atlanta, Georgia, but after a cancelled flight and an unexpected roadtrip, we eventually reached our destination, 12 hours after our expected arrival time.

There are two tech tools that were essential for transforming this ordeal into an adventure: Twitter and Voxer.  Using our smartphones, our group made a concerted effort to devise a new flight plan, all which would not have been accomplished had we not been able to use real-time communication.

Using Twitter, I shared our plight of a flight with my PLN, documenting the experiencing and encouraging Spirit Airlines to notice the issue. Even my #FlipCon14 buddy, Ken Bauer, who lives in Mexico made sure to make some noise. While many businesses use Twitter to blast out deals and connect with customers, it is evident that Twitter is a one-way street with Spirit Airlines. We received absolutely no replies from the Spirit Airlines Twitter account.

Plane Problems:

Humorous Shenanigans from the PLN:

Twitter also provided an avenue for adding humor to the situation. My buddies in elsewhere in the country provided me with comic relief with their sad-faced pictures. Knowing that I wasn't alone helped me stay objective and not react emotionally to the situation. When my frustration level would reach atomic level, my PLN made me laugh and stay focused on problem-solving the situation. Can you stay mad looking at these faces???  Thank you Jason & Steve!


Voxer is a walk-talkie app that allows for quick, realtime communication.  I know quite a few educators are using Voxer as a podcast tool for group chats with participants sharing philosophical ideas in a group conversation, but in this situation we were focused on practical applications. Our group relied on Voxer to keep all members in the know as we talked to Spirit ticket folks, located baggage, and made alternative travel arrangements.

Kyle was on the phone talking directly to Spirit Airlines.  Liz was in line at the Spirit ticket counter making arrangements with one of the employees-- Patty was amazing calm and professional the entire time despite facing an angry and impatient mob. Michelle and I were running from the gate to the ticket and baggage areas, all the while making sure our adopted travel partner, Amy B. was involved in our plans. Without Voxer, we would not have been able to coordinate and would have wasted valuable time and energy running back and forth through the airport. With Voxer, we stayed focused on solving the problem and making new travel arrangements with each person doing his/her part.

Serendipity is something that can be found in any situation, no matter how dire. Sitting near us at the gate as we learned about the delayed plane was Amy B., a first-time solo flyer and recent high school graduate who was visiting friends in NJ and now trying to make her way home. Not knowing what to do once the flight was cancelled, Amy followed me as we made our way from the gate to the Spirit ticket area. Our group quickly adopted her and made it our mission to get Amy home.

As a mother, I can only hope that if my daughters were in a similar situation, that they would find caring folks to help.  So often the news is filled with horror stories, but I know that there are good folks out there who do the right thing for strangers.  I wish the news would promote the positive instead of always sensationalizing the negative-- but that is a post for another day.  Amy stayed in contact texting with her mom in Georgia and her mom followed us via Twitter.  Modern communication systems and social media provided transparency to our travels, reassuring a nervous mother that her daughter was in good hands as we left Atlantic City to catch a flight out of Philly.

Roadtrip Tweets:

At the Airport AGAIN

Amy's Angels

After arriving at Atlanta, a very grateful and relieved mother met us and transported us each to our prospective hotels.  Amy's mom dubbed us "Amy's Angels" through out the trip. While her mom may say we were heaven sent, I'd like to think we were just doing what we, as teachers and good human beings, naturally do: take care of each other.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Film & the Back Channel

My classes are wrapping up the year reading Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet which includes viewing the 1968 Zeffirelli film version.  While the acting leaves much to be desired, there is merit in showing this version because it provides students with a view of the time period and it is used in various critical thinking activities.

We compare and contrast the cinematography of Zeffirelli's R&J (1968) with West Side Story (1961) in the opening brawl sequence--there really is no comparison, WSS is amazing-- and focus on how the filmmakers used the source material of Shakespeare's play, meeting Common Core Standard 9-10.9. Students point out similarities in camera shots and staging of the opening brawl sequence.  They notice the use of high angle shots to showcase the chaos of the fighting, as well as the use of close-up shots to highlight specific characters. They even recognized the actor who played Tybalt as the same one who played Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers series. 

After the opening sequence and the Prince's yelling at all parities about having started another civil brawl, the next scenes in the 1968 film that correspond with Act I of the play are rather boring for modern teenage audiences.  Whereas I stopped and replayed all the scenes of WSS ad nausem to point out the cinematography and framing, I refuse to stop the 1968 version--like ripping off a band-aid, the quicker we view it, the quicker we will be done. To keep them enthralled, students participate in a class back channel discussion using 

On our class set of Chromebooks, students join the TodaysMeet room that I created and I go over the ground rules for the period:
  1. Students must use their real names. I give students a participation score for the period, so no name equals no credit.
  2. Students must demonstrate digital citizenship and use school appropriate language.  I don't mind if they misspell or abbreviate, but no profanity or sexually explicit posting is allowed.
  3. Students are to comment on what they see AND answer the questions as they are posted to the room.
  4. Students type in all lower-case letters, while the teacher types in all caps.
I don't follow a Q1/A1 format for posting questions during this activity, instead I post using all caps.  Since the conversation is very fast paced, I keep my caps-lock on for faster typing and so students can differentiate my questions and comments from the rest of the group. There is always a bit of silliness that occurs, but I remind the students about the purpose of this activity: to have a scholarly discussion.  There is a time and place for comedic conversations and blurt-out posting, but this is not it. 

To archive each period's chat session, I make a quick screencast using Screencastomatic.  I turn off the microphone and record scrolling through the chat so that the video archive is about 5 minutes long, as opposed to a full 43 minute period.  After uploading the screencast directly to YouTube, I use YouTube's edit features and add music.  I then post each period's video to our Edmodo group where students can compare and contrast the conversations from the various periods. 

Take a look at the archives from Friday's back channel discussion of the 1968 Zeffirelli version of Act 1, scenes 1-5 of Romeo and Juliet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Adobe Voice: Easy Tool for Quick Presentations

I tried out the new Adobe Voice iPad app yesterday and made a video for my 9th grade students to view. In preparation for our Romeo and Juliet unit, we viewed and closely analyzed West Side Story. Keep in mind this is an English teacher's interpretation of film analysis.  We discuss mise-en-scene, composition, motifs, camera angles, types of shot, and the overall feel of the film.  I want my students to understand that artists make purposeful choices in the creation of their art and as an audience, if we look with an "informed eye" we can see the artists' intentions. Take a look and tell me what you think!

Adobe Voice is easy to use.  The tutorial guided me through the steps, recording my voice for each slide, selecting layouts, music, and themes.  It is limited on choices, but I can't complain because the price (FREE) more than makes up for the limited choices.  The templates that are available provide enough options to create a schnazzy final product.

 I would like the ability to add more text to the slides, but the app is called Adobe VOICE, so the obvious emphasis is on speaking rather than reading.  As a workaround, I could save PPT slides as jpgs and upload the jpgs to Adobe Voice.  The caveat is that you run the risk of resorting back to the proverbial "death by PowerPoint" phenomena.  This is designed to be short, quick talking points--- granted my example above is on the long side, but I wanted my students to see and understand the progression that I presented. Keep in mind, the longer your presentation, the longer it takes to upload to the Adobe Voice site on the web. Sharing to social media or via email is easy, and once the presentation has been uploaded, you can grab the link or embed code.

Here are some tips:

  1. Write a script about what you will say for slide.  Stick to the script! Don't ramble!
  2. Use inflection and articulation when recording your script. No one likes monotony. 
  3. Vary the layout and size of the pictures to keep your viewer intrigued.
  4. Use bigger pictures for more important moments.
  5. Search for pictures to use or create your own.
  6. Smash Adobe Voice with other tools by converting PPTs or other visuals to jpgs for easy use with Adobe Voice.

Adobe Voice can be used by experienced and novice iPad users.  For those who are looking to creating presentations for a flipped classroom experience on their iPads or want students to create their own, this is an easy and versatile tool.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photos from the Plane

Hover over each of the pictures to see a picture taken during my recent flights from Nashville to DC to Philly.  As you can see in the collage, I'm fascinated by aerial views. Make sure you find the picture of the plane we drove under!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

On Being a Literary Parent

    Then cajoling
Bribing with a sirens' song
Escalating to 
          and demanding, 
Once a Lady, now a Tiger

 Disheveled shelves 
        scattered toys 
I had Great Expectations

      This will not be a 10 year siege,
or A Tale of Two Cities

My best laid plans have gang aft agley
I need divine intervention for laundry

I shout as the Prince to Verona
(but they don't know my allusions):
"I will be deaf to pleading and excuses;
Nor tears nor prayers shall purchase out abuses:
Therefore use none..."

Banish Barbie, drive your little ponies away

Just help me clean

Saturday, April 12, 2014

iFrame, You can frame, We all can frame...

I've been dappling with very basic html embed codes and trying out how to embed a webpage inside of another webpage on this blog and my Weebly portfolio site. This is a nifty trick to use when you want more of a wow-factor visually.  Seeing the webpage can be more effective to showcase a website than merely hyper-linking to it or including an embedded RSS feed list. For additional easy HTML codes, check out this printable HTML Cheat Sheet for Bloggers. If you have another way of embedding a web page inside of a webpage, please share!

Insert an Object

To embed a webpage inside of a webpage, try using this code, swapping out the specific web address where "example" is shown. The numbers for width and height can also be adjusted to make the frame larger.

<object data= width=”650″ height=”500″> <embed src= width=”650″ height=”500″> </embed></object>

After adding the specific web address, open the HTML editor on your site, figure out where you want the frame to be, and paste it in.  I will toggle back and forth between the HTML editor and the Compose view, adjusting the height and width as needed.  With more experience, I am sure I will learn what the optimal numbers are, but for now, this trial and error approach works.

iFrame Generator

Another option is to use an online iFrame generator that creates the code for you. Copy/paste or type in your specifications and... WHA-LA! ... the iFrame code is generated for you! Simply copy/paste the code into the HTML editor as shown above.

<iframe src="" style="border:0px #000000 solid;" name="Edmodo Blog Guest Post" scrolling="yes" frameborder="1" marginheight="px" marginwidth="0px" height="600px" width="668px"></iframe>

Here is what it looks like once the code is pasted in to the HTML editor.