Week 10

  • New Tool: Pinterest is an online bulletin board where you can pin pictures and videos. It is a very popular social media site at the moment, and the Lower School teachers are using it every day. After signing up, you can create any number of boards you want (I have one for books, one for school, and one for cool ideas).  You will also be prompted to download a button for your tool bar that will allow you to pin ideas to your boards. As you browse your favorite websites (or other Pinterest boards), you can pin ideas to your own boards. By doing this, you can go back later and implement the ideas that you found. You can also share your boards with other people in order to collaborate on ideas together. The LS teachers are collaborating on a board together that you can see here (email Nicole Martin for an invite if you would like to join our board). If you would like a more in-depth tutorial on Pinterest, click here for a list of available guides. Pinterest is great for collaboration amongst teachers but I can also see it being used in an US classroom when working on a project together—especially a design thinking project.
  • Relevant Article: The first time I try a new recipe, I get more out of the process of working through it than I get from the outcome. Usually, I find changes I need to make to the recipe to get the result that works best for me. The same goes when I try a new tech tool in the classroom. I go into the lesson with a set of desired learning outcomes only to find that I need to give the students more time or explanation or outlets that will make my lesson truly effective. I go back to my desk, reflect on the lesson, and plan how I will improve it next time. Mary Beth Hertz has a wonderful article on how to “Learn from the Process” when it comes to integrating technology into your lessons. Click here to read her 5 tips for embracing continuous improvement with EdTech.

Week 9

  • New Tool: Storyjumper is an online storybook creator. Students can go online and create their own storybook by choosing a background, props, and characters from the ones provided or from their own saved pictures. Next they add the text for their story and voila! Instant storybook. After they are finished making their book, students can email the book to others or print out a copy. The books can also be ordered in a hardback form but that costs money. One of the best parts about this site for teachers is that you can create a classroom and assign your students their own usernames and passwords without having to enter an email address for them. The site says that it is for elementary school students but I could see this even being used in middle and high school to showcase writing. Here is a video tutorial that shows you how to use the site.
  • Computer Tip: The computer tip this week is actually a list of tips for using Google. Google has become so much more than just your standard search engine but most people have no idea of the many ways you can use it. My favorite tips are for using Google as a dictionary and as a calculator. Here are the top ten unknown Google tricks.

Week 8

  • New Tool: Popplet is a fun mind-mapping tool, bulletin board, or presentation tool to use on the internet or as an app on an iPad. It can be used to brainstorm ideas for writing, to collaborate with other students on ideas, and as an alternative to presentation. You can type, add pictures and videos, or draw in each of the bubbles. This tool could be used in multiple grades and in various subjects. Here is a short tutorial for you and your students on how to use Popplet. Mr. Townsend used it recently in his 6th grade Social Studies class. The students worked in small groups on presentations about Ancient Egypt. Here is a sample of one of the projects:


  • Computer Tip: When sending a document to parents or other faculty members, remember that some of them may have a Mac or an older version of Microsoft making it hard to open your documents. The way around this is to save your document as a PDF file. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is, if you have Microsoft 2010, when you try to save your document it gives you the option to choose a file type. When you hit save, it will ask you to name your document and right under that line it says ‘Save as type’. In that drop down box, choose PDF. The other option is to choose to print your document. When you hit print, you should have the option of the printer called ‘CutePDF Writer’. If you choose this as your printer, it won’t actually print but will ask you where you want to save it instead. Once it is saved, it is a PDF file.
  • Relevant Article: Why do you choose to shop in one store but not another? Why do you choose to go to one independent school but not another? When I found this article, I couldn’t help but think how much it relates to our school. The article is geared toward retail shops but could easily be used in an independent school atmosphere.  Families choose independent schools for the experiences we give them just as customers choose certain stores for the experiences they get there. Read this article and think about how we can use these ideas with our own loyal customers.

Week 7

**Sorry for the late update! Being sick for a week really throws my schedule off!**

  • New Tool: Some great tools we’ve been using for a long time in math are math manipulatives. You can now find virtual math manipulatives online. On Math Playground you can find everything from pattern blocks to geometry boards to fraction scales. All of these can be shown up on your IWB and manipulated using the pen or wand. This could be done as a whole class activity or as a center. This website could be used by all grade levels and could be given for students to use at home for extra help.
  • Computer Tip: The new version of Microsoft Windows that we have on our computers has a neat function called Snipping Tool. If you go down to your Start menu and type Snipping Tool in the finder, it will come up. This tool allows you to quickly capture a shot from your screen.  Like this:


  • This can be helpful if you need to copy what is on your screen and paste it on a document for students or parents to see. This is also helpful when trying to explain to your IT department what exactly your computer is trying to tell you. Just snip a shot of the error message (or whatever is wrong) and paste it into an email to send. Here is a link to a tutorial about how to use Snipping Tool.
  • Relevant Article: With our first MVPS Twitter chat under our belts, I thought I’d give you guys a few resources to use to try to figure this whole Twitter thing out. This first one is a slide show that is a quick tutorial of Twitter. This next article is an explanation of what a Twitter chat is and why so many educators are using it. The third article is an explanation of what hashtags (#) are and how they are used. And, lastly, we have Katie’s wonderful explanation of how to participate in our future chats (How to Participate in a Twitter MVPS Chat).  I hope this all makes Twitter just a little easier for you to understand.

Week 6

  • New Tool: Voki is a free Web 2.0 tool that allows you to create a talking avatar. Start by choosing your character (either from the choices they have or by uploading your own pictures) then add sound. You can type in words and pick a voice or you can record yourself talking. You will then get a link to share your Voki with others. This would be great as a presentation tool for students to use or for teachers to use to share information with students. You could even create a Voki to put at a computer center in class for students to hear instructions. Here is how Angela Johnson is using Vokis in her Spanish classroom.


  • Computer Tip: Having trouble reading the small text when you are on a website? There are two ways you can change that. In the bottom right corner of your screen, you should see a number next to a magnifying glass and an arrow. If you click the arrow you can change the amount of zoom on your screen to make the whole screen bigger. If you just want the text on a website to appear a little bigger, go up to View on your Menu toolbar and choose Text Size. Change it to the largest size.


Week 5

  • New Tool: Making a Jeopardy game is a fun way to review lessons but can sometimes be too time consuming to create when using tools such as PowerPoint. Jeopardy Labs allows you to easily make Jeopardy games online. They even have a bank of already created games that you browse through. This video tutorial shows you how to use the site. Wouldn’t it be fun to see a Mount Vernon Jeopardy game for the 40th anniversary? Hint hint… 


  • Computer Tip: Here is an easy way to look at two open windows at the same time. When you right click on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, you will see the options to Show Windows Side By Side or Show Windows Stacked (one at the top of the screen and one at the bottom of the screen). You might want to do this if you need to compare the two screens or if you need to type on one while looking at the other. This will save you from having to click on each screen one at a time.

  • Relevant Article: I started to post a different article this week, but I read this one last week and can’t get it out of my mind. As a librarian, I am always trying to find ways to get kids to love to read. I think that James Patterson (one of my favorite authors of adult and kids books) says it best when he says that if we want kids (especially boys) to love reading, we have to encourage them to read what they want to read. Not only encourage–praise them. Even if it isn’t something we think has “literary merit.”  Sports Illustrated, Guinness Book of World Records, comic books–if they are reading something, I’m happy. I know that there will be times when kids will have to read a book for a school assignment but how much of their reading time is being taken up by reading books that they don’t want to read? Are there times when we can take away assigning a required text and instead assign a theme? That way they get more choice in the book they are reading but still hit on the concepts we are trying to teach them. Also, how often are we modeling reading for pleasure for our students? When we have silent reading time, are we reading also? Do we talk about the books we are reading with our students? How might these changes impact our students?  This article is really good and it gives some great websites for finding books (especially for boys) so if you have 3 minutes, check it out.

Week 4

  • New Tool: First there were the little magnetic letters for kids to play with on the fridge, then there were magnetic words to create poems out of, and now there are virtual magnetic poems to create. Not just poems, either. You can create an entire virtual magnetic story on Kids’ Poetry Page. You choose which kit you want (Kids’ Kit, First Words, Best Friends, or Story Maker), choose which magnetic surface you want (fridge, white board, or locker), and start creating. Once your poem is finished, you can publish it online and/or email it out. This would be really fun to do whole group up on the Promethean Board or Interactive White Board because they kids can use the pen to drag the magnets over to where they want them. It could also be easily done individually on the computers. Though this seems to be created for younger students, middle and upper schoool students would also be able to use it to create great works of literature. You can email your poem or print it out after it has been published. Check out the poem I came up with:
  • Computer Tip: Ever saved a file on your computer and then forgotten where you saved it? I do that all the time. Well, there is an easier way to find that missing file than actually trying to remember what you did with it. Click on the start button (that’s the button on the bottom left corner of your screen) and type in the name of the document (you don’t have to have the whole name). Hopefully the file you are looking for will pop up. Unless you’ve forgotten what you named it…. Anyway, here’s a picture to help you out:

  • Relevant Article: This article is an amazing example of student-centered learning. It specifically reminds me of a project Ms. Kirbo and I wanted to do with her first graders last year. We (Ms. Kirbo and I) really, really, really wanted to write and perform a play with the students. Unfortunately–or rather, fortunately–they had other plans. Thus, the Kirboland Zoo was born. It was an eye opening experience to say the least. Check out this teacher’s story of his one great lesson this year.