Create a classroom blog in under 2 minutes: updated

Back in April 2011 I wrote a quick post on how to get started with Blogger in your classroom. Google has since updated the user interface at Blogger, so this is an updated version of the instructions…and the process is even easier than before. Jump to the bottom of this post for a video walk-through, otherwise, here are the steps:


Start the clock, let’s build a blog:

0.00: Go to ( is owned by Google. If you already have a Gmail account just login, otherwise you’ll need to add 45 seconds to create one).

0:12: In the webpage that opens, search for the “New blog” button and click it.


0:15: Add the title for your blog, create the URL (the address people will type to see your blog), and choose a template. Click “create blog!”

classroom blog instructions edtech

0:40: Click the “view blog” button to admire your new homepage.

blogging for teachers - blogger homepage

0:50: Enter the blog settings via the drop-down menu and take a look around.

1:20: Sip a tasty beverage while your first brilliant post idea percolates.

1:35: Click the “new post” button to start adding content.



2 minutes? Really? Yes, really:

Multi-step projects with a single-task device

A few weeks ago Ethan Delavan and I presented at the 2012 iPads in Education workshop, hosted by the Puget Sound Educational Services District. I hosted a session called Multi-Step Projects with a Single-Task Device that focused on providing choice within projects that use an iPad.

The heart of  my session was the idea that, when assigning a project that requires multiple apps for completion, there is a big difference between dictating which app to use at which time (linear) and allowing students to design and follow their own path to success (branching).

The entire session was built around 2 quotes from fabulous educators:

Don’t worry, be vague.

– Physics teacher Ben Smith

If you assign a project & get back 30 of the same thing, you didn’t assign a project, you assigned a recipe.

– SLA principal Chris Lehmann

Consider the following assignment:

Design a poster that incorporates photography and expresses your perspective on how failure shapes learning.

A linear approach:

Each step of a linear version of this project would be provided along with the appropriate app to accomplish each task. If the process is teacher-defined, then the teacher is left to assess a student’s ability to follow the procedure, demonstrated mastery of each app prescribed, and adherence to any guidelines.

Self-reflection might look something like this:

I like Photosynth because it is pretty easy to use but Paper kept undoing my work so it was complicated. I turned in my poster on time and like it.

linear iPad multi-step projects

A branching approach:

In a branching assignment, students are left to break the assignment into actionable steps. Students will be required to think through each step and identify apps that will support each stage of completion, often engaging peers to compare notes. Because the process is student-defined, then the teacher can listen to students verbalize decisions for each step and ask guiding questions to encourage analysis, collaboration and discovery. “How did you decide to use Skitch for step 2? How would your project be different if you changed the order of your steps? Is there anyone else who used all of the same apps as you?”

A simple Project Planner document can be used as a post-project self-evaluation tool, as a planning document, or can be partially populated and provided as a scaffold for students who require support.

Self-reflection might look something like this:

I started this project in Screenchomp but the app only let me add 1 photo so I switched to Keynote. The poster is only a single slide in Keynote, but it is a better choice because Pages makes all posters in Portrait mode and I wanted my poster to be Landscape. When it was time to turn in my poster, I couldn’t get the printer to connect to my iPad even though I asked the teacher. I had to email my poster to the teacher instead.

branching approach to multi-step ipad projects in the classroom

While this presentation was focused on classroom projects using iPads, the idea of linear vs. branching projects is applicable beyond a device-centric application. The full slidedeck is  embedded below (RSS feed readers may need to jump to Slideshare to view):

Google Drive update: new mobile features

Google updated its Google Drive app for Android and iOS today. The 2 big new features are:

  1. the ability to edit Docs from within a mobile interface.
  2. the ability to upload video & photos to Drive from a mobile device.
For Google Apps for Education schools using mobile devices, students can now send and store media on Google Drive. This provides a way to share creations with family and friends that doesn’t require the use of email and yet stays in a school-controlled environment that is COPPA compliant (assuming your Acceptable/Responsible Use Agreement is current).

5 ways to use Google Voice in your classroom

I recently spent the afternoon with some enthusiastic teachers at the Mercer Island School District who are prepping for the start to the school year. One of the sessions I presented was an introduction to Google Apps for Edu with a focus on classroom application.

One of the tools I referenced was Google Voice – a free yet powerful web interface for an  phone number that can forward to your personal phone numbers, record voicemail, and make smart routing decisions based on rules that you manage.

I love the ability to give families & students a way to contact me without revealing my personal contact information. The other killer feature for me is that any voicemail can be downloaded or embedded as an mp3 with a couple of clicks:

As I tend to do when in a room full of talented educators, I introduced the tool then opened the floor for a conversation of potential applications. As usual, their ideas were much more interesting than mine:

  1. Students on a field trip phone in their responses to leading questions rather than sit on the floor in a museum scribbling a reflection on a worksheet.
  2. Use their cell phone to interview someone and then collect the file from Google Voice to embed on a website.
  3. Students call in to record their pronunciation of a vocabulary list. The teacher can check the work at their convenience rather than try to listen and offer feedback to each student within a single class period.
  4. Students call in to offer status updates on group projects.
  5. Students call in, each reading aloud a single chapter from a book or an original poem. The results are then downloaded and dragged into Audacity or Garageband, where they can be stitched together to create an collaborative audiobook.

As with so many Google tools, Voice lowers the barrier of entry and encourages students to create. These readily available tools, combined with the creativity of student and teacher minds, can evolve into something memorable.

The 5 best digital identity resources

Digital identity & citizenship is an essential part of a relevant education, and of a connected life, in the 21st century. Here are the 5 best resources for learning about digital identity. These websites/documents are useful to parents and teachers interested in learning more about digital ethics, cyberbullying and netiquette:

  1. Net Cetera is a U.S. government produced community outreach toolkit that defines and discusses the impact of common social media platforms with a focus on cyber-safety.
  2. Meeting of Minds: Cross-Generational Dialogue of the Ethics of Digital Life is a 2009 synthesis of conversations between kids and adults that highlights the similarities and differences of each generation’s thoughts on digital media and ethics.
  3. CommonSenseMedia provides curriculum, advice, policy and reviews for parents and teachers to understand the media available today and its potential to influence our behavior and/or beliefs. Their recent research study, Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, is an enlightening survey and analysis of U.S. parents (published October 2011).
  4.’s Digital Citizenship Resource Roundup is a collection of articles related to netiquette and online safety. Their free publication, A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning, documents excellent examples of appropriate technology-influenced classroom experiences.
  5. Digital ID: 21st Century Citizenship is “a toolkit of reliable information, resources, and guidelines to help teachers/parents/students learn how to be upstanding digital citizens.” This resource is a collaboration managed by Natalie Bernasconi & Gail Desler.

I recommend these resources to all schools, and we used some of these as platforms for parent education last year at one of the schools I work with. To understand what a classroom looks like when the information in these resources is put into practice, spend 5 minutes with Linda Yollis‘ fabulous 3rd grade classroom.

For an enthralling (and fictitious) account of a world in which we don’t address the need to live ethically online, spend 5 minutes watching Tom Scott’s “Flash Mob Gone Wrong” at Ignite London:

35% of teens respond to cyberbullies face-to-face

Mashable just published an infographic with some fascinating statisics on cyberbullying, based on new data by McAfee.

Some trends are not surprising, such as 92% of teen respondents saying that bullying happens on Facebook.

Other trends are encouraging: 40% of respondents have asked bullies to stop and 20% have told an adult. Hoping that educators can continue to highlight this connection between real-world and virtual identities through explicit and implicit conversations.

iPad deployment: to curriculum and beyond

I recently read Steve Kinney’s post on the mechanics of an iPad deployment and was reminded how far tools and documentation have come in the last year or so. Now that a roadmap is beginning to emerge for 1:1 and cart-based deployments, what about the curricular and social side of the roll-out?

I recently wrote an article for that outlines the concerted effort at Westside School in Seattle:

Parents, teachers, students and administrators mapped out an integrated project-based learning environment designed to engage and challenge all participants. The planning team made a list of skills and tools that would support learning, and decided on a 1:1 iPad program to support their vision.

Click through to read the entire How to Roll Out a 1:1 iPad Program at Edutopia.

Multi-tasking tablets on the horizon

At a recent professional development session I got the chance to play with the upcoming Windows 8 operating system running on a tablet.

Windows 8 has many features designed to address shortcomings with iOS 4/5 for iPads. One of the most exciting is multi-task capability – this feature allows the user to run 2 different apps at the same time side-by-side. I recorded a quick demo:

Free speech-to-text options for OSX & Windows 7

Will keyboarding skills go the way of cursive writing in this decade?

One of the primary obstacles to computing for many students is input. Speech-to-text capabilities, once available only with expensive software, now comes with the latest versions of the 2 most popular consumer operating systems, Windows 7  and OSX. Directions for activating speech-to-text are outlined below:

Windows 7

  1. Open Speech Recognition by clicking the Start button > All Programs.
  2. Select Accessories > Ease of Access > Windows Speech Recognition.
  3. Click the Microphone button to start the listening mode.
  4. Open the program you want to use or select the text box you want to dictate text into.
  5. Say the text that you want dictate.

Apple OSX (10.8)

  1. Open System Preferences from the Apple menu (top left) and click the “Dictation & Speech” panel.
  2. Via the “Dictation” tab, click  “ON” next to “Dictation”
  3. In the resulting popup, select “Enable Dictation”
  4. Open any writing app or go to a text input field and double-tap the “fn” key to bring up Dictation.
  5. When little microphone popup appears, start talking.
  6. When finished, hit the “fn” key again or click the “Done” button.

Daisy the Dinosaur - iPad programming app

5 best iPad apps to teach programming

While Scratch continues to be my favorite gateway-drug to computer programming, my current students don’t have ready access to desktop or laptop computers. We do, however, have iPads so I’ve been looking at apps to introduce the concepts of branches, loops and conditional statements. Here are my top 5 favorites so far:

Daisy the Dinosaur

Price: Free
Difficulty: Beginner
iTunes link:

Daisy the Dinosaur is a simple drag-and-drop introduction to programming. The app includes a super-cute protagonist, a few tutorials, and a free-play interface. The app has a limited set of simple commands but also includes a when conditional that allows the user to interact with Daisy by touching the screen or shaking the iPad. 

Daisy the Dinosaur - iPad programming app


Price: Free
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
iTunes link:

Like many of the best puzzles, Cargo-Bot has a simple objective with an infinite number of solutions. The limited functions actually turn into a catalyst for creativity. The learning process has been gamified, with 36 different levels. A perfect introduction to nested scripts – your favorite solutions can be recorded as a movie and exported to the Photo Library from within the program. Bonus points to the developers: this game was created entirely on an iPad, using Codea.

Cargo-Bot iPad programming app

Move the Turtle

Price: $2.99 ((editor note: Next is Great (Move the Turtle developers) gave me a free license for review))
Difficulty: Beginner to Advanced
iTunes link:

Move the Turtle seems simple on the surface but is packed full of programming goodness: variables, procedures, conditionals, position awareness and more. The learning process has been gamified, with 27 different levels. Move the Turtle also includes a composition area where you can develop your own scripts and save projects in a library to be referenced later. The developer has included the ability to save and access multiple accounts – great for shared iPad environments.

Move the Turtle - iPad programming app


Price: $1.99
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
iTunes link:

i-Logo stars every old programmers’ favorite turtle. This app uses the keyboard for textual input and includes documentation that introduces Logo – a programming language that has been around for over 50 years. 

i-Logo programming app for ipad


Price: $1.99
Difficulty: Advanced
iTunes link:

Simduino is a virtual Arduino processor. This is a great step for someone ready to get into a programming language, rather than the drag-and-drop apps above. Simduino is a cool proof-of-concept app, but the beauty of Arduino boards is the tactile experience.

Simduino - virtual Arduino programming for iPad