The Techie Teacher

Use Writing Sparks to Inspire Student Writers

Sunday, September 24, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Use Writing Sparks to Inspire Student Writers

Writing Sparks is a free online resource that teachers and students can use to inspire creative stories, news articles, poems and opinion pieces. I recently learned about this website from first year teacher, Ginny Neal Snead from Georgia, who tried it out with her fourth grade class and loved how easy it was for everyone to use.

Use Writing Sparks to Inspire Student Writers: Writing Sparks is a free webtool teachers and students can use to help with the writing process

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Using Digital Collaboration Boards for Planning and Brainstorming

Sunday, September 17, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Using Digital Collaboration Boards for Planning and Brainstorming

Using Digital Collaboration Boards for Planning and Brainstorming: Learn about how you can incoporate technology into the planning and brainstorming process using a variety of tools that work on Chromebooks, laptops, computers and iPads.
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7 Signs That You Need a New Learning Management System (LMS)

Friday, September 15, 2017 / Leave a Comment

7 Signs That You Need a New Learning Management System

7 Signs That You Need a New Learning Management System (LMS)

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What Does It Mean to Be Global?

Friday, September 8, 2017 / 10 comments

What Does It Mean to be GLOBAL?

What Does It Mean To Be Global? A Mentor Text Lesson and Giveaway! Great way to integrate technology into the classroom. Vocabulary words covered: global, communities, customs, traditions, values, citizens, cultures and diversity.
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Engage Your Audience with Poll Everywhere for Google Slides™

Sunday, September 3, 2017 / 2 comments

Engage Your Audience with Poll Everywhere for Google Slides™

Engage Your Audience with Poll Everywhere for Google Slides™: This post is for educators, technology integration specialists, administrators, and anyone who does public speaking! Embed polls right into your Google Slides™ presentations. Works with PowerPoint and Keynote too!
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7 Powerful iPad Literacy Apps for Children

Friday, September 1, 2017 / Leave a Comment

7 Powerful iPad Literacy Apps for Children

7 Powerful Literacy iPad and iPhone Apps for Children..great way to incorporate digital learning into your reading block! Technology in the elementary classroom.

Guest Post by: Joan Selby

Both parents and teachers encounter a point when reading seems to be a child’s greatest enemy. Children of all ages are disinterested in reading, any kind of literature, especially with all the technology that’s surrounding us. There always seems to be something more fun on the iPhone then in the classroom. Who could blame them? Before they even start walking, children know how to use iPads and iPhones, and books become irrelevant.
According to Daniel Stevens, a professional writer for BestEssays ‘’It’s not just children. Students aren’t very fond of reading at all, making them drop out of their schools and limit their academic achievements.’’
Here’s an idea. Instead of trying to avoid technology in your classroom altogether, try working with it. iPhones aren’t just for fun and social media, they can also be used for learning. In fact, a large majority of schools have implemented the use of computers and tablets in the classroom. By using downloadable applications they merge the best of both worlds for children – technology and fun while making it a fun learning process.
As teachers, we have to get on board with the technological advances and help the children establish a learning pattern through the means they are used to the most – iPhones, iPads and apps. Below you will find some of my favourite ones, simple and easy to use in the classroom.
Want to reach into your children’s brains and help them pull out every ounce of their imagination? The FriendStrip Kids is an app developed by professional comic artists, and it’s designed to bring out the storyteller in children. The children are able to take photos through their phones and form stories around the photos they take. Why settle for a typical essay or a writing task, when you can make it fun and interactive?
Introduce word learning games in the classroom through an app that never gets boring. The app includes six different games, like bingo and memory games, and it is suitable for children of different ages. It’s adjustable so you can choose male or female voiceovers for the spoken instructions that ease the kids in into using the app.
Ideal for children aged 3-7; this app encourages reading, without you as a teacher having to force the reading upon them. The Reading Raven allows children to take one step at a time and take their own pace, and move on with reading exercises once they are ready for it. Other perks of this app is that it comes with games, which children obviously adore.
This app is ideal for teaching reading, and not just in English. It also has options for teaching reading in Chinese, French, Vietnamese and Spanish. Stay tuned for more languages that the app developers have announced! Also, it’s one of the most popular learning apps when it comes to reading, which speaks a lot about its success in the classroom.
Phonics is very popular in today’s classrooms to teach children the alphabet, and the number of apps available to aid you in that task is on the rise. Marbleminds Phonics focuses on the sounds, instead of the letters themselves, by developing understanding of the each sound. If you’re just getting started with the alphabet and want to teach your kids in the classroom the basics, this is a great app to do so.

Medieval Math Battle

Lucky for all teachers out there, there are apps that aren’t solely focused on reading and writing. The Medieval Math Battle is an app that focuses on introducing subtraction, addition, division and multiplication to children. Math basics are taught through a fantasy world, bringing a little bit of magic to math learning. Children do have to follow the storyline, so it does involve a bit of reading, so you’re essentially hitting two birds with one stone.

The Montessori method has been applied to this app so that you can teach reading, writing and spelling, and still have fun with the kids at the same time. It caters to parents as much as it does to teachers, as parents can easily export reports on the child’s progress. It consists of 320 puzzles, and kids can easily tap the screen to hear the words.
Teaching the basics can sometimes be a very frustrating task, especially if you don’t utilize the power of technology that’s right in front of you. Combine your teaching powers with a medium that interests children, and helps them make a little room in their hearts for learning.

About the author:

Joan Selby is an ESL teacher and a blogger; a graduate of California Institute of the Arts and a fancy-shoe lover; a writer by day and reader by night, giving a creative touch to everything. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Using a Stylus Pen on a Computer Trackpad

Sunday, August 27, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Using a Stylus Pen on a Computer Trackpad

Using a Stylus Pen on a Computer Trackpad: Works on laptops AND Chromebooks!

A few weeks ago I learned that stylus pens also work on computer trackpads. How did I not know this? As soon as I made this discovery, I grabbed my 99 cent iPad stylus pen, opened Google Autodraw and tested it out on both my MacBook and Chromebook. It worked like a charm!

I posted the image on the left to both my Instagram and Facebook accounts. To my surprise I found out that many people didn't know this random tip either! Honestly, I thought it was just something I overlooked in the overwhelming tech world 😋

Google Autodraw

Using my stylus pen on my Chromebook while utilizing Google Autodraw was amazing! Google Autodraw is a really cool (and FREE) tool available on all devices that uses artificial intelligence to guess what you are trying to draw and provides options for you to replace your drawing with professional images. Artists who upload their images to this tool have to agree to Google's terms: "Drawings are my own and Google may use my drawings for any purpose." Therefore, the images are copyright free!
Using Google Autodraw in the Classroom

This digital tool is very simplistic, allowing students to utilize several tools:
  • autodraw tool (AI will populate images of what it thinks you are attempting to draw)
  • freehand draw tool
  • shape tool
  • fill tool
  • text tool
  • color cool
  • zoom
Students can use these images to use in a variety of technology projects!  Check out these blog posts about different ways of using Google Autodraw in the classroom:

Tech & Learning's post: Autodraw: Creation Made Easier

Control Alt Achiev's post: Using Goole Autodraw for Sketchnotes, Infographics, Drawings and More

Mark Connolly's Corner's post: Google Autodraw 8 Ways

Google Drawing

After testing out my stylus pen and Chromebook with Google Autodraw, I then moved onto Google Drawing to see how it performed. I use Google Drawing for all kinds of creation projects that you can find HERE. The first time I attempted to draw a smiley face in Google Drawing, it was a disaster. My cursor jumped all over the place and I think a two year old would have even made fun of my "creation". However, I walked away from the computer and came back five minutes later to try again. It worked beautifully! I have no clue what went wrong with my first attempt.

If you didn't know, Google Drawing has a tool called Scribble that appears under the line tool drop down menu. This will allow you to freehand draw:

Here are my two different attempts at drawing a smiley face with the Scribble tool in Google Drawing:
Stylus Pen & Trackpad Drawing
Finger & Trackpad Drawing
Which one do you think is better? Neither is out of this world because I have ZERO artistic drawing ability. However, I think I prefer my stylus pen drawing. It would be nice to give students a choice in which to use, especially those with weak trackpad skills.

Electronic Signatures


Google Drawing is a great place to create an electronic signature. Use your stylus pen and trackpad to put your John Hancock on a Google Drawing canvas and then go to File>Download As>png image. This will save your signature so it has a transparent background and you can overlay your signature on any document you may have to sign (as long as the document allows you to add images).

The Trick

To successfully draw with a stylus pen on a trackpad, keep the stylus in your dominate hand and lightly drag it on the trackpad until your cursor appears where you would like to begin to draw on the canvas. You do NOT need to press hard. Next, use your pointer finger on your other hand to hold down the trackpad button that will allow you to draw. Make your first stroke with the stylus. Lift your finger as you use the stylus pen to reposition your cursor for the next phase of your drawing. Continue until your drawing is complete.

Affordable Stylus Pens

My travel bag always has a class set of stylus pens ready to GO. I buy the cheapies from Amazon 😉 That way if a child breaks the tip, I don't feel badly about tossing a stylus that cost me 60 cents. No matter what kind of stylus pen you purchase, always remind your students to press lightly or else the tips WILL break off (on both the expensive kind and the cheapies). You can find a pack of 10 for $5.98 with my affiliate link below:

Well there you have it. A random techie fact for the week! Do you see your students using stylus pens on your class laptops or Chromebooks? Let me know in the comments below.

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8 Great Chrome Extensions To Help Your Students With Writing

Friday, August 25, 2017 / 2 comments

8 Great Chrome Extensions To Help Your Students With Writing

Guest post by: Sophia Clark
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Why Cheating is Harmful to Kids' Creativity and How Technologies Can Help Prevent It

Monday, August 21, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Why Cheating is Harmful to Kids' Creativity and How Technologies Can Help Prevent It

Why Cheating is Harmful to Kids' Creativity and How Technologies Can Help Prevent It: Unicheck integrates with Google Classroom

Sponsored Post Written By: Margaryta Kremneva from Unicheck

Were you ever told as a kid that cheating was wrong? Have you ever cheated? If the answer is no, then you’re in the small minority: surveys among college students show that at least 86% admit to having cheated in school, quite an overwhelming number of people doing something everyone knows to be wrong. However, do they realize why it’s wrong?

Why is cheating bad for children (and for everyone else)

A 2011 study showed a dramatic increase in cheating rates over the previous ten years, with 88% of the cases owing it in some way to the Internet and computers.

An academic cheating fact sheet from Stanford states, “many students feel that their individual honesty in academic endeavors will not affect anyone else”. There’s an old fashioned argument about this: would you like your children to be operated on by a doctor who’s cheated on their exam? The Cheating Fact sheet reinforces this notion with this entry: “Cheating does not end at graduation. For example, resume fraud is a serious issue for employers concerned about the level of integrity of new employees.”

But one could argue, that this only applies to professional education, so why not let kindergarteners cheat? The problem is the habit: the “normality” of cheating will persist once the child starts down this path at any age. Why bother taking the difficult road of learning and making effort when you know you can cheat your way through it? Consider these statistics about younger cheaters: “Cheating may begin in elementary school when children break or bend the rules to win competitive games against classmates. It peaks during high school when about 75% of students admit to some sort of academic misgivings. Research about cheating among middle school children (Ages 12-14) reveals that: There is an increased motivation to cheat because there is more emphasis on grades; Even those students who say it’s wrong, cheat; If the goal is to get a good grade, they will cheat. According to one recent survey of middle schoolers, 2/3 of respondents reported cheating on exams, while 9/10 reported copying another's homework.” What this means is that children, from a young age, start focusing on the grade over knowledge, which makes the whole purpose of education obsolete.

In fact, it harms children in more ways than one. On the one hand, they cheat their way out of actually learning the information, but more importantly, cheating replaces the skill of learning, one of the most valuable assets in today’s rapidly changing job landscape. With the world changing so fast, preparing children for a future life is a daunting task for a parent, and teaching them to learn and adapt is one of the safest bets. You take the knowledge out of education and the skill of acquiring it – and children end up graduating right into the difficult ever-lasting struggle for a job.

Children are naturally curious and able to learn, a lot of the basic intellectual capabilities are developed early. Cheating strikes a blow to this natural curiosity and hurts the child’s self-confidence and faith in their ability to learn. Instead of tackling a challenging task on their own, with creativity and drive, a child gives up on it, and over time this affects their confidence such they could have solved it on their own. A somewhat cheeky attitude can help people be bold enough to try and, possibly, where others give up without even trying.

Creativity is also at stake here, because solving problems requires not only knowledge but also the flexibility of the mind and analytical thinking. Where ethical learning helps a child, and later a student, to become accustomed to analyzing problems, looking for different solutions and being intellectually creative and resourceful, cheating removes the motivation to think outside the box or go through the toilsome thinking process at all. Plagiarism is an especially toxic type of cheating in that regard. If independent thinking doesn’t sound like something valuable to you on its own, consider that complex problem solving, creativity and independent critical thinking are consistently named among the top skills that will be valued by employers.

How do we fight cheating?

A very important component to a cheating-free world is, of course, the upbringing. As much as kindergarten and school teachers might try, in the end, the influence of the family plays a huge role in what a child considers right and wrong: perhaps, it would be wise for many parents to pay special attention to educating their children about why cheating is bad for them.

Additionally, technology can be used not only by cheaters but also by those fighting cheating. Electronic testing systems, surveillance during tests are supposed to handle the cheating on exams. What about the most harmful type of cheating: plagiarism?

Plagiarism hurts critical thinking skills and creativity more than other types of cheating. Many universities are aware of the problem and use plagiarism-checkers to ensure students haven’t cheated, so it’s very fortunate that developers are trying to provide their services in the most affordable way, joining the fight against plagiarism. However, as much as universities try, it will be incredibly difficult to stop a person who’s been cheating, since school from plagiarizing their academic papers. In fact, it might even be too late to teach them not to: having grown up relying on plagiarism, a kid simply skips learning how to do it the right way. With this in mind, it would be wise to prevent children from developing the very habit of plagiarizing from a young age.

Luckily enough, many of the plagiarism-checkers are integrated with other modern educational tools like Google Classroom, for example, Unicheck’s plagiarism checker. This checker’s advantages include a truly exceptional pricing combined with cutting edge technology and a smooth user experience. 95% of the checker’s features are available free of charge. The company believes that eradicating plagiarism is a worthy cause, so a lot of the decisions are made with the comfort of users in mind. 


As part of this socially responsible effort, Unicheck implemented the integration with Google Classroom hoping to encourage educators to pay the problem the level of attention it so requires. Setting up the integration is a very straightforward process, so anyone who uses Google Classroom should make sure to check it out for themselves.

Setting the service up in a Unicheck account takes only five simple steps:

1.    Create the title for your integration.
2.    Log in with your School’s Google account.
3.    Choose whether to create the integration for all of your courses or only specific ones.
4.    Configure reports settings.
5.    Configure the global plagiarism tools settings.

Considering that cheating starts long before kids go off to the university, educators who work with younger children should prioritize preventing plagiarism among their young students for the sake of their creativity and future success. Perhaps, using plagiarism checkers is one way to do it, especially when it integrates well with other learning systems. Think outside the box and help your students learn to do the same!
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Using Activities in Google Slides™ on an iPad

Sunday, August 13, 2017 / 2 comments

Using Google Slides™ Activities on an iPad

Let's take a look at the differences between using Google Slides™ on a web browser (how we use Google Drive on Chromebooks™, laptops, and computers) vs. using the Google Slides™ app on the iPad®.
The differences between using Google Slides™ on the web (Chromebooks, computers, laptops) and using the Google Slides app on an iPad.

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Digital Tools for Map Skills Practice

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Digital Tools for Map Skills Practice

Making digital maps is a fun activity for any unit on map skills. Here are some of my favorite web tools to use in the elementary classroom. These tools can be used on Chromebooks, laptops or computers.

Digital tools for map skills practice when using Chromebooks, laptops or computers. Technology in the classroom.


MapMaker is an easy to use tool that does not require a login. Students can create town maps and practice measuring distances with a digital ruler. You can read all about this tool HERE.

Use MapMaker to create digital maps. Technology in the classroom

Google Tour Builder

Three years ago I blogged about Google Tour Builder in THIS post. It is still one of my favorite tools to use to put a story on a map. Google Tour Builder is wonderful to use for all types of geography units. Students will need to sign in with their Google account. 

Scribble Maps

I have blogged about Scribble Maps in my 5 Easy Techie Tools for Social Studies and European Explorer Project posts. You have the option to sign in but it is not required. The drawing tools make it easy to mark-up any map.

National Geographic MapMaker Interactive

National Geographic's Map Maker is a wonderful tool to use with many features. Zoom in and out on maps, create layers, add drawings, insert video links and more! Read about all of the interactive features in THIS blog post.

Make a Map in Google Drive™

One of my most recent products, Make a Map in Google Drive™, makes a wonderful activity for any unit on map skills and/or communities. This project can be completed independently or collaboratively.
Make a Map Digital Project in Google Drive™ is a great way for students to explore map skills. It would even be a nice addition to a social studies unit on communities. This paperless project can be used independently or collaboratively using Chromebooks, laptops or computers.

Check out this quick video to see more:

Other Resources:

What are some other tools we could add to this list for elementary students?

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