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Tech Curriculum

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The Best Graphic Design Platforms for Students

The Best Graphic Design Platforms for Students


Here are some free and cheap graphic design tools students can use either in class or at home.

Here are some free and cheap graphic design tools students can use either in class or at home. 

Free platforms

Canva 

An amazing tool packed with templates for non-designers to create graphics, presentations, flyers and more.  Both you and your students can find a myriad of uses for this eye-catching technology.  It is free to use, though they do also have a paid option with additional features.


Adobe Spark

It’s easy to make science fair posters, social studies infographics, math flashcards, and so much more with Spark Post. Pick a template or start from scratch.  You can also create web pages and videos.  U.S. teachers with a G Suite for Education (Google) account and supported email domain can set up a Spark classroom account for free, as can licensed educational institutions and nonprofit educational organizations providing school- or district-wide access.  


GIMP 

This is a completely free photo manipulation program similar to Adobe Photoshop.  It is definitely not a plug and play technology, but if you’re looking to get some serious work done with older students this is a great option and there are tutorial videos available.


Blender

Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports 3D modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation pipeline.  It is another tool that has a pretty steep learning curve, but you can get a lot done with it!


SketchUp 

3D modeling software, free with a G Suite or Microsoft education account.  This one is usable as early as the primary grades, and has a great bank of curriculum to get you and your class inspired.


Vectr, Gravit & Inkscape 

These platforms are all free, fully functional & fantastically rated design apps that specialize in creating vector graphics.


Piskel 

Piskel is a free online editor for animated sprites & pixel art.  You and your student can create animations in your browser or download free desktop & offline applications for Windows, OSX and Linux.  You can export your work as animated GIFs for sharing, spritesheet PNG/ZIP for bigger projects, and you can choose to make any of your sprites public or private.


WordArt.com

A free online word cloud art creator that enables you to easily create amazing and unique word cloud art with your students. 


Here are some free and cheap graphic design tools students can use either in class or at home.
Paid platforms that are also worth a try!

Designsta

This is a monthly subscription, but I have been using it for nearly 3 years and it is FANTASTIC. Create amazing designs in minutes from easily editable templates. Choose from social media graphics, workbooks, worksheets, printables, planners, documents, web graphics, cards, posters, stickers, magazines, menus and more. 


ThingLink

An education technology platform that makes it easy to augment images, videos, and virtual tours with additional information and links. Teachers and students can use ThingLink to create accessible, visual learning experiences.  There are yearly subscription options for individual teachers or whole districts that allow course and assignment creation,  as well as enabling both you and your students to create content.  There is also a free plan for teachers to use, it just doesn’t include any student seats.


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Here are some free and cheap graphic design tools students can use either in class or at home.

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Brittany Washburn
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10 Amazing Lesson Planning Apps for Teachers

10 Amazing Lesson Planning Apps for Teachers


Lesson planning can be a pain...or it can be fun. Here are some lesson planning apps that make the process quick and simple.

Lesson planning can be a pain...or it can be fun. Here are some lesson planning apps that make the process quick and simple.


Nearpod (Apple, Android, Web)

  • Nearpod offers an easy-to-use tool for creating interactive lesson plans, presentations, assessments, and digital content. Create digital lesson plans, share them with students during class, and track individual progress. Lessons are created on slides that can include text, video, images, websites, questions, quizzes, polls, and assignments.  There is also a library of standards aligned lessons to draw from if you don’t want to start your lessons from scratch.


Planboard (Apple, Android, Web)

  • After having written their lesson plans into this app, teachers can view the lessons on the app while they teach. They can then go back into the lesson and make any revisions or edits needed before saving them for re-use later. Teachers can connect with students and parents while organizing lesson plans.


Better Lesson (Apple, Android, Web)

  • ELA, Math and Science K-12 lessons created by high-performing teachers and browsable by standard.  The organization also offers a variety of professional development resources.


Mastery Connect (Apple, Android, Web)

  • A collection of four apps and some in-browser tools to help make aligning your lesson planning to standards hassle-free.  The Core and NGSS standards apps make it easy to access standards anywhere, then the teacher and student apps let you deliver and analyze assessments from tablets and mobile devices.  The pin resource Chrome extension also lets you collect teaching resources without falling down a Pinterest rabbit hole.


Evernote (Apple, Android)

  • Evernote is a basic note-taking app, but it allows you to efficiently collect and organize things from the internet. You can add anything including word documents, PDFs, downloaded images, images taken from mobile devices, audio clips, and more. Notes are organized into notebooks, so just make a notebook for each class you teach then a sub-notebook for each unit. Daily lesson plans are individual notes which go into your class notebook.

Lesson planning can be a pain...or it can be fun. Here are some lesson planning apps that make the process quick and simple.


PlanbookEdu (Android, Web)

  • An online lesson planner that functions much like a paper book would for those just beginning to embrace tech. Teachers can indicate how many periods they have in a day, then create an event within a period to add text, attach a file, and search for a standard by number or keyword to include it. You can then share and print lesson plans.


Common Curriculum (Chrome Extension, Web)

  • This planning tool will help you strike the balance between highly flexible and highly organized.  Drag and reorder the parts of your lessons, move or copy cards between lessons when you need to reteach a skill.  Attach unlimited files in line images, and links to the text to any card.  Keep your teaching standards-based with standards from all 50 states (as well as the ability to add your own).  Track which standards you still need to teach, along with the dates on which you went over the ones you’ve already covered.


LearnZillion (Web)

  • LearnZillion provides teachers with a library of interactive math and language arts lessons, videos, quizzes, and assignments. Select the lesson plan tab on their navigation bar, pick the grade level, then search their library by content topic. All lessons are Common Core aligned.


ReadWriteThink (Web)

  • This site offers lessons and resources for literacy teachers, developed by the International Reading Association and The National Council of Teachers of English.  Information and standards-based lesson plans integrate Internet content into both teaching and learning.


Tailor-ED (Web)

  • A lesson-planning tool that allows teachers to construct differentiated math lessons in just a few clicks. Teachers determine the grade level and standard for each unit, then use the Tailor-ED collection of activities from sources like Khan Academy, Teachers Pay Teachers, Math Antics, and Illustrative Mathematics.

Lesson planning can be a pain...or it can be fun. Here are some lesson planning apps that make the process quick and simple.


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Brittany Washburn
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10 Ways to Use Flipgrid to Encourage Classroom Discussions

10 Ways to Use Flipgrid to Encourage Classroom Discussions


Flipgrid is a great way to generate discussions in class through video, especially in distance learning settings.  Here are some different ways that teachers can use this platform with their students.

Flipgrid is a great way to generate discussions in class through video, especially in distance learning settings. Here are some different ways that teachers can use this platform with their students.
  • Create videos to recommend their favorite book. Using Flipgrid’s augmented reality (AR) feature, you can even use a video QR code to create an engaging way to share them. After students record their review, the teacher can print the QR code and tape it onto the corresponding book in their classroom library, and the student’s classmates can use their devices to scan the code and watch the review as a way to help them decide if they’d like to read that book.
  • Discuss a book the class has read. You can leave a guiding question (or a choice of several) to get your students on the right track, then let them respond. If things are going well they can use each other's videos to keep going deeper and bouncing around ideas!
  • Respond to a hot topic issue. Pick a prompt that touches on what is important to your students. You might even consider sending out a survey so your students can vote on which issue they'd like to respond to.
  • Answer an essay question. Your students can practice their speaking skills in addition to their writing skills with a video presentation of their answer to an essay question. With a limit on the length of videos, this is also a great opportunity for students to practice crafting answers that are succinct as well as proficient.
  • Record an ongoing story. The first student can think of a title, then the second record a 30-second beginning, then next builds on that and so on and so forth.
Flipgrid is a great way to generate discussions in class through video, especially in distance learning settings.  Here are some different ways that teachers can use this platform with their students.
  • Activate prior knowledge on a topic. Have your students record a video sharing their background knowledge on a topic before you begin, and view one another’s videos as part of the first lesson. After the unit is over, students can even reply to their original video sharing everything new they learned.
  • Get brainstorming. Students can jump very quickly to planning or building before they get out their ideas in a brainstorming session. Slow them down a bit and capture their thinking by having them throw out and build on one another’s ideas on Flipgrid.
  • Do some debugging. After completing a math task, reading a passage, working through the design process or coding a computer program students can make videos to reflect on the process by identifying errors and sharing how they fixed them. Have students adding annotations either by writing directly on the video when they record it, or adding sticky notes with additional text. This feature is a great way for students to show their thinking.
  • Practice world language skills. With Flipgrid it is possible for teachers in different districts and different countries to collaborate. Students can make videos to practice vocabulary they’re learning, and instead of being limited to practicing with the people in their class they can engage and build their skills with native speakers or other students around the world studying the same language.
  • Catch-up students who are absent. Create a topic for work completed in class, and if a student is absent one of their peers can post a quick video about what assignments were completed in class so the absent students can easily find out what they missed. Build task management and communication skills for the whole class by rotating which students have this responsibility each week.
You might also like the blog post How to Use Google Docs with Elementary Students

Looking for a Flipgrid tutorial? Subscribe to the Technology Toolbox for Teachers. A one-stop library of technology tools tutorials for teachers. Click the image for more information and to see sample tutorials. 


Flipgrid is a great way to generate discussions in class through video, especially in distance learning settings.  Here are some different ways that teachers can use this platform with their students.


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Brittany Washburn
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13 Ways to Integrate Literature and Technology

13 Ways to Integrate Literature and Technology


Even the literary types can enjoy the benefits of technology. Check out how you can integrate literature and technology seamlessly. Here are tips, tools, and resources for teaching literature with technology.
Even the literary types can enjoy the benefits of technology. Check out how you can integrate literature and technology seamlessly. Here are tips, tools, and resources for teaching literature with technology.




  • When you’re writing poetry with your class, an online Rhyming Dictionary , RhymeZone is super helpful to get students thinking with a broader vocabulary.



  • For vocabulary practice (and more) there are many traditional dictionaries and thesauruses online, including ones like Learner's Dictionary that feature definitions worded in a way children can understand.  Vocabulary.com can make studying new definitions fun, and even revolutionize how you and your students treat vocabulary learning if you sign up for a teacher account.

Even the literary types can enjoy the benefits of technology. Check out how you can integrate literature and technology seamlessly. Here are tips, tools, and resources for teaching literature with technology.

  • Khan Academy and HippoCampus have educational videos on a variety of subjects.  Your students can study independently, you can use content for your lessons or you can create playlists for your students to review.  Students can equip themselves with learning tools and flashcards to help them study for almost any topic with Quizlet, or try Grammaropolis for a 21st century Schoolhouse Rock.  


  • BibMe will help your middle and high school students get their citations correct in APA, MLA and Chicago Style.  Meanwhile, Grammarly can help your students eliminate writing errors and find the perfect words to express themselves.


  • Playing educational games using websites, apps or Chrome extensions is an extremely effective way to reinforce learning in an engaging way.  Even if you’re not quite ready to build them into your lesson plans, early finishers can be assigned a game on the topic you are studying as a meaningful reward while you help the stragglers complete their work.  Open up Google and type in “[subject] game for [grade level]“ to find something aligned to your unit (or you can check out our articles on some of the best free reading games out there).  Many sites such as Starfall will not only provide games, but also help your primary kiddos learn to read with interactive “books”.


  • There are several creative platforms out there for contributing to online communities that create storybooks and illustrations, such as My Storybook and Storyboard That.  


  • You can try video conferencing with an author or expert using a website like Nepris or the Digital Human Library.  Or if you already have a subject matter expert in your contacts, you can just use any video conferencing platform you like from Skype to Zoom or Google Meet.


  • Classroom blogs are a great and versatile way to have students post their writing (stories, paragraphs, poetry, etc.), pictures of class projects, or even audio projects (read aloud practice, speech class ventures, etc.).  Many blogging platforms are designed to be very easy to use, like Blogger and Live JournalEdublogs was even made just for classroom and school library blogs. 


  • Turn your next classroom discussion into a podcast.  You can post your podcast on your class website (or blog).  If you use Macintosh, you can just use the included GarageBand software for recording and postproduction.  If you use Windows, you might use the free software Audacity.  You can also do podcasts as weekly classroom news broadcasts, to document a field trip, share book reviews or review curricular content.


  • The internet is also just a great place to find inspiration for lesson planning.  Get new ideas and resources to teach anything from writing haiku for kids to conjugating verbs by simply asking Google “how to teach [subject]”. 

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Even the literary types can enjoy the benefits of technology. Check out how you can integrate literature and technology seamlessly. Here are tips, tools, and resources for teaching literature with technology.


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Brittany Washburn
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Technology Inventory Check-Out Systems

Technology Inventory Check-Out Systems


Whether it’s the end of the year, the beginning of the year or just high time for a change here are some tech inventory management and check out system ideas to get you on the road to a better organizational system.

Whether it’s the end of the year, the beginning of the year or just high time for a change here are some tech inventory management and check out system ideas to get you on the road to a better organizational system.


  • A Google or Excel spreadsheet and a generic barcode scanner or barcode scanner app are all you really need.  Check out this guide or grab any free inventory template off the web for some sheets with pre-made formulas


  • AssetTiger is a free, cloud based asset management system that includes maintenance scheduling and check-in & out features. 


  • The Stock and Inventory app on Google Play can be used to inventory any kinds of items, making it an extremely flexible choice.



Whether it’s the end of the year, the beginning of the year or just high time for a change here are some tech inventory management and check out system ideas to get you on the road to a better organizational system.


Alright, now that you’ve chosen an inventory system you’ll need to decide what tech you’re going to inventory.  Classroom teacher tech, student tech, accessories such as remotes and headphones, special tech such as 3D printers and codable bots… do you want to keep track of it all or just certain items?  Do you want it to be set up so teachers can check things out themselves, or do you want to control what goes in and out?  Where will things be stored over the summer?  How often will you track the inventory?  Will you be including usage logs for things that can be checked out?  Ultimately you’ll do what works for your school, and finding out what that is may take a few tries.  Here are some tips you might want to consider as you set things up:


  • Give all your teachers a gallon zip lock back with a check out paper in it. The last day of school they have to bring the bag with all their remotes (projector, Apple TV, teacher and student mic, etc.). 

  • You may actually want to wait until a month or two into school to implement an inventory system, since at the beginning of a school year equipment is still finding its way out of storage and into the correct classrooms.  Teachers may also have a bit more time both to help inventory tech and learn new equipment locations away from the hustle and bustle of the beginning or end of a school year.

  • If you are implementing a system for the first time, it will be a big project.  See how much you can get your classroom teachers to help, and make sure you are allowed some set aside time to implement it.

  • Barcodes and labels are your friend.  Seriously.

  • Including maintenance schedules and notes about broken tech could help you notice patterns in what brands are not working as reliably as you’d like.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments if you have any other recommendations to add.

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Whether it’s the end of the year, the beginning of the year or just high time for a change here are some tech inventory management and check out system ideas to get you on the road to a better organizational system.


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Brittany Washburn
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12 Ways to Integrate Art and Technology

12 Ways to Integrate Art and Technology


Art and technology...it's a beautiful combo. Check out some ways you can use technology to create art in your classroom. Here are tips, tools, and resources for creating art with technology.
Art and technology...it's a beautiful combo. Check out some ways you can use technology to create art in your classroom. Here are tips, tools, and resources for creating art with technology.


  • Smithsonian Open Access lets students can view art, history, culture and science pieces as well as participate in themed activities and games.  They also provide educator resources and digital tools through the Smithsonian Learning Lab and  Smithsonian's History Explorer.


  • Google Arts and Culture lets your students explore and interact with art and architecture around the world, with new picks featured every day.  You can also take virtual tours at such prestigious museums as the Louvre and The National Gallery in London.


  • Teachers can even lead their students into the realm of virtual reality with digital drawing (see Virtual Reality in the Classroom). VR programs let students draw a 360-degree world around themselves in real time using headsets and motion control hand sensors.


  • Digital portfolios are an effective way for art teachers to see what their students are working on, and a place for students to organize their work without taking up any space. Teachers can even host virtual art galleries of their students’ work.


  • Technology in the art studio is a great way to let your students experiment with different mediums. There are several apps which students can use to either create their art digitally or manipulate their traditionally made art.  A few favorites include Aviary, Paper 53, Doodle Art, Green Screen, KaleidaCam, PicsArt, and Procreate.



  • Pear Deck or Kahoot help you make both learning and review into fast-paced fun.

Art and technology...it's a beautiful combo. Check out some ways you can use technology to create art in your classroom. Here are tips, tools, and resources for creating art with technology.

  • Khan Academy has educational videos on a variety of art history subjects.  Your students can study independently, you can use content for your lessons or you can create playlists for your students to review.  Students can equip themselves with learning tools and flashcards to help them study for almost any topic with Quizlet


  • You can try video conferencing with an artist or expert using a website like Nepris or the Digital Human Library.  Or if you already have a subject matter expert in your contacts, you can just use any video conferencing platform you like from Skype to Zoom or Google Meet.


  • Classroom blogs are a great and versatile way to have students post their writing, or showcase pictures of their work.  Many blogging platforms are designed to be very easy to use, like Blogger and Live JournalEdublogs was even made just for classroom and school library blogs. 


  • Turn your next classroom discussion into a podcast.  You can post your podcast on your class website (or blog).  If you use Macintosh, you can just use the included GarageBand software for recording and postproduction.  If you use Windows, you might use the free software Audacity.  You can also do podcasts as weekly classroom news broadcasts, to document a field trip, share book reviews or review curricular content.


  • The internet is also just a great place to find inspiration for lesson planning.  Get new ideas and resources to teach anything from pointillism in elementary school  to basic Photoshop by simply asking Google “how to teach [subject]”. 


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Art and technology...it's a beautiful combo. Check out some ways you can use technology to create art in your classroom. Here are tips, tools, and resources for creating art with technology.


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Brittany Washburn
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