Friday, December 01, 2017

Twitter for educators

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in December 2017 and is re-posted here with permission.

I am a big social media user. I have accounts on TwitterFacebookInstagramPinterest, and Google+. However, the social media account I use most is Twitter, the microblogging tool. In Twitter, I share my own discoveries and learn from others every day. It is a huge source of professional development for me. Twitter is a great place to learn about new resources, trends in education, tools, and to ask questions of very smart people!
Until last month, the limit of characters that could be typed in a Twitter message was 140. It was doable, but often took some finagling to make the content I wanted to share fit in that amount of characters. Here is an example of a cryptic tweet from a Discovery Education VirtCon. It does not seem to make much sense out of context.
If I had the new 280 character limit back then, it might have read like this:
I liked the fact that the limit was 140 characters when I was reading my Twitter feed, because I could read through the stream of messages quickly. The 280-character tweets will definitely take more time to read.
However, for those of us that are long-time Twitter users, I assume we will will continue to be succinct with the information we share. Having the additional characters will allow us to not abbreviate words, use leet-speak, emoticons, or leave off a hashtag we want to include, so these longer tweets will become much easier to “decipher”.  When Twitter conducted its beta testing of the 280-character limit, the company found only 5% of the users with the larger limit went over the previous 140 character limit.


For those of you not yet using Twitter, the first thing to learn is the vocabulary that is used with this tool.
Handle: A Twitter handle is your username. You most often see others sharing their handles looking like this “@kathyschrock”.
Tweet: A tweet is simple a single Twitter message you read or send.
Feed: The feed is the list of tweets you read from others.
Follow: When you click on someone and pick to “follow” them, their tweets show up in your Twitter feed.
Retweet: When anyone on Twitter re-sends a tweet they have received to their followers, that is called a “retweet”. Depending on which tool you are using to read Twitter, you may also be able to add additional text to the item you are retweeting.
Mention: In your Twitter account, you receive a notification when anyone puts your Twitter handle in a tweet (mention). In addition, if you are reading Tweets in your feed, you can click on a username mentioned in a Tweet and see that person’s Twitter postings.
Direct message: The ability to send a Tweet to just one person is called “direct messaging”. There is a setting in Twitter that allows you to limit the Twitter users who can direct message you to just the people you follow in Twitter.
Lists: In Twitter, you can create lists to categorize those that you follow and/or those you do not follow. For instance, if you create a list called “Administrators” and add those that are principals and superintendents to the list, you can simply click on the list title and see the information being posted by all users on that list
Hashtag: A hashtag is most commonly an agreed-upon phrase or word that is added in a tweet. For instance, a edtech conference in Massachusetts might decide that #MAssCUE17 will be the hashtag for their conference. If everyone who tweets from the conference includes that hashtag as part of their tweets, anyone can do a search on that hashtag in the Twitter search tool and all of the tweets from the conference will show up together.
Twitter chat: Educators love to share their thoughts and ideas. An educational Twitter chat is a scheduled time for an online discussion. There is usually a moderator who asks questions, preceding the question with Q1, Q2, etc., and including the hashtag for the Twitter chat. Those attending are looking for that hashtag, and responding to the questions with A1, A2, etc., and also including the agreed-upon hashtag. You can find list of scheduled educational Twitter chats here and here. The Teacher Challenges blog provides a great overview on how to attend a Twitter chat session.


Teachers often ask me how they find people to follow on Twitter. My suggestion is to find one trusted source to follow, and look at the list of people that person follows. You can click on any person on that list, and read some of the tweets, and, if the tweets look useful, you can follow that person, too. This is the social media component of Twitter– you can see everyone else’s lists of people they follow and make them your own!
It is not just people that have Twitter accounts, but also companies and organizations. Discovery Communications has multiple Twitter accounts you may want to follow.
@DiscoveryComm: the account for the parent company, Discovery Communications which includes overviews of new and upcoming offerings
@DiscoveryEd: the Twitter handle for Discovery Education, which targets all things Discovery and education including tips and tricks for Discovery Education Streaming.


I have some personal thoughts on the usage of Twitter.
  • If you want to ask another Twitter user a question that will require a answer of more than 280 characters, use email to ask the question. This way, you can receive a more detailed answer.
  • When you sign up for Twitter, there is an area for a short biography. I suggest you put the fact you are an educator in that bio so others know that about you.
  • Remember the goal is not to gather the most followers. The goal is to hone your PLN online and collaborate with those you follow and who follow you.
  • Do not be offended if you follow someone on Twitter and they do not follow you back. Perhaps they are keeping those that the follow to a small, manageable number.
  • Sometimes you find someone you follow has blocked you, which means you can no longer see their tweets in your feed. Don’t take offense at that. Sometimes Twitter users want to hone their followers so they know exactly who they are tweeting to.


There are many different tools and apps you can use to read and post tweets. Some have single columns, some are specifically for mobile devices, some are Web-based, and some have configurable columns so you can follow your feed, other users, and hashtags all on a single screen!  I have links to many of these on my “Twitter for Teachers” page. This page also includes links to how you might use Twitter to support teaching and learning.

Do you have any Twitter tips and tricks to share? Please add your thoughts to Twitter! #kathyskatch

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Web-ulous tools, part 2

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in November 2017 and is re-posted here with permission.

Back in March of 2014, my Kathy’s Katch blog post highlighted some of my favorite online tools– Google Docs Story Builder, Magisto, Pixiclip, Thinglink, and Narrable. Story Builder and Narrable are gone. Thinglink has expanded into the VR arena. Magisto is now a paid service. Pixiclip has stayed the same. Apps and online tools come and go each day, so it is important to have an array of choices for the type of tool you want students to use.

There are online tool sites that include access to multiple tools. However, I suggest finding online tools that do one thing very well. And investigate multiple tools of the same type. Following is a list of my current favorite online tools. Every tool is free, although some limit the components for the no-cost version. Many of these tools have mobile apps, too, so be sure to check the tool’s site!

Videos are a great assessment choice for students. This research study provides some useful insight into the use of video as a formative assessment. And EdTechTeacher provides a good overview of the planning and process of having students create videos.
These tools both allow students to upload images and and add narration/audio or edit already created video.

Oftentimes, students need to record their voice to upload into another tool or use it for reflection on their work. Marissa King penned a great article for Edutopia which explains how powerful the use of audio recording can be to support learning.
These sites allow that plus the creation of background music or unique songs.

Having students create images or edit existing images can lead to some innovative projects. The Teaching Ideas site from the UK provides curriculum-related ideas for having students create images.
These online tools are full-featured and allow easy creation of new images or editing of existing ones.

Although this article is about using the mobile app PicCollage (available for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile,and Amazon Fire), it includes many great ideas for the use of collages to support teaching and learning.
These online tools are easy-to-use collage makers.

Having students create original illustrations for book reports, lab reports, title slides for videos or presentations, or even for sketchnoting a lecture. can support learning. Misty Adoniou provides some research in this area here.
Each of these tools can be used for drawing illustrations and saving or screenshotting them to move into another document.

Students love stop-motion animations! These three online tools allow students to create their own animations to tell a story, demonstrate a process, summarize a lesson, and more!

Creating a comic can be one method to tell a story, summarize a lesson, or simply showcase a point of view.
Each of these online comic tools includes assets for student to use in creating their comic.

Online Web page creators can be a great tool to use for student portfolios. Matt Renwick writes about the “power of digital portfolios” in this post.
Each of these tools can be used to create an online Web site or help students house their work as a digital portfolio.

Creating a thank you card, poster, Facebook header and more can now be done with these very accessible and powerful graphical design tools.

Having students create podcasts can be beneficial for teaching and learning. These online podcasting tools host the podcasts and also supply the student with the “feed” so they can have others subscribe to their podcasts through an aggregator such as Apple Podcasts.

There are times when a student needs to convert a file to another format for use in an editing tool or for importing into another app or tool.
These three online tools allow uploading of one file format and downloading in the preferred converted file format.

Michael Gorman provides teachers with over 108 ways to use word clouds in the classroom. He includes general uses and content-specific ideas, too.
The following word cloud tools are some of my favorites.

wrote about curation tools in Kathy’s Katch in 2014 . Monica Fuglei also provides the rationale for teaching students to thoughtfully curate online information in this great article.
There are tons of online curation tools available, but these are ones I often recommend.

Students sometimes need to collect information from their classmates, students in the school, the community, or a global audience. There are very powerful online tools for soliciting feedback from others.
Here are a few of my favorite online survey tools.

One of my pages on Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything covers the aspects of mind and concept mapping. There are so many ways these tools can be used for student organization, brainstorming, or as a formative or summative assessment.
Following are some of my favorite online mind mapping tools. Some host the maps while others allow downloading of the completed map as an image.

Timelines are customarily used in social studies to illustrate a timeline of an event or a famous person’s life. However, with the new online timeline makers, students can also create timelines to tell a story or illustrate a process across the content areas.
Each of these tools creates timelines in a different way, but all are fun to use!

There is no excuse for students to forget to cite their  sources. As they gather their information, they can simply use a online citation tool to create the citation and cut-and-paste it into their curation tool so they have it.
Here are my top three online citation tools.

Placing text on a meaningful image can result in a very powerful product. There are many online tools that allow students to do this.
Here are my favorite tools for this purpose.

I am passionate about students creating infographics in the classroom as an assessment. The information literacy skills used in researching, the data literacy skills used in manipulating the numeric portions, and the visual literacy skills used to make the infographic meaningful for the audience are all targeted when creating an infographic. In addition, the creation of an infographic to advocate for a cause can be important for students, too!
Here are some of the online infographic creation tools I recommend.

Having access to a real-time online collaboration tool can make any lesson engaging and provide you with the ability to see what the students know, think they know, and want to learn!
Here are my top three in this category!

I believe all Web users need to have access to a URL shortener. In addition to making the URLs shorter and sometimes being able to personalize them, most tools provide information on how many times the shortened URL was clicked on. Tracking their links is often very interesting to students!
Here are some online URL shorteners.

Do you use other online tools in these categories and want to recommend them? Please add your link(s) to Twitter! #kathyskatch 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Gamifying financial literacy education with Star Banks Adventure

In the past, I have had the occasion to write blog posts about various aspects of financial literacy. There are many well-done Web sites created by experts in the field of personal finance that can be helpful to ensure students master the financial literacy skillset.


There is now a no-cost, engaging and informational online game from T. Rowe Price titled Star Banks Adventure available for teachers and students to instruct and learn about financial concepts within a gamified environment. Star Banks Adventure is also available as an iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire app. Just go to the Star Banks Adventure game site for links to them all.

The Star Banks Adventure game targets students in grades 5-8 and it includes puzzles and quick quizzes dealing with financial and personal finance concepts and is set in a sci-fi environment. I am not an experienced gamer, but the Star Banks Adventure game provides live demos right within the game, so I was able to catch on quickly how to maneuver and move through the levels. Each level builds upon the concepts in the previous level, so students get a deep-dive into each concept.


The Star Banks Adventure game was intended to help teachers introduce real world money concepts to students in middle school. There is a great curriculum matrix included within the teacher section of the Classroom Edition. The concepts taught in the game are mapped to national standards in personal finance, national standards in economics, and the Common Core State Standards. Below is a section of the curriculum matrix for levels one and two of the Star Banks Adventure game.

T. Rowe Price offers many additional financial resources for educators on their Money Confident Kids site. This site provides background information on financial concepts and includes downloadable magazines for students, print resources, videos, activators, and more. I suggest starting at the Teaching Tools and Activities page of the site, which includes PDF guides for both middle school and high school teachers. The Money Confident Kids site also includes a parent section to help parents reinforce some of these personal finance concepts at home.


The Classroom Edition of the Star Banks Adventure game includes an administrative dashboard for the teacher. Teachers create their own account on this page. In addition to including how-to tutorials for the Dashboard itself, the Dashboard allows the teacher to create online classroom groups, manage these  groups, monitor their students' progress, and compare their students' data with other classrooms in the United States. In the Teacher Dashboard area there are also tutorials introducing each of the six financial concepts included in the game -- setting a financial goal, prioritizing spending, rate of return, asset allocation, inflation and time horizon, and diversification.

Teachers can create as many classrooms as they need in the Dashboard and also view each student's progress and well as the aggregated classroom progress. Students have both a Classroom ID and User ID, neither of which include the real name of the student. Fun pseudonyms for the student names are generated as the teacher creates the User IDs.

Starting at the beginning of the game and moving through the levels helps reinforce the skills as they are learned. However teachers can have students work on a specific subject if they wish and jump to a specific topic.


I tried out the online version of the game on both Mac and Windows laptops and and on iOS, Android, and Google Fire devices. It worked flawlessly on all of these. It does not seem to run on the Chromebook nor with the Google Play Store install on my Asus Flip Chromebook. 

The Star Banks Adventure game provides a fun, engaging, educational, and informative way for students to learn about personal finance and becoming financially literate. Give it a try with your students!

This is a sponsored post on behalf of We Are Teachers and T. Rowe Price.
I received compensation for this post, however all opinions stated are my own.
STAR BANKS ADVENTURE and MONEY CONFIDENT KIDS are registered trademarks of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sharing your ideas with video and audio

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in October 2017 and is re-posted here with permission.

Sharing your successful practices with others is an important part of the role of a educator. Traditionally you have probably shared your ideas, tips, tricks, and findings in-person with your grade level team, your district team, and with face-to-face audiences at regional and national conferences. However, with the current crop of digital apps and tools, it is easier than ever to share those same practices with educators everywhere!
These tools and apps fall into various categories– curation tools, text-based tools, audio recording tools, video recording tools, and visual tools. This month I will be discussing tools that take advantage of video and audio recording to allow you to easily share your findings with others.



Flipgrid One

Flipgrid is an online tool and mobile app that allows a teacher to post a topic for students, who then respond with up to a 15 or 90 second video. The videos are embeddable and sharable via a URL. The no-cost version includes:
  • One Grid with unlimited topics
  • Recordings of 15 or 90 seconds
  • Security, privacy and moderation settings
  • Simple individual student feedback
However, you can use Flipgrid as a platform for sharing your ideas, too! Create a teacher account, post a topic question, and enter the Grid as a student each time you want to share a new finding or suggestion and have others log-in as students, too. You can even create a separate Grid for each category or topic. It is so simple to do and you will soon have a collection of short videos you can share with other educators!
I have my graduate students in the Wilkes/Discovery Instructional Media Masters program at Wilkes University sharing their favorite tools. Take a look at some of the postings and feel free to add one of your own! (Grid code: 2y1eaif and PW: edtech)


Adobe Spark Video

Adobe Spark Video is a part of Adobe’s Spark suite of tools which includes Video, Post, and Page. Previously called Adobe Voice, Adobe Spark Video is available as both a browser-based tool and iOS app. The power of Adobe Spark Video is the toolset and assets that are included. Its ease of use is enhanced by easily combining photos, video clips, and icons into the video. the tool and app also include an image library, free soundtracks, and the ability to narrate each part of the project. There are themes to pick from as well as the option to start from scratch.Once you create your professional development video of your ideas, you can host it on the Adobe site and Tweet out the URL, or embed it on your own blog or Web page to share your ideas with others. Don’t forget to join the Adobe Education Exchange to find (and share) tips, tutorials, and sample Adobe Spark Video projects.

PowerPoint and Keynote

Remember that your local multimedia programs, like Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Apples Keynote, can be used to easily create a video from a slide presentation. You can add your thoughts and ideas to new slides as often as you wish, and save the presentation as a PowerPoint or Keynote file until you are ready to share all the ideas as a video.
In Keynote, simply create the slides, add audio to each slide if you wish, and then pick FILE – EXPORT TO – QUICKTIME. You are presented with various options for playback as seen below.
In PowerPoint, simply pick FILE – EXPORT – choose MOVIE from the dropdown menu, and you will be presented with the video options shown below.
Once the slide deck has been saved/exported as a video file, it can then be uploaded to Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, or any other video hosting site, embedded in an online blog or shared, via the URL, on Twitter.


Sometimes creating a video to share your thoughts can be daunting. If you would rather not face the camera, creating an audio file or podcast to share your thoughts can be just as effective! Here are some easy-to-use tools to help with that process.


Vocaroo is the easiest tool for creating a simple audio file and then sending out the link to the file which is stored for a few months on the Vocaroo server, embedding the audio file in a Web page or blog, sharing it with one your social media accounts, or downloading it to your local computer to upload somewhere else. With no sign-in, no limit on the length of the recording, and a very simple interface, Vocaroo can help you quickly and easily share your ideas!


Clyp is a tool that can be used to host your audio files all in one place. It can be used with downloaded files from something like Vocaroo, or with Audacity or Garage Band and audio files you create using your technology gadgets. You sinply sign up, upload your files, and share the URL of the entire list of audio files or the unique URL for a single Clyp. Finding a reputable place to host your audio files is hard to do, and Clyp fits the bill!

iPadio and Podomatic

iPadio and Podomatic are two tools that are used to easily create podcasts. The difference between a simple audio file uploaded to the Web and a podcast, is the podcast can be aggregated in a podcast collector like iTunes.
When a podcast is created with iPadio or Podomatic, the “feed address” is also created. This feed address is added by the podcast creator to a directory of podcasts, like iTunes.
Then, when users use their iTunes account to “subscribe” to the podcast, each time a new podcast is recorded by the creator, the user automatically receives the downloaded new podcast in their iTunes account.
There are some special recording features in both iPadio and Podomatic.
iPadio allows the podcast creator to use their phone to call in and record the podcast. The podcast and iTunes/RSS feed, can be shared to many social media tools, and embedded into a Web page or blog.
Podomatic allows creators to upload the audio files from their computer, phone, or tablet and add it to their podcast page. Users can visit the podcast page and subscribe, using the iTunes or RSS link, to the podcast series and receive any new ones right in their podcast aggregation program.


What video and audio recording tools do you use for sharing your ideas with others? I have included only a few of my favorites and encourage you to add your special apps and tools to Twitter! #kathyskatch
Header image by Ansonlobo.