Lego Storytelling With Digital Tools

In Spring of 2015, I was awarded a $3,000 STEAM focused grant in which students learned to code robotic Sphero Balls and use Lego Story Maker Kits to build scenes which they used in digital storytelling projects.  The Charlotte Hornets, Lowes and Fox Sports provided this grant to me as a part of their Teacher Innovation Grant.  I have been so thankful for these resources.  I decided to share my reflections on my work with my 2nd – 5th grade students in this blog post.


Students need opportunities to tinker, learn to code and create projects as a part of Project Based Learning (PBL). My two ideas to engage students in PBL gave them the opportunity to experience learning with the following eight components: significant content, a need to know, a driving question, student voice and choice, 21st Century Competencies, In Depth Inquiry, critique and revision and a public audience. They needed materials with which to build and to code. My project had two components: Coding with Sphero Robotic Balls and Digital Storytelling with Lego Storymaker Kits.

Students in my school have participated in the worldwide Hour of Code for the past three Decembers using resources at I wanted for students to have the ability to write the code to see a three dimensional object follow their commands. The resources at have been a good foundation for my students along with apps such as Daisy the Dinosaur and Legos Fix the Factory, however, I wanted to provide additional real world opportunities to create code. Students would work together to develop commands for the Sphero balls and cause them to run through mazes using coding apps on the iPads. I accomplished my goals of having my fourth and fifth grade students think like a computer programmer and articulate the process of coding the Sphero balls.

The Legos Storymaker project was innovative because it provided a way for students to design a beginning, middle and end of a story using Lego scenes then write about their stories. Students developed narratives and wrote text to go along with scenes from their Lego story settings. They published the narratives in creative ways through Google Slide Presentations and in Pic Collage creations on the iPads. I reached my goals of providing a creative way for students to construct a story in a collaborative setting and then be able to use the image of their Lego story as they wrote and typed about their stories.

In my role as the K-5 Technology Teacher at my school, I love to engage my students using innovative apps and projects that require researching and development of digital stories. The Sphero and Lego Storymaker Projects allowed me to take my students into deep thinking projects where in order to succeed, they had to communicate thoughts verbally and in writing, collaborate in teams, critically think as they brainstormed solutions and developed digital stories after building with Legos, and created projects that showed the world that they are 21st Century Learners.

I used the Sphero robots with 200 4th graders and 230 5th graders. The Sphero robotics ball project impacted students because it provided a way for students to see what it feels like to be a coder/computer programmer. There will be a shortage of computer programmers in the next 10 years according to recent data published at My exposure to coding through the Sphero robots excited students to learn to code in an inviting fashion. Getting to work in collaboration with other students to make a Sphero Chariot go through a maze also allowed students to problem solve using a Driving Question such as “How can you save the monster using your Sphero robot?”. Students began to realize the value of discussing commands for the Tickle app that would accomplish their group goals and reach a target where they were supposed to go through a maze that they had created and then “save” a monster. They were able to come to my class for additional classes to allow them time to develop their ideas, test their programs in the Tickle app and make adjustments to reach their goal.

I used Lego StoryMaker kits with 200 2nd Graders 230 3rd Graders. The third grade students brainstormed on graphic organizers their beginning, middle and ends of their Lego collaborative stories and are in the process now of typing their stories in Google Slides. Each student will also revise and self-assess his or her Lego story creation using the following rubric:

Assessment Rubric for Lego Fiction Story

Writing Process: Student devotes a lot of time and effort to the writing process (prewriting, drafting, reviewing, and editing). Works hard to make the story wonderful.

Introduction: First paragraph has a “grabber” or catchy beginning.

Characters: The main characters are named and clearly described in text and most readers could describe the characters accurately.

Creativity: The story contains many creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader’s enjoyment. The author has really used his imagination.

Setting: Many vivid, descriptive words are used to tell when and where the story took place.

Pace: Individual scenes are easy to follow, make sense, and moves the story along at an appropriate pace.

Organization: The story is very well organized. One idea or scene follows another in a logical sequence with clear transitions.

Dialogue: There is an appropriate amount of dialogue to bring the characters to life and it is always clear which character is speaking.

Spelling/Punctuation: There are no spelling or punctuation errors in the final draft. Character and place names that the author invented are spelled consistently throughout.

Proper formatting: Title, name, and paragraphs are present and used properly.

Assessment Citation:


I have shared my lesson ideas on Twitter where I am a part of a global Professional Learning Network using my Twitter handle of @edu_maples. On Feb. 17, 2016, I shared an Animoto video ( that I had created in honor of Digital Learning Day showing my third graders involved in building with the Lego Story Maker kits and creating stories about their Lego scenes on iPads within the Google Slides app. On Dec.8, 2015, I shared on Twitter a link to a You Tube video ( which I made of fourth and fifth graders programming the Sphero robots using the Tickle app to navigate the Spheros through mazes which they had created. These videos show many examples of how students learned to code, to collaborate, to creatively think and plan and to design their own innovative paths with the Spheros and to design Lego stories.

Kindergarten and First Grade students did not participate in these projects, but they are very excited about doing them next year as I repeat the projects that I did this year. They could see the Legos kits out around my class and the Sphero robot balls which caused great excitement for them!

Learning to code Sphero balls allowed 4th and 5th grade students to work in teams to build Sphero chariots that they maneuvered through mazes using iPads using the Tickle app while revising their work through trial and error. They had to critically think as they problem solved in groups and programmed the Spheros to reach their destination. Students communicated with small groups as they built Lego Story Scenes using the kits. They built their scenes in groups of three and decide on the plot of the story, characters, setting, etc. using special spinners to help guide their thought process. They uploaded photos of their scenes to their Google Drive Accounts and inserted the images into individual Google Slide Presentations which they used to plan a fictional story on a graphic organizer.

The third graders are in the process of finishing the typing of their Lego Stories and revising/editing with a Lego Story Rubric. I am also still working with CMS Technology leaders to get the StoryMaker software downloaded onto the computers and iPads at my school. Second and Third graders published Lego Storymaker projects in Google Slides and in the Pic Collage app even though my original idea of publishing on the StoryMaker software did not occur just yet.  I had planned originally on having third graders upload their images to the Lego StoryMaker software, but have had some difficulty in getting it uploaded on to CMS School computers. I am in the process of working with CMS engineers to figure out how to make this happen. I think that there are multiple ways to share their Lego scenes so using Google Slides and Pic Collage have been perfect ways to have students share their scenes and create written stories. I plan to use the StoryMaker software in the future.

In order to accommodate all of the 4th and 5th Grade classes and allow them ample time to learn to program the Spheros, I had to work with each of the 4th and 5th grade teachers to have students come to see me for additional class times. I worked with the PE teachers who allowed me to use their gym space for students to have more room to spread out and create obstacle courses for their Sphero balls to move through. I also realized that since I only see each class for 40 minutes every 8 school days, I had to give third graders time to play with the Legos and generate their group stories then invite them back for extra class times. I had to show them how to take pictures with iPads and upload the images to their Google Accounts which is a multistep process. Once the images were in their Google Drive accounts, they had to plan their stories and begin the process of adding text boxes, speech bubbles, transitions, etc. I had to have them plan their stories with me in follow up classes which prolonged the project.

Students have been extremely engaged with planning their stories and using their plans to type. I have been excited to see their enthusiasm for this project. In addition, I realized that students in 2nd grade would not need to have to upload their Lego story scene images to Google due to how long it took 3rd graders. I had them build one scene then upload the scene to the Pic Collage app on the iPad which they then used to type descriptive phrases and arguments about why someone would not need to destroy a bird’s habitat and not cut down trees that were depicted in their Lego scenes. They have been able to successfully follow all directions and save their images to the Camera Roll of the iPad all in the 40 minutes when I see them.

I think in the future, I will have the third graders plan their stories immediately following my class when they return to their homeroom classes using graphic organizers while their collaborative stories are fresh on their minds. Allowing them to “play” with the Legos and use the Lego StoryMaker Spinners that came with the eight kits has been a great way to allow creativity to flourish. I have heard many students show their excitement and enthusiasm for developing their Lego story which provided momentum as they became writers of their individual stories. I love that students didn’t just have to draw pictures on a graphic organizer, but had been able to think with group mates about the content of a fictional story and build it with Legos. Students in 2nd and 3rd Grade loved to get to tinker with the Legos and use them as a basis to communicate later in writing in their Google Slide Presentations and in their Pic Collage Digital Storytelling projects.

I made a video and uploaded it to You Tube in hopes of having the Tickle App award our school with a drone which students would use to program. The link to the “Hour of Code with Tickle App and Spheros” video is here:


I created an Animoto video to highlight how my third graders used Lego Story Maker kits as a part of the 2016 Digital Learning Day!


I created an Animoto video to show second graders being Makers and Thinkers as they used the Lego Story Maker Kits and the Pic Collage app to design posters of why we should not cut down trees. This occurred during the week of Earth Day 2016!

Image Credit:

Top 10 of NCTIES 2016

I was privileged to attend the NCTIES (North Carolina Technology in Education Society) 2016 Conference in Raleigh, NC March 2 – 4 whose theme was “Innovation”.  There were around 3,000 registered participants who filled the Raleigh Convention Center with excitement and engaged educators.  Why did they come?  They came to dive deeper into STEM and expand their understanding of best practices.  I would like to share the 10 best tips that I saw and learned.

  1.  Code Studio – I have participated for the last three Decembers in the Hour of Code at  It was my goal to explore the site more and understand the pieces of Code Studio.  I enjoyed the all day Pre Conference training where I learned how to enroll students in Code Studio found at  Hadi Partovi, founder of, and his team have developed lesson plans to support teachers as they prepare students for the Courses for Elementary Students.  In groups, we prepared a lesson to teach to our colleagues from the support materials and taught each other non digital ways to do computational thinking.  I learned the 3 C’s and 2 P’s of Computational Thinking Practices:
    • Creativity
    • Collaboration
    • Communication
    • Persistence
    • Problem Solving

    I loved how the trainers shared practical information like creating a Symballoo to link every Class in a school where students are enrolled in Code Studio courses.  The training fueled my interest in coding.  I am so excited to create classes in Code Studio for my students so that I can track their progress and they can see how they are doing.  I love that there are lessons to share to promote development of the 3 C’s and 2 P’s in non digital coding opportunities before students dive into the digital piece of coding.  There is ongoing training around the USA so check out the for more information.

  2. – Google Drawing Presentation from NCTIES.I asked the presenters if I could share their Slide Show at the link above to show examples of using Google Drawings.  I love their ideas to build a corkboard for students to use as a collaborative Exit Ticket, to annotate screen shots of documents, to add speech bubbles to images, to create graphic organizers with Google Drawing Tools and to design Infographic ideas to make using Google Drawing Tools.
  3. Choosito is a website which Richard Byrne shared that helped me see the power in gathering websites that can be searched by topics or reading levels to help students in doing research.  It allows teachers to curate playlists for students based on topics and reading levels.  Visit – Scroll down a bit to see the words “Personalized Instruction” then scroll down more to see “Real Time Data Tracker” to see how students are doing research using the links that teachers can curate.
  4. Cubetto Wooden Robot – – This website shows the Cubetto wooden robot and the box which students use to program the robot.  Visit this link to learn more and see video of children coding with Cubetto:  
  5. Pernille Ripp – I was able to have lunch with this amazing teacher.  I have followed her work and appreciate not only her blog about teaching middle school, but also love that she created The Global Read Aloud.  I was able to discuss school and my family with her as we ate together but also was able to go to her Connected Literacy session where she shared many ways that she ignites a passion for literacy in her students and connects them to themselves, each other and the world.  Some of her most poignant comments:“Teachers can ruin the love of reading and writing.  We have to own it first.What am I doing to kill their love of reading and writing?

    I need to bring my passion of reading and writing to my students and to my own kids.

    It is what we decide is the most important that speaks the loudest.

    If I deliver all of the information that tells kids that the class is about us not about them.

    If a child hates reading, let’s not worry about whether they are using our strategies, let’s worry about the fact that they hate reading.”

  6. – This site is similar to Kahoot, but allows teachers to set up a Quizziz for homework instead of face to face and allows students to see choices on their screen not just the teacher’s presenting screen.
  7. Google Classroom – I learned an incredible amount from two technology facilitators from Union County, NC. I asked them if I could share the link to their presentation and they agreed.  You have to go through it to see the practical ways that they coach teachers to use Google Classroom:
  8. I enjoyed the incredible tag team of Brad Waid and Drew Minock.  I have followed them on Twitter for several years and loved website.  During their opening keynote, I heard them say this powerful quote:  “Education means inspiring someone’s mind not just filling their head.”  They also showed several awesome videos with my favorite on “Giving as the Best Communication” found below:

In their Thursday session, they shared the Innovation image which I posted at the top of this blog post and they discussed the wonderful opportunities to inspire innovation in students as they explore the following apps or programs:

Mystery Island


Code monster

Google CS First Clubs (3rd through HS)

The Foos

Hopscotch Code Academy

Video Game Creation at

At this website, students can draw their own video game.  Each rectangle is a floor.  Once you draw it on paper, you hold a device above it, scan it and it will pull it into app.  You can customize and build a game. 

Bloxels, at a physical object on a board with colored cubes.  Student build using those cubes and design a video game.  You can even build with the iPad app.  They scan what they build with cubes and it will put it into the app.  Students will gain greater understanding of topics like design logic and computer science and demonstrate their knowledge of history, science and math and more through the games they create.  It’s enjoyable like the old fashioned Light Brite!  Once you build a sailboat in an old fashioned Light Brite, you can’t scan it to see the boat sail but in the Bloxels program you can scan it and the boat would sail!

9.  Canva is a simple way to design posters, invitations, business cards, blog graphics, flyers, presentations, book covers, and more!  There are teacher created lesson plans at the Canva website and multiple tutorials are available.  The most exciting news to me:  Students can sign in to Canva through their Google Apps for Education accounts!

10.  The highlight of the conference for me was at the closing luncheon.  My family had driven that morning to be with me in Raleigh.  I was very excited to be awarded the NCTIES Outstanding Teacher Award for 2016.  The organizers had told me that I had 30 seconds to give my own comments.  I am placing the biography that was read about me and my comments below as they express my heart for being chosen for this award.

Lisa Maples is the K-5 Technology Teacher at Elon Park Elementary School in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.  After earning her Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from UNC-Greensboro, she spent the next 20 years teaching 3rd and 4th grades in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte.  For the past three years, she has become her school’s Technology Teacher where she uses iPads and computers to teach 1,100 K-5 students.  Lisa is a wife, a mother, a National Board Certified Teacher, a past Teacher of the Year, a blogger about teaching, her faith and her family, a teacher in the Governor’s Teacher Network, a PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator, an Ed Camp participant, a Twitter fan, an NCTIES conference presenter during the past two years, a Science Olympiad organizer and coach, a Summer Church Camp counselor, a Girls on the Run Assistant Coach, a mentor and a fan of the N. C. State Wolfpack along with the Carolina Panthers.   As a recipient of a $3,000 grant last year by the Charlotte Hornets, Fox Sports and Lowes, Lisa purchased 12 Sphero robots to teach her students how to code and 8 Lego Story Starter Kits which she has used to provide digital storytelling opportunities for her students.  It is evident that Lisa loves to use technology to engage students and to provide them with digital creation projects. She is thrilled to celebrate the 2016 Outstanding Teacher Award today with you, her family and friends.  

My comments:

It is my great honor to accept this award.  I have discovered that I can do what I do because of my support system. Psalms 139:8-10 reminds us that God guides and holds us.  I would like to thank God for guiding, holding and helping me, my family for supporting and loving me, my students for learning alongside of me, my principals and Dean of Students who believe in me, my dear friends and colleagues for helping and encouraging me and for the NCTIES committee for selecting me for this incredible honor.  Thank you.

I loved the excitement and being surrounded by my family and dear colleagues, Jen and Melissa, from my school and from around the state and country.  Two other colleagues from my school district were also awarded a Principal Leader Award and a Media Coordinator Award!  Within minutes of the Award being given, my principal who has believed in my vision from the beginning of my journey as Technology Teacher, announced my Award to my school colleagues in his weekly letter.  Throughout the afternoon and evening, I was humbled as I read comments on my school’s Facebook page or on my Twitter account (@edu_maples) from parents, teachers and friends as they shouted out their support.  I am thankful to be surrounded by so many people who have celebrated with me!

Innovation Image Credit:



I have an idea to give a common dialogue about promoting caring, respectful and responsible interactions among students in our schools as an expansion of digital literacy.  
Image Credit:


I have felt a call to action after hearing a Middle School Principal, who receives my school’s students, give a “Teens and Technology Talk” over the past couple of years.  She recently spoke again last week and my mouth continued to drop open as she shared many disrespectful ways that students at her school are using technology outside of school.  Some of the online behavior that they engage in outside of school spills over into bullying and other issues which the principal has to deal with at school.  As the K-5 Technology Teacher at my school, I teach Digital Citizenship lessons to students and try to prepare them for some of what is ahead in Middle School. Unfortunately, I have noted the ways that the principal describes kids as Rating each other in certain apps, hiding inappropriate images that have been circulated among students in what appears to be an innocent Calculator app, circulating, in social media, racially insensitive memes and trying to outdo each other in images that they post of themselves which show little amounts of clothing or none.  I’d like to emphasize that not all students make the choices to disrespect themselves or others online, however, it is a growing issue.
After realizing that the tide of respect needs to change due to either a lack of or a shallow form of respect that has been shared about how teens have acted online, I have developed a character education acronym called iCARE which I have written about in detail below. I welcome your thoughts about iCARE and how we could continue to grow a culture of caring and respect among students in our school communities which would spill over into the larger community and world.  Please share your thoughts on how to build the iCARE principles in the Comments section below this post on my blog.  I have also shared the thoughts on the iCARE platform with not only my principal, but also the Middle and High School principals who receive the students whom I teach.
Each month, my school district highlights a specific character trait which is celebrated in classrooms.  At the Elementary School, we promote character with “Caught You Being Good” tickets.  Teachers give these tickets to students who have demonstrated character traits such as respect, justice and fairness, responsibility, etc.  If students’ tickets are randomly chosen by teachers, then their names get called out on the Closed Circuit Morning News and are invited to select a special treat which are among many kid friendly, inexpensive treats that a Teacher’s Assistant at my school lays out on tables in the Teacher Workroom.   In addition, each classroom teacher chooses a representative from her/his class to be honored with a certificate and a short blurb about how the child has shown the character trait at a monthly Character Tea. The feeling of accomplishment that a child gets when she receives a Character Tea Award or a prize for the “Caught You Being Good” is the same sense of accomplishment that I would like to see as students of all ages realize that they have done the right thing in face to face and in online settings.   Based on reports of how teens have chosen to disrespect themselves and others in social media and how those behaviors have spilled over into school, it appears that more could be done to build a culture of caring and respect at the Elementary, Middle and High School levels.  


iCARE is a character building program to promote values of a caring, respectful and responsible citizen.  By using iCARE as the platform, opportunities will be provided through service projects and in interactions in classrooms and throughout the school to build an expectation of CARING and RESPECT which will hopefully spill over into out of school interactions, especially online.


iCARE allows a dialogue to exist between students to build an expectation of respect in all interactions including online behavior.  Parents can support students and discuss the monthly character traits that are celebrated in schools.  Principals could share the iCARE acronym with families in an effort to build a culture of caring in my community and share what our schools are doing to promote care and respect.  Principals could reach out to families in the community to spotlight families who exemplify caring and respect in their encounters with others and thank them on their websites.   


iCARE is an acronym which stands for


While in person and online, students encounter each other and develop ways to communicate.  In order to promote self worth and self esteem, iCARE spotlights ways to communicate face to face and online with respect.  Too often, students have disrespected themselves by posting inappropriate images of themselves or others, belittled others through rude comments (Ex.  TBR – To Be Rude which often precedes an ill spirited text or online posting) and seem to not care about the long term ramifications of their actions especially as it relates to racially charged texts and memes which perpetuate a lack of respect for various ethnic groups.  It is time to take action and raise the bar.  We have expectations for behavior at school already, however, iCARE gives a place to gauge interactions as respectful or not and provides opportunities for students to discuss how to change outcomes into respectful ones.  


iCARE could build on my district’s Character Traits by having students celebrate ways that their classmates communicate and respectfully encounter each other at school or in social media. For example, in January, the traits are Justice and Fairness.  Classes could talk about how they see people being treated fairly and unfairly by pointing to examples in the media.  Teachers could show examples of how kids have not been treated fairly by other students online and have students brainstorm ways to change the tone to a respectful one.  Students would decide how they would encounter the same situation online and what they could do to promote respect.


During February, whose character trait is Citizenship, students could examine situations of how to be a responsible citizen by creating Hearts on paper which would have examples written on the hearts of how they are responsible, respectful and caring in online and face to face encounters with others.  The idea is that if a human heart has the right oxygen flowing in, then the oxygen renews the lungs thereby producing carbon dioxide and allowing life to exist.  A heart needs a person to inhale and exhale in order for the body to function. As people, we need to be responsible to make comments that breathe life and health into ourselves instead of being irresponsible. When you tear others down with words, you are tearing yourself down and stifling your ability to communicate.  When you build others up, you bring life and encouragement into yourself and others.  This month would allow students to document their journey of giving life by their word choices to others in person and online.  Students could participate in the following activities:


During February, students could examine situations of how to be a responsible citizen by creating Hearts on paper which would have examples written on the hearts of how they are responsible, respectful and caring in online and face to face encounters with others.  I will have them look at statements about digital citizenship that they will discuss in small groups.

I would have each child in 4th and 5th Grade write how they communicate with respect when they encounter others in person and online.  I will have them brainstorm a list on an online Padlet which they will choose from to write on their  paper hearts.  I will spell the following words by building each letter on my bulletin board with the hearts that students have written on:  #iCARE   I will also post the acronym iCARE and share what it means.  

I Communicate and Respectfully Encounter

Show a heart that has been darkened by hurtful words and comments that weren’t respectful.
Repair the heart by doing something kind on top of the hurt places.  Discuss what happens to a person who has been hurt by words over and over.
Add to an online social media outlet like Twitter to share compliments of how people have been respectful, responsible and caring with the hashtag:  #iCARE.


In March, students would focus on Courage or doing the right thing when others aren’t.  iCARE conversations in classrooms would again spotlight ways to be courageous.  Students could take the iCARE Pledge to promise to communicate and respectfully encounter others in person and online AND focus on examining how their choices online are courageous or cowardly.  Teachers could have students examine ways to be courageous if online sharing in Social Media puts others down or tears down their reputation?  Teachers could talk about how students who put others down are sometimes just seeking ways to build themselves up but are going about it all wrong.  Students could brainstorm the following scenarios:


Brainstorm acceptable ways to communicate courageously.


Brainstorm respectful interactions and projects to empower people.


Brainstorm ways to respect ourselves and those who do not look like us.


Brainstorm ways to not perpetuate stereotypes.


Brainstorm how to give “likes” for sharing appropriate info online instead of seeking to “one up” someone and put a riskier image or meme online.  Discuss apps to build a sense of community instead of oversharing inappropriate topics for teens.


In April, the our spotlighted trait is Perseverance.  This could be a time to think about continuing the traits and persevering to make a difference in the lives of others.  Students could show that they care by developing iCare school projects to target how to help others such as tutoring, volunteering and community service.


In May, the character focus trait is Hope.  We could end the school year by sharing stories how students have had hope when they have seen others choose to communicate and respectfully encounter others.  Students could nominate each other for iCARE Awards where they would outline how other students have demonstrated character traits while communicating respectfully face to face and in online interactions with others.


I would like to have students design an iCARE Tee Shirt for our community.  A portion of the proceeds from each school could go to fund a service project such as the Servants With a Heart food preparation for hungry families in Charlotte and Nicaragua or to fund another charity.  My school’s students packed 50,160 food packages in September of 2015 for Servants With a Heart which had a huge impact on students and their ability to make a difference.  I blogged about that experience here.
Please let me know if you would like to share the iCARE idea with your schools or Leadership Teams. I want to be a part of a solution in our community to promote health and wholeness in ways that people treat each other, especially online. This could be the beginning of a movement and usher in a tide of caring.

Going into the Deep End with News-O-Matic and Skitch!

Second graders at my school have studied weather topics this year.  As a way to build a global weather understanding, I had students read weather articles found in the News-O-Matic app.  I like that this app has not only articles of high interest from around the world that can be read aloud to readers, but it has slide shows, videos, definitions and a lot more.  My students read about the cyclone that hit Yemen in October of 2015, saw the flooding and realized the effects such as the food and fuel supplies being wiped out.  They also read about how the World Health Organization is sending relief kits and fuel to help hospitals stay open.image

I introduced the second graders to another versatile app called Skitch where they were able to write about what they had read about.  They took a screen shot from the News-O-Matic slide show and used that image in Skitch.  They chose colors for fonts and began the process of writing about the article.  I have included some images of their work.  They only had about 20 minutes to work on this project after I demonstrated how to use the apps by mirroring my iPad on my big screen using my Apple TV.


imageI set the work time up so that each table had two iPads.  Both students opened the News-O-Matic app then they decided on a picture to use from the slide show about Yemen.  One student took the screenshot and did the typing in the Skitch app, while the other partner kept open the Yemen article to refer to and use


I like using technology as a way to augment what has typically been a paper and pencil assignment, but I also like to dive deeper into the SAMR pool and modify or even redefine an assignment using technology as a tool.  SAMR stands for four stages of technology integration:  Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition.  The lesson that I have described above substituted a paper article for a digital article.  I moved on into Augmentation as I encouraged students to type sentences that described the cyclone in Yemen in the Skitch app while working collaboratively with a partner.  As we continue to read other articles in the future and do a collaborative Skitch, I will have students take screenshots of their Skitch and upload it to their Google Accounts since we are a Google Apps for Education School.  I am even thinking of having students upload their Skitch creations about global topics to a Padlet which would transform the assignment to the Modification level because students would be able to read other students’ Skitch creations online and give feedback.  I could post a link in my website to the closed Padlet once all student have uploaded their Skitch for the world to see which would take this assignment to the Redefinition Stage!  When an assignment can be shared with a global audience, it has been transformed from what could have just been a paper/pencil task, to one that provides a large audience, even reaching all over the world.  To learn more about how to transform assignments in the SAMR pool and see Padlet examples, I invite you to view the Smore Digital Poster at the following link:

My students will also use Skitch to publish character graphic organizers about characters that they’ve read about.  I think that those Character Skitches will be another post on another day!  How have you used News-O-Matic or Skitch?


On September 11, 2015, my school’s 1,100 plus students participated in a service project.  We worked with Servants With A Heart, a nonprofit group which provides raw materials for people to put together into bags of beans, rice and vitamins which will be given out to people who need it in my home town and in poverty stricken communities in Nicaragua.  A generous gift was given to our school to allow our students to participate in this project.  Students came into the gym at assigned times and each had jobs along an assembly line to put together, weigh and pack the food bags.  Our students packed just over 50,000 bags of food!  There are already plans to raise money to host another food packing session for the 2016-2017 school year!  It was absolutely amazing to see adults and children working alongside each other to accomplish a goal that would make a direct impact on other children in our area and in another part of the world!

This service project has allowed students to work together to make a difference in the world.  Some of my first graders used the app called Super Duper Story Maker Free to draw a picture and write a sentence about the project.  Fourth Graders described how they made a mark on the World during the Dot Day Observance Week in mid September by designing special dots that described how they put the food bags together.  They used an Augmented Reality app called Quiver to hover over the Dot and cause it to pop out and spin while looking at it on the iPads.  They loved being able to describe what they did and how they’ve made a big impact on the world.  Fourth Graders have also been creating Google Spreadsheets on poverty figures by county in my state from 2012 to 2013.  They are opening their eyes to differences in rates and speculating about what could have caused decreases or increases in county poverty rates.

Recently, I came across the Kid President Video above where he calls us all to action, to open our eyes to the problem of poverty and world hunger and to do whatever we can to end poverty and hunger.  I plan to share his video with my fourth graders and ask them to analyze what makes him persuasive.  Next, I will ask them to develop their own digital presentation in the form of a public service announcement where they will describe how to make a big impact on the world by being a digital citizen.  These are the days when students need to have opportunities to participate in service projects and in creating digital projects that call others to action.  The digital creation which they create will be done using a platform such as We Video or iMovie where students will provide images and cite their image sources.  The purpose of their public service announcement videos will be to cause others to consider elements of digital citizenship when communicating in online environments.  Students may not be able to end world hunger or online bullying, but they can get others to notice that they can make a difference in the words that they choose to say online, when sharing personal information online and when citing their work.

Kid President asked us to open our eyes to what is happening in the world concerning world hunger and poverty.  I will ask my students to open their eyes to how they can be influential role models when creating online digital projects and when they communicate online.  The Kid President video gives us a great act to follow when making our own digital citizenship videos.  My students will enter their digital public service announcement projects into a district contest where they will have opportunities to win robots for our school.  I am excited about the collaboration that will exist among students as they develop storyboards for their digital citizenship projects, communicate by writing scripts and create their public service announcements by putting their ideas together!  We will begin these projects during late October which is Digital Citizenship Month and Connected Educator Month!

Another great resource on Digital Citizenship can be found at the following website:  What will you do to celebrate and open students’ eyes to the importance of having traits of a digital citizen?

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EdCampQC – September 19, 2015



Today I experienced my second EdCamp in Charlotte, NC, also known as the Queen City (QC).  It is known as EdCampQC.  Many educators have begun to own their learning by being a part of thIs “un-conference” model of learning around the USA.  At the beginning of the day there are no set topics for sessions.  The Room numbers and time slots are planned before the EdCamp begins, but the attendees share topics that they are interested in hearing about, leading or participating.  Topics are then written on chart paper and attendees vote with circular stickers placed beside of their favorite topics.  The organizers of EdCamp then assign topics to each time slot and room, then share the session schedule board at their website,

Some of my favorite sessions today were on using comics in the classroom, Google Apps For Education and Green Screen using the DoInk app.  There were facilitators in each room to help guide conversations, but the participants shared their ideas, questions and stories.  Sometimes the Smartboards were used to share Livebinder resources like the one I loved about Comics in the Classroom, Google extensions or Green Screen student examples.   Educators provide their Twitter handles in the shared Google Documents that were linked to the session names. I was so proud of my colleagues in my district who had organized every detail.  In the end, participants heard from teachers who, in some cases, were experts on session topics which helped them see new possibilities to bring to their classrooms.  I love how that even in the hallways, I connected with teachers who, I had just met or had known from a previous district training.  The positive energy of these conversations in the halls and in the classrooms injected a breath of fresh air in my teaching outlook.

I have included a variety of pictures that I took today either as screenshots on my iPad from the EdCamp or from Twitter posts that occurred during the EdCamp.  The Twitter handle for this EdCamp was #EdCampQC.  You could search Twitter for the #EdCampQC handle and see the awesomeness as well as links to resources.

One of my favorite times of the day occurred during lunch when I wandered into the “playground”.  This room was filled with amazing materials such as 3D Printers, Little Bits kits, Sphero robotic balls, Ollie robots, Osmo, CoLAR app, and 3Doodler.  It was so exciting to see and touch the BB-8, the newest version of Sphero who is a robot which is a part of the upcoming Star Wars movie.  My pictures below show some of what I saw and manipulated.  Making 3D glasses and maple leaves with the 3Doodler pen, much like a glue gun, gave me a glimpse of what I want to write a Donors Choose Grant for this year!

Ultimately, I left with my mind swirling with ideas.  I heard about Alan November’s book title, “Who Owns the Learning?” at this EdCamp and plan to read it soon.  Because educators came to share and learn, we all went away owning learning about topics that we chose to be a part of in our self selected sessions.  I also met new educators that I added to my PLN on Twitter so that the learning can continue into the future.  I hope you will scroll through the images to get a feel for how I felt.


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Educational Tools – Coolio Toolios!

I have spent the past three days learning about Google Tools, apps and websites to use with my students in a Tech Leader Training.  Although it is the middle of July, I can’t wait to use the tools with my students when school starts in August.  I discovered an awesome video by two of my district’s instructional technology team members during our training.  They share 10 apps or websites that teachers can use with students to deepen engagement with content and allow for content creation by students.  I would like to share it so that all of my friends in education can get ideas on some amazing web tools.

Here is a pdf that describes the 10 tools:

My district also has a great way to assess apps and websites. Here is a link to the rubric that we use to assess educational apps and websites:   

I also like an iPad and Android app called Goose Chase!

Teachers sign up for a free account at then they create challenges for students to do.  Students take a picture with their device and submit the picture as they go on a scavenger hunt to find things that the teacher assigns.  There can be up to 10 teams enrolled in a game so students are encouraged to work together.  Some of the examples that you could do in class:

Find your teacher’s website and take a picture.

Take a picture of a new student in the class.

Locate the place in our class where you turn in parent forms and take a picture.

Discover your teacher’s expectations on how to act in class.

There are so many possibilities to use this app with students and with staff at the beginning of the school year.

What are some of your favorite apps and websites for K- 8 students?

What a great year!

School is coming to a close for the 2014-2015 school year.  I have enjoyed teaching my 1,100 + students in grades K-5 using technology as a tool.  I have curated some third and fourth grade projects at my new school Google website at  I am sharing the link to my school website today to allow others to take a peek at what amazing work our students created.

Third graders created iMovie Book Trailers after reading Mystery books in their Book Clubs.  Their iMovies are shown at my website under each third grade teacher’s name. The iMovie Trailers were carefully planned using the fabulous graphic organizers at Tony Vincent’s site.  They sketched scenes in the boxes of the trailers and wrote their scripts in their classrooms with their homeroom teachers after I had shown them a variety of iMovie trailers in my class using the iPad and Apple TV.  The Third Grade teachers and I collaborated on this project which allowed students to use a book that they read in their classes as a basis for their iMovie trailers.  Students were given class time to not only plan their scripts and images, but they also were given time to draw their iMovie trailer scenes on white paper.  They brought these papers to my Technology Lab where they took pictures of their scenes using the iPad’s Camera.  Next, they opened the iMovie app, selected their theme, and started placing each image into the correct slot within the iMovie Trailer.  Once they took turns typing their scripts, they had a finished iMovie Trailer.  We turned down the lights and shared the iMovie Trailers on the Big Screen in my room.  They loved seeing their hard work and effort while sharing with their peers.  I love how the iMovie Trailers turned out.  Some of them are good and some of them are great!  I hope you’ll have a look by clicking on movies under each teacher’s name at  My hope is that students will continue to watch these iMovie Trailers during the summer which may persuade them to read books that they friends have read.

Fourth Graders researched N.C. Lighthouses then collaborated with a partner to take notes in a shared Google Doc.  They used a variety of websites that I had collected in a Blendspace.  When they visited my Technology Lab for a Special Class or went to the Media Center for their Special Class, they used the time to gather information on the Location, History, Construction and Interesting Facts about their chosen lighthouse.  They were able to paraphrase information from the websites and type bulleted notes into their Google Doc which was a great step in learning to research without copying and pasting exact sentences from the website.  Next, they turned their notes into paragraphs and placed their paragraphs in a Google Slide Presentation.  They found images and citations.  I am so proud of their hard work.  One student even visited Bald Head Island Lighthouse during Memorial Day which was the Lighthouse that she researched and brought back “I Support Old Baldy” stickers for her class.  She gave them the stickers after the class saw each others’ Lighthouse Presentations in a Gallery Walk around the Technology Lab.

My fourth graders also researched N.C. Symbols then wrote scripts as if they were the symbol.  Kids personified the Plott Hound, the Pine Tree, the Strawberry and a Stock Car along with many other N.C. Symbols.  They would research with me or our Media Specialist when they came to our Special Area Classes then wrote their scripts.  They recorded themselves reading their scripts into the Chatterpix app on the iPads, saved the Chatterpix as a video to their Camera Rolls, then uploaded their completed projects to their Google Drive accounts.

I hope you will enjoy all of these projects when you visit my Google Site at  While you’re there, click on “Suggested Sites and Apps” to see a Smore Poster on Summer Reading ideas!

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Bob Iger’s surprising contribution to the Star Wars empire

I have been awarded a grant by the V
Charlotte Hornets which will allow me to purchase Sphero robotic balls for my students. They will use an app on the iPad to control the balls. They will use coding strategies to make the balls move and turn. I was excited to hear that a modified Sphero ball will be used in an upcoming Star Wars movie. Read more in this blog:


A little-known startup got a big shout-out at this week’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif., thanks to Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Iger, whose media empire bought Star Wars creator Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012, kept a low profile at the bi-annual gathering of the space saga’s hard-core fans. But he was sitting right in the front row of the massive convention center auditorium where a star-studded panel took place on Thursday morning, the first day of the four-day-long event.

One by one, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, actors Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill and others took the stage to disclose more details on the next installment of Star Wars, much to the delight of the lightsaber-toting crowd. When an adorable free-rolling robot named BB-8—a new character in the upcoming installment of the series—joined them in the spotlight, it too received a fervent round…

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