All posts by judygriffinaea

About judygriffinaea

Digital Learning Consultant for Green Hills AEA in Southwest Iowa

Make Purposeful Connections

It’s important for our students to learn to connect with experts and others around our country or around the world. Here are some easy ways to make those connections purposeful:

Skype in the Classroom offers many opportunities to connect students. November 13/14 is the Skype-a-thon. Skype in the Classroom’s site says:  “Nearly half a million students, teachers, and guest experts will connect via Skype to see how many virtual miles we can travel around the world in 48 hours. Our mission is to open hearts and minds by raising awareness of different cultures, values, and perspective, and to help support a quality education for thousands of student around the world.”

December 3-9 is Hour of Code week – Skype is partnering with, to host a week of free 30-minute classroom broadcasts and live Q&A with professionals who use code to create amazing things. If you can’t join live, then register for the sessions you’re interested in and they’ll send you the on-demand versions.

In February, Skype in the Classroom celebrates literacy globally in honor of World Read Aloud Day, World Book Day and throughout the year, working with hundreds of guest speakers, including authors, illustrators, and literacy partners. The goal is to inspire students to grow up as readers and become engaged citizens of the global world.”

If you are a FlipGrid fan, have your students make friends and virtual “pen pals” by joining #GridPals. Read more about this opportunity on the FlipGrid blog!

Keep Organized with Google Keep

27762070310_7e54c7a928_bBesides Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Slides, Google has many tools that are very useful in the K-12 world but that many educators and students have yet to explore. One of my favorites is Google Keep. This little gem lets you keep and share notes, images, lists, drawings, etc. Keep automatically syncs from your smartphone app to your laptop to your tablet. There is a Chrome extension for your browser to make it easy to Keep (bookmark) sites. Here are just a few of the many ways to use Keep:

  • take notes (either typed or voice recordings)
  • bookmark links
  • get time-based alerts
  • get location-based notifications
  • use a check list to manage and plan group or individual projects
  • share notes, images, screenshots
  • create digital notecards for research – notes, citations, page numbers

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You’ll find Keep Notepad under the Tools menu in Google Docs and Slides. Clicking on this opens all your Keep notes in the right-side panel where you can simply click and drag to add images, stickers, notes, whatever you have added to Keep, to your documents and slides!

All students and teachers should have this little treasure on their devices! Give Google Keep a try! For great Keep resources go to for Kasey Bell’s blog and links to her Google Keep resources on Pinterest.

Hour of Code All Year!

I hope that you saw the same enthusiasm and excitement of students that I did during Hour of Code this year! Coding helps to develop not only computer skills, but also logic, math, problem solving, design and more. Iowa’s Senate File 274 created a Computer Science Education Work Group and so created the foundation for strengthening CS education in our state! The goal, according to this workgroup’s report is “that by July 1, 2019, every elementary school will offer instruction in the fundamentals of computer science; every middle school will offer exploratory computer science; and every high school will offer at least one high-quality computer science course.”

Now that the official Hour of Code is over for 2017, give your students the opportunity to continue to code, make apps, create webpages and control robots! Here are some ideas and resources beyond the hour of code…

Beyond Hour of Code – Click on “for Teachers” and you’ll find courses you can teach divided into elementary, middle and high school. They offer free workshops for teachers and a selection of courses to lead students through.

Google’s CS First Curriculum helps teachers, parents, club sponsors who have no computer science background, lead a “club” for students. After setting up the club, the leader will have access to the dashboard where they can track student progress and projects. Students will learn from the instructional videos (and each other!) Students will be learning Scratch (block coding) to create their projects.

Code Academy is an option for older students to learn to code, create apps, create websites and more!

MIT App Inventor has curriculum and resources for teachers and/or students can use the step-by-step guides to learn and create their own apps.

FlipGrid Fever

Remember those boring discussion boards from your last online course? Well, this fall I started teaching for a local community college in my “spare” time. MOODLE is the LMS with an advanced forum option for threaded discussions. Nothing wrong with that… However, during my “day job” I get to see K-12 students using FlipGrid for fluency, to explain their thinking, and for an opportunity to speak when otherwise they won’t. For example, check out this Explorer Series from FlipGrid where students can ask questions and discuss fossils with a real paleontologist! Find many more great examples of FlipGrid fever on Twitter @Flipgrid.

Most of my college students are non-traditional students who never see (or hear) each other. Text-based threaded discussions are fine, but, like email or texting, you can’t hear voice inflections, passion, anger or know if someone is just joking (unless you add an emoji 😉).  FlipGrid to the rescue! I purchased the $65 full version because I wanted to be able to have several grids, add rubrics, and allow my students to reply to each other. The free version lets you have one grid and as many topics as you’d like. There are other differences in the paid vs free versions which you can check out here.

I create a new topic each week then “share” it by embedding it right in MOODLE’s advanced forum post. (It will integrate with Canvas too!) Students can use any device (there’s an app for that!) to respond and reply to each other. I’ve gotten so many positive comments from my students and, as an instructor, it really helps me get to know each of them personally and learn from them as well!


FlipGrid is easy to set up and use. Students don’t need accounts, just the code for the topic you have created. Even better, when you click on Share – you can share right to your Google Classroom (if only we could get our higher ed friends to embrace Google!) All students have to do is click on the BIG + sign and start recording!! You can give them a prompt, ask them a question, provide a URL link, or even add a video to give them something to talk about! Try it once… and I’m betting you will have FlipGrid fever too!

Orange Slice Rubrics – Google Docs Add-on


An easy way to digitally score student writing is with a Google Docs Add-On called “Orange Slice – Teacher Rubric“. You can use your own pre-made rubric or build one with the add-on right in a student’s shared document. In Google Docs, click on the Add-On menu, search for Orange Slice, and add it to your list of add-ons.

If you use your own rubric, first create or copy it in a Google Doc table. The first cell has to contain the words “Rubric Categories“. Then list your rating scale (A, B, C or Great, Good, Okay) in the other cells in the first row. In the left column cells, list your categories. Finally, fill in each cell for what you’ll be expecting or looking for to match the category and rating scale. You can save this as your “template” if you’ll be using the same rubric over and over. Or build a different one for each assignment. Here’s a quick tutorial:


Book Creator – Chrome!

One of my favorite iPad apps for creating and sharing ebooks, and that of teachers too, is Book Creator. It costs $4.99 and is worth it! However, now Book Creator is available online – free for 1 library, up to 40 books (costs $$ for more libraries and books)! Nothing to download. Not only can students write, illustrate, add photos AND video to their stories, they can also narrate them (fluency)! There is a template for students to create comics. And students can collaborate and combine books from multiple authors! Young Girl Doing Homework And Using LaptopTeachers can become authors too – create an ebook with class photos from field trips, holiday parties, sports, and other school activities. Then share the book with the community and parents with the simple click of a button! I’m writing a book for my Granddaughter this weekend!

Here is an overview video by Book Creator!

Create Your Own 3D World with CoSpaces

This summer, 7 students and I spent a week learning and creating with CoSpaces at our local public library. This site lets you imagine, create, then virtually “walk around in” your created world (with a mobile device and perhaps 3D VR glasses.) You can simply create a space, or tell a story by creating several different scenes and adding narration. To take it even further, you can use the integrated Blockly coding app to make objects move, fly, and more! Imagine the classroom applications for this: creativity, STEM, storytelling, modeling, virtual exhibitions, and much more! You can create and view the worlds on any device! CoSpaces has an excellent YouTube channel with easy to follow short tutorials so students can learn this program even if the teacher is not an expert!

You can choose from CoSpaces Maker (single user) or the new CoSpaces EDU for classroom/student licenses, lesson plans, and more. There is a cost to the EDU version.

Here are some “worlds” from a few of the students this summer, who, by the way, LOVED this program and would go home in the evenings and keep working. Click and drag to look around 360 degrees. Click on some of the objects to make them move. Enjoy exploring their worlds! Thanks to Zach, Grace, Justin, and Ernie!

Google Earth Online – Made for Chrome

Finally, Google Earth is available for Chromebooks (or in the Chrome browser on a Mac or PD) and is totally online! Go to, click “Launch Google Earth” and off you go! Obviously, this is a great move by Google to support all our students with Chromebooks. Students can now see and experience their neighborhood, state, country and the world from their desk or home. There are also some new features of Google Earth that you and your students will want to explore:

  1. Post Cards – By “sharing”, you can now send a ‘postcard’ just like you were really there! You can also share an image right to your Google Classroom!
  2. Voyager – Visit places with a guided tour from experts –  info cards that take you between locations as you click through. Click and drag “Peg Man” to go to Street View down to ground level. Awesome!
  3. I’m Feeling Lucky – The “random” button, which looks like a dice, takes you… anywhere – randomly to places you may never have thought to visit otherwise. What fun!

Here’s a nice tutorial to share with your students!

AR vs VR

Augmented Reality – Virtual Reality? How can I use these to enhance and extend student learning?

Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that is “immersive” – in other words, it requires your complete focus on content that is most often found using a headset of some type (Google Cardboard, Samsung’s GearVR, and View-Master VR are some of the most popular ones.) VR changes the way we watch and interact with content. YouTube now has a Virtual Reality Channel with more content being added every day – not all of it “school appropriate”, however. Simply pull up one of the videos on your SmartPhone, insert it into your VR headset of choice, and enjoy! Luke Symonds, CAM High School social studies teacher from Iowa, had his students experience the Revolutionary War using Google Cardboard viewers and students’ phones and earbuds. Thanks to Google Expeditions, many students have been able to go on Virtual Field Trips to places they never could visit otherwise!

Augmented Reality (AR) enhances reality and the “real world” rather than taking us out of it. AR adds a layer of information (text, images, video, 3D) to something that is tangible and real. This tangible thing is usually called a target and could be a photo in a magazine or a photo that you’ve taken, student artwork or other creations, a world landmark, the sky or even a package of Oreos!!

There are many AR apps available in the education realm: Aurasma, StarWalk 2, Anatomy 4D, Start Chart, Google Translate, Google SkyMap, AR Flashcards, Spacecraft 3D, Osmo (play beyond the screen of an iPad), and more! Here is a chart with links to many educational AR apps available – most are free.

I see the future of AR and VR for enhancing educational experiences for students growing exponentially! You and your students don’t have to wait – the future is now!!

Adobe Spark Post, Page and Video!

Adobe – long known for their excellent digital creativity products like Creative Cloud, has created and offered FREE Adobe Spark Post, Page, and Video to make blogs, websites, and videos that are easy and eye-catching! You can either create them online (yes, for Chromebooks too) or using the iOS mobile apps.  These three tools are easy enough for elementary students to use but are so “professional” looking that many businesses are using them!

Go to Adobe Spark in the Classroom to see student examples, lesson plans, and teacher work.