All posts by judygriffinaea

About judygriffinaea

Digital Learning Consultant for Green Hills AEA in Southwest Iowa

Digital Learning Day, February 28th

Twitter-Map-DLD-2019Every day could be digital learning day, but there is one day a year “dedicated” to digital learning and that is the last day of February, the 28th. Here are some ideas to celebrate…

FlipGrid – give every student (or teacher) a voice! Inspire students to speak up with topics such as booktalks, current events, reflections. Let them TELL you how they would solve a math problem, SHOW you the results of a science lab, READ you their favorite book. Or, you can go to GridPals and match your class with another class in the country or world and students can share ideas across the globe!! FlipGrid is free as of last summer so you can have as many grids and topics as you need.

Epic is a free digital library for educators and students 12 and under. It has award-winning fiction, non-fiction, STEM, biographies, graphic novels, DIY & more.

Focus on Digital Citizenship! Lead a Digital Citizenship lesson from Common Sense education or have students learn by playing a game at Google’s Be Internet Awesome.

Students love to write… they also love to take selfies and videos of themselves. Combine these motivations by asking them to write a story, explain a complex math problem, document their science lab and more using the BookCreator app! They can easily add photos and videos, Google maps, copyright free images from Google, or even draw! The free version allows teachers to create a library that can house up to 40 student-made books.

Some more ideas for Digital Learning Day… have students create a travel “journal” using Google’s Tour Builder or MyMaps. Take them on a virtual field trip or let them experience Augmented Reality with Google Expeditions.

Finally, check out our Tech Across the Curriculum site for many more ideas to make Digital Learning Day an everyday event!!

Are you participating in Digital Learning Day on February 28, 2019? Add your event to the #DLDay map today:

Thanks to Joni Ehm for helping me with this blog post!!

New Scratch 3.0 is Here!

Scratch 3.0 was released on January 2, 2019. It has been completely redesigned and written in HTML 5 and Javascript. If you and your students have used Scratch in the past, you’ll see that the new version has moved the stage to the right. The event and control blocks are on the left. You can add extensions to make this version of Scratch do so much more! extensions_library_3.0There are extensions like the pen, video sensing, music, text to speech as well as extensions that allow you to control your scratch program with a Micro:bit or Makey Makey. There are both new paint and sound editors. There are also new sprites, backgrounds, and sounds.

If you have used earlier versions of Scratch, then all of your old projects will still be waiting for you when you log in! If you want to learn more details, go to their FAQ page. If you haven’t used Scratch, it is free and was created by MIT! It works on any mobile device or computer, and you can view your projects on a mobile phone, however, you won’t be able to create/edit on a phone.

Scratch has also updated their Creative Computing Curriculum Guide – giving you four “stations” to guide you through exploring this new version of Scratch. The guide is a “collection of activities, ideas, and strategies designed to support educators in exploring creating computing with their students.

Scratch is a wonderful way to have students learn to code, be creative (they can create games, animations, stories, music, etc) and meet many of the ISTE Standards for Students!

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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!