Makey Makey Educator Guide

Many of you know that I love MakeyMakey! (Although, I don’t know anyone that has used MakeyMakey and feels otherwise).

In keeping with their awesomeness, they announced a brand new educator guide for 2018.

Download the guide at


One of the reasons I love Makey Makey is because it’s so versatile. You don’t have to install software, and it’s very open-ended allowing for so much more creativity than some other products. I also love Makey Makey’s philosophy of makerspaces in school.

pg. 5

"We believe the maker movement is more than just robots, 3D printing, or even building things. The Maker Movement allows learners to become hardware engineers and solve real-world design challenges by providing a landscape that fosters curiosity and creates vibrant learners."

Beyond this guide, be sure to check out all of the resources from Makey Makey, including Makey Makey LABZ where you can find lots of great ideas and guides for projects with Makey Makey.

 And if you haven’t already, be sure to purchase Colleen and Aaron Graves bestselling book!

want to learn even more about Makey Makey and become a Makey Makey Certified Educator? Consider attending one of our workshops or bringing a workshop to your school!

MackinMaker is an official training partner for Makey Makey!

Turn Your Read Aloud into an Immersive Experience

As you’re getting ready to head back to school, I’m sure there are tons of tools you’ve discovered this summer that you’re excited to try with your students.

Well here’s another one that you don’t want to miss.

Campfire App is a free app that is available on the App Store (iOS devices only). Once you enable the microphone, it will listen to the words of the story (similar to if you were using text to speech to send a message) and as you read certain words or phrases in the story, music, sound effects, and lights will surround you (and your students). The music and sounds will play from your phone or a speaker you connect and certain smart bulbs (such as the Phillips Hue bulbs) for an even more amazing experience!

While there are many apps that try to make popular picture books more engaging, I love that the kids don’t need a single piece of technology to enjoy this tool. In fact, if you can manage to set up your iPhone or iPad in a position where your students can’t see it – they may not even realize that you’re using technology either! 🙂

Campfire App works with a number of Bluetooth speakers, but you can also connect it to a speaker with a traditional headphone jack. 

Another helpful feature of the app is the ability to manually trigger the sounds. This is helpful if you want to have a student do the read aloud that might not have the precise pronunciation needed to trigger the sounds in the app. This is also great if you have an accent 😉 

The app has a catalog of about 50 books but they’re taking recommendations constantly. My favorite is Where the Wild Things Are and my four-year-old is a fan of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I see so many great ways to use this app in the classroom and library. Imagine – projecting your MackinVIA eBooks onto your whiteboard and doing a read-aloud with this app. With just a few simple tools, you can turn a typical story time into an immersive, magical experience!

Add it to your list and share this app with a friend.

Virtual Learning Commons AASL Webinar

I’m so privileged to have been given the opportunity to present a webinar for AASL eCOLLAB on a topic I am very passionate about – Virtual Learning Commons.

In additional to discussing the idea and elements of a Virtual Learning Commons, I showed lots and lots of tools to use to address each of the elements of the VLC as listed below. 

You can view all of the slides on my Presentations page and you can view the entire webinar here (1 hour in length)

Of course, if you have any questions about any of the resources shared, please feel free to contact me!


Webinar Resources (hyperlinked)

Resources for Black History Month

I would have liked to get this out sooner, but I was having an amazing time at TCEA. That may have been my favorite conference of all time. Granted, I don’t have many to compare it to…but I had a blast and learned a TON.
Anyway – Black History Month is upon us and here are some of my favorite resources. Although most of these are geared to the secondary level, there are some great discussion questions in most of these that can be used at all levels. These would also be great teacher-resources for elementary teachers. Have a favorite resource not listed here, please share!

Project C: Lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement

“Project C: Lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement” is a series of electronic field trips occurring throughout the Civil Rights fiftieth anniversary years of 2013-2015 that focus on the role of citizenship in a democracy through the study of historical events. The collection is available on PBS Learning Media. PBS LearningMedia is a FREE resource for teachers and students with some of the best educational content from NOVA, American Experience, Frontline and MANY more. Click here to learn more about PBS LearningMedia.

*ProjectC is also hosting a LIVE field trip on February 25th. Click here to sign up.

African American History Month from Library of Congress

It would be wrong for me to highlight only one or two resources from this MASSIVE collection. Not only does this collection pull from LOC, but it also pulls from the National Park Service, the National Archives, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. If you want to use one of these resources with your students, be sure to check that the interactive doesn’t operate on Flash (otherwise, you’ll have an iPad compatibility issue).

Scholastic Black History Month Collection

There are nearly 40 resources on this collection that range from 1st to 12th grade levels. Some focus on the Underground Railroad, some on the Civil Rights Movement, and some on School Integration.

National Geographic Underground Railroad Interactive

The Underground Railroad: Journey to Freedom is a “choose your own journey” style online game that incorporates 3-D experiences as students make a series of choices that affect their journey. Played from a first-person perspective, the game immerses students in the action as they escape from a southern plantation and head north toward freedom. Along the route, students make key decisions that will lead them to one of several possible outcomes.” (from the NatGeo website). Make sure you check out the Educator Guide.

* Note, this is also available as an iOS app for $0.99

Newseum Making a Change Collection

You’ll need to create a free Newseum account before you can access most of the resources, but Newseum has some phenomenal content relating to the First Amendment, and in this case, Civil Rights. They just posted a new lesson called “What Don’t You Know About Civil Rights”. The great things about most of these lessons is that they’re typically available as a PDF download.
Looking for books on Black History Month? Check out this Pinterest Board I created with K-12 books.
Within each of these links are links to lots more resources. Hopefully you can find one that works great for your studies this month!

Bursting to Use Buncee!

If there is one tool I am super excited to use this year, it’s Buncee. I used Buncee with my middle schoolers last year, but Buncee has had some major upgrades over the summer and I can’t wait to share them with my kids.

Here’s a short video explaining Buncee

We’re a 1:1 iPad school, so I’m always on the lookout for tablet-friendly presentation tools. We are a GAFE school, and kids are very comfortable with using Google Slides. Unfortunately, it takes the kids far too long to add the creative touches to their Slides presentations simply because there are so few built-in elements. That’s actually my absolute favorite part about Buncee – there are loads of options for clip art, animations, and colorful fonts. And although I want my kids to be creative, I also don’t want them spending too much time making it “pretty” and not focusing on the actual content of the project. Fortunately, Buncee can help with that too. Even though there are a lot of decorative elements, there are also a ton of educational elements built in.

For example, here is a template for a state project (the only thing I added was “Pennsylvania” – everything else was already done). Now, the kids can have a super-cute presentation, but won’t be spending hours on the design.

As a librarian I love that there are loads of book review templates. Here is a popular one with my middle schoolers.

You can also merge multiple templates together (or create your own) and share with your kids. Once they view your Buncee, they will have the option to “Copy and Create”. It’s as simple as that!
As a teacher, you can take advantage of the “Copy and Create” feature by searching through Buncee’s large gallery.
When its time to personalize, it’s incredibly simple. Choose a category or type in a search term (awesome!) You can even add in media from other sources like Vimeo and YouTube.
Buncee was definitely designed with kids in mind – the animations are super kid-friendly!

These animations look a little “young” to you? That’s okay – Buncee has a load of clip art and animations that will appeal to your older kids. For example, here are some of the results when I searched “chemistry”
I’m fortunate that most some of my middle schoolers know how to type. When I was an elementary librarian, I dreaded any activity that involved using the keyboard. It’s painfully exhausting to watch second graders finger punch the keyboard. And 10 minutes later…they’ve typed “OK”. It’s awful. One of the unique features of Buncee is the ability to voice annotate anything you’ve added to your canvas.
For example, let’s say a student is doing a presentation on a country. They add an image, and click “Audio”. After enabling the microphone, your students can record up to 5 minutes of audio.
Not only is the audio feature awesome for kids, it’s also great for teachers doing flipped lessons.  Let’s say you’re having your students analyze a piece of artwork and you want to do some modeling. Instead of filling up your slide with text, you can make the image large and voice record.
Buncee also makes it easy for you to share your presentations with students by marking them as “assignments”. This allows students to easily share their creations back to you by submitting their slides as an assignment. There are also other ways to share your creation if you’d rather email or embed it on your website.

As you can see, Buncee is a lot more than a simple presentation tool. If you’re interested, click here to get a FREE month of BunceeEDU Plus! Once you’re finished with your free trial, use the code “WELOVEHEATHER” to get a 50% discount for up to 100 students.

Interested in collaborating on a project? Get in touch! I’d love to work with you on something.

Making Digital Reading Easier

Literacy is the ability to read and write. Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. []

As a librarian in a 1:1 school, my students are consuming most of their information in a digital format (eBooks, websites, databases, video clips, etc.). In addition to consuming information, students are doing a great deal of producing via digital tools. While there are tremendous benefits to using digital tools, they can also pose some challenges. Finding. Reading. Organizing. Saving. Sharing. All of these can be difficult for some. Not only can it be difficult, but some students and teachers just prefer reading print.

At my school, my students and teachers have access to eBooks via MackinVIA. Fortunately, MackinVIA has a bunch of built in features allowing my students to adjust size, color, contrast, and even highlight text. And since MackinVIA works on virtually all devices, my students can customize their reading experience no matter whether they are reading.

Unfortunately, these customization options aren’t as easy to access or as obvious when reading text on the open web or through a database. Here are some of my favorite tips and tools to make reading online text a bit easier.

1. Change text size

Seems obvious right? The easiest way to change text size is using your keyboard shortcuts. If you’re on a Mac, use Command +. PC users use Ctrl +. Unfortunately, the keyboard shortcuts will zoom your entire screen, which can sometimes distort what you’re trying to read. If that is the case, you can always change the default text size through your browser settings.
I am a lover of Chrome (there’s no place like Chrome), and it is very simple to change the text size. I had to get into the Advance Settings to see the text size options. As you can see, I have multiple options and I can also change the font (note: depending on how the website is formatted, not all fonts will be impacted by this change).

2. Readability

Readability is my go-to for making reading easier. It removes all the clutter and makes online reading much more like print.

Readability is available as an app on both iOS and Android and is also available as an extension for Chrome.
I love that you can send to Kindle or print this version.

3. Clearly by Evernote

If you’re a user of Evernote (or even if you aren’t) another option is Clearly. While Clearly has some more customization options than Readability, it isn’t available as an app. Clearly is an extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.



4. BeeLine Reader

I am so excited about this one! BeeLine Reader is different than anything I’ve used before. Instead of changing font or size, it changes the gradient (crazy, right?). I’m totally digging it! It took me a few paragraphs to figure out which gradient I liked best (I like dark), but it made a huge difference.
Want to see if BeeLine Reader can help you? Take the challenge.
BeeLine is a web extension but you an also copy and paste text to be changed. You can also upload PDFs. As a librarian, I LOVE that BeeLine reader works with Overdrive and Amazon Kindle books.
BeeLine Reader is free with unlimited use for 30 days and 5 times per day after that. The Premium plan is still very reasonable at only $10 year.
There are many other tools out there that can help make your digital reading experience more enjoyable. Although a lover of technology, I prefer reading text in print. However, most of my reading is done digitally simply because it isn’t available in print. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. But you don’t need to suffer. Since using these tools, I have found reading text online to be much easier. Do you have any go-to tools that you or your students use? Share your favorites in the comments!

[For more information on the advantages of digital resources, check out this webinar]

Technology Tools Galore!

Hello world,

I have been swamped preparing for several professional development sessions and therefore, haven’t given my blog much attention. 
One of the PD offerings I gave was through EdWeb. It was part of MackinVIA’s Exploring eBooks for K-12 learning community. I had a ton of fun presenting. People from all over the world attended and I learned so much through reading the chat log. If you missed the live webinar, you can view the recording here. There are many more webinars planned as part of this series, the next being “Digital Tools for the Social Studies Classroom”. This webinar is presented by the amazing Rachel Langenhorst, a K-12 Technology Integration Specialist and Instruction Coach. This webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st at 4pm EST.

In addition to the EdWeb webinar, I’ve also offered a few professional development sessions for my district. If you’ve ever attended one of Brandon Lutz’s 60in60 sessions, they are beyond amazing. Simply put, you learn about 60 tools in 60 minutes. The tools are talked about in depth, but you gain exposure to SO many things in such a short amount of time. These are hard sessions to present. I admire Brandon and his ability to stay on time. I can only manage 30in30’s and even then, I tend to go over in time. I offered two sessions – 30in30 Creation Tools for K-5 and 30in30 Creation Tools for 6-12. I’m also planning 30in30 sessions for Assessment, but those aren’t quite finished yet (stay tuned..)
Here are the slides from the 30in30 Creation sessions. Hopefully, you can take away at least 1 or 2 tools.