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My son, Ryan, needed help with a project in his zoology class.  He had 6 projects to choose from and had to use technology with whichever project he decided to do.

Ryan chose a project which required him to view a webcam (4 times / 20 minutes each time) of a mammal and then record and describe what he observed using technology.  The technology requirement was that Ryan needed to incorporate images, text, audio and video.

Now, my son is fairly literate with computers and his Chromebook, but he really had no clue about which tools were available to him to accomplish this project.

So here is how I helped:

Effectively search for a webcam:

First, I introduced Ryan to Symbaloo, a bookmarking site. I remembered coming across a Symbaloo of animal webcams not too long ago.  As soon as Ryan went to the Symbaloo site and searched animal webcams, he was hooked!!!!  We found a webcam on jaguars, which interested him.  I explained to Ryan the importance of thanking someone if you are able to, so we left a comment for the author of the Symbaloo thanking them for helping us with the project by creating such an awesome webmix.

Click here to see the Symbaloo.

Platform for the assignment:

Ryan chose a Google Doc to create his project.  It would allow for all of the requirements and it was something he was familiar with. (Wouldn't it have been awesome if Ryan could have collaborated with a classmate on this project through the use of a Google Doc?)

Video and attaching a link to text:

To show the webcam and the video, I showed Ryan how to attach a link to text by first copying the URL of the webcam site, then highlighting the text and use the link icon to attach the link.  Ryan thought this was magic and had not been taught this simple skill of linking websites to text.

Images with cropping and borders:

I showed Ryan how to use the Chrome store to add the app Awesome Screen Shot to his apps.  I then showed him how easy it was to take a screen shot of the jaguars.  I also showed him the ability to annotate, but he chose not to use this feature.  Teenagers!

Once he had a screen shot, Ryan was able to insert the image onto his Google Doc and then crop and add a colorful border around his image.

Audio using Vocaroo:

I then showed Ryan a site called Vocaroo which allows you to record audio and then share the link to that audio.  Ryan recorded his observations after each viewing of the webcam and then linked the audio to text below each screen capture.

Click here to listen to one of Ryan's recordings.

Final step - adding text:

The final step was for Ryan to write a paragraph about his observations and a paragraph about the technology that he used. This was a simple task given that he had plenty of information and background knowledge to write about his experiences.

Click here to view Ryan's final project.

I'm so glad that I was able to help Ryan with this project. I think we both learned a lot.  Ryan added some new technology skills and tools to his digital tool box and I learned that my 15 year old son will embrace technology when given the tools and enjoyed recording himself, getting screen captures and putting the whole project together into a Google Doc. 


Every student should have their digital tool box filled with ways to incorporate technology into their projects and assignments, my son included.  And every student should know how to interact with digital literacy and compile information into a multi-media project, especially a 15 year old who is interested in zoology.

This week we are starting something new to wrap up our school year.


Makerspaces are do-it-yourself spaces where people can gather to create, invent, discover, tinker, and learn. They are often found in libraries, but we will have ours right in our classroom.

Watch this Chat with Deb to see the five different categories of maker spaces that we will be exploring. This is a longer video, so I posted the timestamp for each of the 5 categories in case you would prefer to watch a portion of the video.


0:53 - Hands-on Creations


6:42 - Programming and Coding

11:36 - Rube Goldberg

14:18 - Science and Physics

18:01 - Gaming

Click here for the presentation that we will be showing the students to get them started.


Makey Makey

Posted by deb_norton May 14, 2014

Makey Makey is an invention kit that I just ordered off of Amazon. Imagine a circuit board that can be connected to any object using alligator clips.  The circuit board is also connected to your computer via a USB.  Then objects, which can be food, paper, play dough or pretty much anything, can be substituted for a spacebar or other keys on your keyboard.

Perhaps you would like to watch this video to see Makey Makey in action.

I can't wait for our students to invent and create with Makey Makey as we finish the year by implementing some Maker Spaces and personalized learning time.  More to come in my next Chat with Deb on the topic of Maker Space

Here are a few blog posts and articles that have come my way recently telling us about things that are up and coming or have just arrived.

#1 Smartamp - SMART (the company that makes SMART boards) has unveiled a new way for students to collaborate and connect.  It is calles Smartamp.  I watched the live webinar last week to see the introduction to Smartamp, and I am impressed and excited for this new software.

Click here for the Smartamp site. Click here for a blog post by Vicki Davis.

#2 Adobe launched a new iPad app called Voice, a storytelling tool.  Click here for a blog post.  Click here to download the free app.

#3 New mobile apps for Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.  The apps have been updated to make things quicker and easier to find, create and edit.  Click here for a blogpost.

#4 Google Maps also has some great updates!!

#5 Plickers is a new solution to polling a class without the need for clickers.  Plickers doesn't even require that students have a device! Watch this demonstration:

#6 Common Craft has made a video to explain computer programming.  I love the way that Common Craft explains complicated things.

#7 Microsoft introduced Office Mix, a new plug-in for Powerpoint that allows for multimedia and interactive elements.

#8 Kahoot now allows the teacher to kick out inappropriate names. Click here to see how.

#9 Google Classroom - Google will be releasing Classroom, a LMS, that will be available next September to anyone with the GAFE suite.  Click here for a blog post.


And there you have it!  Another week full of updates, new features and sites.  Enjoy!!

Common Core Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects

(see below)


Did any of your students head for the Intel ISEF Fair? Every year, over one thousand students from around the world show off their academic prowess and research at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair. They get there through hard work and dedication, and by meeting the CCSS for Literacy in Science, and Technical Subjects.


First, let’s look at the CCSS for Literacy in Science, and Technical Subjects. The anchor standards for ELA still apply, but are more formally spelled out for additional curricular areas. For lack of a better place to look, let’s examine the standards for grades 11-12. (These standards begin in grade 6, prior to that, they are incorporated in the ELA standards).


  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks; analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.5 Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.6 Analyze the author's purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, identifying important issues that remain unresolved.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.8 Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.10 By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

(Standards retrieved from


Those standards pretty much sum up what students are doing in their academic careers when they make it to ISEF. The best way for students to learn how to write scientifically and conduct their own research is to look at professional journals containing results of scientific studies. Access to these journals can be expensive, and many schools cannot afford access but there is another solution!


Tools to access journals for free

Google Scholar is a great place to start searching for academic articles, as it indexes thousands, however, there is no way to limit your search to Free or Open Access Articles, which makes the tool less powerful than it could be.


The Directory of Open Access Journals is a directory that indexes over 9000 academic peer reviewed journals, with over 5000 of them indexed at the article level. You have to be careful, however, because although they are indexing free and open access, some of the journals still charge a fee, which can get very confusing. Be sure to narrow your results to those without charges.


Elsevier offers access to a number of fully open Access Journals, as well as a PDF list of journals that offer some open access articles.


Science Direct, a subsidiary of Elsevier free offers access to some journals, along with the ability to filter your results by the categories Physical Sciences and Engineering, Life Sciences, Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities.


The Molecular Systems Biology Journal offers free access to it’s articles, and in the archive area, allows you to filter articles by subject area, article type and year.


Hindawi Press offers over 400 open access journals in Science, Technology, Medicine and some Social Studies. It can be difficult to find their search page so I am providing it here.


PLOS offers access to its journals in Biology, Medicine, Genetics, Computational Biology, Pathogens, Neglected Tropical Diseases and their “catch all” journal, One. They also have a collection of Blogs and research related materials available.


BioMed Central offers free and open access to all of the journals it publishes in almost 70 subject areas related to medicine.


Chemistry Central is an affiliate of BioMed Central that focuses on Chemistry, and offers access to multiple journals in the field.


Springer Open is another affiliate of BioMed Central, and offers access to a broader range of peer reviewed journals including those that focus on education, humanities and mathematics.


Access to information has never been easier, and with the tools above, you can give your students access to high quality, peer reviewed scientific journals very easily. Focusing on the CCSS for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects couldn’t be easier. Designing activities that focus on these standards can potentially earn your student a spot at the Intel ISEF Fair next year!

Is there anyplace you go for free access to peer-reviewed journal articles that I haven’t listed here?

Do you have a lot of end of the year events and happenings going on at your school?  Today I share a great way to keep students and parents up-to-date and privy to what is going on.

Remind 101 is a great way to communicate with students and / or parents via text messaging. 


Watch this new episode of Chat with Deb to learn how:


Remind 101 App

Remind 101


Thank you to Intel and the Teachers Engage Community for supporting this video.

Recently I was training some awesome teachers, and one of the biggest requests was for tools similar to Google Drawings.  So, here are some tools for students to create posters, flyers, and visuals:

#1 - Canva -


  • free
  • publish as an image or PDF
  • share the link
  • simple drag and drop



#2 - Buncee -


  • free
  • Buncee edu for teachers
  • Click and select
  • Print
  • Share on social media



#3 - Smore -


  • free (can upgrade)
  • add the elements you like
  • embed
  • share via email or link

Click here to see my Smore.


So there you have it; three great tools similar to Google Drawing.  Today's students are creators of content and these three tools can provide a place for students to show their critical thinking, creativity and knowledge.

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