Archive for category Audience: All

Mystery Skype

A Mystery Skype lesson involves students in a strategic guessing game. Two classrooms arrange to connect with each other using Skype video calling, and then ask Yes/No questions to discover each other’s locations. It’s popularity with teachers and their students owes a lot to the simple format of the activity. Mystery Skype can be adapted for students of any age, and can be tailored to fit any subject. Our hope is that after experiencing Mystery Skype, teachers will be excited to use Skype to connect their classrooms to students around the world.

In a Nutshell…

  • A Skype video call is received from a partner class, but neither class knows the location of the other.
  • Students collaborate using maps and critical thinking skills to construct Yes/No questions  to ask in order to determine their partner class’ geographic location.
  • Students build inquiry skills, learning how to formulate questions that will further their learning.
  • The role of the teacher is to facilitate – to help direct the Skype call, and to encourage students to use the information they gain to formulate questions as they learn.


Resources to Download

Sample Lesson Plan

Student Rubric

Mystery Skype Job Cards – Print a copy of each job and place it on the table where students will be seated, or print enough to handout one  job card to each student. These help keep students on track, and help you remember what each student should be doing as well!

Mystery Skype Classroom Job Name Badges – (Word Document) Formatted to print as 3 x 4 labels (Avery 5392)  Stick one of these on each student to help everyone stay on track with their job assignment.

Mystery Skype Classroom Jobs Download PPT or View Online – Useful for introducing each job to the entire class.

Mystery Skype Classroom Etiquette – Download PPT or View Online  – Prepare your class for the video call with a few simple classroom management guidelines.

Question Stems for first-time, and K-2 Mystery Skypers

Helpful Responses – to hold in front of the camera when audio is muted or not working


Looking for a Partner Class?

Beyond the official Mystery Skype page (which is a great place to find a partner class, btw!) there are a few other helpful places to look for a Mystery Skype partner.  The Global Connection Wiki is one of the simplest places to enter your information & Find a Class to connect with other educators interested in Skyping.  Another way to connect would be sending a tweet out to#SkypeMT (Skype Master Teachers,) #MIEExpert (Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts) or #GoogleEI (Google Education Certified Innovators) to connect with some amazing educators!


Before the Call

Before your first Mystery Skype call, you’ll want to be sure you have access to a webcam and that your audio/video settings are configured properly. It’s a good idea to conduct a test call either with your partner teacher, or with another Skype user to ensure everything is working properly. In Lamar CISD, we like to mount a web-cam on a tripod and place it in the front of the classroom (using a USB extension cord, if needed) so that students can view their partner class on their Promethean or Smart Board. If you’re a LCISD teacher – contact your CITS to check out these tech items!

As a “best practice” it’s a good idea to change your city/state location in your Skype profile to “Mystery Skype” instead of letting it say “Rosenberg, Texas” (or wherever you’re from) otherwise even young tech-savy students will quickly sus out your location!

You’ll want to prepare your students for the activity by giving them an overview of the Mystery Skype jobs. It’s also a great idea to conduct a “dry run” by having your class work together to determine a location on the globe that you’ve chosen, so that they can practice their Mystery Skype job.  Optional resources that you might want to have on hand during the call include:

  • Dry Erase Boards & Markers – These are helpful to have around so that students can quietly write notes to one another, or answer one another’s questions as they work to come up with a question for the partner class.  They’re also helpful for communicating a message to the partner class when audio has been muted, or is not working.
  • Sticky-Notes – for students in the Think Tank to write down potential questions
  • Large Graphic Organizer – After your class has asked a question, it’s helpful to track the question by posting it onto a large Graphic Organizer with “Yes” and “No” labeled at the top.  Large chart paper, or chalkboard/dry erase board work well for this purpose.  
  • Laminated Maps – It’s nice to have a few large, laminated maps that students can write on with dry erase, or vis-a-vis, markers in order to narrow down their search field as their partner class answers each question.


Mystery Skype Jobs

  • Greeter – Greets the other class by introducing our class and reviewing the Mystery Skype rules. At the end of the call, the Greeter will be the one to thank the other class, and close out the call. During the call, the Greeter is part of the Think Tank
  • Think Tank – All students in the class who are not doing another job. The Think Tank does research, creates questions for the Inquirer to ask, and approves answers to be sent to the Answerer.
  • Questioner– Ask Yes/No questions of the other class. (All questions must be able to be answered with a yes or a no.)
  • Responder– Answers Yes/No questions from the other class.
  • Runner – Pass questions/answers from the Think Tank to the Inquirer & Answerer.
  • Tracker – Keeps track of all questions asked and answers received from both sides
  • Mappers – In charge of using Atlas/Google Maps/Wall maps etc. to zero in on clues
  • Photographer– Captures the call by taking photos/video & posting to class blog.
  • Tweeter– Tweets play-by-play action during call


During the Call

After a brief welcome, and introduction (by the Greeter) of each class, a coin is tossed to determine which class will ask the first question.

NOTE: All questions must be answered Yes/No

Classes take turns asking (Inquirers) and answering (Answerers) questions. All students should be participating as described according to the roles listed above.

Once a class has “won” by determining the location of the other class, classes can continue to share a few more interesting details about their daily lives, school routines etc. They may pose open-ended questions to their partner class in order to learn a bit more about them.

The Greeter will thank the other class for connecting, and close out the call.


After the Call

Once you’ve finished, take the time to talk about what worked well, and what could have been done to make things easier, or to improve the Mystery Skype call. Prepare to be surprised at how your class evaluates their own performance, and the environmental/procedural changes that could be made to make things smoother!


Helpful Hashtags & More

  • @SkypeClassroom – Twitter handle for Skype in the Classroom – a free global community of teachers working together to create inspiring Skype lessons
  • #MysterySkype – Lots of teachers follow this hashtag and use it to connect.
  • #Skype2Learn – This hashtag is used for Mystery Skype as well as other types of Skype lessons.
  • #SkypeMT – Skype Master Teachers are experts at using Skype in education. Using this hashtag will let them see your request and help you find a connection.
  • #MIEExpert – Hashtag followed by Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts around the world!  Tweet a question, or connect with teacher who has been commended by Microsoft for being an expert educator!
  • #GoogleEI – Hashtag followed by Google Certified Innovators, a group of teachers and educational leaders commended by Google for their outstanding commitment to education.
  • #GlobalLearning – Teachers from around the world who connect their classrooms for global projects follow this hashtag.
  • #edtech – General hashtag for all things educational technology
  • #disted – General hashtag for all things distance education
  • Skype for Education – official website
  • Mystery Skype – official website
  • Skype Call – Learning Call – Another great blog post by LangWitches


Augmented Reality with the Aurasma App

I am a big fan of Two Guys and Some iPads.  @techminock and @techbradwaid are very passionate about teaching and do an amazing job of sharing that passion and resources with the world.  They got me interested in Augmented Reality, and their site has a wealth of resources to help you understand what Augmented Reality is and how to get started with it.  Now I am working to get teachers here as excited about it as I am!


While there are more and more apps out there with auras already made, the real value I see for educators is the ability to create your own triggers and overlays.  This allows you to make it relevant to whatever concepts you are teaching.  Aurasma is a great resource for this.  It is free for you to use…you only need to set up an account.  While you are able to create more intricate auras through their website, a great place to start is with the Aurasma App.  It is fairly simple to use and gives you immediate results.

Two cheat sheets have been created to help you with the process of creating auras with the Aurasma app.  Click below to download each.  I hope you find them useful.

Email Etiquette Top 10 List

Much of our professional life revolves around social media and interaction with others.  Even with the introduction of all the new platforms, email still plays a major role in day to day activities at work.  We must be careful that how we are perceived through email paints a proper picture of ourselves.  On a professional level, there are certain rules that you should follow.  Proper email etiquette is important in establishing and maintaining a good professional relationship.

After doing a little research and discussing this topic with my fellow Instructional Technology Specialists here at Lamar Consolidated ISD, I have come up with a Top 10 List for Email Etiquette.  We recorded a video for it in our studio to share with all of you.  Without further delay, here is ourTop 10 List:

There are many resources, both videos and cheat sheets, concerning email with Outlook 2013 as well as other Office products,  available in our resource section under the Office icon.  To go directly to the Outlook 2013 resources, click here.

Simple Transfer: Transfer Photos and Videos Between iPad and Computer!

A BIG obstacle and headache that often occurs when working with iOS devices is being able to easily transfer your photos and videos between the iPad and computer. Emailing is not always the answer. File sizes can become too large. Having to attach image after image is a hassle. An even bigger hassle is having to plug the device into the computer.   Simple Transfer is a free app that will allow you to transfer your data wirelessly to or from any computer.

simple transfer

Simple Transfer is VERY easy to use.  Once it is downloaded, open the app.  It will show you a screen with a web IP address on it.  Leave the app open and then enter the address it provides into the web browser (Chrome, IE, Safari, etc.) on your computer.

simple transfer iPad

A window will pop open on the computer showing your iPad and the different folders you have created on it to store your photos and videos.  If you are looking to upload media from your computer to the iPad it can be done from the first window you see.  Choose the location you want the file to save on the iPad and then browse to the file you wish to upload.  Note that the free version of the app only allows you to transfer 1 file at a time to the iPad.

simple transfer screenshot 1

If you are looking to transfer files from your iPad to your computer, select the folder where the files you are transferring are located.

simple transfer screenshot 2

The screen will refresh, opening the folder you have chosen.  You can now select the photos or videos you want to transfer.  You also have a “select all” option.  Note that the free version of this app allows you to transfer up to 50 files at a time to your computer.  If you select more than one file to upload, a zip file will be created and sent to the computer. Open the folder on your computer to view all the files you have transferred.

There is a paid version of this app that will allow you to transfer more than 50 files at a time from device to computer and also allow you to upload multiple files at once from computer to device.  The paid version is $1.99.  Try the free version first to be sure your network is not blocking the use of this app.  If it works and you find you need more freedom with the app, purchase the paid version.  Then sit back and enjoy Simple Transfer!

iCafe at TCEA 2013

TCEA 2013

Attending an iCafe session at TCEA 2013? Need to checkout the resources and presentation notes? See the full list of our sessions below with links to resources, presentation notes, and more!


Presenter Session Link
 Chris Nilsson  Advanced Movie Maker



Presenter Session Link
 Jeff Peterson  Making of the Most of Your SMART Board Lessons
 Holly Dornak & Jennifer Mitchell  Promethean Academy:  Get Up & Move



Presenter Session Link
 Robyn Hrivnatz  Don’t Ban it, Bring it – A Lesson in Mobility
 Chad Jones & Chris Nilsson  Staff Development that Works?  Seriously ?!?!
 Robyn Hrivnatz  50 People to Follow
 Jennifer MitchellHolly Dornak & Katie Marchena  Putting the “I” in IWB
 Katie Marchena, Jennifer Mitchell & Holly Dornak  Google Earth Walks
 Holly Dornak & Jennifer Mitchell  Learning that Lasts:  Student ePortfolios
 Amanda Peterson & Jeff Peterson  Travel Bugs + VideoConferencing = GeoConferencing
 Katie Marchena & Jeff Peterson  Bonjour, Hola, Ni Hao:  Tech and Foreign Language
 Robyn Hrivnatz  Windows in the Classroom
 Jessica Dyer & Amanda Peterson  Top 10 Tech Tools for Teachers
 Jessica DyerDusty Roden & Paul Wagner  Google Apps Walk and Talk



Presenter Session Link
 Robyn Hrivnatz  Think Globally, Teach Locally
 Chris Nilsson  iOS Headache?  Get a grip on your devices
 Holly Dornak  & Jessica Dyer  10 Killer iPad Projects Students Will Love
 Chad Jones  Lessons Learned from Buster the Guinea Pig
 Paul WagnerMandy Bryan Dusty Roden  Let’s Get Dig-i-tal!  Dig-i-tal!
 Robyn Hrivnatz  Head in the Clouds



Presenter Session Link
 Robyn Hrivnatz  Get edmodofied!
 Chad Jones  Sailing Down the Backchannel
 Chris Nilsson  iCafe – A Fusion of Technology and Curriculum

Book Creator: New Update Opens New Doors

The Book Creator app has been one of my favorites for some time…that is no secret.  This last week, Dan Amos (@bookcreatorapp), released an update that gives everyone even more reasons to love it!  Here is a brief summary of what is new with this update.

book creator

Adding Hyperlinks

You can now link both text and images within your book to resources on the web.  Connect to audio files, a YouTube video, or a document or article that houses more information…just to name a few.  They made it very easy to use, just like the rest of the app.  As an added bonus, you are now also able to format individual words within your text to make it stand out.  Two great additions.

Import Books

Another amazing option.  This allows you to bring a book back into the app to add to, or edit, a book you have previously sent to iBooks…even if you don’t have the original file anymore.  This also allows you to import a book from another iPad and work on it.  A great classroom addition.

Combine Books

I saved my favorite for last!  This update allows you to combine 2 or more books into one.  Have students work individually on a section of a book, even on different iPads, and then combine them all into one final class project.  Have students write chapters and then combine for a “novel”.  Share a Science Experiment with different members of a group addressing each part of the scientific process.  What a fabulous option.

Those are the big 3 (actually 4) upgrades that I think make this app one of the best on the market.  To learn even more about these upgrades, as well as instructions on how to use all these new options, check out What’s New in Version 2.4 at

If you have the app but have not yet upgraded, what are you waiting for?!?  If you have not purchased the app yet, I can tell you it is the best $4.99 I have ever spent.  Teachers and students alike love this app.  You will too!

Facebook Page Creation Tips for Educators

You may have used Facebook to connect with friends from the past, and even chat online, but have you considered harnessing the power of Facebook to improve classroom communication?  With more than one billion users on facebook each month, it’s certainly an idea worth considering.  Social Media in education can be a bit of a tricky tight-rope, so before you log in, be sure to consider the tips below!

Tip #1 – Get Focused

kid_with_binoculars2 Before you touch a keyboard, or investigate the ins and outs of your school’s electronic media policy, you’ll need to determine your goals and objectives.  How many times a week will you post?  What kinds of things will you post?  Who is your intended audience?  Having a plan that takes those questions into account will go a long way in helping you to develop a Facebook page that is focused and full of useful information for educational stakeholders.

 Tip #2 – Consider the Powers that Be


Next, you’ll want to know (and follow) your school and/or district policies regarding electronic communication.  In Lamar CISD, teachers are encouraged to “talk” where educational stakeholders are listening and we’ve put together a helpful video that highlights 8 Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of Electronic Communication with Students that is worth checking out.If your school or district does not yet have a policy governing the use of electronic communication or social media, then guess who can to volunteer to help write the policy?  That’s right…you can!Once you’ve determined that you’ve got the green flag from your school or district, be sure to give your administrator a heads-up about what you’ve got cookin.’  Be prepared to share the goals and rational behind your plan, if for no other reason than so your administrator can brag about you at school board meetings!  Seriously though, no administrator likes to be in the dark about innovative new tools that their teachers are using.  So keep them informed!

 Tip #3 – Create a Page

The best way for many educators to use Facebook safely with parents and students, is to create a Class Facebook Page, which is different from using a personal Facebook account to connect to students.  Anyone can “Like” the Page you’ve created, and once they do, the items posted on your Class Facebook Page stream into your follower’s Facebook newsfeed.  To get started creating your page, visit: and choose the type of page you’d like to create.   Personally, I recommend choosing “Company, Organization or Institution” if you’re mostly wanting to post items like you would on a community bulletin board.Once you’ve created a page, you’re officially the “Administrator” of that page.  This means you can post status updates, links and photos, as well as fine-tune your page settings.  A Facebook page can have more than one administrator, which is great if you’d like to collaborate with other colleagues on your grade level or within your department.  Just be sure all administrators are aware of your page’s intended goals and objectives, along with school policy!

Tip #4 – Get a Tune-Up

Facebook - Use Facebook As... After you’ve created your Class Facebook Page, it’s time to give the page settings a quick tune-up.  For the most part, the Facebook Page Creation Wizard will walk you through the important stuff like adding a profile image and page description, but there are a few additional items that are worth considering. First off, it’s important to know that you can choose to post to Facebook as your Class Facebook Page, rather than as yourself.  To do this, simply click the Gear in the top right hand corner, and choose which alias you’d like to use for posting.
Facebook - Edit Page Tab Next, you’ll definitely want to be aware of  who can post to your page, and what they can post.  To set things straight, simply click “Manage Permissions” from the “Edit Page” tab of your Administration Panel.  You’ll want to pay special attention to the following check-boxes:

  • Posting Ability – Are you simply in need of a one-way billboard?  If so, restrict the ability for others to post images, links and text to your page.
  • Post Visibility – Personally,  I think “Recent Posts by Others” doesn’t need to be on a class/school page, but you’ll know pretty quickly what works for you.
  • Default Visibility of Posts –  Again, I set mine to “Hidden” because I want to keep a pretty tight rein on the content posted on my page
  • Tagging Ability – Do you want other Facebook users to have the ability to add tags to the photos you post?  If so add a check to this box.  I keep mine unchecked because I don’t want anyone to add tags with student names to my photos.
  • Messages – You can elect to add the message button to your facebook page.  Since my primary mode of communication with parents/students who have one-on-one messages for me is email (for archival purposes)  I don’t have this button on my page.
  • Moderation Blocklist – If you need to block any specific terms from being posting to your page, you can add them here.
  • Profanity Blocklist – Set this to “Strong”

 Tip #5 – Post Great Content & Connect

Once you’re comfortable with your settings (keep in mind, you can tweak them at any time!) it’s time to begin posting some content to your page.  To be as effective as possible with your posts, it’s important to post somewhat regularly, at times when people will be checking their Facebook Newsfeeds (like before/after school, and at lunch.)  Lucky for you, posts can be scheduled in advance, so if you are uber-organized (unlike me) you could post a bunch of things all at one sitting, but schedule them out so that they actually appear on Facebook throughout the week.  Things you might want to post include:

  • Reminders for upcoming exams, project due dates, or classroom events
  • Links to thought provoking information, resources or videos you’d like students to investigate on their own
  • Photos of students engaged in successful learning activities

When posting photos, you’ll want to be sure to follow your school or district’s policy regarding the use of student images online.  In our district, we are allowed to post photos of any student who has not given their school written documentation that they do not want their image used online.  That being said, as an educator, I would never post a student’s picture captioned with their full name.  Others may disagree, but I would rather error on the side of digital safety.

Posting helpful content and links will help to grow your audience, but another way to build your community is to have your page “Like” various other pages related to your classroom or community.  You also might want to consider the options available under the “build your audience” tab at the top of your admin panel.  Before long, you’ll have an audience that’s hanging on your every word.  Well…ok, maybe not…but at least they’ll have another great way to get reminders and resources!

Tip #6 – Everything is Public

footprint-3099_640 I was going to finish with 5 Tips, but Tip #6 is just so important, I couldn’t leave it off.  Whether I’m working with teachers or students, I always emphasize the fact that no matter how private you THINK you’re being online, you’d be much better off  working with the assumption that your mother and your employer are both reading every single thing you post.  With this in mind, you’re sure to be proud of the digital footprint you leave behind.

Be proud of the digital footprint you leave behind!

Are You Talking Where They’re Listening?

In Lamar CISD we encourage educators to “talk” where educational stakeholders are listening. This often involves the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  Before beginning to use social media to surround your students in a learning network it’s important to consider district policy, as it relates to electronic communication with students and parents.   Naturally, our School Board has a Written Policy for Employee Standards of Conduct (June 2011), but to help clarify LCISD’s Electronic Media Policy even further, the iCafe team has put together a video to help educators make good choices.  Posted below are The Top 8 Guidelines For Acceptable Use of Electronic Media by Educators.  If you’re interested in viewing the FULL VERSION of this video, CLICK HERE.

The Top 8 Guidelines For Acceptable Use of Electronic Media by Educators

Have a Safe & Relaxing Winter Holiday!

Best of the Week – December 21, 2012



Each week our Instructional Technology Team meets and shares the best ideas that crossed our Twitter feeds, RSS Readers, and minds as we were out working with teachers. Recently it occurred to us that we should be sharing our Best of the Week with you all! So here’s this week’s installment. Enjoy!




Tiny Tap App

Click to View     Level of Bloom’s:  Create

Create your own educational games from everyday moments. Creating a game is simple – add a photo, record some questions, trace the answers and you’re ready to play!

Funny Movie Maker

Click to View     Level of Bloom’s: Create

Choose any face (even from your own images) and replace their mouth (or entire face) with your own!  Project idea:  Have students research a historic or literary character, then write and produce a video interview!  What a fun way for students to show what they’ve learned!

Word Mover

Click to View     Level of Bloom’s: Create

Student’s can create ‘found poetry”  by choosing from word banks, existing famous works, or by adding new words.


Click to View     Level of Bloom’s: Create

Students can design a costume for their fairy tale character, and then photograph their character in any setting (even within their own classroom!)  These images would be great fodder for a creative writing project!


Click to View      Level of Bloom’s: Remember

Reinforce knowledge of parts of speech in a fun, student-friendly way!  (Nouns are Free, other parts of speech are available for In-App purchase.)





iPad Apps 4 School

Click to View

Brand new site from the author of the Free Tech 4 Teachers blog (another great resource!)


Skitch – for Windows

Click to View

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then if you could add text, arrows, and annotations to an image, that would be priceless right?? Skitch, a great FREE photo annotation app, is now available for desktop computers with Windows, and Windows 8.  Not sure what you or your students can do with Skitch?  Check out Skitch in Education to see the software in action!


35 Digital Tools that Will Work with Bloom’s Taxonomy

Click to View

Edudemic has a ton of great ideas and resources for teachers, but their post matching digital tools to Bloom’s is a must read, if you’re searching for product creation tools for the classroom.

Click to View

Think:  Pinterest – but ONLY for educators sharing resources you can use in your classroom.  This site is great for anyone who’s begun to create a flipped classroom.  Not sure what a flipped classroom is?  Check out Brian Bennett’s Video on the Basics of the Flipped Classroom.


One Word

Click to View

Hit the “Go” button and students are presented with a single word, a 60 second timer, and a text entry box–the motto being “Don’t Think, Write!”  Accounts can be created to archive writing.  This would be a great warm-up or vocabulary activity for writers of all ages!


Holiday Fun from It’s A Message

Click to View

Enter your address, and It’s A Message automatically creates a fun holiday message featuring your home (if Google Earth has a street view of it!)  Ok, Ok, it’s a tiny bit creepy, but it’s pretty cool, and fun to share with friends, nonetheless!


Chart Editor, by Google

Click to View

Though still in beta, it’s easy to see how Google’s Chart Editor has the potential to become a valuable tool for educators and students who need to visualize data.


Google Story Builder

Click to View

Invite students to write collaboratively, choose an audio track that matches the tone of their writing, and then play back the writing process using Google Story Builder.  Fun, and for best results, this is an activity that requires pre-planning/storyboarding on the part of the student.


Become a Power Searcher

Click to View

Sharpen your search skills & join this free online course from our friends at Google to help you become a better searcher.  Knowing how to find answers on any search engine is an important skill in today’s digital age.  A little time invested in this course now, will have long term benefits down the road – for both teachers and students!



Click to View

Powerful photo editing online from your Mac or PC – check out their mobile apps and browser plug-ins too!

Hello Sign

Click to View

Tired of chasing people around for signatures?  Sick of the endless Print-Sign-Scan cycle?  Hello Sign allows you to invite up to 50 folks to sign your documents for free.  It’s safe, secure, and best of all…legally binding.  Oh – and there’s an app too!