Archive for category Tech Tools

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.

SkyDrive Becomes OneDrive

OneDrive and O365

If you haven’t noticed already, Microsoft’s cloud based storage system, SkyDrive, has been renamed “OneDrive.”  So what does this mean? When logging into Office 365, you’ll notice the OneDrive tab is in the same location as SkyDrive used to be, and the features are exactly the same. The only difference is the name.

If you have already activated your SkyDrive account and synced your district or home computer with SkyDrive, over the next few days you’ll notice the SkyDrive link in your Favorites change to match the new name. If you find that the name in your Favorites remains stuck on SkyDrive Pro or SkyDrive @Lamar Consolidated ISD, as you can see in the screenshots below, don’t worry!  Everything will continue to work. The name will change on its own sometime soon.

Skydrive in Favorites

If you haven’t had a chance to sync Skydrive/OneDrive with your district or home computer – you definitely want to do that!  Syncing the cloud based storage service with your computer allows you easy access to online storage.  So what does THAT mean? Good bye flash drives and hello OneDrive!  Office 365’s OneDrive Pro, provided for you by the district, gives you 20 GB of online storage.  How much is that?  ALOT!!  As a point of comparison, your current H:/ drive is limited to 1/2 GB, so your OneDrive storage capacity is exponentially larger.

Syncing Skydrive/OneDrive with your district AND home computers allows you to easily view and edit any of the documents you’ve saved at school – at home.  No more stressing out at 9 PM that an important file is saved on your flash drive or H:/ drive at school!  To get started you’ll need to log into Office 365 using your district credentials and click on the OneDrive tab to  activate your account.  Then you’ll be able to sync OneDrive to your computer.

You only need to activate your account once, but you will need to go through the syncing process once for every computer you want to have synced.  So for example, you’ll need to go through the syncing process on your district computer, district laptop, as well as your home computer.  Once you’ve synced the computers you use regularly, you’ll be able to drag and drop files into OneDrive, save directly to OneDrive, and work collaboratively by sharing documents with other staff members.

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Gaming with Extreme Collaboration

When first introduced to Extreme Collaboration (XC), I was immediately hooked.  XC is currently in its beta format; however, it appears fully functional and ready for classroom use.  Immediately, I created cheat sheets and tutorial videos (click here) on how to use this simple and powerful tool.  XC is an Add-On for SMART Notebook that allows all students to immediately participate in the current activity.  Students are able to use a web enabled device to actively participate in the lesson.  They can use a smartphone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computing device to send text directly into a SMART Board lesson.

After learning and using XC, the next idea was to see how XC could be used beyond simply sending a text answer into SMART Notebook.  Since XC is generally used in collaboration with students and almost all students like games, is there a way to make XC into a game?  The answer is “Yes!”  Many different ideas came to mind.  A simple “fastest fingers” contest to see who could answer and text the answer in the quickest was the first idea.  Fastest fingers would leave each student competing against the others.

Other ideas include teaming students together.  Using teams would eliminate the one-to-one device requirement.  Utilizing XC’s List by category and Stack by category, answers from each team would appear under their respective team name.  Students could compete in teams to see who can answer the question(s) the fastest.  The teams could have a list of questions to answer and see which team can answer all questions the fastest.  A variation of this would be to see which team can name all elements of the learned topic the fastest.

Add a line across the Notebook page, make it a finish line.  Have the students answering questions until a team reaches the line.  The team that reaches the line first, wins the competition (provide all the answers are correct).  If students pulling answers from the other teams is a concern, turn off the projector.  Another option would be to use the SMART Notebook screen shade.  Turn on the screen shade; adjust it to a desired height to make it the finish line.  As soon as the students have answered enough questions, they will start appearing below the screen shade.

Here are a few ideas for core content areas:


  1. Nouns vs. verbs in a paragraph:  which team can name 10 first
  2. Characters in a story:  who can name the most or name all of them the fastest

Math –

  1. Solve  a problem:  who can do it the fastest
  2. Quick math:  who can solve a group of the problems the fastest

Social Studies –

  1. WII Powers:  who can name the most Allied or Axis powers the fastest/first
  2. Presidents:  name as many presidents as possible in XX seconds
  3. States/Capitals:  name as many as possible in XX seconds

Science –

  1. Chemical equation:  who can solve in the fastest
  2. Physics:  solve the problem the fastest or series of problems
  3. Different Types of Fungus:  name as many types of fungus as possible in XX seconds

The possibilities are virtually endless.  Looking for design templates, click here to download a template from the SMART Exchange.

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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!

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

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!

Holiday Greetings 2.0

If you’ve decided your hum-drum holiday card could use an upgrade, you might consider saving paper – and postage – by sharing your holiday wishes online this year.

Here’s a a few resources and inspiration to set you on your “merry way!”

Holiday Video Cards by vlix

Click Here to View

This simple iPad/iPod Touch app allows users to import or record videos, add holiday borders and background music before sharing via email, YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook.  Something as simple as recording students in your class saying “Happy Holidays” would be really neat to share with parents!


Click Here to View

This online resource is perfect for creating a holiday ecard featuring classic music and the ability to add your face, or the faces of up to 5 friends to the card.  Elf Yourself!


Click Here to View Online      Click Here to View iOS App

For several years now, Animoto has been our go-to site for creating stunning photo slideshows in just a few minutes.  Their site is great year-round, but it’s especially handy for putting all those holiday photos into a format that your family or students will be excited to watch.  Educators can even create Animoto Plus accounts for free.


Click Here to View

Create an online card that features photos, videos, a letter, or pretty much any combination of the three!  This FREE site is great for those of us who just can’t bear the thought of abandoning their annual holiday letter.  Share up to 15 photos/videos and select from tons of templates and format options.


Windows Live Movie Maker & Photo Gallery

Click Here to View

Want a little less “wizard’ and a little more precise control over your holiday video project?  Windows Live Movie Maker & Photo Gallery provide user-friendly interfaces for editing video, or creating a photo slide shows.  The software is free, and great for PC users!

For Apple lovers, iMovie on your iOS device or Mac is the way to go!

Whichever venue you choose for expressing your holiday cheer, be sure you challenge yourself, and share your project with us!  We’d love to see what you come up with!



Metamorphosis: Converting Files to New Formats

Occasionally during the course of creating a digital project, you’ll need to change the format of the audio or video clip you’d like to use so that it matches the formats accepted by whatever editing software you’re using.  Here at the iCafe we have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes to reformatting audio or video files.  Below are a few of our favorite FREE converting tools.


Format Factory

Format Factory is a great piece of FREE software that can quickly reformat files already saved on your computer.  Have a video file that was taken upside down or sideways?  Format Factory can take care of that too!

Download Format Factory

If you’re using Format Factory for the first time, view the Format Factory Video Tutorial before getting started. (1 min 30 sec)

Media Converter is an online tool that does a fantastic job of reformatting files, and even allows you to download media from various online sources.  As always, be sure to practice good Digital Citizenship when downloading files by honoring any copyright restrictions that may apply.


Similar to Media Converter, Online-Convert is an online tool that can be used to re-format files.  What we like about Online-Convert is the fact that they offer an ebook converter so that you can convert your .pdf or Word .docx into .epub so that they can be read in apps such as iBooks.


Happy Converting!






Give iTunes 11 that iTunes 10 Feel

As many of you are probably aware, iTunes 11 is ready for download.  Many of you may not know, however, that the initial look of this latest version of iTunes has changed quite dramatically.  If you use iTunes as a media player you will be very happy with the look and feel.  If you use it as a device manager, however, you may not feel the joy quite as much!


In version 11, Apple has streamlined iTunes to simplify playing music or videos, which is great because the new look is very clean.  Many educators, however, use iTunes more for adding content to devices for their classrooms than for playing back content.  The device management options that were readily available in earlier versions of iTunes do not seem quite as accessible in version 11.  Fear not!  The device management options are there…you just need to know where to find them.


Menu Bar

To access the device management options, or return to the iTunes 10 feel, your first course of action will be to get your menu bar back.  Click on the menu button located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen and choose to “Show Menu Bar“.

Left Side-Bar

Once your menu bar is visible, it is on to step 2 of this transformation.  You will want your left side-bar back so that you can view and manage the iOS devices connected to your computer.  From the menu bar, select “View” and “Show Sidebar“.  Breathing a little easier now?  This version  of iTunes may not be so bad after all!



The last step for me was to select “Music” from the left side-bar, and then the “Songs” tab so that I could to view my songlist.  The  iTunes transformation is now complete!