Sunday, May 31, 2015

App Smash Volume 6: Instagram, Chirp, Google Tone and Remind!

Happy June! Or, at least, it will be in 1.5 hours :) 

I wanted to share a few of my favorite pics from visiting the Lake Harriet Rose Gardens and the nearby birding sanctuary last week. This is one of the many stops on our "Expanding the Classroom Walls" onsite grad class through Learners Edge this summer. 

It's not too late to sign up! Walls I is June 15-19, Walls III is June 22-26. Only $450 for 3 grad credits!

Many teachers haven't been exposed to the positive powers that are Instagram and Twitter. One of my goals with this summer class is to give teachers the time and tools to try out Social Media for themselves, through It's free, easy to set up, and allows teachers to send one-way texts and/or emails to students and parents that can include pictures, links and files. I used Instagram to take these pics, which can be easily sent out to members with a quick quiz.

Additionally, Instagram allows you to link to Facebook and Twitter. Upload and share your pictures and short videos with one-click! This is a new and growing trend in education, to "claim" hashtags (group thoughts) and use them to share media and comments with your students about content. For example, I'm using the hashtags "TCWallsI" and "TCWallsIII" to share content with the world. I challenge all you teachers to start tweeting educationally as well! #edtechchat

As you can see, I took many neat pictures at the Lake Harriet Rose Gardens and the Thomas Sadler Roberts Birding Sanctuary. If you are at a site with a bunch of students and want to quickly share web information, you can create a Remind post and attach the link to it. Students will receive a text or email, depending on how they registered for your class. If you don't want the hassle of setting up a Remind account, though, there are some other programs you can use to share websites, including Chirp and Google Tone.

Chirp for iPhone is free and does actually work for iPad as well. Both the teacher and all students/parents would need to have the app installed on their iPhone/iPad in order to share websites using Chirp. All you do is copy the web address into the program, click the Chirp button, and any device with the app open, in range, will "receive" the website chirp and be able to open it. (You do need cell data or WIFI in order to send/receive)

Think of the possibilities for teachers out field-tripping with their classes, who find something interesting on-the-go and want to share it! Also, if you are at school, and happen to have Google devices such as Chromebooks, there is a similar program called Google Tone that is a free extension in the Chrome Webstore. You go to the website you want to share, click the Google Tone extension, and it sends to every device in range who also has the Google Tone program open. 

**The only down-side I would warn against, is that students often figure out that there is no "off" switch, and then they begin to start "chirping" or sending out their own tones, and all other users will automatically receive whatever they are sending. Whether this is a silly selfie, or an unwanted website or pic. So make sure to be VERY clear with students, that any inappropriate or unsolicited use will result in deletion of the program from their device and a loss of participation points. 

Have fun! Be "human" this summer! Learn some new social programs! And if you haven't signed up for Twitter and started following the educational conversations there, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?!?  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Zombie App Mashup: Volume 5 - + Google Apps = Critical Writing Awesomeness

Just over 60 days until my Learners Edge "Expanding the Classroom Walls" courses launch! Can't Wait to meet all the teacher attendees! If you're looking for a sneak peek, one of our "stops", the Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings MN, is hosting an Earth Day Birding Festival on Saturday 4/18. 

Now onto the main event! I stumbled upon a really interesting tweet a few months back about a Chrome extension (and website) called Classcharts. It took a whopping 5 minutes to set up, and I could immediately see the potential for marrying seating charts, attendance, random question asking, random group making, behavior tracking, and parent communication. Seriously... this program does it all. 

Check out their informational video:

I got to thinking, with the power of the ClassCharts group-making tool, you could do some pretty amazing think-pair-shares using Google Docs or Presentations. If your students don't have any devices, don't fret! You could totally go low-tech on this and use chart paper instead. Here's how I would do it with Google products.

1. Set up classes on the computer, at Have your class list(s) handy so you can type in their first/last names quickly. If you want subs to see students instead of avatars, you can import their pictures via drag & drop or file upload. Save changes when done.

2. Click the "Room" option from the main class menu and select "Edit current room". 

Drag and drop the desks the way you want them. You can turn them using the spinning arrow next to the trash icon.

See how pretty it looks, compared to most grading programs that only allow rows/columns!? 

The room is even set up correctly, with the front of the room at the bottom, like the teacher is looking out at the students.

3. Click the green "Return to class" button and then the fun really begins. Use the "Rearrange pupils" to automatically fill in your seating chart. I love that you can select to place Boys & Girls together, group Behavior scores together or apart, and can click the "Fill from front" button. Then, click "Optimise seating chart" and watch the magic happen. 

I used to spend HOURS making good seating charts and arranging the students' names into a Smart Notebook slide; now, if I don't like the one the computer makes, I just click "rearrange" repeatedly until I find one that works! The best part is, the more you use the behavior tracking part of the program, the better the AI computer will "optimize" your seating charts.

4. THINK: Give your students a question prompt, and allow them 5-10 minutes to jot down or type their answers into their device ON THEIR OWN. 

5. PAIR: Click the "Rearrange pupils" button and select the green "Make groups" button at the bottom. Drag the indicator line over until you have the right quantity for "Make X number of groups that have 2-3 students". Click "Make Groups". Here's what my "13 groups of 2 students" looks like.

Have the students move next to their partner that you have randomly selected using the group maker. The student on the left of each group (in the picture) will start up a Google Doc and share it with their partner and the teacher. 

Students copy/paste their existing writing into the shared document. Then discuss, evaluate, revise, and add to the document so that the "best of the best" ideas are represented. 

**Circulate while the students work; award positive & negative behavior points in the Classcharts program as needed. (As below)

6. SHARE: Use the group maker again, this time making groups of 4-5 students. Have students move to sit with their new group. 

You as the teacher create a Google Presentation and add add a slide for each group. Share the presentation with the entire class. (Group email distribution list works great for that, or Google Classroom, or Doctopus) 

7. GROUP THINK ACTIVITY: Each group completes the discuss/evaluate/revise/add activity again, referring back to the shared Google Documents that their partner groups had previously made. Their task is to come up with a unique "group thought" that synthesizes their ideas into one, coherent product. They delegate an editor to create their group's unique vision on their Google slide.

I attended a Google Leadership Symposium on March 24th where they had us do a similar activity. We started on our own (on paper), then processed with a peer (on paper), then talked as a group to make a slide. **One thing we noticed, that teachers should keep in mind, is that individuals kept changing the "theme" and even the order of the slides, which affected everyone who was working on it. 

Make sure to clarify who's slide is whose, and that they should only be making changes on THEIR OWN slide. If you, as the teacher, want to make a title slide, I would do it *after* the fact. That way Slide 1 belongs to Group 1, and Slide 2 to Group 2, and so on and so forth. 

8. PRESENT: Use the random student picker tool do select who will speak about the slide from each group. If they are unable or unprepared to speak, you can assign behavior points as needed. If they do a great job, you can award them merit points. 

Watch the random student picker tool in action:

And that's all she wrote! Critical writing is all about evaluating the merit of information, and the ability to defend your thinking effectively to an audience. and Google Apps for Education are two easy-to-use tools to help you incorporate this important 21st Century skill into your teaching!

Try them out. I'd love to hear how it goes!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Expanding the Classroom Walls" registration opens Tuesday 3/17!

Happy Spring Break everyone! We're going to hit 63 degrees today in Minnesota. Time to put on shorts and get the deck furniture out :) 

While I may be on break from my "day job", I'm also hard at work on my summer job; coordinating a pair of 3-credit summer onsite courses for Learner's Edge entitled "Expanding the Classroom Walls". Each course is an action-packed week of hands-on learning experiences at 15+ unique Twin Cities venues.

If you've never taken a course from Learner's Edge before, you are truly missing out! For only $450 per course, you receive 3 semester credits to apply toward district lane changes. Or sign up for both courses! OS-651 runs 6/15-6/19. OS-890 runs 6/22-6/26. 

The first ten teachers to sign up and tweet me @MandyBellm with hashtags #TCWallsI and/or #TCWallsIII will receive a prize on the first day of class!

What are the courses all about? 

Think back to your childhood. What are your most cherished and vivid memories from your school days? Many are probably from FIELD TRIPS! With tight budgets and constant pressure to meet state and federal standards, students are being exposed to fewer hands-on arts and enrichment experiences outside the classroom than ever before. Sadly, these very same field trips provide much more intense memory development and curriculum retention than ordinary classroom lectures. 

Fortunately, this trend does not need to continue! There are many low-cost options right in your own back yard. You may not even have to physically go to the sites; many locations will now bring their exhibits to you, either as traveling shows or as a virtual field trip. This course aims to open your eyes to new curricular opportunities, allowing teachers to examine their content for real-world learning applications, and to return with a field trip action plan that can be implemented immediately.

Tech-savvy teachers (and those brave enough to learn!) will get to try out QR codes, Google Forms, learn about geocaching, and research virtual field trips related to your content area. You can tweet and/or follow along on Twitter and

Email me: 
Email Learner's Edge: 

Here is some more detailed information, for my visual learner friends :)

OL-651 Itinerary (current as of today, 3/12): 

Monday 6/15: (9-4)
Meet & Greet @ Terrace Cafe, SPSC
Gabbert Raptor Center
Lunch break in Dinkytown
Bell Museum of Natural History
Como Zoo Tour & Wildlife Demonstration

Tuesday 6/16: (9-4)
Historic Murphy's Landing
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Lunch break at Oswald Visitor Center Restaurant
Wood Lake Nature Center

Wednesday 6/17: (9-4)
Basecamp BSA Rock Climbing & Ropes Course
MN Air National Guard Museum 
Lunch break & Geocaching @ Fort Snelling State Park
Historic Fort Snelling

Thursday 6/18: (9-4)
Ride the Light Rail Green Line! (optional)
Minneapolis Riverfront Walking Tour
Mill City Museum
Lunch break @ D'Amico & Sons
St. Paul Landmark Center tour & Exhibits

Friday 6/19: (9-1)
Dakota County Jail
St. Croix Valley Nature Center
Waste-Free Bag Lunch & Farewell @ Nature Center

OS-890 Itinerary (current as of today, 3/12): 

Monday 6/22: (9-4)
Meet & Greet @ Caribou Coffee in Ridgedale Mall
Westwood Hills Nature Center
Lunch & Scavenger Hunt @ Midtown Global Market
In the Heart of the Beast - Puppet & Mask Theater

Tuesday 6/23: (9-4)
Children's Theater Co. & MIA Tour
Lunch @ Eat Street Restaurants
Minnehaha Lock & Dam #1 Tour
Stevens House & Gardens Tour
Minnehaha Falls & Geocaching

Wednesday 6/24: (9-4)
Lyndale Park Rose Gardens
Thomas Sadler Roberts Birding Sanctuary
Pavek Museum of Broadcasting
Lunch & Tour @ St. Louis Park Rec Center & Wolf Park
MN Transportation Museum & Street Car Ride
Lake Harriet Bandstand & Geocaching

Thursday 6/25: (9-4)
Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary @ Phalen Creek
Minnesota History Center
Lunch @ Cosetta's
James J. Hill House Tour & Art Exhibit
Summit Ave Walking Tour ending at St. Paul Cathedral

Friday 6/26: (9-1)
WHCPA Pioneer Museum Tour with Bob Gasch
Long Lake tour of "The Big Woods" 
Gale Woods Farm Tour
Lunch & Farewell @ Peg's Countryside Cafe

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are entrance fees included in the course registration?
Yes, all facility fees are paid.

How is transportation arranged?
Teachers can drive one their own, or arrange car pools and split gas/parking fees if desired. I am coming from the west metro and can transport ~4 people each day.

Is lunch included?
No, all lunch activities are optional. Feel free to bring bagged lunches, water and snacks to eat whenever desired. 

What do we do if it rains?
Alternate rain-out activities such as virtual field trips will be provided as needed. 

What should we wear?
We will be walking around a LOT. Bring your teacher badge, dress appropriately in layers and wear comfortable close-toed shoes. Bring sunscreen, smart phones, chargers, notebook/paper, etc. as needed. 

Do I need to be a practicing teacher to take this course?
Some of the sites would prefer attendees to bring a teacher badge, but it is by no means required. Any teachers, subs, paraprofessionals, social workers, or other education professionals who are seeking graduate work or relicensure credits are welcome to enroll.

Do I need to be "techie" to take this course?
No, but teachers with smart phones will be learning how to use the QR Reader app and Teachers will be filling out Google Form surveys for each site we visit. Teachers are also encouraged to post pictures, info and videos to each site's Twitter and/or Facebook page as desired. 

What if I have other questions?
Email me at 

I look forward to seeing you there! Space is limited, so sign up right away on 3/17!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Zombie App Mashup Volume 4: Seesaw & Number Pieces Basic App + Coordinate Graph Art: Elementary Edition

Happy Presidents Day everyone! 

In honor of the holiday weekend, has my new book on sale for $11.50 AND it qualifies for Prime free 2-day shipping! This elementary edition will greatly simplify your life, in that each puzzle and its graph paper are contained on a single page... making them easy to import into a mobile device for coloring with Notability, Skitch, or some other coloring app. 

The target audience is grades 3-6, but this workbook is great for your younger high flyers... and extra fun for older students too!

Each of the individual chapters are for sale in my TpT store as well, if you want to try one out before buying the whole book.

And now for the long-awaited 4th edition of Zombie App Mashup... my two new favorite apps! Seesaw: The Learning Journal and Number Pieces Basic (which is anything BUT!). I can't take credit myself for either of them. One of my third grade teacher friends suggested the Seesaw app for his 3rd grade students, to be able to create, upload and submit work samples to the teacher without having to log into any accounts. And my first grade teacher friends tasked me with finding a place value app... then graciously allowed me to come into their classrooms and try it with their students! It was a big success!

The only thing I can possibly take credit for... is mashing these two together. I'll show you the benefits of both, and then how they can work together with just a few iPads in a classroom, or even using your teacher iPad / mobile device on its own. 

Let's start with the Seesaw app. Don't be confused... it doesn't say "Seesaw" on the app logo. But it has a picture of a seesaw! It takes maybe 5 minutes to download the app, create your class, and type in your students' names. Then you save and print a QR code that you can post in a digital lesson or on your actual classroom walls. Students scan your code, pick or create their item, upload it, and tag themselves (and any classmates who worked on the project). It's that simple!

Students can take a picture, write on it, or take a video, create a drawing, or pull an item off the camera roll. You as the teacher get an alert to "moderate" the item, to make sure it is tagged correctly, and that the work sample is high quality enough to be saved. Once you "accept", the item goes into that student's folder and then parents can be notified via email or push notification that a new item has been submitted. Easy enough for kindergarten; sophisticated enough for much older students to benefit as well! Here is a demo work sample:

Now let's change gears over to the Number Pieces Basic app... so you can see how that ties in... imagine you are teaching in a 1:1 environment, or as is the case for my district, a cart model. Students can easily log in and out of the Seesaw app on the cart, but they can also have the power to share work they have done in various apps. 

The key is teaching them how to use the "screen capture" feature, which many of them know how to do anyway. 

Hold down the home button and sleep button at the same time. 

You will hear the camera click; the picture is now saved to the iPad's camera roll. 

If you have taught your students how to use Seesaw and take  screen shots, the sky is really the limit. You could have them screen shot a "ShowMe" presentation with a picture and a sentence... or take a short video of themselves reading... or take a picture of a paper copy of work... or... submit a math problem using Number Pieces Basic!

I initially started using this app with 1st graders, to model place value with 100's, 10's and 1's, and to practice writing math sentences using addition and subtraction.

Then, of course, as often happens... the students discovered they could change the color of the pieces!

Perfect! Now we can use the same app to model integer equations.

Students drag the pieces over to the work area and then change the color from yellow to red, to represent negative numbers.

You can use the ten sticks to model variables, and the hundreds sticks to model exponential equations.

You can practice this as a station or as a 1:1 iPad activity, or as a whole-group activity on your teacher iPad.

Then, challenge your students to complete a final work sample... screen shot it... and submit it to the Seesaw app for credit.

You could even have them working with actual manipulatives or on a real mini-white board, and use your teacher device to video record themselves talking about their problem. Either way, they tag their name and submit it. The work process is the same.

Imagine the power... at conferences... your parents come in to hear how their child is doing in your class, and you have all sorts of work samples to show them. Video, picture, app screen shots, in addition to test scores and other paper items. What a great way to show growth over the course of the year!

Got more ideas for apps to combine with seesaw? Send 'em my way!