Monday, July 10, 2017

How Google Classroom Changed The Way I Teach

This week's guest blog post is by Priya Subramanian, Gifted Specialist/PACE at Andrews Elementary School. 

Get Rid of So. Much. Paper:
I now organize all assignments and lesson plans in folders in Google Drive (My Drive) by grade level and edit them as needed every year. Since they are Google Docs, it is pretty easy to track the changes I made. One could, if they saw benefit, even make notes of the purpose behind the edits. This renders most of my hard copy homes, binders, and folders, redundant. I haven’t really gotten rid of them yet. They are simply buried in that deep, dark section of the cabinet where only spiders fearlessly inhabit. 😊

Assignments and Feedback:

Assignments are digitally ‘handed out’ and ‘turned in’ saving time and paper. I did the digital feedback through Google Classroom the last couple of years and hand-wrote them this year. I must say I think this year worked better – I don’t think they quite got how to check comments and I was never sure if they saw the comments. Also, with the hard copy, I remembered to provide feedback more often and when I did forget, the students reminded me. We were not that diligent when I did it online. I am sure there are ways to work around this to eliminate even that bit of paper, but for now I think I will stay with paper feedback.

Also, for those who need to grade papers ( I don’t 😊) do check out Goobric and Doctopus – they are Google Add-ons and work with Google Classroom so you can attach the grade and the rubric to the assignment. Pretty cool feature which I used the first year.

Sharing Links is a Breeze
Whether it is a link to a Google Doc or a website or YouTube link or pretty much anything in the cyber world that I need them to access, I just send it to Google Classroom with the handy Share to Classroom extension. It is an extension that is already installed in Google Chrome - just check the upper right corner of your Chrome window and look for the small Google Classroom icon that looks like a little chalkboard. I haven’t heard the dreaded whine, "the link doesn’t work for me" for a while now. "I miss that whine"… said no teacher ever!

Communicating with Parents:
My goal next year is to open up Google Classroom for parents, too. A cool feature that was added this year is called Guardian Summaries. It allows parents to receive an email summary of the postings in Google Classroom. However, I never used it because I have flexibility with assignment deadlines which is kind of hard to explain to parents. But I am making some changes for next year where I wouldn’t mind help from parents.

The One Drawback:
The little ones (1st and 2nd graders especially) had a lot of issues remembering/ saving their Google accounts. But, thanks to WebDesk, even point is now moot. So yeah, if you were looking for that ‘catch’, there is none! Also, here's a handout explaining how to use WebDesk. 

I know there are so many more advantages to using Classroom and I am going to kick myself for not remembering them sooner. For now, these are the ones that really stand out in my it’s-summer-mode brain. Bottom line, if you haven’t started using Classroom yet, then there is no better time to start than now!  Also, you can watch free online tutorials of how to setup and use Google Classroom in Atomic Learning. Here's a handout explaining how to log in at Atomic Learning.

Thank you to our phenomenal tech support team for their trendy, innovative solutions. They are the best!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Last Week...Treat Yo Self!

It's the last week of school. Time for packing it up, wrapping it up, and preparing yourself to be refreshed for a few precious weeks this summer. For secondary teachers, that means you're on finals schedule and giving countless pep talks for your kids to take it to the next level. For elementary teachers, it's difficult to let go of your babies that have grown up so very much over the last year. This week brings a whole host of emotions that we are not always equipped to deal with, but you can look back on this year with pride knowing you have made a difference in the life of a child.

What does this have to do with technology?  Nothing. We wanted to take the time to express how amazed we are at the level of educators in this district. Our group has logged about 800 hours of professional learning opportunities this school year and have interacted with every campus in this district. Your talent, drive, and ingenuity are what makes this district world class and our community thrive.

Summer learning is bigger and better this year! Here is a link to our summer catalog with enrollment instructions located on the last page. Times and dates are filling up very quickly, so don't miss out on some wonderful learning opportunities. Our district is committed to educating future ready students which means we support our future ready educators.

Have a fun, safe, and relaxing summer!

Your Instructional Technology Team,
Clara, Nancy, Leah, and Fern

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Create Animated Videos in Minutes with Biteable!

Have you ever wanted to create a video, but weren't sure how to get started or what tool to use? Animated videos work great as explainers, topic introductions, presentations, and more. If the phrase "create an animated video" seems like a daunting task, you need to give Biteable a try. Biteable bills itself as "The World's Simplest Video Maker," and it truly is super easy to learn and use. In just a few minutes, you can create and publish some very engaging and professional-looking animations.

To get started, go to and click the "Sign Up - Free" button at the top right. Signing up with your PISD Google account is a great way to go because it's one less password for you to remember. I created this "Meta-Biteable" - a Biteable on how to make a Biteable - in 5-6 minutes, and it took about 10 minutes to be rendered. (You can walk away from your computer at this point - or enjoy the fun scrolling messages you'll see while the video "cooks.")

Click the graphic below to see how the video turned out, and to get a quick run-through of how to make your own:

The next time you think about putting a video together, try Biteable!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Create and Share Voice Recordings Easily

Check out this FREE and easy feedback tool!

Imagine grading your student's work online and wishing you could provide your feedback verbally rather than typing it. Let's say, for example, you're reading a student paper typed in a Google Doc. You can add written comments in the margin, right? With the help of SpeakPipe, you can also record your voice explaining your feedback and paste the URL to your voice recording directly into the Google Doc comment box!

Why not just use a voice recorder app that's on your mobile phone or on your computer? SpeakPipe lets you save to their server so all you have to deal with is a URL rather than an audio file. What that means is NO uploading/downloading files for you or your recipients.

Follow these simple steps:

  • Go to
  • Click "Start Recording"
  • Click "Save on Server" 
  • Name your recording (optional) and Save it
  • Copy the link to your recording and paste it where you'd like
It's that easy!

Copy the link to the recording. 


This English teacher was looking for a way for her students to record their voice. 

We recommended SpeakPipe, of course! Here are Michelle's students using SpeakPipe.

Here are more ideas:

What can YOU do with SpeakPipe in your classroom/campus? Please share in the comments!

Monday, May 8, 2017

#AlwaysLearning: Your Hashtag for the Summer

Ah, summer. It's just around the corner, and you are probably dreaming of getting caught up on your reading, spending lazy days by the pool, ...and of course, learning some new technology skills! As teachers, we are first and foremost learners, and we should be modeling those lifelong learning habits for our students. Learning about new technology and how it can be used in your classroom to enhance your students' learning will be time well spent, and we've got some great deals for you!

Your Instructional Technology team has planned quite a lineup of classes for you to choose from this summer, and many of them are filling up quickly. Maybe you have been wanting to learn more about that Swivl and how to make the best use of it in your situation - there's a class for that! Or maybe you've wondered about the Google Certification process. That class won't certify you, but you can get answers to all of your questions about the process.  Or perhaps you consider yourself "tech timid" (or know someone who is...) and you need a friendly face to help walk you through some basics. Yep, there are classes for that, too!

Additional classes we are offering include:
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Docs & Drive for Beginners
  • Geeking Out with Green Screen
  • Presentations that Pop
  • and many more
Check this brochure for details on all our classes, and then check MyLearningPlan for availability and to enroll.
Additionally, the popular Ed Tech Success Initiative (ETSI) is back for its 4th year. Our enrollment process is a little different this year, and you can self-enroll for this valuable introduction to appropriate technology integration. You'll get two full days of amazing tech integration, plus 12 hours of PD credit. Secondary ETSI will be held Monday and Tuesday, July 31st & August st1, and Elementary ETSI will be on Wednesday and Thursday, August 2nd & 3rd. ETSI is only for professional staff members, but Edcamp ETSI is open to ALL PISD employees and will be on August 4th.

More information about ETSI can be found at

We hope you'll use at least part of your summer to take advantage of the great learning opportunities we've been planning for you! As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Host a Silent Auction Using 32 Auctions

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Anne Quaintance-Howard who is the fabulous art teacher at Schimelpfenig Middle School. Her students created some beautiful bowls and their chapter of the National Junior Art Honor Society were wanting to host a silent auction featuring the bowls in order to donate the money to the Food Pantry of Plano. After I composed myself from crying happy tears, Anne asked me if there was a tech tool that could help them organize this silent auction and have it available for relatives around the world to be able to place bids while keeping it private. Not a tall order at all! (Ha!) Determined to find something for these selfless students and their teacher, I came across a tool called 32 Auctions. What a gem!

First and foremost, this tools is FREE to use if you have 20 items or less to auction off! If you do have more items, the cost is $30 for up to 100 items. This is completely doable in most circumstances, but you do have the option of getting together with your teacher buddies and each creating an account to keep this a free endeavor.

Set up is very easy and just moderately time consuming on the front end. You will end up saving an enormous amount of time during maintenance and closing the auction due to the autonomous nature of this program. Features included with every auction (excerpt from 32 Auction website):

  1. List up to 20 items in your auction ($ to increase # of items).
  2. Display 1 image per item ($ for additional images).
  3. Set a custom auction link for easy access and sharing with participants, posting on social media sites, or linking from websites.
  4. Support for exact bids, proxy bids, and Buy Now purchases.
  5. Instant outbid and watch notifications keep participants engaged in the items they care about. Participants love that the notifications contain a link to the item, allowing them to quickly enter a bid and take back the lead. Bidding wars!
  6. Prevent auction sniping by enabling extended bidding.
  7. Display a fundraising goal meter on the main auction page to help drive bidding and exceed your goal.
  8. Flexible privacy settings allow you to open the auction up to anyone, limit access by email domain, or approve each participant individually. Running an auction at your school? Restrict the participants to only those who have a school email address (e.g.
  9. View all auction items, current selling prices, and leading bidder information on the consolidated sales summary view, making real-time bid tracking a breeze!
  10. There are many more features available, including custom item categories, a handy bidding amount calculator, featured items, multiple currencies, and copying items between auctions. There are simply too many to list!
Anne was able to utilize this tool and became quite the expert. She let us know that 32 Auctions was easy to use and saved her a lot of headache and time. The best part is that the kids went past their goal and more money went to help our local families in need!

If you want to give this a try, we are more than happy to help you get started. Feel free to contact your instructional technology team.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Nerdy Gifts for the Techie Teacher

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week! We celebrate and appreciate teachers every day of the year but next week is a special time to do a little something extra. We have a few suggestions for your favorite teacher ranging in price from free to $8.

Create a free account at Canva and design a cool e-card for your favorite teachers! (If you're under the age of 13, please create an account with your parents/guardians.) There are free layouts, free images, nice fonts, and an easy-to-use format. All your designs can be downloaded as a .png, .jpg, or .pdf and you can tweet them, email them, print them, or find any way to deliver your kind message to the teacher. You can check out Canva for some free tutorials, too!

For about 3 dollars, you can get one of these handy tablet/phone stands at Ikea. It comes in two colors and holds a phone or tablet in portrait or landscape mode. One end of the stand holds the device upright while the other end holds it at a slight tilt. A perfect gift for a techie teacher!
Photo credit: Ikea

For a techie teacher who regularly needs to recharge a device, a portable charger is a great idea. The chargers are slim and portable and will keep those devices fully charged all day. Portable chargers range in price and some are as low as $6.99. They can be found in pharmacies, department stores, and even grocery stores. Just make sure you read the label and buy the right kind of charger for your teacher's device.
Photo credit: Best Buy

Working on a laptop or computer with good lighting is important and this cute USB Astronaut is an affordable way to keep things bright. It has a handy clamp so moving it around is easy. It plugs into a device via USB so there are no batteries or need to be near an electrical outlet. Also, the LED light is long-lasting and did we say it's cute?!
Photo credit: Amazon

Yes, there are many wonderful apps that are free, but there are some paid apps well worth their price. Here are a couple of apps that techie teachers would love! Of course, that means you'd have to get a Google Play and/or Apple Store gift card but you could recommend these:

DoInk $4.99
This is a green screen app and is Apple only. No green screen? No problem! A piece of green butcher paper does the trick and your teacher can make green screen magic happen!

Explain Everything $7.99
This is an app for Android or Apple devices as well as Chrome or Windows. It is an interactive board that can have videos, images, and other content in various formats. Users have the ability to write on the content on the screen and build slide shows. It's available in multiple languages and has multiple rave reviews.

Now get out there and celebrate the amazing things teachers do every day for the students they love. But maybe celebrate in a geeky way! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Quizlet in the Foreign Language Classroom and More!

This week's guest blog post is by Lorena Meneses, Spanish Teacher at Clark HS.

Give your students the opportunity to engage in a classroom and have fun with this interactive and efficient tool! 


You can create a free account which includes the basics of the service and you’ll still be able to incorporate it the lessons in a way that is meaningful and fun.


It is especially useful if you are teaching a class that requires memorization and connecting ideas with concepts. For example, I teach Spanish, and because we merge the “Natural Approach” in our lessons, new vocabulary is taught in context within the curriculum. Quizlet has shown to be very effective in helping students analyze the content and retain the information.


Your free Quizlet account will allow you to search, save, and create as many study sets as you want and match them with the lessons you are presenting in the classroom.

Once you have the study set, you will have several options to engage students in their learning (flash cards, matching, tests) but certainly one of our favorites is Quizlet Live which is a very fun interactive game.

The site also offer ongoing support and new ideas periodically. Have fun!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

EquatIO - Making Math Digital

Sometimes it feels like the educational technology revolution has left out a subject that needs the most engaging tech tools possible...MATH! Almost every time a great new tool has been developed to engage students and encourage higher order thinking or computational skills, it's nearly impossible to easily write mathematical expressions or equations. How crazy is that?

(g)Math is a Google add on that was developed to help teachers and students write equations and insert into Docs, Sheets, and Forms. When I first used this tool, I was ecstatic over how easy it was to create step-by-step tutorials for my students and for them to show their work digitally and hand it back into me. Before you go running out to use this tool, I will tell you that the company who bought the rights to (g)Math will be retiring that program and have introduced an even better replacement called EquatIO.  Here is a quick video introduction:

Let's discuss radical equations for a little bit. How can students quickly write a radical equation in a Google Doc, show how to solve step-by-step, and then turn it into the teacher? Use EquatIO!  Here is a video I made showing how quick and easy it is to write radical equations in a Google Doc:

EquatIO is a Chrome extension that you can install for free from the Chrome Web Store. Keep in mind that you will have access to the premium features for 30 days and then you will always be able to keep the free features. Here is a chart explaining free vs. premium:

The free version contains the speech input as well as the ability to resize images and that's really all you need to create mathematical equations. 

If you choose to use this tool, please let us know you and your students' experience.  We want feedback and welcome partnering with you on effective ways to integrate technology in your classroom.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Summer PD Now in MyLearningPlan

Big news! PISD Tech's summer learning opportunities are in MyLearningPlan NOW!

To sign up, visit MyLearningPlan (this works at home or at school) and sign in with your PISD credentials.

Use any of these keywords to search the MLP catalog:
  • Google Bootcamp
  • From Consumer to Creator
  • Tech Timid
There are several class options under each of those 3 topics so be sure to look around. Classes are being offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during summer 2017.

For a description of all our classes, please view our new PISD Tech Summer Catalog. We look forward to learning with you this summer! 


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Give Your Students a Voice with Flipgrid

Flipgrid is possibly the coolest website/app I've seen in a long time. Put simply, a teacher can pose a question, and students can answer with a short video response. The students' videos show up on a board so that they can see each others' responses. All you need is a device (iPad, smart phone, Chromebook, or desktop/laptop) that has a camera. Oh, yeah, and your students' wonderfulness.

Here's how you can get started. Go to and click the blue Create Account button at the top right. Complete the required information (the free version is probably plenty, at least while you're getting started) and Create My Grid. Click the blue + New Grid button to continue.

You will get ONE grid, which doesn't sound like a lot, but you can create many topics within the Grid - so give the Grid your broadest category name, like "Mrs. Watson's Class" or "9th Grade English 2017." When you're creating your Grid, be sure to scroll all the way down so that you can select a cover image - you gotta make it look cute, right? When everything has been entered and you're happy with your cover image, click Create Grid in the lower right corner of the screen.

The next thing you'll do is create your first Topic by clicking the + New Topic button. Think of the Grid as your file folder, and the Topics as the individual files within that folder.  The topic is your lesson title or the questions you want your students to answer (e.g. What did you learn today? What problem do you want to solve tomorrow? What do you have questions about?) It will look something like this:

Click Create Topic, and you will get a message with the information you'll need to provide to your students so they know where to go to answer your question. Note that you will see two links; one is for the entire Grid, and the second goes straight to the Topic.

There are several ways that you can provide this link to your students. Since it's not long, your older students can just copy it and type it into their browser's address bar. You could copy and paste the link and put it on your Google Classroom, Smore, or other tool you use to communicate with your students. OR, students can just enter the code (in this case, 0e4bd8 - whatever comes after in the field at the bottom of the student website or on the Flipgrid app if the student is using a smartphone or tablet. Note that your students do NOT have to create an account (and are not allowed to if they are under 13), but they will need to provide their first and last name before they can submit their video.*

Give your kids a voice with Flipgrid!

For more videos about Flipgrid, check out the Flipgrid Social YouTube channel.

*Please note Flipgrid's privacy policy, especially as it relates to students under the age of 13. It will be a best practice to make parents aware of this policy and to get their permission before using the app with your students.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Consumers or Creators?

Reflecting on what to write in this week's blog, I weighed between introducing another tech tool or speaking about the importance of authentic and seamless tech integration. With the explosion of Edtech and Plano ISD's commitment to develop 21st century learners, I decided to go with the latter.  If you follow this blog and read our posts every week, I am preaching to the choir and I hope you will be able to solidify your passion for preparing your students for the future. Consider sharing this post with a co-worker, administrator, or important stakeholder in education who wants to strive for technology integration excellence. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Keeping Up

Keeping up with technology isn’t easy because it’s always changing. The evolution of a tool is so fast that it can end up looking like a flash in the pan. That is true in some cases but most of the time, ideas are improving at such a rapid pace and developers know that consumers want the best of what is out there. The tools evolve quickly because developers are striving to meet consumer needs.

When an app or tool is created, we start using it regularly because we enjoy its benefits. Being the teachers that we are, we immediately share it with others. This leads to many people using the app/tool and providing feedback such as, “I would love it if this app could also do…” And just like that, an idea is born and we get an app with updated features.

The concept of adapting to something better is nothing new. “New and improved” is a cliche in advertising because we always want the best of what is out there. And when it comes to our learners, we definitely want them to have the best.

So how do we keep up? There isn’t one easy answer to this but one solid answer is digital literacy. Having a strong foundation in digital literacy can help when adapting to new tech tools. Digital literacy is a deep topic that includes digital citizenship, media literacy, and understanding how to use technology. Digital literacy is not a fixed, one-time course that you can check off and be done; it develops and grows with you just as literacy does because we use it every day. Unless you’re willing to cut up your debit cards, never touch a cell phone, and give up your job that requires the use of a computer, you ARE using your digital literacy skills every day.

Just as there are ways to sharpen your literacy skills, there are also ways to sharpen your digital literacy skills. You can take a digital literacy assessment. You can watch various tutorial videos in Atomic Learning. You can also play; don’t be afraid to push buttons and explore within an app. You might click the wrong button from time to time but that's a good thing! We all know there are many rich lessons within failure. Keep trying!

Another answer is mindset. A fixed mindset won’t work with the rapid growth of technology. In order to keep up, one must have a growth mindset that is open to change, learning, and developing digital literacy every day. Rather than waiting to be trained on how to use a new tech tool, why not click around and try to figure it out? Taking that initiative into your own hands, investigating an app/tool, and discovering how to use a tool on your own is like a workout for your digital literacy skills.

If you’ve got a growth mindset and have an interest in sharpening your digital literacy skills, you should consider coming to Plano ISD’s Educational Technology Success Initiative (ETSI) which is held every summer. ETSI is a fun two-day workshop that focuses on digital literacy, instructional technology integration models, leadership, and ISTE standards. Open enrollment begins March 21 in MyLearningPlan. More information can be found on the ETSI site.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Get Ready for ETSI 2017!

We are so excited about Plano's 4th annual Ed Tech Success Initiative! ETSI has become a very popular professional learning experience, where you will learn the ins and outs of purposeful and effective technology integration that keeps the focus on your students and curriculum.

Secondary Teachers 7/31 & 8/1; Elementary Teachers 8/2 & 8/3; Edcamp 8/4
Click the image for more information
Principals will be preregistering interested teachers between now and March 20 at 5:00 p.m., so if you are interested in attending ETSI, talk to your principal about getting a guaranteed spot. Beginning at 8:00 a.m. on March 21, all professional educators in PISD can register themselves in MyLearningPlan until we are full. Secondary professional staff members will attend ETSI on Monday and Tuesday, July 31 and August 1. Pre-K and Elementary staff members will attend ETSI on Wednesday and Thursday, August 2 and 3. ALL staff members, including paraprofessionals, are invited to attend the Edcamp on Friday. 

We have lots of meaningful (and FUN) technology learning in store for you. Please don't hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email if you have any questions. And set an alarm for 8:00 a.m. on March 21 so you can sign up!

Monday, February 27, 2017

TCEA Recap

We wanted to give you a recap of our experiences at the annual TCEA (Texas Computer Educators Association) Convention & Exposition.  The purpose of this event is to bring together campus and district level educators to explore best practices for engaging students, increasing productivity, and innovating teaching and learning with technology. It's held over 5 days, had over 900 sessions, 10 academies, and 450 exhibitors. Our team was very fortunate to have been selected to present 10 times over the course of the week. Whew!

It was impossible to attend all the wonderful sessions available for us to attend, but here is a link to a list of 510 handouts for you to peruse at your leisure. LOL! No one has that kind of time, but the titles are indicative to what the handout covers.

As always, please feel free to contact us anytime for all your instructional technology needs.  Spring break here we come!!!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Anything Google?!

We often get training requests for “Anything Google” and that’s a very broad range of products and services. We hear over and over that teacher voice and choice is essential for effective professional learning and yet, these one-size-fits-all sessions appear regularly. Sometimes, the training sessions are mandatory even if the tool wouldn’t be a good fit for that teacher.

Many times, teachers tell us they aren’t sure what specific Google tool they want to learn because they’re unsure of the product’s features and don’t know if it would be a good fit for their classroom. And worse, sometimes it is *after* a training has ended that a teacher says “I get it now but I will never be able to use this in my classroom.”

In an effort to promote voice and choice and focus on the tools and services to help teachers reach their goals, we have a great idea to help introduce G-Suite (Google Apps for Education) and decide which specific tools would be the most helpful for a teacher.

In Atomic Learning, you’ll find several short videos that introduce a Google tool. Each video is just a minute or two and can easily clear up any questions about what a tool can offer. Then, a teacher can decide which tools are worth pursuing in order to make an impact in the classroom. Follow these easy steps to find the videos:

  1. Log in to Atomic Learning (instructions below)
  2. In the search field, type “G Suite)
  3. Watch the short video clip for more information on a Google tool

Note - you must be logged in to Atomic Learning to view the videos. All Plano ISD staff and students have an account. Just use the instructions below to log in at school or at home:

When you find the Google tool that piques your interest, spend a little time browsing in Atomic Learning. This online learning center also offers multiple training modules for Google tools such as Google Docs, Google Classroom, and Google Drive. You can complete a module, print a certificate, and enter it in MLP for credit! (Instructions on how to add your own hours to MLP can be found here.) Or reach out to the Instructional Technology team and we would be happy to provide training.
Now go get Googly and never stop learning!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Want a New Way to Tell Stories? Check Out (formerly is a website I just stumbled on over the weekend, and it looks like it has some great features for the classroom. Sutori's tag line is "the best way to tell your story," but it offers much more than just storytelling. Teachers and students can create pages (called stories) with many different types of media as well as embedded quiz questions.  Bonus: because Sutori does not collect email addresses or other information about students, Sutori is fully COPPA compliant and therefore can be used with students under the age of 13.

Teachers can sign in to Sutori using their Google logins, and will select Educator as the account type. Once signed in, you'll have the option of creating either a story or a class.

To create a story, click the "Create a story" box, and the simple interface enables users to add text, images, audio, quiz questions, and more:

Sutori content types

Everything saves automatically in real time, so if interruptions occur, you won't lose your work. (Thanks to Google for making this the industry standard, amirite?!) After creating your story, you can quickly add it to any or all of the classes you've created by clicking the Add to my classes button and selecting the appropriate classes. You can also share your story with people outside your class by clicking Share and making your story public.

Teacher view

To create a class, click the appropriate area on your dashboard, then share the code with your students. Students will go to, click Sign up, then click the Student option.

Students will then be prompted to sign in, and they can use their Google account to do so. To give students more privacy, you might suggest that they delete all but the first initial of their last name before clicking the "Complete the sign up" button. 

Student view

After completing the signup process, students will enter the code for the class that you have provided to them. 

Student view

Students can work on their stories privately until they are ready to submit them. To submit, students click the Submit button, confirm the class to which they are submitting, and then click Done.

Student view

As students submit their stories, you'll be able to see their names listed on your class roster:

Teacher view

Once students have submitted their stories, click the Share button.You'll have the choice to share only to the class or publicly...

Teacher view

... and after the stories have been shared to the class, students will have the option of adding classmates as collaborators by clicking Collaborate and then typing the classmate's name:

Student view

For more information on getting started in Sutori, you can check out their page titled How to Create a Story

Here are some examples of ways that Sutori is being used in grades K-5, and you can click below for examples of uses in older grades:

We hope you find some ways to use this versatile tool in your classroom. As always, let us know if we can help you get started with this or any other technology product.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Explainer Videos Made Easy With My Simpleshow

Educators (learning designers) and students (creators) can now make creative explainer videos without elaborate software or an extensive learning curve using My SimpleShow.  What's an explainer video and why would I use this you say?  Check out the video below:

Now you know the's the HOW!

Step 1 - Go to and log in with Google using your district email address and password. 

Step 2 - Click on Create new video

Step 3 - You have a choice between writing your own script (preferred method) or uploading a Powerpoint file (up to 20 slides, max 50MB).

Step 4 - If you choose to write your own script, there are a variety of storyline templates to guide your writing.

These storylines give your video structure and provides you with easy to follow guidelines and examples.

Want to start completely from scratch? No worries, just choose a blank template.

Step 5 - The example on the left shows interpret literature or a movie storyline. Write your text in the allotted space on each card.  There is a word count limit dependent upon the type of card you are using.

Examples of what to put on each card are located on the right hand side.

Step 6 - This is where the "magic" happens! The Explainer Engine will suggest illustrations (up to 7 illustrations for each card) from their database to illustrate your story.

You also have the ability to use your own images and move them anywhere on the visual card.  

Step 7 - Choose the type of audio you want associated with your video.  You have the option of using text2speech, your own voice, with/without subtitles, and speed of the video.

Step 8 - Finalize your video

Step 9 - Publish your video on your YouTube Channel or download as an MP4 file on your hard drive. 

Release student creativity and enjoy facilitating authentic tech integration in your classroom with this simple tool.  Please share how this worked in your classroom.  We would LOVE to hear from our esteemed teachers!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Padlet - Free Online Collaboration

What is Padlet?
Padlet is an application that allows you to have online collaboration. It's like an electronic bulletin board that can be accessed by many users anywhere you can get online. Here is an example of a Padlet that had multiple contributions.

How much does it cost? 
There are different levels ranging from a free version to $45 for a yearly subscription.

How can it be accessed?
You can access the website in any browser.
It's available in the Apple Store and Google Play for access via app on tablets/phones.
Padlet Mini is also an extension in Google Chrome.

How do I use it?
After logging in (we suggest logging in with your PISD Google account) you create a new Padlet by clicking  + New Padlet.

Click the Gear icon (pictured below, center) to open the Modify panel.

In this panel you can change the title, add a description, change the layout, select a theme, create a custom URL to your Padlet, and more. Just be sure to click Save before exiting the Modify panel.

How do I control the sharing options? 
Click the Share icon (pictured below, left) to open the sharing options. You can have public, private or password protected Padlets. In this area you can also add other contributors who can edit the Padlet options.

What else can I do with it? 
Click the Three Dots icon (pictured below, right) to open a menu with options to view in full screen, print, export, remake, or get help using Padlet.

How do others add their content to a Padlet?
You send the URL of your Padlet to others. They click the URL and launch your Padlet. Then an easy double-click anywhere on the Padlet will open a text box for their entry. How about a little practice? Click this link to view our Padlet and provide a response to the question on top: 

How might I use Padlet?
Check out our Padlet for ideas!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Office 365 in Education: Explore the Possibilities!

Every Plano ISD educator and student has an Office 365 account. What does that mean? How do you get to it? Read on to find out!

Office 365 has SO many applications and features. I will cover some of the most popular ones for education. For reference, you can learn more about each here:

In this post I will frequently compare Office 365 to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) because Plano has been a GAFE district for several years now and most of you are familiar with how it works.

What is Office 365?

Similar to Google Apps for Education (GAFE), Office 365 Education has a suite of Apps to help teachers and students stay organized, collaborate with each other, and engage others.

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You do not need to create an account as one is already provided for you through the PISD organizational account. These apps are available from any device so you can be productive on the go.

More information on each app is detailed in the "Office 365 Apps" section below.

How to Access Office 365

  1. Go to or log in to and click the Office 365 icon.
  2. Click "Work or school account". Enter your PISD email address and network password.

Once logged in, you'll arrive at a dashboard of Office apps available for you to use. 

Log in to your Office account by going to

Note that the button "Install Office 2016" will not work as we cannot install executable files on school computers. However, you don't need it because you already have the online version! 

You can customize the background theme/color by clicking on the Settings gear button and then "Theme". 

Dabble in your Settings to see what else it has to offer. Notice you can select a different Start Page if you'd like. Please do not change your password here. 

Office 365 Apps

Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, & Excel - 
The online versions of this software make it handy to create, share, and access a document online at anytime from anywhere. Just login to the link above and click the icon for the application that you want. Be sure to check out all the templates available.

Microsoft Classroom -
This is very similar to the way Google Classroom works. However, it is not live yet. Users will be able to add the OneNote Class Notebook add-in to improve the classroom functionality and student workflow.

OneNote -
OneNote is a note taking and organization tool that all PISD students and educators have on their school computers. A digital notebook! It can be found in the PISD Apps Microsoft Office folder. Sync it with OneDrive online so that you can access it from anywhere. Check out the comprehensive OneNote lesson in Atomic Learning. Here's how:
  • Go to
  • Sign in using your PISD email address and network password, 
  • Search for "OneNote for Organization and Collaboration" to learn all about what OneNote 2013 can do for you and your students. 

OneNote Class Notebook -
In this program you can organize course content, add students and create a personal workspace for them, create and share interactive lessons, and have a collaborative space for you and your students. OneNote Class Notebook opens within your existing OneNote. No download needed! (Do not click the button to download the OneNote Class Notebook program to your school computer because it will not work and is not necessary). Visit the site above to learn how to create one.
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Outlook -
When logged in to your Office 365 account you can click on the "Mail" button, which takes you to the online version of your Outlook email. No install needed! Just sign in to your Microsoft account and click the Mail button. Or you can go directly to

OneDrive -
When logging in to OneDrive, be sure to click "OneDrive for Business" and sign in using your PISD email address and network password. If you're familiar with Google Drive, the concepts for OneDrive are the same. Formerly known as SkyDrive, OneDrive is an online storage space for files and folders allowing you and your students to:
  • create and share documents online, 
  • collaborate on a document at the same time with others, 
  • have access to lots of storage space (1TB in your Office 365 account compared to Unlimited in your Google Drive)
Forms -
Very much like Google Forms, you can create a Microsoft Form to survey or quiz your classroom/audience. If you're familiar with Google Forms, you'll recognize the format, making it easy to use. Comparatively, there are limited themes to choose from but I love that in the Preview screen you can view the form on computer or a mobile device.

Sway -
Make presentations POP with this cool tool. Create interactive lessons, use existing templates, and have students use Sway as a refreshing alternative to presentation tools like PowerPoint. Get the full overview of how it works by watching this video: Office Sway: Reimagine How Your Ideas Come to Life (video)

Preview of
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As always, your Instructional Technology Specialists are here to help you with any of the above. We strongly encourage you to seek how any one of these Office 365 Education apps might benefit you and your students in the classroom and how integrating these technology tools can meet your T-TESS goals.