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.