Learning new apps

While virtually taking part in the recent ISTE 2016 conference as part of the #notatiste16 group, there was a lot of use of some apps that I had heard of but never delved into.  These apps were to share and collaborate all of the resources we were virtually collecting.  The apps are Voxer and DoInk Green Screen.


Voxer is a messaging app for your smartphone with live voice (sort of like a walkie talkie), text, photo and location sharing.  You click a button and the walkie talkie sound beeps and you record your message for the person or group to hear.  It was pretty neat and was often better than Tweeting or texting.  I have heard of educator groups using Voxer to communicate but never jumped on board.  It is definitely worth looking into and has potential.


DoInk Green Screen DoInk

Green Screen by Do Ink allows the user to green screen videos and images right on an iPad.  You can combine photos and videos from the camera roll with live images from your iPad’s camera.  This app was used as part of the #notatiste16 challenge and you had to green screen a picture of yourself over an image from ISTE.

I will say that the app is not as intuitive as I thought it would be.  It took some playing around to learn how to get it working.  They do have pretty good tutorials.  Once I figured out how to work the app, it was easy to create layered images.  I will definitely be showing this app to teachers.

Two notes about DoInk:

  1.  You do not need to have a green background (I used a white wall)
  2. It costs $2.99


Thoughts on Attending a Conference Virtually


As some of you know, the last week of June is usually a time to “get your ed tech geek on” at the largest educational technology conference known as ISTE.  This year the event is being held in Denver and it is the first one that I have missed in a while.  One of the interesting things has been that I have been able to follow along through social media and especially the hashtag #notatiste16.

So here are my thoughts on attending a large conference virtually:


  • You get to collaborate, share and explore resources from the conference.
  • You can grown your PLN!
  • You can attend sessions though virtual sessions, Periscope and Google Hangouts
  • It’s free!


  • Miss seeing all of my ed tech friends in person.
  • Not all sessions are shared
  • If you are off of social media for a while, you can lose track of resources and the conversation.
  • It’s harder to ask questions of presenters or sessions

What I learned:

  • Tweetdeck can handle a TON of columns. Tweetdeck
  • Loved watching Tony Vincent Periscope throughout the conference
  • Tons of resources are on this Livebinder
  • The competition of the #notatiste16 challenge drove me to be more active.

So, if you get a chance, try attending a conference virtually, it is a fun experience and at the end of the day, if you learn something new, it was all worth it.

iPad Apps for Student Creativity

Favorite Apps for Creating on the iPad

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.08.01 AM Notability – is the perfect app for taking notes for creating projects.  You can also used it to edit storyboards, scripts, or drawings.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.04.57 AM Lego Movie Maker – This simple little app allows students to create their own stop motion Lego movies.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.15.40 AM Touchcast – Terrific app for creating “news stories” with students.  Has great green screen effects, picture-in-picture, teleprompter and many more features.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.20.23 AM Toontastic – is a creative storytelling app that enables kids to draw, animate, and share their own cartoons with friends and family around the world. Toontastic records your animation and voice as a cartoon video.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.21.55 AM Snapseed – This app brings to your mobile device the power and control of professional photo editing software, previously only available on the desktop.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.24.32 AM Explain Everything – A unique interactive screencasting whiteboard app being used by over 2 million students, teachers, leaders, and learners around the world.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.26.28 AM iBrainstorm – Capturing and sharing your inner most creative genius has never been easier.  From iPad to iPad with just a flick of the finger, iBrainstorm has set the bar and has redefined the very nature of collaboration.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.29.29 AM Phonto – is a simple app that allows you to add text to pictures
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.30.42 AM Autodesk SketchBook is an intuitive painting and drawing application designed for people of all skill levels, who love to draw.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.24.32 AM Explain Everything – A unique interactive screencasting whiteboard app being used by over 2 million students, teachers, leaders, and learners around the world.
Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 8.38.42 AM Tellagami – is a mobile app that lets you create and share a quick animated Gami video.


The Impact of Social Media

How are you and your students using social media?

More and more we need to talk to kids about the power of social. Both the good and the bad.  Here are two recent examples:

Recently my Facebook page has been filled with people doing the #ALSIcebucketchallenge.  I’m sure you’ve seen or heard of it.  Everyone from kids to former presidents have dumped buckets to ice on their heads to raise money and awareness for ALS.

icebucket-640x360The posts and hashtag have gone viral. Millions of dollars have been raised for the organization for research.  All because one man decided to dump ice water on his head for charity.

A side benefit of this has been some increased dialogue about other issues. Some people will say why dump the water, just donate the money.  Others say that they don’t support some of the research by ALS and are opting to donate their money to other organizations that better align with their personal beliefs.

The point of this example is to have a conversation with your children or students.  Talk to them about the pros and cons of these types of viral trends and what it means to “Like” or support the trend.

Another example is a story about a young man who made a social media mistake.

Check out the following Tweet from a Penn State football coach:

This simple tweet speaks volumes to what can happen when kids do not use social media correctly.  Coach hand said in an interview, ““If a guy makes the decision to post or RT stuff that degrades women, references drug use or cyber-bullying crap, then I can make the decision to drop them,” Hand said. “Especially if I have discussed it with them prior, and especially in today’s climate of athletics.”

Are we truly educating kids about what they are “Liking”, Sharing or “ReTweeting”?  If a student, “Likes” something on social media it means they are showing support for that post.  Some may think it is funny or whatever, the point is that the post may cost them their future.  Even as adults we need to be careful of the message we are sending when we “Like”, “ReTweet” or “Pin” something.

InfiniteWP For Managing Sites

As a WordPress site developer I currently manage over 20 websites.  While most of these are client sites, I also manage several personal sites like my Teaching the Civil War with Technology, my daughter’s Geeky Girl and my son’s Journey Through Scouting.

With all of these websites to manage it takes time to see which ones need plugins updated or just their overall health.  I have to navigate to the site, login, check for updates, run the updates, verify, logout and move to the next site.   If I take 10 minutes on each site for updates, it could take several hours to complete.  What I needed was a way to manage all of my WordPress installs from a single location.

Enter InfiniteWP

What an amazing tool.  InfiniteWP is a free, self-hosted multiple WordPress management platform that simplifies your WordPress management tasks into a simple click of a button.

How does it work?

After you enter your email address you can download the install file.  You can either run the program from your self hosted site or if you are running XAMP like I am, you can run it locally.  It is a simple install that takes minutes.  Once you install the app and get it running the next step is to add sites to your dashboard.

First you will need to login to the website you want to manage and install the InfiniteWP plugin.  Once the plugin is installed and activated, it will provide you with an Activation Key.  From there you go over to your InfiniteWP dashboard and click add site.  You enter the site URL, the admin name and the Activation Key that I just mentioned.  That’s It!

From there you can add as many sites as you want and you can click update all and every plugin and theme will be updated.

Oh wait there’s more!

From the dashboard you can also visit the site, back it up, launch the admin panel and write posts. And the best part of all… it’s FREE!

I encourage you to go to check out InfiniteWP  especially if you manage multiple sites. It is a major time saver.  Their documentation is great and they have a good knowledge base.

Finally, while not free, they do have numerous Addons  that compliment the base package.  While I have not tried any yet, I am seriously considering the Google Analytics feature and possibly the WP Maintenance Addon.  Again, more time savers.

Go check it out and let me know what you think.

Wrestling and Engaging Students in the Classroom

My sons wrestle at the Central Pa Stars Wrestling Club I’m Carlisle.  Last week was the first of two summer camps and my son Josh attended. There were about 70 kids who attended the camp. Here is a photo:

Now I know what you are thinking.  Why is he talking about wrestling on an educational technology blog?  Well, I’m going to tell you. See these boys, between age 8 and 17, started on Sunday at 3pm and wrestled for 5 hours.  They then went from 8am till 8pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday’s session was 8 – 4:30.  This is during the summer and it was between 80-90 degrees outside all week!  It was even hotter in the room.

Again,  what does this have to do with education you ask?  I say everything.  The photo above was taken at 7:30pm on Wednesday of the clinic. Each and every wrestler in that room was listening quietly and intently to the coach.  They were standing up to get a better view or asking clarifying questions.  And when the coach said to go practice it, they stood up, clapped once in unison, jogged back to their spot and began working.  They were ENGAGED in the lesson.

How does this relate to a classroom? We need to find what motivates our students. What are they passionate about? Tap into that energy and passion.  They don’t all have to be wrestlers.  They can be singers, writers or football players.  They can even be a video gamer. FIND their passions and use it to engage them in each and every lesson.  

It does not have to be with technology either.  You can engage students in a history lesson by having them create a Viking ship out of styrofoam and duct tape.  Have them create an igloo out of gallon milk jugs, or create their own classroom.  Anything is possible when we get kids engaged in learning.

Using Google Alerts to Monitor Your Organization

Google Alerts

Simply stated, Google alerts are free email updates from Google search results about any topic you’re interested in tracking.

Google Alerts

Why should you and your organization use Google Alerts?  Personally, I track numerous search terms for various topics and projects. For example, I track my own name, my websites, certain key industry events and terms, and many more terms/topics. Anytime Google adds something to its index that mentions the topic “Civil War Lesson Plans” – I receive an immediate email notification with a link to that item.

Google Alerts allows me to quickly and easily monitor what people are saying about me, my company and the sites I manage.  If someone mentions any of these online, I am able to respond.  For example, if someone adds a link to one of my websites and makes a comment about it, I can jump over to their site and say thanks. If it happens to be a negative comment, I can respond accordingly. Without Google Alerts, I would not be able to find out about this link.

Finally, without the ability to learn about new content, I would have difficulty participating in online discussions about various topics or about issues that are important. Moreover, Google Alerts help me to follow new developments in the industry.