Friday, March 30, 2012

Looking to the stars, App# 30--Google Sky

Google Sky:

(Though Google Earth is a familiar application and sky is really just an extension of Earth, its features go unnoticed oftentimes. Sky also has the capability of being viewed through a Web browser.)

Synopsis: With sky (in either Google Earth or in a Web browser), you can view the moon, sky, and Mars in infrared, microwave, and historical views. Sky was created through astronomers at some of the largest observatories and through images from the Hubble Space Telescope and other significant sky surveys. In the infrared view, you can change the transparency from optical to infrared. In the microwave view, you can see the universe 380,000 years after the big bang. And, in the historical view, you can see how the sky was drawn by Cassini in 1792. The images are the same in Google Sky and Google Earth. However, you don't need to install Google Earth to view it--you can go directly to Google Sky via a Web browser. You also have the ability to see where the planets are in the sky at the current moment. For the more experienced users, you can embed your favorite view of the sky into any Webpage (just as you can in Google Earth).

Check out what you can do in Sky:

Check out how you can explore sky in Google Earth:

Integration: With an interactive white board, imagine how sky could be utilized. Just as students can manipulate the earth in Google Earth, they can manipulate and interact with the sky (in real time as well) with an interactive whiteboard/sky combo. Earth changed what students could do in the classroom and sky/moon/Mars has advanced that further. Students can now zoom into regions of the sky, moon, and Mars with the touch of their finger. They can walk the moon, fly in space, and see outer-space as if they are actually in it.  Students can search by the different dunes, regions, craters and more in Mars. On the moon, they can take tours of the lunar landing sites. And, in the sky, they can time travel back to 380,000 years after the big bang. Google Sky is one more advancement that makes Google Earth a necessity in any classroom.

Some FAQs from Google:

1. What am I looking at?
Google Sky includes a number of different ways to explore the universe. The initial view shows the visible universe and is a mosaic of images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Digitized Sky Survey and the Hubble Space Telescope. Select the thumbnail images at the bottom of the display to bring up the planets, the constellations, highlights from the Hubble Space Telescope, famous stars, galaxies and nebulae, views of the universe in the x-ray, ultraviolet and infrared and podcasts about upcoming astronomical events from Earth and Sky Podcasts. Other items available through Google Sky:
  • Infrared - An infrared view of the sky from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). Change the transparency of this layer by moving the slide bar to blend the optical and infrared.
  • Microwave - A view of the microwave sky from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which shows the universe as it was 380,000 years after the big bang.
  • Historical - The sky as drawn by Giovanni Maria Cassini (printed in 1792) showing the constellations in their classical form from the collections of David Rumsey
2. Is the imagery different from Sky in Google Earth?
The images seen in Google Sky are identical to those found in Sky in Google Earth. We have changed the projection to display these images within Google Maps (the Mercator projection). As with Google Maps this means that we cannot view the northern and southern celestial poles.
3. Where did all these data come from?
The imagery for Google Sky comes from some of the largest ground- and space-based astronomical surveys.
The visible data comes from a combination of surveys: the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Digital Sky Survey Consortium which you can find more about at:,,, and; NASA and ESA's Hubble Space Telescope about which you can find more at the Space Telescope Science Institute and the ESA Hubble Space Telescope home page. More details about these observatories can be found on our partners page.
Additional layers for Sky came from a number of space orbiting observatories: the x-ray data from NASA's Chandra satellite, the ultraviolet images from NASA's GALEX satellite, the infrared images from the joint NASA, Netherlands and UK Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the microwave sky from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite.
The historical constellations layer are created from the historical maps available at the David Rumsey Historical Maps Collection.
The layers were created in collaboration with the University of Washington sky team .
4. Can I find where the planets are on the sky tonight?
Absolutely, type the name of the planet in the search box and Google Sky takes you to where it can be found on the sky. Alternatively, if you click on the "Our Solar System" icon on the initial view, thumbnails of prominent solar system objects appear. Clicking one of these thumbnails will take you to the current location of that planet on the sky.
5. How do I find my favorite place on the sky?
If you know the name of the star or galaxy that you are looking for, simply enter it in the search box (e.g. Pleiades or Messier 85). Don't worry about misspellings Google Sky will spell check it for you. If you want to find a particular position on the sky you can also enter the coordinates (Right Ascension and declination) in the search box.
6. Can I use the add-ons for Sky found in the Google Earth Gallery?
Some KML and KMZ files will work in Google Sky (including those found in the gallery). To load a KML file, simply enter its URL in the search box and click search. Gooogle Maps supports KML features such as placemarks, polygons and image overlays. Time-based KML and regionated images are not currently supported. More details on what features are supported can be found here .
7. Can I create my own view of the sky?
Yes! The imagery for Google Sky is available in the same way as Google Maps. You can embed your own view of the sky on any webpage and customize the view to show your favorite aspect of astronomy. To find out more check out this maps api blog post.
8. How do I find out more about these data, or about astronomy in general?
There are many places on the web to find out more about astronomy and the images we use in Google Sky. Good places to start are the homepages of our partners listed above or at the astronomy page on Wikipedia . There's also a pretty good search engine that could aid you in your quest.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Self graded quizzes all in one, App# 29--Google Scripts and Flubaroo

Flubaroo:  or

(With Google Forms, teachers have been able to create quizzes for several years. Then, teachers discovered how to create formulas to self grade those quizzes. Finally, scripts were created to apply those formulas to multiple forms. Flubaroo supplies those scripts. Below you will find tips and tricks for creating formulas, forms, and scripts)

Synopsis: First, you have to learn how to make a form.

When you create a form, you automatically create a corresponding spreadsheet. That spreadsheet tallies the results. Normally, that is all it does. However, if you set up a formula, you can have those results compared to the formula (the correct answer) and, therefore, automatically graded.

(From Dr. Mark Wagner):

Or, you can make it even easier on yourself and make a script into your spreadsheet. Once you do this, you can apply this same script to any spreadsheet without having to recreate formulas over-and-over. Here's how to create a script using Flubaroo:

Flubaroo how to:  (This site provides step-by-step instructions for adding a script to your Google Spreadsheet, which will automatically grade your quizzes.)

So, now you have two ways for developing self-graded quizzes in Google: scripts with Flubaroo or formulas.

Integration: Forms have been around for some time now (technologically speaking) and so have formulas and scripts. However, with Google Apps for Education, those items now have a bargaining force for use in the classroom. In a Google Apps for Education domain, all students and staff have Google accounts. Therefore, they have access to Forms, spreadsheets, presentations, docs, mail, calendars, and more--all under one account. So, instead of going to an outside Website to create a quiz, why not stick with Google since you are already using it for your other classroom items? That's where Google has us hooked. And, though scripts are not as easy as 1-2-3, they do not have to be repeated. And, I prefer Google's results to those of Quizstar. Google's quiz results open up in a spreadsheet that has automatic filters and can be exported as an Excel file into Access or a CSV file into Excel. This allows for a great analysis and record sheet.

If you like Flubaroo, you should check out some of the other scripts available with the Google Suite:
  • Contact Form (emails sent to you when someone completes the form)
  • Prevent multiple submissions on Forms
  • And more
  • Or you can always create you own java script if you are really tech savvy
Details on scripts can be found here:

Happy scripting!

Writing a Blog Isn't About Numbers

Writing a Blog Isn't About Numbers

This is a great article on blogging and the role blogging plays. It isn't about the number of readers, but the growth in learning. As a high school English teacher, I support that notion. Writing--whatever form it may come in--is about self reflection. It is not always about the audience. When starting to blog, it is important to remember its purpose. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Digital Footprints revisited

Check out this presentation on digital footprints:

Or, you can check out the Prezi format below (copyright Steve Johnson):

Boolify Boolean Searches, App# 28--Boolify


(This is a great take on Boolean search strategies. It allows users to manipulate searches in a visual manner and, it filters results using Google's Safe Search.)

Synopsis: Boolify not only acts as a search engine, but it contains several lessons/videos on basic searching. Though the lessons are few in number and basic in quality, Boolify provides a Tools section that gives users access to This site has information literacy, data literacy, and math teaching tools. And, they are provided by the same company who created Boolify, The Public Learning Media Laboratory.
Searching with Boolify is simple, but it can be used for all ages as it helps teach the important concepts of Boolean searching. Boolify provides a help section that offers video tutorials as well.

To start a search, you must drag a search option into the "drawing board." Once you drag an option, it will prompt you to enter in the material. For instance, if you drag the search option of word, you will be prompted to enter a keyword or phrase. You have the choice of the following search options (designed as puzzle pieces that must link together in the drawing board): word, and, not, or, URL.

When you drag over a search option and enter in the prompted material, the search results will appear below the drawing board.

You have the option of starting the search over, removing one or more of the search options, saving the search, or viewing other saved searches. You can also click on the wheel next to search options and further specify your type of search from news to images, video, or Web. Additionally, you can change the search from strict to moderate.

Other features are outlined on the Boolify Help section:

Basic searching:

How to save:

More advanced searching:

Integration: With the saved search option, students can conduct searches and then save them for the next time they return to the assignment. Boolify provides a Web search curricula in their lessons section.This site is especially great for teaching 21st century literacy skills. With the wealth of resources available for teaching Boolean logic, Web searching, and information literacy, teachers cannot go wrong, no matter the age. And, with the manipulation feature unique to Boolify, it is great for a variety of learning styles. It forces students to use Boolean logic in their searches as they connect the puzzle pieces of search options. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Digital kits and eLearning , App #27: Google Docs (simple, but good)

Digital Kits:
Sample eLearning Guide:

(Digital Kits are an idea created by Bill Ferriter, a Regional Teacher of the Year in North Carolina. The sample eLearning Guide is an online training session I conducted with my staff via Google Apps for Education. Both are not fancy apps, but they show the possibilities of what can be done with a basic application. )

Synopsis: Creating digital kits means that you are creating collections of content. Using Google Docs, teachers assemble "still images, video clips, audio clips, passages of text -- connected to the topic being studied...before a project even begins.  Then, students use the content in digital kits to assemble their final products." It's a simple concept, but a great use of Google Docs. Most teachers are overwhelmed by the idea of conducting all of the research to create a digital kit, so that's why Google Docs is a great solution--it can be collaborative. Casey Rimmer has teachers work in groups to develop Digital Kits. And, even better, they don't have to be in the same room, same city, or same country to work together to create the digital kits. And, when you search for images directly in Google Docs, Google only returns images licensed for reuse. This encourages teachers and students to obey copyright laws.

The eLearning plan is a tool I created to show how Google Apps for EDU can be integrated into an online training session, bypassing common LMS like Moodle or Blackboard. Though, both of those management systems are effective, similar work can be done through the use of several Google tools. Check out the plan to see how the tools can be integrated into an online learning/blended learning format.

Integration: The integration is the actual plan today. However, Ferriter provides a great set of instructions for how to build digital kits with Google Docs:

Here's a few quick directions. After you've signed in to Google Docs and started a new presentation, select Image from under the Insert menu found at the top of your screen:
(click to enlarge image)
Image 7

Choose Google Image Search from the Insert image menu that appears:
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Image 1

Type your search term into the Google Search bar that appears:
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Image 2

Google will automatically return a collection of images that are available for reuse and modification:
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Image 3

After clicking on the image you are interested in using, find the link to the original image online found at the bottom of the image collection that Google has returned:
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Image 4

Follow that link to find (1). the title of the original image and (2). as much information about the original photographer as you can.  You'll need this information in order to provide attribution in your final product -- a basic requirement of EVERY Creative Commons license:
(click to enlarge image)
Image 5

Click in the Notes section at the bottom of the new slide that you are creating to craft a citation.
A citation should include the name of the original image, the name of the photographer -- or the username that photographer has chosen to use -- the type of Creative Commons license the original image was licensed under (if you can find it), and the date that you retrieved the original image.
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Image 6

When you are finished creating your shared digital kit, select the Share button in the top-right hand corner of your screen to make the file publicly available on the web:
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Image 8

Copy the link that Google generates for your digital kit and share it with your students on project handouts or in classroom websites:
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Image 9 

And, with a Google Apps for Education account, docs can be made even more private with the added option of sharing within the domain.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sharing your screen as easy as 1, 2, 3, App #26--Screen leap


(This app allows users to share their screen with another user by simply clicking "share my screen" and then, sending the URL to the other user. And, it's completely free.)

Synopsis: There are plenty of screen sharing sites available today. However, many of them involve giving over remote control and, sometimes, you just want to share your screen. Well, this is where screenleap comes in handy. Smartsync, italc, and Vision Classroom Management software all offer ways of casting out a teacher screen to students. However, Smartsync and Vision both cost money. iTalc if free, but has kinks to it. And, all three of these involve a lot more than just screen sharing. Sometimes, teachers just want to share their screen to students or I, as the Tech Director, want to see an image of a computer screen when I do not have remote access. What's also great about screenleap is that it is not browser specific or tool-specific and it does not require any software to be installed. It really is as simple as one-click. When you arrive at the screenleap Website, click "share my screen," and allow Java to "Run." Once you click "run," your screen is shared and a little dialog box appears.

You have the option of clicking "share entire screen" or "share inside rectangle." You can Pause sharing or Stop sharing at anytime. The code to send out is the 9 digit number at the top of the dialog box (highlighted above in image). In the green line, you can also see how many people are viewing your screen. Again, once you see this box, your screen is sharable. When you return to the screenleap Website, you will find a URL that you need to give to your screen viewers. Once they go to that URL, they will need to enter the 9 digit code that is on your dialog box.

An example of the Website screen is above. And, that is all there is to it! When you are done sharing your screen, click "stop sharing."

Integration This is great for a lab environment. A lot of schools cannot afford expensive classroom management software with screen sharing capabilities and many do not use it enough to justify the cost. However, this is a simple way of sharing a teacher's screen with students at no cost. And, teachers can do it when they need to. Students can also choose to share their screens with teachers. If a student is home sick, they can share their screen with their teacher. Likewise, a tech coordinator like myself can ask teachers to share their screens with this tool. Though I have remote access capabilities, sometimes, it's a larger pain because the teacher has to log off and I am not able to see exactly what they are viewing. This is a simple solution. I can see many ways of adding screen sharing capabilities within the classroom due to the simplicity of this tool.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Debating tablets at your district? Here's some good food for thought

If your district is like mine, tablets are the talk of the community. And, yes, I have to admit that I have been on that tablet bandwagon. However, there are some very important questions that every district must ask themselves before taking on such an initiative. Remember--tablets are made for a 1:1 environment right now, not a network atmosphere. iPads, for instance, must have an iTunes account associated with them before they can work. Each iPad is associated with a personal iTunes account. Unfortunately, in a district environment, all of those iPads must be connected to one school iTunes account, but how to you restrict students from purchasing apps with their iPads? There are solutions, but is your district prepared to deliver those solutions? Here are some more questions to think about:

  • Need to look for not just what is cool, but what is useful
  • Lie--we are going to buy tablets with the money we’re saving on textbooks. Publishers won’t charge you any less for those versions as they would for text. So, this is not the argument to get them
  • They will probably cost more than the PCs will
  • Will require a shift in thinking for teaching in a digital environment
  • However, with a tablet, they can see more than what is just on the textbook--they can see the world
  • Many teachers aren’t prepared for teaching in a classroom trying to herd a bunch of cats. You are competing with all the info in the world for that student’s attention.
  • Must be prepared for all of the costs associated with tablets--trianing, support, hardware, software, curriculum...
  • Windows 8---Will run on tablets and PCs
  • Need at least 5Ghz per Wireless device--supports about 25 devices
  • Android or Apple? Not anything new out there for Android yet...
  • Cost of loss--what can you legally make people purchase who are Free and reduced lunch
  • Tablets need to be replaced more than textbooks
  • How will you adapt the AUP to fit tablets?
  • Viruses on tablets?
  • Tablets keep changing, unlike desktop hardware (that’s just more memory, bigger hard drive, better processor)
  • If tablets go home, how will we enforce CIPA
  • Earliest grade to put tablets? 4th?
  • Each building will require a tablet support person
  • ARE WE READY FOR THIS KIND OF CHANGE? This is a great question to ask before starting this type of initiative.

Interesting find: Google wireless through the commode?

Yes, indeed it is! Google offers free in-home wireless broadband by bringing up fiber optic cables through your commode and sewer lines.

Check it out: Google TiSP: 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A goody box to share, App #25--Goalbook, Convert.Files, acmi, classconnect


(All four of these applications vary in their purposes, but they all serve as a great toolkit for educators.)

Synopsis: Goalbook is a free app that allows teachers, parents, students, and special services teachers/directors a space to collaborate over IEPs and other student learning plans. Convert.Files is a site similar to Zamzar, but it can process even larger files (200MB). Since it is just a conversion site, this post will not contain directions for it.

Acmi is a storyboard generator. It gives users the option to use existing scripts or to create their own.

Classconnect is a collaboration space for teachers. They can look at lesson plans, meet other teachers, store documents (even Google Docs), Websites, and other files.

Integration: Goalbook is a great space for holding IEP meetings and follow-ups. It can be held anytime, anywhere. And, it can be managed within your school or district. This also encourages educators to keep better records of student progress, especially students with special learning needs. It even has a celebration tab for educators to share "celebration" with students an parents. Though this app can be used for all types of educators, it is definitely great for teachers and students with special needs. Acmi has an education section where educators can find great resources on storytelling and the power of stories. As a lover of oral histories, I found the videos fantastic. Classconnect allows users to create courses so other teachers can download or share content. This is a great way for teachers in all locales to connect and collaborate. Plus, you can incorporate existing apps like Google Docs into it. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

e-Portfolios with a "Googlio" twist, App #24--Googlio and Digication

Digication (This is actually accessed through your Google Apps for Education account, however)

(Googlios is a site created by another Google Certified Teacher and Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer. It is a play-on-words with ePortfolio and Google. It is based on the idea of a new Renaissance. Digication is an e-Portfolio creator that is accessible through Google Apps for Education accounts.)

Synopsis: Googlios is not necessarily an application, but a tutorial on how to create an e-Portfolio using Google Apps for Education. On the other hand, Digication is an app that is available for those with Google Apps for Education accounts. Googlio provides all of the resources/research necessary for undergoing e-Portfolios in the classroom with Google materials.

This is a video composed by Alex Ambrose, the creator of Googlio. Again, this is more of a resource to visit BEFORE creating e-Portfolios. Upon visiting it and finding the most appropriate Google tools, you can begin to use Digication (provided your school has enabled it for Google Apps for Education).

Per their Website, this is a Quick Start guide for building an e-Portfolio. In a Google Apps for Education domain, all users have access to their Digication account from their Google Docs homepage. Upon accessing it, they are directed to a Digication home screen with a listing of your ten previously created portfolios. Or, you can select to see all portfolios you have created, a directory of portfolios, or browse by course.

To create a portfolio, simply click create. You will be asked to give a title of your portfolio, select a Web address, choose a theme from a template or make one from scratch (and save it as a template for other users to use), select permissions and set tag rights. Click Create New e-Portfolio and the template is ready to go! As you edit, you will notice three tabs: Edit, Preview, Published. Those are the three stages of development. Do not publish until you are completely sure you are done. When selecting to make a template from scratch, it is beneficial to save it so the entire school can see it. This will allow others to use the template. A domain admin may do this to set up a teacher page template.

Integration: When I taught high school English and Creative Writing, an e-Portfolio was one of the required formative assessments for my students. And, as a graduate student at the University of Missouri, the e-Portfolio was required for completion of my Educational Specialist degree.With Digication, the templates are in place. Students are directed to add in content as prompted. Additionally, these can be private within your school. You can allow students to comment on others' portfolios as well. As a teacher, I like knowing that they are managed by my school. Therefore, content can be private. And, students are not the only ones who can create portfolios, teachers can too. Teachers can use these portfolios as their course pages. As many modules as are needed can be added to the portfolio. Modules are the activities/media on each page. You can also add additional pages to any template made from scratch. I wish I had found this app when I taught. It is a great model for e-Portfolios!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For the artistis, App #23--MuseScore


(This app allows you to create sheet music for free and rivals programs like Capella, Sibelius, and Finale that cost money.)

Synopsis: Though I have absolutely no musical knowledge (other than having an ear for fine music), this caught my attention. Some of the highlights (according to their site) include:

  • WYSIWYG, notes are entered on a "virtual note sheet"
  • Unlimited number of staves
  • Up to four voices per staff
  • Easy and fast note entry with your keyboard, mouse, or MIDI keyboard
  • Integrated sequencer and FluidSynth software synthesizer
  • Import and export of MusicXML and Standard MIDI Files
  • Available for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Translated in 47 languages
  • GNU GPL licensed
First, you must create an account and then, download the software. However, if you go to (, you can create a separate account. This allows you to share your sheet music with other users. This is also a separate site.

Here is their demo (also found on their site):

Integration: With the access to, students and teachers can create groups where they can share their sheet music. They also have access to loads of other sheet music created by users like themselves. This is a great lesson on the power of authorship. Plus, it opens up musical "creation" to anyone. Just as blogs gave all the power to become instant authors, MuseScore gives "sheet-writers" the power to be instant authors. And, at no cost all students now have this power at their fingertips. Though it is specific to band and choir rooms, other teachers can collaborate to aide in the content that goes into the sheet music. Check it out!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Talking and emailing simultaneously, App #22--Google Voice

Google Voice:

(You  need to have a gmail account in order to enable Google Voice AND, you need to install the voice/video plug-in in. Once these are installed and configured, you are ready to go.)

Synopsis: Google Voice puts all of the best phone system features into one application at one price: FREE! With Google Voice, you have the following services at your fingertips:
  • Voicemail transcription
  • One number
  • Personalized greetings
  • International calling
  • SMS to email
  • Share voicemails with others (via email)
  • Screen callers
  • Mobile app
  • Conference calls
  • Number porting (you can have a number ring on any phone you want)

The possibilities with Google Voice continue to increase. In a Google Apps for Education school that already uses Gmail and has groups set up, Voice is even more beneficial. And, with the one number feature, teachers can give students the Google Voice number without having to give away private numbers. When that number is called, it will ring on whichever phone the user has selected.

More is available on the features on the Website: Unfortunately, there is not enough space or time on this blog to delve into all of the great features available for...FREE! 

Here is the home screen:

Here's a good blog referencing Google Voice and all of it's important updates:
Per Google, here is there Google Voice information central:

Integration: Our district is looking in to using Google Voice as our phone system. In many ways, it compares to Microsoft's Lync Server. However, this is free! The only cost is the headsets for the computers. And, if numbers are set up for the teachers, teachers can select which phones ring when those numbers are dialed. So, conceivably, if a Google Voice number was dialed, it would not even have to ring on a headset in the classroom; it could ring on whichever phone the teacher requested--including his/her own cell phone. And, users can set up groups so that each group of users' calls are treated differently. For instance, you can have a parents' group, teachers' group, and coaches' group. The parents group can include all parents' emails and phone numbers. And, you can request that any calls from the parents' group not be put through during class hours. You can apply that same setting on any group. All voicemails left are shown in your Gmail account. Therefore, when you receive a voicemail, you can both hear it and read it. You can reply via email or phone. And since Google Voice uses Gmail as a platform, it encompasses all of Gmail's features.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Homemade whiteboards and more, App #20--Johhny Lee's Wii Remote hacks

Wii Remote for interactive whiteboard: . Software is available here:

(This is a $50 solution to interactive whiteboards. All you need is are infrared light pens and a Wii Remote and Johnny Lee's free software.)

Synopsis: I discovered this about a year and a half ago and failed to act on this information. Such a shame. I can barely contain my excitement about how ingenious this is. All you need are the following:
  • a Wii remote
  • infrared light pens (it can read up to four at once)
  • a flat surface
  • a projector
  • Johnny Lee's free software
 Once you have those five items, you can begin the set up. To set up, simply install Johnny Lee's software. then, build your pen with an LED that runs at around 100mA (mini keychain lights work for this too). And, Johnny Lee is currently looking into selling his infrared pens. His software site ( contains the instructions for setting up the pen.

Next, you need to set up the Wii remote. Johnny Lee has built a stand that anyone can build and shines it from a nearby table onto the screen where the projector projects. If you will be standing in front of your screen, you want to do this. However, if you are aiming your projector onto a surface below, you can attach the remote to the side of the projector.

Finally, you will see the touch point configuration markers (that you see on any interactive whiteboard). Touch each of the dots.

Now, you are set up! You can project onto any surface. And, you can use up to four infrared pens at once.

Though its tracking is not good as a Promethean or SmartBoard, it is pretty good. And, it's nearly free. It does not come with all of the software of the Promethean and SmartBoards; however, Johnny Lee has some nice software on his Website that is available for download. And, you can always use ActivInspire for personal use and it is free! 

Integration: I believe this simple technique has the power to transform schools. For instance, at my district 95% of the classrooms have projectors; however, less than half have interactive whiteboards. With this resolution, all of the rooms could have interactive whiteboards for the cost of one brand name board. And, since it works with four pens at a time, four students could be interacting on the surface. It can also interact with your iPad/tablet so that can become interactive as well. Maps and other flat surface materials are now interactive with this tiny resolution. Yes, I will be implementing these at my district. Take some time to check out Johnny Lee's revolution!

Also, speaking of changing the face of education, look at Singapore schools (perhaps a model the U.S. should follow?):

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Discussion boards revamped, App #20--Google Moderator

Google Moderator:

(Google Moderator is part of the Google Apps for Education suite. Therefore, the link is actually private to my school district. Every Moderator page can only be accessed through direct links--that can be embedded--so you need a Google Apps for Education account to get started. More the reason to get started with Google Apps for Edu!)

Synopsis: This app is available as an additional service for Google Apps for Education users. Since it is an additional service, the domain admin must add the app (be sure your settings are for the "next generation" and not the "current" version). Once the service has been added, Moderator will receive its own direct URL. This is the only way of accessing it (users cannot find it from their menu). To save confusion, it is best to embed this link or put a direct link on the school Webpage. The domain admin sets the privacy settings. However, all users can create a "Series" (the discussion platform) and "topics" (the topics of discussion) and "questions" (the questions/suggestions/events for each topic/meeting).

To begin, the discussion creator must access the direct link to the Moderator page. From there, you can see the steps in this training video:

When you create a series, you have the option of setting it for meetings or for topics. I chose the topic option in the video. However, you may choose the meeting option too. Again, flags can be created by anyone, but only the creator can choose to remove a question that has been flagged. Using presentation view, the instructor can present questions in more of a presentation format as opposed to a discussion board format. The questions appear randomly in presentation view. Be sure to adjust the additional settings when you first create a series (decide who can submit questions, if they can post anonymously, submit videos, etc.) And, that's it!

Integration: The ways to integrate Moderator continue to increase. Recently, I held an eLearning training via Moderator. I created a series for the training. Then, I created topics (and pasted links to the training documents) for each of the training categories. Finally, attendees were able to access the series, review the training material in each topic, and create questions for each topic. Other learners could rank the questions so I knew which were of most concern. From those, I was able to answer the questions and leave my answers visible for others to see. If I chose to, I could have allowed other attendees to post answers to the questions as well. And, all attendees were able to create questions anonymously if they wanted. When the training concluded, I exported the series to a CSV file to review it before further trainings. With the CSV file, I was able to open it in Excel and begin to filter results. From there, the possibilities grew. However, there are other uses. During my district's technology committee meeting, I used moderator as a discussion board to continue the discussion beyond the one hour meeting slot. I posted topics that we had touched upon and allowed the members to continue submitting questions (within a question, you can also insert a link to any URL). Some pasted URLs of articles within their questions. And, members ranked the questions so I was able to decide which topics were of the most importance. This is great to use before an exam as a form of review. It also can be used as an anticipatory guide before a unit. The options are nearly endless. So, give it a try and put Google Apps for Education into use!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Language Learners brought up to speed, App #19--vozMe and Visuwords


(Both of these applications are simple language resources that can go a long way in the classroom. vozMe is a text-to-speech translator and Visuwords is a graphic dictionary that shows concepts and connections between words.)

Synopsis: These applications are both free Web 2.0 tools that can be used to improve language apprehension. Visuwords is an online dictionary with an important twist. Rather than giving a list of definitions, it creates a graphic organizer with the word in the center and similar word clusters connected to it. In the left-hand column, there is a listing of what the different lines and clusters mean. Additionally, it is a dynamic representation of the word. You can choose to see "random" words or "enter" a word of your own. When you enter the word or choose a random word, a cluster map of the word generates. The main words is connected to other concepts via lines and bubbles. And, each bubble/line has a different meaning. The key code in the left-hand column illustrates what each bubble/line means. You can even drag the bubbles/lines in different directions to create new connections between the words. It shows more than just the definition of the word--it shows all connections to the words in a graphic representation.

vozMe is a simple text-to-speech converter. It can be installed on your browser so that when you highlight a portion of text, a voice translates it to you. You can choose to have a male or female voice deliver the text. You can also leave it as is and just type in your text into the box provided and have it convert it to speech for you. When you are done, you can elect to have an MP3 created for you. When you click on the "Create MP3" button, a new window opens with the speech translation. At the bottom of that window, you can "download" the MP3 and save it to your selected space. You have the option to add speech to your browser or Website. vozMe gives many different HTML codes and formats for adding a text-to-speech option for your Website or Blog. You can access the codes here. Or, you can download the browser plug-in. If you choose this option, you can hear any text on any Webpage you view.

Integration: Growing up in Texas and being a former English teacher, I am always on the lookout for great ESL/ELL and English resources. Both of these applications can benefit English Language Learners, special needs students, young students, and students needing a different learning approach. With vozMe, students are able to hear the words on the Webpage. Similarly, they can type in any words and hear them. This is great for students with speech impairments and students who are learning the language.

Likewise, Visuwords gives words a visual representation for students to build connections. Try out both applications! They can definitely expand language in the classroom and broaden student vocabulary. Students may even use Inspiration software to create a similar word map like what is shown in Visuwords.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The new Adobe suite, App #18--Aviary

Aviary: (for Google Apps for Education users) for other users:

(This suite is available for FREE, yes FREE, for Google Apps for Education users. You just need to have your domain admin add the service to your list of services. Otherwise, the suite costs money for other users).

Synopsis: Aviary does it all from vectors, photo editing, to audio podcasts. This post will discuss the features available to Google Apps for Education users only. To begin, you have five different boxes of applications to choose from: Edit Images, Markup Images, Create Vectors, Edit Audio, and more! The Edit Images section gives you the choice to make business cards, letterhead, PowerPoint slide, or a label. In the Markup Images section, you can markup PowerPoint slides, create screen captures, add arrows/text, and annotate images. In the Create Vectors section, you can make logos, create tshirts, and create icons for your Website. With the Edit Audio section, you can mix a podcast, record audio, create audio filter effects, and remix music. And, in the "and more!" section, you can create picture filters, edit colors, edit images, and create audio loops. Any file that you create will appear in your "Aviary Files" folder in Google Docs. All applications open up in a new window. For instance, your audio screen will look like:

Be sure to click on "save as" in the upper right corner to save your project. These files will be stored in a folder in your Google Docs account. 

Due to the extensive breadth of applications, you can find tutorials on the applications here: Or, you can access the Aviary support site here: You can email any questions to Aviary at:

Integration: Since this is a service affiliated with Google Apps for Education users, all files created are automatically synced with your Google Docs main page. All files are also give a URL and an embed code so they can be placed within Websites and linked to from other pages. Rather than paying large sums for the Adobe suite, classrooms can access all necessary applications for free through their Google Apps for Education/Aviary account. And, since all work is linked to the Google Apps for Education interface, it can be shared with teachers and embedded into Google platforms easily. Work does not need to be saved on a hard drive. Rather, it can be stored in the cloud and free up hard drive space. If you don't have Google Apps for Education at your district/school, Aviary is more incentive to get it and implement it. Google Apps for Education now encompasses the Office Suite and the Adobe Suite!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Take one, App #17--Digital Storytelling trifecta

Little Bird Tales:
Microsoft Digital Storytelling for teachers:

(These three resources encompass digital storytelling for younger audiences. Please turn to the Cool Tools page on my blog for more resources).

Synopsis: Complight is similar to Flikrstorm. In the search box, you can enter in your search terms (for images only). Then, click on "show me what compflight can do."

In the new screen, you can narrow your search in the left-hand column. You can search all text or tags only. You can also search by license type--creative commons or commercial. And, you can choose to only show the original images, thereby directing you to the original source. Lastly, you can search with safety turned on or off. This feature sets it apart from Flickrstorm. When you find an image you want, just click on it and it will appear in a new window. As with all media, be sure to pay credit to the author(s) of the media. Unfortunately, Compflight does not give users the ability to save searches and store photo searches. However, the "safe" feature makes it desirable.

Little Bird Tales is designed for younger students who are making digital stories. And, it is completely free. Begin by creating an account. When creating an account, you can select whether it is a teacher or student account. You are then prompted to select the school or add the school (the first person for your school should do this). You must also give the school a four-digit code (students will be prompted to enter this in order to login, so make it easy enough). Be sure to write down the school code (again, only the first person to set up the school must create a school code; everyone else will just select the school from the drop-down list). With a teacher login, you can manage classes and manage the school (master account). You can view all downloads and create a tale like your students. With the class manager, teachers can create classes and add students to each class. They can also set permissions for the class. For instance, teachers can select who can see the class page, who can share, and if public tales can be viewed. To add students, simply click on the Import Students button. You will be asked to import a CSV file with student names, usernames, passwords, and class names (the classes you have created on your account). Simply put, Little Bird Tales is in online class space that specializes in digital stories. To create a tale, you can draw, upload a picture, or select images from the gallery. It will walk you through the steps--cover page with audio, additional pages with audio and text, and finishing the book. When you are done, you can click preview. All student books are automatically linked to teacher accounts so the teacher can see them and store them. At the bottom of the preview page, there is an embed code so the stories can be embedded into the Website. Students can make as many books as they desire. And, that's all there is to it!

Microsoft's Digital Storytelling in the Classroom has handouts (rubrics, storyboard templates, and how-to guides) at the bottom of the Webpage. These are great starting places for creating a digital storytelling unit.

Integration: Since there are three resources today, I will show how all three can be integrated at once to create an efficient digital storytelling experience. Teachers should begin with Microsoft's site in order to device rubrics and create objectives and the appropriate assessment. From there, they can create classes and import students into Little Bird Tales. When all accounts have been created, students can begin gathering materials. Students can use Compflight to gather images and correctly site them. Students can import and record their voices through Little Bird Tales and, they can share their stories through Little Bird Tales. With the public gallery available, teachers and students can search stories that have already been created. And, with the teacher/student account features, teachers can easily monitor student work. Little Bird Tales is a great site for bringing it all together.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cartoonizing your stories, App #16--ToonDoo


(This site can be used for all ages of students. It allows students to develop their own characters and place them in stories.)

Synopsis: To begin, you must "sign up." Upon clicking the "sign up" button, you are asked to choose ToonDoo (for the individual) or ToonDooSpaces (for educational institutions). ToonDooSpaces gives additional collaboration and safety features that the ordinary ToonDoo does not have. You can access ToonDooSpaces at: ToonDooSpaces does cost money, unfortunately, after 15 days. Therefore, if you are wanting a free application, you can stick with ToonDoo (I only used this when I taught). Since this segment is about free applications, this post will focus on ToonDoo only. Once you sign up for ToonDoo, you are directed to login. For younger grades, the teacher should sign up all students (you may create gmail accounts by adding a +1 or +2 or +3, etc to the end of a gmail account you created for this purpose).

Upon logging in you, there are several options in the far right: you can create your own comics, create your own book, make a character, upload artwork, or draw on ToonDoo. Across the top, there is a navigation bar. Under Toons, you can find all of the work you have created previously. Under Books, you can find the books you have created. Under Dooers is your profile. (Also, check out the very top of the page where you can find your messages. Also, not that Safe Search is automatically turned on.) Under tools are the same applications that you can find in the far right.

To begin, decide if you want to create a comic strip, a character, or an entire book. For this post's purpose, I will show you how to create a comic strip. However, creating the other elements is very similar. To create a comic strip, click either on the far right on ToonDoo Maker or under Tools--ToonDoo Maker. A new window will open up and you will need to choose the layout of your comic strip. It will take about a minute to load the strip. In the new window, you will see a new navigation bar. In the "Start Here" space, you will find a typical file menu with save and opening functions. In the next box, you can choose your characters. From left to right, you will find your scenes, props, text, brushmen, clip art, and previously uploaded items. To place an item in your storyboard, simply drag the item. When you drag an item into your storyboard, note the navigation bar across the bottom where you can edit the items and even develop your own character with TraitR.

With that same toolbar across the bottom, you can edit colors and import your own artwork in the scenes (my artistic students always chose this option). Continue filling in each of the boxes within your storyboard. When you are done, click on the "Start Here" button and select Save As. Give it a title and description. You can even choose if others can "redoo" this toon or purchase the toon. Before you click "Publish," choose whether you want to publish it to the world, keep it private or just share it with a few friends. If you choose the latter, you will need to enter in your friends' email addresses. Then, click "Publish." A new box will appear with options to go to your toon, print it or close out. I often had my students print their toons to share around the classroom. And, that's all there is to it!

Integration: When I used to teaching high school English and senior creative writing, I used to use ToonDoo to teach my students the art of writing Graphic Novels. Many of my students in creative writing read Graphic Novels religiously, so I implemented them into their writing curriculum. Rather than merely reading the literature, they were required to analyze its components and reconstruct it into a Graphic Novel of their own. The first complaint from my students was usually, "we can't can't grade us on our artistic abilities." Of course, I had no intent on grading them on how great their art was; I was looking for the essential components of Graphic Novels. With that in mind, I found ToonDoo, the perfect site for composing such novels without having to be an artist. And, my students took to the site immediately--yes, my 12th graders. They enjoyed it so much that they showed it to some of the students they tutored in the younger elementary grades. However, creating Graphic Novels is just one use for the app. ToonDoo can also function as an email space with its message feature. All toons can be shared and embedded as well. Even better--it defaults to turning on Safe Search.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mapping the globe with stories, App #15--Woices


(Since Google Labs' City Tours was canned, Woices is a great replacement for creating audio stories to coincide with places/video tours.)

Synopsis: To begin, users must login or create a user account. But, don't worry--it's free! Since it does not have an education side of the site that helps teachers create multiple student accounts, students will have to create their own accounts (for younger grades, parents or teachers can do it for the students). The overlying concept is that you can create a "walk" around any locations within a city. Then, users can create an audio guide to narrate the walk. The site was taking a long time to load when I used it, so that is something to take into consideration when working with young students (or even older ones).

When you login, you are directed to your "you" page or your home page. Here, you can see your profile as well as all of your audio guides and activities Under your "you" tab, you can adjust your account settings and your privacy. To create a "walk," simply click on the Create button and select "create a new walk" (if you just wanted to record over an existing walk, you would select the "record a new echo" option. When creating a walk, you will be asked to give it a title and a description. Next, you must select the locations of your story. Finally, you will add the "echoes" or audio recordings for those locations. Therefore, you will need a headset. You can add as many echoes as you want to your "walk." To create an echo to go with your walk, you must select "record an echo" from the "Create" button. Then, you can return to your walk and drag in the echoes.

When done, students are able to comment on other walks as well.

According to Woices, you are able to:
  • Record your own echoes
  • Expand the echosphere with you own echoes
  • Comment and rate other echoes
  • Tag your favorite echoes
  • Create walks from your echoes
  • Create groups with your peers
  • Become an echo star
 And, that's all there is to it!

Integration:  With this app, students and teachers can create tours (audio and visual) about locations in any city in the world. Therefore, students can research a specific location (history, art, literature, music, food, etc.) and narrate a walk around the city, telling viewers about the history, art, literature, music, food, etc. of each place in the city that they direct the tour. Students or teachers may also think of an existing journey or pilgrimage and narrate it. If students are researching Columbus' or Magellan's voyages, they can map it out and then, record the audio (whatever they have researched about the voyage) to coincide with the tour. This adds a real life application to research.Students can add real places to the stories they tell. Students can even tell their life stories of where they got to where they are now or where they will be going and how they will get there.

You can also "Explore" the "map" to find other walks that others have created and listen to them. This creates a digital community that is bound by sound bites. Teachers can also create groups so the walks can be shared among certain class periods.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brainstorming 2.0, App #14--lino and wridea

Lino: and Wridea:

(Both of these applications are similar in nature to Wallwisher-- in that they are online brainstorming spaces that can be shared with others or made private.)

Synopsis: Though these applications are displayed differently, their concepts are both the same--an online space for brainstorming.

  • Lino--You may try this application on a trial basis before using it. All accounts are free. To have a full account, you just have to sign up. Once you sign up, you are directed to an opening/main page where you have the option to search recent public canvasses (their name for the brainstorming spaces), create your own or to look at your groups, tasks, and your updated canvasses. With the groups feature, you have the option to set up groups to share your canvasses with. When creating a group, you can open it up to the public (so anyone can search for it, but you have to approve their membership) or through invitation only (sent through an email to all members). Each group can even have its own icon to make it easier to recognize. Once the group is created, you will see that you have a group page, group canvasses, and group tasks. All of these are separate from your individual ones you may create. Any canvass created in a group will be shared with members of a group. That said, any canvas you create as an individual can only be made private or public. So, if you want to create a canvass for a group project or a class, you must do so through the group page. When you are ready to create a canvass (directions will be for a group canvass but they can be replicated for individual canvasses under the Main Page--My Canvasses), go to your group page (you can see all of your existing canvasses here) and click on the Group Canvasses tab. Click on create new canvass. You can enter in a specific title for it, adjust your settings, and canvass appearance. When you are ready, click create canvass. Your canvass will open up. Use the toolbox in the right-hand corner to drag down a sticky note (where you can write your thoughts), insert an image, insert a file, or insert a video (URL). Within the sticky note, you can select a due date so it appears on your tasks list and calendar. In the bottom right corner, you can see your calendar. These instructions apply to group canvasses, but can be replicated for individual/public canvasses. That's all there is to it!

  • Wridea--This brainstorming site has less flare, but similar features. Once again, you must create an account first. Once you have created an account, you are given your own URL for your board. So, choose your Nick Name wisely (used for your URL) in case you want to share it with others. Once you create an account, you are directed to login. Then, you are in your own brainstorming board. Work from left to right in your tabs. If you click on the Ideaboard tab/link in the far left, you will find a drop down box. Click on Create New Page (as you create more, this is where you will go to open up other pages). You are asked to give the page a name so think of the names as different topics that you will have ideas for (like ideas for Prom). Your idea will then appear on your page. If you move your mouse over it, it will highlight it and more options will appear (details, move to, sharing, select, and delete). If you click on details, a editing box will appear where you can add more information on this idea (sub-topic). Click save when you are done adding your text about it. If you have created other pages/ideaboards, you can click on the 'move to' in order to move it to a different page. If you click on sharing, you will see that you can share it with all Wridea users, your friends only, or keep it private. If you select friends, you must first have invited friends into your friends circle. So, in the top menu, click on Friends. In the box that opens, you will have the option to add friends by email addresses and create a group. Hence, friends can be added to different groups. Lastly, if you click on the categories tab, you will see that you can add categories to your pages. So, these can be the overarching topics like Communication Arts or Vacations. Each page can be put into a category and each idea can be put into a page. And the details are attached to each idea. In the searching blank, you can search for words that you want to recall. If you click on the Tools tab in the upper write, you can use the idearain, which randomizes your ideas and puts them into placements it thinks make sense. And, that's all there is to it!


  • Lino--With the groups feature, students and teachers can set up groups when working in projects in order to share student brainstorming ideas. For instance, students can create group pages for each of their groups in a class project. Then, they can create as many canvasses (brainstorming pages) within the group. Each canvass can be about a different sub-topic. Likewise, a teacher can set up groups for each of her class periods. Within each group, he/she can create a canvass for each unit. Students can use the sticky notes, images, files, and videos to give their thoughts on each unit. With the files feature, they can even submit their work (at the end of a unit) so all work can be on one location. This is a great space for brainstorming and sharing ideas in a safe environment. As an individual, teachers and students can have their own canvasses that they can choose to share with the public or keep private. These canvasses can include their thoughts on any topic for ideas for an art project to their dreams and goals in life.
  • Wridea--Like Lino, with the friends/group feature, students can create groups for different projects and teachers can create groups for different class periods. What is different is that, instead of adding boards to a group, you make a board and just share it with a group in Wridea. The only major difference is the appearance, its Idearain tool, and its category feature. Its appearance is more plain so it is very useful in professional places and with adult learners. With the categories, users have one more overarching topic they can connect to. And, with the idearain tool, users can find other ways to connect their ideas.
 Let's get brainstorming!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Searching in 3D, App #13--SpaceTime


(This is a Web Search engine that utilizes Google,YouTube, images, and Wikipedia. The difference is that it does it in a 3D fashion to help visual learners.)

Synopsis: This app does not reinvent the wheel; however, it does give it a facelift. Instead of using Google or Bing as the Web Search engine, users can use SpaceTime. For instance, I searched for "Google Privacy Settings" in light of the changes Google has made to their settings. Instead of showing the results as a list, it shows them as separate windows that move in a 3D fashion.

Using the scroll bar across the bottom, users can click to the next result. All results are numbered and give the entire window shot (as opposed to the typical abstract showing in Google and Bing). Similarly, users can click on the images, YouTube, Google, or Wikipedia tabs across the top (just like you do in Google) and SpaceTime will search for your keyword within those selections. Images and all other results are shown in windows rather than in lists. The Web address of the site/picture/video is shown in the bottom right. To select the result, simply click on the result. That's it! Again, it is a simple app, but does give a common tool a facelift.

Integration: Rather than using Google or Bing, SpaceTime is a great alternative for younger audiences and learners with special needs. With the full window display, viewers can better see the result. And, with the 3D movement, it is also more eye-appealing. SpaceTime should be shown as an alternative to the more common search engines. It searches similar sites, but gives the results in a new look. Check it out and share it with your students!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Step up to the line to end bullying, App#12--MTV's A Thin Line

A Thin Line:

(This is an interactive site that is filled with quizzes and videos for students and educators about when the "line" has crossed into bullying. If you want more resources on cyberbullying and digital citizenship, go to the Cool Tools page where you will find a series of tools and links.)

Synopsis: In light of the recent movie, Bully, ( I think it is even more crucial to shed light on some resources that MUST be used in the classroom. We try to install basic rules in children, but do we show how those rules apply to the Web? And, as evident by the film, bullying is a problem even when it is seen in the public eye. So, what about what we don't see, what is hidden within texts, phone calls, Facebook posts, and other online communication? MTV offers a site at the Thin Line. When viewers first access it, they may sign a "Draw the line" pledge in which they pledge the following:
    • Live without pressure or abuse.
    • Step in and help if I see someone getting harassed.
    • End unhealthy relationships.
    • Take control of my decisions.
    • Disconnect whenever I want.
This is called the Digital Rights project. Students are asked to give their first name, zip code, and a digital right they think all should be entitled to. This becomes part of a living list of rights. Students can also post their "action" for drawing their line in exchange for dailyfeats points. These points can be redeemed for rewards. Within the "get facts" and "take control" tabs, there are a series of resources for students seeking help and seeking for information about bullying resources. Under the "Your Stories" tab, students can select "over the line?" and enter in their stories of when they or someone else stepped over the line with bullying. Students can rate which ones they felt were over the line and discuss where that line is drawn. Under that same tab, students can take a quiz about "drawing the line":

The Website is an online collaborative space that is continually changing. Students may join the network and talk with peers about digital citizenship, digital rights, and cyberbullying. It gives a voice to those who may have not had a say before.

Integration: This Website is a more interactive tool that should be blended with other tools in the classroom. Digital citizenship and rights should be priority subjects in the classroom and should be integrated within the curriculum, specifically character education. Though this Website is not a stand-alone resource, it is a great tool to combine with others. With its sponsor (MTV) and collaborative space, it targets a younger audience and lures them into bullying discussions. However, before showing any of the interactive tools, the background and facts on digital rights should be shown. Before entering thoughts on bullying, students must have a discussion of what qualifies as appropriate talk online. Luckily, this Website provides all of those resources as well.

For more information on bullying or to see the new film, Bully, go to . This site will be updated with resources in the future. In the meantime, it contains a reading guide for the movie as well as resources for getting help and learning about "the line" between bullying and friendly banter.