Technology and Teens, Uncategorized

5 Reasons to Get Better Connected To Your Students Using Social Media

Gone are the days when the teacher-student connection happens for 45 minutes a day. Social media and apps have transformed the way that teachers interact with their students. Leveraging tools at our fingertips provide multiple avenues to provide reminders, present ideas, conduct online discussions outside of the classroom and most importantly, build relationships. As Sean Slade wrote at the Huffington Post, there are several critical reasons why relationships in school matter.

One of my favorite online courses I teach is titled “Social Media in the Classroom”. The course is designed to push educators to utilize social media to enhance learning, build professional learning communities, (PLN), and find endless educational resources that impact their teaching. The results of this four week long course is so interesting to me. I watch teachers go from “I have a Twitter account, but don’t really use it”, to “I can’t live without my PLN!” They become more connected to their students through the social media outlets as well. connected

Here are five reasons to be connected to your students on a deeper level through social media outlets.

Relationship Building. Making emotional connections to our students is critical to learning. Study after study has shown that when students feel safe and cared for they are more likely to master curricular content and enjoy the process of learning. Finding avenues on social media to connect with kids in a positive way will help build relationships outside of the classroom, helping them learn more when they are with you. Using Instagram to showcase student work and ideas is an excellent way to provide positive reinforcement to students. Using a classroom hashtag on Twitter can build a stronger community with your classes as well.

Understand their Sandbox. When teachers understand where students “hangout” it provides a context for what they are talking about at school. I am not suggesting that you start snap-chatting up all your students. Simply, understand the platforms they are using and how it is impacting their lives. Don’t turn a blind eye. One of the benefits of social media is that now everything becomes open and transparent. With a quick search of a hashtag or a user profile, the obvious becomes, well, obvious.  It is difficult to hide the bullies or inappropriate posts happening on social media with kids, presenting opportunities for mentoring or discussions on the appropriate ways to use social media.

Be Transparent. Many educators desire having two separate Twitter accounts.  When I hear this I often wonder, “Why? Who are you following and what are you posting?” Maybe you should just clean up your own online junk and try again. Share a little about your life in an appropriate manner so your students can learn about you as a human. What are you proud of? What motivates you to get up each day and teach your students? Who is your hero? Leverage things like Facebook and Twitter to showcase your own brand of yourself.

I love reading my daughter’s Instagram and Twitter feed because it reminds me how funny and clever she is. It should be the same with you. Who are you and what are you about? Students appreciate the human side of their teachers.

Be Available. Social media tools make you automatically available 24/7 if you choose to be. This can be good and bad all at the same time. Technology should always help you work smarter and not harder. Educators can now respond more quickly to issues and questions that arise each day. For that matter, I watch teenagers help each other out all the time with immediacy through Snapchat, texting, and Twitter. It takes a lot of pressure off kids by knowing that there is always someone available to help out when needed whether its a homework question or a scheduling question.

Learn from Them. Students these days are simply amazing. Because of the tools they have at their fingertips, they are able to create and publish like never before. If you are never in their sandbox, how will you truly understand what they are doing and in turn learn from them. Movements like the Maker Movement, Coding, and online publishing have created a generation of doers. What are your students doing outside of the classroom and how are they sharing? Maybe you could be the instigator needed to push them to share their genius and talents.

Whatever your excuse is to not touching social media as an educator, I urge you to reconsider how it could impact your life on a positive note. As one of my former students stated at the end of class, “I found out what Twitter was all about and enjoy viewing it every day. Thanks again for giving me a positive outlook on life!” Now that is a positive message!

How has Twitter enlightened you as an educator? Leave me a comment below and follow me Twitter @jennyktechin.


5 Ways to App Smash for Your Book Creator Project

image.pngI had the pleasure of presenting at the recent iBooks Author Conference in Nashville, TN. My topic was App Smashing for Your Book Creator Project. This post gives you the run down of the apps I used and how you or your students can ramp up that iBook in Book Creator.

The Geography Smash

Use Google Earth, Skitch, and iMovie for this app smash. Use this for identifying and labeling places on earth. iMovie is the tool to add some music, titles, and voice over.

Step 1: Find the location your book is about and take a screen shot. (Hold the home button and power button at the same time and quickly release).

Step 2: Use Skitch to add labels, arrows, or stickers onto the image.

Step 3: Import image into iMovie to add titles, music, and voice overs.

Step 4: Add the video into your Book Creator project.

The Avatar Smash

Use Pic Collage and Buddy Poke for this app smash. Use this app smash for providing a platform to be on camera without actually being on camera. This avatar will do the work for you! 

Step 1: Collect creative commons images or take your own images with your iOS device and create a collage using Pic Collage and save it to your camera roll.

Step 2: Open Buddy Poke and customize the avatar by choosing hair color, eye color, clothing, and accessories.

Step 3: Use the Pic Collage you just created as the background image.

Step 4: Record the voiceover for your Avatar

Step 5: Save to camera roll and Add the video into your Book Creator project.

The Animation Creation Smash

Create animations using Sketchbook Express, Stop Motion, and iMovie. Use this smash for students who want to create cartoon like books or to document change over time.

Step 1: Create sketches in Sketchbook Express or capture sequential images created by hand by using the camera app on your device.

Step 2: Use Stop Motion to put the images into the correct sequence and press the play button to see the animation. This is similar to old fashioned cartoon creation methods.The images “flip” to create the animation.

Step 3: Repeat step 5 above. Note: Use iMovie if you want to add sound effects to your animation.

The Book Cover Smash

Assembly and Canva will create beautiful and interesting book covers for your Book Creator projects.

Step 1: Use Assembly to create images, patterns, or logos.

Step 2: Import the created image into your Canva app.

Step 3: Use Canva to add more color, texture, or text images.

Step 4: Add as the cover for your Book Creator project.

The Explanation Creation Smash 

Explain Everything and Photos can create amazingly beautiful screen casting projects. Use this to introduce concepts, review concepts, or to create projects for your students to create to explain their understanding of a concept.

Step 1: Create a slideshow in Photos and export to your camera roll.

Step 2: Create a new Explain Everything screencast and add your slideshow as a video. Explain Everything has huge capabilities that I won’t go into in this post, but it is worth every penny and time spent figuring it out! 

Step 3: Save to camera roll and add to your Book Creator project

The Talking Image Smash

ChatterPix and iMovie can be used to bring images to life. This project is quick and easy and is a favorite of most elementary students. Use this if students are doing an animal project or want an image to talk.

Step 1: Open ChatterPix and capture the image. Draw a line on the mouth and record the voice over. Add accessories like hats, sunglasses, and stickers. Save to camera roll.

Step 2: Bring the video into iMovie to add music, titles, and sound effects.

Step 3: Save to camera roll and add to your Book Creator project.

If you or your students are into using Book Creator to create digital content, try your hands at ramping up your book with one of these app smashes. Your imagination is your only limitation!


Training, Uncategorized

How Badges are Branding Us

What’s with all the badges lately in education? They seem to be catching on faster than Pokemon Go! I started researching the source of this badge-craze to try to figure out the origin, validity, and reason behind why educators are especially interested in collecting as many badges as possible. For your reading pleasure and personal research here are a couple of articles:

Now don’t get me wrong. I like recognition as much as the next guy, but I’ve never been into collecting things. As a Girl Scout I didn’t care less about earning badges upon task completion. The badge just meant my mother had to spend time ironing or sewing on the badge. I excitedly tackled tasks, like learning how to sail, just for the joy of learning how to sail. In fact, to this day I have lost many awards, certificates, and other important documents along the way.

In the education landscape, who’s to say that one badge carries certain merit over the other? Is there a badge criteria board? An official badge panel that says” yes, that deserves a badge”, or “no that isn’t badge worthy”. Are we becoming so saturated with badges that they no longer mean anything? Maybe we should start giving ribbons to people. Like swim team ribbons. Now those I loved! They were silky, colorful, and I could hang them in my room to look at.

Is “badging” a result of our video gaming culture or a change in learning trends? It demonstrates the movement of learning small sequential skills and getting frequent reinforcement. Not unlike tweeting in 140 characters and getting a retweet right away. It aligns with current ecosystems of learning and social media. I think “badging” also aligns with today’s need to brand oneself. It speaks to topics that people are passionate about.

This thought inspired me to create my own set of badges to help brand myself a little better. I want to say that all of these badges are completely legit in my mind and also I have more badges, because of course I am so awesome, but I ran out of room and attention span.Jenny's badgesas of September 2016.png

But hey if badges is where it’s at I guess I am going to go all in. I guess I have a lot to do today….. I’m off to to create some badges for upcoming training sessions. Oh, I also have to go earn my Apple Teacher badges. So many badges, so little time!


Why is My Son’s Backpack as Heavy as a Truck?


Stack_of_books2I never see my son crack open a book. Ever. When my high schooler does homework its on my laptop or his iPhone. I know this because he leaves all of his browser tabs open when he is finished. Kind of like how he leaves all of his stinky tennis socks laying around the house after tennis. He does it without thinking about it. It’s what comes natural to him. Why then, is he lugging around a backpack that weighs 20 lbs?

I am wondering why schools are still investing millions of dollars into textbooks that nobody ever opens.  And why would they open those books when they have everything they need online?

Sometimes I become the suspicious paranoid parent and ask him what he is watching all the time on his phone. His answers usually blow my mind as well as put me at ease. He will say things like, “Oh, I was just watching how Elon Musk is going to change the world with these batteries.” Or, “There is a rare fish I heard about that I wanted to check out.” His natural curiosity is fueled by the world around him and by the wealth of information online. Not textbooks.

It makes me pause and wonder in a world where digital publishing is starting to make a huge footprint in media distribution, why aren’t more schools jumping on board? How long does it take to change direction in public education? 

Check out Physics in Motion by Fritz Lauriston. He is a physics teacher at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, TN. He published his own iBook through our company, Score Publishing, and his students have adopted the text for his class. Not only is the book a fraction of the cost of their previous textbook,  but he tailored the book for his students and school. What a powerful way to impact his students’ learning experience with him. No more sore backs for those kids!

I am hopeful that with movements like #GoOpen, #OER, Ditch the Textbook Founder, Matt Miller, and tools like iBooks Author, educational leaders will see the light for these students. Stop making deals with big publishers. There are better ways to engage students and get rid of that monkey on their back. Use digital media that integrates up to date information, videos, and multi touch content. Let’s meet our kids where they are not where we’ve made the deal. Have a thought? Share it in the comments section!


Two Powerful Animation Tools for Your iBook Author Creations

This summer our company, Score Publishing, put on the iBooks Author Academy. We had a small but interesting group creating iBooks on a variety of topics.  Our participants consisted of a 15 year old students at Ensworth School, two University of Kentucky professors, and one Latin High School teacher. I want to share with you the story of our student participant.

This aspiring young artist wanted to create a comic book using her own illustrations. During our time together she expressed the desire to make animated video clips using her drawings to put into her book. She wanted the animations to include sounds, motions, and layered images. “This is going to be fun!” I thought.

We had to figure out the best tools for this job and luckily we had them! One tool was Tumult Hype 3. We downloaded the software onto her Mac and began by dropping in a background image that she had already created. The background also had one of her characters in the drawing and the character was going to be asking a question. She wanted to have a floating question mark moving up the page when the reader opened the page. So we added a simple question mark and used the tools inside of the Hype timeline to “move” the question mark.

Hype works in timelines and allows you to add in layers of images, text boxes, and buttons that you can apply physics laws to in order to have the animation work. It took me a couple of days to get the hang of using this program, but my artist student needed only one or two demonstrations before she got it.  Youth!!

Our next challenge was to take several images and put them into motion to create an animation. She had several drawings of a door at different angles closing. She wanted them to move in fast motion, think old fashion cartoon animations with the flipping pages.  She also wanted to have the sound of a bell being rung at the same time. So for this task we used the iPad app StopMotion.

She took a picture of each drawing in sequential order inside of StopMotion and tapped play. We exported the file out as a video and placed it inside of iBooks Author. Next, we imported the sound of a bell from Garageband and used the audio widget inside of iBooks Author to layer over the animation. It worked beautifully.

I can’t tell you how fun it was to facilitate the creation of this book for this young artist. It was a project she had long wanted to complete and she had most of her assets prepared before she came to our iBooks Author Academy. iBooks Author provided the platform for her creative expressions. She will hopefully be able to monetize her talents in the iBook Store very soon. Check back for a link to the published book to check it out.

In the meantime, if you are interested in animation creations for your iBooks, look no further than Hype 3 and or StopMotion. Do you have a different tool that you use?



instructional tech, Training, Uncategorized

Five Awesome Tools to Better Your Trainings

Many of us have sat through boring trainings witnessing the trainer attempting to encourage participants to speak up or ask questions. There is usually one or two people who will raise their hand and ask a question or two. Or worse, you get the person who just can’t help but to talk too much and input their opinions or stories. You can feel it when the room starts to get annoyed with those individuals who just do not know when to stop interrupting with their own agendas. Or, you feel bad for the trainer in front of you who cannot, for the life of them, get their audience engaged.

Luckily, there are many other ways to control the audience and limit disruptions while increasing engagement of all the participants.

Here are five great tools that not only increase their participations, but also encourages collaboration.

  1.  Padlet is an interactive blackboard that provides a space where multiple users can post content. It’s basically a digital sticky note collection.  Use Padlet as a place for questions, examples, thoughts, and reflections before, during and after your training.  Be sure to monitor the ideas as they go up in order to provide accurate feedback to the group.
  2. Google Presentations.  Using Google Presentations during a training session is a great way to crowd source and organize content. You can create a template prior to the session and share it to your audience. Use grouping strategies to assign certain parts of the slides to certain groups. This can be used as a collaborative activity that crowd sources ideas and example centered around a topic. The beauty of Google is its share-ability and collaborative aspects. Use this as a closing exercise or a brainstorming exercise at the beginning of your training.
  3. Twitter. Create a particular hashtag for the training day and set aside specific tweeting times. Have your audience members tweet out questions, thoughts, ideas, and links to deepen the comprehension of the training topics. To take this even further as a trainer, let some of your PLN know that you will be hosting a session and tweet to them. They will in turn tweet back making the session more interesting.
  4. is an alternative to Twitter if, for example, your audience members are not tweeters. Its a secure back channeling website that is exclusive to your audience. Simply create your account and share the link to your participants. Once they join your room, they will be able to post to the discussion board. Use helpful cues such as Q for question to prompt discussions.  It is also helpful to have questions already created in order to maximize the effectiveness of this tool.
  5. iTunesU now has a discussion feature embedded in its software. This works well if you are running your training session out of an iTunesU classroom environment. This is also secure only to the members of your session.  This feature is great for discussions and reflections. All of the members of the session will see everyone else’s post just like the previously mentioned tools.our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load. Queen Elizabeth II

Whether you are putting together an hour of training or two days of training, these tools are a must for active participation. They are easy to set up and truly make a difference in the quality of your sessions. Do you have a favorite tool you use for audience participation? Leave me a comment and let me know the tool and what you like about it!


ibooks author, Uncategorized

Take Your iBook from Good to Great!

iBooks Author comes with its own set of widgets you can embed inside your book. But, to make your book even better check out third party widget creators! They will take your book from good to great! Some third party widget builders are free, some cost a small fee, and some are free for a short time before charging you. If you are going to be writing a lot of books, I say go for the paid version. My three favorite widget creators online are,, and Tumult Hype. At these sites you can create online quizzes, embed webpages, create word puzzles, interactive images, games and more.

Here is how and works:

  1. Create an account at or
  2. Search through widgets and select one you like.
  3. Add your own content into the widget.
  4. Download said widget.
  5. Drag and drop it from downloads to your book page.

It is that simple. The user will see the interactive widget when they go through your book. Remember, you can preview your book either on your iPad or your Mac to see how your new widget looks in real time. Keep in mind devices must be connected to the internet to be fully functional.

Tumult Hype is an HTLM5 animation creation tool. It is a separate software package that you can download for a cost. Educators do get a discount. This program is useful if you want to create your own interactive content. Let’s say you have a graphic, like a flow chart or a diagram and you want it to become interactive. Hype can do that for you. You import your graphic and add content layered on top to create the interactivity. Next you export it out as an iBooks Author widget and drop it on your page.

Like any piece of software, Hype takes time to learn. Tumult has an extensive YouTube channel full of easy to follow tutorials. Remember, widgets need to serve a purpose. Refrain from spending hours creating amazing graphics if they don’t support student learning and outcomes. This is a graphic that I created in Hype. I used basic shapes, changed opacity, added text boxes and created an interactive path. Because Hype can export files as a videos you could create your intro media as well. These are just two useful ways to utilize Tumult’s Hype 3 program.

third party widget graphic gif


ibooks author, Uncategorized

Three Great Ways to Curate Content Before Writing Your iBook

Curating content comes in many forms. You might collect articles, videos, images, or ideas in many different ways.  Having a system to curate content will make your life much easier when it comes to writing your iBook. You will want your content to be engaging throughout. As you are researching articles, videos, and possible forums. Have a method of saving those to something specific so that you can easily find them when you are ready to draft your book. Imagine coming across an article that would be a perfect link for your book, but you aren’t writing the book at the time. Just use your curating tool and then you will have it saved for when you are ready.  Here are three tools that can help you curate online content. It syncs with my browsers from any device and I can go back to the content when I am ready. On my iPad I have the app so that if I curate content on my Mac it will also show up on my iPad in the app.

Some people like Save to My Drive from Google. This works really well if you are a Google Chrome user. Your online articles and images will drop right into your Google Drive. Better yet, if you have your Google Drive app on your iPad, you can find your curated content all synced up.

I’ve also used in the past. Your content starts to look like an online magazine and is more for publishing, but it will hold whatever you find on the web. Your pages are fun to share if you are going to a conference or training your colleagues on a topic.

The point is to find a tool that works for you and stick with it. It will make finding your content later so much easier. The content you create will be waiting for you when you begin drafting out your iBook!

image from social
politics, public school, Uncategorized

Doesn’t Every Child Deserve a Private Education?

I don’t usually write about political issues but during this time of great decision making for our Presidential office and Supreme Court appointees, it’s difficult to remain quiet. I’ve been making the rounds to a few private schools, and I am always amazed at the luxurious facilities and technology-laden schools I have the privilege of working with. Some schools have amazing working and learning spaces with moveable furniture, iPads on stands for student access, as well as successful 1 to 1 technology plans.  There are beautiful libraries with roaring fireplaces and cushy places to read, collaborate, and study. I walk away in awe. In fact, sometimes I just want to have a cup of coffee, find a book and stay. At around 5 I might hear, “um, Ma’am, its time to go home now.”

You see, I come from the public school sector and have been conditioned to accept what is given and not complain. Teachers in the public sector spend time coming up with ways to purchase basic necessities and fundraise for extra projects and programs.

So its no wonder I drool over some of the, shall we say, well-endowed places I have seen. I shared a few pictures of a private school I visited with a retired teacher of public schools. Without missing a beat, her response was that all children should have that kind of education. Her statement struck a chord with me and after thinking it over, I have to agree. Why doesn’t our country provide outstanding educational facilities and educators to everyone? Why is it only the wealthy get to experience facilities loaded with everything you could imagine; from access to the latest technology to healthy foods to sporting facilities and outstanding educators? How did we become so accustomed to discrepancies of access to high quality education and outstanding facilities for kids across our great nation?

In the midst of these thoughts we have a water crisis that speaks volumes to our nations infrastructure and we have students who attend schools that are unclean or unsafe. How can our country boast its importance in the world when we are failing to take care of our children’s basic needs? Schools should be equitable, safe, and yes, even luxurious. Students spend approximately 18,000 hours of their life in k-12 grades. Why wouldn’t we make those places beautiful? We’ve become complacent and too accepting of the status quo. Every child deserves an amazing education, clean water, technology, great educators and healthy food. It is disheartening to say the least. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you walked into a school and couldn’t tell if it was a private or public school?  I don’t have the answers but remain hopeful that the next wave of public servants will impact our country for the better and improve public education.

Widespread public access to knowledge, like public education, is one of the pillars of our democracy, a guarantee that we can maintain a well-informed citizenry.

instructional tech, Uncategorized

Four Great Ways to Stay Epic in Your Classroom

created by me at

This time of year can be challenging for teachers because it is the time of testing, test prepping, and yearning for that upcoming spring break. Students begin counting the days until summer and graduation. Last night at our dinner table my teens had the number down pat! 58 more actual school days and 93 total days till graduation. The school year is a roller coaster of ups and downs, fatigue and energy, testing and “thanks goodness that test is over!”, ups and downs.


I encourage you to stay fresh in your ideas and teaching during this time of year no matter how much your neighboring teacher is complaining of exhaustion and frustration. Stay true to your passion to educate and engage your students. Here are four ways to stay current, excited, and fresh in your teaching.


  • Being a connected educator on Twitter is one of the best things I have done as an educator. Twitter feeds me new ideas, brings new people into my professional life, and inspires me to continue my own learning. Try participating in a Twitter chat to discover new ideas and connect with educators just like you. Check out this list of online educational chats happening everyday on Twitter. If being connected on Twitter doesn’t push you to learn something new everyday, nothing will! Remember that if you are new to Twitter it might feel a little slow at first, but once you start popping into chats and following the right people, it will pick up momentum. I tell new teachers to Twitter to click on who I am following and then start following those people. It isn’t perfect, but its a start to finding the right educators to follow.


  • Edcamps are a stress free and fun way to learn from other professionals and its completely learner driven. Edcamps have no set agenda and anyone can share information and lead sessions. Teachers, administrators, and other educators are welcome to come. Edcamps can be found across the nation. Check out the list of Edcamps here.

Your Students

  • Sometimes inspiration is right in front of us. Ask your students what their passion project would be and what it would look like. I have seen passion projects, or genius hour completely revive a classroom with excitement and interest. Read this teacher’s blog about her middle school genius hour. We get so caught up in teaching to a scripted curriculum that we can miss opportunities to engage students more deeply in content for which they are passionate. Letting your students lead the way can energize you and your students. I see a lot of teacher wait to begin until after all the testing is over. I say go ahead and jump in now! You will be amazed at what your students come up with.

Online Courses

  • Taking an online course can inspire you in a couple of ways. First, it  provides CEU’s or CCU’s, (insert your preferred acronym here). These credit hours usually help you move increase your salary. Who doesn’t like the idea of higher pay?! And secondly, you will be able to learn some great information in a really short time. Quality online courses are well organized, packed full of great content, and thoroughly engaging as well as available 24/7. Check out the online courses at for educational technology courses for about half the price of most online classes. Their classes are accredited through Brandman University, in California.

Take heart that spring is here and keep your teaching fresh with these ideas. What is your favorite way to stay current and engaged with teaching? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts!