ibooks author, instructional tech, iPad, Uncategorized

Have iPads in Your Classroom? Use iBooks Author!!

widgetsMany institutions are continuing to move towards a 1:1 iPad environment.  It’s been an interesting thing to watch as early adopters of iPad technology and digital content users slowly infiltrate the education realm. Typically technology evolves and  tools change, but iPads seem to have the staying power that truly transforms classrooms.

Along with this digital shift comes many questions. One question is “How do I get student textbooks on the iPads?” Some institutions purchase the electronic version of a textbook. Most of these resources are simply epub versions. This means there is little if any interactivity in this type of book. In this case one is simply digital content for paper. This is not transformational.

In order to transform your classrooms and utilize the power of iPads, use iBooks Author to create interactive books for your students.  Teachers constantly curate materials from Youtube videos, self made resources, online articles, and discussion forums.  If you are a one of these teachers and your students are using iPads in classes, then iBooks Author should be the tool for you!

iBooks Author gives you the ability to create beautiful textbooks that become interactive experiences for your students.  As I have written in my previous post, the easiest way to deliver your books to your students is through iTunesU.

What makes iBooks author so unique are widgets and media. The best part is you do not need to code anything yourself.  iBooks Author does it for you.


Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 5.12.35 PM

Widgets are basically coded placeholders for interactive information.  The widgets inside of iBooks Author are Media, Scrolling sidebar, Pop-Over, Keynote, Gallery, Interactive Image, 3D, and HTML.  Each of these widgets does something unique to create an interactive experiences for the reader. Other third party widget creators that I love are bookry.com and bookwidigets.com. These sites help you create many other HTML widgets that can be downloaded and dropped right on a page in iBooks Author.  Some of my favorite widgets from these sites are word searches, crossword puzzles, quizzes, and embedded websites.



Using the Media widget within iBooks Author allows you to simply drop in a Keynote presentation, a video, or an audio file. Teachers can record their lecture and drop it in their book, or create a how-to screen recording and drop it into a books, or add an audio recording into their book for greater accessibility features.

If you have some text, media rich information, and the desire to use some widgets to create a more interactive experience for your students, then you are set to learn how to use iBooks Author! If you want more information on how to become and iBooks Author Guru, please leave me a comment or email me at jennifer@ibooksauthor.guru.


My next post will be all about design elements to consider before creating your iBook.

Blogging, collaboration, Uncategorized

Collaboration~Your Key to a Better Blog

Back in the day teachers were master hoarders.  They kept great lessons to themselves, self created activities were top secret, and articles written were published with one author and one author only.  

Then along came tools like Google, and all of a sudden people were able to easily collaborate together.  This meant a huge cultural shift in educational settings. Every educator is faced with the question of “to collaborate or not to collaborate.” It also raises these questions: “What does good collaboration look like?” and  “Why would I want to collaborate if what I am doing is working for me?”



When it comes to blogging, I learned that my posts became much stronger when I was open to sharing and collaborating with my colleagues. My preferred method of sharing was through Google Docs. I was fortunate to have some really good writers on my team.  People who have a different perspective than mine are invaluable critics of my work.  People who are more detailed oriented than me are also invaluable to my work.  I like to move quickly and think big and picking things apart just isn’t in my nature.  We all have weaknesses even if we don’t realize it.  Being open to critique will identify your weaknesses and help make whatever you are creating even better.  

Being open to criticism is a refined skill. The things is, once you pause to consider how it could help you produce higher quality work, it becomes essential.  I encourage you to find one or two people who are willing to look at your posts before you post. Look for someone who isn’t exactly like you.  A little dissonance can be a good thing in a critic. What you don’t want to hear is, “looks good to me”.  This is not helpful.  With a good critic and collaborator your written work improves and it might even spark a new idea for your next post.  

Now that I am working for little ole’ me, I miss having my team around to look over my work.  I am so used to collaborating that I am positive that what I am creating now isn’t as good as it used to be because I am missing out on their input.  So if you have a couple of people who are game to work with you, take advantage of it and be open to their ideas, and critiques.  

I have shared this video several times in the past during training sessions, but it is really beneficial for those of us who have a difficult time working with constructive criticism.  

Austin’s Butterfly 

Do you have a favorite method to share and work together?  Please leave me a comment on your views of teacher collaboration.



How to Make Blog Post Titles That Rock

OK so you’ve committed yourself to attempting to create and to keep up with your blog.  You’ve got your first post idea rolling around in your head and maybe you’ve even started drafting out the content. Great! Now how what about that title?  The trick to a solid title is to catch the reader’s attention and convey immediately the point of the post. Teachers are busy people and like things to be to the point.

I have a teacher colleague who always started his blog with, The Time When.. It worked for me as a reader because I knew he was going to tell a story and reflect on the event. Other teacher bloggers might use titles like How We Beat Long Division, or Three Tips to Successful Calculus Problem Solving, or When the Chicken Came Out of the Egg.

Here are five ways to make your titles stick and be amazing!

Use Strong Language

Sounds simple enough but you want to use words that convey emotion. Words like unbelievable, amazing, rock, impossible, and mind blowing are good examples of words that will catch reader’s attention. Every teacher wants to achieve the impossible right?

Use Numbers

This is a very common but effective strategy to title creation. I use it often enough for sure.  Titles like 3 Ways to Master Notability, 5 Things You Didn’t Know Your Second Graders Can do Better Than You, or 10 Ways to Use Google Classroom Today!”  This lets your reader know exactly what they will get out of your post.

Ask a Question

Opening your blog with a title question is a great way to increase interest. Question titles like Want to Know More About Pages? or Did You Know That Your Students Can Change The World with One Google Hangout? Using questions isn’t my favorite method because as you can see sometimes your title becomes lengthy, but its a good strategy to have tucked in your back pocket if you get hung up on one of the other methods. Change is good right?

Use Specific Words

Nouns and adverbs are great ways to start a title. Words like how, tips, tricks, why, when work really well in titles. Titles like How Your Students Can Create 3D Images, or Tips and Tricks for your Google Drive, and Why You Want to Let Your Students Play on their iPads.  

Create Your Title After You Have Written and Revised Your Post

I often start a post with a title in mind and then completely change it after I have revised the post.  Sometimes I end up with two different topics in my writing and break it into two different posts.  Don’t feel like you have to have the title first. Working backwards is really helpful. Teachers work backwards all the time so this should feel pretty natural.

Basically, your titles should be catchy, simple, and to the point. There are actually blog title generator websites, like BlogAbout and HubSpot that will generate a title for you. When I am desperate I will use these but your voice will always carry  greater emotion and energy.

Next up in my blogging series on teacher blogging:  How to Make Your Posts Even Better With Collaboration

Blogging, Uncategorized

Be A Teacher Blogger

Tell Your StoryShare Your HeartBLOG

Classroom teachers should blog. Its a tool that can increase reflection, inform parents and supervisors, increase interest in the classroom goings. I come across so many teachers who exclaim, “I don’t have time to blog!” and “I don’t have anything to write about worth reading.”  If you are a teacher, trust me, you have lots of content to write about. You have stories to tell, field trips to document, announcements to make, and praise to give. If you are a teacher, you are tasked with documenting your professional growth, reflecting on your practices, and making it better. If you are a teacher, blogging is an excellent platform to model written communication for your students. Blogging accomplishes all of these things. Here are 5 things to consider when starting your own teaching blog.

Don’t Get Hung Up on Perfection

It’s easy to get hung up on perfection when writing. Don’t do that! One way to rest assured that your posts are ready is to have a trusted partner read your pieces before you publish them.  Your audience of parents, students, and fellow educators are a super forgiving group. They will be grateful for your extra effort in communication and story telling.

Keep it Simple

Think of blogging as a narrative update for what’s going on in your classroom. Your blog posts can be as long or short as you like. It isn’t necessary to write several paragraphs every time. Some posts might be two photos with a few lines of text. Keep it simple and purposeful and it won’t seem so daunting.  Parents love seeing their kids featured, and will enjoy keeping abreast of what’s happening in your classroom.  Even parents of teenagers will appreciate the more detailed narrative of a blog as opposed to the usual 15 minute conference twice a year.

Share With Your Target Audience

If you only want to share it to a small group of people, do it. You don’t have to publish it to the world if you aren’t ready yet. Tools in WordPress.com are great for keeping your blog a bit more private. If you do want to share it out to the world, use Twitter as an avenue for sharing.  Be sure to tag your tweet with hashtags that will be seen by more people like the ones mentioned below.

Use Your Blog as a Reflection Tool

By documenting your school year in your blog, you can revisit it during those pesky evaluation conferences. It is an excellent documentation tool as well as a reflective tool for you as a professional. Some teachers enjoy blogging about a successful lesson or activity. Other teachers like to blog about their ideas. Even in today’s digital world, Principals are often impressed by your amazing blog.  You decide how it can support your own professional growth throughout the year and you can’t go wrong.

Use Twitter to Locate Good Blogging Examples

Later I will be sharing out my favorite edu blogs to read, but for now I encourage you to get yourself connected on Twitter to find some blogs. Good educational blogs can support your own learning and provide examples of enjoyable and interesting blogs. Search hashtags like #edtech #edchat #tt4t #ipadchat to get started.

I myself needed a little motivation to continue my own blog for the year 2016 so I am going to use a thematic structure to my blog. Each month I will blog about a particular topic. This month my theme is Teacher Blogging. I am also going to be setting aside a little time each day to write something with the goal of one post per week.

How can you get started with your own blog?  What is holding you back?


Using GeoGebra to Engage Math Students

Today I witnessed an entire high school math class 100% engaged in learning about isosceles triangles. The teacher used Chromebooks and the app GeoGebra.  GeoGebra is a great tool for integrating technology into teaching algebra, geometry, graphing, spreadsheets, and 3 dimensional design standards.  It provides students with the tools to create accurate graphs, 3-D models, and geometry models. GeoGebra is a free tool that can be accessed on mobile devices through an app, as an app on a Chromebook, or by simply using their URL in any browser at www.geogebra.org.  

GeoGebra+google Drive


Geogebra is appropriate for middle and high schools and even some advanced elementary math students.  GeoGebra also has a large base of Materials you can use for teaching your math standards.  

Here is an activity that one teacher taught at a High School. Using GeoGebra her students created isosceles triangles, found perpendicular intersecters, and labeled specific points on shapes.  Her students had never used this application and within ten minutes her students were successful.  

Her students were able to use the Save to My Google Drive extension to save their creations directly to their Google Drive. From there they created a new Google Doc and used the insert image tool to place all of their images onto one single Doc to be shared back to the teacher.

Using computer skills to create models based on math theorems, proofs, and geometry rules is a great skill for our future engineers and future designers of the world.



What Does Student Assessment Look Like in a Modern Classroom?

The sweep of a red pen just doesn’t cut it in today’s modern classrooms.  One final grade seems insubstantial when students are using a multitude of digital devices to smash apps together in order to create products that are sharable to the world.  What our students are capable of doing in today’s classrooms surpass how a teacher traditionally grades work.

If a student is fortunate enough to be in a modern classroom, how can they receive adequate feedback that confirms their growth and understanding of a concept? How can teachers continue to assess student work without shutting down the creative process?  These are questions that teachers struggle with when implementing instructional technology that provides alternative ways to demonstrate understanding.  

The good news is there is a multitude of ways we can provide appropriate feedback to students. I’ve found that teaching students to being open to criticism helps the process of effective assessment.  We can coach our students to be open to criticism and understand the power of revision and reflection. This is an excellent example of the power of revision.  I use it to coach both teachers and students of all levels to be open to positive criticism and to improve their own creations through revision.

Here are 5 ways to evaluate alternative student work

  1. Provide audio feedback.  In using your own teacher voice with iinflection, students can gain a deeper understanding of your meaning. I recommend 3 tools for this.  One is Kazeina for Google Docs.  You can add this tool to your Google Doc through Add-ons.   add onsKazeina lets you insert an audio clip directly on a Google Doc linking it to highlighted text.  Another great tool for audio feedback is by using Evernote.  If you are a big Evernote user, you can have students share projects with you and you can shareback audio notes back to them about their projects.  And a third tool that I love is Notability.  You can open notes into Notability through Google and other shared spaces and add multiple audio clips to the note.  
  2. Video embedded reflective blogs.  This might be a mouthful, but I’ve seen some pretty amazing blogs out there written by young students who have embedded videos into their posts.  If utilized correctly, you could gain a lot of knowledge on student progress and performance with this tool.  Many teachers like kidblog and edublogs for this.  The trick is to get the kids to have their video created online in order to grab an embed code. Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo work well for this.  Need a blogging rubric?  Check out these from Pinterest.  
  3. Google forms.  Google forms have been around for a few years, but this tool is still a great go-to when needing a quick way to perform a formative assessment.  It is also an excellent tool for students reflection on their own progress. Google forms are easy to create and easy to share.  You end up with a great spreadsheet full of information upon completion. I know a teacher who uses google forms to see how each of his students are feeling every single morning.  
  4. Crowd-sourcing through social media.  This might feel a little scary to some teachers. But, imagine an assessment provided by experts in a relevant field.  For example, I have worked with business teachers who have leveraged Twitter to provide feedback on entrepreneurial ideas.  Celebrities on Shark Tank, for example can connect with students through Twitter to assess their work.  The world truly is flat if we know who to connect with and which tools to use.  

These tools are effective ways to provide assessments for modern, digital creations.  Assessment needs to be relevant for today’s students.  When they can post a video to youtube and get immediate feedback from anyone in the world, how are we going to match that in our classrooms?  We must do everything we can to create an environment that acknowledges their creative freedoms while aligning to what we need our kids to learn.  Be daring and try one of these methods for assessment and let me know how it goes!



An Unexpected Skill~Thinking Differently

After visiting with a 4th grade teacher, I left with a few interesting thoughts. The teacher was showing me how one of her students professed to using 28 different apps to create one project. The end project was an iMovie and sure enough this student had a ton of different ways that he had made his images.  He used everything from Pic Collage to Notability, Telegami and Chatter Pix.  The video itself was nothing short of a montage of images that expressed his ideas and understanding of the topic.  What was interesting is the evidence of being able to tackle a project and think differently about it.  

When students first start using iPads and their task is to create an iMovie, often times students will save google images and then throw those into a storyboard. What this student did and many others like him in his class was to create their own images. Not only did he create his own drawings and images but he used a ton of different apps to do so. I can appreciate this on a couple different levels.  

One, is that I myself sometimes become frustrated when I am trying to find an image that expresses my idea.  I have begun drawing what I want instead.  I use apps like Notability, Explain Everything, and Paper 53 to create my drawings.  Even though I am sure my artwork isn’t perfect, I know it’s mine and I don’t have to worry about copyright laws.  

Second, I love that kids who are immersed in iPad technology are developing the skills to think differently about how to complete a task. No longer are they tied to paper, pencil and crayons.  They have a tool to create anything they can imagine to express their understanding and ideas.  Thier only limitation is their imagination. The world needs individuals who can look at a project from all different angles and experiment with a variety of tools to complete a task.  

And third, these kids are learning from each other because they are all doing something different. The expectation that assignments must look the same upon completion has been turned upside down with effective technology, pedagogy, and tools. No longer does everyone’s work look the same, and no longer is the evaluation of a task a percentage or letter grade. Whether you have iPads or are a BYOD environment, attempt to create lessons that allow for creativity.  

Created by me with Paper 53!

If you open the door to the possibilities of student expressing their understanding in a multitude of ways you will be amazed at what they will come up with.  

Written by Jennifer Krzystowczyk


5 Tools to Get Your Presence On

imagesEducators of today face many challenges.  Students live in a face-paced, information- saturated world.  How do educators keep kids engaged, informed, and connected?  Creating your own digital presence as a teacher is key to answering this question.  

If you aren’t sure where to start here are 5 tools that can increase your digital presence.


Blogging is an excellent way to tell the story of your classroom.  There are many platforms that work for a classroom blog.  We love blogger, wordpress, or edublogs.  Blogger is connected to your Google account if you have one.  Some teachers find that with blogging they do not need a website. Great sites for educators are Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress, and Kidblog.  

Check out these class blogs for inspiration.  






Real time streaming within the Twitter app is a powerful tool.  Participating in Periscope as a watcher or a videographer is a great way to increase your digital presence.  @PreriscopeEdu is being tapped as a Twitter account for educators to follow.  You can bring the world into your classroom with Periscope and provide unique, real-time learning.  Like any app turn on your notifications for Periscope and see what is trending immediately.


Twitter is being overtaken by educators!  Use Twitter for yourself professionally to connect with other educators and ideas.  It can take a while to fine tune your professional learning network, but once you have a solid foundation of people to follow, Twitter becomes invaluable. You can use Twitter for your class by creating your own class hashtag.  Simply choose a word and tell your kids what it is, like #mrssmithclass and use it for class discussions.  


Now more than ever kids are into instagram.  This generation has been dubbed, the most photographed generation ever.  Kids use photos to express emotion, status, and experiences.  Use instagram as a way to showcase student work, literary themes, science experiments, field trips and more.  Remember, you can set the privacy settings so that only certain people can see your instagram feed.  This is helpful for teachers wanting to only have their students see what is posted.  

YouTube Channel

Create playlists on content that supports your teaching and require students to watch those videos prior to coming to class to increase intervention time and group work.  YouTube channels and playlists are great, because you can add to them throughout the year in order to curate content.  

A Website

Teacher websites provide important links and information to students.  We like Weebly and Google sites.  Both platforms are free and easy to use.  Here are some great teacher websites to check out.  






How Educational Leaders Can Support a Growth Mindset

From Edutopia.org

Educational leaders give lip service to a concept called growth mindset.  It is brought up in PD sessions and teacher assessments.  There is even a hashtag, #growthmindset, that is on Twitter.

Growth is defined as, the process of developing.  Mindset is defined as the established set of attitudes.  So growth mindset must mean to develop your attitudes, right?

How can leaders facilitate a growth mindset from a set of teachers within a district?  First, leaders must examine their own set of attitudes and take responsibility for their own growth.  Growing attitudes takes time and conscious work.  It doesn’t happen overnight and certain behaviors can help facilitate growth among educators.  Consider these five steps that leaders can embrace when moving people to different attitudes about learning in the classroom.

Model a growth mindset

As a leader, try new tools, read relevant books, and engage in critical conversations about growth.  Talk about what you are reading, share new skills you are learning, or tweet out content you find valuable to your own learning.  Use the hashtag #growthmindset in your tweets to reach an interested audience.  If you aren’t learning something new, how can you expect others that you mentor to do the same?

Support risk-taking

If an educator comes to you with an idea, be a good listener.  Too often fear guides decisions.  The what if’s and worries get in the way.  Instead, attempt to provide whatever support the teacher needs to make their ideas come to fruition. Who knows? You might learn something new in the process.

Focus on passion in the classroom and not the tests

It is a true statement that tests receive the most attention within the classroom despite the grade level. Let’s move away from testing as an end all and go with passion for learning instead. After all, if students don’t love learning, what is the point of school?  Passion is where its at and genius hour is one great way to kick off some passionate learning in the classroom.  Conversations needs to shift from, “What does your data look like?”  to “What are your students engaged in learning about right now?”

Provide opportunities for growth 

Seek out learning opportunities for teachers that might spark their passion for learning.  Be open to ideas for conferences, twitter chats, MOOCs and collaboration.  Provide interesting and engaging literature for teachers like Teach Like a Pirate or The Relevant Educator.

Allow teachers to take responsibility for their own learning.

Instead of providing professional development that is a sit and get model, provide more engaging and transformative PD in the form of collaborative spaces, big ideas, and teacher leaders.  Professional development can and should be differentiated. We love using Google communities, Twitter, and Google docs for collaborative work spaces.

The gift of time is also critical for effective professional development. Learning can take the form of many different avenues and leaders should be open to all of them.

I love this post from Steve Anderson about creativity and a crisis in leadership. He states that “we all need to ensure kids have opportunities to learn, reflect, grow and follow their passions, through learning.”  I believe educators have the same need and I believe educational leaders have the responsibility to support, model, and facilitate this need.  Maybe then our lip service to a growth mindset can come to fruition.


About Me

I’m finally back in the south!  I’ve traveled around for a while and am so glad to be back home in the south techin’ it up!  With 20 years in education and several of those in instructional technology I love impacting student learning, empowering teachers with instructional technology, and advocating for best practices in schools.  Previous Apple Foundations Trainer and Google Apps for Education Trainer, I am a lover of all things Apple, creativity, public speaking, and being a connected educator.

Teaching accredited online education technology courses at www.edcelerate.org.
Connect with me on Twitter at @jennyktechin.