ISTurin Presentation Links

Tomorrow I’m presenting at the International School of Turin. They’re putting on a technology conference as part of their 50th Anniversary celebration and they’ve brought in the one and only Jeff Utecht as the keynote speaker. It’s a small conference, but I’m pleased to have been offered a spot presenting by Greg Read, Head of ICT, after meeting him this summer at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in Cork, Ireland.

My presentation is entitled “Connecting Students Globally.” Here’s my Google Doc of resources I’m sharing with the attendees.

On the Hunt for Quality Windows 8 Apps

Our school year is off to a fast start. I can’t believe it is already October?!?!?!?!

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Andrea_44:

The cart of Dell Windows 8 tablets that we ordered has arrived and been put to use in a first project for Grades 1-5. In celebration of International Dot Day on September 15th, our students listened to Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot, and used it as their inspiration for artwork of their own. You can see our completed work here.

And I’ve been searching for apps for our Early Childhood students to use. The functionality of the tablet should be more practical for those young fingers and I hope that we can provide them with a small amount of technology exposure to start building their skills and enhance their classroom learning.

Here are the apps that I’ve checked out:

GS Preschool Games Lite

The graphics in this app are well done. There are a variety of options, though some are too difficult for all three year olds. There are also a few words that are culturally specific, like “wax apple”. I have no idea what this fruit is to be honest. They also refer to what I know as butternut squash, simply as butternut. Depending on what the student is familiar with this could cause some confusion. A feature that I did like is that the background music can be turned off while directions and guides are left on.

Guru Cool Playschool- PreSchool Essentials

While there are several different options in this app, only the Shapes activity is free. The others: colors, tracing, the alphabet, and counting are at an additional cost.

The graphics are nice and the voice/instructions are easy to hear.

The games are developmentally appropriate, including simple matching and drag and drop activities. I think that this app has a lot of potential for our students and it’s on my list to look in to purchasing.

Kids Colors (Preschool)

Again, this app has nice looking graphics. There are several sections on the initial menu: learn, pick, find, and more games.

In the learn sections, there are 10 colors and when you click on a color it splashes on the canvas and says the color name. I wish this activity had more to it as it’s not interactive and I think students would lose interest.

In the pick section, several jellyfish appear on the screen and a voice asks you to identify the jellyfish that is a given color. If you get it wrong, the jellyfish drops to the bottom of the screen and you get additional chances to identify the correct jellyfish.

In the find section, there are matching games for color. This section is really nice because you can adjust the number of cards for matching my clicking the options button on the right. This allows to differentiate for children who may need less or more options.

The more games section leads you to games that can be bought in the Windows store.

Learn Forms and Shapes

This app has a “studying” section. Here there is no sound, only pictures, without words and no cues are given to direct the student. There is a Find a Pair game, the only one available in the free version, that is a memory matching game. It uses 12 cards, and again has no sound. There is no option to adjust the number of cards.

Preschool Learning

Unfortunately, in the free version there is essentially nothing available. You can choose between numbers and letters. You then click on the words Alphabets or Numbers to get to the choices, but then when you open a letter or number, nothing happens. There is no sound.

Kindergarten 8 Lite

This app is specifically geared towards Kindergarten students, but I thought I’d investigate to see if there was anything that might be useful to younger students.

Even in the lite version, there are several options for students. In the Alphabets sections, the sound is given and an object with the same starting sound, but the app doesn’t cue students to touch the letters. There is an Alphabet Chart section, which is simply a list of letters. When you touch the letters, you hear the letter sound. The Alphabet Balloon Quiz is the same balloon game from GS Preschool Games Lite. The Numbers 1-9 game operates in the same manner as the Alphabet games.

There is a Colors section with 14 colors and a pencil and paint bucket. The name of the color is mentioned when you select it. I could not get the drawing to clear the color even after closing the app, so this would not be useful for scenarios when multiple students must use the same device. It also has stamps and patterns.

The Rhymes section has simple graphics with basic movement, but it is nothing fancy. A rhyme plays and the lyrics are available. When the rhyme finishes you are not prompted to leave the rhyme, it simply plays again. A small child would not know to use the back button to return to the menu.

The Playground section contains more games from GS Preschool, or at least ones that are in a similar format. There is a time present in the games. This concerned me at first, but I realized that the game continues to function when the time runs out.

The Charts sections only lists lots of things and doesn’t cue the students in any way as to what to do. It only gives the names of the object pictured. And, as mentioned in the section for the Preschool app, a lot of them are strange or, in my opinion, difficult for this age group. For example, Romanescu broccoli is included in the vegetable section.


Are you using Windows 8 tablets with elementary students? If so, I would love to hear from you!



Mapping Milano

While school is sloooooooooowly coming to an end here in Milan, I’ve been trying to squeeze in Google’s latest MOOC (massive open online course) on Google Maps and Earth.

As part of the requirement to earn the completion certificate for Maps, you must create your own map in the new beta version of Google Maps Engine Lite. I’m sharing my map here for those interested!

I’ve tried embedding it below…but, the link is above if the embedded info is not working properly!

Focus on Literacy

As mentioned in my previous post, my school will be getting a set of Windows 8 tablets to use in our elementary next year.

Here are my reviews of 5 apps I found focused on reading and literacy.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by John Morgan:

I Can Read

This app seems to contain four stories that use basic sight words to assist in the development of reading skills. Each story uses the same sentence starter repeatedly. In the “domestic animals” story the words “I see” are used to start each sentence.

However, this app currently has a few issues that would need to be fixed prior to use with students. The first problem I identified was that each time you press the “speak” button, the app closes. So there is a sound issue with the app that needs to be addressed. In the “Family” story, the buttons are hidden in the design of the page.

But, the biggest issue of all is the incorrect English grammar displayed in the “Vegetables” and “Fruits” stories. For example, the sentence “I like corns” is used. The sentences “I eat apple” and “I eat banana” are also included. Until sentences like this are corrected there is no place for this app as a teaching or learning tool.

Read with Biff, Chip & Kipper

The free version of this app only has one sample story, which by the end of my exploration I realized was a sample of several bits of different stories. The app states that this is a series of 48 books used in the UK primary schools. There are 6 different levels, with stories divided into Phonics titles and First Stories.

The stories can be read to the student or they can read it by themselves.

The story is read with a British accent, and the sample story started by asking the student to find three objects starting with the “d” sound. There isn’t a consistent sound to remind students to turn the page. This was an example of one of the phonics stories. It only showed two pages before moving to the next level phonics story. After two pages, it moved to another level’s First Story. This pattern continued and varied between Phonics and First Stories samples. I liked some of the phonics ideas that I saw, like the ‘f’ and ‘ph’ sounds and how they are used in different words, and the illustrations were nice. The text was highlighted as it was read to the student.

A review of the full app would be necessary to consider including this app on the tablets for our elementary students. With other options already available to us, like Tumblebooks, would this be a worthwhile expense? At this point, I’m not sure!

First Words with Phonics Lite

The “lite” version of this app only offers 4 of the 30 words that appear to be available.

When you select a word, like cat, you see an image of a cat along with the letters c, a, and t jumbled on the screen. The word ‘cat’ is spelled out in dimmed letters along the bottom of the screen.

By touching one of the scrambled letters, you hear the sound of the letter. The object of the activity is to drag the letter to the dimmed word and match them up. When you are successful with all the letters, each letter is sounded out before the entire word is spoken.

Then the program moves to the next word. A nice feature is that words that contain blends or digraphs keeps those parts of the word together. An example is the word ‘whale’. The ‘wh’ and the ‘le’ are together.

I like the idea behind this app for our youngest students, but the lite version has too few activities to make it a worthwhile component on our tablets.


iLetters opens to a screen with the letters of the alphabet displayed with an object that begins with the same letter. You can scroll across to see all 26 letters of the English alphabet.

When you touch a letter, you see an outline of the uppercase and lowercase version. The outlines are not like what you might find on a handwriting worksheet and are instead appear more like versions you would color. There are colored pencils to choose from to trace the letter. An eraser clears your work.

You can hear the sound of the letter by swiping from the bottom of the screen up. You can also save tracing of the letter as a bmp, jpg, or png.

When attempting to trace the letters in this app, I found the the curves of letters hard to consistently recreate. I also think students would be confused by the outlines provided and try to trace the dashes as they might do with a pencil and paper.

ABC Magic Reading Lite

This free app focuses on three letter words in three parts: Blending, Segmenting, and Reading. Thorough directions are provided for each section.

The blending section offers no on screen indication of what to do. You are supposed to tap the letter spaces to hear the sounds and blend to produce the word. Then tap the larger white space to see and hear the complete word. The letters never appear on the screen in this section.

The segmenting section functions similarly. The picture appears on the screen and the student is supposed to determine the letter sounds by using an “eraser or band-aid wrapped finger” to tap the letter spaces without hearing the sounds provided by the app. If you tap the picture you can hear the word, then the student can attempt to segment the different sounds of the word.

The last section of this app is Reading. The letters appear on the screen for the student to “read” and then the student can touch the larger picture section to hear the correct pronunciation and see the word.

Overall, I think that this app is too complicated for independent student use and would have to be monitored by the teacher or an adult. If that’s the case, there’s no need to use technology to complete this type of activity. I don’t feel that this app is intuitive and would require more instruction than a teacher would want to provide for this type of activity.

Down the Yellow Brick Road

The school year is winding down and many of us are looking ahead already to what the new school year will bring us. I’ll be remaining in my current position at ASM to finish my initial contract and deciding in the Fall what will come next…stay, go…so many decisions!

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Eder Capobianco:

But, in preparation for September I’ve been exploring some of the new technology we’ll have to share with our elementary students. We’re adding a cart of Windows 8 tablets to our hardware and I’m doing my best to learn the ins and out of this operating system.

I’ve also been digging deep in the Windows Store to find apps that will work for our elementary students. I love many of the apps available for iPads and now I’m searching for similar programs on this platform. I started searching the internet to find others who have reviewed Windows apps for young students and have yet to come across a solid source.

So I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and start reviewing some of the apps that I try out as potential programs.

Today, I’m sharing reviews of 5 drawing apps that I’ve tested.

If you, or someone you know, uses Windows 8 tablets with elementary students, please let me know! 


Paintbox is a free app that opens to a black drawing screen. There are no options to change the color of the background. There are 12 color choices and three different line sizes. There is also an “Erase All” button to clear your work. When drawing, if your finger left the drawing area the app did not continue drawing again until you lifted your finger and replaced it within the confines of the workspace. I found no saving option.

This app lacks the necessary features for use within an elementary program.

Any Draw Lite

This app opens to a blank screen. I sat for a few seconds to consider what option this app might have. By sliding my finger from the bottom of the screen up I found a pencil and eraser option. You can change the color and thickness of the lines. There are nine color options. The eraser worked inconsistently. The clear button erases everything from the screen. You can save as a png or jpg.

This app does not offer enough features, even for a free drawing program. There are better free options available for use.

Fresh Paint

With the free version of Fresh Paint you only have access to a blank canvas. I like that the drawing surface looks like an actual canvas and that the colors are on a painter’s palette. There are three pencil and crayon type options and four brush options. There are also several surface options, like choosing between canvas and paper. There are 14 color options and you can select others from the color wheel. It looks like you can fill empty palette spaces with additional colors you “create” but I’m not sure how. The drawings you can create do feel more realistic than some other apps I’ve tried before…i.e. the paint brush does actually function in a similar way to an actual brush. There was a slight delay when using our tablet and navigating this would be a learning curve for elementary students. There is a built in webcam feature. You must crop the picture prior to inserting it onto your canvas, as there didn’t appear to be any resizing options on the canvas. You can also insert pictures from your camera roll. This app saves to your camera roll as a png file.

I liked this app because it looks different from some other drawing apps. I like the realistic look of brush strokes and crayon drawings. The slight delay I experienced while working in the app might cause a bit of difficulty, but I think that elementary students might enjoy drawing in this app.

KidsPaint is a very basic program. It has numbers 0-9 that can be colored in with a pen type tool with one of nine colors. There is also a blank sheet of paper. The brush size can be adjusted when painting, but there is no fill bucket and the eraser does not change sizes. One nice features is that the program straightens out lines that you’ve drawn that are “jumpy.” The drawings save as png files to your camera roll.

While this app is suitable for elementary grades, I don’t feel that it has enough features to make it an app worth including on a tablet. I would prefer to stick with other apps that have more built in features and allow for other file saving options.


In Paint 4 Kids you can color several free outlines or use plain, lined, or graph paper to make and create designs. There are several color options to use and backgrounds and textures. A “color under” feature allows you to draw under other elements. The “fill” feature doesn’t seem to work within lines you draw, only for the entire background. The “spray” buttons appears to operate in the same way. There is a limited number of stamps provided, but there are size options. As for printing and saving, you can save only as a jpeg.

This app has enough features to make it worthy of downloading for my elementary students. While it doesn’t have every function we might want, I still think we can make use of it moving forward.

Connected from the Start

Recently, I finished reading Kathy Cassidy‘s new book Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.

image from Powerful Learning Practice website

Kathy’s book talks about using various collaboration platforms in a primary years classroom, like Skype, blogs, and Twitter. She gives numerous examples of ways that she has done this and I like that her ideas help remind teachers that you don’t have to have time intensive projects and well rehearsed kids before sharing and collaborating with others. Kathy’s stories also share the learning that was happening in her classroom through these collaborations.

This book would be a great read for anyone working in an elementary building. Kathy demonstrates the power of connections between primary classrooms and gives plenty of insight for you to begin making these connections too.

Kathy says, “Our connection…was a unique and authentic learning experience for all the students. It was a chance to make my classroom more culturally diverse than it could ever be without this global window.” (p. 10)

I’ve recommended this book to the staff I work with and I hope that they’ll add it to their summer reading list for inspiration when starting the new school year in September!

Kathy Cassidy’s classroom blog

Kathy Cassidy’s professional blog

Have you read Kathy’s book yet? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts too!

Put a Cork in it!

So, last Fall I had the crazy idea to apply to be part of the 2013 class of the European group of Apple Distinguished Educators.

Why is that a crazy idea, you say?

I work at a school with NO Apple products, except those that we own personally and try to use.

Even crazier? I was selected to be a part of this amazing group.

Thought I’d share my application video for those of you who decide to take on this amazing opportunity in the future.

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Why did I apply for this program when my experience with Macs and Apple are so limited?

I want to work with the best, build my PLN to be the most amazing group of educators and people, and gather as much knowledge as I can to share with the teachers I work with every day.

So, I’ve already got the unbelievable #coetail network and adding the ADE community can only add to what I’m learning every day.

To those of you who read my blog, comment on it, follow me on Twitter- thank you. I learn so much from each of you. I can only hope to occasionally share a bit of wisdom in return.

And, I hope to meet some of you in Cork this summer at the ADE Institute!

The Prensky Perspective

Last month while at the ECIS Technology Conference, I had the pleasure of listening to Marc Prensky’s keynote presentation. While his slides could use a bit of an update, I found his words inspiring and took notes about some of his key points and statements.

  • Teachers need to make the digital classroom feel like the world.
  • Trying to engage the kids with stuff we make or do for them is impossible.
  • The most fundamental thing technology does for us is let people connect.
  • There are no best practices anymore in any fast moving field like education. There are only good practices that we can share everyday. We have to experiment because we don’t know what works in this context. Video is the best sharing tool for this.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by carriezimmer:

Right before leaving for the conference I had read his article,  “Our Brains Extended”,  in the March, 2013 issue of Educational Leadership. Many points from the article were highlighted in his keynote as well.

Prensky argues, “Reading continues to be important- no one argues against teaching or learning it- but today, reading is no longer the number one skill students need to take from school to succeed. Technology is.”

He continues on to say that many adults would not believe in this statement and that fact demonstrates how little adults understand the role of technology in our students’ lives.

His statement is a big one. And, I’m certain that many teachers and curriculum designers haven’t made the leap to think about the reality of his words and how it changes what we know and do.

Prensky also stipulates, “Technology has become foundational to both education and life. Educators should think of technology in the same way they’ve long viewed reading- as a key to thinking about and knowing about the world.”

He uses the article to propose true redefinition of curriculum, particularly at the elementary level. He focuses on three areas- Effective Thinking (creative and critical thinking), Effective Action (goal setting, planning, project management, and more), and Effective Relationships (emotional intelligence). The final area he calls Effective Accomplishment (what to do with what you’ve learned). You can read more details in the article, and I hope you will.

But, I’m intrigued. Are there schools already reaching toward a design like this? Are teachers and parents really ready to throw out the subject areas we’ve come to accept as core to education?

Perhaps there’s a Prensky school in the not-so-distant future.

I wouldn’t be surprised.


Article citation:

Educational Leadership
March 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 6
Technology-Rich Learning Pages 22-27

ECIS Technology Conference Presentation

This past weekend, ACS Cobham in London hosted the ECIS Technology Conference. I was proud to be a presenter in a program that contained the names of Marc Prensky, Julie Lindsay, and our very own Jeff Utecht!

It was great to meet Jeff in person! He is an amazing speaker and really had the crowd excited by his keynote. Jeff also took the time to attend the session I presented- no pressure, right!?! He even gave me a “limited edition” CoETaIL sticker and made me promise to put it to good use. So now I’m providing the proof.

I presented a session entitled “Using Continuums to Foster Technology Integration.” I wanted to share the technology continuum we developed at ASM and how we are using it to further our technology program in the elementary. I’ve written a post about our continuum before that you can find here.

My presentation is embedded below (hopefully!) or you can access a version of it at this link. Since it was designed with the ideas behind Presentation Zen in mind, it won’t mean much without me! But, nonetheless, it will give you access to the images I used if you ever need them. All Flickr and other citations are found at the end of the presentation.

Here are other documents that you might find useful.


Continuum Appendix This is the document that was created to assist teachers in taking the elements from the continuum and bringing them into their classroom. Some screenshots are seen in the presentation. This is a fluid document that we are constantly adding to, revising, and editing to meet our needs.

Padlet from the workshop session

My Helpful Resources List

What ASM teachers have to say about technology integration and the continuum…

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What are your schools doing at the elementary? Stand alone labs? Full integration? Could the continuum be useful to you? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!

We’re happy to share our work, as I’ve licensed it through Creative Commons. Please share the work your school does with others too!