Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Digital Bulletin Board Smackdown

One of the best new tools offered by technology is the digital bulletin board. Learn how to use it and which ones are the most effective for learning.
Looking for a free, simple assessment tool? Then this digital bulletin board smackdown is for you. First, however, let’s define what a digital bulletin board is. It’s not putting up decorative items on the TV screen in your classroom. It is a way for students to collaborate and learn together by digitally sharing resources, ideas, questions, and final products.
Before we jump into an analysis of some of the various bulletin board tools available, let’s take a moment to revisit why they are so awesome. Here are the two best ways to use them in the classroom:
  • Exit Tickets – Exit tickets can be a great way to set up the next day’s learning by allowing the teacher to discover what students learned (or didn’t learn) today.
  • Quick Write – With quick writes, you can ask students to respond to an open-ended question or prompt, which, if structured correctly, can move them up the level to Bloom’s Taxonomy in their learning.
“What are the best lesson ideas? How can you use [digital bulletin boards] in the elementary classroom and in high school?” asks Lucie Renard in her blog entry featuring thirty creative ways to use digital bulletin boards in your classroom. Let’s explore a few ways digital bulletin boards (DBBs) make learning possible.

Digital Bulletin Boards in Your Classroom

Digital bulletin boards enable anyone to post:
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Text
  • Thumbnails of Google Suites documents
  • Links to other document
What’s more, these DBBs  empower students to:
  • Summarize key concepts using text, video, or audio
  • Collect student work and assignments
  • Develop a graffiti wall
  • Curate a digital collage
  • Make a concept/mind map
  • Gather data about a particular phenomena or event
  • Share takeaways about a field trip
  • Share book talks
  • Analyze book characters

Digital Bulletin Board Tools

While there are a baker’s dozen of digital bulletin board tools available, including whiteboard solutions,  a few popular digital bulletin board tools have risen to the top of the heap. Those top of the heap tools include:
Each of these tools was assessed and assigned a score. Read on to see how each of them did.

Criteria for Digital Bulletin Board Selection

Ready to select a digital bulletin board for your classroom project? Here is a breakdown of  the top four digital bulletin boards according to my preferred list of features. If you have your own preferred features, please add them in the comments section below.

User Management

  • Free
  • Use another account to login (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Allows for multi-user collaboration


  • Easy to add Post it or index card
  • Reminders on special days
  • Embed images, video, text, thumbnails of digital documents (e.g. Google Docs, Slides)
  • Chat feature between users (audio/text)
  • QR codes
  • Custom background/wallpaper


  • Mobile friendly with Android/iOS version
  • Requires Flash
  • Apple Watch compatibility

Digital Bulletin Board Smackdown

Ready to see how digital bulletin board favorites stack up? Let’s take a look at this chart. I encourage you to add your own favorites to the Google Sheets version of this smackdown.
digital bulletin board

Points to Remember

Classroom learning opportunities can be enhanced when students use visual tools like digital bulletin boards. Research suggests that visuals enhance students’ ability to:
  • Organize and process information
  • Practice higher order thinking skills
  • Have their various learning style preferences met
Make the effort to use a digital bulletin board solution in your classroom with your students. It can make a big difference.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Give Thanks with Google Forms

Thanksgiving is a perfect time of the year to engage the imagination of your students and encourage them to be creative with Google Forms.
This Thanksgiving, why not give thanks by utilizing Google Forms in the classroom? I have been thankful ever since I began using Google Forms; it makes real-time work and collaboration a creative joy. Here are some classroom applications of Google Forms this Thanksgiving.

Today I’m Thankful Because

Have students complete a Today I’m Thankful Because Google Form with things they are thankful for.  Students complete a form, then the teacher can generate a list of their responses and display some of the commonalities. Another idea is to generate a word cloud from the list. The word cloud below was created using Wordclouds.com. It allowed me to paste the list from my Google Sheet and then upload an image of a turkey to use as an outline.

You can extend this activity by having students:
  • Write descriptive paragraphs in Google Docs about the things they are thankful for.
  • Create posters in Google Drawings of their thankful lists.
  • Draft letters to people they are thankful for using a Google Doc template.

Thanksgiving Turkey Traditions at the White House

Rely on Google Forms to quiz your students on the history of Thanksgiving. This quiz  focuses on the turkey traditions at the White House. The President of the United States pardons a turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving at a White House ceremony. This tradition of compassion dates back fifty years to Harry Truman.  Test your knowledge.
President Barack Obama, National Turkey Federation Chairman Gary Cooper; son Cole Cooper participate in the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey pardon ceremony in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Nov. 26, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Try these quiz ideas:
  • Learn how Thanksgiving became a national holiday. Embed a video about the history of Thanksgiving on your Google Form. Then quiz your students.
  • Compare the first Thanksgiving dinner in Colonial times to the one we celebrate with today. Students delight in the differences. You can also have them share what unique foods they will see on their Thanksgiving table.
  • Quiz students about fun facts about turkeys. Enable them to use multimedia to share what they learn about these fascinating birds.

An Interactive Thanksgiving Story

Students love to read “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. Therefore, why not let them create their own story using Google Forms? These stories can be created by taking advantage of section breaks in Google Forms. When an option is selected on the form, it will go to a unique page about that particular answer. Before getting started, it will be very helpful to have students brainstorm their ideas by creating an outline first.
Check out this short Thanksgiving story I created. It tells a story about what I will do on Thanksgiving Day.  Another idea is to give your students a writing prompt for their story such as:
  • If you could have any guest at Thanksgiving, who would it be?
  • What would happen if a scarecrow joined you for dinner?
  • You have magically become a Pilgrim. Describe your day.
  • My family’s Thanksgiving traditions
  • My favorite Thanksgiving story
  • The best part of Thanksgiving break
These are just a few ways to use Google Forms this Thanksgiving. I can’t think of a better time of the year to engage the imagination of your students and encourage them to be creative. Let us know in the comments below how you are using Google Forms in the classroom.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Explore Google Earth’s Brown Bear Livecams

There are many ways to incorporate livecams in the classroom. Explore Google Earth’s Brown Bear Livecams and take students on a learning journey to Alaska.
In July of this year, Google collaborated with Explore.org to offer “Bear Livecams” in Google Earth. If you are a fan of live video feeds and like to use them to engage your students in learning, then your class will definitely have to check out the Alaskan brown bear livecams. Watching the bears eat, play, and hang out underwater at Katmai National Park is such an incredible experience.

Five Brown Bear Livecams

When you go to Google Earth’s storytelling platform Voyager, you will find five livecams.
1.Brooks Falls – This camera is located at Brooks Falls, Alaska. On this livecam, watch the hungry bears wait in the river near the waterfall for their next meal. They search for the best fishing spot as they dine on salmon.
2. Lower River – This camera is located where the Brooks River gently flows into Naknek Lake. On this livecam, watch female brown bears and their cubs play, rest, and practice the skills they will need to hunt for themselves one day.
3. River Watch – This camera scans a vast amount of the Brooks River. On this livecam, watch the bears and their cubs from afar as they sit in the river. As they come out of the riverbanks, you can often see them begin to play.
4. Underwater – This camera is, of course, located underwater in the Brooks River. On this livecam, watch the bears employ a variety of hunting techniques, including simply sitting on the river floor and waiting for a fish to swim by. Also watch them try to “snorkel,” or swim on the surface while submerging their heads to look for fish.
5. Dumpling Mountain – This camera is located up in the clouds on Dumpling Mountain. On this livecam, you can see all of Brooks Camp and the surrounding country stretching out in front of you. On a clear day, you can spot the active volcanoes bordering the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

Classroom Connections

Below are a few lesson ideas that you can incorporate in the classroom.
  • Encourage students to use Google Keep to take notes on the daily activities of the bears. They could then create a timeline of these activities using Google Drawings.bears
  • Have students present using Google Slides about volcanic eruptions, including the world’s largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, which occurred at Katmai National Park.
  • Have students create and print 3D models replicating what they see on the livecams.
  • Assign students to use Google Scholar to research the brown bears of Alaska and then write a paper in Google Docs.
  • Use the activities occurring in the livecams as writing prompts to have students practice their inference skills about things they are seeing.

More Classroom Connections

  • Explore the terrain of at Katmai National Park and Preserve using Google Maps as a whole class activity.
  • Invite a geologist to talk about the significance of wildlife at National parks and have a Google Hangout with him.
  • Let students use Google Drawings to create a comic strip about how many salmon bears eat in a day.
  • Have a discussion in Google classroom about the way mama bears teach their cubs survival instincts and the lessons we can learn from them.
  • Create a Google Form to record daily logs about the bears’ activities.
  • Use green screen technology or a webcam to have students record a story they created using stick bear puppet figures.

Bear Cams in the Classroom

These are just a few ideas for how to use the live Bear Cams in your classroom. If you watch live webcams in the classroom, please share in the comments below which ones you watched and how you incorporated them into lessons.
All photos used in this blog post appear courtesy of Google, Explore.org, and Katmai National Park, Alaska.