How to Rock a Blog




In the famous words of Les Brown, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great!” This quote was the inspiration for this post, as was Alex Kajitani and his Teacher of the Year Leadership Summit. I am honored to have been asked to lead two “Spark Sessions” at the #TOYSummit about “How to Rock a Blog.”

Here are my five tips about how you can Rock YOUR blog:

1. Start with the why. Why should you, a teacher leader, start a blog? Reflection makes us stronger, wiser, and more precise. In our journey to understand ourselves as educators, we should continually reflect about what we believe in, what has worked well, and also what has failed miserably in our classrooms. Blogging is a great platform for reflection. The process of writing and sharing your work with others can guide you as you move forward in your journey as an educator. We need to not only reflect for own journey as an educator, but also to show the community what teaching and learning is all about. After all, if we don’t tell our stories, somebody else will.

2. Just get started! You don’t have to go out and purchase your own domain. There are plenty of free platforms for you to get started today! There might be a learning curve, but that is what is so amazing about Youtube. Youtube will have an instructional video to help you with most anything. Here are a few FREE blogging platforms for you to try:

3. Blog about what you love. Begin by blogging about what you love. My blog started out as a place to share what I was doing with iPod Touches in my classroom. At the time, I wasn’t finding very many teachers blogging about interesting ways to use apps in the classroom, so I started However, I must admit, I grew tired of just blogging about how I was using apps in the classroom. This year I began to widen my “blogosphere” and began to blog about my philosophies about education and broaching bigger topics. I find a lot of joy in writing about all aspects of education. So here is my advice, learn from my failures. Keep your blog open to write about any topic in education. Don’t limit your blog to only one topic. After all, we have SO many stories to tell about our journey as educators.

4. Blog often. I will admit, this is the toughest part about blogging. But it isn’t impossible. You just need to carve some time into your schedule for writing. It could be Sunday mornings while sipping a cup of coffee. It could be that little bit of time while you are waiting to pick up your child from soccer practice. You can blog anywhere, too! You don’t have to be on your computer. You can write notes on your phone or even record yourself while you are driving. The idea is that you just write. Don’t pressure yourself to make the perfect post, either. And don’t think your post has to be long. Sometimes a paragraph is all you need. My last piece of advice, is don’t let blogging become something else to worry about. If life gets busy, it’s okay to take a break.

5. Build a PLN or a community of “edu bloggers” to share and learn from. Blogging, reflecting, and sharing the story of your journey as an educator is only half of being a blogger. The other half comes from developing a network of bloggers from whom you love to learn. There are quite literally thousands of bloggers out there writing about their classrooms. However, how do you find these amazing people? I have dedicated the last several years connecting with educators on Twitter (if you are interested about doing this too read this blog post). If you haven’t yet spent time developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter then worry no longer. This year, I began a blogging community called Share #YourEdustory. This community of bloggers all come together each week to blog about the same topic. Then we post our blogs on Twitter using the hashtag #YourEdustory. I have met some amazing educators, both administrators and teachers, who  began the journey of reflecting about their practice through blogs. If you want to learn more about the Share #YourEdustory bloggers group, follow this link.

Bloggers who make me think:

Karl Lingren Stricher:

Bjorn Paige:

Andrew Thomasson:

Jen Wagner:

David Theriault:

Scott Bedley:

Pernille Ripp:


all the amazing bloggers of Share #YourEdustory. Find them all here.







I learned more from a class with only one assignment…


A teacher who inspired me most was a college professor. I was in my freshman year, first semester away at college complete with the fresh feeling of new-found freedom. As a freshman, we were required to complete an intro to writing class. As a result, I found myself sitting in a very small class with Mr. Steve Metzger.

Mr. Metzger ran his class entirely different than I had ever experienced before. Yes, it was one of my first college level courses, but that wasn’t it. He made learning real. How so? Instead of just lecturing and teaching us to write, he told us on the first day that, as a class, we were going to publish a collaborative book. Here was a group of freshman, used to learning in such a way where we had mastered “school” by completing assignments and turning them in on time, awaiting a grade from a teacher, now being asked to publish a book! This class most definitely impacted me as a learner, writer, and as a teacher.

As a learner, I had to work. But not in the way I was used to, of going through the routine of assignments. I actually had to work in a way that pushed myself to be better than just average. After all, I only had one writing assignment this semester, but this writing assignment was to be published and placed onto print forever. It had to be better than good. As a result, I listened just a little bit more closely to the tips Mr. Metzger offered in his lessons. I actually tested out Mr. Metzger’s suggestions with a little more excitement. I got to see my writing grow in a way I didn’t know was possible.

As a writer, Mr. Metzger’s class left me understanding how to reach my audience better. How to bring a reader into my writing from the very beginning. Now I have to say, I didn’t quite know my writer’s voice just yet, but Mr. Metzger helped me feel confident and ultimately inspired me to continue to be a life-long writer.

Mr. Metzger’s class had nothing to do with me becoming a teacher. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be a teacher when I sat in his class my first semester away at college. But his style of teaching is something to be admired. He trusted his students. He somehow knew we could rise to occasion. He knew if we were to really learn, he needed to give us a reason to apply our skills. Something real. Not just a college paper all neatly typed (yes, I had a word-processor in college… not a computer). Not just another assignment to be turned in, graded, then returned to me all marked up with big fat grade placed on top. Learning in this class had an authentic purpose. This “intro to writing” class not only taught me how to write better, but I walked away with a published book! Literally, something to slap down on my resume. Something tangible. Something to write home about.

This is what I hope to inspire with my students. I don’t want them to just leave my classroom with a bunch of new facts and a three ring binder full of recycling. I want my students to walk away having accomplished something they never thought possible. I want them to walk away from my class having made a positive impact on the community or their classmates. Because anyone can learn, but what you do with what you have learned is far more important.

I suppose I strayed away from this week’s Share #YourEdustory topic of how I am different from my favorite teacher. However, I’d rather focus on how my favorite teacher is an inspiration. Perhaps, Mr. Metzger will one day read this very post. He may not even know how his class still lingers in the hearts of his students.

Oh, and the book… it was published! It was called, “Our Town: Chico Remembers” and it honored long time residents of Chico, California. I highlighted a local artist, Claudia Steel.



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App Differently [SDCUE 2013 session]


No longer does our old pedagogy match the changing world that is all around us.

Our students today deserve more. They deserve more time creating; less time filling out bubbles. They deserve more time collaborating; and less time sitting quietly at their desks filling out worksheets. They deserve more time communicating in ways they never imagined possible. And they deserve to be challenged to think critically about the world around them.

Some of the biggest critics of students using technology in the classroom visualize “zombie” children mindlessly clicking away on their screens. Well I am here to shout from the rooftops that when implemented correctly, technology integration can redefine how students learn in your classroom.

Take a look at Ruben R. Puentedura‘s SAMR model.

Or watch the simplified version of the SAMR model here.

In order to reach the Modification and Redefinition level, you need to take an honest look at how you integrate iOS apps into you classroom. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the apps my students using “creative apps”?
  • Are the apps my students using primarily “skill review” type of apps?
  • To read more about the difference between these types of apps visit this blog post.

In my classroom, I limit my students’ use of “skill review” apps because they really aren’t too different from a worksheet. Skill review apps promote  more drill type of activities. However, I have many “creative apps” for my students to access so they can use iOS apps to create, collaborate, communicate, and to think critically (4 Cs of the Common Core). This is how you can move to the modification and redefinition of the SAMR model. In my classroom my students and I, App Differently.

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If you attended my session at SDCUE 2013 you may feel a tad overwhelmed by the number of amazing apps that I shared with you today. So have no fear, I have included a list of all the apps I discussed in my session and a few bonus ones as well. Also, in my presentation, I included student samples so  you could see how these apps can be used.

Creative Apps for the Classroom:

Sonic Pics, Storyrobe, or 30 Hands for digital storytelling, storyboarding, and reading skills.

Puppet Pals is a digital puppet theater that creates recorded movies of puppet shows.

Mad Lips allows you to make any image TALK! See my Talking Book Covers post here.

Trading Cards by Read Write Think allows you to create trading card about historical figures and characters from stories. Another great one by Read Write Think is Word Mover.

Comic Touch Lite or Zoodle are great for creating comic strips. I also use this app for reading strategy practice and for annotating pictures in science and social studies.

Popplet is a mind mapping app which can be used in a very substitution type of way. However if you think creatively you can use this app in a way that promotes critical thinking. I use this app for my students to document evidence from the text to support their opinions.

Pic Stitch plus Skitch to annotate images for any content area!

ThingLink creates a “touchable” image where students can type in information, place links, or videos right onto the picture. This is great for students to add to their blog posts.

Subtext is one of my favorite apps ever. My students love it too. With this app my students and I do collaborative reading.

Explain Everything is an app that allows you to screencast. I use this app in my flipped math class. My students even create videos to show what they know.

Evernote is a great teacher app. I use this app to monitor student progress during reading and writing conferences. I love that I can record a student reading aloud and keep a record of their oral reading.

Edmodo (or My Big Campus) are tools that allow your class to interact with each other. It is a “safe” social media for education.

Kidblog is a webpage and also an app. This is a blogging tool that will allow you to set up student blogs and monitor their posts and comments. You can have their blogs set to share with the world or only with each other in the class. Read my Kidblog poster here.

The camera can be your best too ever, too! Have students go outside and find evidence of geometry around school. Look for parallel lines, intersecting lines, acute angles, etc. Allow them to edit their images in Snapseed.

My favorite movie making apps are iMovie (paid) and Splice (free). iMovie’s trailers are a great tool for beginning videographers.

Vintagio is a wonderful silent moving making app. This is great for a classroom environment because students don’t have to worry about sound. Read my Vintagio post here.

Please come visit my blog often as I love to blog about how iOS apps can redefine learning. Also, I will begin blogging more about Google Apps for Education.



Kidblog App: Love It!


Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 2.09.00 PMGone are the days of students publishing writing so it can be posted on the wall of the classroom so an occasional visitor can take a peek at their writing. has inspired student writing in my 4th grade classroom like nothing I have experienced before. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that my students now have an authentic purpose and meaning to publishing their writing. They now have a real audience who can read their posts and leave thoughtful comments. This year I have fallen in love with using I met the creators of Kidblog on accident at ISTE12. I was looking for a place to put my feet up and chat with someone new and I sat myself down at a table with two guys wearing matching royal blue T-shirts. Low and behold that conversation inspired a change to my writing program that my students LOVE!

My students and I have been anxiously awaiting an iOS app from where we can easily post and comment on blogs and it is finally here! The app works great for updating and adding new posts, commenting, adding photos, attachments, video, and has become a regular tool in my classroom to help as a workflow solution. Quite often my students begin their publishing on the Kidblog app on their iPod and we will finish the project in the computer lab. Also, we can then use the published text for other projects in the lab like Keynote, Pages,, Comic Life, etc.

kidblog app

If you haven’t been using Kidblog, I highly recommend creating an account for you and your class. Kidblog allows you (as the teacher) to control the security settings. For example, you can keep your class’ blogs secure so that only students in your class can read and comment on each other’s blog posts. Or you can open the blog site up to other Kidblog users. In addition, you can make it so your students’ posts and comments do not appear unless you have approved them. This may help relieve those of you who are nervous about opening your students up to potential cyber-bullying incidents. However, I started out with a lot of control; approving all posts and comments. I quickly realized that not only was it difficult to keep up with moderating, but also the valuable instant feedback from student to student was lost as students waited for me to “approve” their posts and comments. I decided to spend more time teaching valuable digital citizenship skills with my class. This was time well spent with my students as they will carry these skills home with them. All of my students know that when we are online, following the “Golden Rule” is always important. In addition, they know this phrase well, “Once on the internet; always on the internet.”

So if you are looking for a way to engage young writer’s explore This is where your students can share their voice, creativity, and learn how to effectively communicate with a real audience.



Link to AppStore: Kidblog App

Cost: FREE

iOS: iPod, iPhone, iPad


It’s Not WHAT App I Should I Use; It’s HOW Should I Use That App



Ladies and gentleman, please buckle your seat belts, we are are about to embark on a little flight through my iTunes cloud. There are a whopping 965 apps stuffed inside my cloud that I am certain at any moment apps will come raining out of the sky right onto my head.

One day after school I sat at my computer feeling a bit overwhelmed by the colossal amount of apps I had to sort through, when I suddenly  had my Newton moment. Except it wasn’t an apple that fell onto my head. But a virtual app falling from my over-stuffed iTunes cloud. I realized quite clearly, it is not WHAT app I should use in my classroom, but rather HOW I plan to use that app to promote student learning and engagement.

Each week when I sync my student iPods and update the apps I have selected for student learning, I thoroughly consider what apps I will upload and HOW I want my students to learn. My first thought is how will this app meet my students needs and engage learning? My overarching goal for all student learning is to utilize and promote the four C’s:  creativity, collaboration, use of critical thinking skills, and communication skills.

We should always consider: What apps are creative apps versus skill review apps?

Creative Apps are apps that can be used in more than one way and in multiple curricular areas. These types of apps usually foster innovative learning and support students to expand upon what they have learned. Creative apps are excellent ways to integrate project based learning and always have a variety of outcomes. They are easily adaptable to learning styles and can be differentiated to meet the needs of all learning levels. These apps always promote the 4 C’s: creativity, collaboration, use of critical thinking skills, and communication skills.

Skill review apps are quite different. This is the most common type of educational app out there and quite honestly, I have quite a large collection of these apps in my iTunes library (more than I could ever really need). Skill review apps provide a child a way to review a particular skill such as adding, subtracting, letter sounds, rhyming, etc. They often mimic a worksheet, in such a way that once the skill has been mastered, there isn’t much more that can be done with the app. The student outcomes are always the same and there is little to no innovation required. I have found students bore easily if this type of app is used too often. While it does sound like my opinion of these types of apps is a bit negative, I still think there is a place for these types of apps in our classroom, they just need to be used to focus on particular skills and should be refreshed often. I usually sync new skill review apps every week and delete old ones.

So next time you are cruising through your iTunes cloud contemplating WHAT app you should add to your students’ iPods or iPads, consider changing your thought pattern. Do reverse planning and think HOW do I want my students to use this app to create, collaborate, think critically, and communicate.

Here is a list of apps which I consider to be quality creative apps. The following apps can be used in a variety of ways and help to promote the 4 C’s:

Creative Apps

SimpleMind+: Mind mapping app that allows students to develop their ideas and add sensory details. Read more about this app in another blog post here. Free.

Sonic Pics: This app allows you to record audio over pictures thus creating a slideshow type movie. Students can use this app to create storyboards, show sequence of events, to summarize reading, or to promote asking questions. $2.99

Puppet Pals: Students can create digital puppet shows. You can use this app for pre-writing activities, to check for understanding, to show cause and effect, and to model science experiments.  iPad Link or iPod Link. You can read more about Puppet Pals in my blog post here. Free but there is an in app purchase that I highly recommend for $2.99

Mad Lips: This app allows you to make ANYTHING talk by allowing you to video record your lips talking. You spend hours laughing as you play with this app. You can use this app to animate objects in science, teach perspective, for special effects in movies, and to create “Talking Book Covers.” To read about this app more read my blog post here. Free Version or Paid $2.99

Comic Touch Lite: This app allows you to use photos to create comic books. Students can take a picture and add talking bubbles and thought bubbles. You can use this app as a making predictions activity, to create a short summary, annotate a picture in social studies or science, or to add thoughts a character may be having in the story. Free.

Strip Designer: This is a more advanced version of Comic Touch Lite. There are a lot more options in this app, but it isn’t free. $2.99

Evernote: This app has the following capabilities: word process, take pictures, and voice record. You can use this app to go paperless! Some ideas for this app is in writing, to practice reading fluency, for self-assessment in the form of a digital portfolio. Read more about this app on my blog post here. Free.

Scribble Press: This is an iPad only app that allows you to create books and illustrate. Read more about this here. Free.

LifeCards: This app is a postcard creator that allows you to take your own picture, write a letter, and email it to anyone! You can use this app to write a letter from the perspective of a character, practice friendly letter writing, write a letter to an author, or to write letters in social studies as a faux primary source. $1.99

Skype: This app allows you to video conference with wifi. You need to create an account then make arrangements to call other classrooms. If you are interested here is a link to the Mystery Skype Project who recently became the Mystery Location Calls. Visit Skype’s webpage to learn about it here. Or get together with a group of educators online. I found my first Skype through the #4thchat on Twitter. Free.

Edmodo: The simplest definition of Edmodo is that it is a social media network for education. However, Edmodo allows you to create assignments, quizzes, add photos, videos, links, and allows students to interact with each other online at school or at home. Free.

Movie Making

The following are my favorite movie making apps that can be used to promote the 4 C’s. Movies are made based on curriculum standards. These are listed in order from my least favorite to absolute LOVE IT!

Splice (free)

FiLMic Pro 2 ($4.99)

iMovie ($4.99)

Vintagio ($1.99)


 Quality Skill Review Apps


Counting Coins (Free)


Splash Math There are several Splash Math apps for each grade level. They have iPods and iPad versions. They are quite pricey however, you are able to set the app up so you can monitor student progress. They are aligned with standards and review each of the 5 strands of math. Free-$9.99

Baseball: I really like the McGraw Hill apps as they are aligned with standards and have engaging gaming elements that do not distract from the learning and reviewing of math concepts. $1.99

Sushi Monster: This app reviews addition and multiplication. I like this app because it has a variety of levels and requires critical thinking strategies. This app takes a long time to master and can be accessed by students with varying math levels. The game is engaging, too! Free.

Word Work:

Spelling City:  I was waiting and waiting for this app to come out! And when it did I was very please with the results. This app allows your students to access your SpellingCity lists and play the spelling games on their iPods/iPads. Free.

Bee Spelled LiteThis game allows students to practice their spelling patterns in an engaging way. It has a bit of violence, but it is extremely engaging to boys! Free.

BoggleThis is played just like the real game. This is a great way to practice spelling patterns. There is a free version or the paid version is $0.99


Mad LibsCreate free Mad Libs. There is an in app purchase if you would like more Mad Lib books.


Grammar Jammers: This is a great app to review grammar skills. It has a series of lessons and songs to help review grammar. There is a free and paid version. The paid versions have an elementary version and a middle edition.

Same Sound Spell BoundPractice homophones! Free.


Opposite OceanPractice antonyms. Free.


Dictionary Apps

Dictionary.comI use this app mostly for word meanings and for the amazing thesaurus. Free.


Webster MerriamI use this app to look up the spelling of words because it has a a voice to text option. Free.


This blog post goes with a presentation that I have given numerous times. Follow this link to find out more about my presentations.





[SDCUE2012 Presentation] Write On! iPods/iPads During Writing


Aside from technology, my favorite part of teaching is Writer’s Workshop! First of all, writing is one of my favorite pass times. But watching my students grow as writers in both content and confidence, is by far one of the most rewarding experiences as a teacher. Not only does the ability to write support a child’s speaking skills, but it supports their reading comprehension as well. Writing is one of those vital life long skills every person should have and it should be supported in a nurturing and inspiring environment.

I teach writing in a writer’s workshop style and I use the 6 +1 Traits of Writing to support my lessons. Since integrating iPod/iPad technology into my classroom, I began experimenting with how to effectively utilize iPods/iPads in the classroom during my Writer’s Workshop. Now my students not only have literature, paper, pencils, and crayons to inspire their writing, they now have their iPods on their desk, as well.

Here are  the apps I use in my classroom during Writer’s Workshop:


Developing good ideas is by far the most critical part of the writing process. According to Donald M. Murray, “Prewriting usually takes about 85% of the writer’s time.” So where do ideas come from? From EVERYWHERE!

Snapseed App: For editing images of ideas they have gathered from their surroundings.

Pinterest: Create a board titled “Writing Picture Promtps.” Students can refer to these images if they are at a loss for ideas. Here is a link to my board: Jo-Ann Fox’s Board

SimpleMind+: Mind mapping app that allows students to develop their ideas and add sensory details. Read more about this app in another blog post here.

Voice and Sentence Fluency

Voice Memo App: This app is built into your iPod. You will need to download an iPad voice recording app. Students can record themselves telling a friend their story orally before they write. This way they have a documentation of how they actually talk and a place to refer to specific words or phrases they use. Read more about the Voice Memo app here

Puppet Pals: Students can create Puppet Shows before they write to record their ideas. You can use this app for the same purposes as mentioned above, however, children tend to feel more creative when they are creating a puppet show of their story idea. This brings out even more language for them to refer back to when they revise their writing. iPad Link or iPod Link. You can read more about Puppet Pals in my blog post here.

Word Choice App: I specifically use the free version of this app for the amazing thesaurus.


Merriam-Webster App: I use this app to check for spelling because it has a phenomenal voice to text option that utilizes the Dragon Dictation software.

Grammar Jammers App: This is a great app to review grammar skills. It has a series of lessons and songs to help review grammar. There is a free and paid version. The paid versions have an elementary version and a middle edition.


Notes: This is the built in app and can be used to publish student writing. I have used this and had students email me their draft. In addition, I have had students copy and paste their writing onto Edmodo as a post or an assignment.

Evernote: This app can be used for students to draft and word process their writing. Read more about this app on my blog post here.

21st Century Presentation

Students now have the opportunity to publish their writing in a variety of ways that enhance their ability to share their writing with others. After all, isn’t that the point of writing? Here are some apps that will allow your students to publish.

Sonic Pics: Students can illustrate or take pictures and record themselves reading their writing. This creates an audio slideshow of their writing.

iBooks: Your students can publish their writing using Keynote or Power Point and turn these presentations into iBooks that can be shared on all of their iPods or iPads. Read my blog post about this here.

Edmodo: Students can post their writing onto Edmodo for others to read and comment.

Scribble Press: This is an iPad only app that allows you to create books and illustrate. Read more about this here. This is not an app but rather can be accessed through the web. You will need to set up an account for your class. This site is a safe blogging site created for kids. They use a simplified version of Word Press. Students can create posts and comment on each other’s writing.

Hope this helps you get started using iPods/iPads during your writer’s workshop. Be ready to be amazed about how much more engaged your students are during writing!