Use Google Forms and Go Paperless!


If you are looking to spend less time waiting in the copy machine line and more time planning engaging and innovative lessons, keep reading! You won’t have to visit the Apple Store in order to use one of the best strategies with your classroom set of iPods and iPads. All you need is a Google account and your teacher creativity. So have I kept you in suspense long enough? No? Well, perhaps I should mention that you will also be helping the environment by going paperless.

One of my very talented and tech savvy colleagues, Chia Grossmann, has become an expert with using Google forms in her classroom.  I have utilized her idea of creating a simple Google “Response Form” that can be used over and over in all curricular areas. Chia’s “Response Form” is a simple form to create, since it only has a place for the student number, name, and a written response area.

Here is what the “Response Form” looks like:

Keep reading if you would like step-by-step directions to create this form:

If you have never created a Google form, the process is rather simple. First and foremost, you must have a Google account. If you don’t have one already… get one. You won’t be sorry.

Then once you have logged into your Google account, click on “Documents” at the top of the page. Then click “Create.”


Once you click on Create you will see a pull down menu. Select “Forms.” An untitled form will pop up, along with the first question ready for you to edit.

Title your form “Response Form.” You can add directions about the form below the title if you like. I typed, “Please remember to write complete sentences.” My advice is leave the directions very vague because you will want to use this form for many different activities.

Now we will begin to edit question 1. This will be for student numbers (if you use nick-numbers). Title it “Student Number.” I am not including any “Help Text.” We are going to change the question type to “Choose from a list.” Now begin typing. Chia recommends typing the first name on the list as Anonymous. Then add student numbers. When you have finished, click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”


 Now we will make question 2. Select “Add item” at the top of the screen (it is next to the green plus sign). You will get another pull down menu. This time select “text.” Title it “Name.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question” and click on “done.”

Now for the last step for question 3. Select “Add item” again and this time on the pull down menu, select “Paragraph text.” Title it “Response.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”

Now you have a completed form! If you like to make things fancy then select a new theme at the top of the window. I selected the “blue bird” theme and this is what my live form will look like. When you select apply, it will take you back to your “edit form” page. You won’t see the your cutesy theme, but don’t worry it is still there.

Now that your form is compete you have several options. You can email this form to yourself so you have a link to it. But this is what I do… I copy the link at the very bottom of the page. Then I visit a QR code maker website and create a QR code for my students to get to the form quickly. I have also put a link to the form on my school webpage. Either way, you need some way for your students to link to this form on their iPods.

Once your students have accessed the “live form” on their iPods, have them make a web clip of this link (hold home key and sleep button at the same time). This way you can have your students access this same form over and over for a variety of different activities. I bet your next questions is how do you use this form with students?

This is the part where teacher creativity and innovation takes over. Here are some quick ideas for you to mull over:

  • Have students respond to a question about a book you are reading.
  • Have students write an opinion about a topic or story you are reading.
  • Have students share facts they learned from their social studies or science lesson.
  • Have students share with you their topic sentence for their new piece of writing.
  • Have students write a “7 up” sentence.
  • Have students explain how they solved a problem in math.
  • Use this as your way for students to “TATTLE.”
  • Use this form as an exit ticket.

After your students have completed their “Response Form” from an assignment you have given them, their responses will appear in the form of a spreadsheet. To access this spreadsheet, go back to your original “edit form.” Up at the top right hand corner is a tab that says “See responses.” Select “spreadsheet.” You will then see the responses from your students. In the following picture you can see the answers that I filled in on the form.

When my students are completing a “response form” assignment, I will quite often display the spreadsheet on the docucam so everyone can review others’ responses. However, I do slide the form over so the names and numbers cannot be seen so that the responses are still private. If you do this, keep hitting the refresh button to update the form as students submit their work.

If you want to save this work on the spreadsheet, select “file” from the menu bar and download it to your desktop or make a copy. When the assignment is completed and you have saved your spreadsheet, then delete the information on the spreadsheet so you can reuse this same form for another assignment.

I bet you can think of at least a thousand ways to use this simple Google form in your classroom. Not only will you be able to receive valuable written responses from your students, you will be helping to save thousands of trees by  going paperless! I would love if you would share your ideas with everyone. Don’t be shy to reply!

Jo-Ann Fox

Thank you for inspiring me, Chia Grossmann!


SimpleMind+: Digital Mind Maps for the Classroom


App Type: Creative App

Grade Level: all

Skill Level: Easy/Beginners level

Common Core Standards: This app can be used to cover just about any standard.

iOS Device: iPod, iPhone, iPad

Cost:  SimpleMind+ is free (for the version on the iPhone, iPod, and iPad). SimpleMind (full version) is $6.99. Also, there is a desktop version of the software that can be purchased for your computer. You do not need to purchase the desktop version to use this app effectively in the classroom (I have not purchased this).

SimpleMind+ is a mind mapping app. If your school site is using the Thinking Maps program, SimpleMind+ creates a “bubble map.” This creative app can be integrated in every academic area from language arts, to math, to social studies and science.

Students are able to easily save their map creations within the app so they can refer back to their maps later. However, they are disappointed when they can’t print their maps. While I am not a huge advocate for printing all student creations (we are trying to save some trees by using iPods), students can take a screen shot (to make a screen shot simply hold down the home key and the sleep button at the same time) of their map, save it to their camera roll, then email it to you.

I have used this map in my classroom mostly in the area of writing. As a prewriting activity, my second graders can create a mind map about their writing topic. However, this app is easily adaptable for any academic area. Here are some examples of what you can do with this app:

Language Arts:

  • Describe a character from a story.
  • Describe the setting of a story.
  • Describe the events of a story.
  • Create a map of facts gathered from reading an expository text.
  • Vocabulary development: write the vocabulary word in the middle and branch out with the meaning, parts of speech, synonym, antonym, and use it in a sentence.
  • Create a map of a phonics skill (such as words that have ow or ou, etc.).


  • Brainstorm details for your writing topic.
  • Create a mind map of alternative words for words that are used too often (like good, fun, etc.).

Science/Social Studies:

  • Create maps of the topics of study.
  • Create maps using science and social studies vocabulary.


  • Create a mind map of math vocabulary.
  • Use to describe shapes.
  • Create a map that shows the key words for problem solving.

For the purpose of the classroom you can easily use the free version, SimpleMind+. If you want to be able to have more control with the editing features such as color choice and linking maps together, then the paid version would be better for you. I would love for the app developers of this software to add a feature that allows you to insert pictures into the mind maps.

I hope you enjoy using this app creatively in your classroom! Please share with me any other ways you can use this app with your class. Thank you!

Jo-Ann Fox


The First Digital Learning Day


Happy Digital Learning Day! Today was the first ever national Digital Learning Day. I celebrated Digital Learning Day with my students, along with 16,000 other teachers and nearly 2 million students across the country. The purpose of this event was to celebrate innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology. Those celebrating Digital Learning Day believe in the same things I do; that technology engages students and provides rich learning experiences that promote 21st Century learning.

As a part of today’s event, the Alliance for Excellent Education hosted a live National Town Hall meeting. Chairman Julius Genachowski and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a special appearance.

My class and I celebrated Digital Learning Day by creating a Puppet Pal presentation. This project was the culmination of our Understanding Maps unit in Social Studies. Each child took pictures of the huge community we made and gave a personalized tour of the community featuring the parts they helped to build. My students had a great time creating their digital puppet shows and we plan on sharing our puppet shows with our classmates on Edmodo later this week.

The best part of today was when a student of mine said, “Mrs. Fox, why are we celebrating Digital Learning Day when we use our iPods every day?” I smiled to myself and replied, “The hope is that every child in America will have the same access to technology that you have every day.”

If you were unable to participate this year, be on the lookout for next year’s Digital Learning Day. Let’s make it even bigger and better next year!


Best Uses for iBooks: Turn Your Keynote or Power Point into an iBook


This is one of the best digital learning tools for your iPods! You can easily turn any Keynote or Power Point presentation into an iBook. Imagine the possibility of creating your own books for your students to access. Even better, your students can write their own books and publish them onto iBooks for everyone to read. The possibilities of using your Keynote or Power Point presentations as iBooks are endless and the process is simple (once you get the hang of it). Anyone can do this.

First make sure you have downloaded iBooks into your iTunes account and onto your iPod or iPhone. It comes built in with the iPad (and also has some newer capabilities that differ from the iPod/iPhone version). This is a free app: iBook Link.

Next, create a Keynote or Power Point presentation on your computer (preferably on your syncing computer). You can add pictures, text, and as many pages as you like. When your presentation is finished (and saved) you are going to turn your presentation into a pdf file. Here is how to do that:

1. While your Keynote or Power Point is open, go to file and select print.

2. At the bottom of your print window you will see a pull down screen that says PDF. Click on it.
3. You will then select “save as PDF.”
4. Name it, select the location where it will be saved (I usually select desktop), and click save. You will want your title to end in .pdf

Now you have that Keynote or Power Point saved onto your desktop as a PDF file. Now open up your iTunes. Simply click on that PDF file you made of the Keynote or Power Point presentation and drag it to the “Library” section. When the Library section turns blue, drop the PDF file in place and that file will go straight into iBooks (if you have downloaded that into your iTunes library as previously mentioned). Now sync your iPod, iPad, or iPhone and your Keynote or Power Point will be accessible in your iBooks bookshelf.

However, when you open up your iBooks on your iPod you may not see your Keynote or Power Point right away on the bookshelf. You will probably see an empty bookshelf (if you have never used iBooks before) or you will see books you have already purchased. In my picture you can see a book on my bookshelf that I have purchased in the past.

To find your Keynote or Power Point PDF file, click on the word “Books” on the menu bar at the top. When you click on “Books” you will be given two choices: Books or PDFs.

Select PDFs and viola! Your Keynote or Power Point book will be there waiting for you.

You could spend hours creating personalized books for your students. You can create books using their vocabulary in reading. You can create books that review phonics skills. You can create books reviewing social studies or science facts. You can create social stories for your students with special needs to access. You can create an iBook of a class book the class created together. This part is left up to your teacher creativity!

You are probably thinking, “Ha! When do I have time to build all these Keynotes!” But have no fear. The great news is that there are many teachers out there with plenty of spare time to do all the creating for you (wink wink)! Do a simple Google search using keywords such as “Power Points for teachers” or “Houghton Mifflin Power Points.” You will be amazed with how many results you get. One resource that I have been accessing is Pete’s Power Points. This site is full of educational Power Points from all academic areas.

I have been downloading Keynotes onto my students’ iPods regularly and they love reading the books I make. We have been using them to review phonics skills, grammar skills, and to review vocabulary. I have seen an increase in my students’ understanding our vocabulary words since using iBooks in their iPods. I can’t wait to go to the next level and teach my students how to create their own Keynote presentations so they can publish their own stories to share with the class.

Jo-Ann Fox




Storyrobe is considered a CREATIVE app. A creative app is an app that can be used in a variety of ways. (Versus some apps that only allow you to practice one skill like grammar or math facts.) This app is open ended and is only limited to your own teacher creativity.

 Appstore: Storyrobe
How this app works:
With this app you can take pictures (or retrieve pictures from your photo album) and create a slideshow. With each picture in the slide show your student can record their voice. There is a 3 minute limit to the slideshow.
How have I used this app?
I have used this app across the curriculum from reading, to social studies, to math. In language arts I have had my students take pictures from the story they are reading. First, they take pictures of the main events of the story. Then they record their retelling of the story. In social studies I have used Storyrobe for my students to monitor their understanding of the content area. They take pictures of what they have learned (right out of their social studies book) and then they record their understanding of the content. In math, I have had my students take pictures of each step of a math problem on a small whiteboard (we were working on adding two digit numbers with regrouping). Then they record how to solve the problem step by step.
This app really allows you to have a quick assessment of your students’ understanding. It also provides a safe and secure way for your introverted students to have a voice.

Creative Apps vs. Skill Review Apps


I have mentioned “Creative Apps” in several posts but I never really clarified what I meant by this. So here is my attempt to define the difference between Creative Apps and Skill Review Apps and inspire a bit of healthy competition between these two types of 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.

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. But please hear me out first.

I strongly believe educators need to be providing a platform for our students to access skills they will need to be successful in the 21st Century. We need to begin teaching our students to THINK rather than repeat back they have learned. We want our students to apply what they have learned, use inquiry, be effective communicators, collaborate with others, and be able to reflect about their own learning. If you, too, believe this to be true, then I ask you… what is the best, most effective way to utilize iPods or iPads into our classrooms? Using creative apps or skill review apps?

If you took a peek into my iPod cart (I have 30 iPods) you would not find iPods stuffed to capacity with apps. You will find the following creative apps:

  1. Sonic Pics
  2. Storyrobe
  3. Puppet Pals
  4. Splice
  5. PS Express – Photoshop
  6. Comic Touch Lite
  7. Voice Memos

I do in fact have some skill review apps on my student iPods as well (I know… gasp). However, the skill review apps that I sync to my iPods are based on the standards we will be learning for that particular week and ones that I want my students to review. I try to limit the number of skill review apps to be no more than 10. I never leave these kinds of apps on my iPods for very long. It is always good to keep these types of apps fresh!

So the next time you sync your iPods, think about how many creative apps you have for your students to access that will support their needs as 21st Century learners vs. those apps that just reviewing skills. While there is a place for both in our iPod world, it is always important to reflect about what is most important for your students.