Sunday, December 28, 2014

Unlimited eBooks!

I am enjoying a relaxing holiday break and taking time to read a few books for pleasure.  I enjoy reading eBooks.  I especially love how I can read the same book on my iPad or iPhone and it saves my place.  I am an avid reader and go through many books a month.  The cost can add up quickly!  I recently discovered Kindle Unlimited and love it!  I'm not getting paid in any way to promote this, I don't even have a Kindle.  It is $9.99 a month, but you can get a 30-day free trial.  If I read at least 2 books a month it is worth it.

I know there are mixed reviews out there, but for me it works!  I love that you can cancel at anytime. So during the months you don't have time to read that much, you can cancel it and then sign up when you have more time.  It doesn't have have the latest new releases, but I have found some great books.

I use it in the classroom too!  They have many great children's books. I can open the Kindle Unlimited eBook on my iPad and Airplay it to my class while I am reading it out loud.  The students love seeing the big display of the book while listening to me read it.  I have also read them a chapter book from their collection.

You should check out the available catalog.  I am getting back to my mindless holiday reading for a day or two longer.  I hope you are enjoying your break also!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Letter to Santa

Everyone loves to send a letter to Santa, but with only 10 days left until the big day snail mail just won't due!  Well you are in luck, I found 2 great and easy websites where you can write your letter to Santa online and get an instant reply.  (No e-mail required!)

My class used to write our letters this week.  The students loved it!  First they typed the web address in the address bar.  Then they completed the form.

Then, through the magic of Santa, an instant reply!  The students were so excited!!!

I used this at my writing center today.  It was so much fun.  The kids loved reading their own letters (some with a little help).

Another favorite holiday site of my class is  The kids section of this page has some fun and educational games.  I love the hot cocoa stand game.  The students set the price of the hot cocoa based on the temperature.  They have to try and make a profit based on supply and demand.

And don't forget the tried and true  I let the students make these and then show them in the class after our holiday performance.  

I'm getting excited as the Florida Education Technology Conference approaches.  I am excited to be presenting two sessions.  Any fellow Florida Teachers going?  If you want to go, but still haven't registered, you can use my special code SPK392 and get $110 off the regular registration rate.  I would love to see you there!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Movies on the Apple TV Home Screen

I love having an Apple TV as part of my digital teaching arsenal!  I airplay to it to display digital books I am reading with my students.  Students can share their digital creations with the class and work together with a single iPad in a center.  I also have my daily Essential Questions and standards showing as the Apple TV screensaver.  

I love everything about it, except for one thing!  When I turn it on, this is what comes up on the menu screen.

The movies listed on top are not my purchased movies, they are advertisements for movies available to buy or rent.  As you can see the movies that are advertised are not all completely appropriate!  I can just imagine one of my first graders going home saying they saw the "Sex Tape" movie on Mrs. Phillips' TV!!!!!!!!!  I had to find a fix and quick!

Luckily the fix is pretty easy.  Go to the General Settings menu and select restrictions.  This is the place you can add restrictions to the Apple TV.  Turn on restrictions and set your 4-digit access code.  Then select to hide the rental and purchase option.  This will remove the advertisements!  You can still access the option to purchase or rent from the Apple TV, you will just need the code.  

Now when I turn on my Apple TV I get the screen above.  I no longer stress over what movie advertisements my first graders will see.  Now I love everything about my Apple TV in my classroom!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sign Ups Made Easy!

I am just finishing up parent-conference week.  It went amazingly well!  I actually had every parent show up for a conference.  Even better than that, the sign-up process was soooo easy this time.

I use SignUp Genius to schedule my conferences this year.  No more sending papers home for parents to pick their top 3 times, then sending them in and back out again when their times were taken.  Parents could see available conference appointments in real time.

Not only can parents sign up at SignUp Genius, it also sends a reminder to parents about what they signed up for.  So it saved me time with sign-ups and sending reminders.

About SignUpGenius from Dan Rutledge on Vimeo.

I am now getting ready to set up another sign-up genius for parents to select items they will send in for our Halloween and Fall Festival.  This website makes my life so much easier!

Do you have a great site to share?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

OSMO is Awesome!!!

Check out what I got in the mail this week!!!! I got my OSMO, and it is Awesome!  I was so excited and could not wait to try it out and show everyone how amazing it actually is.

For those of you who haven't heard about OSMO yet, check out this video.

I saw the video several months ago and though "Wow, that is amazing and I have to have one!"  I was a little skeptical that it could really be that simple and work so well.  I figured even if it turned out to be half as cool as it looks on the video, it would still be amazing.

So I went on to to see about ordering one.  At the time, they still hadn't hit the retail market and were in the early production phase.  You could (and I did) pre-order one at pre-production prices.  You are probably wondering, so how much?  OSMO will retail for $99; that includes all three components above.  Right now you can order yours for 40% off.  (Click here if you would like to order from my referral link.)

So what do you get and what can you do with the components?  The bas, letters and tangram components each come in their own storage box.  They have magnetic closures and store your pieces very nicely.  You use your iPad with the special base and little reflector piece that slides over your camera.  (You do have to take your iPad out of the protective case if you use one.)  Then you download 3 apps from the iTunes app store for free.  The apps are Newton for OSMO, Tangram for OSMO, and Words for OSMO.  It is so simple to set up, nothing to plug in, batteries to add, or charge.  The hardest part was trying to decide what game to play first!

My daughters (ages 10 and 13) began playing right away.  It really is tangible hands on and interactive play.  Interacting with the iPad in new ways and even better, interacting with each other.
We all worked together playing Newton.  Drawing lines and moving objects to help the balls bounce and hit their targets.  Then we broke out the Tangram.  We were able to make several of the shapes without help.  A few of the harder shapes, OSMO helped us out by showing us the outlines and colors of the individual pieces.  Finally we broke our Words and the competition began!  (You can also play in collaboration mode.)  This was a face paced and competitive game.  I must admit I felt a little guilty for celebrating beating my children.  However, the more we play, the better they get and it is harder to beat them.

I am happy to say OSMO exceeded all of my expectations!  It really is as fun and easy as the video shows.  I was also asked for my feedback and opinion from the company.  I hope they plan to make more apps to go with this amazing system!  I would love to see an easier word/phonics game for the K/1 set and think a numbers game could be amazing too.  I think this will be one of the "it" items this holiday season for sure.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Bedtime Story

Wouldn't it be great if you could read a bedtime story about the first-day of school to every student in your new class?  Imagine reading "The Night Before First Grade" to help ease the fears of your new little guys.  With a little tech magic you can!  Here is what you do.

First record yourself reading the book.  I found a digital copy of "The Night Before First Grade" for free on one of my favorite sites:

I opened the book on my Mac and then used Quicktime to do a screen recording of my reading the story.  Once I was happy with the recording, I saved the video as a "public" file in my dropbox account.  (I love dropbox!  If you don't have it, click here to sign up.  It is FREE!)

Next, I copied the public link to my video file.  Then I created a QR code that will take my students straight to me reading their bedtime story.  At my school, we have the students come and meet the teacher the Friday before school officially begins.  I put the QR code on my welcome brochure.  The students, and parents love it!  You can click here to see my bedtime story video.

This year, I plan to have my buddy readers record books like this for our class.  Then later in the year we will record our own stories to share.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Road Trip!!!

We just returned from a road trip to Washington D.C. and I found two great apps I thought I would share.  I know it really has nothing to do with technology in the classroom, but hey it's summer and many of us are on vacay!

The first web site/ app I used to plan everything was Roadtrippers!  It is a great site to plan everything !  I was able to map out my entire trip and find locations and accommodations along the way.  I planned everything on my computer and can easily pull up the entire itinerary on my iPhone.  Check out this short video that explains it.

On our last road I introduced the girls to the license plate game.  We played it old-school style, writing down each state we found on paper.  However, it was difficult to figure out which states we were missing.  So for this trip, we found an app for that!  

The License Plate Game app was great on our trip!  We found all but 4 plates on our trip.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

End of Year Writing Gone Tech

Hello everyone!  I am in the middle of the "May Crazies"!  (I mean really, how much more can you pack in a month!!)

It "May" be crazy at school, but great things are still happening!

Every year I have the students reflect on their year.  I love hearing what their favorite things were and even what they didn't like.  This year I added a little more to the traditional writing.

First, the students wrote their script.  On this planning form they wrote about their 3 favorite things and the one thing they didn't like.  They did this at their "Write On!" center.  (Click here to download this planning sheet freebie!)

After the students finished their scripts, I reviewed it with them.  Then they used one of our 3 class iPad mini's to publish/ record their writing piece.  Since it is the end of the year and we have used several different recording apps, I decided to let the students choose.  They could do a traditional video recording with the camera app, use Puppet Pals 2 or ChatterPix.  They would take their script and the iPad and go into the recording studio (my office or the hallway) and finish creating their project.

Once the projects were finished we screened them for the class.  The projects turned out better than I ever expected!  Check out this video created by Ms. Reina.  It literally brought tears to my eyes and reminded me why I do what I do!

Yes, she is in a traditional first grade class and did this all by herself!  I love the way she changes her voice to interview herself.

They turned out so well, I am using them to make an interactive end-of-the-year bulletin board.  I'm using a QR code linked to each video.  I will then post these on the hallway bulletin board.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Take Note!

Notability is FREE for a limited time! (Until Wednesday, May 7th, 2014)

Notability is an amazing app for the iPad!  You can do so many things with this app; it will increase your productivity!  Of course you can take notes with it.  You can also take write on top of any PDF, record notes, organize files... the possibilities are endless.  

To find out more information about Notability visit their web site here.

Both of my daughters are in paperless iPad classes and use this app for almost everything they do.  It amazes me how organized they are with it.  They also take their time with their homework and make it their own.  It is my goal to learn from them and become the expert they both are with this app!  (The teacher becomes the student!)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Learn Fit

Today I wanted to share these great desks with you.  My daughter (4th grade) is lucky enough to be in one of the first trial classes for the Ergotron LearnFit adjustable desk in the U.S.  These standing desk are are amazing.  Her class has had them for a little over a month and they seem to be working out great.

You may think standing all day, Oh No!  However, this really helps the students focus and be more attentive.  Check out this informational video about the desk. 

My daughter loves her standing desk!  She is a "busy" student and having the ability to move has really helped her.  I think these would be amazing in a K/1 class!  

They also have a teacher standing desk, I would love to have one of these!  Maybe one day...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Charging Station

I love using mobile devices in my classroom, but figuring out the best way to keep them all charged is a completely other issue.  Remembering to plug them in and keeping the cords from getting tangled or falling behind the shelf....

This year I found the solution that worked for me and it is super cheap!  You can find it in the kitchen aisle of any discount retailer.

I just have my charging station on a counter in my classroom.  The students can easily access all of the devices.  Each device has its own place.  The last group to use the devices for the day is responsible for plugging them in.

Click here if you would like to download the labels for free. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

If Only a QR Code Could Talk...

If only a QR code could talk... Well they can!  I am sure we are all familiar with QR codes and are integrating them in our classroom.  (If not, you should be!  They make things so much more fun, efficient, effective and makes it easier for teachers too!)  Everyone knows you can link a website or video with a QR code.  Did you know you can also link audio?  Think of the possibilities!  First, I thought of many ways I could create audio QR codes to help students.  I could record myself reading the directions or questions for centers.  This would help them to work independently.

We often display student work in our hallways at my school.  Sometimes it is hard for others to understand what they are seeing.  Whether it be the writing is hard to read or others may not understand how the project relates to learning.  It would be great if the students could stand out in the hall and explain their work to all of those interested who pass by.  By adding a simple voice QR code, students can add their voice to their projects.  Now anyone with a mobile device and a QR scanner app can simply scan it an listen.  Other students could scan and listen, learning from their classmates.  This is the ultimate way to easily incorporate the Common Core's speaking and listening standards.

I found this great website !  It was so easy to record audio and generate a QR code; even  5 year old could do it!  I put these directions together and thought I would share, click here to get them free.

Here is a quick video tutorial on how easy it really is.

I am linking up with Technology Tailgate's Techie Tuesday Link Up.  Stop by for more great information from other tech bloggers.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Technology Tailgate

Happy Saturday!  I just joined the Technology Tailgate team as a contributor!  This is one of the blogs I frequently stalk, and love all of the tech tips I pick up from their authors.

Today I wrote my first post for Technology Tailgate.  It explains how "iFlash" my students and includes a digital tech freebie so you can flash your students too!

Make sure to stop over at the Tailgate and check it out!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Safe Share Videos with QR Codes

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a video worth???  I often like to show quick video clips to help students understand more about a lesson.  There are many great video clips on YouTube; however there are also many not so good clips on YouTube.  In addition to the "non-educational" videos, the advertisements are often not kid friendly.  Well good news, there is an easy way around this!

You can easily import a YouTube video clip to be viewed through SafeShare.TV and even have students get to your link via a QR code.  Here is a short tutorial I created to show you how.

It is super easy!  Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Appy Friday!

Appy Friday!!  I was watching the Today show this morning and saw their "Appy Friday" segment and thought that would be a great weekly post or even linky!  So here we go!

Each Friday I will be sharing my favorite app and how I use it in the classroom.  I also look forward to finding out about some other new apps from my blogging friends.  Have a blog?  Link up with your own "appy Friday" post.  No blog, but have an app you love?  Share with everyone in the comments.

So let me start with one of my favorite apps!  Star Walk!

We have been studying the sky.  Star Walk is an app ($2.99) that let's you star gaze, even in the day time.  You can find stars, planets, satellites, and the International Space Station.  Then by a simple touch you can access even more pictures and a wealth of information.  

I used this last week in class during small group centers.  I had it on my iPad and was air playing to a large flat screen through an apple TV.  This made it easy for everyone to see what was going on.  Students took turns using the iPad to select and learn about various objects in the sky.

At home, my girls loved using the app outside at night.  We laid under the night sky on a blanket and brought the sky to life through augmented reality.

Give it a try!  What is your favorite app?

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Dynamic QR Code

My class loves to scan QR codes!  I like to use QR codes as a quick way to get students where I want them to go.  My entire classroom is done in a Lego theme.  Lego bricks are such a great learning tool and can be used in so many ways.  Here is our class QR code students use in the "Literacy Plugged-in" center.  (Yes, it really works and it is made out of Lego bricks!)

It obviously took me quite a while to build this QR code on a 12"x12" Lego plate.  I can't make a new one every time I want to send them to a different place.  (I know I could pay to generate a dynamic QR code, but I was being cheap.)  This QR code takes students to a blog I set up on Blogger.  It is a no frills blog and simply called "Phillips QR".  Each time I have new information or links I want the students to see, I write a quick post.  I usually embed a video in the post as well.  When the students scan the code, it takes them to my most recent post.  During our unit on President's Day, I had links with information and videos on Presidents.  For our Seuss week, I had links to audio/video Seuss books.  The possibilities are endless.  I have also found by embedding the videos, the students aren't exposed to as many of the ads on YouTube.

I used to generate the QR code for free.  I liked this site because it will shorten the URL for you, and this makes for a simpler QR code.  Then I printed it out and started building.  One Lego stud for each pixel.

You can do the same thing, by just printing the QR code.  This would also be a great way to differentiate for students.  Different levels could have different QR codes and students wouldn't really notice the differences.

I am linking up on Tuesday with Technology Tailgate!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Help Students Find Their Way

One of the biggest challenges with students navigating the web is getting them where you want them to!  I have found a fabulous tool to solve this problem!  It is Symbaloo!  This is a free web mix tool where you can quickly compile list of web links for students to access.  Here is a quick video explaining more about the site.

I have been using Symbaloo for quite a while.  Before I heard about Symbaloo, I tried several ways to help my K/1 students get to the right site.  First, I went around and added the indivdual sites to each student's favorites or bookmark bar.  (This took forever!)  Then I got a little smarter, I added a hyperlink with an image for each site I wanted students to use at various times to my class website.  It took a while to do this finding the image and manually entering the hyperlink.  However, it was easier to just add my webpage to students' favorites or bookmark bar.

Then I stumbled across Symbaloo and fell instantly in love!  Here are a few of the features I adore:

Picture Tiles:  All of the links use easily to customize tiles.  This is so helpful with non-readers, they can click to the right site by simply recognizing the image.  You can also pick the color of the tiles.  I have my reading sites one color, math sites another and so forth.  Many of the popular sites already have the image for the tile, if not you can simply upload any image.

Easy to Share:  You can easily share your web mix.  (You can also choose to keep your web mix private.)  You can even embed your web mix to you class webpage.  This feature makes it easy to access various sites at home in the same way they do at school.  You can also share your mix with other teachers on your team.  I manage the First Grade mix for our school, I know this helps the teachers on my team quite a bit.

Symbaloo Bookmarker:  In you download the Symbaloo Bookmarker for Firefox, you can quickly click and add any site you run across.  It makes it even easier to add to your mix.

Center Search Box:  You can set up a Google search box in the middle of the mix.  This makes it easy for students to search the web.  It is also easy to search for images this way.

Symbaloo App:  There is a free app you can also download on your tablet to take your Symbaloo with you!

I make technology in the classroom easier with Symbaloo, do you?  Click here to head over and sign up for your Symbaloo or SymbalooEdu web mix for FREE!

Wondering what is on my 1st Grade mix?  Check it out!  (A few of the links are school specific.)

Do you Symbaloo?  Share a link your mix in the comments below.  I can't wait to find new tiles to add to my mix.