Adobe Spark: Easily create and share videos, images, and newsletters

Adobe Spark: Create videos, images, and newsletters in a snap!


Adobe Spark: Easily create videos, images, and newsletters in a snap!

What it is: Adobe Spark is a collection of fantastic (free!) creative tools available online or as an app download.

  • Create social graphics that are stunning and easy to share (you know the kind: flyers, memes, posters, ads). The example above took under 2min to create and share! ūüôā
  • Make beautiful web stories for event recaps, newsletters, photo journals, portfolios, etc.
  • Produce and share impressive videos for storytelling, projects, or to share to social media.

If you (or your students) are feeling a lack of creativity, there is even a bank of inspiration that will get you started! This is particularly helpful for your students who struggle with a place to start but are brilliant with a little nudge. Whether you begin with inspiration or not, you’ll be feeling an extra burst of creativity in no time.

How to integrate Adobe Spark in the classroom: The collection of tools in Adobe Spark are perfect for students and teachers alike. Students can use these tools to create book reviews, to document science experiments, for storytelling, to explain their inquiry process, as an eportfolio, to illustrate math concepts, and so much more! These tools will help your students take their learning and present it in a way that is both visually powerful, and easy to share.

Teachers, you can use Adobe Spark to create a weekly newsletter (SO easy to share home with parents!), create photo journals of class events or field trips, to create writing and thinking prompts to share with students, quotes, presentations, and announcements. The photo journal would be a great way to give families a glimpse into your classroom, if you’re like me, your phone is FULL of pictures at the end of each week! If you have a class social media channel on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube- Adobe Spark is about to take it to the next level of awesomeness!

I love the way that Adobe Spark has made digital storytelling that much easier to create and share. This is a site that you’ll want to bookmark for easy access, and put on all of your students devices if you have a one-to-one environment.

Tips: If you have laptops, the web version of Adobe Spark is best, otherwise download the app!

Hooda Math: math fact practice that feels like fun

Hooda Math: Practice math facts and have fun

Flappy factors: learn math playing games

What it is:¬†¬†Hooda Math is a fantastic collection of math games that give students the opportunity for math fact practice while having fun. The games are based on other addicting games like Flappy Birds and 2048. Instead of just playing the games to see how far they can get, students also get some built-in fact practice. For example, in Flappy Factors, students maneuver a bird through a maze of pipes. Each pipe has an integer on it, students must fly through the correct factor of a target multiple that is given. Students must avoid the pipe with the incorrect integer.¬†As students advance through the game, a progress report is generated that can be emailed to a teacher or a parent. The Hooda Math site has been created for a variety of platforms…perfect for a BYOD classroom!

How to use Hooda Math in your classroom: Hooda Math is organized by category types: Mobile games, Shopkeeper games, Geometry games, Logic games, Number games, Physics Games, Growing games, Building games, and Escape games. The games can also be organized by grade level, subject, or category. There are over 500 games in all, ensuring something for everyone in kindergarten through high school.

Students at Anastasis LOVE mobile games. When Flappy Birds came out, they were often spending hours (truly!) playing these games in their free time. Hooda Math games are a great way for students to practice math facts and skills while they are playing. Math becomes significantly less challenging when facts become second nature. Hooda Math games are a great way for students to practice their math facts without hours of flash cards. Math practice becomes fun and the challenge is not just in figuring out the trick to the game, it is also unlocking the building blocks of math.

When I taught a computer class, I often had students lament that they would NEVER be able to learn to touch type. I often asked these students, “do you play video games? Do you have to look at the controller when you play to see what to press next?” They always answered, “No! I would lose if I had to look at the controller.” I would follow-up by asking them how they memorized what to do to the controller to win. Light. Bulb. Moment. The same is true for these math games. Students can play these games like they would other popular games, if they know their math facts, they are more likely to “live” longer and win the game.

I learned my math facts when my third grade teacher made up rhymes and a Chinese jumprope game where you had to know your facts to stay “in.” We learned our multiplication tables in no time! (If anyone knows this game, I would LOVE to remember how to play it, leave the link/directions in a comment below.) I suspect that Hooda Math games could have the same outcomes for your students. When the facts are the key to winning, there is a different motivation to know them (beyond just completing the worksheet/test).

In a one to one device environment, students can play the games that build skills where they need them. Students can play at their own level. In the one or two computer classroom, use Hooda Math as a math center rotation. Students can travel from center to center in small groups and take turns playing the games that meet their individual needs.

Be sure to pass on Hooda Math to your student’s families. It is a great way to practice at home and over summer break.

Tips:¬†Don’t forget to have your students send you the progress report at the end. This helps you keep track of their progress without the need for worksheets.

Are you using Hooda Math in your classroom? Leave a comment below and share the ways that you use it with students!

Rodan + Fields Consultant

Knowing Everything and Students with Names

This post is in response to a Newsweek article titled “What if You Could Learn Everything”

“Imagine every student has a tireless personal tutor, an artificially intelligent and inexhaustible companion that magically knows everything, knows the student, and helps her learn what she needs to know.”


Jose Ferreira, the CEO of Knewton, has made this artificially intelligent companion a reality for k-12 students. ¬†He has partnered with three curriculum companies including Pearson, MacMillan, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as part of his vision for making Knewton the adaptive learning tool that will make textbooks obsolete. ¬† This “adaptive learning will help each user find the exact right piece of content needed, in the exact right format, at the exact right time, based on previous patterns of use… ¬†Knewton, at base, is a recommendation engine but for learning. Rather than the set of all Web pages or all movies, the learning data set is, more or less, the universe of all facts. For example, a single piece of data in the engine might be the math fact that a Pythagorean triangle has sides in the ratio 3-4-5, and you can multiply those numbers by any whole number to get a new set of side lengths for this type of triangle.”

Knewton works as you might suspect, it begins with a test to see what a student already knows. ¬†Content is pulled in the form of reading and videos to teach the student the things that they do not know. ¬†This is similar to what many other “personalized” adaptive learning systems are doing. ¬†What makes Knewton stand apart is the way that the technology “reads” the student. ¬†As the student is learning, the technology is recording timing, confidence, tabulating each keystroke, and whether the student is guessing or taking their time to answer questions. ¬†So, the more that a student interacts with Knewton, the smarter it becomes and the better that the study recommendations get.

When I see technology like Knewton, it astounds me. ¬†I am always excited about technology that has the potential to improve learning and that feels seamless for humans to interact with. ¬†While the geek in me rejoices that someone is tackling a project this substantial to increase learning, the educator in me is disappointed. ¬†Knewton is all about knowing things. It is about facts. ¬†But, is it really worth all of the effort for technology to train humans to be computers? ¬†I mean, that is essentially what this is doing, no? ¬†We are creating a new factory model, this time the technology is programming us. ¬†Ironically, this is exactly what Knewton’s CEO is working to overcome.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that are worth knowing. ¬†Important, foundational things that shape the rest of what we are able to do. ¬†But, who gets to determine what is foundational and essential for a student to know? ¬†As far as I’m concerned, most curriculum companies are already overreaching in what every single child MUST know. ¬†So, with the vast amount of knowledge available in the world, how do we determine what is really critical for us as a society to know? ¬†The rest of it, while interesting and important, is not necessarily worth forcing. ¬†Even the title of the article, “What if You Could Learn Everything?” makes me cringe. ¬†I don’t want to know everything. ¬†I don’t want to be so crammed full of facts that I can rock a game of Trivial Pursuit, but I can’t actually DO anything useful.

My bigger problem is that once again, we are introducing a tool into education that intends to personalize the learning experience for the student, and in doing so, strips away their humanity. ¬†You see that don’t you? ¬†This is turning children into computers and fact recallers.

But students have names. ¬†They have stories. ¬†Teachers have a different kind of urgency to make things better because we begin and end with students who have names. ¬†This goes beyond the altruistic, “wouldn’t it be great if education worked better” motivation of politicians and curriculum companies who have the ultimate goal of improving our ¬†rank in math and science. ¬†As a teacher, you deal in humanity. ¬†You are concerned with the life that is being shaped. ¬†You want kids to know that they are more than the collection of facts that they have memorized. ¬†The are unique and have something important to offer the world. ¬†That they matter. ¬†Humanity.

So, while I find the concept behind Knewton fascinating, it isn’t what I want for education. ¬†It may fill a need for a piece of the puzzle (namely the foundational knowledge piece), but it isn’t going to make education better if it becomes education. ¬†Being educated is more than just knowing facts (and I’ll remind you again that we already have computers for that). ¬†Being educated means that a child can make connections, synthesize, analyze, evaluate, apply, create something new. ¬†It is learning that is applied.

Technology will play a critical role in the evolution of the classroom. ¬†The role will be different from what Knewton offers. ¬†Instead of assuming that all kids need is facts, the technology will recognize and embrace the humanity. ¬†It will offer more than one way to learn, because while some kids will really enjoy sitting and reading, watching videos and taking an online multiple choice test, others will want to try out a concept through experimentation. ¬†They will want to build something new with their knowledge, or launch further investigation into a concept, or take a field trip and see the learning for themselves. ¬†Learning cannot be reduced to a computer. ¬†This changes the recommendation engine and relies heavily on skilled educators. ¬†This takes into account who a student really is and makes learning recommendations based on that. ¬†The recommendations aren’t relegated to a computer, they can be field trips, videos, apps, projects, activities, experiments, books, and anything else that can be used to learn. ¬†This is utilizing technology for personalization beyond pacing and content exposure to pass the next multiple choice test. ¬†This is empowering teachers to truly shape the learning experience for each student. ¬†This is recognizing that students should have a say in how and what they will learn. ¬†This is why I created the Learning Genome Project.

The Learning Genome Project recognizes that learning is more than just a collection of facts. ¬†It embraces humanity and rejects the idea that humans should be computers. ¬†It will be transformative because it works to make each student the best that they, individually, can be. ¬†It works to strengthen the WHOLE child, not just the fact reservoirs in the brain. ¬†It goes beyond remembering content and challenges students to do something with their knowledge. ¬†I can’t tell you how many students I have met that know their multiplication facts inside and out, but have no idea why finding area requires multiplication. ¬†Knowledge is useful when it can be applied. ¬†The Learning Genome Project urges students to go beyond knowing into the other, rich areas of learning. ¬†Blooms Taxonomy is a useful for thinking through what it means to learn. ¬†Knowledge and understanding are a portion of the learning, but so is the ability to analyze, evaluate, apply and create. ¬†Learning is multifaceted and alive. ¬†It can’t be so neatly all contained in this sort of adaptive learning technology. ¬†Education should utilize technology (I tend to believe this will be the Learning Genome Project) in order to reach the individual. ¬†It must reach outside of itself and meet that student with a name. ¬†It must be able to recognize a student’s need without demanding that the need be met with a predetermined question/answer set.

This post took me some days to think through and write. ¬†It spurred some new thinking for me. ¬†It made me go back through the Learning Genome Project wireframes to dig out any hidden corners that may harbor something that would strip the humanity. ¬†It caused me to think of a new Bloom’s Taxonomy image. ¬†I welcome your thoughts and comments!

Hat tip to @alexbitz for sending me this article!

**If you know an investor who might be interested in the Learning Genome Project, I’d love an introduction!

Kerpoof: Update


What it is: Kerpoof is one of my favorite creation tools for elementary students, it allows them to draw, create pictures, cards, books, and even movies.  My original post about Kerpoof can be found here. Kerpoof has added some new features that make it worthy of another post.  Students can now save their pictures, cards, stories and drawings locally (on their computers).  On each canvas is a JPEG icon that will allow any picture to be saved to the computer locally.  They are working on making it possible to download the movies locally soon.   Kerpoof also introduced info bubbles.  In the Make a Picture object library, students can drag out a picture onto the canvas.  Now there is a new question mark button that shows up on an object.  When students click on the question mark, a little bubble of information pops up.  Students will gain all kinds of information from these little fact bubbles.  They can learn everything from: who wrote Treasure Island, to learning the national animal of Australia.

How to integrate Kerpoof into the classroom: Kerpoof is an outstanding creativity program for the classroom.  With there education accounts and these new features, it is even more useful in the classroom setting.  Now that students can save their pictures created on Kerpoof locally, they can use their Kerpoof creations in new ways.  Upload the saved JPEG to the class website, blog, or wiki, or add illustrations to a word processing program.

Use the new information bubbles to start a Kerpoof scavenger hunt.¬† Ask students specific questions ahead of time or instruct students to research broader topics like “dinosaurs” or “Mexico”.¬† After students have found answers to their assigned questions, they can do more in-depth research using library or Internet resources.¬† After research is completed, students can come back to Kerpoof to create a picture, story, essay, or movie including information that they learned.

Tips: Be sure to check out Kerpoof’s lesson plans, they have just added a new lesson called “Programming Wizards” designed to teach students about how computers work and how to build, design, and test a program.¬† Very cool.

Leave a comment and share how you are using Kerpoof  in your classroom.

Free Rice…New and Improved!


What it is:¬†Free Rice¬†is an amazing website that I have posted about two or three times in the past. ¬†It has been a site where students can play a vocabulary game and earn 20 grains of rice for each correct answer. ¬†The grains of rice are distributed to hungry people all over the world through the UN World Food Program. ¬†Two of my students came in this morning with a printout of how many grains of rice they had earned over the weekend on the¬†Free Rice¬†website (we have a contest going each year to see which class and grade can earn the most grains of rice). ¬† They were unusually excited about this bunch of earned rice because they discovered some new features on¬†Free Rice. ¬†Free Rice¬†is now much more than a vocabulary game! ¬†Students can choose the subject they would like to play. ¬†As they increase in all types of knowledge, there is the added bonus of helping people in need. ¬†Free Rice¬†subjects now include art (famous paintings), chemistry (chemical symbols), English grammar, geography (world capitals), language learning (French, German, Italian, Spanish), math (multiplication), and of course…vocabulary! ¬†Free rice¬†is an incredible place for students to practice facts for a wide range of subject areas. ¬†Some additional new features: now students can click on a speaker next to a word to hear it read to them and can change the level of difficulty manually! ¬†I am so impressed with the site and impressed with my students for finding and sharing these new treasures!


How to integrate¬†Free Rice¬†into the classroom:¬†¬†With all of the new subjects on Free Rice, it is the perfect place to send your students for fact practice. ¬†Whether they are learning a new language, or need some practice with their multiplication facts¬†Free Rice¬†is a great place to practice. ¬†What I love about¬†Free Rice¬†is the added bonus of character education. ¬†Free Rice¬†teaches students compassion and empathy. ¬†My students truly play the game not for the learning taking place, but because it makes them feel good to do something for others. ¬†Kids often feel like there is nothing they can personally do to help a cause…Free Rice¬†gives them a voice and the ability to make a change. ¬†It empowers them. ¬†

Tips:  Set up Free Rice on your classroom computers as a place for students to go when they are finished early and need a little something extra.  Free Rice is also excellent in a computer lab setting and for home play.  


Leave a comment and share how you are using Free Rice in your classroom.