Category Archives: Apps

Showbie and Evernote: Digital Tools for Assessment

I am sitting here in the middle of writing my final reports for the year, and am just SO IMPRESSED with my assessment and collection of student work samples and evidence of learning. I need to share two amazing apps that I use for assessment throughout the year. Using them provides me with a working record of learning that I refer to for planning (through my anecdotal notes and students’ samples of work) and also provides some beautiful summative assessment for when report time rolls around.


Showbie is an app that allows students to share their work with me. It is designed as a tool that provides teachers with a digital space to set assignments for their classes and for students to submit their work. It is especially helpful if you find that work disappears when students use iPads.

In my classroom, I use it at a very basic level most of the time; I have really only used it to collect work in an organised (and digital) way.

To do this, I create a folder (or ‘assignment’) for the task we are doing, which is created inside the folder for my class, and my students use their own log in details to upload their work for that task in that folder. For example, I create a folder named ‘Information Report iMovies’ and all students upload their movie in that folder under their name. That way I have every student’s work from that task, and since it is stored online, their work doesn’t take up space on my hard drive and their books don’t take up space on the backseat of my car.

There’s so much more you can use it for than what I have been doing so far… Showbie is simple for kids to use and has lots of options depending on the task. You can upload photos and videos, you can leave comments on each student’s work, or send voice memos. You can also annotate a photo of their work and have them view it. A handy trick I figured out just as I was writing the last report (!) is that you can view work by assignment or by student.

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Assignments View

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A student’s submitted task and comment area between student and teacher



Evernote is an note-taking app. It allows you to create notebooks (folders) and organise your notes. The notes can include text, pictures, video, voice recordings, inserted documents, tables and more. A great tool in Evernote is the ability to annotate your notes and pictures within the app. It also allows for sharing folders with other users and has a chat function, although I haven’t used those much yet.

For my class notes, I start by making a notebook stack (a folder full of folders) for my grade. Each student then has a notebook with their name attached, and inside that notebook I create a note for each subject area I take notes in, e.g. reading conferences, writing conferences, group work.

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My notebook stack for my class: 2D. It contains a folder, or notebook, for each student in the class.

The below is an example of the reading conference notes I take, with a photo of the running record (or voice recording) taken for that student. As you can see, it is a great source of ongoing, organised information about this student, and I have all the information I need at my fingertips when it comes to planning, conferencing or writing reports.

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This is brilliant for writing conferences! I take a photo of each student’s writing and insert it into their Evernote folder, then I have absolutely NO BOOKS to lug home at report time. I once taught Visual Arts for a short time and used Evernote to collect photos of their artworks and wrote notes on their skills beside the picture as they worked.

My previous school had students from grades 3-6 using Evernote as a learning journal (or digital portfolio) where each student shared a note with their teacher (and their parents) so that work could be submitted and tracked digitally.

If you are looking for a handy way to keep your notes organised, Evernote is it!

Any cool digital tools you use for assessment? Let me know! 


Growing Good Digital Citizens

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For anyone trying (like me) to get their head around the DigiTech curriculum, hopefully this can help get you. I plan on sharing some of the things I do in my school that address this proposed curriculum at a grade 2 level.


My school’s Digital Learning Team has identified the area of “Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility” as one of the areas for improvement after a staff survey on the ISTE standards showed that this was the areas where staff felt unconfident and had less knowledge than others.

As a result, all students have downloaded an eBook (Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum and workbook) that provides a lesson-by-lesson curriculum for teachers to implement with their students. I’m finding it to have some good resources but mostly it is a little dry.

I feel a little more confident about this area than just following a text book, so I wanted to share a lesson I did with my Grade 2s about being a responsible digital citizen.


We had a discussion about the term “Good digital citizen” and what it meant. Two of my students are Digital Leaders in the school and were able to lead this discussion quite capably. Students put forward their ideas on what this might look like.

We watched this video to hear some other ideas on what good digital citizens are like. The song “Pause and think online” is catchy and the kids got a lot out of it!

The song basically associates actions and body parts with responsible use of technology. For example “listen to your gut” for things that don’t seem right, and “balance with your arms” to balance your time between using technology and giving your mind and body a break from it.


After this my students used the Thinglink app to create an interactive image that would explain their interpretation of how to pause and think online. They took pictures of themselves and inserted “nubbins” (this word is too creepy for me!) which were either text or video to explain how they would use a certain body part as a good digital citizen. Here are a couple of examples and here is the class blog on this lesson, if you want to see more.


The Thinglinks went on our class blog for others to read and learn about how they can be a good digital citizen. 

Get Techy from Day One

Now comes that time of year when we all start to think about what new, exciting ways we can get to know our new students and have them get to know each other. This year I’m also focusing on how I can integrate technology into my classroom and see where students are at in terms of their skills and behaviours towards technology.

If you’re thinking ‘No way! I don’t have time to worry about iPads in the first week!’ then challenge yourself to try it out. It won’t be so bad, I promise!

I’ve come up with a few open ideas for how you could replace activities you are probably going to do anyway, with a technology rich version of that same activity that can allow you to:

  • assess your students’ tech-fluency
  • introduce some tools that you will use during the year
  • teach simple skills such as icon recognition, taking a picture, or app smashing
  • see how students work together using technology when sharing devices
  • find out more about your students’ lives.

This is my first ever infographic, so go easy on me and feel free to give me some feedback!

Let me know if you try any of these ideas or if you have any other ways you introduce technology to your new class.

Publishing Writing using Tech

I give my students choices about how to publish their writing. We have enough iPads in our class for 10 students to publish using them.  At the beginning of the year, they were reluctant to publish using the iPads as it meant they wouldn’t have time to make a ‘real book’. How far we’ve come. I am very proud that at this point in the year, my students (and myself, I guess) are more open to and aware of the myriad of ways there are to publish writing. They have come around to the idea that just because it isn’t printed doesn’t mean someone can’t read it or listen to it and enjoy it as a text. Here are some of the different ways my students have published this term.


Book Creator If you don’t have this – get it! There are SO many ways it can be used! Book Creator allows users to create an eBook that can include text, pictures, videos, drawings/annotations and voice recordings and sounds. It has a very simple interface and is easy for students to navigate without much support at all! You have the choice to turn it into an interactive eBook that allows you to push buttons to play audio, or a video that plays through the pages and recordings automatically.

Photo 255 1 from Emily Fintelman on Vimeo.




Adobe-Voice-app-for-iPad-allows-users-to-create-a-video-presentationAdobe Voice     This app allows you to make simple, animated videos. You select a theme, record your voice and choose pictures from the range of images available, or add your own. The app creates good looking videos, with not too much work by the user. Again, this app is not too difficult for students to find their way around. It requires a log in.




icon_256imovie-0624Kids Doodle and iMovie  To do this one, we learnt a bit about ‘app smashing’. Kids Doodle allowed students to draw their illustrations, and recorded it as they drew. Students then saved the video and created an iMovie to record their voice over the top of the video they had inserted. This created a very unique style and was a very effective way for my kids to present their narratives. Listen out for the sneaky sound effect in this one.


telligami-iconTellagami   Tellagami is an avatar creator which allows you to pick a character and background, and make your avatar talk and move either by recording your voice or by typing the text. You can also choose your avatar’s voice. Again, this one is really simple for kids to use and the end result looks fantastic. There is a time limit of 30 seconds with the edu version, but this can be overcome by recording a few videos, then stringing them all together in iMovie. Simple.


The downside (?) to using Adobe Voice, Tellagami and Kids Doodle is that students do not get to present their actual written work. I found this difficult to reconcile myself to at first because we had spent a lot of time and effort looking into spelling, speech marks, paragraphs and lots of other secretarial aspects of writing. But I guess telling kids that if their narrative isn’t “written” in its culminating stage that it is not done correctly, is equal to telling Woody Allen his films aren’t done because not many people have read his stories off a page. I had to remind myself (and my class) of the purpose of their writing. Have you written it to entertain someone? How can you best do that?

Do you have any different ways you encourage students to publish? Any cool apps I should know about?

Taking Action: Students as Recording Artists

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Does anyone teach using the CBL model? At my school we are in our first year of implementing CBL school-wide and it is massively exciting and terrifying all at once. CBL stands for Challenge Based Learning. It is a type of inquiry process that puts the emphasis on students using technology as an integral part of their learning and requires students to think of and implement an authentic solution to a challenge.

Last term we worked on the big idea of ‘Systems’ and the challenge they were set was ‘Change the way our community uses natural resources.’ I want to share the solution my students came up with as a whole grade.

To decide on a challenge solution as a class we brainstormed all the different ideas they had for addressing the challenge. Some of the ideas that came up were:

  • Writing a news report and getting it put on the news
  • Making posters to stick up in the school and local community
  • Writing a song about how to save resources

Writing a song was by far the most popular choice so we set to work brainstorming anything and everything they thought might be included. I gave students the task of writing words, sentences, phrases, rhymes or anything that they thought might get the message across. Everything at this point was basically a huge discussion, idea melting-pot and decision-making process between the whole grade. I stepped back and watched in amazement as my grade 2s took over, ridiculously capable.


They decided to split up into groups that focused on saving water, trees, petrol and air (saving it from pollution… haha!). They came up with some amazing stuff, with conversations such as:
“When you take a shower, try not to take ages.”
“Yeah don’t take an hour.”
“Hour rhymes with shower.. Hahah!”
“What about ‘When you take a shower don’t take an hour?'”
“Mrs Fintelman, is that okay?”
At this point I was in raptures. After this we went through a process of discussing what they knew about how to put a song together and they brought up things such as rhyming, making a catchy chorus, making the chorus about the main idea, and using beats to make it sound good, incorporating a lot of knowledge they had learnt in Performing Arts. It took about an hour for us to collaboratively write a four-verse song… no mean feat! I won’t pretend that they did the whole thing on their own but the majority of the writing was done by the students discussing, writing, changing, deleting, altering, testing and most of all collaborating.


UntitledI suggested using GarageBand to record their voices so students had a play with the iPad version of GarageBand to see what it could do. They soon discovered that they could add instruments and change the sounds. We voted and decided that the hard rock guitar sound was the way to go. Since no one in the class knew how to play guitar or use one to put a song together, I introduced them to the concept of the 4-chord progression frequently used in songs (if you don’t know this is, watch this song to learn about it – Note 1: I didn’t show this to the kids, Note 2: Watch out for language). They were excited and were able to play the chords after we googled them. By this point our song was really coming together! All it took from there were a few lessons about persistence and practicing and the fact that our first recording probably wasn’t going to be our best one. We had one student in the grade who learns piano and he came up with a little riff to add to the chorus, which he was ecstatic about. Finally, after a million recordings, we had a finished product.

soundcloudcom.cardinalblue.piccollage.googleAfter this a couple of students worked on some cover art using the app Pic Collage. We then uploaded the song to Soundcloud (a website where you can upload your own original music for others to listen to and download) and discussed how anyone was going to find it. It was decided that to promote it we should use Twitter and our blog (post here). The song is really good and they are very proud of themselves. I think this is testament to what Grade 2s can achieve… an authentic, genuine action that can make a difference to the local and global community!

Listen to our incredible song “Don’t Waste our Natural Resources”!

iPads as tools, not toys: Teaching fact families

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My class has been working on fact families (seeing how numbers relate to each other using addition and subtraction) for about a week. I gave them a task to see how they were able to use what we have learnt so far and put it all together. 

They were asked to work with a partner (only due to not having 1:1 iPads available). They chose 3 numbers to work with as their fact family for the task. Some chose a new family they had recently learnt and memorised (e.g. 5, 7, 12), some chose two find parts and find out the whole by adding them together, and some rolled a dice to find a part and a whole  and some just got a stack of unifix and broke them into two pieces!  I was impressed to see the range of ideas they had to make and show their families, just at this stage. 

Then, I gave them a choice of out of three familiar apps to use to show their fact family and the related number sentences. The choices were Popplet, Educreations and Skitch. Each of these apps allow for adding text, inserting images and some drawing, but each with differences that allowed students to show their learning in their own way.

Every. single. group. nailed it and I was really impressed to see the way they tailored the task to suit themselves… some used materials and took a picture of them, some arranged it into a house to reflect a task we had done earlier, some labelled with the part-part-whole language we have been using.

To collect their work at the end, I had them all screenshot their work and Instashare it with me.

Let me know if you try something similar and tell me how it goes!

Here are some examples:

Beautiful popplet by some students who wanted a challenge with their numbers.

Beautiful popplet by some students who wanted a challenge with their numbers.

These students used Educreations to show a few different fact families.

These students used Educreations to show a few different fact families.

These students wanted to show what they'd done with materials and inserted a picture of their work into Educreations.

These students wanted to show what they’d done with materials and inserted a picture of their work into Educreations.

These students used the labelling function in Evernote's Skitch to show their understanding.

These students used the labelling function in Evernote’s Skitch to show their understanding.


Similes and Switchzoo


My class has been learning about poetry and ways language can be used to paint a picture in the reader’s head. One of the ways we have been doing this is by writing similes.


The-Mixed-Up-ChameleonI introduced similes for the first time with a short discussion on their prior knowledge about similes (they had none) and then read the book The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. I have honestly never had so much laughing in my grade as when the kids read this book today. They identified the similes in the book quickly and started coming up with their own.


Image source

Students then used the free app Switch Zoo to create their own Mixed-Up animal in the style of the Chameleon from the book. The Switch Zoo app lets users start with an animal, then change its head, tail and legs to the head, tail or legs of another animal. The results are hilarious (read: hideous)! Students wrote similes about their mixed-up animal by picking an adjective to describe their animal (e.g. fluffy) then choosing something else that could be described using that same adjective (e.g. pillow) to create their simile (e.g. My Rhicrocog is as fluffy as a pillow.) The app allows you to add a name and profile for the animal and display it as you might see on a sign at the zoo.

Here are some of our Mixed-Up Animals… enjoy!

rabbit switch



Image source – Mixed-Up Chameleon

Image source – Switch Zoo