“The bad news is that time flies, the good news is you’re the pilot.”  This quote comes from Michael Altshuler, a successful businessman, and I believe it summarizes what I know about time.  For a teacher, time is precious. You only have so many minutes in a day to plan lessons for students. I have compiled a list of resources that teachers can use to minimize how long you spend searching for instructional ideas, and maximize your time.  

  1. I love listening to Podcasts. There are so many shows that are meant for teachers that can provide you with ideas for lessons.  In addition, you can do other things while listening, like washing the dishes, working out, or driving the kids to their activities.  Here are some shows that are worth checking out:

    2. Did you know that Facebook can also be used as a resource to get teaching ideas and access to lesson plans? Here are some groups that are definitely worth following:

   3. Pinterest can be a very valuable resource to search and find teaching ideas.  However, you can also find yourself in a rabbit hole trying to find a certain idea.  That is why it is smart to follow a few accounts that you know are educators. Here are few Pinterest pages that are worth the time investment:

  4. Talking about relevant topics in class helps to increase students’ engagement.  Check out Google Trends to know exactly what is current and popular.  This site summarizes what are the most searched topics on Google.  Using Google Trends can spark great ideas for teachers to design discussions, debates, or find articles for students to read.  

  5. PBS Learning Media is another great resource for teachers to find ready-to-use lesson plans.  Activities are standards based and available in all sorts of different grade levels and content areas.  Why reinvent the wheel folks?!

 6.  Finally, Twitter is one of my favorites sources to find great ideas.  If you have something specific you are looking for, use a hashtag with that specific topic to filter through Twitter.  Or, try the advanced search feature to narrow down the resources.  Here is a list of educators that are excellent to follow:

Education has changed for the better through technology.  Now teachers have access to thousands of different resources to help develop strategies or create lesson plans.  It can be very overwhelming and time consuming if you aren’t looking in the right place. Hopefully my six suggestions will help you navigate the waters and save you some of that precious resource we call time.  

Written by: Jeff Jackelen

What's Your Story?

We use stories all the time to convey information to our students. This is an incredibly effective strategy because our brains are designed to remember stories. Once you add visuals to that story, you have a recipe for a truly memorable experience. Taking that a step further, when a student is able to synthesize information into the form of a story, they truly are demonstrating mastery of a topic. With the help of digital tools, storytelling can be even more fun and creative!

Think about how students in your classroom can emulate the work of professionals. Creating an authentic experience engages students and can spark their creativity. You can provide parameters to create structure while allowing students choice for how they tell their story. Below are a number of different styles of videos that your students could use depending on the purpose or audience of the project your students are creating.

Common Craft, RSA Animate, and Whiteboarding: Common Craft is a type of video where small paper cutouts are used to explain concepts “in plain English.” One great example is their video explaining Google Docs. RSA Animate uses whiteboard drawings to illustrate a story. You’ve probably seen this famous example that uses Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk as the voiceover. Students can emulate these explainer-style videos using stop motion and a whiteboard or paper cut outs. Here’s an example of a whiteboard video made by teachers.


Crash Course: The Crash Course Youtube channel houses tons of videos created to teach topics in history, science, literature, and more. These fast-paced videos are a great model for student projects. Crash Course stories engage the audience by combining animations, green screens, voiceovers, and live action video. Shakopee High School students created similar videos using a combination of tools to emulate Crash Course-style videos. Here’s one example.

Epic Rap Battles of History: If you’ve ever seen an Epic Rap Battle of History, you know they’re a little rowdy. While it’s tough to find a school-safe example to show students, the concept of an Epic Rap Battle can be an engaging way to have a debate or compare and contrast two topics. Here is a student-created example comparing Lowell Mill Girls to Newsies.

Note Card Confession: Note card confessions are a non-verbal, yet highly impactful way of telling a story. You write out a story on note cards and record one notecard at a time with a camera. Adding music is a nice touch as well. This storytelling style was made popular by the movie Love Actually. Here’s another example that circulated around Facebook a few years ago. Students can use this storytelling technique to take on a persona and share their understanding of an emotionally charged event like this first-person retelling of the Trail of Tears.

Other IdeasIn addition to the professional examples above, students could create video documentaries, public service announcements, personal narratives, love stories, or biographies. There are so many great examples to use as models!

Once you select a video style, make a plan to scaffold student work. For any video project, it is highly recommended that students create storyboards and scripts before they record anything. 70-80 percent of the work in creating high quality projects happens during the planning phase. Once students have a thorough plan, it’s time to explore digital tools. Below is a list of tools and the devices they work on. Each of these can be used in some fashion to create a video project.



MacBooks* and Chromebooks

Stop Motion: Stop Motion Animator

Animation: PowToon, My Simple Show, Squigl

Slideshows: Keynote*, Google Slides, Book Creator

Editing: iMovie*, Adobe Premiere Pro*, Adobe Spark Video

Screen Recording: Loom, QuickTime*


Stop Motion: StikBot Studio, FlipaClip, iMotion, Stop Motion Studio

Animation: ChatterPix Kids, Puppet Pals HD, Toontastic 3D, Puppetmaster, Sock Puppets, TextingStory Chat Story Maker

Slideshows: Explain Everything, Adobe Spark Video, Book Creator, Shadow Puppet EDU

Editing: iMovie, Clips, Green Screen by Do Ink

Screen recording: Screen Record iOS, Explain Everything

Remember that the DLCs are here to support you. If you have any questions about how you and your students can use these tools, want help scaffolding your project, or just want to brainstorm, be sure to request a DLC!

Shakopee experienced our very first...and second and third... Connected Learning (CoLD) Days of the winter! Our trial by fire (brought on by a polar vortex) allowed us to see how e-learning could work to extend learning opportunities and supplement face-to-face instructional time with students. The goal of utilizing CoLD is to continue the learning happening in our classrooms even when the weather doesn't cooperate. This also allows us to avoid losing vacation days or adding class days in June.

For our very first attempt, it went well!

At the elementary level, students completed SABERS Boards at home. While students have iPads to use at school, these activities were tech-free as we cannot guarantee equitable access to technology when students are at home. Teachers provided options for students to showcase learning across all curricular areas. Students could complete activities independently or work together as a family.

At the secondary level, starting the semester out with Connected Learning Days brought unique challenges to teachers and students. Many students had not met their teachers and were unfamiliar with expectations in their courses. Due to schedule changes, courses in Canvas were not always accurate creating some confusion for students about which courses to participate in. While the timing was out of our control, we know this is likely not to happen in the future and students and teachers responded well to the challenge.

To learn more about the experience, we have summarized parent feedback and lessons learned. Keep reading to read about some inspirational CoLD ideas!

Parent and Student Feedback

Many parents reached out via email, social media, and phone to share feedback about how CoLD went from their perspective. We heard many parents appreciated the structure and purpose that CoLD assignments brought to their homes as they knew to expect that their students had something to work on. They appreciated that while students could not go outside due to the extreme temperatures, they had productive learning activities to keep them from wasting the day away. One parent, while generally supportive of everything her students were asked to complete, was concerned that her daughter had a three page paper to submit that was due the next day. Upon further investigation, she realized that the two paragraph assignment her teacher gave her was so fun and engaging, the student chose to write that much!

Many curious parents expressed a desire to follow along with the assignments in Canvas to see what was expected of their children. Here are directions for parents to sign up as Observers of their children in Canvas.

Another critically important piece of feedback we received from parents and students was that some of the directions in Canvas were difficult to follow. And sometimes there were no directions about what (if anything) should be electronically submitted. Creating a CoLD module with a small list of assignments or quizzes is a great way to organize CoLD activities for students. Be sure to link activities directly from your Home Page so students know exactly what to do and where to go. While it’s not likely that we will experience three CoLD days in a row again soon, we do want to ensure that students see clearly delineated directions for each CoLD assignment. Be sure to provide a location for students to submit work if necessary. Check out this very simple yet effective CoLD Home Page. Remember that the goal is to keep students in Canvas and reduce the number of clicks they need to make to find an assignment.

Inspirational CoLD Lesson Ideas

While supporting secondary teachers remotely, DLCs got a glimpse into some really creative and meaningful assignments across a broad range of subject areas and courses. Here is a list of a some activities we thought were pretty neat that may provide some inspiration!

  • Many teachers provided menus of options so student could choose activities they prefer. This definitely increased their engagement in the tasks.

  • Teachers created Canvas discussions or Flipgrid topics so students could introduce themselves and build community before they met face-to-face for the first time.

  • To start the semester, teachers created digital quizzes, assignments, or reflections around the course syllabus - activities that they normally would have done in class.

  • Students created video submissions through Flipgrid based on prompts provided by teachers. Teachers can set up Flipgrid in Canvas and adjust the topic/prompt when the time comes!

  • Teachers used screencasting tools (such as QuickTime or Loom) to simulate face-to-face interactions and provide direct instruction or visual/verbal directions.

  • Teachers used Edpuzzle to turn short videos or screencasts into interactive formative assessments or flipped lessons using video instructions and formative quizzes in Canvas.

  • Students went on virtual field trips to museums using Google Arts & Culture

  • Students completed activities focused on the 6Cs: Creativity, Collaboration, Cultural Responsiveness, Communication, Character, and Critical Thinking. Examples: Use critical thinking to evaluate bias in a favorite TV show, movie, or video game. Use pictures, clipart, and online resources to draw or create a symbolic representation of learning from a past unit.

  • Students performed exercises or fitness tests and worked on goal-setting in PE.

  • Students wrote narratives about the polar vortex in English.

  • Science experiments utilized the extremely cold temperatures.

  • Band students found a video featuring their instrument that featured a new technique, amazing performance, or inspiration then shared their video and reasoning in a Canvas discussion.

  • Social Studies students created timelines using Sutori.

  • Psychology students examined the stress of a CoLD day using course vocabulary to explain how stress levels change in different ways as a result of the same event. They posted video responses in Flipgrid.

  • Art students watched videos of MN artists then reflected on what inspires the artist to create, observations about how they work, and how successful their work is.

  • Math students completed an assignment in Desmos - they viewed slides explaining quadratics then analyzed trajectories of basketball shots: Will it hit the hoop? Students made predictions, manipulated graphic overlays to see exactly where each shot would land, and analyzed class results.

  • Many teachers included extensions to their assignments for students who wanted to learn more!

Some teachers created multiple-day assignments.

  • English students watched a TED Talk and wrote a reflection in a Canvas discussion, then returned to read and reply to fellow students the next day.

  • FACS students took an interest inventory, researched a related career, located a virtual tour of that profession, then submitted a link to the virtual tour with a summary of their learning based on provided prompts.               

  • Criminal Justice students looked at capital punishment and historical punishments and then completed a Canvas discussion one day and a discussion via Flipgrid the next.

Next time inclement weather hits, parents will be connected, teachers will feel prepared to provide clear directions to engaging activities, and students will keep on learning!

It’s been an exciting year in Shakopee Public Schools! Recently, DLCs have helped with some really exciting and engaging projects where students have been creating digital stories such as Crash Course Videos and Podcasts to demonstrate their learning. While creating these projects, students are in desperate need of images, video footage, music, and sound effects to emulate the work of real professionals such as John and Hank Green of Crash Course Videos and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcasts. And while it might be easy to do a quick search or try to rip videos from YouTube, we want our students to know how to create original works that can be published to the web for everyone to enjoy while respecting the rights of musicians and artists. There are tons of sites that allow you to download royalty-free music and high resolution images. Below are just a few of our favorite sites.

Music and Sound Effects

For music and sound effects, YouTube has compiled the YouTube Audio Library. You can filter their library by genre, mode, instrument, duration, and attribution. Click here for more resources.

Videos and Images

Pixabay is one of the best sources for free images and video clips to use for projects. In order to access it, students have to use the safe search Pixabay site and enter “guest” for the username and password. Click here for more resources.

If your students use iPads and want to be able to download songs or videos from any of these sites, they will want to use Documents by Readable. Using the browser in that app, you can navigate to websites such as YouTube Audio Library and download MP3s. From there, you can open downloaded files into other apps such as iMovie, Garageband, or Anchor. Watch the video below to learn how to use Documents.


Our next blog post will focus on a number of other engaging digital storytelling project ideas that you and your students can create. Stay tuned!

Question Banks and Groups

You can create question banks that allow you to organize your quiz questions by learning target. Once you have them organized, you can create question groups in order to pull a random number of those questions into a quiz. That allows you to have multiple forms of your quizzes as well as create comprehensive finals. Lastly, you can align question banks to “Outcomes,” or standards, in Canvas and then using the Learning Mastery Gradebook to see a breakdown of how students are doing a specific Outcome.


Using MasteryPaths, you can create unique learning paths for students. First, students get a score on a graded assignment, quiz, or discussion. From there, you can automatically assign content based on the score they received on that assignment, quiz, or discussion. For example, you could create a pre-assessment quiz and then automatically assign enrichment or remediation assignments based. Differentiation on the fly!

Linking in the Rich Content Editor

The Rich Content Editor is used in many different places in Canvas. One way to make your course easier to navigate is by using the right-hand tools to link to parts of your course (such as a module or assignment) or directly to files.

Assignments Groups for Weighted Categories

Assignment groups are often used by teachers to organize their assignments. Their intended use is actually for grading categories. You can weight assignment groups by percentages in order to have a consistent gradebook compared to Infinite Campus. You can also use these to create formative work that is worth 0% of a student’s grade.

Course Settings

There are a lot of settings that teachers can edit in their courses. One such setting that teachers don’t often use is a checkbox that you will likely want to check. By default, students can create discussion threads unless you uncheck the box that allows students to create discussions.

Grading Schemes

Grading Schemes allow you to determine the grading scale for your course instead of using their default grading scale. Not only can you change my percentages equal a grade but you can name the grades whatever you want (such as Exemplary, Proficient, etc.).


Teachers have the ability to create sections in their courses. Teacher-created sections can be used to assign differentiated content to groups of students for adapted and modified assignments with just one click. Note: any assignments not assigned to “Everyone” cannot be synced to Infinite Campus using their grade passback feature.

Flipgrid/Canvas Integration

The Flipgrid/Canvas integration is incredibly helpful and easy to use. All you need to do is install the app in Settings, get the integration up and running, and then you can easily create Flipgrid topics for your course and grade their submissions in the SpeedGrader. Definitely worth setting up! Below is a video walking you through teacher setup. Click here for a video to show your students how to submit.

Peer Review Assignments

Teachers can create assignments that require students to provide feedback to their peers. Students can anonymously grade each other’s work using a rubric and comments just like teachers can do using the SpeedGrader.

Canvas has a number of hidden features that you might or might not have stumbled across. Below you will find 8 different features that you might not have noticed. We will be releasing Vol. 2 of this post soon with 8+ more hidden features. If you have any that you would really like to share, submit a DLC request with your tip for other teachers!

Message students who...

Want to send a message to students that haven’t submitted an assignment? Or that need to redo something because they got a low score? Click the 3 dots along a column, then Message Students Who. 

Reuse Rubrics

Ever want to reuse a rubric you’ve already made? What if you want to use most of a rubric but need to tweak a part of it? You can! Click “find rubric” and you can search for existing rubrics. Change the name of it if you want to tweak it.

Save/reuse rubric comments

Find yourself making the same comments on many student’s assignments? Using rubrics, you can use choose to write free-form comments and then reuse them for every student on that assignment.

Redirect Tool

Did you know you can create custom buttons in your course along the left-hand side? Using the Redirect Tool, you can create a button to a website that you have students use frequently.

Add Page to To-Do List

Pages are versatile tools that allow you to put just about anything on them. You can embed Google slideshowsEdpuzzle videos, and so much more. But you really can’t “assign” them for students to do… Oh wait! Yes, you can! At the bottom of the page when you are editing it, you can check the box to “Add to student to-do” so that they know they need to look at that page.

Differentiated assignments

Anything that is graded in Canvas (discussions, quizzes, assignments) can be assigned to one student, a section, or the entire class. If it is not assigned to a student, they don’t even see it! This can be used for assigning a discussion to one section or an adapted quiz for a few students. Note: If you use this feature, you won’t be able to sync the grades to Infinite Campus.

Duplicate Discussions for separate sections

Do you want each of your classes to have their own discussion thread? Now you can duplicate your discussion topics for each section you teach and then use differentiated assignments to assign it to just one section! Sweet!

Module Requirements

Did you know you can set requirements for students in Modules? In the Modules page, click the three dots, then edit.


You can add prerequisites so students cannot get to a Module without completing something first. You can add requirements to force students to progress sequentially through a Module, submit an assignment, score at least a certain number of points. This can be used to do flipped learning or self-paced learning in your class.


Have you ever accidentally deleted something in your Canvas course? Try the /undelete hack! Go to the end of the URL address and type /undelete.

You will get a screen that shows you items that have been deleted from your course. You can restore these deleted items. If students have submitted to those items, their grades should be restored as well. This is not a fool-proof method, but it can be a great life line if an accident occurs.

Did that clickbait title work?! Awesome! You won’t regret clicking on this link!

Every single teacher grades K through 8 has their very own iPad to use. In order to make the most out of these devices, let’s examine some ways that you as the teacher can be using your iPad each day with your students.

  1. Model: Remember "I do" before "you do." As with Gradual Release of Responsibility, the first time you do something in a class, you should model what you want students to be able to do. With your Apple TV, you can show your students how to access materials and lessons in Seesaw, or opening files from Canvas assignments. It’s easy to assume students know how to navigate these tasks, but modeling ensures that all students are on the same page and are ready when you release them to independence. 

  2. Make exemplars. Making exemplars will help you become familiar with the tools you are asking students to use and allow you to see any potential hang ups they might have. More importantly, if you want to see quality student work, you should make exemplars so students know what a final product should look like. While it might feel like it saps creativity away because students might copy you, consider it a challenge for them to exceed what you did. Once students have used all the components of a tool, they won’t need you to provide an example every time.

  3. Apple Classroom. Apple Classroom is a great classroom management tool. It allows you to monitor that students are on-task, lock students in an app for assessments, AirDrop files to them with one click, and AirPlay student devices to the front of the room. In order to use this in your classroom, follow these directions to set up a class.

  4. Create tutorials. Any iPad running iOS 11 or higher can record their screen to create tutorials for students. This could be used to show students how to turn something into Canvas or demonstrate how to use an app. It could even be used to record flipped videos (such as this math example from Jon Jasken) using Explain Everything.

  5. Create templates. Teachers can create templates that can be sent to students to complete. For K-5 teachers, Seesaw activities are great and Book Creator another recommended tool. For 6-8th grade teacher, Explain Everything is a great choice. Create a template, get it to kids, and spend your time focusing on learning, not the setup.

  6. iPad Doc Cam. Your iPad’s camera and your Apple TV can be used to display your work or that of your students just like a document camera. Buy a stand or make your own.

  7. Post-It Plus App. Many teachers have students write on post-it notes for exit tickets, sorting activities, and other activities. The Post-It Plus app allows you to scan a set of post-its, organize them, group them, and even share those notes with students.

  8. Write on a virtual whiteboard. Using apps like Doodle Buddy (elementary) or Explain Everything (secondary) allows you to draw and even record your whiteboard problem-solving. Present from anywhere in the room without the need of a SMART board.

Awesome Audiences

Having an authentic audience is integral in engaging students in real-world work. When students know that it’s not just their parents, teacher, or classmates watching, they often step up their game. In Shakopee, our Authentic Learning Framework identifies authentic audiences as a means to receiving critical feedback in order to refine ideas and create truly meaningful learning experiences.

Below are some contests that have really cool prizes and large authentic audiences as well as some digital tools you can use every day.





Creative Storm Video Contest 2018

Put a little creativity into a video teaching any concept one might encounter in elementary, middle, or high school, and keep it to 90 seconds or less. It can be about sculpture, negative numbers, supply and demand, alternative energy, adverbs, or anything else for which you have a clever insight. Open to students, teachers, or a collaboration between the two.

Nov. 16th (scoring bonus) or Dec. 14th


3D Storytelling Competition

Write a short story and design a 3D model of your character using Tinkercad.

Oct. 10th, 2018


Student Blogging Challenge

The challenge is made up of a series of 10 weekly tasks all designed to improve blogging and commenting skills, while connecting students with a global audience.

Starts Oct. 7th and runs for 10 weeks


Google Science Fair

  1. Find a problem you’d like to solve.

  2. Think up ideas and select the best one.

  3. Explore your solution by testing it out.

  4. Share your results.

Dec. 12th, 2018




Skype in the Classroom

Using your K12 email account, you can sign into Skype in the Classroom. You can create a profile to connect with other teachers around the world and do a Mystery Skype.

Connected Classrooms

Using your Google account, you can join this Google+ community to connect with other educators to do a Google Hangout.

Flipgrid GridPals

Create a Flipgrid account and then create a public profile where you and your students can connect with teachers from across the planet. Think pen pals... but with video!

Seesaw Connected Blogs

Create a blog using posts to Seesaw and then connect with another classroom to give each other comments and feedback. Use this list to find classrooms all over the world!


Create a class blog using a robust blogging tool created for teachers and students. Use it to blog and share student work on the Internet to receive critical feedback and connect with others.

Seesaw Activities

When we work with teachers one of the common things we hear is that time is a commodity in short supply.  So we would like to highlight the Seesaw Activities feature to help you SAVE time in the classroom and meet your instructional needs as well.  Seesaw Activities can be used to differentiate your instruction, give pre-assessments, collect exit tickets, or administer formative assessments to drive instructional decisions in your classroom.

What are Seesaw Activities?  

Basically, they are digital assignments posted to Seesaw.  You can assign an activity to entire class, or if you would like to differentiate, you can assign an activity to specific students.  The activities are viewable by the students assigned to complete the activity. Seesaw Activities would easily fit into a station- or center-based instructional setting with one of the rotations set-up for Seesaw Activities.

Do I have to make my own Activities?  

You can make your own activities that are specific to your class, curriculum, and learning goals.  

But we recommend that you start by checking out the Seesaw Activity library.  Over the past 6-9 months, it has grown and developed at an exponential pace. In fact, within the library, you can search for activities by grade and subject. One thing to note about activities in the library is that they can be be use “as is” from the library and shared with 2-3 clicks.  Or they can be tweaked to meet more specific needs in your classroom.

Are there any Seesaw Activities with basic templates that I can use?

Why yes, there are!  This is definitely worth your time exploring. It is like a trip to Target when you end up with way more than you went in to get.  You will find incredible resources that are ready for you with minimal time invested.

By clicking on this link, you will be directed to activities for each subject area with graphic organizers, math activities/games, sight word assessments, puppet pals for digital storytelling, and so much more.    

Can K-2 classrooms with shared iPads use Activities?  

Yes!  Please reach out to a DLC to talk through the various sign-in methods.  We can help you determine what settings will work best for you and your students.  

Want to get started but don’t know where to begin?  

You have a few options.  

You can put in a DLC request for a member of our team to come work alongside you to implement this amazing instructional tool.  We are happy to plan, co-teach, and coach you through any new instructional practices using gradual release.  

You can also give it a try on your own. :-) Search the Seesaw Activity Library. Save and share it with your class.  If you get stuck, you have DLCs who are more than willing to help you navigate through it.   

Canvas is an ever-evolving platform that continues to churn out great features. Below is a brief summary of features that have added or changed over the summer. 

Sync grades from Canvas to Infinite Campus - Canvas guide

It’s been a long time coming, but it is now possible to sync grades from Canvas to Infinite Campus. There’s a few things to know so if you don’t feel confident in diving in headfirst with this, it is recommended that you don’t check the box to sync grades between Canvas and IC. The key thing to know is that if you do sync scores to IC, you will need to go into IC and move those synced assignments from “Uncategorized” to the appropriate grading category.

New Gradebook - Canvas guide

There is now a “New Gradebook” in Canvas to start the school year. Some of the key features that are nice about the new gradebook include being able to color-code scores in the gradebook to indicate missing, late, etc. Another useful feature is the filters, which allows you to view specific chunks of your assignments such as from one module.

New Gradebook Status options and colors

Migrate quizzes to Quizzes.Next - Blog

Quizzes.Next is a major update to the quizzing engine that is built into Canvas. It is still considered a beta feature because it doesn’t include all the functionality of the original quizzes, but there are some really useful question types in Quizzes.Next that are worth a look. The highlights of those are categorization, ordering, and hotspot questions. Check out the blog post above to learn more about the new question types and how to get started.

Parent Account Creation - Canvas guide

Canvas has changed the process for parents to create parent accounts. Students or the tech department can create a pairing code, which allows parents to become an Observer for their student. Directions will be updated on our websites soon.

Pair with Observer

Every one of us can admit that the voices of our students don’t always have an equal standing in our classroom. We hear far too little from some students, while others are very comfortable sharing their voice (even when we don’t want them to). We simply don’t have the time to sit down and talk directly with each student daily. How do we make sure we have equity of voice in our classrooms and find time to hear from every student? And even better yet, how can we share the amazing voices of our students with our families, the community, or even the world?

Enter Flipgrid.

For those of you that have never used Flipgrid, it is a video discussion tool. The teacher creates a prompt or directions and students respond with a short video. For that personal touch, once they submit their video, students can take a selfie and put stickers and drawings on their selfie. It is simple and easy to use, yet is a powerful reflection tool that can be used in dozens of ways to engage your students. It is rare to say this about a tech tool, but it honestly can be used effectively E-12 in every classroom. But before we get into some examples of how to use it, let’s take a look at some amazing updates they’ve made!

This is an example of a Flipgrid used during professional development for 6-12 teachers.

Flipgrid has made a number of exciting announcements over the summer. In June, Flipgrid announced that they had been acquired by Microsoft and all their paid features would be free going forward. A couple of those features include longer video posts (up to five minutes) and direct video replies to each other’s posts.

On August 1st, Flipgrid announced a number of other innovative new features. They improved the overall performance of the camera and added simple editing tools so you can trim your video responses in order to add more at the end. My favorite new feature is #GridPals. Teachers create a short bio detailing who they are as well as who they want to connect with, and then they appear on a map of other Flipgrid teachers. This allows users to connect and collaborate with classrooms from around the world. Imagine partnering with a classroom in Australia to compare and contrast the local climate or ecosystem? Or connecting with a Spanish-speaking classroom to discuss daily life with a native speaker? #GridPals makes creating those connections very easy.

For our secondary teachers, Canvas and Flipgrid work perfectly together. You can install an integration which allows you to create grid topics from within Canvas, embed them directly into an assignment, and then grade them using the SpeedGrader. It takes a little to set up but is a huge time saver once you have it up and running.

Here are just a few creative ways you can use Flipgrid in your classroom:

  • Replace your exit ticket with a Flipgrid video response. You can limit responses to a short time, such as 15 seconds to force students to be concise.

  • Students can use Flipgrid to upload existing videos they have on their device, such as videos made in Book Creator or Adobe Spark. Have students upload their video projects to Flipgrid to do a virtual gallery walk so you don’t spend all of your precious class time watching every student’s video. Just have students watch five and reply with feedback.

  • Create a Flipgrid topic, record an introductory video, and send it to your students and their families so they get to “meet” you during the summer. This could be another great way for interdisciplinary teams to share their back-to-school messages with students and families.

  • Send students home to cook a meal for their family and have the students film their family's reactions/reviews of the food cooked by the student.

  • Create virtual pen pals using Flipgrid. Have students from other classes/schools/states/countries work together to solve problems, share what they know about their local community, etc.

  • When students are working in groups, have them do virtual check-in with Flipgrid so you can see what progress they made during class and then explain their next steps.

Teach Vocab with Desmos Polygraph

I’m going to speak from my own math experience when I say teaching vocabulary was not easy. We did Frayer Models, creative pictorial representations, and graphic organizers which worked well for many of my students. My struggle was getting students to use the formal academic language when they were doing collaborative activities, justifying thinking, writing, and talking about math. I needed a way to have them practice using the academic language so they were ready to use it to explain their thinking.

Desmos Polygraph provides an opportunity to collaboratively teach and practice vocabulary and give students the need for formal academic language. What is Desmos Polygraph? Glad you asked.

Have you ever played Guess Who? You ask yes or no questions to narrow down the person your partner chose on their game board. Desmos Polygraph gives you the ability to create the same style of game with 16 images that you choose.

The goal is to play 2-3 rounds allowing students to use informal vocabulary to describe what they see and figure out which image their partner chose. The images are mixed up on each students’ screen. That means questions like, “Is it on the top left?” won’t work in this game.

After the initial rounds, you can use the informal student questions and descriptions to build formal content area vocabulary. Use the teacher dashboard to monitor the questions each pair is asking and you can use student work to springboard discussion on the formal academic vocabulary. Desmos conversation tools allow you to pause the activity to have a whole group discussion and anonymize student names to show student work examples.

You also have the ability to create follow up questions to get students to share questions they would ask to differentiate between two images.

Then you can play a few more rounds looking for the use of the formal vocabulary. Students are automatically paired with other students who log into the same Activity Builder session so you can play with your class, other classes in Shakopee, or a class anywhere in the world that connects to the same session.

Polygraph has the ability to push student communication and critical thinking skills. In addition, students will find the need to use academic vocabulary as the task will require increasingly specific questions to narrow down which image their partner chose.

Scaffolding Strategy from Shakopee: Give students sentence frames or word banks to support the use of formal academic language in playing Polygraph.

When you create formative or summative assessments for your students, have you felt limited in what kinds of questions you can ask your student? Or are you feeling like maybe these matching questions don’t really assess critical thinking? On many tests we give, students answer selected-response questions like multiple choice and short answer essay questions. But now we’ve got even more options! That’s why I am excited to introduce you to Quizzes.Next.

Disclaimer: This is a beta feature that we have elected to turn on. There are some limitations at this time. We turned this on to allow our DLCs and early adopters time to learn the new features so we can support staff when the features are out of beta. 

The Good:

The first thing you’ll notice is the streamlined interface. It looks a lot more like Google Forms. Settings have been simplified to allow for question randomization amongst other things. But best of all, the new question types open up an incredibly amount of possibilities. The coolest new question types are hot spots, categorization, and ordering.


The Bad:

As was mentioned above, there are limitations to the new quizzes features. For one, you cannot currently transfer your quizzes between courses at this time. So if you want to share with your PLC, they will need to recreate them. For a more detailed breakdown of the limitations and differences, see this comparison chart.


How to get started:

Open a course you want to try this with. Click on Assignments on the left-hand navigation button. Click on the +Quiz/Test button. Enter in a description of the quiz, save it, and then go back in to edit it. Click the + to add questions and get started!


Categorization - Create categories students must sort different terms or statements into. You can also add distractors to make sure they truly understand the content. Create compare and contrast questions such as Fact vs. Opinion or Cause and Effect.


Hot Spot - Upload an image, select a portion of the image that you want students to click on, and you are done! Use a map to test if they know locations or upload a photo for students to label a diagram.


Ordering - Give students a list of dates, numbers, or whatever and have them order them from largest to smallest or oldest to newest. Have students use the order of operations to indicate their steps in a math equation.





Comparison Chart:

The Paper Paradox

Start by watching the video above. Watched it? Great! I hope it was worth a chuckle. More importantly, know that this is the perspective Shakopee DLCs take regarding paper: There is a time and a place where paper is a better choice than using digital tools.


If we cannot explain to our students why it is better that we are using technology for a particular task, then it is probably not worth doing digitally. I heard a teacher tell students, “We are using Notability to highlight this article because then you can undo mistakes and use more colors. It’s also nice to have it in Notability because you’ll need this article for a long time so it won’t get lost or ruined.” That explanation makes sense, and students will understand that there is added value in using technology.


But if a teacher were to simply provide a digital copy to students and not explain the added benefit, students are far more likely to get frustrated with the effort required to type on an iPad screen or draw with a MacBook trackpad. 


I am biased in this discussion. I rarely use paper. Meeting agendas, to-do lists, notes, reminders, and nearly everything else I do in the course of my work is digital. I see a lot of advantages: I always have my phone or computer with me, I can type faster than I can write, typing looks neater, and digital files are easier to share with others. For teachers that do not use technology in the ways I describe above, paper is just as essential as my computer or phone is to me. Both methods are equally valid. Whatever works for you is great. But what works best for your students may be different.


As teachers, it’s our job to help students discover how they learn best, even if it does not align with our own preferences. This may require them to get outside their comfort zone. Exposing students to multiple methods of doing tasks is an essential part of becoming an independent learner.

Regardless of the notetaking method you promote in your classroom or your students’ preferences, there are a number of reasons to consider submitting notes and other assignments digitally. Even if your students are completing their work on paper, it is very easy to submit that work digitally through Canvas - see the resources at the bottom of this blog post to find out how to scan documents on an iPad or MacBook.


As I mentioned above, it is important to spell out to students why it is better for them to turn things in digitally. So what are the advantages?

  • Students can turn things in anytime, anywhere. They could be absent, in study hall, or even on the bus! They can turn work in when they are done instead of waiting until they are physically in your classroom.
  • You don’t need to create a place in your room for assignment collection, spend time in class handing back papers, or worry about losing anything.
  • No more “No Name” assignment submissions!
  • You can provide prompt feedback on smaller chunks of work rather than waiting for the end of the unit to collect work or check notebooks. Students can submit each page they complete and it can be graded as you go without taking away their notes when they could be using it to study.
  • Parents will know if assignments have been turned in or not and they can see the quality of their child’s work. This is great during parent-teacher conferences. No more parent questions about whether work has been turned in or not - and they get to actually see the work, even if their child threw it away.
  • Students can look back on their previous work for reflective purposes.


Digital submission is one of the first steps towards integrating technology into your teaching practices. In a future blog post, we’ll examine how technology can be used to create experiences for students that cannot be replicated on paper.



Use Notes App to Scan Documents  (iPad)

Use PhotoBooth to Scan Documents  (MacBook)

Grade Using the Canvas Teacher App  (iPad)

AR and VR in the Classroom

In a world chock full of smartphones, digital cameras, and powerful computers, virtual reality and augmented reality are making their way into the lives of billions. We can no longer say that these technologies are just for gaming and entertainment. The possibilities in education are limitless and will only continue to improve.

Augmented and virtual reality can be a perfect fit in any class in order to engage your students. They can be used at the beginning of a unit to get students excited about the topic you are teaching. These technologies can also be incredibly effective in showing something that is best viewed in 360 or 3D. Imagine diving into the ocean with your students and looking around in a coral reef. Or perhaps you would like to take a journey into the human body like your very own Magic School Bus! Or maybe you’d like to hold the entire solar system in the palm of your hand. All of these things and so much more are possible with the help of AR and VR. But before we dive into some lesson ideas, let’s get more specific about what VR and AR actually are so you know the difference.

Augmented reality involves adding or overlaying digital elements onto the physical world. Typically your device needs a camera which shows the physical world with additional content overlayed on top. Virtually reality is an immersive, completely digital environment. Virtual reality usually requires a headset that completely blocks the user’s view of the real world and displays only a virtual one.

Ideas to get you started:

Merge Cubes - Hold the solar system in your hand with Galactic Explorer and explore the human body with Mr. Body (both are available in Self Service). Check with your DLC to get a class set of Merge Cubes.

YouTube 360 videos - Search YouTube for 360 videos. There are TONS! Check with your DLC to see if they have Google Cardboard or other VR headsets you can use.

Google Expeditions - Explore distant places in 360. Take your students on guided tours that have lots of cool locations and information.

Metaverse - Create an augmented reality scavenger hunt for your students or have them create their own using Metaverse. Works with phones or iPads.

 SVRF - Find amazing 360/VR videos that your students can view on their computers, phones, iPads, or using a VR headset. You can also insert these videos in Metaverse experiences.