Digital Notetaking to Stimulate Their Minds

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar with a new idea each day!

I am not a teacher, but an awakener. – Robert Frost

Many students take notes, because the teacher requires it, but many do not know how to take notes effectively. Students also don’t know how to preserve paper notes well. The ink gets smeared, the paper gets tattered, and their isn’t a quick and easy way to categorize or search paper notes. With digital tools and apps, students can create beautifully illustrated notes that support their cognitive development and stimulate their minds. The right tools and apps make research quick, engaging, and interactive by allowing students to bookmark, curate, tag, categorize, and annotate. One of the reflection activities in my new book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, is to visually map an idea. Visual mapping, or sketch noting, is similar to mindmapping/concept mapping. At the center of these notes students highlight a concept then draw branches that provide information about the concept. Students do not have to be artists. Instead, they are encouraged to be creative and allow their minds to explore the concept through different branches. With digital tools and apps, students can choose the font, color, or background. They can include stickers, images, links, videos, drawings, and documents. My students are required to include research (links, videos, etc.) and examples of how the concept impacts them. They can keep these notes in the cloud so they can access them anywhere or on the go and they can also share them with others or create notes collaboratively with their peers. See examples in the slide share below and find the resources, web tools, and apps in the bookmarks at the end of this post.

Free Brainstorming Apps

Below are some great apps and tools for digital note-taking. Keep scrolling to find the bookmarks with the rest of the  resources.

  • Linoit web/iOS/Android App- Online sticky note board. Include links, images, video, and audio as well as change the size and color of your fonts. Has various background options and other attractive options. It’s embeddable as well. More stable than Padlet.
  • Padlet web/iOS/Android- Online sticky note board with beautiful templates and backgrounds.  Include links, images, video, text (160 characters) and audio as well as change the size and color of your fonts. Has various background options and other attractive options. It’s embeddable as well. Drag and drop files. Print as pdf and offline.
  • Popplet web/iOS App- The browser tool provides collaborative mindmapping. Students can support text with images from Flickr or Youtube videos. They can upload their own images or draw on their iPads. Embeddable.
  • Google Drive for all devices- I can document all events offline and it automatically updates when I get an Internet connection. Integrate with apps to do more. Test out the Research tool that shows students different resources with the MLA, APA, or Chicago citation.
  • Evernote web/iOS/Android- take notes, draw, add audio and tag, categorize, and search your notes. Use the app offline and it will update the notes when you get an Internet connection. With you can automatically publish the notes you add to a specified folder as a blog.
  • Skitch iOS- annotate images and websites with capturing and doodle and text tools.
  • Diigo web/iOS/Android- bookmark, categorize, join groups, bookmark on other social networks using hashtags, annotate websites, add sticky notes and highlight text.
  • Lucid Chart web/iPad app- Collaborate with others and create flow charts, concept maps, and more. Drag and drop options. Add text. Send as a pdf or image.
  • Inkflow iOS app- Sketch & write ideas then move them around and organize them.
  • PenUltimate iPad app- Draw & write on notebook paper on your iPad. The writing becomes searchable, stored, and categorized with Evernote.
  • EduCreations web/iPad app- Interactive whiteboard and screen recording app. Ability to include images taken and from the web and narrate with audio. Create a 9 minute video that can be edited and embedded. Students can record their note-taking to playback later in case they want to revisit ideas they voiced.


Get students to create visual notes for a test or essay.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Notetaking, by shellyterrell
Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and resources.

Bookmark and Share

Read More

Creating Digital Books to Help Others: 20+ Apps, Tools & Ideas

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar with a new idea each day!

During one of my teaching internships, my mentor had us create books we read to children from the Boys and Girls Club. I still have my construction paper book with my poor drawings. My artistic abilities didn’t matter to the kids who were just excited to have someone spend time with them. Our learners have the power to greatly impact others with their creations. This holiday season we can get them to create digital books that help others. Fortunately, several free web tools and apps help students quickly and easily create and publish digital books. Keep scrolling to access my bookmarks of free web tools and apps for creating digital books on any device. I’ve included some ideas below and a slide presentation with tips and resources to get students creating digital books that help those around them while learning. If you enjoy these ideas, you may want to join the free 5 week session, eTextbook Teachers, where over 500 teachers support each other in creating digital textbooks.


Students can learn math, science and literature while helping feed others by creating cookbooks. I recommend using BookCreator, Issuu, Slipp.It, or Google Docs. Enhance the cookbooks by getting students to include short how to videos, images, or audio clips of interviews explaining the science, history, traditions or origins of the recipe.

  • Our family recipes and traditions cookbook- create a class cookbook in which students share a traditional recipe and include information about the traditions and origins of the dish. Students can interview family members to discover the history behind the dish and the traditions surrounding it.
  • Special diet cookbook-  students can work in pairs to create cookbooks for those with different allergies who require special diets or for vegans and vegetarians.
  • Science experiments you can eat- students can learn the science behind making homemade ice cream, taffy, or fizzy potions. Check out these bookmarks for ideas.

More Book Ideas

You can choose to publish these books and offer them to the public for free or ask for donations to support a charity or get something important for your class or school.

  • Digital scrapbook- students can take their paper scrapbooks and transform them into digital scrapbooks so that they preserve these family memories for life.
  • Nature book- students work with the local park or campsites to document the plants, animal life, bugs, birds, and other species that visitors will be able to see. Students add important resources and information like maps, diagrams, images, important facts, and more. Many local parks have these documented on paper and could benefit from having a digital book that encourages people to spend time outdoors visiting the park.
  • Books to help local museums or charities
  • Goal journals- students can work in pairs or small groups to create journals for specific goals like a runner’s journal or study journal. They leave entries for each day of the year for people to record their progress and reflect. Each entry can include songs, quotes, anecdotes, famous people, interviews, Ted Talks, and other motivational resources.
  • Learning books for younger relatives or for a class of young learners- your students can create books that teach children the alphabet, animals, to be better citizens, or are full of jokes related to science, math, history, or grammar. Students can visit the class and read them their digital books.
  • A book starring their younger siblings as superheroes or having an adventure.

Get your students to create a digital book that helps someone in a meaningful way.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Book Creation Web Tools & Apps

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and resources.

Bookmark and Share

Read More

Pump Students Up with Digital Icebreakers

Play Plato

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” by Plato

Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar with a new idea each day!

Throughout my teaching years, I’ve struggled with getting my students or trainees to readily participate. Learners are shy about exposing themselves to peers, especially if they do not know them well. Icebreakers can help alleviate our learners’ hesitation, because they relax the atmosphere, allow learners to share without the pressure of being graded, and help our learners get to know each other. In the slide presentation below I share some digital icebreakers I have used with learners of various ages. Find more in the bookmarks that follow the presentation. Find some of these icebreakers and other digital activities in my ebook, Learning to Go, which is currently $5.99. Learning to Go also contains editable handouts and rubrics that are mobile-friendly.


Here are a few of the ideas I talked about during my presentation:

  • Mobile Show and Tell- Divide students into small groups (3 to 5 students). Each student spends about 30 seconds sharing a personal photo from a mobile device and the anecdote behind the photo.
  • Recreate a Photo- Students choose one of the Mobile Show and Tell images to recreate as a group. They share the original then the newly created photo.
  • Selfie Adventures- Pair students or divide them into small groups. Show them the Animal Selfies Tumblr or the Selfie Animal Tips video. They choose a favorite and write down reasons they liked this selfie. Then give each pair a stuffed animal, doll, character, or sock puppet. They will have to create 2 or more awesome selfies of this character.
  • Draw and Dash- Each student will need to use a piece of paper or a drawing app like Tackk, Educreations, Magic Paintbrush, or Sketchbook Express. Name a category like favorite dessert, cartoon, sports team and so forth for students to draw the answers to on their tablets. Give them 30 seconds. When the time is up they should lift up their drawings and run to a peer they believe drew a similar choice. Give them 1 minute to talk about their drawings and exchange one fact or experience related to the choice. Find the Knowledge Swap handout that accompanies this activity in Learning to Go.
  • Mobile Me Pictionary- Give each student 3 notecards. Students write on one side a category like a talent, hobby, dream job, or favorite place. On the other side they write down an answer but show no one. Divide students into small groups. Each group will need to use a drawing app like Tackk, Educreations, Magic Paintbrush, or Sketchbook Express. Students stack all the cards with the categories facing up. When you start the timer, one student chooses a card and draws the word(s) on the app. The group tries to guess the answer and who it describes before the time runs out.
  • Avatar Bucket Lists- Students write down 3 activities they want to complete within their lifetime. They get into pairs and discuss their lists. They choose one bucket list activity to animate in a short video or comic strip. Useful web tools include GoAnimate, Powtoons, Little Bird Tales, ToonDoo, and Makebeliefs Comix. Useful apps include BuddyPoke 3D Avatar Creator, Tellagami, Drawing Cartoons, Comics Head, and Friendstrip. Find more activities and ideas in this lesson plan I wrote, A Visual Bucket List.
  • Goal Collages/Vision Boards- Students can use digital poster and scrapbook tools and apps to create goal collages and vision boards. In the poster they include learning goals, personal goals, inspiring images, motivational quotes, and sayings to support them in achieving their goals. Try any of these tools: Buncee, Tackk, Biteslides, Smore, ThingLink, or Pic-Collage.
  • 3, 2,1 Introduction- Students use a web tool or app to create a video, comic strip, poster, book, or slideshow that includes the following: 3 things we should know about you, 2 hobbies, 1 dream job. This idea came from Nicky Hockly.
  • Avatar Introductions- Students can introduce themselves with a Voki avatar or try one of these free avatar creators! Find several student examples here.
  • Name Poems- Use a word cloud tool like Tagxedo or the Image Chef app. They can also do this as a digital poster using tools like Buncee, Tackk, Biteslides, Smore, ThingLink, or Pic-Collage.
  • My Timeline- Students create multimedia timelines highlighting significant moments using a tool like Capzles or Popplet which both have free apps for i-devices.
  • Icebreaker Mingle- Find my lesson plan that uses the Icebreaker question app here.
  • If you have icebreaker handouts like Human Bingo, use Nearpod (accessible on any device) to get students to fill them out digitally. Download my Human Bingo handout here.


Try any of these icebreakers with your students to motivate them to share throughout the year.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

More Resources

Find many more ideas, apps, and tools in my Pearltree bookmarks. Click the box to enlarge that resource.
Included in the Digital Ideas Advent Calendar! Scroll the image below and each day discover free web tools, apps, and resources.

Bookmark and Share

Read More

6 Second Learning with Vine: 22+ Ideas & Resources

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 2.41.35 AM

Part of the Byte-sized Potential and Mobile Learning categories

The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera. – Yousuf Karsh

Most of our students love learning and creating even if they do not express this in our classes. Millions around the world read, create, produce, direct, summarize, translate, edit, and share outside of learning institutions everyday on their mobile devices or through the web. I’ve been studying the various new social networks and apps that are gaining momentum. I was excited to discover the creativity and imagination taking place on Vine, a social network with over 40 million people creating and sharing 6 second videos. We can use this popular free mobile app and social network to engage our students and get them to connect with our subject matter. With Vine you can create 6 second videos with your Android, Window or IOS devices. You do need to download the free app to create the videos, but you can watch the videos on the web. Currently, Vine only allows those 17 years-old and up to create personal accounts but don’t let this deter you from creating a class account. If your students create accounts, they can now send you their assignments via the new direct messaging feature.

Why use Vine? Vine was one of the top social networks this past year. The most followed and popular users are teens and college students who are now making $10,000 to create these videos. The most followed Viner is 16 year-old Nash Grier with over 7 million followers. Each of his videos are shared by 75,000+, receive 150,000+ likes, and get 3000+ comments. He has a lot of byte-size potential to influence people and has probably had very little guidance from teachers on what to do with it. We need to be guiding our students on how to spread meaningful messages on the social networks and texting apps they use. They all now have audiences and I’ve seen students as young as 9 years-old with viral Youtube channels. Below, I have listed lesson ideas and resources to help you teach with Vine. Click on the idea to see an example of that lesson in action. You can access my recorded webinar here and download my slides.

22+ Resources & Ideas

  • Set-up a class account that you can make private for parents and students. You can post their class work, homework, assignments, important announcements, videos of their games/ events/ ceremonies, and more.
  • Post regular weekly challenges in which students find real world examples of the topic. For example, if you are studying chemical reactions they create a Vine showing an example and explain what is happening. Check out #6secondscience videos inspired by General Electric’s Vine account.
  • Students can post predictions. Vine has a feature where you can stop recording and continue later. Students choose a live event or experiment to record. They start the first 2 seconds with a prediction of what will happen, then record the event or experiment in action to see if this occurs.
  • Who said it?- students take any quote or dialogue from the text you are studying. They repeat it in a Vine and peers have to guess who said it and the context surrounding the quote. If your book doesn’t have a lot of dialogue then assign them important characters/ historical figures you are studying and they can look up quotes. Make sure they don’t reveal ahead of time who they are assigned.
  • News bytes- students report a current event, world news, local news, or school event.
  • Create examples of idioms. See these examples by students in Barcelona. Feel free to introduce your lesson with these Vines.
  • I Spy- students record close-up shots of objects and their peers guess what it is. They add 2 hints. Do this to review vocabulary. If students are learning about geometric shapes, then their videos should be close-ups of these shapes. Peers guess what the object is and the shape.
  • Charades- same as I Spy but they record themselves acting out something related to the topic for peers to guess.
  • You can introduce them to new topics dressed as an important figure associated with the topic. For example, you can talk about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as Frankenstein.
  • Voiceovers- express what an animal or object is saying. Check out this grateful squirrel.
  • Create videos sharing their haikus or short poems.
  • Create how to videos like this recycle one.
  • Share a tip for passing an exam, doing well in a project or students can share tips for future students.
  • Reflect on their learning regularly by sharing one thing they learned in your class each day or require them to do one a week.
  • Critique or review a piece of art, literature, restaurant, or movie.
  • Define a word and record a real world example. Here’s a Word of the Day Vine.
  • Share a fact of the day with students or assign each student a day when they share a fact through the class Vine. Check out this student sharing a fact about America.
  • Have them create Public Service Announcements like this one on bullying.
  • Vines of most interesting observation during a fieldtrip. Check out this Vine of someone feeding a giraffe a carrot.
  • Various Vines that show an ongoing observation of an animal, plant, insect or phenomenon. For example, you might have them observe a plant’s growth for a week or month or specific bugs that visit your area during a season. In Texas, we get visited by Monarch butterflies. Check out this Vine of butterflies. Students keep track of the progress and embed the Vines on a blog in which they share what they discovered during their observations.
  • Students can do book trailers. Here are examples from Larry Ferlazzo’s students.
  • Students can host a regular video cast with class announcements. Assign different students to do the video cast each day.
  • If you’re going to flip the classroom, why not do this with Vines? They are only 6 seconds and you can embed/post them easily in a blog, Edmodo, or Wiki.

Other Resources

Find many, many more ideas and examples of teachers teaching with Vines by scrolling down and clicking on any of the posts.


Try Vine to engage learners and their parents and let us know how they respond.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates or subscribe to the Teacher Reboot Camp free  eNewsletter to receive resources like these and updates on free professional development events!

Bookmark and Share

Read More

Byte-sized Potential: Can Compassion & Citizenship Go Viral?

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 4.44.59 PMPart of the category, Byte-sized Potential

The number one benefit of educational technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. – Steve Ballmer

A thousand years ago, books were accessible to a select few. Often, you needed to be part of a certain social class, ethnicity, and profession. Knowledge was not available to the majority of the world. I feel incredibly blessed to live at a time when technological developments continue to strive to provide access to the entire world. The most powerful learning and communication tools are in the hands of millions worldwide. Individuals can take classes from MIT professors or connect with the greatest minds, like Neil Degrasse Tyson, through social media.

Byte-sized Potential

In addition to having access to incredible learning, we have the potential to impact the world through social media. Each tweet, Instagram image, Vine/Youtube video, and status update has the potential to go viral. It will be shared. It will spread. If our messages and digital behavior have an audience, then we need to make them matter. What will our students do with this potential? We need to get our students to realize their byte-size potential and feel the weight of this potential. They need to realize the responsibilities that come with their digital actions and also realize they are privileged to live in a world of access where they can truly pursue their passions and make a meaningful impact.

What are learners currently doing with their access? 

Anyone, anywhere in the world has the potential to be viral. They can be the next Idol, X-Factor, Youtuber, Viner, Meme, gif, trend, or hashtag. Kids and teens already use their access to impact millions with the messages they spread. They have the power to incite their followers to action. For example, the most popular Viner is 16 year-old, Nash Grier, with over 7 million followers.

The education system has failed them. Even now as they craft their next 6-second video, tweet, snap, post, status update, hashtag, and meme they won’t carry the weight or compassion of their privilege and position to be the first generation able to create viral action and messages. The movements they incite have the potential to heal, inspire, or destroy people. We will feel this as another cyberbullying incident or sexting scandal arises. Teachers have the ability to change these behaviors by teaching citizenship daily. We can inspire our students daily to publish, post, and spread in meaningful ways.

Join my movement with these free resources

I realize many teachers face barriers when teaching citizenship. They may not be allowed to teach with technology, have proper training, lack a digital literacy and citizenship curriculum, and be short on time. My goal this year is to help teachers inspire their learners to make their digital behavior matter. Currently, I am working on a book with 50 ways to get our students to spread compassion, caring, and kindness on the web. The book is based on Ed Lorenz’s Butterfly Effect and also my 30 Goals Challenge for Educators experience. Right now I’m sharing these ideas in various ways. Find them in my recent Reinvent the Classroom Keynote: Byte-Size Potential. Below are the slides to download and a Youtube video of the keynote. You can also access the recent Twitter Chat transcript for the #Edtechchat I hosted, which is full of resources from over 400 teachers. I also have created a new category on this blog, Byte-sized Potential, full of ideas on how to get our students using their access responsibly. You will find free digital citizenship and literacy resources as well as ideas like teaching with Vine, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Will you join me this year in getting our students to help spread compassion and citizenship?

Video Recording of the Keynote

Edtechchat Transcript
Special thanks to all #Edtechchat moderators and participants for a lively conversation this past Monday, May 5th. Join #Edtechchat every Monday at 8pmET.


Join me in giving our students the mission to spread compassion and citizenship.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates or subscribe to the Teacher Reboot Camp free eNewsletter to receive resources like these and updates on free professional development events!

Bookmark and Share

Read More