May 06

Techapalooza + You = Awesome

Want to rock out your classroom with incredible technology instruction? Want to experience cool collaborative vibes with other amazing educators? Well tune up your axe, grab your glowsticks, and head to Techapalooza! Techapalooza will be THE place to get some funky fresh technology ideas to jam out to with your students. This is the perfect opportunity to start your year cranked up to the max. Be at Deep Run High School Thursday, August 11th from 8:30-3:00.

Register at using your HCPS issued username and password. To access the registration system you will need be connected via Ethernet or HCPS staff wireless within any Henrico County building. Use the following information to help you locate the session when registering, SRN 20163092401

Don’t forget to consider presenting your knowledge of 21st century skills. Complete this lesson proposal by June 3rd.

Want to rock out your classroom with incredible technology instruction? Want to experience cool collaborative vibes with other amazing educators? Well tune up your axe, grab your glow sticks, and head to Techapalooza! Techapalooza will be THE place to get some funky fresh technology ideas to jam out to with your students. This is the perfect opportunity to start your year cranked up to the max. Be at Deep Run High School Thursday, August 11th from 8:30-3:00.

Register at using your HCPS issued username and password. To access the registration system you will need be connected via Ethernet or HCPS staff wireless within any Henrico County building. Use the following information to help you locate the session when registering, SRN 20163092401

Don’t forget to consider presenting your knowledge of 21st century skills. Complete this lesson proposal by June 3rd.

May 04

Dumbarton Measures Fun With Tech Takeout!

Today the #TechTakeout crew headed to Dumbarton Elementary to hang out with their AMAZING 5th graders. We started out by introducing the students and their teachers to Nearpod. Mrs. Hues led the students through a Measurement Nearpod. She was able to control their computers and send them lots of practice items straight to their screens. Students were able to practice measuring length by using a virtual ruler. They also used an interactive website where they selected the appropriate unit to measure with and estimated to measure the object on their screens.





Mr. Favale and Mr. Clough’s group used the website to create comics using math vocabulary terms. When the students launched the site they were prompted to create a settings for the comic. They were encouraged to make their comic all about circles. Students created scenes that incorporated specific circles such as a baseball field, pizza parlor, classroom and park. Students added speech bubbles and had their comic characters talk about key terms like diameter, chord, circumference and radius. Students then took screenshots of their comics and uploaded them to a CoMemories site.

Mrs. Hues, Mrs. Green and Mrs. Robinson’s group used the website Build with Chrome to create their own closed structures using legos. They used various colored legos to create virtual masterpieces. Then they used the snipping tool to take a screenshot of their creation, used the pen tool to add their perimeter and area and finally they added their images to a Padlet wall to share with each other.

Mr. Caratachea, Mr. Covais and Mrs. Browne’s group used the Dell Web Cam to take pictures of various classroom objects they had measured. They saved their images and then launched ABCYa Talkify. Students uploaded their images, added a mouth and then recorded themselves sharing their measurements in both centimeters and millimeters.

2 from Jim Covais on Vimeo.

Mrs. Smith and Ms. Wright’s group opened a blank Pixie document, opened the the Activity Folder→ Math Activity Folder→ Small Grid. They used the paint can tool to create a closed figure. They saved the figure as a jpeg and then used the paintbrush tool to help them solve for the area and perimeter of their figure in square units. Next they used CheckThis to create interactive websites that their peers could view and vote to select correct answers. They uploaded their Pixie image to the website and created two polling questions.

Apr 12

Makey Makeys at Fair Oaks!

I went over to Fair Oaks to work with my friend Jessica Robinson in 5th grade!  Check out this great blog post she wrote about it!


My good buddy Mr. Caratachea and I collaborated with 5th grade teacher Ms. Marz at Fair Oaks Elementary School on Monday. Ms. Marz had chatted with me the week before and said that she has recently heard about a sound activity floating around using the makey makey’s. I showed her Julie Smith’s video and she decided she’d like to try the same thing!

We started our lesson by watching a short video created by Mr. Caratachea and Mrs. Hues. Mr. Caratachea taught us all about the different types of pitch that musical instruments make.

Then using my computer I showed the students a piano that Mr. Caratachea and Mrs. Smith helped me create in Scratch! If you aren’t familiar with Scratch let me quickly catch you up! With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations. Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century. Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is provided free of charge.

I quickly showed the students the back end “code” of the piano and then we quickly shifted to the makey makey’s. The students were working in groups of three. We gave each group a makey makey, told them what supplies they would need and sent them on their way. It took them only a few minutes to get the hang of the idea! When they had assembled the makey makey correctly they plugged it into their computers and tried to make their pianos play from high to low pitch.

Once they figured out which cords to tap on the makey makey we got really brave! Since the makey makeys operate with electric conductors we left the students attach their makey makey wires inside cups of water! The kids had a blast, Mr. C, Ms. Marz and myself had a blast and no computers were hurt in the making of this activity!

If you’d like to try Scratch or the makey makeys with your students let me know! I’d love to learn alongside of you!

Mar 02

Tech Takeout Pumps Up Language Arts at Chamberlayne

Last Friday we spent the day working with 4th grade at Chamberlayne Elementary. The teachers wanted us to focus on vocabulary, specifically affixes (prefixes, root words and suffixes). We find that affixes is a weak skill across the board in grades 3-5 so we were excited to come up with some “techie” activities that would make this challenging skill fun and exciting.

To kick off our hour session, we launched a NotebookCast board.This new tool is still in Beta and is a FREE online collaborative board. NotebookCast has the teacher create a free account. You create a virtual board that you share out with students via a link. Students click the link, enter a “nickname” and click submit. I LOVE how the tool automatically inputs the board code so the students don’t have to type it in.

We had created THESE images in PowerPoint and saved them as jpegs to import into our board. Students saw the changes instantly/in real-time as we deleted and added new images to discuss. They used the chat feature to talk about possible definitions of the words I posted to the board. Next, we broke the words down together as we called on students individually to “stoplight” our words. We circled the prefix in green (this starts our word), underlined the root words in yellow and boxed our suffixes in red (this ends our word). The PRS letters serve as a visual to remind students the ORDER of the parts of the words which happen to be in alphabetical order: Prefix, Root Word, Suffix.


Would we use Notebook Cast again? Well, that’s great question. We ran into the issue of the site only accepting a certain amount of users. Oh well, you live and learn. We ended up partnering the kids and it worked fine. Would have we have liked all of the kids to have been on interacting? Of course. However, like all classroom teachers, we had to adapt. Notebook Cast might be a better tool to use with smaller groups.
After our warm up, we broke the students up into small groups to work on a mini digital project with the ITRTs.

Julie Smith and Gina Browne’s group used Scratch and the MaKey-MaKey to code a word that had a prefix, root word and suffix. Check out the final product in action:

The led from the pencil is a conductor which made the MaKey-MaKey work!

If you are interested in trying this out with your students, click {HERE} for the directions. You can still carry this out if you don’t have access to MaKey-MaKeys. Just use the arrows on your computer 🙂

Mrs. Green and Mrs. Robinson’s groups jumped on Nearpod and interacted together dissecting prefix, suffix and root words. Nearpod is an interactive tool that engages students, assesses their understanding and inspires success! When the teacher launches Nearpod as a live presentation the students are then given a code to “join” that Nearpod presentation. Today students reviewed five prefixes and five suffixes. They created their own words using the drawing tool within Nearpod, they watched short review clips online and even played two interactive games embedded into their lesson. Finally before finishing students were given words with both prefixes and suffixes and asked to circle the prefix, underline the root word and box in the suffix. The student’s favorite part was how Mrs. Green and Mrs. Robinson were able to control their computers!

Mr. Covais’ groups took to Dell Webcam Central and Movie Maker to make some videos about prefixes and root words. Students chose a word and identified the prefix and root word. After the identification they worked with partners to discuss how they would act out the prefix and the root word. The students recorded their acting in Dell Webcam Central in two short clips. The partners then took the clips and put them into Movie Maker in the form of an addition problem. Best part of all, the teacher can now use these short videos for review in class.

Students had so much fun making these videos. Check out a this awesome student example!

Acting out Prefixes from Jim Covais on Vimeo.

Want to do this activity?

Click the link below to get everything you need to get started!
Prefix Movie Folder

Mrs. Hues and Mr. Caratachea had a blast making raps with their groups! Different students approached the activity in a couple of different ways. Some students wrote a rap about prefixes and suffixes, while others just wrote a rap. No matter what the students chose to write their rap about they typed up their lyrics in Microsoft Word and highlighted all of the words using prefixes or suffixes. Once the students had their raps ready to go they went to an online drum machine to make their beats. We chose this particular drum machine because it is super easy to use. Students don’t need to have any prior knowledge on music production to quickly get the hang of using this tool. After the beats were made the students needed to record their track. We used Audacity to record the beat and then recorded their vocals on another track. Audacity is a great tool for simple multi or single track recording. The kids had some pretty serious rhymes going on! Check it out!

Example 1
Example 2

Feb 16

Zing! Professional Development

Here is the presentation for the Zing! PD we will be doing after school.

Feb 09

Bowling Fractions!

I am so excited! The latest episode of Math on the Spot has been uploaded to the blog. This time the Elementary ITRT’s participated in a bowling competition at Bowl America. Each team bowled a round, figured out the fraction of pins they knocked down and then added their total to their partner’s total in hopes that their fraction would be greater than the other teams! They also worked with improper fractions as well as mixed numbers.

Don’t forget each episode has a “Spot Check” for your students to complete either before, during or after the video!

We really are having a blast traveling around Henrico creating these resources for you to use with your students. Don’t forget there are three older episodes already up on the blog. These include a lesson on probability at Sweet Frog, elapsed time at the UCI bike races and cupcake baking with arrays. Don’t forget, I’d love to come in and help you use these resources in your classroom! You can sign up on my blog!

Check out all of the Math on the Spot episodes here!

Jan 21

Sweet Math in 5th Grade

My fellow HCPS ITRT, Karen Hues, had a blast in 5th grade using the Math on the Spot resources!  Math on the Spot is a growing resource that our team of elementary ITRTs have started to develop for teachers and students to use.  We make short videos focusing on where we encounter math in the real world.  Every video has a “Spot Check” which is an activity that goes along with the video.  In every episode we run into a problem that can only be solved with the amazing power of math!

We’ve done probability at Sweet Frog, elapsed time at the UCI Road World Championships that Richmond, VA hosted last year, we made arrays tasty by baking cupcakes, and soon we will be doing fractions with bowling.  Mrs. Hues said that the 5th graders had an AMAZING time using Math on the Spot.

Check out how it went here!

If you want help incorporating Math on the Spot into your lessons let me know!

Jan 04

Kaechele MakerFest 2015!

Shannon Hyman, Kaechele Elementary’s librarian, invited #TechTakeout to her AMAZING MakerFest Day to run ten different stations. Each one of the stations highlighted a tool that the students would have access to in the Kaechele Makerspace located in the library. Every 4th and 5th grade student had the opportunity to attend the event and learn about each tool. The students had about 5-8 minutes at each station since we wanted everyone to get a chance to see everything. This was enough time to introduce the tool, but in some cases the students had a hands-on experience. Judging from what the students were saying throughout the day, when we return from winter break they will be rushing to the library to work with all of the new tools!

Mr. Covais had a blast working with littleBits! “littleBits is a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that empower you to invent anything, from your own remote controlled car, to a smart home device. The Bits snap together with magnets, no soldering, no wiring, no programming needed.” – The littleBits Website. Students can construct circuits using littleBits in no time! There are several different kits that are available, and at Kaechele the students have four different kits to build with: the base kit, premium kit, deluxe kit, and the gizmos and gadgets kit. Each kit comes with a booklet containing various ideas of things that can be constructed using the littleBits. The booklets only use the littleBits in that particular kit, so they won’t include any design ideas that aren’t possible to make. The students were amazed at how simple it was to create the circuits and they were already coming up with new ideas using the different combinations of Bits in the different kits.
Mr. Caratachea introduced the 3Doodler. This is an amazing tool that the students can use to bring anything they can think of to life in three dimensions. The idea behind it combines 3D printing and a hot glue gun. When using the 3Doodler you have to load the colored filament in the back of the pen. There are two speeds that the pen can extrude the filament, fast and slow. The pen can also be set to extrude filament continuously or only when the operator is holding the button. Depending on the type of doodling you are doing all of these settings can be helpful. The first thing that was discussed with the students was safety. Since this 3D pen melts the filament, the tip of it gets pretty hot! Each student that attended the MakerFest knows never to touch the end of the 3Doodler. Drawing in 3D isn’t as easy as it sounds and will require a little practice. Luckily there are templates that come with the 3Doodler and even more online that can be printed out. These templates are great because it makes drawing with the 3Doodler as easy as tracing on paper. There are even step by step guides that can be printed out to help the artists make their creations. Two of the crowd favorites were the step by step instructions for animals and of course Star Wars characters.
Mrs. Hues’ station got students drawing using Masterpiece with Osmo. Osmo features a clip on piece with a mirror that attaches to an iPad where the camera is located so that the camera looks down at the table where students are working. With Masterpiece, students select a picture from the gallery and it appears on the iPad. Using paper and markers on the table, students look up at the iPad to trace the red lines. When they are finished and look down at their paper, they will see their masterpiece!
from Karen Hues on Vimeo

They equally enjoyed problem solving with Newton. Using a whiteboard, dry erase markers, and an eraser, students created paths for the bouncy balls to follow to try to get them to hit the targets and complete the challenge. There are many different levels to play and even more to be unlocked!

Mrs. Browne was in charge of the Osmo Words, Tangrams and Numbers. Osmo Words allowed students to compete against each other in game mode to spell out images displayed on the ipad. Each student was assigned either red or blue letter tiles and they raced each other to find the most correct letters to earn the points.
Osmo Tangrams challenged the students to complete an animal puzzle using tangram pieces. The image was displayed in shadow format and the students had to use spatial relations to figure out where the pieces went. Each time a correct tangram was placed, the tangrams on the ipad lit up to let the student know they had the correct location.
For Osmo Numbers, the students used number tiles to match up to the number displayed on the ipad. The tiles included dots and digits. They added by putting more tiles and subtracted by removing tiles.

Out of all three Osmo apps, the students really enjoyed Osmo Words because of the competition element. They liked having to guess the word associated with the picture, which sometimes wasn’t as straightforward as they thought.

Mrs. Robinson made some Hollywood quality movies with the students using Stop Motion Studio. Stop Motion Studio is an easy to use app that can help you create professional looking videos. Their favorite part was the playback video at the end that shows the development of their creation in a fast-motion video. The video can be saved to the camera roll and shared out.
Mrs. Smith was in charge of the MaKey MaKey station.

Three MaKey MaKeys were set up to operate some winter themed games. One game was the Synonym and Antonym Christmas Tree. Second grade students at Mehfoud Elementary had decorated a Christmas tree with foil wrapped ornaments that had two words written on each. The set of words were either synonyms or antonyms. They had also used Scratch to program responses when the Christmas tree ornaments are touched. If you touch a pair of synonyms, you hear the students yell SYNONYMS and the Christmas tree in Scratch does a little dance. If you touch a pair of antonyms, you hear the students yell ANTONYMS and the tree in Scratch turns upside down. The Kaechele students thought it was so cool that 2nd graders had created this game and they enjoyed practicing synonyms and antonyms in a HANDS ON way.

Also set up were two computers with THIS skiing game. The object of the game is to get the skier from the top of the hill to the bottom of hill without running into trees. You also have to build a snowman by collecting snowman parts along the way. Students used the MaKey MaKeys as the controllers that were hooked up to PlayDough. Jessica Robinson had the clever idea to use holiday cookie cutters to cut out shapes so we had stars and gingerbread men acting as the left and right arrow keys. Such a cute idea!

The best part about this station was when the students figured out that they could create a circuit together so more than one student could operate the MaKey-MaKey! As long has they were holding hands/arms of the person who was grounded to the main cord connected to the MaKey-MaKey, they could touch the PlayDough and make the skier move 🙂
Mrs. Green‘s station got students very excited about taking their coding knowledge to the next step with Scratch. Last week they participated in the Hour of Code on and learned the basics of coding. Scratch allows students to use their own creativity to code games and activities. They were shown the basics of Scratch and all of the options. Then they had the opportunity to play games that were created by other students to support the classroom curriculum as well as games created by experts. The students left the station talking about the games they were going to start creating and how they were going to make their own controllers using the Makey Makeys.Jon Wirsing manned the Tinkercad station. Tinkercad is a very powerful online 3D modeling website. The best thing about Tinkercad is that it is very child friendly. With practice students in elementary school can design their own three dimensional objects that can then be printed with a 3D printer. This website is free of charge! The students simply login with their Google accounts and they are ready to go. Working in a 3D workspace can definitely be tricky, so the students will be starting small and working their way to more complex designs. This type of tool can be extremely valuable in the classroom because some students, especially visual learners, will be able to take an abstract idea they study in school and make it a tangible object.

The 3D printing station was lead by a 4th grade student, Aiden. Aiden’s family donated their old 3D printer to Kaechele, so it was only fitting that he was the person explaining what the students can do with a 3D printer. Our Instructional Technology department here in Henrico County has been working with our 3D printer that we purchased with a grant from The Henrico Education Foundation, so we are familiar with integrating the idea of 3D printing and design into the classroom curriculum. Aiden explained to his fellow students the process of 3D printing and how sometimes things don’t always turn out the way that you expect them to turn out. 3D printing is a great tool for the trial and error process, which is an idea that makers truly embody. The students at Kaechele will use Tinkercad to design their very own 3D objects and be able to print them right at school!

Mrs. Gebhard, the library assistant, was in charge of the sewing machine. Sewing is a very important life skill that these lucky students will be able to say they possess after elementary school. Mrs. Gebhard showed the students how to operate the sewing machine, and also how to troubleshoot when issues arise. While showing the students she focused on safety and the importance of being extremely careful while using this great tool. The students who are interested in using the sewing machine are also going to receive more in depth training by a volunteer from Jo-Ann Fabric. Once the students know how to safely and properly use the sewing machine they will be able to use it in Makerspace.

Check out all of the fun we had at MakerFest Day:

We think EVERY school needs a MakerFest Day!

Dec 18

Measuring in Google Slides

Using an actual ruler and using a ruler that you manipulate on the computer are two very different yet important skills.  When I was in the classroom as a third grade teacher I always wished I gave the students more opportunities to manipulate rulers digitally since they will be asked to at the end of the year on their SOL tests.  I created this Google Slides file to do just that!

Since I think it’s important for the students to use both real rulers and digital rulers I gave the students opportunities to do both here.  We had students work in pairs to complete this.  CLICK HERE to get the template and feel free to make a copy so that you can change anything that you want with it!  The students had a blast while working on their measurement skills!













Dec 17

3rd Grade Patterns in Google Drawing

In 3rd grade at Crestview we made patterns using Google Drawing. Collaborative Google Drawing is one of my favorite ways to introduce a few topics.  Patterns and arrays are two math topics that are perfect for Google Drawing.  For this lesson I set up a folder in Google with enough templates to pair the students up and shared it with the class. The students found their Google Drawing file; I had the partners chosen already so we didn’t take any time for the students to find someone to work with.  Once they opened their file I showed them how to make shapes, change the color, and communicate back and forth through Google Drawing.  Once the kids got going the teacher was amazing to see how quiet and focused everyone was.  Since they were communicating just through Google no one made a peep!  This was a great way for the students to work on their digital collaboration and patterns at the same time!