MAT Blog

3 Free Apps for Teachers: Edit and annotate your photos

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 12, 2013 11:43:00 AM

The next time you or your students are putting together a visual presentation and find yourself wishing there was a simpler way to edit or add annotations (circles, arrows, lines or text) to the images you find on the web, check out these 3 free apps for teachers; they’ll make your life a whole lot simpler, especially for those of you who don’t have access to photo-editing software.

3 Free Apps for Teachers: Edit and annotate your photos

apps for teachersScreen Draw
For those of you using Mozilla as your web browser, Screen draw is a free add-on that gives you the ability to draw or type text over the top of any page. Once you’re done, you can save the image as a PNG or JPG file. This is by far one of the most convenient image-annotating applications because you’ll never have to journey outside of your web browser to use it.

apps for teachersSnaggy
As with Screen Draw, Snaggy allows you to annotate and edit images, but it’s also an image host that lets you paste images from your clipboard directly online. Found a photo you like? Simply hit Control + Print Screen to capture the image; now hit control + V to copy the image into Snaggy. One you’ve cropped or annotated your screen capture, you can either save it to your hard drive or upload it to your favorite social media platform.

apps for teachersPixlr
This free application allows you to get as simple or sophisticated as you dare. Depending on what you want to do, you can choose from three different versions:

  • Pixlr-o-matic is a bit like Instagram in the sense that you can upload your image and add interesting textures, borders and overlays to them
  • Pixlr-express is a step up from the Pixlr-o-matic version. Not only can you add textures, borders and overlays to images, you can also add text
  • Pixl-editor is much more sophisticated than the previous versions. The closest thing we can compare it to is Photoshop, but unlike the latter, the price is much easier to swallow

If these apps for teachers don’t fulfill your needs, stop by Richard Byrne’s site for a comprehensive list of screen-capture tools and photo editors. We also recommend downloading our free guide by clicking on the button below. Inside you'll find 50 of our favorite apps for teachers!


Download our FREE guide: 50 Apps for Teachers!

Tags: apps for educators, apps for teachers, Collaboration, classroom technology

5 apps to unite your district and encourage collaborative learning

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 23, 2013 1:54:00 PM

Collaborative LearningWhen you think of the term "Collaborative Learning" your mind probably jumps to the group projects you use in your classroom. But imagine taking that idea and expanding it district-wide. Not only would your students engage with one another, they would also be swapping ideas with students in their district whom they have never even met. Thanks to the World Wide Web and collaborative learning app all of this is possible.

5 apps to unite your district and encourage collaborative learning:

  1. Popplet. You may already use Popplet  to help students create visual maps for their collaborative ideas, but if you’re not familiar with the app, here’s what it does. Basically, Popplet is a community pin board with an infinite amount of space for students to post text, pictures, video and artwork. Once their work has been pinned, students are free to explore and comment on each other’s Popplets. They will be fascinated to watch how the same subject can be thought about, engaged with, and analyzed in so many ways.

  2. Twitter. We have always been enthusiastic about using Twitter to keep teachers, parents, and students connected, but it can also be used as a collaborative learning tool. Even elementary students will love to Tweet their ideas to others. Consider using a classroom Twitter feed as a platform from which to reach out to other students in various learning communities and share ideas. One idea would be to create Book Club Groups. Each day/week, students can Tweet their observations and ideas about the book. Your "sister classroom" from another school in the district can respond and post their own questions. It's a great way to cast a larger learning net.

  3. VoiceThread. This app, which is actually a voice/text/video thread is a wonderful way for students to collaborate on presentations and projects, or to comment on each other’s work. Because it all takes place online, it allows students to work with anyone anywhere. Even something as simple as posting a "Mystery Picture" and asking students to comment on it is a way to keep creative juices flowing. Another bonus is that VoiceThread allows hearing and/or speaking-challenged students to contribute via type or video sign language.

  4. QR Code Scavenger Hunts. Look at storefront windows as you pass by and you’ll probably see them: you know, those weird black and white pixilated boxes they’re calling QR Codes?  It’s not just advertisers who are harnessing the power of QR Codes. Teachers, too, are starting to use them to create Internet-based scavenger hunts by bookmarking any number of media/learning tools. Or students can create their own hunts. Then they catalog their QR codes via their phone or tablet. To learn more about putting together your own QR scavenger hunt, check out what the International School of Toulouse is doing.

  5. Edmodo. For those who teach high school, Edmodo is the secure Facebook of the education world.  Both students and teachers can sign on. You can post assignments and ideas through the Edmodo social network and others can get involved. Students have a bit of freedom, so site monitoring is recommended to ensure students stay focused on collaborative learning rather than collaborative socializing!

Collaborative learning apps are literally blowing the educational world wide open. Classroom and school walls are no longer boundaries, which is so exciting for the future of education. Have you been using any eTools or Apps to promote collaborative learning in your district? Or even just school wide? We would love to hear your ideas.


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Tags: Best Apps for Educators, Collaboration, collaborative learning

Teaching Social Change: 5 Student Service-Learning Activities

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 17, 2013 9:24:00 AM

service learning activitiesService-learning activities are an excellent way to take our students’ passion and energy—and we all know that they have an abundance of both—beyond the classroom and into the community. Service-learning activities are hands on; they’re also a great way to encourage critical thinking, collaboration, empathy and civic responsibility. But where do you start? Fear not, we’ve got five service-learning activities to get you started. 

Teaching Social Change: 5 Student Service-Learning Activities

Adopt a soldier
Regardless of how you and your students feel about our troops’ mission, they still need our love and support. One way to do this is by adopting a soldier through websites like Adopt a US Soldier or Soldier’s Angels. Many of our soldiers are far away from home and often lack the familial support that we take for granted—and that’s where you and your kiddos come in.

Just remember that when you sign up, you’re making a commitment to regularly send cards and care packages. If you’re unsure what your class should say, check out these sample letters for ideas. Keep in mind that packages don’t have to be expensive and if you’re stumped on what to get for your adopted hero, just ask; you can also refer to the website for a list of the most-requested items. The length of adoption depends on several factors, but generally it lasts six to twelve months.

Sponsor an animal
Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” We think there is a lot of truth to this statement, so we’re referring you to SASHA Farm, an animal sanctuary in Manchester, Michigan. Many of the animals who reside there have experienced the cruelty of modern factory farming, abandonment or mistreatment.  Luckily, over 250 animals now enjoy the sun, space and fresh air of their 65-acre home. As you can imagine, caring for so many animals is a costly venture and even small donations go a long way.

Animal sponsorships start at $30 and payments can be made online or via snail mail. SASHA allows you to choose the cow, horse, goat, sheep, pig or turkey you want to adopt; in return they’ll send you a sponsor package that includes a certificate, letter, and photo of your new friend.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen
Although we lack conclusive data on rates of homelessness in the United States, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty suggests that approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year.

Many of us volunteer at soup kitchens during the holidays, but remember, homelessness doesn’t end just because it’s a New Year. So hit Google and find your local shelter or soup kitchen; chances are that they’d be glad to have you and your students cook and serve a hot meal. If they don’t need help serving, ask them if you can help pick up and deliver donations, take food inventory or clean up. Keep in mind that soup kitchens need to keep their pantry stocked just like you do, so if they don’t need you in person, try organizing a pantry prep or food drive for them!

Waste not, want not
If you were driving through Bozeman, a small town in Montana, you just might see students biking the streets in search of coffee grounds. Yes, coffee grounds. Why though? Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and provide bacteria necessary to turn organic waste into compost. That’s interesting, but what’s the point? Bozeman’s Coffee 2 Compost program estimates that they have not only created partnerships with their community coffee houses and saved them the effort of disposing of the grounds, but they have also helped to divert 5,000 pounds of coffee waste from the landfill every year!

This particular service-learning project may not be your cup of…ahem, coffee, but it just goes to show you how far a little incentive and creativity can really go. 

Plant a community garden
If you decide to start a coffee-to-compost program, you’re probably wondering where in the world you’re going to compost the grounds. Why not take them back to the community garden you and your students planted right on campus?

Planting a garden is a fine way to interact with the local community, sure. But it’s also rife with pedagogical opportunities: The soil, seeds and plants your students grow will give students physical contact with nature, an experience that makes theoretical principles and biological processes they read about in textbooks come to life.

And once your garden is flourishing, why not use the fruits of your labor in the school cafeteria?

There’s no shortage of service learning activities out there. All you need is a little creativity and a classroom full of passionate philanthropists!


Martin Luther King Jr Lesson Plans

Tags: Collaboration, community, service learning activities

5 More Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 10, 2013 2:05:00 PM

Collaborative LearningWe’ve asked this question before, but we’re going to ask it again: Why do our students come to school? Is it for the textbooks and your oratorical prowess? Unlikely. We’re not saying that you and your lectures are chopped liver or anything, but we do happen to think that it’s the collaborative experience—the relationships and the conversations between student and student and student and teacher—that truly makes coming to school exceptional.

To help your students get the most out of their collaborative learning experience and use technology to do it, we’re going to review 5 apps that’ll get you on your way.

5 More Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Wizehive (Free)
Looking for an easy way for your students to share conversations, notes, tasks, calendars, files, and other information in secure, private, workspaces? Look no further, WizeHive’s got you covered. If that wasn’t enough, WizeHive offers users the capability to enter information via email, Twitter or any mobile device.

Scribblar (Free)
Our friend Richard Byrn from Free Technology for Teachers turned us on to this app and we’re addicted. Scribblar allows users to collaborate in real-time to create or upload preexisting images and drawings. Users can edit, comment or use voice/text chat to share their thoughts. Don’t feel like taking the time to create an account? No worries, you can still create a Scribblar room, you just won’t be able to enable privacy settings or name your room.

Book Glutton (Free)
Reading alone is fun, but nothing can truly replace reading a text and coming to class to have a seminar-style discussion about it. Book Glutton has figured out a way for readers to take in-class conversations home with them—so the dialogue never has to end. 

If you use Book Glutton, you can create virtual reading groups that literally meet inside of the text itself. For example, say you want to comment on page 80, paragraph 4 in Catcher in the Rye. Go ahead and click on it, leave your comment for the rest of the class to read and respond to.

If you thought that was cool, you haven’t seen anything yet: Book Glutton offers users access to 797 open-source (completely free) classics!

NoteMesh is a free service that allows college students in the same classes to share notes with each other. It works by creating a wiki for individual classes that users can edit. Students are free to post their own lecture notes or contribute to existing ones. The idea is that users in the same class can collaboratively create a definitive source for lecture notes.

inClass (Free)
Our students live complicated and busy lives, but thanks to inClass, they can keep track of all their courses, share notes with one another, document tasks and receive reminders when something is due. But wait, there’s more: inClass gives your students the ability to take video, audio and phone notes and then share them with their peers. Sounds like music to our ears. Now you’ll never have to listen to excuses about forgotten homework again!

If you’re interested in enhancing your students’ collaborative learning experience and can’t get your hands on enough apps like thtese, check out one of our recent blogs, “5 Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning.” 


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Tags: apps for educators, apps for teachers, Cooperative Learning, Collaboration, classroom technology

5 Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 8, 2012 6:00:00 AM

collaborative learningWhy do our students come to school? Yes, yes, of course because they have to, but why else? Is it because of you? Is it because of the mind-bending textbooks?

If you asked Michael Kahn (see his article, “The Seminar”) these questions, he’d tell you that there’s nothing intrinsically special about us or the textbooks.

No, what makes coming to school “worth it” is the collaborative learning experience—or in his words, the “opportunity to engage in a fantastic dialogue, trialogue, multilogue with a fantastically varied assortment of consciousnesses.” Indeed, the teacher facilitates and instructs and the books are the springboard from which conversations and teachable moments are launched. But Kahn believes classrooms become magical because of the relationships we nurture and the conversations we have.

To enhance or reinvent your students’ collaborative learning experience and use technology to do it, we thought we’d offer 5 apps to get you started!

5 Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Corkboard Me. If Google Calendar and Pinterest had a child, the result would be Corkboard Me. It's a pragmatic way to keep everyone on the same page in terms of who is doing what and when. Students can create "post it notes," keep track of the project's timeline and leave messages to each other on an online cork board. Nobody has the excuse they didn't get a message or didn't know what they were supposed to do because it's all on the group's cork board. Once the students are ready to work, is a one-stop-shop where students can work on the same document, at the same time, in real time. Different colored highlights are assigned to each student. It eliminates the need for cutting/pasting, or attaching documents back and forth, with different versions of the same thing floating out in cyberspace. Students can check out previous histories and collaborators can chat in real time while the document is being created. These are just a few of the perks of using

MixedInk. Similar to, MixedInk is another collaborative learning platform that allows students to work on one document at the same time. This one’s quite user-friendly and more geared toward teacher/student/classroom learning. Perks include the ability for students to give a star-rating to certain ideas, passages, or versions of the document so they can decide as a group which one should be the final product. It's completely free and can be as professional, creative, or fun as the collaborators want to make it.

LiveBinders. Email, Facebook, Twitter, and texting can all be used to send information to individuals or groups. You can embed URLs on a website or blog. But after enough links/sites come your way, it can be hard to keep track of them. LiveBinders created a way to organize resources and information in one location - which is put together like a traditional 3-Ring binder using tabs and sub-tabs. Ideas:

  • Teachers can embed a LiveBinder link on their website which houses PowerPoint lectures, YouTube Videos, and recommended websites for student/parent viewing.
  • Parents can use it to keep track of safe websites for their kids, or to help them find online resources for their student's project.
  • Collaborative learning groups can use LiveBinder to keep all of their group project resources and information in one organized place.

Realtime Board. This online app combines the best features from multiple apps. It's a collaborative, creative, organizational Realtime Board, based on the idea of a whiteboard, which allows groups to create presentations, infographics, papers and more. It's a little more high-tech so older students will benefit the most from this one. One of the bonuses is that when a document is pinned to the board, you can still work within it - scrolling between pages, or editing it, and then save the changes back to the original file on your computer.

Students, of course, aren’t the only ones who benefit from collaborative learning. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a recent Education Week article featuring Keith Pomeroy, an Ohio-based director of technology, who exposed us to collaborative-learning websites like Edmodo and Schoology. If you’re ever looking for lesson-plan ideas or new resources, we recommend that you check both of these sites out!

Also check out our free download, Surfing for Substance: 50 No-Nonsense, No-Fluff Websites and Apps for Teachers, to learn about some helpful websites and apps that can streamline your curriculum, keep you organized, and engage your students.

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Tags: curriculum design, download, apps for educators, downloads, Collaboration

A Classroom Management System that Grows with Your Students

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 3, 2012 6:00:00 AM

Students know how to keepClassroom Management us on our toes, don’t they? Sure, your new (insert brilliant idea here) may have brought a glimmer to their eyes on October 31st, but it’s November now and you’ve already had to start trimming the mold off the edges of it. To help you keep up with your students, we’d like to share a classroom management system that grows with them, sort of like a video game: When students “beat” level one, they advance to level two and so on. The trick is to capitalize on their curiosity by building suspense.

Most of these ideas come courtesy of Whole Brain Teaching; we highly recommend you check out their website.  

A Classroom Management System that Grows with Your Students

Create a scoreboard
Before you implement the classroom management system, you’ll want to create a simple scoreboard: In one corner of the board draw two faces—one smiley, the other a frown—and then draw a long line between each to create two columns. There’s nothing special about the scoreboard in itself; it’s how you use it that counts. So when students perform well, you’ll of course draw a smiley face. But to make it fun, get them involved:

Walk up to the board, raise your arm up in the air and say enthusiastically, “My hand has an itch that can only be scratched by drawing a smiley face. Should I do it?” Allow your students to yell back, “Oh, yeah!” When students don’t perform so well, do the same thing. This time, however, you’ll say, “I feel a mighty groan coming on!” Then allow your students to dramatically hang their hands or put their head down on the desk and groan loudly. The key to maintaining their enthusiasm is never to let the difference between smiles and frowns exceed 3.

You’ve got your scoreboard, now you need some classroom management strategies to help you tally up those smiley faces.

Level #1: The Marker Mover
The only thing you need for this one is a dry-erase marker and a white board tray. Set your marker in the middle of the tray. When students perform well, say something like, “You’re doing great, which makes this marker want to move…” and have your students yell, “…to the left!” Then dramatically inch it over to the left (the good side). When students perform poorly, do the opposite.

Always make sure that you have a different call and response for each strategy so that your students’ enthusiasm for shouting out responses doesn’t wane. Once the marker makes it to the end of one side of the board, draw the appropriate face on the scoreboard. When your students master an activity or behavior, move them to “level two.”

Level #2: The Boom box
Bring in a portable boom box and set it up away from a power outlet. When students perform well, shout, “Do I hear music?” Have them shout, “Oh, yeah!” and then move the boom box towards the power outlet. When they don’t do so well, say, “I feel a mighty groan coming on!” and move the boom box back a few inches.

Level #3: The Fakeout
 To keep your classroom management strategy suspenseful, try the fakeout: Walk up to the boom box and say, “You kids are doing pretty well. Do I hear music?” When they respond (“Oh, yeah!”) surprise them by saying, “I thought so…for a second…but it was just a passing car!” After they make their mighty groan, remind them of the behavior they should be working on if they want the boom box to keep inching its way towards that outlet.

Level #4: Higher or Lower
Once your students are familiar with these systems, introduce them to “higher or lower.” They’ll go crazy over this one. All you need is a deck of cards and the white/black board tray. When students perform well, put a smiley face on the board; then pull out your deck of cards and hold it up in the air.

Next, draw the top card and prop it up on the tray so that everyone can see it clearly—let’s say that the card you pulled was a Jack. Now students have to guess whether or not the next card will be higher or lower in value than the Jack. Let’s say your students guess that the next card will be higher in value. They were right, you drew an Ace. Go ahead and add a smiley face to the scoreboard.

Now give them a choice: they can stop and keep their extra smiley face or choose to keep going and risk losing them if they guess incorrectly. Most of them will want to keep going. If they continue to choose correctly, keep adding smiley faces. The caveat, though, is that if they choose to keep going and guess wrong, they’ll lose all of the smiley faces they earned during the game.

If you found this classroom management strategy useful, you might also be interested in our FREE downloadable guide, Classroom Management Tips for Elementary Teachers. In it you’ll find 25 ways to keep your attitude fresh and your students engaged!

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Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Collaboration, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules, community

Three More Reading Strategies for New K-6 Teachers, Part II.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Sep 27, 2011 10:35:00 AM

classroom reading strategiesAs a continuation of our discussion on Reading Strategies for new teachers, here are three more ways to prepare students for reading success. No matter what grade level or subject area you teach, we can’t emphasize enough that students must have a strong reading foundation–which includes a variety of comprehension strategies– to serve them well in middle and high school, and onward to higher education. These strategies are great for the new teacher, as well as the seasoned pro.

1) Assessment: It is important to assess students in their general reading abilities on a regular basis.  Even if you do not see your students for the subject of reading, consider using the assessment strategies as outlined in the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS) one to three-minute assessment tests created by Ruth A. Kaminski, Ph.D. and Roland H. Good, Ph.D. of the Dynamic Measurement Group. Their work on DIBELS is based on previous work on Curriculum-Based Measurement conducted by Dr. Stan Deno and a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota, which began in the 1970s, and continues today. You can gain free access at

Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) offers Reading 510, a dynamic, case study-based course which will take Elementary and Secondary teachers through the process of learning how to use these screening instruments effectively, and what to do with the results.This distinctive course, tailored to meet the State of Michigan Reading Requirement for Professional Teaching Certificates, will provide teachers from every state with crucial information to help identify the problems of struggling readers and offer possible solutions.

2) Collaboration: Talk with your fellow teachers on a regular basis to share ideas about teaching reading.  They may be able to provide new material that covers any number of specific topics, including comprehension strategies.  If you are struggling to find strategies that pertain specifically to your unique content area, consult the Internet.  Many teachers post their ideas on discussion boards, forums, and lesson-submitting sites. Check the right-hand column of our Marygrove MAT website for content-specific information.

3) Reflection: It is important to reflect on your curriculum, specific lessons, and students' progress on a regular basis. If you don't find yourself doing this naturally, remind yourself to do it by scheduling time for it. You’ll be glad you did, and before long it will become second-nature. MAT Academic Director Diane Brown sets an alarm on her cell phone to ensure her daily reflection time. “I have an alarm that goes off every day at 2:05,” she says. “This is my ‘get your act together, you have three hours left in the day’ alarm…it started as an accident, but has proved to be incredibly valuable in getting me to fit everything in the day.”

For more ways to boost your students’ reading comprehension levels, download our Free K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices Guide.

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B


Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

Tags: reading comprehension, reading strategies, reading across disciplines, comprehension strategies, Collaboration, Reading, Assessment, Reflection, Reading 510

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