* Storyblocks

Storyblocks is an awesome site for downloading images, videos (including 360 and virtual reality) and audio files, all royalty free.  I discovered Storybooks while browsing Pixabay, a site with over 1.3 million FREE images.  Storyblocks is not free but for unlimited downloads of very high quality in numerous file formats, it’s a great deal.

I have an image license and can search Storyblocks by category or peruse their collections for vector art, illustrations, and photos.  I appreciate their racial diversity and wide range of choices.


Yes, it would be cheating if I used Storyblocks photos for blog challenges.



* Education DIVE

I’ve been reading Education Dive for a while (it’s free!) and enjoy their quick scan of interesting articles related to higher ed, K12 technology, curriculum, legal/courts, online learning, and for-profit issues  This group also publishes Dive online news for a variety of professions, including health care and construction.  If you want a brief overview of trends, top newspaper articles, and even more in-depth reporting, Education DIVE fits the bill.  Politically, they take a liberal stance; I make note of that because our public school system is definitely governed by politics and bureaucracy.

Education DIVE selected Richard Gordon IV, principal of Paul Robeson High School, as their Administrator of the Year.  He took the helm of a failing school which now has a 98% graduation rate and 50%+ of its students go to college.  The interview with Gordon is encouraging.  What an excellent educator!  He believes that relationships with students and changing their belief systems are two keys to success.  He noted that his urban students lacked confidence in their abilities (and were shocked that he knew them by name).  Kudos to Mr. Gordon for his success!  I would love to see his approach replicated across the nation.


It’s easy to subscribe to Education Dive and there’s a lot to interest educators from all specialities!

* Sharing my world

I love Cee’s Share Your World weekly challenge.  Her answers are always interesting; can’t wait to see more nighttime photography.  What about a video of your tripod adventures, Cee?

What one word describes you best?  I used Wordle to create this word cloud.  Simply type in text and it will automatically generate a cool design based upon frequency of words.  You can adjust the color and layout, too.  And it’s FREE!

wordle teacher


What is set as the background on your computer?  Oh boy,  I had to look.  It’s the plain old Windows design.  I always have so many windows open that I can’t see the background.  If I make it attractive with horse pictures, I’m too distracted!

If you have been to a foreign country, name those you have been to.  I started off in a “foreign country,” having been born in the UK.  I’m sure my UK readers do NOT think of themselves as foreign!  I’ve also been to Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Iceland.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.  

I was inspired by the artistic performance, “Joy in the Morning,” at Colonial Williamsburg.  The performance celebrates the strength and character of the enslaved people of that era, along with their struggles and despair.  I had a chance to chat with the performers after the show; they are passionate about their work, sharing the story of a population stolen from their homelands and brutalized as slaves.  I find myself focusing on the last names of black people, knowing that the Washingtons’ roots, for instance, most likely can be found in Washington’s plantation.  Good old George did not have any white sons….

* Virtual field trips this Thanksgiving!

Virtual field trips are an excellent online resource for visiting sites that would otherwise be out of reach.  To celebrate Thanksgiving with your students or kiddos at home, take advantage of Scholastic’s terrific resources for Thanksgiving.  Here’s a snip of their virtual field trips, enhanced with reenactments.  I appreciate the relatively uncluttered look and ease of access.

Virtual field trip

And that’s not all!  To promote a better understanding of the lives of the native peoples and colonists, use Scholastic’s comparison pages.  Students can listen independently and research housing, clothes, chores, school. and games in order to compare and contrast theses two lifestyles.  For students with reading disabilities or those who learn best by seeing what they hear, these resources-and more- are an excellent tool for exploring our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Virtual field trip 2

Check out Scholastic for more super resources!

* Econ, apps, and eye gaze

Mix Tobii Dynavox, Communicator 5, economics, and the Township app to get… a terrific way to learn while playing!  Playing is indeed one of the best ways for all of us to learn.  Let me explain how a special needs student applies theories of supply and demand, micro and macroeconomics, opportunity cost, and much more while using an eye gaze system and this fun app.

I’ve blogged before about Tobii Dynavox eye gaze technology and the Communicator 5 software that accompanies it.  I also described a cool book, “How to Build Your Own Country, that supports the creative development of nation states, government, and even national anthems.  My student is president, of course, and has named his township after his country.  He uses Communicator 5 to select what actions he wants to perform, from breeding animals to mining for ore.  The image below is the main topic page.  When he looks at each box, the button “reads” the text I’ve added and then takes him to additional pages, where he can make decisions about what crops to plant, which friends to help, and whether to ask the city market dealer for help.  The black box in the upper left links to a rest page for his eyes, while the blue arrows return him systematically to the main menu.

township C5

These images are from the Township Wiki.  

I’ve only encountered a couple of difficulties so far.  For one, my dearest teaching widower does get tired of hearing the Communicator 5 program repeated over and over, as I make sure all the links are correct.  Then there’s the issue of my own addiction to this game!  Finally, my student does love using Mrs. Everson’s bank, but he must first earn the bills and coins (he named them doodads and dubas in his country).  And who supplies Mrs. Everson’s bank?  Shh….  This will be a test of whether my widower still reads my posts!!

* Geometer’s SketchPad

The Geometer’s SketchPad is a cool, online tool for exploring math concepts with 3rd graders through high school students.  Published by Key Curriculum Press, SketchPad originally focused on geometry, but this clever program has morphed into a powerful tool for mathematical understanding from basic operations to calculus.

What makes SketchPad so powerful?  It provides a visual tool for instruction, student exploration, and problem solving.  This tool adds a unique opportunity for students to explore “What happens if I do this?” and provides a user-friendly platform for student interaction.  As we know from research, math instruction is much more effective when kids can talk, reason, and experiment.

For teachers, SketchPad supports a creative and relatively simple tool for guiding mathematical learning.  Teachers can join a free, online community of educators through Sketch Exchange, with opportunities to: (copied from info on Sketch Exchange)

  • upload sketches and activities
  • post links to your own website or videos
  • participate in a community forum
  • browse the content on the site by grade level, topic, or tags
  • download sketches and activities for use in your classroom

I use SketchPad with a special needs student who has a visual impairment.  SketchPad allows me to change text and object sizes and colors, background color, and increase units of measurement.  SketchPad is also available in multiple languages since it it used globally.  Give it a try!





* The Wonder of Procrastination

What, me procrastinate???  On the Wonder League mission, of all things???  I blame some part of my brain that simply cannot measure or draw a straight line.  OK, here’s the deal: The Wonder League has a cool programming mission using the robot, Dash.  I’m good with programming.  I’m good with the fascinating mission.  But you have to create a mat, a 5 x 8 grid.  And since my student works from a fixed position in a special chair, I had to create a sturdy platform to hold that mat.  Hence my procrastination.

I did make a foam platform but I thought it was supposed to be 5 x 7 (click on the link to take a look).  I am not sure how that happened, because I triple-checked the dimensions.  Ha!  I also thought it would be safer to make the platform larger, so it became 7 x 7.   Oh dear!  I had bought shower curtains and miles of black tape to create the mat; to my chagrin (thankfully before I started fastening the plastic mat together), I discovered that it was to be 5 x 8.   I spent a couple of weeks re-cutting and re-gluing the foam platform, making several key errors which required MORE glue and Contac paper.

After the platform debacle, I was loathe to start the mat.  My dearest widower assured me I don’t have Alzheimer’s and that he would help me measure it.  I cried a few tears about my visual-spatial glitches but with my teaching widower’s faithful help, it’s all finished!  Woohoo!


Yeah, that’s the robot Cue, not Dash.  Cue the Cleverbot is AWESOME!  But let HIM try to make a mat….

* Fun Foto for EE

sheet of foam

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week requires that that the photo topic have two E‘s in the word.  I chose this sheet of foam, which is one-half of the base for the current Wonder League mission, a programming challenge for kiddos.  I repeated the harrowing drive with a second sheet hanging out the back of my car.  As I am wont to do, I somehow misread the required dimensions of the base and asked my dearest widower to chop off a foot.  Not his own, mind you.  The foam base is now 5 x 7, instead of the required 5 x 8.  Oh dear.

Here’s the almost-final product featuring Dash the robot.  I am going to glue that extra foot back on (yikes!) and finish a vinyl mat that goes on top.  Then all of this sits on two tables raised up to my disabled student’s eye level.  Whew!  That’s a mouthful and you are probably WONDERING what this is all about.  The Wonder Leagues offers a terrific opportunity for kids to explore coding on a very cool mission in outer space.  Yeah, that will take some explaining.  More later.

Dash on mat

* Seesaw

Wow!  Seesaw is a user-friendly digital portfolio for classes, with many features that support special needs students.  I stumbled across this terrific app and have already started using it!  Here’s a short video that quickly explains some of its key features: 

What are some of Seesaw’s best features?  It’s teacher friendly, supports simple yet effective digital learning, enables teachers to individualize within a large group setting, and is FREE!  Seesaw allows teachers to connect with families effortlessly (and privately, if needed).  Best of all, from a special ed perspective, it supports struggling learners by providing a wide range of response choices without time pressure.  Teachers can create formative assessments, announcements, videos, and much more to share with individuals or the entire class.  Teachers also adjust settings to approve all entries before they are posted, message families privately, and moderate a class blog.

Seesaw is student friendly, working well whether each student has a device or shares one.  All students access a private “journal” where they can post photos, videos, links, files, and drawings.  All videos and photos can be edited to include recordings, text, and drawings.  This app allows special needs kids alternative responses to a range of typical school tasks.  The drawing feature, a miniature whiteboard, could improve student understanding in math by allowing teachers quick access to how a problem is interpreted and solved.  The recording feature allows shy or socially awkward kiddos a less stressful approach for class presentations.  For those students who need extra time to process information, Seesaw can be used flexibly to provide adequate thinking and prep time.

Before you start Seesaw, it’s wise to go through their online course which has been carefully designed to provide practice on each feature.  Plus, you get a certificate of credit- how sweet!  Seesaw works on laptops with Chrome or Firefox, Kindle Fire, Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones, and Android devices.  And there are actually two Seesaw apps, Class and Family.  Both are awesome!

Seesaw 2

I give Seesaw a 5-star rating for its broad scope of use, ease of access, and potential benefits to special needs kids. 

* Camp Wonderopolis 2017- WOW!

Camp Wonderopolis 2017 is the BEST ever!   This STEM-based set of activities is divided into six tracks, with 7 excellent lessons for each.  New this year: Each track also includes a Maker Activity, a hands-on, fun way to extend the primary concept of each track.  A helpful video also accompanies each Activity.  The creators of this Wonderful camp have added a slew of additional resources for each lesson, access to a Wonder Wall for posting comments, and a cool representation of progress (such as completion of a graphic power plant) in addition to the previous representations of completion.  Kids still earn those awesome Wonder Cards by taking a 6-question quiz related to the basic concepts and vocabulary of the lesson.

Camp Wonderopolis 2017

Kids with reading struggles are not neglected.  Each lesson features an audio track, so those smart kids who can’t wade through paragraphs of unfamiliar words won’t have to!  Kids on the autism spectrum or those with language/ auditory processing problems may also benefit from the audio and video features, as well as time spent on “Spin a Wonder Wheel,” which reviews key vocabulary.

So here’s my Wonder question:  How do they keep making Camp Wonderopolis better each year?