Create > Consume

For most teachers starting out in the profession, the desire for control is strong. Management is a primary concern – and understandably so. As the gate-keepers of knowledge, we feel the need to disseminate content as outlined in our scope and sequences. Our students become consumers of knowledge.

But what do we lose when we make all the decisions for kids? What can we gain when we let them take ownership of their own learning?

One way to give students agency over their learning – and in turn, allow students to think more deeply and critically about content, while also increasing engagement – is to allow for students to create.

Here are a few tech tools to help you bring a little creativity back into your classroom – the way you always imagined you would as a teacher.

1. ThingLink

A ThingLink is an interactive image, where students put ‘hotspots’ (buttons) on top of a large background image. Text, video, pictures, and links can all be placed as hotspots.The variety of hotspots allows for students to include additional information about a topic, or for them to input their own thoughts and opinions.

Analyzing a photograph? Try asking students to add their “see, think, wonder” statements on top of the image.

Researching important historical figures? Include links to biographies, videos, and famous photographs on top of their mug shot.

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2. Scratch

Coding is not just about writing <things in brackets> and staring at computer screens all day. The real genius of coding is how it reinforces problem-solving through a creative outlet.

Scratch is an excellent program for students of any age. Use it with any subject to push students to construct new knowledge from their classes. In English, have students create stories with dialogue. In Math, ask students to create concentric circles. In Social Studies, ask students to recreate major historical events. In Science, ask students to demonstrate physical laws. Whatever your task, ask students to share and remix one another’s work.


3. VoiceThread

VoiceThread is an incredible tool that can be used with as much – or as little – complexity as desired. This collaborative platform allows students to create multi-media projects with video, audio, and text, and to share it with the rest of the class. It even allows students to interact with one another through multi-media commenting.

Education-related resources, rubrics, and examples can be found across the web.


4. Pixton

Storytelling is an innately creative activity, and Pixton allows students to create and share their stories as comics. The design studio is easy and intuitive for students to navigate, allowing students to combine text and images into a fluid story.

Arts-integration can be difficult for some subjects. If you’ve wanted to include more creativity in your social studies or science classes, Pixton can be a fantastic way for students to demonstrate their knowledge of any topic.


What other tools are teachers using to bring creativity into the classroom?

Socrative for Quick Checks

Trying to gather what students know throughout a lesson, is probably one of the more challenging jobs for a teacher. I know when I was in school, one question was asked and then one student got the chance to answer.  Thus leaving the teacher will the question of “What do all of my students really know?”

There are a variety of ways that teachers can get a pulse on their students’ knowledge at the click of a mouse.  One of the favorite ones in my classroom is Socrative.

Socrative is great, because it can be used in a variety of ways.  First of all, you can use it to allow students to work independently on an assignment, and let Socrative self-check along the way.  Secondly, you can let them go at their own pace, without the self-check and click back and forth between questions. Finally, you can do teacher-paced, to make sure that you can clear up an misconceptions before going on to the next question.

It’s pretty harmless to get going, just requires a google log in. Once you get logged in, you come to your dashboard.

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You have a room that your students will log into.   Socrative will automatically generate a random code, but you can go into settings, and change your room name into something that is easier to remember.  I’ve turned mine into “FreshmanHistory”.

Before you can have your students log into your room, you need to make your first quiz.  By clicking the “Manage Quizzes” option, you are brought to a this screen:

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Simply, click create a quiz to get started.

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You will have 3 options to pick from for question types: multiple choice, true/false, and short answer. Click the type of question you want, and build your quiz with as many questions as you would like.  Once you are complete, then hit “Save and Exit” and it will take you back to the Dashboard.

When you are ready to launch this with your students, you will want them to go to the Socrative Log In Page:

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Make sure to stress to students that they need to log in on the “Student” portion.  I’ve had numerous students simply click the “Sign in with Google” button, and end up creating teacher accounts.  Students will type in the Room Name that you created (or had Socrative randomly generate) to join in on the fun.

Students will know that they are successfully in when they see a screen that looks similar to the one below.  Right now it shows a snowman, but this little guy changes depending on the season.

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On your teacher screen you will start to see the number of students that are logged in.  Once you have all of the students logged in, you can click which every option you’d like from the dashboard.  For this post, I’m going to show you what the “Start Quiz” options look like

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You will want to pick which ever quiz you want to have the students do from this screen, and then determine if you want Student-Paced Immediate Feedback, Student-Paced Navigation (where they can go back and forth between questions without knowing the correct answer), or Teacher Paced.

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If you are doing a Guided Practice, I would use the Teacher Paced, with the Student Feedback turned off.  If you are doing Independent Practice, pick either one of the Student-Paced options.

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Once you get going, this is what your screen will look like for a Teacher Paced activity.  You can see the name of the quiz, what question you are on, how many students have answered, and what the choices are.  Once I have every student answer, we click the “How’d We Do?” button to show the correct answer with the percentages.

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I can quickly see how the kids did.  Students that got the correct answer usually do the typical “YES!,” meanwhile, the students that got the wrong answer are looking to you for an explanation. This is the point where you can walk the students through any misconceptions, and ask students why they picked what they did.  For instance, in the above questions, when asked why they picked what they did, they responded “I missed EXCEPT in the question…”

Although, you cannot see who got the right answer and who got the wrong answer on the screen above, at the very end of the quiz, once you hit finish, it gives you an option to see the results.  And in that chart, you get the percentage break down for each student, and what answer they picked. In addition, it will tell you the passing percentage of each individual question, and it can take you back to the percentage break down for each answer choice by clicking the question percent at the bottom of the page.



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You can return to these reports at any time by going to the “Reports” option in “Manage Quizzes.”

I hope that this has been helpful, and that you will find some time to use Socrative in your classroom in the near future.  It is a really great tool to get a grasp on where your students sit in a fun and interactive way.

Blended Learning Throughout the 5E Science Model

Most science educators are familiar with the 5E model as shown below. Until this year, I have not been able to fully incorporate blended learning techniques throughout the entire model. After much experimentation, and many learn-as-you-go classes, I have found how to successfully use technology not only for student engagement, but for data driven instruction.


ENGAGE: excite, hook, attract

Traditional Engage Activities Engage Tech Integration
KWL charts

Thought questions


Word sorts


Do Nows

Padlet: a digital corkboard, where students can post ‘sticky notes’ on a wall together.

Poll Everywhere: survey students current knowledge, create word clouds, etc

Socrative: quick ‘spark’ question to grab students’ attention/curiosity.

Exit Ticket: gathers and allows for teacher to access real time data on prior knowledge of topic. Tool for differentiating/forming groups.

Most traditional engage activities have some platform that can generate that same information and excitement that you are looking to gain in the classroom. However, in my opinion, there is no substitute for hands-on demonstrations to hook students into an awesome science lesson. I have used each of these platforms in my classroom, but still find myself going back to traditional ways of presenting an engage activity.

Engage Spotlight Item: Padlet
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • Interactive
  • Allows for students to type, add attachments, take pictures, add audio
  • Visually appealing for kids
  • Kept students engaged with activity
  • Hard to set-up first Padlet
  • Students could not figure out how to write on Padlet
  • Too advanced for the simple answers I was looking for 

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Overall thoughts: I really enjoyed the visual aspect of this program. I also found it really awesome that the posts were not just limited to text. Students really enjoyed seeing their answer projected for the rest of the class to see, and it kept even my wiggliest students engaged for an extended period of time.  However, I did find this to be too complex for the simple brain dump of vocabulary words. I think this would be a great tool to use in professional developments or with high schoolers, but not necessarily in a 6th grade classroom.


EXPLORE: inquire, examine, ask questions

Traditional Explore Activities Explore Tech Integration
Experiments/Labs PhET Simulations: students  explore essential questions/topics like a lab, but as online demo instead.

Web Quest: an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web.

Glencoe Labs: students  explore essential questions/topics like a lab, but as online demo instead.

Go-Lab: online portal that contains inquiry labs and apps for all branches of science. It also allows for teachers to create their own inquiry learning based spaces for others to use.

Gizmos: online lab simulations. Membership required after free trial period. Only some work with Chrome OS.

While most of these sites cover topics presented 6th-8th grade curriculum, there is not one site has labs that can be presented to students without modifications. Most virtual labs and interactives comes with downloadable resources that allow you to modify the content to the needs of your students. I often times find myself using snippets of these labs in my classroom, mostly for  standards that are highly conceptual or completing a traditional experiment would be too expensive.

Explore Spotlight Item: PhET Simulations
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • Interactive
  • Premade worksheets are available in both Word and PDF form
  • Students are invested in these explorations
  • Only some simulations work on Chromebook OS
  • Simulations can be too difficult for middle school students, only certain parts are applicable to Louisiana standards
  • Simulations do not have written directions for how to complete them
  • No guided learning points throughout simulation

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Overall thoughts: I enjoy using this simulations when I am teaching an abstract concept, for example, conservation of energy. I have taught, and retaught this standard for the past 3 years, never seeming to be truly successful. The PhET simulation that allows students to explore conservation of energy has helped by investing students in their exploration of this topic, allowing for this conceptual topic to be shown in a tangible way, and allowing for reference points while explaining this concept during the explain portion of my lesson. I have found that this lab, as a whole, is too complex for my 6th grade students. I am only able to use the most basic part of this lab, which allows for only about 10 minutes of class time actually using a small portion of the interactive.


EXPLAIN: describe, make clear, give details

Traditional Explain Activities Explain Tech Integration

Introduction to new material

Connecting observations from engage and explore to conceptual concepts

YouTube: create notes video for each student to take notes at their own pace.

Educanon: create or use videos made by other educators and embed checks for understanding to assess student knowledge as new material is introduced. Teachers can access data in real time.

Edpuzzle: create or use videos made by other educators and embed checks for understanding to assess student knowledge as new material is introduced. Real time data not available.

Prezi: software that uses motion, zoom, and spatial relationships to bring your ideas to life. More advanced version of PowerPoint or Google Slides.

NearPod: presents interactive lessons & assessments that students can access on any device. 

The way that I have presented the explain portion to my students has evolved over the past 3 years. I began with projected notes, moved to YouTube videos, and have found myself now using Educanon. I enjoy that my students are able to complete notes at their own pace and I am able to check for classwide misunderstandings by looking at the data gathered from the embedded CFUs.

Explore Spotlight Item: Educanon
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • You can embed CFUs
  • Students cannot skip a video, they must answer CFUs first
  • Variety of options for CFUs (fill in blank, open response, MC, check all that apply)
  • Easy to design bulbs
  • Share bulbs between teachers
  • You can use already existing videos and create your own CFUs or use the ones already embedded
  • Does not hold high expectations/engagement for students unless outside expectations are in place
  • When high volume of computers on Educanon is can freeze
  • Some issues with Firewall/Blocked Sites

Check out my video on work & power!

Overall thoughts: This is a great way for students to take self-paced notes. It is great that teachers have the option of creating their own bulbs for the class or search pre-made ones. The only issues we experience are technological ones, computers freezing or having to get past the network’s firewall.  My only personal issues with Educanon is the lack of engagement over time. If you want to keep your students on task and engaged in the videos it may be wise to have an outside incentive system to hold them accountable.


ELABORATE: practice, make habit, push

Traditional Elaborate Activities Elaborate Tech Integration
Guided practice

Independent practice

Check work  

Exit Ticket: online program that allows teachers to upload/create questions. Provides real time data as well as a mastery breakdown per student.


EVALUATE: assess, gauge learning, analyze

Traditional Evaluate Activities Evaluate Tech Integration
Exit Ticket



Exit Ticket: online program that allows teachers to upload/create questions. Provides real time data as well as a mastery breakdown per student. 

I have always struggled checking the independent work my students complete and therefore not really knowing if they are mastering a standard. I started using the Exit Ticket program for students to check their  independent practice and exit tickets from science class.

Elaborate & Evaluate Spotlight Item: Exit Ticket
Glows 🙂 Grows 😦
  • Provides real time data on overall assessment and breakdown of each question
  • Students can see how they did after each question
  • Students can see their progress over the week, semester, year
  • Has a projector mode which can be used to show students without giving away student data
  • Easy projects question breakdown for reteaching
  • Keeps a bank of all items you create/find
  • Students have to enter a code the first time they log-in
  • Sometimes link doesn’t work and students have to find from google
  • Free response answer have to match exactly for it to be counted as correct
  • Can only grade 1 point constructed response questions
  • Cannot be easily used or constructed response question with multiple parts

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Overall thoughts: I really like using this program to use hold students accountable for completing their independent work. I have found that this invests student in their science GPA. I have often times used this as a talking a way to address misconceptions in the moment (see image above). Often times I have students raising their hands to defend their answer or challenge one they believe is incorrect.