App of the Week – Rory’s Story Cubes


Price: $2.49

Version: 2.2.7

Updated: February 12, 2016

Size: 82 MB

Category: Story Creation, ELA

Rory’s Story Cubes are contained in an app that you and your students will go back to again and again. From grade 1 all the way through school, students trip over the story they will tell, what it will be about, who will be in it.  Here’s a challenge:  shake the 9 dice that appear on the Rory’s Story Cubes App and then start your story.  Include as many of the 9 pictures as you can in your story.

“Nine cubes, 54 images, 10 million combinations, infinite stories,” so says the advertising and I think it may be true.  Start with using 3 of the pictures, then work your way up to include all 9. Differentiate for students.

Screen capture the 9 dice in position in order to work for longer on each story or to mix the cubes up for the next student. In-app purchases include other sets of dice.  For example, purchase dice with Actions or verbs as their common theme, or mythic creatures.  “Clues” came as an extra set on the day I purchased the original set of cubes.

This app will challenge good writers to work with the images they are given.  The images on the dice can also help struggling writers to focus their energies on ideas already in front of them.  Rory’s Story Cubes have various uses in the classroom and it is challenging enough to work with students up to grade 6 and struggling writers in the middle grade classroom.

Rory’s Story Cubes, the real dice set, is also available to purchase from and other education resource providers.  They are a great boost for your struggling writers in whichever format suits your classroom.

3D Printing in a School or Educational Environment

Do you look at the advertisements for 3D printers and wonder if there is one with your name on it?  Do you wonder how engaged your students would be if only they had access to a 3D printer? Are you reading articles that say that having a 3D printer is a necessary part of your new Maker Space?

Having a 3D printer is a great addition to a Maker Space no matter the age of your students.  3D printing allows students to create prototypes not limited to the available materials.  There are many websites that show designs that have been created to be printed on a 3D printer.  Thingiverse is one comprehensive collection of what others have designed to be printed.

Some students have the ability to design or invent a prototype or parts that do not exist in real life or on design websites.  For this purpose, many of the design websites allow students to create 3D designs for printing.  AutoDesk AutoCAD is recommended but facilitators may need to investigate and work through the design process first before introducing it to students.

Tinkercad is a great app or website to start out creating items and have students who haven’t experienced “design” to explore.

Remember that committing to a 3D printer in your space means that someone has to maintain the printer, make sure things are printing smoothly and organize the printing requests.  Local experience says that while the printer is printing someone should be present, not watching but in the area doing some other work.  If this will be your Library Assistant, it would be a good idea to train and be available as backup for their learning.

Having a 3D printer in your workspace also means continuing cost.  The same way we purchase paper for the printer or photocopier, the filaments that create the 3D printed object need to be purchased, loaded and maintained.

Although many schools have a 3D printer on their wish list, you may be the person who investigates before you get one and plans for its maintenance, use and all the other design sites and software necessary to make the best use of this technology.

Here at the University of Calgary, we are lucky to have a 3D printer administered by the Taylor Family Digital Library.  There are Tech Mentors that can facilitate students to complete a design that is recognizable by the 3D printer software.  And, for supply cost, you can print an object.  Occasionally, workshops are available to show students how the process works.  Visit the 3D printing page for more information.

Who do you follow?


As the adoption of educational technologies increases in the K-12 classroom, information about best practice is sometimes hard to find.  There are a few dependable blogs that I use for information on a regular basis.  These educators embed technology, sometimes effortlessly, into the environment in which they work.

The Unquiet Librarian is a high school librarian in Georgia.  The real world examples of her use of technology in the high school setting shows that a little innovation leads to a whole bunch of engagement.   Following this blog is an excellent way to try technology in your classroom without running a big risk.  Buffy Hamilton works through the lesson and the outcome and summarizes how the technology was successfully used within the lesson.

The Innovative Educator, Lisa Nielson, takes on a big picture role.  As an educator, how do you use social media, cell phones or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to your advantage?  She takes her own experience and marries it to recent research and writes about common questions educators have about adopting emerging technology into their classrooms.  I like the personal mixed with the research to help look at how successful some educational technologies would be in specific classroom settings.

The Library Voice written by Shannon McClintock Miller was very interesting until she became “branded.”  Not in the Alberta sense of branded but in the educational technology sense.  Ms. Miller became very marketable so companies seem to be using her blog for advertising.  In the older posts, she used Twitter on iPads in the library to encourage students to tweet out their learning and share it with their parents during dinner.  The students at Van Meter School loved to Skype with authors, use the fixed and flexible maker space stations, blog, tweet and Instagram.  I learned a considerable amount from the older posts but I notice now I am visiting less often.

Kristen Wideen of Windsor, Ontario, Canada is the queen of adapting technology for her elementary classroom. This woman has no fear.  She integrates iPads seamlessly into curriculum and her students look totally engaged, all the time, on their YouTube channel, in blog posts, everywhere.  Does this woman sleep?

Not all blogs are created equal and not all are worthy of a following but check out a few and see what appeals to you.  Some of the best hands-on experience of educators is written about in blog posts now.  Notice that two of the blogs with great information are librarians who are also educators.  In some school environments, the person who adopts technology and offers a place and expertise for it is in the library.

App of the Week – ThingLink


Cost: Free

Version: 3.3.1

Size: 13.5

Category: Photo and Video

This app is fun to work with and could be useful in a classroom as another tool for students to display their learning. While I was investigating this app, I downloaded a photo from my photo library of a recent learning opportunity in the Library focused on Bridge Building. In less than 5 minutes, I had added 3 links to the photo to explain various areas of interest.  In two of the boxes, I added text to bring attention to hand-outs and links to curriculum.  My third link was to a bridge building YouTube video.

Text links appear as red and white target icons and the YouTube link appears as a white triangle within a red circle.  Although you wouldn’t miss any of the icons, they are not hugely distracting from the photo.  In this free version, up to 5 links can be added.  These links, along with the photo, would be an adequate amount of information from a student for an assessment of learning.

Tutorials are available from the website and also on YouTube.  Students from grade 2 to middle school would find it a very easy and approachable app and would have quick success at including information as part of the photo.  This blogpost shows teachers the potential use for photos and videos as a backdrop to ThingLink.

While ThingLink is not a great learning experience for students, it is another way for them to display their learning using embedded technology.  Another tool in the toolbox.

Social Media in your Classroom

imagesSome classrooms have already made the move to include social media as part of their learning but others are more reluctant.  There is, certainly, a fear factor that students photos and names will be published for all to see but there are also ways to allay these fears.

MediaSmarts in Canada and Common Sense Media in the United States are great sites to begin to look at digital citizenship, showing students how to create a responsible digital footprint.  Both sites contain teacher and student resources to work through on-line scenarios appropriate to elementary, middle, and secondary students.

Take the idea to administrators in your school first for input on FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) in Alberta and other policies they have already put in place.  Start simply with a Twitter account in an elementary classroom where the rules are no student faces and single first names, no tagging of photos.  Or use other platforms made for school environments that cater to closed social media domains.  Look at Edmodo, Remind or SeeSaw  to see if these apps and websites suit your needs.

Social media has a place in most classrooms to educate students about their digital profile, to connect globally with other classrooms and to meet parents where they spend at least some of their time.  The best social media in classrooms creates conversation in homes connecting students and parents with classrooms.

One of the most inclusive uses of social media in the classroom comes from Kristen Wideen in Windsor, Ontario.  She appears fearless in her use of educational technologies and, therefore, students seem to make good choices and showcase their learning using various media.

Start small in consultation with others on staff.  Curate all the postings that come from your students and have the tough discussions about creating a student’s digital footprint.

SeeSaw App for Classrooms

SeeSaw can be accessed on-line as a website or on a portable Apple device as an app.


Cost: Free

Size: 79.0 MB

Version 3.0.1, updated January 26, 2016

This interesting app allows teachers to create a class list within the app and have students upload or capture work they have been doing and to further reflect on the process.  Once an artifact of learning is captured by photo and put into the students work folder, reflections on the photo can be recorded through the microphone, texted or written onto the artifact photo.  This allows students (even very young students) to independently document their learning.  Students can share what they are learning in school with teachers and parents.  SeeSaw folders become digital portfolios of learning.

The most recent version of SeeSaw includes the capacity for a classroom blog.  Here the blog is written by students and teachers and can be closely monitored.  Writing the blog within the SeeSaw environment creates a safe environment to record classroom news and events without some of the larger privacy concerns of public domain blogs.

All-in-all SeeSaw for classrooms and the optional parent app are recommended as a way for students to create an on-going portfolio of learning and perhaps to create a classroom blog.

Exposing students to social media in this format can allow for beginning discussions about being a responsible digital citizen and the right to privacy of each student.  I would use this app in the K-4 classroom.

Making for under $30

My original title was “Making for $20” but as I searched for a Dollar Store on MacLeod Trail, I ended up at Dollar Tree – Beware! Everything is $1.25. 2016-02-01 12.10.14  And I purchased 22 things so my bill was still under $30.  2016-02-01 12.06.10

I started in the far aisle with some tool type things, including duct tape and screw drivers (the two most common types – a slot and a Phillips).  I added tooth picks for building and testing bits of things.  Jute twine is a very strong string.  Plastic garbage bags can be cut apart for coverage of a structural prototype or used on the desk for preventing messes.  Tinfoil is a conductor and is easy to shape.

2016-02-01 12.07.18

Sponges can be cut apart for various painting textures or poked with wooden dowels for structure creation. Shells and rocks provide different textures and shapes to work with and rocks provide weight.  Coffee filters are an interesting shape and absorb colour in very interesting ways.

2016-02-01 12.08.23

Pipe Cleaners are great for holding shape and using wire to bend and manipulate.  Spaghetti is a cheap and easily manipulated building device (tall towers). Masking tape and play dough can “glue” things together but can also be used to build models on their own.  Masking tape over skeleton structures or Play Doh can be a free standing model.  The paper plates can be used within the prototype or to handle the kit of smaller bits required for a prototype and the plastic foam rectangles can provide a background for an idea to be presented or large infill for structures.2016-02-01 12.08.59

Balloons are a latex no-no in some schools but great for getting a prototype moving with your own breath. Glow sticks are not necessary but always lead to interesting discoveries. Shot glasses are plentiful and help to hold small bits and to create knobs on prototypes.  The Styrofoam ball create solid spherical prototypes examples.

2016-01-26 11.49.36

Here is another example of a portable dollar store Maker Space, created by undergraduate students at Werklund.  They had great ideas as well.

And where do you get other parts to enhance the building of prototypes? Perhaps here:2016-02-01 12.45.25

This appliance can provide plastic bits, wiring and springs that would add, for free, many building materials for your portable Maker Space.  Printers, computers and appliances offer a wealth of free parts for your Maker Space.