All posts by eMINTS

Curate the Web

As the start of the school year rapidly approaches, one thing you might want to consider is planning for how your students will access online materials.  In the past many of us have used our classroom website, blog, or wiki.  Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those methods, we now have a great deal of tools that can help teachers to curate online content.

graphic depicting the idea of selecting and sharing links

Web curation tools make sharing links with our students a snap, ensuring that our students can quickly access relevant resources. It seems that time is always of the essence, so providing students with the links they need to complete their task is a huge timesaver.  Curation tools also allow teachers to preview sites to ensure they are classroom friendly, free of unwanted ads or pop-ups, not blocked by the school server, do not require downloads or software updates, and any other condition that makes students accessing online content challenging.  Curation tools can also provide teachers with an easy way to differentiate resources for individual students.  Teachers can provide resources for the same content presented in various methods (i.e. video, audio, interactive, etc.), or at different reading levels to make it easier for students with differing skills be able to understand the message the teacher is trying to conveycommercial bouncy castles for sale australia

Curation tools are not just for teachers!  Students today are inundated with information, so one of the most important 21st century skills will be for students to learn the art of accessing and evaluating information then use and manage that information.  Putting web curation tools in the hands of your students forces them to use critical thinking skills to determine if the online resources they have located fit the criteria for selecting relevant resources.  Curation tools also require students to consider how to manage the resources once they have located them.  Setting aside time for students to curate online resources, also helps to improve students search skills, and provides opportunities for mini lessons and individualized instruction on sorting through the over abundance of online content.

There are many excellent tools to choose from, so I have selected my top 8 web curation tools to share with you today.  Hopefully you will find many useful tools for you and your students.


Jen Foster is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist and authorized Google Education Trainer. 

New to Google+? Here are 10 Tips for Success!

When using Google for the first time, it”s hard to know where to start. These ten tips provide a guide that will assist you in getting connected with other educators around the globe Introduction, Inflatable Obstacle Course .

Google Plus Icon

1. Completely Fill Out Your Profile:  Be sure to add an actual photo of yourself, not just an avatar or other image.  Google has excellent privacy settings that can be used if there is personal information that you do not want visible to the public.  A complete profile page helps others learn more about you making it easier to determine if they would like to add you to their circles and / or communities.

2. Develop Your Circles:  Think about everyone in your contacts list.  Some of those people are friends, some are family, some are work associates, while others are acquaintances you have met online or at conferences.  Generally a post created for your work associates is not going to be of much interest to your family or friends.  You may also want to create a post for your friends that you do not want sent to your family or work associates.  Circles can help with that!  To develop your circles, you consider which groups of users you have and you simply drag people into the circle they belong in.  But what if someone falls into more than one circle?  No problem!  You can add users to multiple circles.  You can also create and delete circles as needed, so if you have an upcoming event, you can set up a circle to communicate with the event planners efficiently, then simply delete the circle after the event is over.

3. Join Communities:  Google Communities are a great way to find amazing resources and conversations about nearly any topic you could imagine.  There are thousands of communities to choose from, so look around and see what communities are out there to support your interests.  Some communities are public so anyone can join, others may require permission, so be sure your profile is complete!  Communities are a great way to connect with like minded people, pokies online sharing inspirational ideas and materials from around the world.

4. Post, Post, Post:  Please share your ideas with the world!  You have amazing thoughts, unique ideas, wonderful talents, and so much more to offer your communities and circles, so please share them.

5. Engage with Others:  There are multiple ways to engage with others in Google .  One of the simplest ways is to 1 someones post.   1 is similar to liking or favoriting on Facebook and Twitter.  Another way to engage with others in Google is to comment on someone’s post.  Adding meaningful interactions help to develop relationships within communities.  Users can also share posts they find interesting with their communities and circles.  Finally, posting publicly, and adding unique content is the highest form of engagement within Google .  Active engagement will help attract others to follow you and/or join your community.

6. Use #Hashtags:  When you are creating posts, be sure to use appropriate #hashtags.  #Hashtags simply help to further identify your post making it easier for others to find specifically what they are interested in.  Try to keep the #hashtags to 3 or fewer, so that you don’t overdo it.

7. Give Credit Where Credit is Due:  When you share a post written by someone else include “ Their Name” in your post to give the original author credit.  If someone has shared a post that you would also like to re-share with your circles at “h/t Their Name.”  H/t stands for hat tip this gives credit to the person who shared the post.

8. Add Content to Your Posts:  Make your posts more meaningful by adding text to your post when sharing photos, links, videos, and events.  We are very interested in what you are hoping to share, but often times others don’t have time to investigate what you have shared to discover why it is important.  Adding text to your posts to explain what you are sharing and why you feel it is important will help others see value in your posts.

9. Reply to Others:  When some comments on your post, ask questions, shares your post, and/or mentions you in their post, it is important to follow up with them quickly.  Answering questions while the discussion is still new in everyone’s mind is alway important.  Also, a quick thank you for the mention, a thanks for the wonderful comment, or thank you for sharing my post goes a long way when building relationships!

10. Try Out Other Google Features:  Check into the other features of Google such as Hangouts, Photos, Events, and Local to discover online chats, video chats, event sharing and discussions, and even find local hotels, restaurants, and attractions.  Download the Android or iPad Apps, and look into the Photo Backup to upload all of the photos from your mobile device to Google automatically.  Do this and so much more with Google

Here are some additional resource to help learn about Google :

*image provided by Wikimedia Commons

Math Stories or “There’s More Than One Way to Solve a Problem”

Maybe I have been watching a little too much TV with G,  my 4 year old, but I am absolutely LOVING Peg + Cat on PBS. It is the perfect mix of math concepts, problem solving strategies, songs, stories, and all around silliness. All of this stuffed into a cute little girl named Peg and her “AMAZZZINNNNGGG”, talking pet cat. One of the best parts of the show is when they finish every challenge with this song…

I am so inspired by all that G is learning from Peg and Cat that I thought I might share some Math inspiration for your kiddos in your classrooms. The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story from Dan Myer is very similar to Peg+Cat in that teachers create a story built around real-life math.

Here’s the idea :

  • Act 1 – “Introduce the central conflict of your story/task clearly, visually, viscerally, using as few words as possible.” (check his site for examples)
  • Act 2 – “The protagonist/student overcomes obstacles, looks for resources, and develops new tools.”
  • Act 3 – “Resolve the conflict and set up a sequel/extension.”

Here is an Example – The Slow Forty

(eMINTS teachers….seeing any connections to the Instructional Procedures unit expectation?)

Check out Dan’s Three Act Math Tasks Spreadsheet and his 3-part blog series with videos and instructions.

This blog post is from 2011, but Dan is not a one hit wonder. I encourage you to explore his recent blog posts and see what he’s been up to….hint hint – he is quite an active presenter and does so much more than Three-Act Math Stories.

Brooke Higgins, occasional blogger, is an eIS for the eMINTS National Center working with eMINTS teachers, trainers, and administrators. All of her posts, including this one, can be found at The Higgins Helps blog.

Fostering the Next Generation of Storytellers

eMINTS is partnering with KCDigiKids!
eMINTS will be collaborating with KC DigiKids and the KC DigiStory Center on a project focused on bringing digital storytelling into the classroom.

The eMINTS National Center is pleased to announce that we have paired up with KCDigiKids on a new project to help develop a comprehensive storytelling curriculum for grades PK-12.  KCDigiKids was founded in June of 2013, and are working to develop the “next generation of digital storytellers” in the mid-west.  The project is currently in the early stages, but will result in a “curriculum that can be used by educators as formal units of instruction and by non-profit leaders as after-school and summer learning projects.”  The students will experience hands-on learning activities that will utilize a variety of technology platforms and digital formats.  These units will help educators bring digital storytelling to into the classroom as a way to help students reflect, build community, think creatively, become media literate, and much more.

To learn more about KCDigiKids, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Coding in the Classroom

Not every child will grow up to be a historian, yet there is value in teaching history. Not every child will be a mathematician, yet there is importance in teaching math. What about teaching computational thinking? Computational thinking is a way of describing and solving problems that applies higher level critical thinking. How can programming be a productive addition to an already overloaded curriculum? Consider this quote from Steve Jobs.

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”


AgentSheets Logo
AgentSheets is a software program that lets you create your own agent-based games and simulations using drag and drop, rule-based programming. For more information on AgentSheets and Scalable Game Design, visit

Programming encourages children to use technology to solve problems, first by designing games, then by transitioning to STEM-oriented simulations. Learning to program with Scalable Game Design and AgentSheets software introduces computational thinking patterns using motivational and interesting methods tied to the core subjects. The benefits include enriching learning, elevating critical thinking and expanding 21st century and STEM skills.

eMINTS is offering a course in Scalable Game Design. The pilot begins in August and the course will be offered again in the spring. If you are interested in coding in the classroom, please fill out our eLearning interest form.

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Join Us in Celebrating Digital Learning Day on February 5th!

Can you imagine education without technology?  In order to prepare the next generation for college and for their place in the workforce, it is very important that students and teachers embrace the benefits that modern instructional tools can provide.

This is why thousands of educators answer the “call to action” and join the celebration of Digital Learning Day each February.  A national event designed to allow educators to gather virtually to share and discuss the successes and challenges that they are experiencing with integrating digital tools in their classrooms.

To help build this awareness and to promote enhanced instruction with modern technology tools, join us by participating in national Digital Learning Day which is scheduled for February 5, 2014!  The online event will feature demonstrations, interactive lessons, presentations, resource sharing, tips, and even tricks designed for classroom educators that possess a passion for incorporating powerful digital tools into their lessons.

Here are some ways you can participate…

I hope to see you participating and making a difference with digital learning on Digital Learning Day!

-Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Time to Register for the 2014 eMINTS Conference!

It is that time of year again, when educators from near and far make plans to attend the annual eMINTS National Center Conference.  This exciting event takes place Feb 26-Feb 28 at the Stoney Creek Inn in Columbia, MO and is designed for anyone who is passionate about learning, teaching, and connecting with technology.


If you have never before attended this conference, please accept this invitation.

eMINTS teachers, trainers, technicians, and administrators  are looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. They are preparing session workshops and designing their materials, selecting activities, resources and choosing strategies that can be taken back and used by participants almost immediately and in practically any learning environment.

The Keynote speakers will be Dr. Alex Repenning – “‘Excuse me, I need better Artificial Intelligence!‘ Igniting Students’ Intrinsic Math Motivation through Game Design” and Dr. Wesley Fryer – “Mapping Media to the Common Core”.

There are also two brand new opportunities that take place during the conference this year.  On Wednesday afternoon, there is a pre-conference 2.5 hour session called the “eMINTS Academy”.  During this session, eMINTS Instructional Specialists will be showcasing several custom PD offerings.  Actual activities from those recent and upcoming sessions will be delivered to participants.

On Wednesday and Thursday evening, the eMINTS community will gather to have the very first Camp eMINTS”.  This event will have a guest speakers, group sharing, games and resources that will be sure to allow attendees to help build professional relationships.

Both the eMINTS Academy and Camp eMINTS are free!

To register and find more information, visit

Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

The Pioneers…

PictureFor me there is nothing better than introducing the eMINTS program to people for the first time!  Last week I had the privilege of doing just that.  Our national PD4ETS (or train-the-trainer program) held its kickoff!

The PD4ETS participants will bring the eMINTS program to districts in Alabama and Arkansas.  The comprehensive eMINTS program is two years long, during which teachers learn strategies for embedding research-based, best practices into the classroom.  The results of the eMINTS program go beyond test scores and meeting the Common Core, student engagement in eMINTS classrooms goes up as students learn to think critically, build community, question, and problem solve.

A key element of the eMINTS program is job-embedded coaching and mentoring.  Teachers attend eMINTS professional learning throughout the year, but they also received visits from their instructional specialist.  This personalized time to coach, collaborate, consult, and mentor is what sets the eMINTS professional learning program apart from other professional development.
During eMINTS training,  pedagogy is modeled and teachers spend time reflecting on practice and thinking about how strategies will transfer back to the classroom.   During a recent training, Dr. Kim Hendon, PD4ETS from Roanoke City Schools, made the statement, “No teacher wakes up and says today I want to be mediocre.”  eMINTS strategies help educator do their best everyday!

One of the primary goals of the PD4ETS kickoff is to give participants a strong foundation for what eMINTS is all about and what it can do for their students and teachers. We wantto develop a deep understanding of our instructional model; high-quality lesson design, inquiry-based learning, community of learners, all powered by technology.  After the three days of face-to-face time, the trainers then return to their districts and are supported virtually throughout the year.

eMINTS Instructional Model
The eMINTS Instructional Model

To begin developing relationships with the PD4ETS participants,  I sent out a survey prior to their training. Their responses helped me customize the training experience.   When looking at survey responses, I discovered that the participants really wanted to experience the Gateway Arch.   With the help of some colleagues, we designed an inquiry experience and task using the Arch as our subject.

The Inquiry Experience…

The heart of inquiry learning is questioning.  One strategy eMINTS shares with our teachers is the Question Focus Strategy or QFT.  Using this quote about pioneers, “It’s not easy being a pioneer, but oh is it fascinating.”  the PD4ETS participants participated in the entire QFT process. Ranking and selecting their top questions, they began to guess what the task would be.

“We are going to do a presentation about pioneers.”

“We are going to have a wax museum.”

Higher-level thinking is what eMINTS is all about!  I revealed the task-“Create a symbol, motto, quote/tagline to motivate and celebrate your eMINTS implementation. What is your “Why?” for implementing eMINTS?” Silence, excitement, and the comments “That’s hard”, “How much time do we have?”, and “Let’s get going!”

Off to the Arch we went.  The process was to use the questions created during the QFT to explore the pioneers. The parallel, they are the pioneers for their districts.  We arrived at the Gateway Arch Museum and set to work~reading displays, taking photos, asking more questions… There were no specific directions on how they needed to convey their message.  This added to the creativity, differentiation, and thinking involved in completing the task. (This is sometimes frustrating for both student and adult learners.)  These school leaders awed me with their final products and explanations:

Quote on a plaque: We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore. -J.W.Powell
“We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore.” -J.W.Powell
A tool used by pioneers
A tool used by pioneers. It had multiple functions. There were many connections to the image.


On this spot monumental dreams come to life!

Participant Video: My eMINTS Project

To truly understand the power of eMINTS, you have to experience it!  Once you experience eMINTS it is hard to imagine teaching any other way!  The excitement and innovation that comes with constructing your own knowledge is empowering and life changing!  eMINTS is about empowering and changing the lives of teachers, who then change the lives of students!

The eMINTS National Center offers many professional learning opportunities.  Visit the eMINTS National Center website for more information!

Carmen Marty is an eMINTS instructional specialist and Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at Carmen’s blog, At Least One Thing.

Easy Screencasting With Screencast-O-Matic

A few weeks ago I was facilitating iPad trainings and had searched for resources to support the teachers in using the iPad as a production and collaboration tool. I found a lot of demonstration videos on YouTube to show how to use different apps that we were highlighting in the sessions and I linked those resources on the training site.

As we worked through the session there were certain iPad skills I suggested and demonstrated, but then after leaving the session I realized I didn’t have any resources linked for those skills that participants could refer back to. That is where Screencast-O-Matic came in. Some colleagues introduced me to the computer web 2.0 tool, Screencast-O-Matic and I knew it was just the fix for my participants need. I signed up for a free account, followed the directions on the screen, quickly created a screencast, uploaded it to YouTube (also downloaded to my laptop as an MP4), and made a link to the “how-to” video on our Weebly training site. It took about 15 minutes from start to finish which I am sure will be even quicker the next time through.

As you can see in my video below, it includes a screencast of the iPad screen (created using Reflector to mirror my iPad image on my computer), my voice, and a video of me talking (not really necessary but I was playing with all the features). I felt like the tool was very easy to figure out once I click the “Start Recording” button with on-screen directions.

The free version allows for 15 minutes of recording time, recording the screen and webcam, publishing to YouTube or downloading as MP4. One challenge in the free version to be aware of is that you can’t go back and re-record but have to start all over if you make a mistake. Not a big deal if you have a script to follow and have practiced what you are demonstrating before you begin recording. This seems to be everything I need for now, but some of the options and features of the pro version includes: no watermark, unlimited recording time, editing tools, webcam only recording, the ability to publish to Google Drive/Vimeo/Box/Dropbox, and more.

In those iPad sessions, other things we discussed was how to empower learners. One way the group talked about was giving students access to resources and allowing them to decide if and when they might need them. Creating screen-casts and posting them on a teacher website or WebQuest would be a great way to offer optional scaffolding for learners to support their thinking and self-directedness. Students could even create their own screen-casts and post them to a class/school YouTube or SchoolTube account so that everyone could benefit from their expertise and knowledge.

Screencast-O-Matic isn’t the only screen-casting software available, but it is simple to use and the free account offers a lot of features and options. What’s your favorite screen-casting tool? How have you and your students used screen-casting software to support thinking and learning?

Additional Resources
How to Record Your iPad w/Screencast-O-Matic
Screencast-O-Matic Help Channel

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist, Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer, and sporadic blogger for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.

Encourage Creativity and Innovative Thinking: Genius Hour

“Genius Hour” and “20% Projects” have been showing up all over my PLN in the past months…Twitter, blog posts, Pinterest, Facebook and more. As I read more about this instructional practice I was reminded of a 60 Minutes show I watched a few years back when they were at Google’s home office. The show focused on highlighting the environment and working policy Google developed designed to support staff to be as creative as possible. This policy allows staff to spend 20% of their work week on the “pet project” of their choice. They believe that giving that time will encourage creativity and breed innovative ideas. It has been claimed that half of Google’s innovative “products” have come from this 20% of time.
Being intrigued by the idea of integrated time for creativity, I took a bit of R&D time (maybe we should call it my “Genius Hour” or “20% Project”) to dig a little deeper and found that 3M has been doing this even longer than Google, and HP even longer; possibly as far back as 1939. They can all argue they were the first but what’s more important is that we have benefited with products such as Gmail, Post-It notes, and HTML, all coming from that structured/unstructured time.What’s even better, this ideas has made it into the education world. “20% Projects” and “Genius Hour” are rooted in constructivism where authentic learning is intrinsically motivating to students. Teachers implementing this instructional practice have created structured unstructured learning time. No matter what they call this time, all have constructivist beliefs at the core. All require that learning is relevant to life. Projects require students to learn concepts at deeper levels. This type of open-ended, project-based learning requires student to question and explore, and the most effective projects end with a product and require students to present and reflect on new learning. Teachers that want students to get the most from this experience become the guide on the side and support students to find direction, develop action plans, research effectively, revisit what they are learning and what they still need to do to accomplish their goal, and efficaciously present their projects and new ideas Vann Hinder.

Kevin Brookhouser from the I Teach, I Think blog has some great strategies, management tips, and classroom practices that could help you implement your own “20% Projects”. In listening to his Radical Autonomy: Giving Your Students 20% Time Google Hangout, it is obvious he has it figured out. In this presentation, he shares best practices and has defined the steps that can help projects like his to be successful beginning with prepare parents, students, and administrators, to having the student make final presentation very similar to Ted Talks. Visit his site to learn more about his implementation steps for successful “20% Project” and check out his TedX Monterrey Talk Don’t Call it a Classroom which can be found on his blog. His site also includes student examples and instructional support for implementing your own “20% Projects”.

“Genius Hours” and “20% Projects” seem to align perfectly with my first educational experiences in Montessori school, my educational beliefs as a teacher, and eMINTS, my job and my love. It is intriguing enough to wish I was back in the classroom so that I could try and implement such a progressive idea. Exploring this innovative idea in learning where I can help learners find their own “genius”, expertise, and passion has me thinking…could this work with professional development? My wheels are turning; what about yours?

To learn more about “Genius Hours” or “20% Projects” check out these great resources and experts on the topic.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists, Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer, and sporadic blogger for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.