Build Your Own Google Expeditions Kit

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Google Expeditions is a brand new VR experience that is available to schools who are interested in exploring virtual field trips as a way to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. I recently wrote a guide about how to get started with Google Expeditions because I have had a lot of hands-on time with this technology recently. However, these things are expensive, so I wanted to take some more time to explore the possibility of building your own Google Expeditions kit for a fraction of the price of a full retail set.

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How Much Are Google Expedition Kits?

Currently, Google Expeditions kits are available for sale in the US from BestBuy Education. The kits are available in student bundles of 10, 20 or 30. Each kit comes with smartphones, Mattel View-Master headsets, device chargers, an Android tablet, a TP-Link router and a sturdy Pelican case. The bundle price for 10 students is $3,999, the kit for 20 students is $6,999, and the kit for 30 students is $9,999. However, there are some other options.

Option 1: Replace the Smartphones

The Expeditions app is available for both Android and iOS. This means you could replace the smartphones with iPod Touches. Granted, the screen size is not as big, (4-inches vs. 5+ inches on the Expedition phones), but the price is right and the experience is very similar. A brand new 16Gb iPod Touch costs $200 direct from Apple. These devices can be managed with an MDM, (just like your iPads), they have access to a wealth of iPhone apps, and they also do double duty as some pretty capable digital cameras.

Of course, you still need the VR headsets. The ones that BestBuy includes in the Expeditions classroom kits are the Mattel View-Master Virtual Reality headsets. These are a little more expensive than your typical Google Cardboard option, but they are sturdier so they will last longer. The View-Masters retail for about $18.

For the teacher’s tablet, you might opt to stay in the Apple Ecosystem and purchase an iPad to lead your Expedition. An iPad Mini 4 can be had for $340 or less right now, while an iPad Air 2 is around the same price. If you stick with the Android tablet that BestBuy supplies, you will be closer to $150.

So, let’s add this up. 30 iPod Touches , 30 View-Master headsets and an iPad Mini 4 is around $6,880 versus the $9,999 you will be charged by BestBuy Education. Now, I realize this is not a like for like comparison. I am not factoring in the cost of the router, (you can use your school’s wi-fi instead), the Pelican case, (other storage options are available), or even the customer support from BestBuy, but it still gives a good idea of some of the savings you could make with a DIY Expeditions kit. Continue reading

How to Create & Use Twitter Moments

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Twitter Moments are a curated collection of tweets that are designed to tell a story. When they were first launched, you could only read stories that had been curated by Twitter, but recently that changed. You can now create and share your own Twitter Moments, and I think there are a lot of great opportunities for social savvy teachers to take advantage of that. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Create a Moment

  1. Go to
  2. Click the Moments tab
  3. Click Create new Moment

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Alternatively, you can click the three dots on any tweet and select New Moment. You can also click through to your profile page to find the Moments tab next to your Lists. If you click that, you will see the option to Create new Moment.

Create a Twitter Moment.png

Every Moment needs a title and a description, so add those first. After that, you are ready to add tweets to your Moment. Twitter gives you a number of options for doing this. You can select from tweets you have liked, look for tweets from a specific account, perform a search on twitter (e.g. by hashtag or keyword), or add the link to a tweet. Simply select the checkmark next to any tweet to add it to your Moment.

Tweets can be manually ordered so that they appear in chronological or some other progression that makes the most sense to your story. Tweets with media can be cropped for optimal viewing on a desktop and mobile device. You can also choose one tweet to be the cover image of your Moment. Continue reading

Coding in the Classroom with Swift Playgrounds

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The recent release of iOS 10 unlocked a creative coding opportunity for iPad classrooms called Swift Playgrounds. It’s an iPad app that lets you solve interactive puzzles that are designed to help you learn the basics of how to code in a programming language called Swift. It is aimed at students aged 12 and over and is part of Apple’s Everyone Can Code initiative. So, if you are looking for new ways to start coding with students, this could be a great new platform for you to explore. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Swift?

Swift is an open source programming language that was developed by Apple engineers and released in 2014. It was created to help developers build apps for iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. Swift has its origins firmly rooted in another programming language called Objective-C, but Swift is generally considered to be more concise. The app, Swift Playgrounds, was developed to help introduce a younger audience to the finer points of programming with Swift, and to help foster a new generation of programmers for Apple devices.

Getting Started With Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is only available for iPads running iOS 10 or later. You also need at least an iPad Air, or an iPad Mini 2, because these are the oldest devices that are capable of running the app. The iPad 2, the iPad 3, the iPad 4 and the original iPad Mini are not compatible Swift Playgrounds because they either can’t be upgraded past iOS 9 or lack the hardware necessary to run the Playgrounds app.

Once you launch the app you will see lessons at the top of the screen and coding challenges underneath. If your students have never programmed with Swift before, the lessons are the best place to start because they introduce you to the basics that students will need in order to attempt the challenges. Continue reading

The Best Podcasts for K-12 Students

student podcasts

Podcasts have a big influence on my personal learning. I listen to multiple podcasts every day and I know that I am a more rounded and informed person because of it. Lots of people I know feel the same way, and maybe you do too. After all, more people are listening to podcasts now than ever before. So, are there podcasts for the students we teach? Can they too benefit from this expansive learning platform? Of course! Here are some podcasts that could be a great addition to your classroom learning library.

Podcasts for Elementary Students

  • The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified – Buckle up, kids! This rocket ship’s headed for… adventure! Join our hero, Eleanor Amplified, the world-famous radio reporter, as she foils dastardly plots, outwits crafty villains, and goes after The Big Story. Listen in as Eleanor’s pursuit of truth takes her into orbit, out to sea, through a scary jungle, and even to the halls of Congress! Start with Episode 1 and get ready for a wild ride. From WHYY in Philadelphia. Keep up with Eleanor at
  • Brains On! – Brains On is a science podcast for curious kids and adults from MPR News and KPCC. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, we ask questions ranging from the science behind sneezing to how to translate the purr of cats, and go wherever the answers take us.
  • Story Nory – Storynory brings you an audio story every week. Each one is beautifully read by Natasha and friends. Let Natasha’s voice beguile you with classic fairy tales, new children’s stories, poems, myths, adventures and romance.
  • Short & Curly – SHORT & CURLY is a fast-paced fun-filled ethics podcast for kids and their parents, with questions and ideas to really get you thinking. It asks curly questions like about animals, technology, school, pop culture and the future. Thanks to our two fabulous hosts, there’s lots of time for silliness too. We are also helped out by resident ethicist Matt Beard, a brainstrust of school children and some special high-profile guests like sporting stars and famous musicians. SHORT & CURLY is especially designed to be listened to alone or as a family, with questions to think about and time to discuss it together.
  • But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids – But Why is a show led by kids. They ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there. On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world. Know a kid with a question? Record it with a smartphone. Be sure to include your kid’s first name, age, and town and send the recording to!
  • Story Pirates Podcast – Story Pirates is a group of world-class actors, comedians, improvisers and musicians who adapt stories written by kids into sketch comedy and musical theater. Story Pirates Podcast features highlights from our weekly radio show on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live. Visit for more information on Story Pirates and how you can bring our live show to your school or town!
  • Tumble Science – Exploring stories of science discovery. Tumble is a science podcast for kids ages 8 – 12, created to be enjoyed by the entire family. Hosted & produced by Lindsay Patterson (science journalist) & Marshall Escamilla (teacher).

Continue reading

Creating Photo & Video Slideshows is Easy With Quik for iPad

Quik for iPaD

I love iPad video editor apps like iMovie and Splice, but sometimes all you really want to do is quickly throw some photos together in a slideshow, save it as a movie, and share it with others. In this past, this has undoubtedly taken more time than it should, but Quik for iOS changes everything. With this free app you can create a professional looking video with music and titles in almost no time at all. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Create Video Slideshows With Quik for iPad

1. Start by tapping the Create button and selecting the images and/or videos that you would like to include. Tap OK when you are ready to move on.

Select photos videos Quik

2. A video will immediately start playing with the media you selected automatically matched to an upbeat music track. If you like it, then you’re done! Click Save to share your video. To explore more options, keep reading!

3. Tap the paint bucket icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen to choose a new theme. Scroll horizontally to see all the themes that are available. Each one has a selection of filters, fonts and animations that will give your movie a unique and stylish look. Tapping twice on a theme will let you fine tune the effects.

Quik themes

Continue reading

The One App I Can’t Live Without

app you cant live without

Recently, at the #iPadU conference, I was challenged to think about the one app I couldn’t live without. This was harder than I thought it might be. I mean, there are a lot of apps I really like, but are there any that I couldn’t live without, or at least be able to find some kind of passable replacement for? After some consideration, I decided that there was such an app, and that it really was quite unique in what it offers students, teachers and just about everyone else. That app, is the Camera app.

In many ways it is more than just an app, because it is now an essential hardware feature, but many people forget that when the iPad was first introduced in April 2010, there was no camera. Even today, there are those that still laud the introduction of the original iPad as a new era for computing, but for me, the iPad 2 was far more important than the one that came before it. When the iPad 2 was announced a year later, it had a two cameras – one on the front and one on the back.  The addition of these cameras opened up a whole new world for what was actually possible with an iPad, and quickly turned this mobile tablet from a consumption device to a creation device. It transformed the iPad into something infinitely more appealing and opened the doors for developers to create some amazing apps. Continue reading

How to Use Microsoft Forms in Office 365 Education

How to Use the New Microsoft Forms

Have you seen the new Microsoft Forms? One of the most popular articles on my blog in the last 12 months was related to its predecessor – Excel Surveys. Not only did that post get a lot of views, but it also got a lot of comments from people with questions about the features of Excel Surveys, or more importantly for some, the features it did not have. You can still use Excel Surveys, but Microsoft are in the process of transitioning to something better – Microsoft Forms. This version includes automatic grading and built-in student feedback. Here’s what you need to know.

Getting Started

You can find the homepage for Microsoft Forms by going to, or you may see Forms listed in the Office 365 App Launcher. Both links go to the same place. Technically, Forms is still in Preview but you can sign in with your Office 365 Education account today and start creating surveys and quizzes. The new Microsoft Forms work on desktop and mobile browsers.

Once you are logged in, click the New button to create your first form. Replace Untitled Form with a title of your choice, and add a description underneath if you want to provide any directions or information for students or parents who are filling out your Form.

Building a Form

Tapping the Add Question button gives you access to the question types that are available to you in this new version of Microsoft Forms. The options include:

  1. Choice: for creating multiple choice questions! Tap or click the slider to allow people to select multiple answers. You can also tap or click the ellipses button to shuffle answers.
  2. Quiz: a multiple choice question that you allows you to select a correct answer for automatic grading. Tapping the comment icon on each answer choice lets you add student feedback for each selection. Multiple answers and shuffled answers are also available to you when working on Quiz questions.
  3. Text: to collect short (or long) text answers use the Text question type. Tap or click the ellipses button to include number restrictions like greater than, less than, equal to, and more.
  4. Rating: for adding a star or number rating. Could be useful as part of an exit ticket or for voting on class favorites. Ratings can be out of 5 or 10, and tapping the ellipses button will allow you to add a label at either end of this Likert scale.
  5. Date: a question type that only allows for an answer in date format.

Microsoft Forms Question Builder Continue reading