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Welcome to Spotlight on Strategies Challenge! Our S.O.S series provides help, tips, and tricks for integrating DE media into your curriculum.

Instagram-in PDF Version *For a link to all the PDFs in this series click here

Background Instagram is a form of social media that allows users to share pictures with captions. This strategy allows visual learners to represent concepts by drawing a picture and creating a caption. They can explain their picture by writing a comment or using hashtags to make connections. It can be used as a form of assessment, a quick check for understanding, or as a way to summarize and share information.

Example •Introduce the Essential Question, "Why does it get hot in the summer and cold in the winter?" •Ask students to brainstorm why we have seasons •Explain that today students are going to be going into outer space to take a picture of the sun and earth. •Watch the clip The Earth's Tilt on It's Axis (CDN Subscribers) on the reasons for the seasons •Allow students to share responses to the Essential Question. They should have an idea that the earth is tilted towards the sun in the summer and away from the sun in the winter which changes the angle of the sun's rays thus causing seasons •Give students their Instagram account page and explain that they are going to take a picture of the sun and earth during the winter and the summer. They need to use their comment space to write a caption or hashtag that explains their picture.

Challenge •Select a video from Discovery Education that fits your curriculum. •Have students create an Instagram photo to summarize the video. •Do a gallery walk and have students reply/comment on their peers pictures. •Have students reply to at least 3 Instagram photos. •Or read aloud an article or story and have students illustrate what is happening in that scene

Special Thanks • Thank you DEN STAR Kellsye Piper for providing this SOS! • Do you have an idea for an SOS? Please share it with

You can take the challenge by: • Implementing this strategy and letting us know how it went by posting a comment below. • Using this strategies in your grade level planning discussions and/or professional development and reporting your events. (Remember we consider an event anytime 3 or more educators gather together... doesn't have to be in a computer lab... could be sitting around the lunch table) • Photocopying the flier and distributing it in your colleague's boxes and/or posting it to your own BulleDEN board.

3D Drawing with SketchUp

iMake iLearn

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Looking for a fun easy way to engage your students in three dimensions for free?

SketchUp Make from Trimble is your answer. SketchUp is a software program that allows you to draw and design in 3D. Your students will benefit from an opportunity to explore, create and express themselves in a visual way and effectively convey what they are thinking.

To get started, visit and download the free version of SketchUp Make. Be sure to click on the Learn tab and view the video tutorials, which provide comprehensive, step-by-step instructions on how to get started.

I would suggest you begin with tool familiarization. Have your students open SketchUp, select a template and move the mouse above each tool to see an explanation of what it does. Allow some class time for them to try out each tool so they can begin to experience the power of SketchUp.

To capture your student's attention, get started with a basic activity that incorporates the use of the Push-Pull tool, the Orbit tool and the Offset tool. You will quickly witness the excitement and desire to learn more as they see their designs come alive.

In addition to the video tutorials, the SketchUp website offers self-paced tutorials, Getting Started printable guides and Quick Reference cards. There are many ways to incorporate this program into the curriculum. Reading Anne Frank in Middle School Language Arts class? How about asking the students to design the space where Anne Frank hid? Studying architecture of the past? How about creating a 3D model of an ancient pyramid?

For more ideas of how to connect SketchUp in your classroom click here!

What are you waiting for? Get your students to start sketching!

Gamification Resources

Presented at Atlanta Virtcon

The turnout for Atlanta's face to face DEN Spring Virtcon event was amazing! There were many great sessions, and I look forward to viewing the archive to see the sessions I missed. Here is a link to the Blendspace page I created for my face to face session on Gamification. Learn More

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Making Stuff with Discovery Education: Blabberize

Don't you wish that picture of a giraffe that you downloaded from your Discovery Education account could talk? With Blabberize, it can! This free web tool lets you put words right into the mouths of your favorite animals and other images. A talking plant? Sure. A talking car? You bet.

Be one of the first to see our new Making Stuff with Discovery Education: Blabberize tutorial. Watch it below....

Sounds of Nature IN Your Classroom

Have you ever used sound effects in your classroom?

There are so many different sites you can use to locate specific sounds to enhance a lesson. Below are two fantastic examples. One from and the other is of course from the DiscoveryEducation media library.

Use these sounds:

-when students enter your room to get their attention

-as the background for student quiet time for reading

-as a writing prompt

-to have students identify what is happening in the sound recording

-to have students identify where it is happening

-during basic when you want students to be quiet and relaxed instead of noisy

-give them the assignment to find other nature sounds you could use

-at club time

-students can draw or create something that goes with the sounds

-in a presentation as your background music

-in a podcast and have students narrate what is happening



DEN Transformation - EasyBib

This video was made with as a hook to a lesson we use to introduce students to EasyBib.

When I was a student, many, many years ago, and was assigned a research paper, I truly enjoyed doing the research and writing the paper. I truly hated writing the bibliography. Back in the day, I had to constantly consult my citation guide to figure out what information was needed, in what order and where to put periods, commas, and underlines. This was pure drudgery for me and often required all night bibliographic work. It seemed to take more time and work to make the Bibliography than it did to write the paper. Thank heavens; our students now can use EasyBib. is a web resource that allows students to generate citations easily. I really love the fact that you can just enter a web address. The "autocite" often will cite your source from that URL. It allows you to check and add to the citation as needed. You can cite a book by searching by title, ISBN, or keywords. It is great to only have to put in the ISBN and choose the best citation offered. It offers more than 60 different sources that you can cite for free.


#DENChat 14 - Technology Challenges


Tips on getting started with Evernote

Evernote is my main tool for work and home. I've been using it for 5 years and love it. It can be tough for someone new to Evernote to get started with it.

Here is a great article by an on-line friend of mine, Tim Stiffler-Dean, about how Evernote can be a little overwhelming at first and how to get over that.

Here is also a great article, and video, from Evernote on getting started and main Evernote page has ideas on getting started.

I also told another on-line colleague that I would give him some tips on getting started with Evernote for his specific needs.

He teaches technology and physics, assists with the school network, and writes a tech column for a newspaper. Here are some ideas for using Evernote for each of these:

Teaching: (see here for more on how I used Evernote as a teacher)

    • lesson plan resources (from books, web sites, magazines, files)
    • lesson plans – schedule of what you are doing each day, linked to the actual lesson plan in Evernote
    • unit plans and resources (attached files, links, web clippings)
    • curriculum
    • project ideas
    • student work and e-portfolio's

    School Network

      • specs of all equipment
      • network map
      • to do list
      • web clippings of articles that are useful
      • equipment information
      • plans

      Writer: (I do this for the articles I write for this blog and two tech magazines)

        • story ideas
        • notes
        • clippings of research
        • articles themselves

        Hope this helps!

Bouncy Balls

Free and Fun Tool to Monitor Noise Levels in the Classroom

Need a way to provide a visual to your students to help them maintain appropriate noise level during activities in the classroom? Try Bouncy Balls! This fun website is free, and has a built in microphone that is sensitive enough to reach the back of a large classroom. It detects shuffling feet, chair movement, and most importantly, talking. When noise level is low, the balls stay low on the screen. As the noise level rises the balls bounce to the middle of the screen. When noise is at a high level, the bouncy balls bounce high and all over the screen. Students love watching the balls respond to their voices. I found this when I did not have enough money to purchase a Yacker Tracker.

3D Printing

A Shared Adventure

Sometimes you start an adventure only to realize that every time you talk about your learning, you are inspired by those around you. Our school has been extremely fortunate to have acquired a 3D printer for $100 as well as to have created a community partnership with Radiant Fabrication. Yesterday while presenting at DENapalooza Milwaukee, I realized how fortunate I have been to access this new technology not only to use it with our students but also to share our learning adventure with other educators.

At this time the 3D printer has been used to teach our kindergarten students about new technologies while also looking at how 2D shapes compose 3D shapes. While watching the 3D printer print a selected design for their teacher from Thingiverse, our students assembled 3D printed interlocking triangles to create tetrahedrons and then were given their own interlocking cube or tetrahedron. I sized the stl file on the MakerBot so that I could print many small interlocking shapes so that each student had one. I found that they became pretty fragile when sized too small, which is what I did.

Recently we have started to explore the idea of student designed charms using Charmr. Students in our after-school program really enjoyed this tool as well as colleagues at DENapalooza Milwaukee. The advantages to this type of printing is that it is excellent for entry level creation and prints in a short amount of time. We have created school charms for our rainbow loom because you can copy and paste multiple charms to the build plate and let the printer go.

For previous posts and to follow our SP Design Lab Journey visit our blog.

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  • Discovery Education
  • ISTE