15+ Tools to Keep the Learning Going in Case Schools Have to Close Due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Educators are worried about the impact of school closures due to outbreaks of the coronavirus. Just about everybody loves a snow day or two but an extended disruption of schooling can have a serious impact on student learning and the progress students need to make throughout the school year as well as make the whole school community feel disconnected. Fortunately, there are online teaching and learning tools that can help. Here are a few tools that can keep the learning going:

Google Classroom 

Google Classroom is an extremely powerful tool. If you have access to it and are not familiar with it, now is the time to check it out. You can share assignments with your students and they can turn them in right within the assignment. You can also create quizzes if you need to do an assessment. If the lesson uses a  Google Drive app such as Docs or Slides, you can check on them and give feedback as they write or gather information. Think about creative ways to use Google Drive apps. I have seen Slides used as a journal or Drawing used as a collaborative bulletin board. There are so many possibilities and if everything is distributed through Google Classroom, it will be much easier to manage. You can also add links, files, and videos as well as allow for class discussions. I also like that you or a student can add a private comment on an assignment and you can respond privately. 


Google Meet is a great tool if everyone needs to get together and talk. It is live, so you have to schedule a time. This can be easily done through Google Calendar. It can be recorded. You can screen share. It may be set to inactive on many school Google accounts so your school’s G Suite administrator needs to turn it on for your organization. What’s great about this tool is that it isn’t just one person talking. Students may be anxious, worried, or bored. This is a great tool to bring everyone together.


Screencastify is a great Google extension that allows you to record what you are doing on your screen. Using this tool you can give your students verbal directions or demonstrate how to do something on a web page. You can just record your voice as you click and do things or you can even embed video of you so students can see you in the bottom corner as you talk. You can record up to 5 minutes at a time for free. The videos are saved directly to your Google Drive so you can share them easily with your students. You could also have the students record themselves completing something online and they could share it with you. 

Online Whiteboards

Find an online whiteboard and record yourself writing notes, answering math problems, or creating a diagram, etc. If the one you choose doesn’t have a recording feature, you can use Screencastify. You can direct students to use one as well or use an online whiteboard that has a collaboration feature. Here are 4 of my favorites:

Explain Everything 


AWW – A Web Whiteboard

Web Whiteboard

Interactive Websites

Interactive websites give students the opportunity to explore, learn, and create on a variety of topics. With some interactive websites, students create printed materials or receive a certificate. Students can even use Screencastify to record themselves using some of the great interactives that are out there. 


There are 58 Interactive resources on ReadWriteThink that you can use with your students. Some of my favorites are Cube Creator, Timeline Creator, and Trading Card Creator. Many of these interactives can be used across the curriculum and at a variety of grade levels. 

There are many other great interactive websites out there such as: 

Annenberg Learner



PBS Learning Media

Book Creator

Book Creator is a wonderful tool that takes advantage of many of the things the digital world has to offer. Books can include drawings, text, images, voice, and video. The free version gives you 1 library with 40 books to use in your classroom. Students can have their own book or collaborate on a class book. 


BrainPOP is a great website that helps deliver instruction on just about any topic. There are excellent easy-to-understand videos with activities quizzes, etc. Many schools have subscriptions where teachers have access to all of the videos but there is usually a free one on the main webpage.

Update: Free BrainPOP access for schools affected by the Coronavirus


Flipgrid is a video discussion platform and a great place to share video. You can post discussion prompts and students respond with short videos. It can foster a fun and supportive social learning environment remotely. It is asynchronous so you don’t have to schedule a time for everyone to be together. They have great resources and an informative Getting Started Guide if you have never used it. 


Padlet is like having a virtual bulletin board and so much more. You have a variety of layouts and can add to a board in a variety of ways. You can just add text or add photos links, files, audio, video, etc.  What’s great about Padlet is that you can add to it from mobile devices as well as online. There is a free version that gives you a certain amount of boards. Students do not have to sign in to contribute to the board which can make this site very useful for teachers who don’t have access to tools like Google Classroom.


Wizer is a great tool for putting together a variety of tasks or questions based on a topic.  You can have multiple choice questions, diagrams to label, audio responses, matching, and more. The free version has many features available and you can even share through Google classroom.

There are many more websites that you can use with your students to continue learning, create, and connect. Just finishing this post I thought of a few more. Please add some of your ideas in the comments. 



Quiver Masks App – AR Fun for Halloween

QuiverVision just came out with a new AR (Augmented Reality) iOS app and coloring pages just in time for Halloween!

If you are not familiar with QuiverVision, they put out apps and coloring pages that are a great way to introduce students to AR.

Quiver Masks


Quiver Masks is their newest app that uses AR and face tracking.



You can color and scan pages with animals, hats, and pumpkins.

If you are in a rush, you can scan the blank page and click on the rainbow. quiver color


quiver icons2

With Quiver, here are always fun extras. With the hats, you can press the different flags and hear some say “hello” in that country’s language.



This is the owl mask with the night background.

It tracks your face and when you open your mouth it makes owl sounds.



If you have not played with the original Quiver apps yet, it is worth exploring. I have had my students use most of them and there is always a surprise or something interesting.

Quiver Quiver – 3D Coloring     Quiver Ed Quiver Education      Quiver Fashion Quiver Fashion

On some of them, you have the ability to capture a photo or video. This is the dragon page.


Maybe tomorrow we will carve some pumpkins!

Q pumpkin


Too Much Drama – The Social (Media) Lives of Kids and What Parents Should Do

Originally posted on https://www.appleseedsblog.com Too Much Drama – The Social (Media) Lives of Kids and What Parents Must Do Now – By Samantha Morra May 9, 2017

Middle School is full of drama. There’s just no way around it. It starts to creep in around third or fourth grade and is in full force by 6th grade. Most of the drama is focused on a child’s need for two competing forces, autonomy and acceptance. By the time they start middle school, the drama becomes a part of everyday life as kids realize they are more autonomous from their parents and they seek acceptance from their peers. This was true long before social media came onto the scene, but it does amplify the drama of the middle school years. Now social media is a part of our children’s social, emotional and intellectual development. Some ways that your child and his/her friends use social media may shock you and, the more you know, the better prepared you will be to deal with it.

Our common strategy for most parenting issues is to reflect upon how we were raised. Unfortunately, this does not help us since social media was not around when we were kids. Grown-ups may use social media but certainly not the way our kids are using it. Keep in mind, there are real benefits to kids using social media, including access to information, increased communication, and help in developing a sense of self. Just as we prepare our kids for life in the real world, we need to prepare them for life in the digital world, so we need to start teaching them about privacy and judgment when posting online. Two general rules to follow are:

  1. Encourage your child to only use age appropriate sites and to be truthful when registering on a social networking site. Review the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”) and the terms of service sites for the social media accounts they set up.
  2. Review and set privacy settings on all accounts – Know what you are sharing. (A good tip is to opt-out of geolocation and location check-ins unless you are sure of the privacy settings.)

As we all know, there can be serious downsides to online sharing too: cyberbullying, de-friending/following, exposure to inappropriate content, and sexting.

Be prepared to discuss:

  1. Friending/following and de-friending/following – Who should they follow or friend? When should they unfollow or unfriend someone? How will they feel when someone unfollows or unfriends them? Don’t assume everyone you meet online is who they appear to be.
  2. Photo sharing – Not only is their privacy a concern, but they need to understand and respect the privacy of others
  3. Revealing too much personal information
  4. What to do if they see something inappropriate for children
  5. What to do if they are contacted or “friended” by someone they do not know
  6. What to do if someone is being unkind, hurtful or offensive to them or others
  7. What are the consequences if they mess up, make a mistake, or feel that something has gone too far

The last discussion topic is sometimes the hardest conversation to have. Be real about what your expectations are for your child and discuss them before an issue erupts. Draw up a contract or plan. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a useful family media use plan tool, and give your kids some input so they are a part of the discussion. It is important to give them a pathway so they feel safe to involve the adults around them. It is also important to support them as they deal with both the social and emotional impact of social media.

The drama of middle school will not end anytime soon. The best ways parents can navigate through this tough time is by being knowledgeable that what current trends are in social media and keeping the lines of communication open with their children.

Here are some great resources get you started:

Common Sense Media – Parent Concerns


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Media and Children Communication Toolkit


The Family Online Safety Institute




Goodbye to 8th Graders – 2017

I gave this note, with the candy to match, to the students in my advisory who graduated this week. It was hard trying to write it with nut-free candy but they loved it.CandyPoohMessage2

Dear ___________,

My sweet send off to you:

May you be Jolly Ranchers and Smarties

When you feel like a Dum Dum,

Or you have hit a Sour Patch,

Remember, sometimes the smallest act of kindness can be a LifeSaver

You are all Starbursts I have enjoyed our time together.


Mrs. Morra

Google Drawing and Slides Now Have Gradients

Sometimes it really is the little things that make a big difference.

I love using Google drawings with my students and today we noticed that they added gradients to the fill tools in both Drawing and Slides.

There are two types of gradients: linear and radial.


In Drawing the fill menu looks like this:



In Slides, they added a section of colors that matches the slide color theme.

The Slides fill menu looks like this:


I would love to see more choices. More colors, blending multiple colors, changing the direction of the linear gradient or changing where the gradient starts and stops would be great tools to add. Hopefully. this is just the beginning. Meanwhile, my students and I will have fun playing with them.

Making Pictures Talk with ChatterPix & YakIt

Updated from my 2014 post


If you have access to iPads in your classroom, a great activity with your students is to make pictures talk, create animations that anthropomorphize objects, or use personification to demonstrate understanding. It’s a great activity anytime of the year.

Two fantastic sets of free apps for creating talking pictures on iPads are ChatterPix /ChatterPix Kids and YakIt / YakIt Kids. With both sets, the “non-kid” versions provide additional sharing features such as uploading to e-mail and social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, while the “kid” versions only save to the Camera Roll.


ChatterPix Kids & ChatterPix

ChatterPix Kids and ChatterPix from Duck Duck Moose are simple, elegant, and useful apps. Duck Duck Moose is now a part of Khan Academy. Both apps allow students to take a picture or use an image saved to Photos. With a swipe of their finger, students can draw a mouth on any image. There is one button to press to record, and the mouth then animates with the recording.


  • 30 seconds to record.
  • Add stickers, frames, or text.
  • Send movie to the camera roll.


YakIt Kids & YakIt

YakIt Kids and YakIt from Freak’nGenius are similar to ChatterPix Kids but have a few more features which make them slightly more complicated to use but add more to the final product.

These apps have the same features as ChatterPix Kids and ChatterPix plus:

    • Several different types of mouths. Spend a little time aligning the points of the mouth and chin to create an interesting effect.
    • More stickers. Create different types of faces on imported objects.
    • Change the pitch of the voice. Instead of a standard recording, make some audio tweaks. While this may seem like a very simple change, I have found that being able to change the voice brings out more from our introverted students.
  • Multiple scenes. Rather than just one image, string together several different talking pictures.

Blending with Other Apps

Since all of these apps save to the camera roll, they are great for building and blending with other apps to create something that exceeds the possibilities of just one app.

Here are some examples:

2nd Grade: Who Should Be On a Coin

Face on coins & Chatterpix

Face On Coins Booth + ChatterPix Kids

6th Grade: What Pi?

YakIt Smash

Garageband + YakIt + iMovie

Creating talking pictures or animations offer amazing possibilities in the classroom. These two apps are so easy to use, students can complete a simple project in a short amount of time or make more complex projects that can lead to collaborative videos, ebooks, or websites. Not only are these apps fun for students, but they also allow them to think, create and demonstrate understanding.

3D Print From Any Image

I have been having some wonderful adventures with 3D printing in my classroom. One of our favorite activities is to draw something and 3D print it. You can use this for any image. It is quite simple even though you need to convert the file a few times. Here are are the instructions for creating a 3D print from any image.

Download the PDF here: 3D Print From Any Image


3D Print From Any Image

Websites Used:

Online Convert




Cool New Things in Google Drive

Google has been busy. Updating its logo was a big deal, but there are some pretty cool new things in Google Drive.

I have been creating a ton of new docs, sheets, slides, forms, etc for the new school year and I noticed several new things popped up as I was working.

So, I go to start a new Doc and a pop-up message asks me about templates, so I clicked on it. There are now bunch of professionally made templates that you can use. The templates have a very clean look with placeholders for text and images. Sheets and Slides have Templates too!


Sheets and Slides have Templates too!

Spreadsheet Template

Slides Templates

Voice Typing
Under the Tools menu they now have “VoiceTyping.”

Voice Typing

A big microphone icon pops up and turns red when you click on it to talk.


(Parts of this post were written with voice typing. It did get a little glitchy so I had to start and stop it to work a little better.) If you want punctuation you just say that punctuation. For example “period”, it will place a period at the end of the sentence and start a new sentence with a capital letter. If you want to start a new line, you just say “new line.”

***Google Support Blog Post with punctuation, languages, and trouble-shooting.***

When you open up a shared  document, you might see this blue icon that says “See new changes”. Click it and it will walk you through the most recent changes.


When I opened up a spreadsheet a green explore symbol came up and charts were created on the right side window.


You can click on the charts and either make them bigger or bring them into the document to edit them.  You have to mouse over to get the symbols on the left of the graph below.


Now I know those items are brand new, but also played with the new changes below and they are pretty awesome too.

 I absolutely love the fact you can really customize forms. You can add image to the background, change colors for the form background, and have all sorts of fun with fonts. This was such a needed an update.



File Types
I noticed that every document now has an icon in the upper left corner that shows its filetype.


If you click on the icon it takes you to a page that just shows all the items you have that file type. for example I click on the Docs icon  and it took me to a page with all of my docs. (This is very similar to the apps I have on my mobile devices.)   

If you click on the upper left hand corner again, you will get a drop-down menu that takes you to the other file types as well as a link back to Drive.


I can’t wait to see what else I discover over the next few days.