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. 



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

Happy Pi Day 2015 3.1415

Happy Pi Day 2015!

When it comes to creativity on the

I still love this video created by a 5th grader last year on an iPad. It is a great example bringing together a few iPad apps to create something unique and expressive that demonstrates understanding. You can call it app-smashing or app-synergy. I always say when it comes to creativity on the iPads: “If there is an ‘app for that’ you’re doing it wrong.” When you blend apps together it becomes more of what you want to create, rather than what an app can do.

Apps used to create this video:

Garageband + YakIt + iMovie


I love talking picture apps. Two of my favorites are ChatterPics Kids and YakIt. I talk more about them in this post on Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog and on my blog last June. 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.

For this video, the student:

  1. Wrote the words set to the music he picked
  2. Played the piano and recorded it into GarageBand
  3. Found images and animated them in YakIt.
  4. He did not like the way his voice sounded so he raised the pitch in YakIt
  5. Each image was a scene
  6. All scenes and the music were put together in iMovie and the titles were added.

PiDay Song

Google Earth Pro is Now Free – Used to be $400

I love Google Earth and have used it for years with my students. Because of the price, I did not use the Pro version although there were some features I really wanted to use. Now I can! I can’t wait to see what teachers and students come up with using the Pro version.

Download:   http://www.google.com/earth/download/gep/agree.html

Get License Key:   https://geoauth.google.com/gev0/free_trial.html

You can check out the some of the features of Pro here:


Making Movies in Google Earth Pro 


Google Earth Pro Advanced Measuring Tools

Google Earth Pro Map-Making Tool

Google Earth Pro data import tools

Chatterpix and YakIt: Great Apps to End the School Year

This first appeared as a guest post on FreeTech4Teachers.

The year may be winding down, but you still have your students for a few more precious weeks of school. If you have access to iPads in your classroom, a great end of the year activity with your students is to make pictures talk, create animations that anthropomorphize objects, or use personification to demonstrate understanding. It’s actually a great activity anytime of the year. You can create with your students and keep them engaged and learning right up until the last day.
Two fantastic sets of 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. Both allow students to take a picture or use an image saved to the camera. 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 taking image, string together several different talking pictures.

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

Here are some examples:

Face on coins & Chatterpix

Face On Coins Booth + ChatterPix Kids

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.