Photo Mapo

Sample image created with Photo Mapo app

Sample image created with Photo Mapo app

I have a bad habit of downloading apps that look interesting and then forgetting to try them.  Photo Mapo is a free iOS app that should not be overlooked.

Photo Mapo allows you to integrate any photo with a map and short description.  It offers 13 different styles, and you can determine what shows on your “postcard”, such as the zoom level of the map, the date, or the latitude and longitude.  To choose the map to go with your picture from your camera roll, you can have Photo Mapo determine the actual location where the picture was taken, or you can type in your own address.

To create the sample above, I used a Creative Commons image that I saved to my camera roll from Wikipedia, then I typed in “Rome, Italy” for the address, and wrote a short description.

How can this be used in the classroom?

  • students can add these to research reports on countries, people, or famous landmarks, including “travel guides” or “scrapbooks” (Use the Scrap It app or Pic Collage for a great app-smash!)
  • use these to create a visual representation of classrooms you have virtually visited through Twitter or Skype connections
  • use it to record a field trip (map zoom level can go down to street view)
  • create geography quizzes or mystery questions
  • have students use it to show how a particular location has changed over time
  • combine with Aurasma and Tellagami to make your postcard tell a story when scanned

I’m sure my creative readers can think of even more ideas!  Please add them to the comments below!


A First for First – Mystery Tweeting

You may remember a post I did last week on using Twitter with younger students, based on a presentation by Matt Gomez about his Kindergarten class’ experience with “Twitter Friends.”  I couldn’t wait to try connect my 1st graders with a class on Twitter, and was thrilled to receive a reply to my request for 1st gradeTwitter buddies from a teacher in Illinois.

We decided to do a Mystery Chat – similar to a Mystery Skype. Our students came up with names for the private accounts we set up (that was an interesting brainstorming session!), and we scheduled the chat for yesterday morning.

Before the chat, my class came up with some questions to ask to help them determine where the other class was located.  I also set them up with some iPads and laptops to practice looking at some maps and Googling some basic questions.

The experience was not without its hiccups.  Map questions seemed to be okay, but we haven’t done a lot of internet research yet.  So, when the mystery class asked us what our state food is, we all looked at each other with wide eyes.  To help the class out, I typed “state food of Texas” into Google in a separate window from our chat, and we had an interesting discussion on not going with the first piece of information you find on a Google search.  I was pretty sure our state food couldn’t be bread!

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 8.13.05 PMAfter a bit more investigation, we found a few sources that seemed to agree that our state food is chili.

With little time left, the 1st graders did not have time to try to Google which state has the violet as its state flower, a clue which our mystery class had given us.  They are still hunting and pecking on the keyboard, so I typed it in for them, and found out that our mystery state was in Illinois.

I was a bit worried about the lag time between responses and questions, and was concerned the students would find the experience a bit boring.  But, by the end of the period, they were on the edges of their seats.  When they found out the state touched the Great Lakes, they immediately honed in on Michigan.  When we finally learned the true location, it seemed to mystify them.

“Illinois?!!!!  Who would have guessed Illinois?”

Later in the day, I saw one of my first graders in the bus line, and she ran to hug me.  “I still can’t believe they live in Illinois!!!!!” she exclaimed.

They are looking forward to our next chat with the Illinois class, and we are hoping to connect with more classes around the world.  If you missed my updates to the post about Twitter for younger students, you might want to take a look, as it includes a great resource for finding classes interested in connecting on Twitter in other regions.





Last month, I saw a post about TED-Ed Clubs on Richard Byrne’s blog, Free Technology 4 Teachers.  Hoping to host such a club next year, I applied.  (According to the TED-Ed Clubs site, you may still apply.)

This post isn’t actually about TED-Ed Clubs, since Richard and the TED-Ed site have that pretty well handled.  I thought I would share with you a weekly tip that I got through their newsletter about a site called, “Diffen,” which allows you to compare and contrast two topics.  In their words, “Use Diffen to get your students talking and thinking about the overlaps and differences of various topics, and spark ideas they are passionate about!”

I decided to take a look.

The site is fairly simple.  Just type in a word into each blank, and choose “Go.”  It is certainly not perfect, but can definitely generate some interesting conversations!

My 1st grade class is doing a Mystery Twitter Chat with a class in Illinois today (thanks, Matt Gomez, for inspiring me!), so I thought I would do a comparison of Illinois to Texas.  Here is a partial screen shot of the results:



It seems fairly objective, so it could be helpful for research.  In fact, according to the site creators, “When you are faced with choices, you are looking for unbiased information. Diffen makes it a goal to clearly delineate facts and opinions. The community keeps content unbiased and fact-oriented. The ratings and comments provide outlets for opinions.”

TED-Ed suggested searching for a comparison between empathy and sympathy.


This is actually common question in my classroom, so using Diffen might be a good foundation for that conversation.  

I did some other comparisons that were not quite as fruitful – such as “truth” and “beauty” (this year’s Philosophy Slam topic).

Interestingly, just as on Wikipedia, you can add your own information to the tables. Of course, the source of the information on the site could generate some great discussions in your classroom as well – about the reliability of crowd-sourced reference sites, for example.  

So far I have not seen anything objectionable that appears on the site accidentally.  However, you should definitely check it out for yourself before sending younger students to this resource.  I would probably recommend that you use it for writing or discussion prompts, and that students know that it is essential to use several sources if they are doing research.


Here We Come to Save the Day!

I love how this student posed for his picture!

I love how this student posed for his picture!

My gifted 2nd graders study the theme, “Structures,” and begin the year with animal structures.  I recently saw this fabulous article on Edutopia, “Superhero Science” by Autumn Ware, that inspired me to leverage student interest in superheroes as a route for researching interesting animals.  Experience has taught me that scaffolding is particularly important with these younger students, who have limited exposure to research skills.  So, we started by doing some research together on Jeffrey, the tarantula we have on loan for two weeks.

The students made Thinglinks with their research.  Then we discussed some of Jeffrey’s amazing abilities – throwing barbed hairs at predators, re-growing limbs, using multiple eyes, etc…  I asked them to pretend they had one or more of Jeffrey’s abilities, and to think about how they could use it to help people.  They wrote short stories about their imagined adventures.

Yesterday, while I conferenced with each child about his or her story, the other students worked on their iPads to make themselves into bona fide superheroes.  First, they used the free app, “Superhero Yourself” to take their pictures and add masks, capes, and other accessories.  They saved their pictures.  Then they opened the “Comic Book” app (which we had fortunately downloaded during a limited time period that it was free).  They imported their superhero pictures to a one-panel layout, added the comic effect (from the FX in the top right), a title, and word balloons if they wanted.

Each student seemed very proud of his or her results.  The only glitch in this process was that the free “Superhero Yourself” app saved their pictures with ads at the top and bottom.  But those were easy to crop out once they were saved to the camera roll.

Now the kids have some tools for presenting their information when they research the animals of their choice.  And, now that their imagination has been jumpstarted, they can bypass the iPad completely if they want – drawing themselves as amazing superheroes that only they can create.

Morfo/Tellagami/Aurasma App Smasharoo

Graphic Design - Canva, Videos created using Morfo and Tellagami, Scan with Aurasma

Graphic Design from Canva. Videos created using Morfo and Tellagami. Scan printed page with Aurasma to make art come to life.

I decided using three apps and a website for one project was not enough, so I decided to throw another iPad and an additional website into the mix this time.

Inspired by these Morfo projects, I thought I would use that app for a lesson I was planning on searching the internet.  My 3rd graders are about to embark on a brief study of Leonardo da Vinci, but I hadn’t told them that yet.  I decided to let them figure out who the mystery artist was by doing an internet search using clues from some of da Vinci’s work.

I knew the Mona Lisa would be a dead give-away, so I chose some other pieces from the artist’s massive collection.  I saved four of the portraits/sketches in which the subjects were mostly facing forward (one is not, and her Morfo somewhat suffered as a result) to my Photos on my iPad.

Since 3 of the subjects were men, I deliberated on how exactly I was going to record them speaking.  Then I remembered Tellagami.  I got out a second iPad, and typed into Tellagami what I wanted one of the subjects to say.  On the first iPad, I got my Morfo ready to record.  I hit the Record button on Morfo at the same time as the Preview button on Tellagami, and got my video recording without having to fake a deep voice!

I created the page using Canva, my new go-to site for graphic design,  to display the four portraits.  You can learn more about Canva here.

I uploaded the 4 portraits to Canva, did a couple of page edits and then printed out the final copy.

Then I fired up Aurasma Studio on my laptop, and loaded the original images as the triggers, and the Morfo videos as the overlays.

I opened Aurasma on an iPad, and scanned the page.


I realized that my trigger images needed to be from the page I printed, as the original images from the internet were much smoother than what my inkjet printer produced.  I took shots of each image on the printed Canva and loaded those as the trigger images instead.

It worked!

Each portrait “spoke” when I aimed the iPad at it with the Aurasma app.

I’ll be honest.  I wish the Morfo videos merged better with the printed images (maybe some of you have a suggestion?).  Instead, the video overlay puts a black box on top that kind of ruins the effect.  But the students did not mind at all, and were completely engaged in taking notes from the spoken clues.  This will be great prep for when they make their own.


Morfo+Tellagami+Aurasma+2 iPads+Canva+Aurasma Studio = Engagement

Morfo+Tellagami+Aurasma+2 iPads+Canva+Aurasma Studio = Engagement

Interested in checking out the finished product?  Be sure to follow the Hidden Forest Elementary channel in the free Aurasma app before you print out and scan this file with Aurasma (and turn up the volume on your device!)  Also, be sure to check out myAugmented Reality page if you are interested in finding more resources.


Screen Shot from Professor How's TouchCast

Screen Shot from Professor How’s TouchCast.  The video is in the corner of the web site page they are referencing.

TouchCast is a new, revolutionary iTunes app that has huge potential for the classroom and beyond.  It allows you to create interactive videos.

I’m not talking about the kind of videos you see on YouTube that have links that lead you to other sites or videos, though you could certainly do that with TouchCast.

I am talking about videos that include live, interactive versions of sites, Twitter feeds, polls, tickers, etc…


So, let’s say I include my Twitter feed in my video.  When you watch the video on my TouchCast channel, you will see my Twitter feed – but not what was on the feed when I recorded the video.  You will see the exact feed that is available at the moment you are watching the video.

You might be thinking, “How is that helpful in an educational setting?” – especially if you don’t use Twitter.

But imagine placing a poll on your video about recycling, and asking what students think they can do to make the biggest positive environmental impact.  Or, adding the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s web page featuring the painting, “Cypresses” to your video about Van Gogh?

You can add all of these interactive functions using TouchCast‘s vApps – and they plan to add more.

TouchCast's vApp Screen

TouchCast’s vApp Screen

In addition, the recorder includes a green screen option.  I have been looking for a free one to use on the iPad, and now my wish has been granted!  You can see the fun use of the green screen as well as some of the vApps, in this video by “Professor How.”

I’ve been talking how teachers can use TouchCast – but think about how motivating this will be for students working on presentations!  This will definitely help to make their projects much more dynamic.  For Genius Hour, or any time students get the chance to share what they have learned, TouchCast could add so much more.  

Some caveats:  TouchCasts really need to be storyboarded ahead of time if you plan to use the vApps.  TouchCasts can be exported to YouTube, but they will lose their “interactive” ability if they are not viewed within the app or on the TouchCast site.  Also, at this time, you cannot import a video creation into a TouchCast (if, for example, you are like me – and prefer to use something like Tellagami‘s fabulous animation app to share your message instead of your own face and voice) – but I did receive an e-mail from their Customer Support that they are looking into adding this feature.  Last caveat – as with all apps, this may perform differently in your classroom than it does at home, due to district site-blocking.

For more about TouchCast – and a great presentation on Aurasma – check out this post from Thrasymakos!