Screenshot 2014-02-11 10.46.06My district has been working with the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC). As part of this professional development, we have learned strategies to incorporate ELA standards into each of our subject matter. This is essential as we all work toward meeting the Common Core standards for ELA.

To help with the LDC, there is a fascinating website called

The website claims “Newsela is an innovative way to build reading comprehension with nonfiction that’s always relevant: daily news.”

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“It’s easy and amazing. Newsela is free for students to explore a world of nonfiction and test their comprehension. Updated dailywith real-world news from major publications, students can participate in conversation about the most urgent topics of our time, all while becoming stronger readers.”

What is fascinating about the site is that it will take the same article and modify the reading level depending on the ability of the student. In today’s classroom, differentiation is a must. Newsela allows every teacher to make such modifications with the click of a button. You can see that even the title of the article changes depending on your grade level.

The abilities levels on the site range from third grade and up. This allows every student to read the same article no matter how well he or she reads.

Newsela also makes a quiz available on some articles. The quizzes are only four questions long. It will provide the teacher a quick snapshot of a student’s comprehension of the article.

To use the website, you must create a teacher account while your students create a student account. Students must enter the class code you provide after setting up a class. This is quick, easy and free. Students can register with a Google email address, which I know many school districts use.

At first glance Newsela looks to be a great tool for teachers in every subject. I am excited to find a great tool to integrate literacy into my technology courses.

Check out Newsela!

Magic mouse


If you own a laptop of any kind you have at least considered buying a mouse. I have a cheap wireless mouse for my Windows laptop. Like most wireless mice, this mouse has a USB receiver that plugs into the laptop. It works fairly well for $15.

Besides that laptop I also have a MacBook Pro purchased mid-August. I hadn’t purchased a mouse for it yet. I have a corded USB Apple mouse provided for me by my school district. I use it with my school issued MacBook.

Thanks to Santa, AKA my wife, I got an Apple Magic Mouse for Christmas. I previously had the opportunity to try one out at the local Best Buy. I had been meaning to get a mouse, but it just didn’t make it to the top of the priority list. I have been considering the Magic Mouse, but at $70 I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money. I can use a cheap one just fine.

After spending a little time using the Magic Mouse I am very happy with how well it works. Here are few of my thoughts on the features.

1.  Bluetooth – The Magic Mouse is bluetooth. No need to keep track of a USB receiver. The Magic Mouse is bluetooth. That means I won’t have to worry about losing it. It paired with my MacBook Pro very easily. The instruction manual claims it can also be paired to another Mac, but I haven’t attempted to pair it with my MacBook.

2. Right Click – If you are accustomed to using an Apple mouse, you know you have to control-click to get the right click menu. The Magic Mouse has a right click option. For a short time I found myself clicking on the right side by mistake. This is because I was used to clicking on the middle of the mouse button since it only had one button to click. You can turn off the right click, but why would you?

3. Gestures – I have turned all of the gestures options on. The mouse gestures works slightly different than the gestures on the track pad, but it is very easily mastered. The best is the scrolling. If you own an Apple mouse with the track ball on top you know the ball breaks easily. I have had many of them break on the Macs in my computer lab at school. There is no track ball to break on the Magic Mouse. I also like using the gesture to move forward and back on a web browser.

4. Zoom – It will also allow you to zoom with the double tap of a finger. I don’t use this very often, but it is an option.

Overall I love the Magic Mouse. $70 for a mouse seems outrageous. If it lasts the life of my MacBook Pro, it will be worth the money. If you don’t use gestures on your computer, the Magic Mouse is not worth the money. Go out and spend $15 for a cheap mouse.


Livescribe Smart Pens

If you do any classroom demonstrations using an overhead or document camera, the Livescribe Smartpen is a valuable tool in you classroom. I especially found the smartpen useful in my math classroom.

Basically whatever you write with the pen (on a special paper) is recorded. Both your voice and what is recorded so you have video and audio. When you play back it is all there for you to watch and listen. I used the smart pen to record various demonstrations for students to watch at home for either a review or if the student were absent. I also recorded solutions to study guide problems in preparation for a test or quiz.

The videos are quickly uploaded to the Livescribe site. I embedded the videos on my classroom website to make access easier. This usually took me about 5-10 minutes to complete after the video was finished.

Of course there are lots of other uses for the smart pens. You can check them out at


Geoboard App

20120605-212202.jpgIf you teach math, you have probably used geoboards. If your geoboards are like mine, the rubber bands have gotten old and brittle. Students seem to go through three or four in a lesson. Older students tend to shoot the rubber bands at each other.

Geoboards are a great for teaching geometry. I recently taught transformations using the Geoboard app. Students were more engaged than ever. I didn’t have any rubber bands break or fly across the room. Using a projector, I was able to display my board for the students to manipulate to the other students to see.

It is a simple app with great potential.