Vote for a Video with ClipChoose

With so much video content online, it is important that our students know how to watch a video to learn from it, not just for entertainment. This media literacy is part of the PA Core ELA Standards across the grade levels (look for standard 1.2.your grade level.G, but can be applied across the content areas.

A few weeks ago while browsing my Twitter feed, I came across a new resource called ClipChoose (via @rmbyrne on his blog). ClipChoose is very easy to use. To create a poll, first create a free account. Next, simply paste in the links of up to 12 YouTube videos and post a question. Then share the link to your poll. Participants click the link, watch each of the videos, and then click a button below the video they think best answers the question. The picture below is a screenshot of a poll we used at the TIC meeting last week.


You can also browse ClipChoose for polls created by others. Click here to view a poll someone created to see if students could identify a story told in first person.

ClipChoose is very new and there are a few things that are listed as “coming features”, including the ability to make polls private and to edit polls you’ve created. It’s not a fancy site, but it could be an engaging way for students to practice making meaning from video. As one of the TIC members put it last week, it’s kind of a sneaky way to get kids to engage with content multiple times or from different perspectives.

A few things to think about if you decide to try ClipChoose…

  • At the moment ClipChoose only supports YouTube videos, so it will be most relevant for our high school students.
  • There’s nothing stopping students from voting for multiple videos or from voting for the same video multiple times. I would still allow students to vote, but I’d follow that up with some sort of written activity in which students tell which video they chose and why.

Next time you have several videos you want students to view, consider using ClipChoose. And don’t forget about your colleagues! Try it out on your fellow teachers at CPPD, department/team/grade level meetings, etc., and as always, add a comment below to let us know how it goes.


Listen to Learn and Connect


Hopefully you all took a few minutes to find some good blogs to read and comment on this week. Wait…what? You don’t have time to search for blogs and then read them? But you still want to be the best teacher you can be. You still believe in lifelong learning and the fact that we’re never really “there”. So when I ask you to sit down at your computer and read blogs, some of you probably think, “And just when am I supposed to fit that in?” Today, I offer an alternative.

The BAM! Radio Network is “the largest all-education talk radio network in the world, offering programming from the nation’s top education organizations and thought leaders and reaching a wide audience of people passionately committed to quality education.” BAM! features dozens of audio interviews on a huge variety of educational topics. You can search for and listen to individual episodes (each about 10-12 minutes long) or subscribe to a particular channel through iTunes. Sure, it will take a few minutes to search the site and find a channel, but once you do, subscribing to a channel will allow you to have new episodes automatically appear in iTunes as soon as they are available. Now you can get your daily dose of professional learning during your commute, while waiting for the kids to finish piano lessons, or while walking the dog.

You can search for channels using the “Browse All” tab on the homepage. Check out the screenshot below for the current choices.

BAM channels

The list of hosts is impressive. These educators come from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives and the shows feature guests who are, in many cases, teachers and administrators who are “in the trenches” and share their everyday experiences. Interested in the flipped classroom concept? Check out “Tales from the Flip Side” with Jon Bergmann. Want some ideas for engaging students? Try “Hooked! Captivating Students with Matt Miller. Interested in “Movement and Play”? “Music and Learning”? There’s even “School Principals Radio”, “School Financial Officers Radio”, and “School Nurses Radio”. There’s something for everyone!

Once you find a channel you like, I encourage you to find out more about the hosts and guests. Look them up. Follow them on Twitter. Do they have a blog? Listening to your PD can lead to new connections in your personal learning network.

If you like to learn by listening or if the idea of learning while doing other things fits your schedule, I encourage you to check out the BAM! Radio Network. It’s a recent find for me, but one I’m glad to add to my professional learning toolbox.


Stop the Unwanted Ads

This is one of those non-instructional resources that can be really helpful in the classroom…and elsewhere.


One of the great things about the Internet is all the free resources. However, many of the sites that offer their services for free support themselves through the use of ads on their pages. I’m not opposed to these web publishers making a living – and I definitely appreciate being able to access their sites without having to pay for them – but many of the ads are not the kind of thing I want to appear on the screen in front of a classroom full of students. Until we can convince advertisers to use only school-friendly ads, I highly recommend the use of an ad blocker.

There have been quite a few articles in the press lately about the use of ad blockers, such as Should ad blockers be legal? With Ad Blocking Use on the Rise, What Happens to Online Publishers?, and Why Ad Blockers Won’t Destroy Online Advertising…YetThey cite the pros of ad blocking as getting rid of annoying pop-ups and autoplay videos, as well as avoiding the numerous unseen scripts that work behind those ads to collect information. The negative side of ad blocking seems to focus mostly on the fact that if online publishers can’t make money through advertising, they might have to start charging for their services. I’ll let you read the articles and make your own decisions. None of these articles addressed my reason for using an ad blocker however, and that is the ability to screen out ads that might not be suitable for viewing in school.

Chrome is my “go-to” browser and for over a year now I’ve used the Ad Block Chrome extension. It takes seconds to install Ad Block and then it silently works in the background as you go about your online business. I’ve been using it for so long, I didn’t even realize how much it was helping until the other day. A colleague was getting ready to use Answer Garden (the word cloud app we used during the opening session of our digital learning session on August 5th) and asked me how to get rid of the annoying, not very school-friendly ads at the bottom of the page. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I had never seen ads on Answer Garden – because Ad Block had always caught them first.


As it’s working, the Ad Block icon shows me how many ads it has blocked on a particular page.



There are some sites that use software to detect ad blockers and occasionally I’ll get a message telling me I can’t proceed until I disable Ad Block. Depending on the situation, I can click on the Ad Block icon on my toolbar and allow the ads to come through or I can choose to use a different site.


There are other ad blockers available for Chrome, and if you prefer other browsers, you can try Ad Block Plus for Internet Explorer, or the Ad Block Plus add-on for Firefox.

If you regularly project online content for students to see, I highly recommend checking into an ad blocker. If you need help finding or installing one, please let me know.


Discovery Education Board Builder ~ A Guest Post by Heather Boltz

Back in January I wrote about rediscovering Discovery Education. In today’s post, guest blogger Heather Boltz, 6th grade English teacher at MMS, shares an exciting feature of DE that shows it goes way beyond just videos.

Discovery Education Board Builder

By Heather Boltz

Screenshot DE 2

Discovery Education Board Builder is a tool that allows both teachers and students to create an attractive online presentation that goes beyond simple slides. It works like a web page, but is easier to build, and can be assigned to specific students.

There are several features of DE Board Builder that make it attractive to teachers. Templates, which can be customized to meet your needs and style preferences, make it easy to drag and drop a variety of media, links, and text into your presentation. Although you have access to the thousands of media images and clips from DE, your media doesn’t have to come just from Discovery Education; you can use your own images, audio, and video clips as well, giving students the option to create their own media to use on their boards.

There are many options for using DE boards with students. Teachers can create a class and assign boards for students to read, listen, and respond to independently, either in class or for homework. You can even differentiate your boards to meet the needs of all learners. You could also create a board and project it for the whole class to experience together. Having the board makes for a seamless presentation without the slides.

My Classroom ExperienceScreenshot DE 1

For our Man v. Society unit, we read a variety of paired poems about the Civil Rights Movement. I created a board that paired clips from a New York Times article, a poem, and a video about Bloody Sunday. The goal was to present information about the event from a variety of genres and media. Students logged in on laptops to view the board. A link to a Google Doc provided students the option to answer response questions online or on paper. Overall using this tool was valuable, and students enjoyed the presentation format. In the future, I’d like to look for opportunities to allow students to build a board of their own. In ELA, the use of a DE Board provides an opportunity to cover many standards, including:

  • CC.1.2.6.G  Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • CC.1.3.6.G  Compare and contrast the experiences of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what is “seen” and “heard” when reading the text to what is perceived when listening or watching.
  • CC.1.4.6.C  Develop and analyze the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples; include graphics and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CC.1.5.6.F  Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.

Want more information and ideas on how to use Board Builder in your classroom? Click here. When you’re ready to give it a try, login to Discovery Education and navigate to the Board Builder. If you don’t have a Discovery Education account, contact Anne ( for an access code.Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 8.00.31 AM



YouTube On Your Terms With SafeShare.TV

signThere is a wealth of great content available on YouTube, but unfortunately it sometimes
comes with enough distractions to pull even the most focused learner off task. Enter SafeShare.TV. Simply paste in a YouTube link and SafeShare.TV will give you a link to the same video, embedded in a page that hides all the comments, related videos, and other distractions. You can also set the beginning and ending points of the video, if you don’t want to show the entire thing. You still need to be able to access YouTube, so at this point students won’t be able to view SafeShare links at school from their own accounts, but teachers will be able to show videos or portions of videos without worrying that something inappropriate may appear on the screen.

Here’s an example of a video shown from its YouTube page…

A&B YouTube

…and from SafeShare.TV. Click on the image below to see how the video plays in the “safe view”. (I selected just a portion of the video, so it won’t play from the beginning.)

A&B SafeShare

SafeShare.TV is very easy to use:


Next time you want to show a YouTube video in your classroom, give SafeShare.TV a try. If you have other tips for making YouTube an effective instructional tool, please share them in the comments.

Unite for Literacy

Recently I’ve shared several sources (here and here) to find texts online at a variety of reading levels. The majority of those texts were not appropriate for our very beginning readers, but that’s about to change. If you are a primary teacher or an interventionist who works with beginning readers at any level (or even have a beginning reader in your life outside of school), you should definitely check out Unite for Literacy.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.12.54 AM

 Unite for Literacy has a collection of original texts on a variety of topics. While they don’t indicate reading levels, my experience tells me that the books range from Kindergarten through early 1st grade reading levels. Students choose a book and then click to turn the pages. Each left-side page features a bright illustration and the right-side page has the text in a large font. There is a speaker icon below each page. Clicking on this icon allows the reader to hear the text on that page read in a real human voice…and not just in English. United for Literacy features narration in almost 30 different languages. Not every book has a narration in all of those languages, but the even the books with the fewest options still have narration in six languages including Somali, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Burmese. I cannot personally vouch for the accuracy of the translations, so I would love to hear feedback on that from some of our teachers who are fluent in these languages.

ufl page

This could be an amazing resource not just for our earliest readers, but also for our beginning English Language Learners or for teachers who want to expose their students to the sounds of a language other than English. If you work with any of these students, take a look at United for Literacy and let me know what you think.

Texts at Different Levels, Part 2 –

In my last post, I shared Books That Grow, a site that features a collection of texts that teachers and students can access in a variety of reading levels. This next resource takes a different approach to the same idea.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 11.09.17 AM is a free site that is easy for teachers and students to use – no registration required! The site features a collection of texts built around common themes such as America, Growing Up, Friendship and Loyalty, Resilience, Social Change and Revolution, and more. Within each theme you will find two discussion questions, each of which offers texts at three different reading levels – Beginner (Grades 4-5), Intermediate (Grades 6-7), and Advanced (Grades 8-9). The texts are available to download and include text-based and/or discussion questions. I can envision teachers using these texts to have all students read about a topic at an appropriate reading level and then having those students participate in a jigsaw-type discussion where they share what they read with classmates who read a different text. There are so many options! currently features 14 themes on a wide variety of topics. If you have additional ideas you’d like to see, contact them. They want to hear from teachers about the kinds of texts you need. will then negotiate the copyright, identify the Lexile level, and make the texts available online at no cost to teachers or students.

We all know the importance of having our students read across genres and topics. is a great resource for teachers looking to bring those appropriate texts to their students. Take a look and let me know what you think!