Blog Has Moved

I have moved this blog to a new server I set up at my middle school. The new address for my Escobedo Tech Talk blog is



FLIP Cameras – CCSD Tech Conference

Welcome! I hope you enjoy this session of using FLIP cameras in your classroom.

Please refer to my previous post for the looong version of using the FLIP cameras in your classroom.

Our Agenda:

  1. Intro to the FLIP
  2. Use the FLIP cameras – each member of your group should practice recording, zooming, and deleting videos. By the end of the time allotted, please have at least one video on the camera.
  3. Upload your videos
  4. Convert the video files
  5. If time permits – Import your videos into Windows Movie Maker (you only need this option if you are going to be editing the videos or combining multiple videos or video and pictures)

The Basics:
FLIP cameras are small video cameras that allow you to record 30 or 60 minutes of video. When finished, the camera plugs into your computer’s USB port and videos are quickly uploaded. The videos can be opened in a video editing program, uploaded online, or burned to a DVD or CD.

In the past, many teachers haven’t utilized the amazing opportunities that using video cameras in a classroom provides because of the expense of video cameras and the difficulty level involved with getting the footage onto your computer and into the hands of the kids.

The FLIP camera (or similar handheld USB cameras) are inexpensive and easy to use. They allow you to let go of the reigns and let the students do the work!

I’ve got the cameras, now what?
Determine how the cameras can enhance a lesson you already do, or inspire you to create a new activity. The goal is to get the cameras into the kids’ hands! Have them demo a lab experiment, create a how-to video, record a PSA or commercial, mock interviews, record a poetry jam, have students act out “how to survive in Mr. Smith’s class for new students, and so much more (my previous post lists a ton of ideas).

The Software:
The FLIP software will install automatically in about 2 minutes upon plugging the camera into the computer. Click here for FLIP software instructions.

Converting the files:
The video files are automatically saved as .avi files, which are high quality video files. However, if you want to post them on you will need to convert the file to a .mov file. Use Jodix, a free video converter – instructions for using jodix.

Thank you!

Please post a comment letting us know how you see yourself using FLIP cameras in your classroom.

SynchronEyes – Lab Monitoring Software

All labs on campus have been equipped with the SynchronEyes monitoring software. The software allows you to broadcast your computer monitor to all students, control or view individual student’s computer screens, capture screenshots of student computers, and much more.

Click here for my Synchroneyes Tutorial.

If you are not a teacher at Escobedo MS, but would like to learn more about SynchronEyes. Click Here!

Digital Storytelling – Photostory 3

What is Digital Storytelling?
Digital Storytelling is a way for people to tell a story digitally, whether it be combining pictures and narration in a slide show, combining pictures and music, basically using digital media (pictures or video) to tell a story. The story can be told with written words, narration, or music.

Why use Digital Storytelling in your classroom?
Digital stories can be whatever you want them to be, there is no set ‘rule’ for what the product needs to look like. It can fit what you need. Having students find pictures (taken with a digital camera or found online) that illustrate what they are saying forces kids to think deeply about the message they want their story to tell. Finding music to accompany the pictures and video also forces kids to think about what feeling the story should give the viewer. Digital Stories add rigor to a project, forcing kids to think deeper.

Get Started!

What story will your students tell?
Digital Storytelling lends itself easily to English and Reading, but can be used in all subject area. Here are some resources and ideas:

Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling
Creative Educator – Advanced Thinking in Digital Storytelling
Integrating Digital Storytelling in your Classroom Resources
How to Use Digital Storytelling in Your Classroom | Edutopia

Middle School concepts that students can create a digital story with:
English – poetry, persuasive writing, perspective
Reading – book advertisement, perspective of a character in a story
Math – geometry all around us, math in nature
Science- biomes, periodic table, planets
Social Studies – historical figures (tell story from person’s perspective), historical events, cultures, tour a country
Health/PE – PSA style story based on health/wellness, sports history
Performing Arts – music history

Without good planning on a student’s part, the end result will be lacking. Setting your students up for success with digital storytelling is a must. As with any project, you need to determine what information your students need to gather for your project. If there is a story that must be read, answers to a questionarre you created, or online research (for information) that needs to be acquired, this all must be done prior to beginning to put together the digital story. Here is a sample ‘checklist’ students can follow (with an approximate length of time):

  1. Prepare (read story/textbook, fill out questionarre, information searches, etc.) – time varies
  2. Complete Storyboard with required information - 1 to 2 days
  3. Find pictures/video/music needed for story – 1 day
  4. Use software to create your story – 2 to 4 days

I have found that creating a checklist printout for students that the teacher ‘signs off’ on at each step ensures that your students are completing all necessary steps with the information and at the level that you are requiring of them.

There are teachers that feel #2 and 3 should be flip flopped. This all depends on the type of story your kids are telling and how you see the steps making most sense for your project. This list above should be rearranged, shortened, expanded, or changed to fit the specific needs of your project and students.

Having the students complete a storyboard gives them focus and direction when they are actually creating their story. You can use any storyboard you find online or create your own. You do want to include things like “picture used” and “narration script” on the storyboard so that all the student has to do is follow their plan. Here is a sample of the storyboard many teachers on our campus have used.

Finding Pictures, Video, and Music
If the students have an idea about what type of picture/video/or music they want to use, this step will take much less time than if your kids don’t have a plan.

Tips for finding pictures:
students should not copy pictures from the internet and paste them into word. They must download the picture. Also, the larger the saved picture is, the better it will look in their finished project. Many times a thumbnail of the picture is shown; clicking on the picture usually brings up a larger version – this is the picture that should get saved.

Finding videos:
Most videos downloaded from the internet (if you have RealPlayer 11 installed and have the download button activated, a download button will appear above almost all videos) will be of the .flv file type. You can then use a file coversion website like to convert it to .wmv or .avi file. If you want to have your students include video the production portion will need to be done with a video editing program like Windows Movie Maker (will be discussed in a future post).

Finding music:
Any music brought from home or found online should be of the .mp3 file type. A great site to get free instrumental music:

A note about downloading media:
As with any digital project, please determine your policy for citing pictures, music, and video. Always be sure to give credit where it is due.

Creating the Story
There are many options you have when creating digital stories. You can use a video editing program purchased by your school, or free software such as, Windows Movie Maker (iMovie for mac). If you are not including video, Photostory 3 is a free program by Microsoft that makes creating a slideshow with pictures, narration, and music a snap. If you would like to have your students create a poster style project, Comic Life is an amazing program that is easy to use as well.

This tutorial focuses on Photostory 3. This program is easy to use and walks students thorough each step of the process. A 5 minute run through of the program will give your students enough of an introduction that most will not need any more assistance. Here is a short tutorial that may help as well.

The final product is a .wmv file. If you plan on uploading the file to a website, you may need to convert the file. Use a site like or file conversion software (if you plan on uploading to you will need to convert the file to .mov). **CCSD Employees – Don’t forget that prior to posting student work online the student(s) must have a Media Release Form on file.

Using FLIP Cameras in Your Classroom

What is a FLIP camera???

FLIP cameras are small handheld video cameras that can record 30 or 60 minutes worth of video. They connect to your computer with a USB plug that “flips” out from the side of the camera. The functions are basic, but the ease of use will make you forget that is lacks some bells and whistles “regular” camcorders have.

Why use FLIP cameras???

Instruction on how to use the cameras may take you 2-3 minutes to explain…it will take them 1 minute to figure it out themselves!!
We have enough that your class could be in groups of 4 (or even 3 if you have a class of 30 or less) and each group would have their own camera.
Pulling the files off of the camera is a cinch…plug it in and use the FLIP software that is installed automatically to save the videos. (The program creates a folder in the kids’ doc folders for them!)
Within minutes, you can convert the .avi files produced by the FLIP camera int a file type that can be uploaded to your site or blog.
What are you waiting for??? Let’s use the cameras!

1. Instructions for using the camera
Turn on:
30 minute flip > slider button on the side
60 minute flip> power button on the back

Push the red button to start, push the red button to stop
Push up to zoom in, Push the down button to zoom out

Watching your recording:
Push the Play button
Arrow through videos using the right and left buttons

Delete a recording:
Push the delete/trash can button

2. Using it in the classroom…
What you will be doing during today’s training:
Working in groups of 4-5, you will have 10 minutes to get 30-60 seconds of footage recorded. You can have the whole recording done in one shot, or multiple shots. You can choose one of the following topics, or come up with your own.

  • Teachers’ Pet Peeve(s).
  • Way(s) to be successful at Escobedo.
  • Model an important rule at Escobedo.
  • Convince the viewer that your subject is the best.
  • Anything else you can think of…

What you can do In your classroom:
This is a great resource with 35 ideas for using FLIP cameras in the classroom.

Content area ideas – these ideas are for your students to complete:

  • Math: record the steps of a math problem with explanations; find math in nature; find math in everyday items
  • ELA: act out a scene from a book; narrate a story; record students reading poetry for a virtual poetry jam; oral communication – turn a persuasive essay into a commercial
  • Science: demo/create ‘how-to’s for experiments; record labs/dissections/demonstrations
  • Social Studies: conduct an interview of a famous person from history/person from another culture; conduct “man on the street” interviews based on history/cultures; re-create a famous speech; create a commercial – “why you should visit…”
  • Performing Arts: demonstrate basics of an instrument/parts/hand positioning; create a warm-up video for others to follow along; record yourself and critique
  • PE: demonstrate rules of a game; make a workout video
  • Health: create a PSA for saying no to drugs, not smoking, how to avoid peer pressure, etc; lunchtime tour/interview kids about what they eat for lunch at school;
  • Electives: computers: parts of a computer/demo ergonomic positioning; student aids: conduct a school tour; other electives: use one of the above ideas to tie your elective focus into other curricular areas.

3. Pulling the files off of the camera
On the side of the flip camera, you will see the slide that ‘flips’ the USB plug out. Plug the FLIP camera into the USB port on the computer. Wait a moment for the “what do you want to do” window to open. You have 2 options:

  1. Use the FLIP software
  2. Drag and Drop the files

Instructions for each option.

4. Editing your movies
The FLIP comes with software that allows you to do some basic editing of your videos. If you need more advanced editing capabilities, use Windows Movie Maker or your favorite movie editing software to add titles, trim clips, and compile all clips into one video. We will cover this part during 2 April Early In sessions, but if you want to use Windows Movie Maker sooner, email me…let’s do it!

5. Converting your files to use on the web

  1. Download Jodix and use it to convert the files. *Click the link>choose RUN>install the program. Instructions.
  2. Visit and convert the .avi file to a .mov if you are posting to or .wmv for a powerpoint or your blog. You can also convert the file to .mp4 or .flv

The Logistics
With having enough FLIP cameras on campus for at least a 4 to 1 ratio of cameras to kids, you can create group projects, or even use the cameras in rotation throughout the students in your class.
For pulling the videos from the cameras, once the kids have uploaded one time with guidance, they will be able to upload independently.
What are your computer access options?

  • If you have a laptop cart checked out, the students can upload and edit their videos on the spot.
  • If you only have one or two extra computers in your room, the students may need to log into their accounts, upload their videos, delete videos from the camera, and pass it on to the next group/student. You will need to get a cart or check out a lab so the students can convert or edit their videos.
  • If you only have your teacher computer, you will need to upload the videos to an album/folder with the student’s name or have the student do it with your supervision. You will need to move the video folders into the students’ document folders and get a cart or check out a lab so the students can convert or edit their videos.

Final Notes:
All cameras are numbered, assign students numbers. If a camera is damaged, we will need to know who the last student had it.
For maximum available recording time make sure all videos are uploaded and deleted by the end of each period.
Please delete all videos from the cameras prior to returning them.

Resources/Posts about using FLIP cameras:
Using FLIPs in the classroom:

Video Tutorial: Using Windows Movie Maker to edit FLIP videos:


Comic Life Training

Comic Life is a program that lets the user create a comic book style document that includes pictures, captions, and titles. It has been around for years, but has become a powerful educational tool that is being used in all grades, all subjects, all over the country.

Comics, Really??

You can find a lot of educators singing the praises of using comic creating software. Pushing students to think about content differently and deeply in a fun way is the main draw to educators. Need proof that using comics in your classroom is worth spending a few days in a lab?

The potency of the picture story is not a matter of modern theory but of anciently established truth. Before man thought in words, he felt in pictures… It’s too bad for us “literary” enthusiasts, but it’s the truth nevertheless, pictures tell any story more effectively than words. (Sones, 1944, p. 239)

Comic Life in the Classroom
Strengths of Comics in Education
Eek! Comics in the Classroom

Using Comic Life

The program is pretty intuitive and user friendly. Play around for a few minutes and you can find pretty much whatever you need. Here is an instruction sheet that you can print out for your kids or yourself.

How do Comics Fit?

Comics can be used in all curricular areas. Some more easily than others, but nothing good comes easy, right?? Comics can be used to assess background knowledge prior to starting a unit, a way to review content, a way to assess understanding, and much more. Here are some sites with examples and lesson plans for using comics in the classroom.

Social Studies: Examining race class, and gender in the media; timelines; famous people in history; countrys and cultures; current events

ELA: “how to” instructions; character or plot analysis; pre-writing; post-reading

Science: exploring biomes; planets and their characteristics; periodic table; ride the rock cycle

Math: step by step explanations; math in the real world; geometry in nature; fractions

PE: game/sport rules; sportsmanship

Health: social issues; nutrition; say no to drugs posters

Performing Arts: music history/appreciation; famous musician, instrument care

So, how do you see Comic Life ehnancing a unit (or part of a unit) in your class? Think of a past unit or future unit that could be enhanced using Comic Life? Post a comment with your thoughts and what area of study you can see yourself using Comic Life for.

Blogging for Parents

Although blogging has been popular for years, unfortunately many parents aren’t aware that there are a lot of blogs out there, and that their kids are posting to them and creating their own. Along with their kids’ involvement in blogging, there are great blogs out there for parents as well.

A blog is short for web-log. It is a place online that allows the creator to share their thoughts, ideas, and basically express themselves. Because of the popularity of blogging and other social networking sites over the years, many kids have joined in. Here are a few articles that may help you make an informed decision about your child and blogging.

12 safety tips on blogging for parents and kids
Kids, blogs and too much information

At Escobedo MS, many teachers use blogs in their classrooms. We have spent a lot of time making sure that we provide a safe environment for all students participating in classroom blogging. Check out the classroom blogs being used here at Escobedo at the right.

Gone Phishing … Creating Graphs and Charts Online

Phishing Scams…

So, with the state of the economy and the holiday season upon us, scams are definitely on the rise. Unfortunately, online scams are running rampant, especially within our school district’s email system. On a weekly basis, I have teachers forwarding emails they are receiving from businesses, especially banks. So, I went online to get some information about phishing scams, and found this great video created by the guys at They have tons of videos on topics from scams, to blogging, to electing a president…all in plain English! You can find their videos on their site, or on their youtube channel.

Here is their video on phishing scams:

This is a great video to show to students as well. So many of them handle many computer issues at their homes (crazy…but I see it all the time) that all it takes is for the kid to open the email, say “mom, I need your password for this thing the bank needs” and badda boom badda bing…scammed! It is all about understanding the amazing ‘beast’ that the Internet is.


Graphs, Charts, and Equations … I feel an obsession coming on

So, my last post was about this sweet site Sue Waters posted on her blog called Crappy Graphs. The site allows you to create a graphs and venn diagrams about whatever you want, label the x and y axis, and draw your graph. I can see never ending opportunities to use this site in classrooms of all disciplines. Here is the graph Sue created in her blog post:

How true is that!? Her use of understanding and effort is something that my previous school used to have students graph after receiving their standardized tests scores. It really helped the kids come to grips with the fact that most of the time, when minimal effort was provided on their part, minimal understanding happened.

In the classroom setting, this can be used for students to graph their progress in many areas of the classroom (test scores, homework turned it vs. grade in class, etc). When it comes to integrating graphing into your curriculum, Math and Science are obvious classes people can see this being used, but what about a Reading class? What about students tracking their level of understanding throughout parts of a book being read. Or a graph based on a character in a book, with the contents of the graph reflecting the “ups and downs” of the character’s stress/anger/attitude/etc…What about a Social Studies classes? Graphing a country’s morale during a period of time in history, or the state of the economy of a country over a period of time.

Of course, with any graphing activity, analyzing the graph is a must. This is where higher level thinking questions and discussion prompts can be worked into the lesson and the ‘true’ understanding of the content is exposed. How can you see graphs used in your subject?  

Want more choices? Here is a blog post about a site that helps you create line graphs, pie charts, venn diagrams and even math equations called graphjam. Here is mine :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! I am not much of a sappy ‘let’s be thankful’ kind of girl…so I thought I would post a “crappy graph” I made with an awesome new site Sue Waters (the edublogger) posted about today

**I am going to create a post in the next few days discussing this chart and how you can use it in your classroom**

Tech Finds – 11.26.08

I haven’t had much time to hunt for goodies online, but I have stumbled onto two finds that I want to share…

Bubbleshare is a great slideshow service. Here is what they have to say on their site:

Create a free account and upload photos to share with friends, family, or the world. Unlimited storage means you’ll never run out of space to keep hundreds, even thousands, of your favorite pictures.

Add fun clipart, audio captions, video captions to your albums. Perfectly frame your photos with over 20 themes. Print stunning photo books, calendars and more!

This service can be used when creating digital stories in your classes and if the students create accounts, they can work on their assignments from home if they have access. You could also take powerpoint presentations, save the slides as pictures (file>save – in the save as file type area at the bottom, choose .jpg from the list) and create a bubbleshare slideshow of your powerpoint to post to your website or blog.

BubbleShare: Share photosCraft Ideas is an online file storage service that offers various levels of online file storage plans. They actually have a free plan with 1GB of online storage space. This is great and all, but the best service is’s widget creator. The site allows you to upload files to their site and widget code is created. You can then place the code on your website or blog. See the sample in my previous post.

When you go to the site you can create an account quickly and upload 3 files. You can adjust the way your widget will look. When you are done, you will receive the widget code in the page. If you have more files, all you have to do is go to, log in, and go to the my files tab. Here you will see a folder that has been created; open the file folder and upload any additional files or delete unnecessary files. This is a great service for those of you who want to include handouts on your sites!