Desmos, Nearpod, ThingLink, and the Kitchen Sink

Often, after folks use versatile digital tools in isolation, the natural progression is to smash them together to create new, unique learning experiences for kids.  This post features several multi-apping resources and ideas that you’re sure to extend and improve…  and when you do, please share back! :-)

A recent Nearpod update enables the seamless integration of prepared Desmos links within Nearpod lessons using the URL content tool (SWEET).  This equips students with an interactive graphing experience that only Desmos can provide, while enabling a silky smooth workflow for students to share their graphs.  Within a Nearpod lesson, students are taken directly to the specific Desmos link.  They do their thing, and take a screenshot.  Next, providing students with an empty “Draw” slide in the Nearpod lesson gives them a place to submit their screenshots.  Finally, screenshots can be shared anonymously to students’ screens, or the teacher can showcase them at the front of the room for comparisons and discussions.

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 10.01.57 PMWant to experience the Desmos/Nearpod workflow?  Here’s a recent lesson on solving quadratic equations by graphing with Desmos, with a  TI graphing calculator, and graphing by hand using common characteristics of quadratics.

On another note, Michael Fenton’s “Match My Graph” resources housed in ThingLinks have inspired folks to create and organize new, prepared Desmos “mini-challenges”.  Teachers-in-training have begun creating and sharing these on Twitter.  Love that.

To add another layer to this experience, I designed a Nearpod that enables students to submit their screenshots from such Desmos graphing challenges.  The NPP is simply made up of empty “Draw” slides so students can send the screenshots of their graphs to me.  I recently used this presentation with students by giving them a Nearpod Homework PIN.  This way, they could work on the graphing challenges at their own pace, and submit the screenshots to me asynchronously. While the “A-Ha!” of these Desmos mini-challenges is great to witness, giving students a means of digitally capturing and submitting the screenshots has been a plus – now they have proof of conquering the challenges, and more importantly, they get bragging rights. ;-)

P.S.  The power of Twitter never ceases – a kindred spirit! 

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

CueThink: First Experiences with a Math Problem-Solving App

imagesYesterday, my students came back, bleary-eyed, from spring break.  It seemed like a good time to give them a gentle push to try something brand new.  So, with a new furniture arrangement in our classroom, new seating charts for the 4th quarter (I can’t BELIEVE it’s already the 4th quarter!) and a new math app, we were off and running.  No time to have trouble adjusting back to the grind!  Time to get going!

Students downloaded the free CueThink iOS app.  I had already created class names for my algebra groups from CueThink’s teacher dashboard, and had “invitation codes” handy for each class.  I appreciate that creating classes is very simple.  Once students register and enter the invitation code, poof, they’re in your class.  Not much up-front teacher work.  Thumbs up.

Before break, we’d just begun various ways of solving quadratic equations.  Rather than talk about those methods (or any of the other math they may have suppressed during 9 days off) I gave students this problem in CueThink:Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.42.43 PM

I encouraged students to “play” within the platform, referencing Polya’s poster on my wall and the tabs in CueThink (UNDERSTAND, PLAN, SOLVE, REVIEW).  I explained that, not only would they each solve the problem at hand, but they’d be finding a quiet space in the hallway to record their voices explaining their work… and that “Thinklet” would be seen by peers, and possibly commented on later.  The room was quiet, and heavy with… accountability, I’d say. :-)

It wasn’t an awkward silence, though.  Students needed some time to process the CueThink platform and its many parts.  I think they did very well (better than I expected) navigating through the tabs.  Then, it happened in every class.

Student:  “So, do we *have* to record ourselves explaining the problem?  Or can we just submit our written work?”

Me:  “You have to record yourself explaining your work.”

Student:  *GULP*

Students have enjoyed using apps like Explain Everything and Book Creator in the past to record their work and explanations, but those activities were generally done in pairs or small groups.  The notion that *each* student would be submitting her/his own Thinklet made some students a little squeamish.

Nonetheless, they did it!  I’m reminded of the quieter students when we do tasks like this.  I truly enjoy hearing them explain their thinking in this potentially safer, I-can-do-this-again-if-I-need-to environment.  I’m also reminded that it’s tough to watch explanations that aren’t *there* yet… but that is such a necessary part of learning!  Here are a few images/strategies from students’ Thinklets:

Listing factor pairs (Well, the problem was simple enough to solve that way… maybe next time I need to kick it up a few notches if I hope to see something resembling a quadratic equation…)

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.36.06 PM






A little pseudo-algebra:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.41.06 PM






Guess-and-check… with strategy:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.30.39 PM

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Equation-morphs-to-an-expression, and forgot to relate the final solutions to the problem at hand:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.37.25 PM






Rockin’ algebra, but ended by saying… “…so the length is negative 22 inches…” :-)

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I hope these static images encourage you to try something like this with your students!  Letting them talk and show you (and each other!) what they know is so different than just looking at their work on a page without the “narrator”.  It’s eye-opening for all parties involved!  I *LOVE* how all of the Thinklet videos live in their own space, making workflow a relaxing and seamless process.  No need to multi-app to gain access to student videos!

Since this was our first go-round, students didn’t really “make math social” just yet.  I gave them a brief survey this morning to see what they thought of their first CueThink experience.  Their comments indicated a general approval of the idea of an organized, step-by-step tool that helped them solve problems.  Their frustration with CueThink was rooted in glitchy details, like the lack of a prominent eraser when creating “Thinklets” and the “spinning wheel” that could only be remedied by closing the app and losing some of the work they’d just done.  All in all, my students and I agree that this tool is worth another go-round!  Perhaps next time we’ll be able to move in the direction of “making math social”.


Survey Results:

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 7.03.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 7.03.52 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 7.07.15 PMDirect student quotes from today’s survey (some of my faves… P.S.  These are 8th graders!  They impress me!)

“I like the fact that the app really pushes you to work the problem out fully, instead of skipping a bunch of steps.”

“I like it a lot, but I think that they could fix a few bugs that would make the user interface smoother and easier to work. Keep trying CueThink.”

“It makes the problem much easier to solve, but I think there are some uneccesary questions while going through the questions.”

“The voice part because it took a while to do and I don’t like hearing my voice! Another thing was the drawing tool was very finikey(?) and just other technical problems we talked about as a class.” 

“It’s a little glitchy still and tends to shut me out of the app frequently as it’s compressing audio or as I’m recording, and the pen is hard to use. However I think this tech is revolutionary and if it were improved it would be an amazing app used across school districts everywhere.


Posted in Algebra 1 | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Ripple Effect of Having the #MTBoS PLN

PLNThough I’m on spring break, I’m still scouring Twitter for ideas for upcoming curriculum topics.  I’m spoiled rotten.  There are so many kindred spirits doing amazing things, and I get to learn from them and add their work to my classroom, which benefits all the learners in my classroom… including me!

Take Mrs. Steph Reilly – her recent quadratics transformations post was *exactly* the type of investigation I was looking for.  I plan to use the PDF below as an exploration for my students to complete in my absence with a sub after break (a textbook adoption committee meeting calls!)  Students will open the PDF in an annotation app, answer the questions, include required Desmos screenshots, and file it away as “notes” for the day.

Quadratic Transformations

To hold students accountable, they’ll also explore Michael Fenton’s “Match My Parabola” mini-challenges (thanks for that suggestion Mr. Vaudrey!) taking screenshots of successfully matched graphs (no bragging rights that you matched the graphs if you can’t produce a screenshot as proof!)

Finally, students will take this ThatQuiz assessment, which I wrote by combining Steph’s questions with a few of my own.  (To snag this quiz, create a free ThatQuiz account, choose Browse to explore quizzes others have written, and search for the words Quadratic Transformations.)

Upon my return after having a sub, students will submit their screenshots via this Nearpod so we can have a classroom follow-up discussion about quadratic transformations and the “Match My Parabola” tasks.

Not related to quadratics is a genius idea shared by Andrew Stadel.  Using the Post-It Plus app to create simple sorting and ordering activities about blew my mind today.  Between this awesome strategy from Andrew and Mr. Orr’s novel use of Explain Everything for digital hands-on puzzles, there’s a whole new level of digital content-creation at our fingertips.

Speaking of puzzles, who among us isn’t getting sucked in to Justin Aion‘s hexagonal hysteria?  As I type, 18 bags of Target hexagons are in transit to my home.  Yes, I commissioned my parents in Pittsburgh to visit their Target store dollar bins (since Austin doesn’t seem to carry these novelties) and they managed to find 18 bags before Justin got to them.  Can’t wait to “play”.

Thanks to all who share – your work is changing classrooms and benefitting kids globally!


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Happy ULTIMATE Pi Day! 3/14/15 9:26

My students celebrated Pi Day on Pi Day Eve.  Every year, I give students a Pi Day greeting card summarizing a brief history of pi.  When I ask them, “Why is pi slightly larger than 3? Why isn’t it a little bigger than 7? Or 20? Why pi?” the trend continues – I get lots of answers and most of them are completely wrong.  It’s worth it to talk about pi, even to students who should already know why pi is pi.

This year, I created “The Ultimate Pi Day” ThingLink, and included both conceptual and novel pi resources.  To me, the most powerful resources of “why pi is pi” are the simple Vine video by Nat Banting, and the Approximating Pi Desmos link.  Playing the Vine, then the YouTube video about Pi (in 3 minutes and 14 seconds) and ending with the Desmos approximation provided a powerful conceptual combo for students.  These links are labeled 3, 1 and 4 below.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 9.43.28 AMWe also had some fun finding our birthdays in pi, listening to pi music, and ending with a memorizing digits of pi contest.  I know, I know… this is impractical and some may poo-poo this kind of contest, but let’s loosen up a bit about it all.  I don’t think we’re imparting some deep-seated theme that math = memorization here if we balance the activities.  Have a little classroom fun, folks.  They’re middle school kids, and they eat this stuff up.

Take Nick.  He memorized the first 100 digits of pi, determined to win an autographed Pi print graciously sent to our class by artist Michael Albert.  THANK YOU MICHAEL!!! Like many kids these days, he took the task to heart and did the natural thing… he googled “How to Memorize Pi” and found this video on Youtube:

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 9.29.26 AM

Nick learned the phonetic alphabet and applied this very (complex!) strategy to his pi memorization.  He didn’t simply memorize digits – he learned a brand new language, and used it to recite 100 digits of pi.  I was absolutely floored.  This kid!!!!

IMG_9523And then there was Skye.  She and her mother have been working on the digits of pi all week.  When Skye mastered the first 80 digits by mentally breaking them into smaller chunks, mom encouraged her to keep going.  Together, they also worked on the first 100 digits.  To be sure to take the win, Skye learned 103 digits and walked away, proudly, with Michael’s pi print.  For the record, Michael sent an entire collection of his autographed prints to us, so the top pi memorizer in each of my classes received a different piece of art.

His generosity was the icing on a Pi Day (Eve) we won’t soon forget.

A Very Happy Pi Day to you!




P.S.  Welcome to my inbox! :-)Screen_Shot_2015-03-14_at_10_36_37_AMScreen_Shot_2015-03-14_at_9_31_09_PM


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

ThingLink Guest Post – Thank You, Susan Oxnevad!

There are some exciting updates for those of us who use ThingLink in the classroom!  Thanks to Susan Oxnevad, all the details are right here in her guest post.  I'm thrilled that the mobile app is now rated 9+ so that my students can create more ThingLinks!  Check out my ThingLink Channel here!

Today ThingLink is pleased to announce verified accounts for school districts along with the release of an updated iOS app that is well suited for educational use, making ThingLink EDU better than ever for teaching and learning!

Benefits of Verified District Accounts

A verified organization on ThingLink EDU serves three goals. First, verification is used to establish authenticity of an organization. Once this is done, the organization gets an invitation code that can be used to easily invite staff and students to ThingLink EDU. A verified organization account will be equipped with a dashboard to easily manage teachers, students, and groups. Third, a verified organization account gives schools and districts easy access to all of the ThingLink resources created by teachers and students across the district. These features make it easier than ever for teachers and students to create, share and curate multimedia rich content with ThingLink.


ThingLink iOS app Updated for Educational Use

More great news! The ThingLink iOS app has been updated with education in mind. When browsing for existing ThingLink content, students can only see images created by other teachers and students. Safe-search has been enabled to provide students with age appropriate content when searching for media to annotate images. The updated version of the app now includes student and teacher signup options with invitation codes, making it easy to manage students and engage them on mobile devices like never before. 

Explore this slideshow channel of interactive image to learn how ThingLink can be used on a fieldtrip on a mobile device without wireless. Be sure to click the arrow to advance to the next image to see how students can extend the learning at school and at home, using whatever device is handy at the moment.

About ThingLink for Education

Over the course of this past year, ThingLink has become one of the the most popular free web tools for educators. The ThingLink app has become the most popular mobile app for creating interactive images in school or on field trips with or without wireless access. There are truly endless possibilities for using ThingLink in education.

Teachers can create media rich visual resources packed with content to engage students in deep learning experiences. Students can create a ThingLink to present knowledge and ideas or to document learning. A shared “Steam” enables students and teachers to collaborate on images beyond the classroom walls. Interactive images can be embedded on websites or shared with the class and accessed by inquisitive students at any time.

Explore this guided, student driven learning project ,powered by ThingLink and Google Apps, to view the possibilities that exist for teaching and learning with ThingLink EDU.

ThingLink Keeps Getting Better

As an early adopter of ThingLink I immediately fell in love with the tool because of the flexible options for creating rich media images for teaching and learning. I recognized the potential for using ThingLink to create differentiated resources to support all learners and I loved the fact that I could pack a lot of content into one image. At that time, the only icon available for adding tags was one black circle, the only embeddable media I knew of was YouTube, and there were no special features for education. Since then, ThingLink has come a long way.

Over the course of the past year, ThingLink has introduced a full-featured education platform with a designated classroom workspace for teachers and their students. Here are just some of the features:
  • Signup has become simpler with the addition of the Google Appls for Education login
  • Teachers have the ability to create accounts for students without email. 
  • District and teacher level management provide teachers with the tools to efficiently manage the ThingLink Classroom.
  • Students and teachers can now create slideshow channels of related interactive images to share work, curate content or maintain interactive learning portfolios. 
  • The original black icon is now one of many colorful icons that include several icons designed for education. 
  • Teachers with premium accounts have the ability to create their own custom icon sets!
  • The app for iOS and Androidmakes it easier than ever to use ThingLink on a mobile device, with or without wireless.
  • ThingLink for Video provides teachers and students with the ability to annotate a video and turn it into a personalized, interactive learning tool.

Learn More About the ThingLink Classroom


Request a Verified Status for Your Organization?

ThingLink has the ability to transform teaching and learning, so grab your verified district account, add the updated iOS app and embrace this amazing EDU tool! 

Send an email to

About the Author

Susan Oxnevad is the ThingLink Education Community Manager, as well as an instructional technology coach in an elementary school district outside of Chicago who is passionate about using technology as a tool for learning. Susan provides professional development for busy teachers via a variety of online and in-person opportunities. Susan blogs about thoughtful ways to incorporate technology as an efficient and effective tool for learning on her own blog, Cool Tools for 21st Century Learners, and on the ThingLink Blog. Email for resources, ideas and inspiring ways to use ThingLink across all content areas. Follow her on Twitter @soxnevad


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged | Leave a comment

Using Explain Everything for Hands-On Digital Puzzles

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 9.35.23 AMYou know, I really like the way that guy Jon Orr thinks.  Using non-mathy apps for potentially unintended purposes to engage learners is something I like to do, and I think Mr. Orr has a knack for similar app twists.  I don’t know how I missed it the first time around, but his post on using Explain Everything for more than screen recordings was inspiring to me.  As soon as I saw his projects, I knew I wanted to convert a few of my own puzzles from paper to an Explain Everything digital format.

As we revisit factoring to solve quadratic equations later this week, I want students to give this puzzle a try.  I’d love to give credit where it’s due for the original PDF file, but I’m not sure where I got it.  So whoever you are, thanks for making this! :-)

To make the EE puzzle, I took a screenshot of each of the 16 puzzle pieces.  I added each of these images to an EE slide, uploaded the EE project to Google Drive as Mr. Orr suggests, and made the project file editable in Google’s share settings so you and your students can manipulate it.  Here’s what the screen looks like at first:


…and here’s a sample key:


Additionally, when our unit on exponents and radicals rolls around, I plan to use this puzzle as a warm-up.  I created this originally as a “BIG HUGE PUZZLE” printed on paper so student groups could assemble it together (which I may still like better than this digital format, simply for the student discourse the big paper puzzle pieces encourage) but I want to give it a go in digital format this time as a time-saver.  This is a review topic with a sprinkling of expressions in simplest radical form (which will be a new idea for kiddos).  Original screen:


…and sample answer key:



Quite a versatile strategy!

Want to share these files with your students?  Grab ‘em here:

Explain Everything Factoring Puzzle

Explain Everything Radical Puzzle


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Twitter Hodge-Podge 2.0

I don’t think I’m the only blogger who’s fallen off of the blog bandwagon lately.  It’s so cliche to talk about how “busy” teachers are, but sheesh… we are!  I am!  And happily so… though blogging becomes the sacrifice at times.  Nonetheless, here are a few goodies you may have missed.

This guy has inspired me to improve the ways I’m using Desmos with students.  Michael’s work is amazing, and you should check it out:

A Lego investigation?!?  Yes please Mr. Orr!  Comprehensive resources included!

A collaborative effort with my pal Kyle Pearce to show students multiple ways to factor a quadratic trinomial using “Silent Solutions” quick videos:

FREE Nearpod lessons to help those searching for “Financial Literacy” resources:

A 3-Act proposition that involves a city stroll to an Austin icon (weather here has been surprisingly yucky, but I WILL TEST THIS!)

Some ideas for paying homage to next week’s ULTIMATE Pi Day!  Something I missed?  Let me know and I’ll add your link to this ThingLink (which can easily be embedded on your website for students to access): 

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My First Attempt: Nearpod & Desmos Work Flow

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.45.23 PMLast week during our district’s first-ever iLeap Academy, my 7th and 6th grade students were exploring the concept of approximating a trend line.  This topic seemed ideal for both Nearpod (to share definitions and visuals with students, and to provide opportunities for students to use “Draw It” and quizzes for formative assessment) as well as Desmos (to be given tables of values and corresponding scatter plots, and use Desmos “sliders” to explore trend lines and write/create their own linear functions).

Nearpod has a URL content-tool option – SWEET!  After being inspired by Michael Fenton’s work, I created several Desmos tasks, complete with tables of values and step-by-step directions right in Desmos itself.  We used Nearpod “Draw It” for workflow.  Students would complete a task in Desmos, take a screenshot, then submit screenshots to me in a Nearpod Draw slide.  Draw slides were showcased on the big screen at the front of the room, which provided rich opportunities to compare graphs and discuss the inevitable variations in students’ linear approximations.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.04.07 AMIn planning this lesson, I bumped into a glitch in Nearpod’s URL tool that is in the process of being remedied with a future update.  (To be clear, in Nearpod, students were taken to the embedded Desmos link, and *poof* the screen would go blank.)  I didn’t let this stop me from trying this ideal Nearpod-Desmos workflow, even amidst our iLeap Academy (which included having teachers visit my classroom and watch this little experiment)!  My work-around is evident in the lesson slides, as I asked students to open the Desmos URL in Safari.  That way, they completed the Desmos tasks outside of the Nearpod lesson, directly in the Safari browser.  After completing the Desmos task, complete with screenshot, students joined Nearpod again.  Though some students had to re-enter the Nearpod PIN, they were unscathed and swiftly shared their screenshots.

Feel free to give this lesson a look, and imagine how you might take advantage of a Nearpod-Desmos work flow with your students.

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

iLeap Academy: A Unique Opportunity to Share

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.15.59 PMLast week, Eanes ISD hosted the first-ever iLeap Academy.  This 3-day academy brought educators from various parts of Texas together for a one-of-a-kind professional development experience.  I was excited to have guests come to my classroom to observe my students at work.  As a matter of fact, elementary and middle school teachers across our district opened their doors and welcomed folks to see what it’s really like to teach in a 1:1 iPad classroom.  We “iLeap Mentor Teachers” also served on after-school panels to follow-up with our guests (which, by the way, fostered new levels of communication about effective technology integration among teachers in our very district as well!)

Here is one of the lessons folks came to see in action – feel free to try it with your students.  The lesson includes Nearpod‘s assessment features and workflow to house students’ work and explorations in Desmos.  Sweet!  (Click the image – I’ve shared the lesson with you.)

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.45.23 PM

I can’t do the Academy justice… but those who attended were eager to share on Twitter using the hashtag #iLeap15.  To read more about folks’ first-hand experiences at iLeap Academy (which was lead by our own Carl Hooker, Tim Yenca, Lisa Johnson, and iVenger team of ed techs), explore the ThingLink below.  If I’ve forgotten anyone in the ThingLink, please share your iLeap link with me and I’ll be happy to include it.

If you missed out this time, there's good news for you...


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transformations and “Animations”

Several weeks back, Kyle Pearce posted this idea on Twitter:


Funny.  I’d been creating short, silent videos across the miles!


Thus [SILENT SOLUTIONS] were born.  Kyle has a collection posted on YouTube, and mine live in an 8th grade Nearpod lesson collection, found here.

My 7th graders taking Math 8 Pre-AP this year are currently studying transformations in the coordinate plane.  With topics that rely on visuals that move, [SILENT SOLUTIONS] have been very effective!

In each Nearpod lesson as an “Entry Ticket”, students are prompted to sketch a specific transformation in the coordinate plane using the “Draw It” feature.  Though they have experience with ideas like “slide”, “flip” and “turn”, the idea of plotting specific coordinates is new.  We explored rotations yesterday, and students were surprised at how challenging it was to rotate a given figure and find the specific points of the image.

When they submitted their drawings, a super-fun unintended thing happened.

Once students submitted their drawings, I displayed them on the big screen at the front of the room.  As I began clicking through their work, I noticed that as I clicked more quickly, the student sketches looked like an animated cartoon.  They loved this because they could see the variations in student drawings in what appeared to be a moving picture.

The lesson continued.  Students examined the coordinates of correctly rotated figures and generalized the patterns.  A-ha!  Now that they knew what to do, they made it a goal to create 100% accurate “cartoons”.

Watch this:

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To see a sample SILENT SOLUTION video from the rotations Nearpod lesson, watch this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 8.48.14 AM

I wish I’d recorded the students’ reactions to these SILENT SOLUTIONS videos.  The affirmation a simple video like this provides for students who rotated the figure correctly compared to a crowd’s cheers at a major sporting event!  And for those who messed up, there were moans and gnashing of teeth.  :-)

P.S. As an added bonus, I got to hang out with @emi_nearpod and @EdZNearpod this week, who were in town for #TCEA15!  Sweet!


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Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments