Epic! Tool for Reading and Literacy

Epic is an online library for children 12 years old and younger. It is free for use by teachers, and cost $4.99 per month for home use.

Tools available

Search – Search and filter by age, lexile level, AR level, or fiction/nonfiction book type, or select a common search word

Browse – Look through the books recommended for the child, based on available categories and your preferences.

My Library – Access books and videos that the user has made a Favorite.

Mailbox – Access collections of books that a parent/teacher has created and sent

Profile (avatar) – See books read, the number of hours read for, and the videos watched

Hamburger (three lines) – Access profile or reading log, or sign out

Great features:

  • wide selection of books
  • works on Android, iOS and web
  • no ads
  • no in app purchases
  • 30 days free trial
  • up to 4  profiles allowed per household account
  • differentiation is possible with individual student preferences

Area for improvement

  • Let students log in using a pin such as a picture or symbol


Next Steps

Sign up for an account at Epic for Educators, or if you would like to try Epic first, check out my class.

If you are a teacher interested in using Epic in your classroom, here are some suggestions of ways to do so.

This post was originally made on http://blogs.isp.cz/esit/2017/03/15/epic-tool-for-reading-and-literacy/

Use Tinycards to Memorize Content

Tinycards is a flashcard app that lets you learn anything. It is an extension of Duolingo’s service. It lets you follow Duolingo (to learn German, French, Spanish or Portugese), as well as TinyGeo (for geography facts), TinyHistory (for history facts), TinyScience (for science facts) and Chineasy (for Chinese).

Using Tinycards

 Once you register and log in, you are taken to your DISCOVER page, which shows your favorite decks, people that you follow, and trending decks. If you want to make a new deck, you can click on Create.

To create a new deck, you need to upload a cover image, and then add cards to the deck. The settings let you select whether both the front and back sides of the card contain content to be learned. You can also set the visibility of the deck to Everyone, or Only Me.

On the front side of the card, you can place an image or text. If you choose to use an image, you can search for images right in the app, and crop the selected image.

For the back side of the card, you can have 1-3 sections (select ADD FACT), and each section can contain either text or an image.



Tinycards words through the web, and there is an iOS app. There is no Android app yet.

Other Reviews

7 Ways for Girls to be Brave with Technology

This research study presents the observations that women leave engineering because of group dynamics and negative experiences working in teams. I also heard Caroline Paul on Tim Ferris’ podcast around the same time that I came across her TED talk below. I was struck by how much she fought to do the fun things that may routinely be considered the domain of men, and realized that she experienced the same obstacles referred to in the study.


Ways That Girls can be Brave in Using Technology

  • Try a new technology tool, and decide whether to keep and use it or discard it.
  • Ask for help when stuck.
  • In a group, get a chance to do all the different activities and don’t let others limit what you can do.
  • Help people who are being cyberbullied, whether it’s by standing up for them online or doing something nice for them in person.
  • When you’re afraid of something, learn more about it and use what you learn to help you overcome your fear.
  • Choose to regularly put computer technology away and focus on something else.
  • Learn to code.

P.S. I need to look into how this could have happened, but the first version of this post disappeared. I’m grateful to The Wayback Machine for providing the archive so that I didn’t have to recreate the whole post.

Using Video in the Classroom

I watched this video from Common Sense Media about improving the use of video in the classroom. Notice that it’s part of a playlist, and you may want to watch some of the other videos as well.

I decided to put the tips from the video into practice.

Watching the Video

The first time I watched the video, I rarely paused, because I wanted a holistic impression of the value of the video to me and my colleagues. I had the essential question in mind: How will this video inspire teachers to use video more effectively in the classroom? The second time I watched the video, I paused it to create this blog post. Whenever I paused the video, the questions that I asked myself were “How is this tip relevant to elementary school” and “What can I share about this tip with colleagues?”.

Review of the Tips

I like the idea of the video that the goal of using a video in class is for comprehension AND critical thinking. This resonates with me as I have been pondering similar ideas recently in listening to podcasts, and my thoughts motivated me to resurrect my personal blog. The video could be a valuable tool for teachers in helping them reframe their questioning when students are watching videos. The tips in the video are practical, and easy to implement so teachers can put them into use right away.

The tips work with each other, because if students are taking notes or backchanneling while watching a video, they will certainly need multiple views to comprehend and think critically about a video’s contents. I know that I struggle with listening/watching and processing, and writing at the same time, so multiple views would be crucial for accessing all the content.

Applying the Tips in the Elementary Classroom

With elementary students, I would pause the video at some natural break points for the students to engage in the backchannel, and reply to each other’s posts as well as record their own thoughts. Otherwise, I think that the cognitive load would be too much. I would also have all student watch the video together the first time or two, with a debrief or conversation about the video, before students move to watching the video on the own, for their particular goal. Students can also apply the strategies when they are watching videos individually, but it’s important to model the strategies to students and have them practice it with guidance, before applying it on their own.

Often, students watch videos for research, when they are trying to answer particular questions. Critical thinking may not be relevant for fact based questions (thin questions), but will definitely come into play with more complex questions (thick questions).

More information:

  • Getting the most out of video Cheat sheet from Common Sense Media
  • Mind/Shift Teachers’ Guide to Using Videos
  • Think critically about video Common Sense Media page

How to Use My Simple Show

My Simple Show seems like a great new website for creating a video. The platform guides users through four steps:

  1. Draft– upload a PowerPoint file from your computer (max. 20 slides and 50MB size) or select the a storyline from a grid of options
  2. Write – the program automatically extracts text if you upload a PowerPoint file or you can create a script from scratch. It’s important to proof-read the text before moving to the next step.
  3. Visualize – The app automatically recommends “scribbles” to use based on automatically identified key words. You can swap out some of the key words for other recommended ones. In addition to using built-in images, you can also upload images, and use text labels. There is a maximum of 7 scribbles per slide. Note that images uploaded to a slide is only available on that particular slide.
  4. Finalize – Choose a male or female voice for text to speech, record sound for each slide, or upload sound for each slide. You can also make a choice to turn subtitles on or off, and select one of three video speeds.

You may need to zoom in to see some of the images (Use ctrl/cmd – +)


  • Users can sign up with their Google account
  • The app is easy to use.
  • The steps provide a nice outline, and would be great for students to help them be successful in creating their video.
  • A video before each step reminds users of how to complete the step. This can be turned off after the first time. Videos can be accessed when help is needed through the help button.
  • Undo and redo buttons, and delete and undelete buttons are built-in
  • Finalized videos can be edited (see cautions for limitations).


  • The Terms and Conditions say “You may only subscribe to the Service if you are of sufficient age under the law of the jurisdiction in which you reside to enter into a binding legal agreement”. I reached out to @mysimpleshow and got a reply saying it’s okay to use the site with students because the site is free and age limits are not enforced.
  • It’s important that users follow the steps in order, because returning to a previous step deletes all the selections made after that step. This could be difficult/frustrating for some users.
  • You can also edit text in the Visualize step. When you do that, all the visuals that you have chosen for that particular slide are deleted, and the slide is reset. If a user needs to do this, remind her to take a screenshot first to remember her image selections.
  • You can add more slides or split slides in either the Write or Visualize step.
  • You can’t record some slides, and have a computerized voice for some slides. If you choose the voice option, there will be no sound for slides where you don’t make a recording.
  • Students can’t share ownership of a show. If they are working together, one way to share tasks could be to have students collaborate on a Google Slide to upload. They can also share the responsibility for recording audio for the slides.
  • The caption is on bottom of the screen and may cover some of your slide. Be conscious of that when designing your slides.
  • Sometimes text/scribbles disappears too quickly. It might be nice to have 1/2 s – 1 s before a slide is wiped off and a new slide displayed.

Here’s my example, in which I used text to speech.