15 Resources for Free Summer PD for Teachers

By the time summer comes around, most teachers are ready for the break. It’s important to take time to rest and rejuvenate, whether that means spending time alone or with friends and family. For many teachers, summer is also a time for professional learning, and personal growth. I’ve spent time each summer engaged in learning, whether by attending conferences, taking online courses, completing work for a graduate degree, exploring and playing with my many bookmarks and saved links, participating in educational twitter chats, etc. Some summers, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on courses. This summer, I’m staying in Prague and minimizing my expenses. I’d like to share with you some of the free resources that I am exploring for professional/personal development this summer.

  1. Explore online resources for teaching and learning. Some suggestions are The Current by Educator Innovator, and The Teaching Channel.
  2. Explore the available resources on the ISTE Conference page, by session. The conference takes place June 25 – 28. Even if you can’t be at the conference, participate in ISTE Unplugged Live (I’m presenting on using Google Tools for Organization). Also, you could follow the #ISTE17 and #NotatISTE hashtags for free resources motivated by the ISTE conference. Also join the NotatISTE Google + community
  3. Participate in a MOOC from the Friday Institute
  4. Learn something new on AtomicLearning for 90 days with code NOTATISTE
  5. Take a course on Coursera
    1. Get Organized: How to be a Together Teacher
  6. Learn Computer Science Fundamentals from Code.org
  7. Complete a Google certification or Digital Citizenship and Safety course
  8. Complete a Computational Thinking course
  9. Become an Apple Teacher
  10. Join and participate in the Facebook community for Apple Teachers
  11. Participate in the Microsoft Innovative Educator Program
  12. Take an Intel Teach Elements Course
  13. Take a self paced course from the Library of Congress
  14. Take the Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning Course created by Exploratorium
  15. Attend Edmodocon on August 1, 2017 to learn how Edmodo can be used in your classroom

Are you taking any other free courses this summer? Please share in the comments.


Feature image source: World Education Letters Learning, CC0

Using IT Integration Walls in the Classroom

IT Integration Walls

An IT Integration wall is a great way to support student use of technology for learning in the classroom. You can take many different approaches to creating the wall. One approach is to create a poster of Just Right resources for your grade/students. Here’s an example from a Grade 2 classroom.

IT integration poster

Just Right Resources

In elementary school, we use the concept of “Just Right” apps and websites to help children understand that some websites are appropriate for children, while others are not. Students use bookmarks and QR codes to get to websites appropriate for use in the classroom.

This Grade 2 teacher included instructions of how to use Dropbox, as well as QR codes to resources for the current unit. The space can be as big, or as small as you want it to be. Involve students in the creation process, especially at older grades. If you or your technology coordinator has created instructions for using technology resources, incorporate these resources into the integration wall.

Managing the Wall

Implement the wall at the beginning of the school year, so that students get in the habit of solving problems themselves, and with the help of their peers. Have sections of the wall that will be useful throughout the year, as well as more dynamic sections that change with the unit or term.  Here are some ideas of how to involve students:

  • Have students submit a few websites that can be added to the wall.
  • Model the process for deciding if a site or app is Just Right, and involve students in the decision.
  • Invite students to create instructions for common tasks, to post on the wall.
  • Provide space and opportunity for student to identify their expertise and offer assistance to peers.
  • Track how often different resources are used on the wall, to know what to leave and what to replace. It could be a student’s job to analyze the use of resources.

Social Media Highlight – Instagram

Instagram Overview

Instagram is an app first released in 2012. According to its website, Instagram is a “free photo and video sharing app”. Although the company doesn’t use those words, it is a social network. The main features of Instagram are PostsStories and live video. Posts are videos or photos that show up in a user’s feed. Users can upload up to 10 photos or videos in a single post. Stories are shared with followers and the videos and images in them expire in 24 hours, but any text remains behind. Live video is shared with followers, who get a notification when someone they follow is live. Users must log in to use the app.

The terms of use specify that a user must be at least 13 years old to use the app. The app works on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It is rated Parental Guidance on the Google Play store, and 12+ in the iTunes app store. The app is owned by Facebook.

Why Kids Like Instagram

Instagram is easy to use for posting photos, and adding filters to them. It’s a very popular app with many users who are under 12. You child likely has friends who use Instagram. As children have smart phones on which they can take photos, they are likely to want to share those photos with others, especially friends and family. Instagram can feel like an extension of their community.

Dangers of Instagram

Although Instagram is about sharing photos, it has many more features than this, which makes it more fun for users, as well as more dangerous for children. There is a risk of a child accessing porn or other inappropriate posts on Instagram. Possible dangers include:

  • If a user likes a public post, other users will see their username and can click on it for access to their public profile.
  • If a user shares a private post to another social network, that post is no longer private, and can be accessed with a link.
  • If you access Instagram with a web viewer, your images may be indexed by other websites, and shared in public.
  • Other people could post inappropriate comments on a post
  • Instagram Direct allows conversations between two or more users of the site.
  • Users can send disappearing video and photos in Instagram Direct.
  • Users can contact people who they don’t follow, or receive messages from people who don’t follow them, through Instagram Direct.
  • Children may hide a story that they post from any user, including parent followers.
  • There are ads built into Instagram.
  • It’s easy to share location in the app.
  • Children may not make good choices on live video, even innocently.
  • Live videos and related comments disappear from Instagram at the end of the stream but can be saved to the camera roll.
  • This is porn and other content inappropriate for children on the site.
  • Hashtags make it easy to search the site for specific content, some of which are inappropriate for children.
  • A child can gain access to unfiltered internet access through the app.
  • Watch out for cyberbullying, and exclusion, which may be difficult for parents to spot. Sometimes teens can have conversations that are difficult for adults to decode.
  • Users can have up to 5 different accounts under 1 profile, so you child could have a finsta account.
  • It’s easy for users to clear web history.

Making Instagram Safer

I don’t think that you should let young children use this app. However, I know that there are many children on Instagram, despite the company’s requirement that users be at least 13. If your child is using Instagram, help them save settings that will make Instagram safer.

  • Create an account to explore the app. Here’s a guide to help you.
  • Follow your child. Also agree on who can follow them, for example grandparents, friends in the class, etc.
  • Make sure that your child turns location off.
  • Set posts to private so that only people who follow them can see their posts, and they have to approve followers.
  • Opt out of Similar Account Suggestions so that they won’t be suggested to other users, and people who follow them won’t get suggestions of other users to follow.
  • Revoke access to third party websites that may repost their images or video.
  • Change their username if someone that they’ve blocked is still mentioning them.
  • Advise your child on deleting inappropriate comments that they or someone else makes.
  • Help your child turn off comments or filter comments for posts.
  • Block people and report abuse as needed.
  • Speak to your child about any inappropriate content that he/she posts, and how to delete it.
  • Learn about who your child is using Instagram Direct with, and how.
  • Speak with your child about how they should respond to messages received in Instagram Direct from people who don’t follow them.
  • For younger children, consider making an agreement that they can’t post stories.
  • For younger children, consider making an agreement that they can’t post live video. If your child is allowed to live video, decide where, when, and under what conditions. As a follower, you’ll be notified of live video by your child.
  • Carefully manage who you follow. This will not completely protect your child from inappropriate content posted by others or from content found in Search and Explore. Teach children to select to see less of a type of post.
  • To learn more about this topic, see reviews from Protect Young Eyes, Be Web Smart, Common Sense MediaNSPCC NetAware, and Instagram Tips for Parents.

Read previous posts in this series:

Read & Write Extension for Accessibility in the Classroom

rw gdocs


rw extensionRead & Write is a family of tools to improve accessibility of digital resources to all students. As part of this suite, there is a free Chrome extension for teachers. Otherwise, the premium tools are free to use for 30 days. Read aloud and Translation continue to work in Google Docs after premium access expires.

The features of Read and Write include text to voice, dictionary support for digital text, word prediction during writing exercises, and study skills tools to support students in their research. The features work in web pages, as well as in documents saved in Google Drive. There is a handy toolmatcher that determines the appropriate tools in Read and Write for the particular student situation. If you check all the possible accommodations, you get the results below. You can download the results in a Microsoft Word format, which could be useful for documentation in an Individual Education Plan, or Student Support Program.

read and write tools

While I have just highlighted the accommodations for students, the Read and Write extension is also useful for teachers. One of the features that I find the most useful is voice comments/feedback to students. You can insert a voice comment right into a Google document, instead of text. Each recording has a 60 seconds limit. The sound recording saves to Google Drive, and presents to students as a link that they can click to listen. To use the extension after the 30 days trial period, make sure to register as a teacher.

1 minute recording saved voice comment


There is no teacher dashboard to manage this tool with the Google Chrome extension. It is a tool that is meant to improve accessibility and provide support for creating and reading digital text.

Grade Levels

Read & Write in general, and the Chrome extension in particular, can be used at every grade level.

Why use Read & Write

Read & Write is great for supporting students learning a second language, and students with special rights in the classroom. It is also useful for teachers, due to its integration with Google Drive, for teachers to provide feedback to students.

Features of Read & Write in the Classroom

Not all the tools in this help page are available in the Chrome Extension. The link is useful for finding out more details about each of the tools labelled below.

rw tools screenshot

Top image from toolbar in Google Doc; Bottom image from toolbar on webpage

Main Uses

  • text to speech
  • speech to text
  • voice comments
  • read aloud
  • translation
  • dictionary and picture dictionary


Note that you must be connected to the internet to use this resource. It is available for the platforms generally used in schools:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome

Subject Area


Professional Learning

Login integrations

Users of the Chrome extension log in with their Google account.


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