Guest Blogger (and Tech Aficionado) Jon Smith Shares His Top 6 Tech Tools!

Guest Blogger (and Tech Aficionado) Jon Smith Shares His Top 6 Tech Tools!

Top 6 TECH Tools

“When children create for the world they make it good.  When children only create for the teacher they make it good enough.”

-Rushton Hurley

Are your students drooling on their desks after they fell asleep in your class?  Do kids run from your room in fear of another worksheet?  If you answered yes to these questions, this blog post is for you.  Many people have their top 10 lists but I decided to be different. Below I will share my top 6  tech tools for the classroom.  Before I do, I would like you to know that I am a huge proponent of student created materials.  Most of the tools I will share are all great tools for creating and sharing student work and can be used in any subject area.  
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I am a former special education teacher.  One of the hardest parts of my teaching was getting students to share in class.  Book reports, papers, summaries, etc. were all troublesome because kids did not want to share in front of a room of their peers.  Voki is a great online tool for creating animated avatars.  Voki is simple to use and allows students to have an animated character do the talking for them.  Simply type in the text you want to have the character say, choose a voice and watch the magic happen.  Voki also has classroom tools that allow teachers to organize and collect student work.  If you haven’t given Voki a try, you must do so.

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2, Book Creator

Book Creator is a simple app for the iPad that allows anyone to create eBooks.  I’ve used Book Creator with my students to write and publish over 40 eBooks.  Your students will love being able to write eBooks using Book Creator.  Students can add text, images, drawings, videos, voices and much more with this amazing app.  As a matter of fact, anything you can get into your iPad’s camera roll can be put into an eBook.  I’ve used this app with grades K-12.  

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3. Explain Everything

“Solve the problem and explain how you got the answer.”  This is a common statement made by teachers and tests across the world.  The problem is, students don’t know how to explain what they are doing.  Explain Everything is an outstanding app that allows students to create videos demonstrating how they learn.  Students can write information on the screen with voice overs giving teachers a peek into their thinking.  Students can add pictures, text, voice, shapes and many more things to the videos.  There is even a lightsaber laser pointer tool.  If your kids weren’t hooked on the app before the introduction of the lightsaber, they will be interested now.

ibooks author

4. iBooks Author

iBooks Author is another tool to help students write and publish eBooks.  iBooks Author is a full featured tool allowing students to add many forms of multimedia to their eBooks.  If you can type, you can write and publish a book.  iBooks Author is drag and drop and fairly simple to use.  


5. Flocabulary

Students love music.  People love music.  Flocabulary is the best at making educational hip-hop music videos.  The videos range in complexity from simple math to historical concepts.  I can say without a doubt that Flocabulary is my favorite website for educational music.  Flocabulary offers lesson plans, quizzes and much more for students to learn vocabulary.  Flocabulary also has a section dedicated to the week’s most important events.  The Week In Rap will surely get your kids’ feet tapping while allowing them to learn something at the same time.

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6. PixelPress

PixelPress is a company that created the app called Floors.  This app is a fantastic app that allows students to design, create and publish their own side scrolling video games.  Students can draw their video games on paper, scan them with their iPads and then magic happens.  The drawn video game is transformed into a side scrolling game that can be published to a public library of games.  I’ve used this app with kindergarteners.  I would recommend using it with slightly older kids but it did work with young ones.

I hope this blog post has given you a snapshot of my favorite tech tools to use with your students.  They will engage them, challenge them, and above all provide them with the opportunity to create and share with the world.

image1Jon Smith is currently a Technology Integration Specialist for Alliance City Schools where his class iBooks project has attracted attention for its global reach and practical approaches to integrating transliteracy practices into the classroom.  Jon was a special education teacher for 12 years before moving into technology integration.  Jon recently organized a global iBook project in which 35 classrooms from around the world wrote and published an iBook of poems.  He is married with 2 children.  Jon is a scratch golfer and Apple enthusiast.  In his spare time, he teaches a class on engaging technologies for The Communicate Institute.  Jon is an Apple Distinguished Educator. You can connect with Jon on Twitter @theipodteacher

Thanks Jon for sharing such valuable tech picks with us!

Voki Teach: An Engaging Way to Teach Common Core

Voki Teach: An Engaging Way to Teach Common Core


Hello Voki Users!

I am practically bursting at the seams with excitement. Why? You ask.

Well, has just released its newest product— drum roll please….


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Voki Teach

Voki Teach is a Common Core aligned, ready-to-teach curriculum, designed by teachers for teachers! 

Let’s face it, as a teacher you spend hours on the internet searching for content, followed by hours crafting your lesson plans and worksheets, followed by hours of wondering if your lessons are Common Core aligned. By the time you step in front of your students to teach, you are exhausted and drained.

We wanted to support teachers and provide students with the chance to engage with rigorous content in a positive, engaging, and meaningful way. And so, Voki Teach was born!


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Why Students Will Love It

Voki Teach is an academic experience. This experience allows students to interact with characters similar to the ones they admire on TV, but with a slight scholastic twist. In the classroom, the characters act as educators, mentors, and experts, taking students on scientific, literary, and analytical adventures.


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Why Teachers Will Love It

Engaging Common Core aligned content in ready -to-teach form is hard to come by. Voki Teach provides teachers with common core aligned lessons crafted by certified teachers. With Voki Teach, teachers will spend more time facilitating learning and less time preparing materials.

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Here’s How We Did It

Our team of teachers, certified in Literacy, ESL, General Education, and Special Education, studied the Core Knowledge curriculum and molded lessons that they believed would benefit their own students. By infusing instructional best practices, they were able to generate lessons that maximize engagement and foster effective teaching.grades lessons


Right now, we have two domains available for kindergarten through second grade. Our team of teachers is continuing to craft engaging lesson plans and presentations. Our goal is to provide teachers with a variety of themes and topics to choose from in grades K through 6th.

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There’s even more  good news! For a limited time, Voki Teach is available for free when you purchase Voki Presenter, or if you already have Voki Presenter!  Now is certainly the time to sign up for presenter if you haven’t already!

Click here to see a Voki Teach Lesson!

Let Us Know What You Think!

We would love to get your feedback! Please take some time to check out Voki Teach and please do not hesitate to share some of your suggestions.

Happy Teaching!

Until Next Time,


HeatherBio: Heather is the Community Manager at Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. With her teacher hat on, she will create meaningful, engaging, and relevant content that can be implemented in your classrooms.  She is excited to partner with you to engage and educate your students! 


Heather Joins The Team

Heather Joins The Team

Hello Voki users!

My name is Heather Brown and I am the new Community Manager at Voki. One of the reasons why I joined the Voki Team is because—as a teacher– I see such potential in Voki. It truly is a groundbreaking tool for students and teachers. I believe that if Voki and educators work together, we will be able to revolutionize the way students engage with curriculum and the way teachers engage with students.

So, let me backtrack for a second and tell you a little bit about me. I am a New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. My mother is a teacher, my father is a teacher, and my sister is a teacher.

One might say teaching is my family’s “family business.”

I’ve taught in schools all over NYC for seven years. During my travels, I noticed a few harrowing things:

  1. Many students weren’t engaged
  1. Many teachers were overwhelmed
  1. New curricula and common core standards were making numbers 1. and 2. even worse.

It’s clear that we can’t possibly solve these issues overnight.

But, it is my belief that a good first step is helping teachers feel more comfortable with what technology can offer them in their classrooms.

It can be scary to try something new. It can be hard to see the benefits of utilizing the digital space as an academic tool.  It can feel like just another new task to add to the pile of duties you already have. All of these feelings are very real and understandable.

But, I’ll share something I learned my first year as a teacher.  A phrase I still whisper to myself seven years later– “You have to lean into discomfort.” Besides, this is something that we ask our students to do every single day! Shouldn’t we lead by example and show them that even as an adult it is okay to be fearful of failing as long as you push through that fear?   Well, you know what my answer is. Of course, we must show our students that we, too, are learners who fail and fail again, until we succeed.

And you won’t be alone. There are so many teachers out there who are learning just like you, how to integrate technology into the classroom. Let us help. Voki and your fellow teachers are prepared to be your guides through the educational digital landscape.

Now, to those of you who are already taking advantage of the benefits that being a technologically savvy teacher can bring, BRAVO!  Keep doing what you’re doing.  Your students thank you for engaging them and bringing learning to life. But, remember, you have a responsibility to share your digital experiences with other educators who may need some guidance. Take them under your wing, share with them, and support them.

As for me, I am here to make teaching just a little bit easier for you.

  • I will post meaningful content across all of the Voki platforms—including this one.
  • I will listen to your needs, wants, frustrations, and feedback.
  • I will keep you abreast of the changes occurring at Voki Headquarters.
  • I will motivate you during your most challenging times.
  • I will facilitate the sharing of innovative ideas within our community.

At Voki, we believe that a close-knit community of teachers sharing their knowledge, technological expertise, and creativity, is a MUST in the movement to educate and engage.

So, are you with us?

BioHeather: Heather is the Community Manager for Voki and is part of the Marketing Team  at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught  in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. She is excited to partner with you to  engage and educate your students!