Citelighter Expands to PDF Capture Ability

Citelighter has been supporting learners in collecting, organizing, storing and sharing their research and learning since it’s inception in September 2011. Today, Citelighter releases PDF Capture Ability, further supporting access to high-quality information!

With Citelighter, you can browse the Internet and click & capture information you deem important. Later, you can go back and organize your information and even add in your own thoughts or questions through the commenting functionality. High School teachers have been finding that Citelighter bears a natural connection to their classrooms. Educators have been teaching students to use Citelighter to support their research projects! The commenting function makes it possible for research to become conversational and for teachers to offer feedback to their students.

In September, 2012, Citelighter released their Pro-Accounts, giving access to the vast collection of resources at Questia, which opened up a whole world of opportunities for teachers and learners. Access to credible sources like these makes research stronger and learning deeper. Today, Citelighter opens new doors as they expand to PDF Capture Ability. PDF Capture Ability allows for a wider range of access to credible information, which we know can be a struggle for young learners. It also encourages variety of sources being used for research.

What an exciting day for Citelighter! Looking forward to seeing where 2013 takes them.

PDF Upload Screenshot 2PDF Upload Screenshot

Read Storing Sharing and Organizing Your Education and Research to learn more about Citelighter.

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Fifth Grader Creates and Implements Original Study Strategy

I work with an incredibly intelligent and talented fifth grader who recently amazed me by creating her own study strategy and implementing it independently.We have been working on improving her spelling for about two months. In addition to working on spelling, we are also working on building accountability for independent work between our sessions. A small portion of our work together includes spelling quizzes so when we first started working together, I asked her to study for our quizzes as her homework. She asked me how to study and I responded, “Study in a way that works for YOU.” I usually work with students to identify learning patterns that work for them and explicitly teach study strategies that will work, but I was curious to see what she would come up with.

Three weeks later, I noticed that she had scored 100% on all of her quizzes. I knew the words were quite challenging for her so I asked her to share her study secrets with me. She brought over her iPod and played me her recordings. She devised an entire study strategy independently. Listen below to hear one of her recordings:


Study Strategy

Step 1: Write a list of words with correct spellings in spelling notebook.

Step 2: Use a voice recording device. This student used her an app on her iPod – I believe it was iTalk Recorder.

Step 3: Record your voice saying the word, a sentence and then a 3-6 second break.

Step 4: Test yourself by playing back the recording and spelling the words on a fresh page in your notebook. Check your work by referring back to your correct word list.

What I am most inspired by is the initiative she took not only to study but to self-test to see if she had mastered the material. She said she would sometimes self-test 2 or 3 times to make sure she really knew her words. I am over the moon that she took the time to do this and that her parents gave me permission to share it with the world.

On a different note, here is another reason she is so awesome! On Halloween, when many kids were simply eating their candy, Little Miss Creative was graphing her candy!

Sugar High


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PenPal News in Action

Over the past few months, I have been working with Michael Bernstein at PenPal News to develop curriculum for PenPal Red/Blue, a six-week exchange where classrooms across the country are sharing and learning about election-year issues. I recently had the pleasure of spending the morning with a sixth grade class in Manhattan who has been participating in PenPal News Red/Blue. It was incredible to see the program come to life!

During my visit, students were learning about our economy and reading a piece called What America Does For Work. The group of students I observed decided to take notes on the article before responding to their penpal. Because the article presented two visuals, a few students decided to create T-Charts in their notebook to help them understand the data in the chart. I was overwhelmed with excitement when I saw the initiative they were taking! Students were able to compare and analyze the information to make important overarching observations about the change in jobs over time.

While the students were undoubtedly remarkable, I was most blown away by the teacher! When building curriculum for PenPal News we try to provide enough structure so that teachers feel comfortable, while at the same time leaving enough room for creativity so that teachers can make each lesson their own. The teacher I observed created two tools to help her students with PenPal News. Firstly, she created a protocol poster to provide students with a visual agenda and some simple rules to abide by when using the program (see below.) She also created a “Power Word List,” where she chooses powerful vocabulary from the article (which she has pre-read!) to preview with students so they begin the article feeling prepared.

I am so fortunate that I had an opportunity to observe this incredible class. Get into the classroom if you can…especially if you are developing an EdTech tool!

Make sure to check out PenPal News and take a look at our one-minute explainer videos to see how we take challenging issues and make them accessible for 12-18 year olds.

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Citelighter: Storing, Sharing and Organizing Your Education and Research

I recently began working with the team at Citelighter, a startup that supports learners in storing, sharing and organizing their education and research for free. Citelighter is currently being used in 1500 schools worldwide. Initially the tool was developed with higher education in mind, but an increasing amount of middle and high school teachers have been using Citelighter to support younger learners.

As a K-12 special education teacher, tutor and instructional coach my major focus is on making learning accessible for all students. I am always looking for ways to minimize the distractions and keep things organized in order to maximize student independence.  Citelighter allows learners to highlight and cite texts online with ease but I was initially drawn to the tool because of its natural relationship with differentiation in the classroom. There are so many possibilities for using Citelighter to tailor research projects to student strengths and weaknesses.

The team at Citelighter is unique because their mission first and foremost is truly to support the learner. They have a passion for talking to teachers to find out what we really need. Our goal is to make Citelighter a tool that is focused around the learner and the best way to do this is through getting feedback from the user so if you are out there using Citelighter, feel free to reach out to say hello, ask a question or share a story! Stay tuned for more ideas about how to use Citelighter to support the needs of all learners.

Glad to be back,


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In a recent edition of the EdSurge newsletter, I stumbled across Wallwisher. (By the way, if you don’t get EdSurge you’re seriously missing out!) Wallwisher’s elevator pitch: “We give you a nearly blank page (a wall). You put anything you want on it, anywhere. Simple, yet powerful!” EdSurge used Wallwisher as an invitation for ideas, which I’d love. I don’t think Wallwisher is the most beautiful tool in the world but it’s simple and it does the job.

There are quite a few different ways I could envision using Wallwisher but today I want to draw your attention to the obvious implications in teaching.

Have a SmartBoard or a projector? Try starting each day with a Wallwisher question:

  • What is something you are looking forward to today?
  • What is something you feel anxious about this week?
  • Where are you in your independent project?

Try starting every (ELA, math, science, etc.) lesson with a Wallwisher question:

  • Today we will continue our study of geometry. What 3D shapes can you name?
  • Think back to yesterday. What can you remember about angles?
  • Create a shape in your notebook. On Wallwisher, enter the formula for to find the area of your shape.

Use Wallwisher to elicit responses in real time:

  • Give an example of a memory you have when you felt like a hero.
  • What is the first step you took to solve this problem?
  • Vote: Would you rather take a field trip to the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Here is my first Wallwisher and I really hope you’ll take a minute to add your thoughts. Question of the day Teachers and Parents: What kind of EdTech do you wish someone would make for your classroom or to use with your child at home?


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5 Ways to Keep the Learning Flowing Throughout the Summer

Summer is already in motion for many students around the country. For us New Yorkers, it’s so close we can smell it. Teachers have started cleaning up their classrooms and students have handed in their last homework assignments of the year. But what happens after the last day of school?

Summer planning is an issue that requires quite a bit of thought for many parents. Should we continue some form of academic learning for our children over the summer? Should we send our kids to camp? Do our kids need a break from all of the pressures of school. Summer plans are a tough decision and just like in everything else education, I will advise a balanced approach.

It has been a challenging year in education to say the least. All of the hubbub surrounding high stakes standardized testing has finally come to a boiling point. Stress took over the lives of so many of our young learners this year, and the truth is: YES, THEY NEED SOME DOWN TIME! That being said, they don’t need an 8-week break completely devoid of learning. There are ways that parents can promote learning over the summer for their kids, without sacrificing fun or forcing them to read the dictionary. Depending on your schedule, here are some ways to keep the learning flowing over the next few months.

  1. Scheduling some cultural experiences with your kids can help you make learning FUN! Visit a museum, a public library, or cultural institution…something that makes you think. See a concert or a explore a park. Make sure to do something that leads to rich conversations with your kids. Learning does NOT always have to be academic or inside a classroom, and the summer is a great time to engage in other modes of learning.
  2. Find a few new tech tools you’re dying to try and learn how to use them with your kids! Some of my personal faves are: Mentormob, Mixel, ShowMeWallWisher, ThingLink. If you have a younger child, it might be a great time to work on keyboarding skills in which case you might want to get a set of keyboard stickers.
  3. Join the Figment community and publish some of your writing!
  4. Sign up for a Skillshare class with your tween or teen.
  5. Participate in Barnes and Noble’s Summer Reading Program and get a FREE BOOK from the Reading Journal list at the store!

Have other great ideas for continuing to learn throughout the summer? Share them by leaving a comment!

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Shout Out to Mentormob


Oh man…I remember back to October 2011, when I first began my blog and thought Twitter was a joke. All of my friends told me it was something I needed to learn more about but I was convinced it was ridiculous. Finally, after called Twitter “Tweet” repeatedly for weeks and having my friends intervene to scaffold learning of Twitter vernacular for me…I got a Twitter handle.

I never thought that just months later I would fly across the country to stay with one of my Twitter friends! I’ve been talking to Mentormob for months now…in fact Kristen was one of my first Tweeps. We’ve skyped and spoken on the phone multiple times and she invited me to come hang out with Mentormob and attend the Flipped Conference. I’m not promoting flying cross country to see your Tweeps…but boy am I glad I did.

Meeting the Mentormob crew was fantastic. The entire team is dedicated to building a tool that truly supports learning. I had so much fun brainstorming with them and look forward to continuing our conversations. Mentormob’s work environment is so inspiring – they’re lucky I don’t live in Chicago or else I’d definitely come hang out there all day to write and plan:)

Anyways, just wanted to give a shout out to Kristin for being the best Twitter roomie ever and to Mentormob for building an innovative tool and working hard to put the user first! You guys rock!

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What Ever Happened to The Editing Process?

What Happened to the Editing Process? Is it just me, or are kids these days being asked to pump out a ton of writing each month? Writing is not about quantity, it is about quality. There are different types of writing exercises that teachers can work on with students such as: the free write, the quick write, writing in response to literature, writing in response to a prompt, genre writing and more! While quick-writes can be a great way to produce a small amount of writing each day, it is also important to be sure that students have ample opportunities to take their work through the editing process.

Why Teach Editing and Revision? Editing and revising a piece of original writing can be frustrating at times but it is always gratifying in the end. There is a sense of pride when you feel like you’ve really fleshed something out and given it your all! Too often, children spend time writing and then put their work into the depths of their writing folder. What happens to those stories? Do they ever come out of the folder again?

There are important lessons about work ethic, persistance and patience naturally embedded in editing and revision. If we do not teach our students to use the process of reflection to strengthen their work, then we are not encouraging them to reach their potential. No one does their best work on their first try! We can always benefit from re-reading our work, catching errors or deciding to eliminate or expand certain parts.

How to Incorporate Editing and Revision Into Your Classroom? If you want to incorporate editing and revision into your classroom but you just aren’t sure how, try this! When you plan out your writing unit, leave an extra 3-5 days at the end of the unit to  teach your students to edit and revise. In any given unit, students produce multiple pieces of work. The first step to editing is to choose your piece. Here is a suggested 4-Day plan for giving your students time to practice editing and revising their work.

Day 1: Choosing a Piece! Students scan through the pieces in their folder and decide on which piece they want to edit. It can be a favorite piece or a piece that demonstrates strong writing skills. If a student is struggling to identify their piece, have them work with a partner to narrow down their options. 

Day 2: Editing! Choose a few focal points and develop a simple checklist that students can use, then model how to use it. For example, maybe you want to work on spelling, punctuation and word omissions. Give students a copy of the checklist and let them edit their own piece.

Day 3: Revision! Choose a few focal points and develop a simple checklist that students can use, then model how to use it. For example, maybe you want to have students work on sequencing, making sure the writing matches the task and adding details to strengthen their work. Give students a copy of the checklist and let them revise their own piece.

Day 4: Peer Editing and Revision! Pair up students or create peer groups so that students can use the same checklists from Days 2 and 3 to work through a peer’s piece. I always like to create feedback sheets or use post-its to be sure that students are helping each other in a more meaningful way.

Remember, the most effective way to teach writing is to make sure you are always writing yourself…that way you can offer more authentic modeling experiences for your students. For example, if you have written 5 pieces over the month, then you can really model how to identify which piece you want to publish. If you actually choose one of your own pieces to publish, then you can really model how to edit your piece for spelling, missing words, etc.

Parents: If you notice that your child is pumping out writing and never really working on one piece for an extended period of time, you may want to step in. That can mean that you offer a suggestion to the teacher ex: “I have been meaning to ask you how you are teaching editing and revision so that I might help my son/daughter at home.” It can also mean that you provide experiences for your child at home. Perhaps you work with them to edit and revise an old HW assignment or a creative writing piece they have done at home.

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An NYC 4th Grader and a California Parent Demonstrate the Power of Writing

Over the past two weeks, parents, teachers and students from across the country have been reaching out to EdGeeks to share about their experiences with standardized testing. In an attempt to engage conversation, support families, share knowledge, and bring about change, EdGeeks will share these pieces with the public. Today, I am featuring two very different voices.

This first piece is an original poem written by an NYC public school student in the fourth grade.

This original student poem was submitted to EdGeeks by a local, NYC parent.

Thank you BBJ! You are a strong writer and a brave fourth grader for sharing your thoughts with the world. I also want to take the opportunity to let you know that many of the teachers I have been hearing from would disagree with the line, “taking tests is a ‘gift’ to teachers.” I thought it was important for you to know that not all teachers enjoy giving tests…in fact many of us want the testing to stop too:)

The following is a letter written by a parent in California. The goal of the letter is to opt her child out of standardized testing. She decided to share this letter as a sample for other families who are considering opting out but don’t quite know where to begin.

This letter was submitted to EdGeeks by an elementary school parent in California.

Feel free to email any submissions or questions to Remember, this is a place to share proactive voices in an effort to bring about change. Thank you to all of my readers who have been submitting their work. You inspire me daily:)

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MentorMob as a tool for Differentiation

I have been using mentormob for months now and it only just dawned on me recently to use it as a mechanism for differentiating instruction. I am a special education teacher so differentiation is always my top priority when planning out lessons. I left the classroom in September and amongst other things I have found myself tutoring a group of students in various grade levels.

Last week, I was meeting with a student and we were brainstorming some ways to take her reading to the next level. She gave me a list of non-fiction topics that she would LOVE to study including: shark attacks, vegetarianism and natural disasters. Eclectic mix, I know! I began researching websites and articles that would be appropriate for her. Suddenly, it hit me…mentormob! I began creating an individualized playlist for my tutee including a range of articles and websites. What I love most about the playlist is that I could rate each of the sources as beginner, intermediate or advanced! This supports my student in knowing which sources to attack independently and which ones might be better suited for reading together.

Right after I finished creating my first tutee playlist, I thought about another student I work with. She is extremely artistic and I wanted to use her love of the arts to engage her in writing. After discussing possible writing exercises, we decided to do an independent research project on cupcake design. Cupcake design may sound silly but you can really turn anything into a research project and believe me, the more ownership a student has over a topic they study, the more invested they are in their learning. I immediately began scouring every website possible to create a meaningful collection of cupcake design resources and curated them in a mentormob playlist. I compiled resources about famous pastry chefs, cupcake design tools, National Cupcake Day (yes, it’s true), cupcake classes and more.

Once I had created these individualized playlists, I knew it was time to share so I emailed each playlist to the parent of the child it was developed for. The parents were so excited not only about how engaging the playlists were, but also that I had taken the time to create a collection of materials that was so specific to their child. The secret that I didn’t share is that it took me under fifteen minutes to pull together each playlist. I used the chrome button to curate my playlists which made it so simple and quick.

Having spent years in the classroom, I seriously value efficiency. Differentiation takes a lot of time but creating individualized playlists can make you a differentiation artist in minutes. I am looking forward to creating playlists for more students and I hope you will too.

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