4 Geeky Gifts for Teachers

Leslie Fisher on episode 198 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Leslie Fisher, a favorite geek of many teachers, has some cool gift ideas for teachers (or your favorite geek.) I hope you get some ideas for your favorite teacher-geek.

Today’s Sponsor: Bloomz is the tool I chose for parent/teacher communication. To find out why read http://ift.tt/2f0btkq or go to bloomz.com to get started setting up your school or classroom now! December and January are great months to roll out Bloomz with your parents, so you can start 2018 strong.

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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.


Enhanced Transcript

Four Geeky Gifts for Teachers

Link to show: http://ift.tt/2k8kISc
Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Vicki: What are some geeky cool gifts for teachers?

Today we have one of my favorite presenters, Leslie Fisher @lesliefisher.

Now, I started blogging eleven years ago, maybe it was more. We’re getting close to that twelve year mark because I started on December 3rd. But before I was blogging at all, I was attending sessions with Leslie Fisher.

She has really been one of my “go to” people at conferences — at the GAETC conference and at conferences around the world — for really, my whole ed tech career. I’m not saying that, Leslie, to make you feel older than you look (laughs) but it’s just to say that I appreciate how you keep up with all of this. I don’t know!

So thanks for being on the show. And what kind of geeky gifts should we get for teachers this Christmas?

Leslie: Well, first of all, thank you for your kind words. I wish you could see my smile, beaming from one edge of the room to the others, because I also want to say thank you for what you do. I think we’ve been bitten with a passion to try to help teachers and make their classrooms more fun and engaging, and make their time more fun, so… thank you for what you do as well. I appreciate it.

Idea #1: Osmo

Yeah! Gadgets? I absolutely love gadgets. I’m a gadget head. If they can make my life easier, make it more streamlined, wonderful. And if I can do that for an educator, that is great.

If you told me that I could only buy one gadget for an educator, I would say it would be an Osmo. I absolutely love the product. It uses an iPhone. That’s a new feature. So if people didn’t know that, there’s now an iPhone base. Or it uses an iPad. It’s tactile learning combined with technology.

So I might have an app — for example — one called Tangam, where you run the app. It displays something on the iPad, and then you use building blocks to recreate what you’re looking at on the iPad.

There’s a Words game where you see a picture and you have to try to figure out what that word is. You use little blocks. You sit there and you toss it around. The iPad is getting it’s content from a little device that you put on top of the iPad that has a mirror. That mirror then points straight down, and it recognizes whatever the heck is being placed on the table in front of the iPad.

They have I think eight different games that are out, and they’re learning games. They’re fantastic, and it’s good quality stuff. So if you told me I had to get one thing for a classroom, I would say Osmo. Then the teacher could easily buy eight or nine things within that space.

Even me — with my wine friends when I’m having a wine dinner — we’ll always end up playing some sort of Osmo game because they can be a lot of fun. So… Osmo.

Vicki: Yeah. That can be used for any age. OK, what else?

Idea #2: QBall

Leslie: The other one I’m really excited about is the QBall. This has been out and available for a year. That is a throwable microphone.

What’s so neat about this is, that I first thought about it in an auditorium setting. Imagine in an auditorium where usually you would have to pass a microphone around, or the kids would have to get up in line, you know, in front of a mike to ask a question.

This is a throwable dodgeball, almost like, that has a microphone in it. It can work in anything from classroom speakers all the way up to P.A. systems. You can have more than one in an auditorium.

What’s really neat is that Shane Cox, the creator of the QBall, was just on Shark Tank. He actually got funded by three Sharks, which I thought was great. But the one thing he said — and I always love getting educated. It’s one thing to teach, but it’s another thing to love to learn. He was going into the report of a lot of times students don’t like to speak up, even in a classroom.

What he’s finding with the QBall is that that one kid — who might have that little voice and is scared to speak up — can now use that QBall to speak, and it goes through the teacher’s speakers on their computer. That kid has a loud voice within that class. I just think that’s absolutely awesome.

Vicki: It’s so fantastic. I’ve never even heard of it. I’m actually looking it up as we’re recording this. All of these things will be in the Shownotes because I can’t even imagine all the things that we could do with this. That’s what we need!

Leslie: It’s interesting. You should go and watch this episode of Shark Tank. I don’t usually watch Shark Tank — sorry, Sharks — but someone said that a lot of times they don’t fund educational items because their knowledge is not in education. I get that.

In the beginning, they were kind of poo-pooing until one of the Sharks said, “Hold on. Could I use this with my intercom system?”

And Shane’s like, “Of course you can.”

“Hold on. So instead of me shuffling around in the meeting room, I can just toss this ball, and someone can talk.?”

And he’s like, “Yeah.”

And then all of them started jumping in on this. So you’re right. The uses that this thing has is great.

The other thing is that Shane used to be a classroom teacher. So he is coming at it from the idea of knowing what it’s like to be in a classroom, and kind of like what we were talking about in the beginning, he’s dedicated to educators. He just wants to see educators thrive, and then hence the students that they teach thrive.

How can you not be smitten with that?

Vicki: How fun! Two great ideas! You got any more?

Leslie: Oh! Of course I do!

Vicki: (laughs)

Idea #3: LiveScribe Pen

Leslie: The other thing that I would say — and this is one that would be more for a teacher, or maybe for high school students.

I’ve been showing this a lot in the past few weeks, and I think one of the things that we tend to do is we tend to look at a technology that we’ve been using for a few years and assume that everyone knows about it. I’m trying to do a better job of going back and revisiting certain technologies that I use all the time, and maybe a teacher or student doesn’t know.

I use a pen called the Livescribe Pen. There are two versions. On is Bluetooth-based and app-based, and the other one is not. But it is a pen — if you use the Bluetooth version — that will automatically hook into your iOS or Android device.

You use their paper. Their paper is almost on par price with regular paper. When you start writing with the pen, it automatically then downloads that note to your iOS or Android device.

Even cooler — and the big reason I use it — is that you can synchronize recording audio to the notes you write.

So for someone like me who’s a fast talker, you could record me. Then all of a sudden, if I started getting ahead of your note-taking, you could put maybe a little asterisk or something? And it saves as a pencast. And it changes the color of the note on the iPad.

Then all you have to do is type on those words, and you will hear exactly what was being said when that person was saying something. So you never miss a word.

Vicki: That is so important for kids. I recommend this for a lot of kids who have special needs, who struggle with taking notes, but they need to have something.

And to put that symbol, like you said, or that item of “The teacher says this is important.” Write a little star, or write the letter “I” and then record. And then you can play those back when you’re studying.

Leslie: Right. And then I don’t know if you know about this feature. This thing’s pretty cool. This isn’t a gadget in terms of buying anything, but it’s a free gadget, and when I discovered it, my jaw dropped.

Google Keep got a big old update this summer, and one of the things the update got in the mobile version, is if you click on the microphone and start talking, Google Keep will do Voice Dictation.

Not only will it do Voice Dictation, it will then save the audio file. So even if it heard something incorrectly, you still have the exact words as they were being said in that meeting or that classroom.

And of course you have a camera feature so you could always take a picture of the whiteboard or the SMARTboard. This thing is awesome. I keep using it when I need to capture something or whatnot.

I wouldn’t say it should replace notes, because I’m sure you’ve talked many times about how writing notes will add to the retention of what you learn. But man, what a great thing that if you’re caught, having those notes be transcribed.

I was doing professional development yesterday, and a teacher mentioned how great this would be for their English as a Second Language, where that student could record, and then even stick that in Google Translate, see the recording, and then hear the audio file, so they could hear how those words were pronounced versus not. I just think it’s awesome.

Vicki: This is part of a term called “transliteracy,” which is to be literate in multiple media and to be able to move from a variety of media.

OK. We have time for one more, Leslie.

Leslie: (laughs)

Idea #4: A Home Assistant like Google Home or Amazon Alexa

Well, if I can put kind of a … well, it’s part education, part non-education. I would say some sort of home assistant. They could even be used in the classroom. For example, looking at getting a Google Home, or an Amazon Alexa.

You know, Adam Bellow, who’s a friend of both of ours, tells a really great story about his son, who will go up to the Alexa and just ask the most random questions of it, and get answers. One of the things the Alexa does is let you review what has been asked of it. He says he gets great joy and curiosity in going into his Alexa app and seeing what the heck his son asked it.

I keep thinking for a classroom, how fun would that be to have a virtual assistant to see how that assistant does? You know, when we get down to it, education is education. When we get down to it, we know those things aren’t always right. That’s just a perfect place for that educator to shine.

Vicki: I will link to some shows we’ve done. First and second and third grade teachers are going crazy over having the Echo Dot in the classroom, because if you can imagine instead of the kids saying, “Ms. Fisher, what’s 1 + 3?” or “How do you spell ‘citizen’?” You ask Alexa.

Leslie: Yep.

Vicki: You can even change Alexa’s name. There is a setting that lets you do that in case you have an Alexa. So she can keep her name, and the Echo Dot can get a new one.


Leslie: That’s awesome. You see? Here’s what I love. You just taught me something new, because I’ve only had that in my life. I’ve only had my Amazon Alexa for maybe a month or so, so I’m learning as well. I love that feature, and I love hearing that.

One of the sessions I’m thinking about adding to my offerings is, you know, the difference between the Echo, the Google Home, what’s going to be the Home Pod in Siri. How do they differ? How can they work in the classroom?

I really think, once again, this is where we’re heading. We’re heading to these assistants, these digital assistants. If we can get our students more used to it, it gets to what I would say my goal is — to make all of this a glorified pencil. When we don’t call it technology, when it’s just simply the process. I think we’ve all made people’s lives a little bit easier and better.

Vicki: We all have a way to add Artificial Intelligence to be our assistant. I have a way to automate things and let them be my teacher’s assistant.

Leslie: Yep.

Vicki: And students have a way to automate things and make them learning assistants for them. I think our intelligence is in finding these devices and using them.

We’ve got a lot of great devices here, so thank you, Leslie, and we’ll link to all these in the Shownotes. Such great ideas!

Leslie: My pleasure.

Awesome! And then before we end, remember, it’s IFTTT.com is a great way to take all of these intelligent assistants and make them even smarter.

Vicki: Love it!


Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford


Leslie Fisher: Bio as submitted

Leslie Fisher has been keynoting, feature speaking and providing professional development solutions for educators all over the world for 20+ years. Leslie specializes in easy to use, effective and affordable technology that can be utilized in your classroom right away.

Blog: Leslie Fisher

Twitter: @lesliefisher

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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