5 Creative Uses of Technology in the Classroom

February 20, 2018 in Classroom Fun

Considering the pervasiveness of smartphones, the concept of “technology in the classroom” isn’t without controversy. The jury is still out on whether or not kids should be allowed to or even encouraged to bring their phones to class.

However, research does indicate that when teachers use technology in fresh and innovative ways in the classroom, it’s actually quite beneficial. Giving lower-income students access to the technology they might not have at home helps bridge the achievement gap, noted one Stanford study. Furthermore, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, integrating technology into a lesson plan keeps students engaged and on task. Here are five creative ways teachers can incorporate technology into the classroom in a way that students will connect with and enjoy.

Have Students Post Their Creative Writing Assignments or Essays in Personal Blogs

Why not set up personal blogs for each student, and teach them how to post their essays and writings? They’ll be more apt to spend more time and effort on their writings if they know others will be reading them, they’ll be able to receive input and field questions on their work, and they’ll learn a valuable skill: how to use a blogging site like WordPress. Teachers can use privacy settings to limit access to blogs to those who are approved to view them (classmates, teachers, students’ relatives, etc.)

Enter Into A Skype Relationship

What better way to learn about life in another city, state, or country than by talking to people of the same age who live there? What better way to question experts such as museum curators, zoologists, authors, bankers, chefs, etc. than a question-and-answer session. Thanks to Skype, the world is a much smaller place and educators can create virtual field trips virtually anywhere to allow students to ask questions and challenge their assumptions.

Use Online Gaming Resources

Students of all ages like to play games. There are myriad online educational games (spelling, economics, marketing, etc.) you can set up in class and allow students to access via smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop connected to a Promethean board. Or, encourage them to play a game they’re probably already familiar with – Minecraft. There’s a Minecraft-inspired teaching game called Mindcraftedu.

Create a Class Web Page

If technology is one of the subjects you’re trying to teach, learning is doing! Collaborate on a classroom web page or website that includes editorial or advice columns, photos, homework updates, etc. Check out WordPress and Google Sites for easy-to-use, novice-friendly templates to help you get started. Assign different students different tasks each week related to keeping your website current. They’ll be learning real-world skills but they’ll be having so much fun they may not realize they’re learning!

Make Your Lessons Crowd-Pleasers!

As a teacher, you probably spend quite a bit of time standing in front of the class, lecturing, asking questions, and then calling on individuals to answer. That’s a staple of teaching! However, your students (and you) would probably welcome a change of pace occasionally. Why not incorporate engaging, entertaining game-show formats into your lessons? There are online templates teachers can use to create Family Feud, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune style games. The opportunity to compete against their classmates will definitely keep kids engaged. To amp up the excitement factor further, consider awarding prizes for the winning teams or contestants!

Technology is here to stay and will continue to evolve and open up new opportunities for educators who are willing to think outside the box. Even those pervasive cell phones could be powerful classroom learning tools – if teachers find a way to set and enforce boundaries, of course. It’s an exciting time to be a student – and a teacher!



Our new Leveling Feature adjusts reading level in between assesments

February 5, 2018 in Company

We’ve been hard at work here at BookNook on our new 3.0 release. One of the things that is really exciting for us is our new “Leveling” feature. Students will be presented with a passage of text, which they will be instructed to read through. As they make errors or self-correct, the guide can click or tap on each word and mark that word as such. Once the student is done reading, they will be presented with a series of comprehension questions.

At the end of the leveling session, the guide will be given a result: move the student up, stay the same, or move them down a reading level.

Check out the video to see it in action!

We’d love to show our hard work off a little more (yes it’s a #shamelessplug) – so grab some time with our team by requesting a demo!

Or, if you’d like to read more about the release, you can go to our BookNook 3.0 release page!

5 Tips To Encourage Reading During Winter Break

December 19, 2017 in Learning

With the holiday break fast approaching, our kids will have more leisure time while school is out! What better way to spend their time than curled up with a good book, or being read to by family and friends?


1. Make books special

Teaching your child the value, proper handling, and all they can gain from reading makes the practice of reading more desirable for children. If they learn to take good care of books and know that books can “take you places” and teach you new things, they will see books as holding greater value. Books make great gifts and stocking stuffers too!
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9 Fictional Families I’d Want to Eat Thanksgiving With

November 22, 2017 in Opinion

Two of the things that matter most in my life are family and food, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy Thanksgiving so much.

Even though the entire BookNook team has plenty to be thankful for this year, I thought it’d be fun to imagine what Thanksgiving dinner would be like with the characters from some of my favorite children’s books.

Continue reading »

Six Things Principals Are Thinking When They Get Pitched Edtech

October 20, 2017 in New Tech, Opinion

A guest post by Sara Shenkan-Rich, Principal of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Daly City, CA.


As a principal, I get pinged by edtech providers almost every day. Everyone has a new solution that is going to “disrupt” my school. Most of the time we ignore the emails and phone calls, but every now and again something breaks through the noise and catches my interest. When we talk to edtech companies to learn about what they have to offer, there are a few main questions that I am thinking about as I listen to their pitch.

1. Which of my million problems does this solve?

Being a principal means first and foremost being a problem solver. I have to tackle everything from getting substitute teachers in when someone is out sick, to dealing with discipline issues for students, to helping families connect with social services when they are in a moment of crisis.

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What Helps Students Master Reading?

September 26, 2017 in Learning


Ask 100 people if it’s important for a child to learn how to read, they’ll all say “yes.”

Ask them when a child should develop these literacy skills, there may be a little discussion about it, but it’s safe to say we all agree that by ages nine or ten a child should be able to read on their own. It’s called reading proficiency and it’s been a hallmark of our education system since its inception. Continue reading »

Kansas Bets on Blended Learning to Boost Reading Skills

September 20, 2017 in Company, New Tech

Reading is an issue that many communities are grappling with at the statewide level; in the past 5 years, 36 states have adopted legislative or funding programs specifically targeting improvement in early reading.


We’re very excited to be part of a unique and innovative approach by the state of Kansas called the Reading Roadmap, a collaboration between the Department of Education and Department for Children and Families that takes a very bottom-up approach to school support, and focuses on close alignment between what happens inside and outside the classroom.  Continue reading »

School Year Results: BookNook Makes Better Readers!

September 8, 2017 in Company, Learning, New Tech


The results of BookNook’s 2016-17 school pilots are in, and they show that our platform is making a difference in young readers’ lives.

With schools back in session in most of the country, teachers are beginning the annual ritual of assessing students’ reading levels. There are few pieces of information that are more important in determining how best to teach to students than understanding where they are with their reading. Unfortunately students—particularly students of color and economically disadvantaged students—tend to move backwards over the summer.

We can confidently predict what teachers will find: in the average American classroom, most students will not be reading at grade level. National statistics have been more or less stuck for over 20 years, showing that the majority of fourth and eighth graders aren’t reading at a proficient level, with a particular spike among students in traditionally disenfranchised communities.

After our first year of piloting BookNook as a school year intervention, we are excited to report that we have a solution that appears to significantly help students get back on track. We began with 6 partners in the San Francisco Bay Area in late October, and expanded to 22 in February/March, adding partners in Dallas and Atlanta. Even working across just a fraction of the school year, we were very excited by the results we saw by June.



Sara Shenkan-Rich, principal of Alvarado Elementary School in the San Francisco Unified School District was among our first 6 BookNook adopters. She had this to say:

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5 Things To Remember When Starting a New School Program

August 30, 2017 in Classroom Fun

As anyone who has launched a new school program can tell you, there is no guaranteed blueprint to success. Here’s 5 ways to ensure you stay on the right track.


1. Plan for the unexpected

You may think that you’re totally prepared to start your program but, realistically, you’re bound to run into some hiccups along the way. School schedules can change on a dime, staff can move to different classrooms, and the space you planned to use for your program may turn into the school’s new storage solution.

Remember, schools are complex places and even the most well thought out plans need tweaks throughout the school year. Continue reading »

BookNook Turns Back Summer Learning Loss

August 24, 2017 in Learning, New Tech

videogamesSummer Learning Loss—sometimes called Summer Slide or Summer Melt—is a phenomenon that educators know all too well. After spending the school year working hard and improving math and reading skills, an alarming number students go off on summer break and give up a big chunk of those gains.

Not only losing forward momentum over the summer but actually going backwards is a huge problem, particularly because numerous studies have shown that this phenomenon disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged children and children of color. Continue reading »

Shake Off the Summer: 7 Fun Ways to Get Your Kids Reading Again

August 18, 2017 in Classroom Fun

School is back in session, and some of your students kept up their great reading habits and others may have chosen to put their books down. Regardless of their summer reading, these tips will help to get them all in focused on reading this school year.


1. High interest texts

Read books that are going to keep your class engaged. These can be wonderful read aloud books (Need some ideas? Scholastic counts down the 100 best read aloud books) or something that the will appeal to students personal interests. Don’t be afraid to pull in nontraditional texts, such as magazines, comic books, or blogs. Continue reading »

Why I Created BookNook

August 10, 2017 in Company, Learning, New Tech


I’ve spent my entire professional life in search of scalable ways to improve economic opportunities for young people.

I began in higher education, working in scholarships at the University of California, Berkeley, trying to make a world class public education affordable to students regardless of their family’s income. It was a phenomenal and humbling experience to work alongside some of the most brilliant researchers in the world. I’m proud that we more than doubled the number of students receiving our scholarships, but we were just one campus taking in 10,000 freshmen a year–and were intervening very late in students’ lives. What about the young people who never made it through high school, let alone to a top tier university? Continue reading »

The Blended Learning Primer

July 24, 2017 in Learning, New Tech


When you start to talk about “blended learning” with educators, parents, and students, you are bound to get reactions ranging from enthusiastic to trepidatious to a confused laugh and a head shake. All these responses are natural! It’s not a term that always comes up, and frankly, when it does it can have as many definitions as it has definers — but don’t worry! As with anything, the more you learn about blended learning, the more you’ll come to understand and appreciate it.

So what is it? Where does it come from? Why should we use it? The short answer is you probably already do, and have throughout your entire life. The long answer is a bit more fun and nuanced – like blended learning itself – so let’s take a closer look. Continue reading »