I spent three hours today with Dan Meyer – renown High School Math Teacher and TED talk contributor. It was excellent. He led the 3 hour workshop with some provocative questions. Honestly, he’s one of those educators where three hours flies by.
Throughout the conference keynotes and speakers have been talking about various technologies that can aid instruction in the classroom. One of the buzz topics is the constant evolution of technology. The speakers have stated that we need to teach students to adapt and be flexible with new technologies. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect students to dig too deep into one tool, rather, students should be able to experience as many tools as they find useful. The result is that students aren’t experiencing depth. Just hours before, Dr. Larry Rosen discussed concerns regarding attention spans and breadth vs. depth in content. Would it not be appropriate, dare I say - beneficial for students and teachers to choose specific resources to engage with at a deeper level?
Here I run a blog called tech4teacher – where I describe the many free resources available to teachers and tell about how I use them in my room. I do sound somewhat hypocritical. I just wonder if we are looking at technology the wrong way…
Anyway – Dan Meyer introduced our class to a website: click here.
This website is so simple – but has so much teaching potential. Now I might lose some of you because to use this website in its true nature each student would need to be on an ipad or a laptop. Nonetheless, I suppose it is possible to use it as a teacher showing it to your students.
The website allows for you to upload an image. Then create a suggestion for an audience to put a red dot somewhere on the image. Every student who has that link can move their own red dot and they can’t see each others. There’s also a teacher link which allows for you to see where everyone has placed their red dots.
Dan showed us a number of examples of how this can strike up conversation:
Here are a few student-view perspectives. Hopefully you can see how this might strike up conversation:
You start to get the idea.
It can be powerful because it is anonymous – so students don’t get scared of showing where they think the red dot should go. It’s also powerful because if you place up questions that have undefined variables, or that have multiple answers – it can create incredible conversation.
Really – it’s all about encouraging an intellectual need in students, rather than social or economic needs.
We know students have different learning styles. Some excel visually, some auditory, some need that hands-on activity to truly understand the lesson. When there aren’t materials accessible here is a website that could easily help you.
It’s full of excellent simulations in:
- Plate Tectonics
I have a co-worker who has been using it with his 8th grade students and says that they have loved interacting with the simulations. The simulations look appropriate for all levels and seem extremely applicable to most science and math classes. Whether the teacher is showing the simulations to the class or the class is experimenting with the simulations themselves – Physics Education Technology would be a great resource.
I’ve always been that teacher that tried to make review fun. Whether its having the students create their own online games, using quizlet.com, or making a Jeopardy review for the class. If you are tired of using powerpoint for Jeopardy reviews… maybe you want a quicker method: Jeopardy Labs is for you.
Start building right away- free and easy. All it needs is a password that you can use to re-access the Jeopardy template when you are ready for review. Everything is done for you and you just need to insert the topics/answers/and questions.
The only issue (and might I say that it is a big issue) is that it does not allow pictures to be embedded in the Jeopardy game.
I deeply apologize for not posting in such a long time. My wife and I moved to Korea to teach at an International School this last August. I am teaching middle school and acting as Tech Coach for the school. It’s been a blast, but I’ve also been rather busy. Nonetheless, I am ready to get back to business and blog again!
I am going to start with a fairly simple tool that my students have been using a lot this year. If you have Ipads available to you, or Macbooks this is right up your alley. My students have been creating trailers and films using iMovie.
After we completed our novel study on Where the Red Fern Grows, my students were assigned a project to create an iMovie trailer that highlights the key events from the book. The students absolutely loved it. I first showed them the trailer options from iMovie. We talked about each of the genres available. The students were then allowed to choose which ever genre they wanted for the trailer. Some students turned Where the Red Fern Grows into horror, others into adventure, and even some into a romance. Then my 6th graders created paper templates of the templates available for that trailer in iMovie. They wrote down the phrases they were going to include and where there shots were going to take place.
Then we filmed.
I have now posted all of their films on my class website – because it is easy to upload the films from iMovie to youtube. On youtube I changed the privacy settings so you have to have the link to see the students’ videos. They love it!
Here is an example. – the commercial is student made.
This commercial was made using Minecraft.
I am always looking for ways for students to create their own online games using class content. I believe that this is an interactive, educational part of the internet that hasn’t been as polished as other aspects. That being said – a beginning website for this is: Classtools.net
- It’s free
- Students can use it without logging in
- Easy to input questions and answers
- Easy to share game with others to play
At Classtools.net students have the ability to input information and create a game based on that information. They then can save their game and require other students to play their game. At first when you enter the website it looks like a poorly made website because of the confusing design and color choices. But if you dig further you will find that it does have some hidden treasures.
The main treasure I have explored thus far is the Arcade Game Generator – which is a link on the right side of the home screen. If you click on the Arcade Game Generator link you will be sent to a Quiz creation wizard. You can edit the title and create questions and answers here. The key on this screen is to put your cursor over Example because then you can see exactly how to format your questions and answers. You can also determine the type of game you want to play with the information – although I like to leave it free choice.
I know that I mentioned this website on my last post – but it’s so good that I had to mention it again. I have recently been using Zooburst in the classroom and it’s been terrific. Zooburst is a 3d pop up book creator. It is free and relatively easy to use.
I began my lesson having students write poems about our school. I then introduced them to zooburst. Zooburst has its own database of pictures that you can search through, or, like many of my students, students can find pictures on google images and upload them to Zooburst.
Because the “teacher-student” account costs money – I created a teacher account and had all my students login to it. They can all work on seperate books on the teacher website at the same time. Unfortunately, there is a maximum of 10 books you can create for an account. You also need to make sure you have an e-mail address because the password for your account will be e-mailed to you.
The actual 3d pop up book, is awesome. You can move it and rotate it by clicking with your mouse and dragging. You can change colors and even add quotation bubbles.
But… the coolest thing about this website is that it has the potential for Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality is where 3d images are displayed through a webcam. It’s like virtual reality.
So I started one of my students poems. At the top there is an option (if you have the capability) to go to webcam mode. When you go webcam mode, there is a printout for you to print. Then – if you display that printout in front of the webcam the book will come to life in your webcam.
- Zooburst: free
- 10 books maximum for an account
- Upload images or search for images
- Augmented Reality available with web cams
I recently went to a conference called Learning and the Brain in Boston. There I got to hear numerous incredible speakers including Howard Gardner, Heidi Jacobs, and Dan Willingham. There were a number of interesting points made about education throughout the lectures – some of which I will be highlighting in future blog posts.
Heidi Jacobs presented some interesting tech tools that I wanted to bring up:
1. Zooburst: If you haven’t visited this website – it’s a must. It allows for you and your students to create pop-up books. It is very easy and the capabilities are impressive. It allows for the creator to time the pop ups and to write their own story. For the actual pop-up pictures you can upload from the internet. When you are finished you can print the book or share it.
2. Visual Thesaurus: This website allows for you to type in a word to find words similar to that word. Something that is unique about this website though is that each time you type in a word you can click on any of the synonymous options and they will bring up a whole new selection of words similar to them.
3. Gap Minder: Have you used gap minder before? It’s rockin. It’s a graph that presents results from countries all over the world throughout history – and it’s interactive. Its especially helpful for teaching inference as students can work to create causations.
This was more of a speedy post- I will make sure to go more into depth with future blogs. Do check out these though!
One recent activity that was introduced to me was called lego serious play. Lego serious play is full of educational activities and tools for education. Many of the actual concepts involved align with the 21st century skills. I have linked a short film on Lego Serious Play. If I get a chance I may start incorporating this in my classroom.
I have been trying to incorporate a lot of technology in my classroom recently. Like I said in my last post, I constructed the interactive whiteboard that Johnny Lee geniously created. It works. That being said I do believe the software he recommends on his website is really the only software that works ‘well’ with this contraption. Another thing that is important to remember is that the placement of the wiimote is vital – and if it shifts than the whole touch-display is off-put. I have not done the interactive whiteboard with my students yet because I want to make it a little more fool-proof.
I recently acquired an ipad2 from my district to see its functions in the classroom. I have been using Doceri – which enables the ipad2 to link to your laptop and then you don’t have to stand up at the front to control your laptop – it also allows for you to write or draw on the ipad2. It’s actually a very handy program. I have not had the freedom to use other apps yet – but I’m hoping the district loads some on the ipad2 soon – as its very limited with its capabilities, or I just can’t figure out all its uses.
That being said, the students have never been more engaged with the lesson? or with the ipad2? than when I pull out that device. They love it. It just has a pretty steep learning curve.
There you have it. I will keep you posted on the interactive whiteboard and try to get some pictures of it in use.
Interactive Whiteboards have become ‘new technology’ in classrooms today. Some of you may be saying – “we’ve had interactive whiteboards for years.” Do you believe that you are maximizing your use of those whiteboards? Others may be asking, “What’s an interactive whiteboard?”
Interactive Whiteboards are just what they’re titled. They’re ‘often’ special whiteboards (smart boards), or devices that are placed on standard whiteboards (mimios…) that allow for users to touch the whiteboard to operate the computer.
- Students can come to the board and not have to worry about ink
- Raises level of student engagement through it’s interactivity
- Increases student motivation
- Promotes enthusiasm
- Supports learning styles
- Learning Curve
- Can become time-consuming
- New applications can be confusing
- Technology hazards
So what if you can’t afford to have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom? Johnny Lee, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, has created a new way of creating your own interactive whiteboard. Watch the following film to see how easy it is to set up your own system.
You can easily purchase the wii infrared pen on Amazon.com as well as a bluetooth adapter (if your computer doesn’t already have it) = all of that is less than 30 bucks. The software for your computer is free on Johnny Lee’s website.
I am currently installing this at school and hope to present pictures and reviews of this being used in the classroom.
One popular fad today is owning kindles and nooks. I walked to our neighborhood library and noticed that ebooks can now be checked out. Immediately I thought, is this for real? or is this just another fad? It doesn’t quite feel the same reading from these devices than it does from reading a book. But you can have 100s of books in one device! Incredible.
So how can I translate ebooks to the classroom? I was on a 21st Century Field Trip through my district when I learned that there is a website that creates ebooks for free! So of course – here it is:
- It’s free – although you will need to sign up.
- So easy to use! Allows for a lot of creativity.
- Insert pictures easily.
- You can download your ebooks onto the e-devices.
I recently held Back-to-School night with my 5th grade parents. While preparing for it I asked myself, ‘what are you excited about for this year?’ Oh sure – I’m going to have to cover reading and math curriculums, homework expectations, behavior, routine and schedules, and IB traits… but what is unique about this year?
So I pondered this and I realized that the resources I have available to me right now I was either ignorant of or they hadn’t been created before.
So I decided to create and title this blog post the Practical Post. This blog is full of exciting new resources – but will I use all of them this year? Nope. These tools can quickly become overwhelming. So what is at the forefront? What are the tools that I will absolutely introduce on Back-to-School night?
Here’s the list:
1. Class Website: This website will be the hub for the parents to find tools used throughout the school year. Oh – don’t get me wrong, I also use it to communicate through, but the primary purpose is to create a place where parents can go to to find links to useful resources to aid their students.
2. Khan Academy: Many of my parents ask what their children can be doing at home to further their education. Here’s an excellent website. Last year I requested from my district that all students’ district e-mails work on this website. This year they all work! This means that my students have pre-assigned logins and I just simply have to add myself as a coach for each student. Students work through a knowledge map and achieve energy points along the way. Eventually this will earn them badges and awards. This site is also full of ‘tutorial’ videos which are clever and easy to follow – and they explain everything from basic addition to university mathematics and sciences. If students ever get stuck they can watch a quick video to aid them in understanding the concepts and content. In addition – I, as the coach, get to see each students’ statistics.
3. Spellingcity: This website is a must have and use for elementary classrooms. I have my spelling lists pre-loaded for the students so they can just find my name and get going. The website offers games to go along with the words and pre-tests (which I give an additional 10% extra credit if they print off a pre-test they completed at home). This website is such a help for students who just can’t figure out spelling.
4. Games: I have a link to Games that I have added on to my symbaloo page. These games are all educational. The first few weeks of school I let the students discover some of them (otherwise – I’m not sure they would ever be discovered). As a result – the students fall completely in love with them. Let me highlight a few of them: Oiligarchy, Electrocity, and Energyville are all games related to our unit on Energy. The students learn a lot about expenses and energy types as they work through the games. Kerpoof is a website that allows for teachers to set up their own class list and student logins. Then the students can access the website and create videos, drawings, and storybooks. The students absolutely love it. Icivics is a fantastic website for finding games related to history and civics.
5. Tools: The last link I share with my parents is the tool page. This page is full of web-based presentation tools, media tools, and search tools that the students will be using – especially in their Exhibition (the culminating event in the IB process).
I wanted to give you a quick synopsis of what I actually use in the classroom. That being said, every year I do discover new resources to use and I try to adapt my classroom. Even now I am trying to figure out a way that I will use KidsBlog inside and outside of the classroom. I hope this Practical Post gives you a better idea of what web-resources I prioritize at the beginning of the school year. Feel free to link to my games page if you have a class website (or let me know of any other excellent educational games you have discovered).
Vocabulary is a part of every classroom. Students need to learn the terms and definitions in order to discuss the subject matter better. So what sites are available for vocabulary building online?
1. Wordslike: Wordslike is an easy-to-use website that allows for students to input a word and a list of like-words (synonyms) pop up. Many thesaurus’ are fairly limited- this website provides a wealth of synonyms.
2. Wordstash: Wordstash allows for teachers to create flashcards for their vocabulary. There already exists a large bank of words and flashcards on the website so it is easy to create your own flashcard, vocabulary lists. Teachers can also make their own class list so that students can find the flashcards they need to study. It’s free!
3. Clockwords: Clockwords is a game that requires you to be quick on your feet. Your job is to produce words in order to destroy robotic spiders. There are a number of stages that get more and more difficult as you play. It’s a game of speedy-words.
There are many more vocabulary websites that could assist you as supplemental tools for your classroom. Another one I have blogged about in the past is Spellingcity. The vocabulary form of that website does cost money, but it seems to be an excellent product.
Each school year our 5th grade has exhibition. That means that the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program is coming to an end. That also means that my 28 5th graders are going to have to present an issue to peers, teachers, and the community. So how are we going to do this in a new, refreshing way? We could be creative with a play, create puppets, or discover new presentation software. Last year we played with a few forms of presentation software, which I blogged about in my first-ever blog post.
We used WIX – which is a flash, website editor – the students loved creating their own websites.
We used Prezi – which by now I’m sure all of you have heard about. Very pretty – but can cause headaches if not used properly.
We used Sliderocket – which is great, easy to use slideshow software.
- It’s free
- It is so simple! You can’t beat it’s simplicity. Transitions – add text – add images… color, background…
- Easy to upload images – you get 250 megabytes of free storage.
- You can download your presentation after you have created it – which means that you don’t need the internet to play your presentation. This is a huge bonus – which sliderocket does not offer.
Give Prezentit a try. You do have to sign up – but it’s free, and you don’t have to check your e-mail to log on…
There is a website called Shelfari which allows for people to create their own online bookshelf by adding books from an online collection. Shelfari is really cool because the database is directly linked to Amazon, which means that virtually every book is available. The books have full summaries and the website allows for you to rate the books and write your own comments. Then you can share your book collection with other people. When you add books to the shelves that you like the website suggests other books that are similar for you to read – I have found those to be so useful!
There are a number of ways that shelfari could be used in the classroom. As a teacher you could create your own shelfari for students to navigate through. Students will be able to see summaries – teacher notes on books, and ratings. Check out this example. This is one of my pages on my class website (along with my polldaddy). Students will be able to move through my bookshelves – and click on any books they are more interested in to see full summaries. It was really easy to incorporate the flash html script into my WIX website.
Students could also create their own shelfaris. The website does not require a certain age – although there does need to be an e-mail to sign in. Students could use school emails or temporary e-mails. Students then could share their bookshelves with each other and with the teacher – and create dialogue about books.
I have recently been exploring a website called Digital Vaults. Digital Vaults is a website created by the National Archives – a government organization. The website is full of very informative artifacts related to American history. There are teacher lesson plans and units available, as well as loads of records including: primary documents, photos and films – all pertaining to our nation’s history. The website would be great for researching anything related to American history. The website does offer easy help to how to research on the website: just look at this page to get started.
In addition to being our Naitonal Archives, the website also offers something very unique. It allows for students to use information from the website to create a poster full of images and records, or a short film. Students can apply there findings to a presentation form right there!
So – make sure you take a look at this website. It is an excellent tool when studying American history and allows for creative presentations.
Polling… one of the popular applications teachers are using today in their classes. Whether its through the use of clickers or cellphones, or simply filling out the polling online – teachers are using student feedback as formative assessment in their teaching – and their doing it through polling applications.
Pollmo: This is a very easy-to-use application that allows for you to create a question and responses and post it on your website.
Kwiksurvey: An easy way to create a survey – it does not require you to log-in to create your survey.
The internet can be a dangerous place. Everyone has access to the internet and that means: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Students need to learn about internet dangers and how to protect themselves from potential situations. Students also need to be directed to sites that have safe content.
In 5th grade at our school we do a large Exhibition project where students research different issues and take notes…citations… and so much more. Immediately our students get onto google and search for their topics. They then spend the next 20 mins searching google images and checking google sites- half of which bring up the yellow screen of death our district has installed to prevent bad websites.
So are there free search engines that could assist students in these projects? As a district we have paid for something called Nettrekker which has been an okay tool. So what else is out there?
1. One website that was designed by librarians for kids to explore on is called: Kids Click. Although it won’t come up with as many hits as google – the websites suggested are educational and safe. At least have students give it a shot.
2. Awesome Library is a site that has over 37000 resources and links available. Each of the resources have been carefully checked for safety and accuracy of information.
3. Dib Dab Doo and Dilly Too is another safe, smart way of searching on the internet. Have students use these types of search engines before moving on to more open ended, non-checked over links.
4. Ask Kids is a great tool that provides a safe, easy search engine.
There are other excellent resources like Brittanica and World Book Online for kids, but these cost money. Give the four above a shot and see if students come away with excellent information – without having to search through dangerous territory.
I took a class on gaming in education today. That’s right – you heard me, gaming in education. Don’t get me wrong, this is where modern education is heading, that being said – our educational structure and system won’t keep up with the modern philosophy and innovativd 21st century ideas.
Do you think the class was fun? Absolutely! Game-based learning is fun. What are we seeing when we observe game-based learning?
- Students work hard to solve problems and complete tasks.
- Games are low risk because students feel safe to fail.
- Students are able to share/borrow/discuss strategies they are using to be succesful in the game (collaboration)
Those are just a few reasons for game-based learning – above all else, though, games are engaging.
So here are three free web-based games I discovered today.
1. 3rd World Farmer – This game is great because it teaches students about investments, agriculture, and real-life challenges. Students try to expand their family, while deciding what crops or livestock they will invest in. After they have decided this they click the yearly play button, which provides them with an annual budget report displaying their profit or debt. I found this game very addicting, because it took me multiple tries to figure out the best way to succeed.
2. Grammar Gremlins – This game provides various grade level options. Students try and defeat the gremlins through inserting correct grammar in sentences. Grammar can be one of the more difficult subjects to make engaging in school. This seemed like a simple game to have on a choice list.
3. Energyville – Energyville is a game where students determine what energy sources they will tap into to power a city. They must take into account the environment, the expenses, and the security. The game shows the production of energy for the different types, and explains why and how each type of energy should or should not be used.
Are you in need of supplemental material for your lesson? Are you teaching on insects, comets, or the cold war and you need to find educational videos, links, or documents on your topic? Then this website may help you a lot. It’s called Neok12. Why is Neok12 great?
- It’s free
- It has a lot of resources on tons of educational topics
- It lists links according to specific educational topics, which makes it easy to navigate.
- It provides educational games, videos, and lessons for students of all ages.
- The videos provided have been watched and reviewed by educators – so they are sure to have appropriate information and educational quality.
- Teachers can create accounts to allow space for students to store presentations they have made through neok12.
Another website to view for supplemental material is called WatchKnow. WatchKnow was created for the purpose of education. The videos have been reviewed for educational purposes. There is a detailed description of what each video is about, which will help you decide whether it covers the content you need or not. There is also an age range guess and a reviewed area. WatchKnow was ranked in the top 25 websites of 2010.
At the school where I teach we use eight basic thinking maps to assist students in organizing their ideas. Each of these maps or charts has a specific purpose – maybe to compare or contrast, maybe to show cause and effect… Why are these maps important though?
When students are able to create maps to organize their thoughts they are taking their learning and writing to the next step. These maps allow for students to often see connections they would not have seen otherwise.
Lucid Charts is an online program that allows for students to make graphs and charts. It easy very easy to use and free of cost. Students could be on in minutes and start working on their own maps.
I think you’re going to really like this website. For the last… who knows how long… I have been going to my team at school and saying, “so I discovered this new website.” I have begun to realize how overwhelming all these websites can be. Which do you choose to use? Is it based on ease of access? application? fanciness? engagement/student interest? …
Well, I recently discovered this website called: Museum Box. If you haven’t seen it yet – it’s worth taking a look at. Musuem Box is a platform for allowing students to organize information and store it in a ‘musuem’ like setting. Each box contains six sides where students can place images, movies, documents, or links pertaining to that topic. The site is built especially for teachers, even allowing teachers to build student accounts.
So how can this be applied in the everyday classroom? Musuem Box is great because if students have book reports, or presentations of any kind that allow for them to use web-based resources – they can organize that information in Musuem Box and present through the website.
An example? Okay: Suppose students are learning about the Revolutionary War and you want them to understand key people, events, artifacts, or dates. You could have students use the web to access pictures, videos, or links that they could put on their boxes. Students could also write documents or find primary sources. I see musuem box as an opportunity to be more creative with presentation – and allow for students to figure out what’s important and what isn’t as important.
I’m not sure it matters what age you are, Switcheroo Zoo is a fun website for you. My students used it this year to understand animals and their habitats better. Really, the best part of Switcheroo Zoo is creating animals that are conglomerations of a bunch of different animals. At the end, after you have put together your creation, the website will tell you what type of habitat is necessary for that creature. It’s amazing how creative the students get with their creations. Switcheroo Zoo has movie clips about animals and their habitats, it has lessons that can assist you on an animal unit, and it has it’s creation center.
As an educator I am always looking for websites I can get my kids excited about so they can use them at home. I’m sick of students going home and playing first-person shooter games, or games with very limited or no educational value. Icivics was an incredible find – I still have students playing those games at home – but here is another one that many of my students enjoyed going back to.