Tech Tools for the Everyday Teacher

Posts tagged “teaching

Learning and the Brain

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!


What have I learned recently?

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.


The Practical Post

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).

A new year… a new way to present

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.

I recently discovered an even simpler presentation tool.  It’s called: Prezentit.  So why use Prezentit?

  • 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…

Bookshelves for everyone

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.

Virtually yours

There is a website I have been toying around with recently called Secret Builders.  In Secret Builders students explore a virtual world full of historical figures.  Students can meet these figures as well as explore their houses to gain a better understanding about each figure.

Teachers can set up student accounts for free – and watch as students complete achievements in the virtual world.  Teachers can also create quests with rewards for students – serving as an impetus for students to learn about specific historical figures they may be talking about in class.

I am going to have to work with it some more to fully understand its classroom uses – but it already appears to have an educational value.


Your thoughts matter

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.

So what are some easy-to-use, free polling applications to use on the web?

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.

Quizsnack: This is an easy quiz/poll maker that you could embed on your class website.  It is free, although, unlike pollmo, it does require you to register.



Kwiksurvey: An easy way to create a survey – it does not require you to log-in to create your survey.


Safety first

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.

A little Gaming variety?

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.

Supplemental Material?

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.

Charts, Maps, Cartographers…

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.

Your own Online Museum

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.


Playing with animals

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.


One of my biggest weaknesses as a teacher is my organization.  I seem to always lose things on my desk, in my desk, and around my desk.  It’s something I work hard on each year to try and make better.  Though, I’ll be honest, when I moved schools it got even harder.  Tangible items are not the only things that need to be organized, web-based resources may need to be organized as well.

Why would web-based resources need to be organized?

What if students are doing research on a specific theme?  Then you, as a teacher, could search websites ahead of time and organize those websites so that the students won’t be searching through the entire ocean known as the Web.

or you could create web lists according to subjects: Have a math page, a writing page, a history page, a science page…

or create a web list that links to great books that you would advise the kids to read.  Tell the kids to get on the web list and look at different books and write down the ones that interest them.

or upload student projects: writing, video, podcasts… and create a weblist that parents or kids could visit.

There are a number of reasons for you to organize websites.

So what can you use to organize websites?

Well, I have already written a website about Symbaloo.  This is a great resources because it is very sleek looking and easy to add urls and thumbnails.

Another website that you could use is called: WebList. Here are some reasons why: 

  • It’s free.
  • WebList allows for you to create url lists and have one navigation page for students to use for all of your urls.
  • The website automatically creates thumbnails for the urls that you plug in.
  • You don’t even need to sign in – you can create a list right away.  It is very simple to use.
  •  It is really easy for students to use because the websites become embedded in WebList so that students don’t even have to leave the page.  This way they can easily navigate between pages on the list.
  • WebList also allows for students to vote on the websites that they found the most useful – which allows for you, as a teacher, to quickly assess the websites that you uploaded.

Creating Class Websites: Totally Popular

Every class needs a website.  True or false?  The biggest issue I see with class websites today is their functionality.  What’s the purpose of the website?  Is it practical – with daily homework assignments posted?  Is it entertaining with game-links?  Is it memorable with pictures and classwork?  Does it allow for students to hit the 3rd stage of technology education – allowing the student to be the producer?

As a teacher – I have become overwhelmed with creating a class website.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s simply – what is going to be the purpose of the website?  I have built, now, four class websites with four different companies – I will highlight these now:

1. Google Sites: My first class got a class website from Google Sites that I created.  It wasn’t super engaging, but it served a very practical purpose – to outline the expected homework and curriculum taught that week in 6th Grade.  All the teachers in our grade got together and posted the work expected to be completed that week.  Also, all homework and notes were uploaded to the site for students to download at their own leisure.

Was the site used? Yes.  Most definitely, but only for the purpose of notes and homework.

2. Glogster – My third class received a website I constructed from Glogster.  Glogster is really fun to use and allows for teachers to do a lot of ‘crazy’ stuff.  Unfortunately, I found myself getting carried away with pictures and random ‘junk’.  I also found my site difficult to navigate.

Was the site used? Somewhat, students visited to see videos uploaded of their projects and to click on links to websites I suggested.

3. Wix – My third class received a website from Wix in the second semester.  Wix is flash based and allows for much sleeker looks than Glogster.  That being said, Wix was not created for the same intent as Glogster, thus not having some of the educational functions that Glogster has.  Wix is still was snazy looking.

Was the site used? Perhaps – to view pictures and to check out my book list of books that students should read.

4. Weebly – This is the newest website creator that I have played with.  It is more user-friendly than any of the other website creators (Really easy to use – just drag the templates or formats you want onto the page).  Unfortunately, Weebly does not allow for all of its tools to be used unless you are a ‘pro’ member.  Nonetheless, Weebly has an educational function and support unlike Wix.  It’s a mixture of Wix and Glogster.

Those are the four website builders I have played with thus far.  None have wowed me out of my socks.  I am considering creating my own HTML script and using that within one of these builders.  I first need to know what purpose my website serves.  Either way, I am going to make sure I incorporate Symbaloo this next year – because I believe that will organize links or films very well for my classes.


Have you ever wanted all of your links in one place?  Does it ever seem overwhelming how many different websites you need to remember or visit?

Symbaloo may be the place for you.  This website is very sleek looking.  It allows for you to personalize your own page with all the links you will ever need.  It also allows for you to title the links, change the icons, and embed videos.

Why is this great for education?  It’s great because:

  • It’s free.
  • It allows for students to visit one page to check out all the links.
  • It provides a safe place for parents to send their students to play educational games, or discover other activities.
  • It can be placed as the homepage on school computers, so that students can just click on links to get to where they need to go.
  • Teachers could input research websites that are trustworthy – so students don’t have to be so overwhelmed when searching for sites to cite.
  • Teacher’s could upload student work and place the student’s face as the icon.

Check out my example: I’m going to use this tool next year.

A Place for us All

In this day in age students have so many different sites where they store information and so many devices to access their information.  How can we use this technology to our advantage?  Is there a website that allows for teachers to utilize this expansive technology?


Wiggio is a website that allows for teachers to create a group that does not require students to sign up.  All the teacher needs is an e-mail address for the students to access.

Wiggio allows groups to do a lot!

  • It’s free and no personal information is shared to join.
  • The website provides a space for file sharing – so if students are working in groups then students can share their work through this website.
  • The website allows for students or teachers to give polls to other members of the group.
  • It allows for a shared calendar.
  • A teacher could set this up with families at the beginning of the year and share videos, pictures, and assignments over this group website.
  • It also allows for teachers to create to-do lists or assign tasks.

Manipulatives online?

There is much evidence and research that shows the success of using manipulatives in the classroom.  As students develop understanding of number sense, the most important process teachers must do is connect the numbers to actual objects or ‘manipulatives.’  Manipulatives are and can be used in all five of the NCTM standards or categories for mathematics.

So… what if there was a website that identified manipulatives for grade-specific, standard-specifc use?  Would you want to use it in the classroom?


Let me introduce you to: The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

This website is an excellent, supplemental program for your math classroom: why?

  • Yay! It’s free!
  • It allows for the teacher to search grade specific
  • It allows for the teacher to search content-area specifc

Working on place value and don’t have base 10 blocks available to you? Check out these online Base 10 blocks

Need algebra tiles? pentominoes? pattern blocks? geoboards?

There are so many incredible tools for students to use on The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives website – it’s a must-have on your favorites.  (Just make sure your computer has JAVA to run the activites (most do))

Health is real wealth

Obesity is a growing epidemic across America.  There needs to be a stop to the growth in obese children and adults.  According to 20% of children are obese in America.   How can we approach this issue and attack it?  We target the younger generation.  We educate our students on diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and self-worth.  When it comes down to it, what is more important for our students to learn than how to stay healthy?

Do you have the tools to educate students?  There is website called MyPyramid which has been created to assist you in just that goal.

Why mypyramid?

  • It’s free
  • It has interactive tools that allow for students to create personalized daily food plans.
  • It also has an interactive tool that gives feedback on the food you have eaten.
  • There is Foodapedia, which provides information about food groups, calories etc…
  • There is also a Kid’s page, which has games, activities, and worksheets for students to be educated on diet.

Students need to be educated in the food they eat.

A website for everything

Have you checked out the website Free.Ed.Gov?  It’s got thousands of federal resources for students to view or research to assist them in learning.  It’s full of animations, primary documents, photos and videos.  One warning about the website -though- is that it can be difficult to navigate because there is an overwhelming amount of resources and tools.

So… what’s on the site that would be useful?  Let me just show a few things:

1. The Cell: This link allows for users to navigate around a cell and see the different components.  Each component has a tag that, when clicked, tells you about that component and what it does.

2. Pangaea: This is an animation of pangaea over time and how our continents ended up as they have.  The website this came from is called ClassZone.  It was linked from  ClassZone is awesome because it contains animations from all the different content areas in science like: earthquakes, volcanoes, cells, weather-soil-erosion, nature of science, rocks, minerals, atoms… so if you need to find any science animations to help explain or engage students: visit ClassZone.

3 Diaries of George Washington: If you’re looking for primary documents, organizes these documents through the library of congress, which allows for great accessibility.  This link is an example of the diaries of George Washington between 1748 and 1799.

4. Journey to America: Are you looking for primary documents or trustworthy information on viking, mountain men, columbus, or any early journeys to America?  This website (linked from provides resources for students to use.  Resources like: images, primary documents, captions, brief summaries…

5. Space: This website is full of interactive lessons created by teachers who teams up with scientists.  The lessons or resources provide pictures from the hubble telescope, as well as interactive images, animations, and videos.

These are just five examples of resources linked from  There are so many more!  I will continue exploring them and let you know if I find more treasures.

Rock Paper Scissors anyone?

Do you ever look at a lesson and wonder how you can make the lesson more engaging?  Today I was looking at a lesson on probability.  I began the lesson using a deck of cards as an example – and asking questions like: What is the probability that the card will be red? a heart? a five? a face card?  Some of the students looked at me clueless explaining that they had no idea what cards in a deck looked like.  Fortunately – probability has so many possible manipulatives.  Today I pulled out a new one.

Rock-paper-scissors: You vs. the computer.  There are two modes – novice and veteran.  As you play the computer the computer chooses options based on the player’s patterns.  This site is great because it keeps track of wins, and the students can view what the computer is thinking before it makes it’s move.  My students got into this.  We created a tally chart with player/computer/tie as our three columns.  Each student played the computer 10 times.  We conjectured probability results ahead of time to see if we were correct.  After the students each played – then we added their scores and they had to find the percent for each column.  The activity was so engaging!  Who knew rock-paper-scissors could be so fun – everyone was begging to play again.

24: Everyone loves the game 24.  In this game students are given four numbers and their first objective is to see if they can use those four numbers to get to 24 using any operations and each number only once.  Their second goal is to see if they can come up with new ways to solve for 24.  Although there are card game versions, I prefer this website that allows for you to insert any four numbers and the website will calculate all the different ways that you could solve for 24.  It allows for you to push your students to keep thinking!  The students love this – although – my suggestion would be to start with easier ones before getting hard, because students will give up.

Educational Music

As teachers we know that students learn in all different ways with learning styles and multiple intelligences.  Nonetheless, it is our job to teach every student.  In order to be successful in this we are going to have to differentiate in our classroom.  Differentiation, according to Carol Ann Tomlinson, can be done in four categories: content, process, product, and learning environment.   Sometimes we wonder how else we can possibly say something to get through to our students.

Well… have you considered songs?  Music?

Here are a few songs I have found – just to give you a taste… if you find songs that your classroom just can’t live without please let me know!

  1. It’s too Late to Apologize: A Declaration: This song takes the popular song: It’s too Late to Apologize and connects new lyrics to it – using the point of view of colonists writing the declaration of independence against the king of Britain.
  2. Five elements of a short story: This song is by flocabulary.  If you haven’t seen their videos you are missing out.  These music videos are incredible.  There are a number of great things about flocabulary music videos.  First, they have lyrics available for each of their songs. Second, they are very engaging and clever.  Third, they do not lose out on their educational quality.  Five elements would be excellent for any level of student.
  3. Much ado about nothing: This song is also by flocabulary.  This song, as well as The Odyssey and Huck Finn, may be better for older kids.
  4. The Parellellogram Song: There are a number of science and math songs available by a gentleman named Weatherall on YouTube.  Some of these are much better than others – but I have had some great laughs with them.
  5. The Fraction Song: A teacher created this fraction rap and put it on teachertube.  Although it seems goofy, other teachers have said that the words stick with the kids.
  6. School House Rock – I’m a Bill: Of course – what’s a song list without school house rock on the list.  There are a number of excellent School House Rock songs available on YouTube.

It’s amazing how much can stick when you put it to a tune – try out some of these songs!

A world of gaming

It has become very clear that this 21st century generation is engulfed in a video gaming world.  No longer is it the ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’ who sit in front of their computers or game consoles and play video games all day.  Now video games are accessible through cellphone and, essentially, any handheld device.

So what’s the deal with these games?  They can be very engaging.  Some of them have a clear goal that serves as an impetus for the gamer to keep playing (Angry Birds) others are colorful, and still others require the player to problem solve.  All of these games have some sort of value whether its asthetic or goal-oriented, and – all of these games can be placed under the category of Instructionist.

There are – really, two types of games out on the market.  First, the ever so popular Instructionist.  These games allow for players to work within their world to accomplish the goals that they have set up.

On the other hand, there is the Constructionist-type game.  This type of gaming allows for the user to develop their own goals and their own world.  Although this type of gaming is not as prevelant as the first, I believe that if students are presented with this type of gaming and it’s engaging, and they feel like they know how to work the medium that allows for them to create then students will embrace it.  This type of gaming is also much more stimulating for the mind.  Students need to create goals and boundaries for their game in order for the game to operate.

I have been thinking about this Constructionist view for some time.  Something I enjoyed doing in highschool was programming ‘choose your own adventure’ type games on my calculator.  My students love them.  Every year the students get fascinated over the games and can’t believe that I created them.  Our summative assessment this year in our human body unit was for students to create a board game using the human body.  The students loved the project and it was such a different thought process because the game had to function.

There needs to be educational, technological devices that are easy and accessible to students to allow for them to create their own games.

Collaborative Writing Pads

Google Docs and Writeboard have been popular websites for creating documents that multiple people can revise at the same time.  That being said, sometimes its nice to find a tool that doesn’t require a google account or a sign-in.

I am currently working on Narrative papers with my students.  We are doing everything from blogging as protagonists, defining every element of the plotline, to writing rough drafts and editing.  It would be nice if the students could type their rough drafts and then have other students view their rough drafts simultaneously and revise it.

A great website for this collaborative work is PrimaryPad:

Why is PrimaryPad great?

  • It is free
  • Allows up to 15 people collaborating at once
  • Saves the document before each change – showing how the document has evolved over time (this is known as TimeGlider)
  • Allows for users to chat while revising
  • It also allows for you to export the document as a word document or pdf.
  • No sign up required!


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