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.

 


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