Tech Tools for the Everyday Teacher

Posts tagged “tools

The 21st Century Conference in Hong Kong: just a red dot

imagesI 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:

http://activeprompt.herokuapp.com/SUVMN

http://activeprompt.herokuapp.com/SNQFY

http://activeprompt.herokuapp.com/SFVOM

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.

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Online Game Creation

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.


Lego Serious Play

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.


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…


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.


Symbaloo

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.