Friday, November 29, 2013

Math Support

Sometimes you just need a little help.  Jenny Eather's Maths Dictionary and Printable Posters for kids is a great resource for kids Elementary to beginning algebra.  The dictionary contains hundreds of terms, examples, animations and colorful explanations.  All terms are laid out alphabetically in such a way as to make it useful for kids who might not be the best spellers and then dictionaries are difficult.  This site is great.  The poster site is a great place to seek out for printable posters and pages for the classroom.  The posters are colorful and helpful with examples and clear illustrations.  Why reinvent the wheel when you begin the next unit?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Peanut Gallery Silent Films

Peanut Gallery, a fun Chrome experiment lets you explore with new technology using the old fashioned media - silent films and text cards.  You launch Peanut Gallery, select a film to use, allow the use of your microphone and explore.  As you speak the actions of the film, the computer translates your speech to text and places them in the movie.  A variety of movie scenes make this a ton of fun.  When your movie is complete you can retitle the movie, and collect the URL of the movie you have created. Peanut Gallery would be a great activity for kids to use to explore characters, settings and new vocabulary.  Have a little fun with the Peanut Gallery!

Google's introductory video is here:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Socrative Classroom - Student Response Easy!

Every teacher wishes they had a better handle of student understanding as they progress through a lesson they are teaching.  Teachers know there are shy students who do not raise their hands to ask questions, rarely demonstrate their knowledge around others or are simply content to let others do the participation for them.  We often have students complete Exit Slips as they leave the room to demonstrate how much we might need to reteach, or specifically which students we need to target.  But what if that feedback could be instantaneous and didn't require you to take on additional grading of papers each night?
Socrative, a digital student response system that works on computers, tablets, iPods, Chromebooks, etc. is a simple solution to this tool.  Students in a Chromebook Classroom can participate using a Chromebook but in other classrooms using the laptop carts or the BYOD open network can have students bring in those devices to be used in class purposefully.
Teachers control the questions posed to the class, watch results and monitor the feedback of the class.  Socrative will even email the teachers a summary of the class results for review and further study later.  This is a great way to gather feedback from kids in real-time while collecting data that is useful for further instruction.  A quick introductory video can be viewed here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Comic Relief!

Comic Strip humor has always been fun for kids and as they get older and can appreciate more mature humor they become increasingly aware of comics.  One of the commonly used resources for creating comics requires the use of an app or a subscription.  While it is creative and fun, it isn't usable for all in that format.  One tool that has been around for some time is Make Beliefs Comix.  This online comic Strip creator does not require you to have an account, log in or learn a tough interface.  See the sample I created below.  Make Beliefs Comix is nice as you can easily create 2-4 pane comics, there is a good variety of characters in various poses as well as backgrounds and objects.  Once you have created your comic, you can email the comic to someone or print it out to share.  There are many ideas on the Make Beliefs Comix if you click on "for educators" at the bottom of the main page.  I think there is great value for kids to do a quick exit slip of a character explaining a topic or term, a demonstration of a foreign language, or new vocabulary in context.  This could even be used by the educator to assign homework as a character from a book being read in the class.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps is a great resource for those working with geographical information within the curriculum.  This tool uses Google Maps and allows you to annotate or scribble over the map to demonstrate geographical information, routes, or other information.  Below you will find the first of many tutorials on the use of Scribble Maps.  This one is the introductory video.  It covers the basic information you need to know to annotate over a map of your choice, save, return to a saved map, or share a map with others.  I can think of countless ideas on how you might incorporate Scribble Maps into the classroom.  Here are just a few:

  1. Have students keep a map of the travels of a character in a story and note the events occurring in each location.
  2. Map major events in history on a world map for a specific day in history.
  3. Follow the travels of an important event in history (Oregon Trail).
  4. Have students demonstrate on a map the travels of their family.
  5. Buddy with other classes across the country using Google Hangouts and send each class your map and password so that they can mark their location on the map.
  6. Map current events of the week/month as they are discussed in class.
  7. Scribble Maps can be embedded in a class blog allowing each student to be assigned a state or region of which to annotate and share on the class blog.
  8. Follow a famous voyage such as Christopher Columbus.
  9. Map out a race like the Iditarod.
  10. Explore the route and distance between locations.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Civics Lessons that Anyone Would Love

Sometimes engaging games for kids around subjects that are sometimes hard to find.  iCivics is a site that is anything but boring and something that students from middle to high school would love!  While this website has many different games and resources that I am sure need to be explored, I got stuck playing "Do I have a right?" for far longer than I should have.  Students do not need to log in to play but gain the chance to save a game when they do.  The game I played allowed me to manage a law firm and hire different lawyers that focus on various civics lessons.  Clients come in office and get assigned to the lawyer that specializes in their case.  Resources are available to look up information about the law as you decide which laws might apply to the case.  The individuals who "show up" to consult with the lawyer encourage the player to look at the real life possibilities surrounding the laws we have.
While the game is interesting I couldn't help but think of the fantastic discussions that would surround some of the cases in a classroom.  Great content for students.  I did not spend a lot of time in the teacher's section but from what I did see, it is full of information for teachers including lesson plans, activities and ideas surrounding many topics for all ages middle to high school.
This is certainly a resource not to be missed! To see if iCivics covers areas of your curriculum, check out their scope and sequence information here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Art Pad - Digital Canvas or Academic Tutorial Creation

I do not consider myself to be much of an artist.  Creativity is not my strongpoint as evidence by my example, but those of you that are might really enjoy Art Pad, a digital canvas that creates a video of your creation as it was digitally created.  This might be a great SMART board activity in which you use the ease of writing on the SMART board to create your masterpiece the share out the creation through the link as I have below.
Academic value might be added for teachers or students to create a demonstration of a mathematical process and submit it for another person to explain or narrate.  Anything in the creation process that is undone by the artist is not seen in the finished product.  However, a nice feature is that once someone sends you a completed canvas you have the option to add to that canvas.  The great thing about this is that a student could submit work, a teacher could watch it and add corrections or changes and email it back!  Great teaching tool that we can make great use of through email as our communication.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Collaborative Whiteboard

The idea of a flexible workspace for students and adults online is exciting.  Add the ability to collaborate with others while sharing and demonstrating learning, makes it all even better.  Two new tools, each with their own advantages and limitations might suite the needs of your classroom.

A Web Whiteboard is an app that allows you to use your device to draw sketches, add text and collaborate with others while you show your ideas.  AWW is great for students as it does not require an account and allows kids a simple interface without too many options.  However, in many circumstances, that is limiting.
AWW allows you to freehand draw with many great colors and sizes of pen.  It allows you to add simple text, but not to reposition the text on the page which can be frustrating.  There are no shape tools nor are you able to import an image or drawing to the canvas.
AWW's collaboration feature makes working with others super easy.  Click on "Invite" and you are given a URL to share with others so that they can draw and share along with you.  Once you are done having others share with you, if you click "share" again you can stop sharing with others.  Kind of a nice feature to revoke the ability for collaboration.
When the Whiteboard is complete if you click "Post" you are taken to a screen where you can see the board full size and then can grab the URL to share.
A Web Whiteboard is an interesting tool for the classroom that I think kids might really enjoy.  There is great potential here and it is clear this is a tool ripe for further development.

**At the bottom of the homepage A Web Whiteboard asks "Are you a Teacher?"  If you click on this link you are taken to a page where you can sign up for their soon-to-come features as indicated and shared: "Using A Web Whiteboard in classes?  Soon, we're adding ability to store and reuse your boards, duplicate them and invite view-only participants to the board."

Another example of a collaborative board with some more options is RealTimeBoard.  This is similar in that it is an online collaborative Whiteboard but has many more features. RealTime, however, does require each user to sign in.  You can sign in through your Google account for the Free access.  Free means you have three boards however at this site, you can sign up for a free Education upgrade which would give you unlimited private boards to use.  There is Google Apps for Education and Google Drive integration which could be huge.  There is even an Chrome Extension that can be added.  I am not sure that this would be a tool that I would use for kids, but this would be great for a group of teachers or for a unique teaching tool.
RealTimeBoard offers a great introductory video that will give you an idea of the possibilities of this tool.

Teachers are Always Learning

I have been seeing a lot of hype this week about the new courses put out by Google in Education and have finally had a moment to sit down and take a look myself.  These courses are meant for learners at all levels.  While a Google account is required to track your progress through the course, there is no fee. Courses are based on videos, toolkits and reflection questions to build skills.  Courses are available in the following subjects:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Using KHANACADEMY for Practice - Guest Post

The following is a guest post by the talented Nancy Dohr. She and several other teachers at Bay Lane have been using this tool and I was so impressed with their use, I had her do a guest post. If you or a team of fabulous Muskego-Norway School educators are interested in sharing a tool, resource or strategy, let me know we would love to share your technology use directly from the classroom here! Thanks Nancy!

Need more targeted skill practice for your math students? Look no further as the KhanAcademy for math is now available. Use khanacademy not only for video tutorial support but now for skill practice that students can work through at their own pace! using their school gmail accounts, a teacher can create a class for students to join. This allows you as a teacher to see the following things about your individual student: Time spent practicing, Topics struggling with, and Topics Mastered. In addition it allows you to make recommendations to specific students on the tasks they should be working on or need more practice. This is currently being used by several Bay Lane teachers.

In addition to managing individual students, you can get an overview of how your class is doing by looking at the skill progress  on the coach page (if you have a class). Simply click on the different colored bar to get a more detailed look for groupings of students.

Student Views:
This is the student homepage. It gives students topics to practice in order. If you recommend a topic it automatically goes to the top of that list. Students get instant feedback by trying to get the mission progress on the right of their screen to be all dark blue.

This is the view as if you are walking through a lesson. It allows for support at the child’s need. It has a hint and video option to help the child complete the task if they need it. It also sets a goal for the student to get 5 in a row.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Google Story Builder

Google Story Builder could be a great way to make creative videos.  It will create a video of what it might look like if several people were editing a document at one time.  you can do fun things like creative names for individuals to personalized or add interest.  It could be used to demonstrate an idea, introduce a topic, show a side of a character that might not otherwise be seen, etc.  Some ideas for students might be:

Using Google Story Builder:
  • create a conversation between a modern day character or persona and a historical figure
  • create a conversation between two characters in a story you are reading
  • create a conversation between two characters in two different stories
  • demonstrate a made up or real interview a famous person or character 
  • demonstrate proper behavior by showing a conversation in the lunch room, classroom, bus or other common school location
  • demonstrate or explain a scientific or mathematical process to another individual through speech
  • create a conversation in another language you are studying
  • explain or define in the conversations a topic from content in any class
Story builder is a great tool that can easily be incorporated into any classroom to add some interest. Here is a great tutorial on Google Story Builder using Charlotte's Web.

Help! My Big Black Bar is Gone!

While the title is an exaggeration, I have heard as many comments about this as I have cheers for the tool's disappearance over the last week or so. So here's the scoop:

The infamous Big Black bar that has supported us in our navigation though the Google Apps has been replaced.  If not for you yet, it will be as we roll through updates in the district it will be soon.  It was replaced by what I have heard referred to as the 3x3 grid or the white bar.  Not sure what Google is calling it but it looks like this in the top corner of a Google screen:

So, what does one do instead?  There are several options, besides just getting used to the new system.  One option I have read great reviews about is an extension called Black Menu.  Black Menu can be added through the above link or by searching Black Menu in the Google Chrome Store.  Make sure you look to the extension section for it and click the Blue Free button to add it to Chrome.  It will add an icon next to the address bar of Google Chrome that appears like this: 
Once you set it up by giving permissions and following the directions, you will find it becomes a great tool and even introduces you to some tools you might not be using.  I like that i can quickly mouse over the news section and see quick headlines or glance at email or calendar items.

I also frequently hear from people that without the apps icons or black bar to navigate, people do not know how to get to certain tools.  While we have provided links on the district website for gMail access, each of these tools has a website address.  Some of those you might use often are listed below. Remember the icons are really only links to these URLs.

Google Calendar:
Google Drive:
Google Sites:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Grammar Checking and Spelling Tool

Another great app, easily added to the Chrome Apps options or as an extension, is the Spell and Grammar Checker by Ginger.  This is a great tool for improving word choice, sentence structure and grammar as well as an added spell checker.  Like many apps there is a paid version of the tool that would add voice and speech capabilities to the tool, it seems as if the free version might be worth looking at.
Simply copy and past text into the text box after launching the app and watch it work.  For the text and spelling options I tested it with, it worked great.
The extension is more advanced as it works within the documents that you use in Chrome to check the text you enter as you type.  This might be something that is far too distracting for students learning to type and making frequent errors, but it also might be something that would help them better monitor text as it is entered rather than watching fingers on the keyboard.  Only way to know is to give it a try. A video is inserted below that demonstrates the extension.  Give this one a try.  Please share your opinion as to how it works in the classroom setting.

Fraction Strips Made Easy - Digitally!

Teaching fractions can be such a difficult concept for kids.  Memories of creating fraction strips with 30 students and trying very hard to get them to fold them into thirds, or fifth, or ninths still makes me break out in hives.  You can imagine my excitement when I found Fraction Wall a digital fraction strip creator!
The fraction wall will help students learn equivalent fractions.  Students click on the parts of the whole to indicate different fractions.  This app also has boxes, which can be hidden, that show the value of the fraction selected.  Least common multiple can also be calculated with this app making adding, subtracting, or comparing fractions visual for students.  

An image of the app's dashboard is shown below.  This might be a great app to automatically add to the student accounts!

The video tutorial is below!