Thursday, February 27, 2014

Global Wrap for Current Events

Knowledge and understanding of current events are an important part of being a good citizen.  As adults, most of use dislike the feeling that there is something going on in the world that we know nothing about. Wouldn't it be great if kids would have that same feeling and be driven to know the current events of the world in which they live? Through an account with Discovery Education, you have access to the Global Wrap, a resource that will allow you to instill that drive in your students.   Global Wrap is featured on the Discovery Ed homepage after you log in.

Sometimes what's in the news is not always appropriate for the age of students you are working with.
Discovery's Global Wrap is organized so that you can show segments or the entire Wrap.
 This allows you to be able to select the news you want the students to view or see the entire news in one whole video.  You can also chunk it out to allow kids to view and experience a little each day.

Ideas for Classroom Use

  • Have a Current Events Day of the week.
  • Assign a segment to different groups through the Assignment Builder and have them share out.
  • Build a writing prompt about different segments to encourage deeper thinking and responses about the media
  • Have students select one topic/segment and then have them report out about that particular topic

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Biblionasium - Social Reading for kids 6-13

Finding a site for kids to be active, have fun AND stay safe while doing educationally approved activities under age 13 is tough. Keeping kids safe online is incredible important so most sites decide to just limit use to over age 13 to be complaint with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act or COPPA.  When you do find a site, it is often challenging to navigate due to the privacy settings that must be in place.  Recently I heard about Biblionasium a social reading site for kids 6-13.  I am really excited for the features within this site.  Biblionasium allows teachers to set up accounts, select from various reading level scales to encourage kids reading at their appropriate levels, has a place for parents to get connected and involved, and incorporates a social experience all surrounding literacy.  It does not get much better than that.  The website is free and allows each teacher up to 200 student accounts which is also a fantastic feature.  Teachers can even set up reading challenges for the students.  There is so much in this site it is hard to pull it all together here.  The video below is just one of the many that the company has featured on their YouTube channel to support set up, use and understanding of their product.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Screencastify - Screen Casting on the Chromebook

A new tool being discussed in many places I read is Screencastify.  This great, easy to use extension allows for easy screen recorded videos or screen casts that can be done on a Chromebook.  I have been considering creating a tutorial to this, but was beat to it and lucky for you, this one is better than I could have done!  (Additionally the author, Chris Betcher, has a great accent that is much more enjoyable than my voice.)

There is a lot of great potential for using screencasting with kids.  I wonder about students screencasting to explain their thinking and then sharing that screen cast with their teacher or with other students. There are many great reasons to screen cast with kids.  Capturing elements of a lesson, a series of steps needed for learning or to get to a location online, as a recording of a visual that needs audio like challenging pronunciations, or even as a screen capture to record a student's progress as a way of building a digital portfolio.
Look for Screencastify in the Google Chrome Web Store here!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Flippity - Digital Flash Cards

Flash Cards have their merit as a study tool.  There are many times where a student just needs to have basic recall of information.  Digital Flashcards are great as they are always available, don't get lost or damaged, and can be shared widely with groups of people.
Flippity is a service that allows you to create and share digital flashcards through a Google Spreadsheet.  There are many advantages to using a Google Spreadsheet as the content holder for the flashcards.  Flippity makes use of them all.  While it would be easy for a teacher to setup and fill the content of the course for the spreadsheet, it also could be collaboratively created by students in the class.  The creation of several spreadsheets for a study tool might be something that groups who finish work early complete, then share with a teacher who creates a Flippity card set for the rest of the class.  In addition to the ability to create the content easily, Flippity allows the creator to add media such as YouTube and images to the card deck. Here's an example of a few cards created using the Spanish word for "Cat" and a picture of a cat.
Side 1
Side 2

I've created a quick tutorial on YouTube of this resource to show you how easy it is to create a Flippity deck.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Quietube for Chrome

Quietube is a Chrome Extension that only appears when you need it in the OmniBar or Address Bar of Google Chrome.  It is a great resource for teacher that show videos through YouTube and want to "quiet" the page for students by removing ads, distracting sidebars and unexpected video suggestions.  This Apps can be found int he Chrome Web Store here.  When on a page that you can use the extension, a small icon  appears.  Clicking that icon will open a new page in which your video will play without all the distracting ads.
This is a simple solution for focusing student attention on what is important in a simple, easy way.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Class Badges Put Some Fun into the Day!

We sometimes forget how far just a little praise and fun can go for a student.  While we give an enormous amount of feedback to students, it rarely becomes a badge of honor that they cherish and remember the learning by.  Try as we would like, we want to honor even the smallest accomplishments towards a greater goal.  One way you might find useful is through the free resource Class Badges.
Class Badges is an online resource of which you can award a digital badge for different things you would like to encourage in the classroom.  While the debate about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards comes into play for this tool, I think sometimes it is just good to have a little fun!  Class Badges is a great way to discretely acknowledge behaviors, learning milestones, and exciting events in the classroom easily and without expense.  Teachers create a class, add students, create simple badges from easy to use graphics and designs and they are off!  Simple, free and easy!

I tried it.  I created a few simple badges, create a sample class and student.  I awarded them two badges and this is what the student badges looked like.  Took me about 5 minutes.  How fun!

A great quick start tutorial and some starter ideas for using Class Badges can be found in the following video.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's Cold! - Get them Moving Inside

GoNoodle is a free service that promotes movement in the classroom.  While most of the graphics and games are geared to the elementary classroom, I got to wondering if some of our middle school students might not just benefit from the laughs that the games would bring their classrooms.
Registration is free and the teacher then builds classes within the site.  As the class participates in various games, stretches, athletic endeavors for indoors and Zumba-like movements, the class earns points and progresses.
When it is so cold outside why not give the kids a brain/exercise break and let them laugh and have fun?  Pick from a variety of different games and activities:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Get Students Engaged with Plickers

Sometime the ways that technology can amaze us is so simple you can hardly believe it.  Plickers is one of those simple ways to engage and inspire kids to participate.  All you would need is ONE smartphone (Android or iOS) and PAPER!  (I have not tried this with an iPad).  This simple app for Android or iPhone is built for a teacher that does not have access to devices but wants to make a digital difference.  The app is free!  A teacher simple needs to download the free iOS or Android app.  From the Plickers Website, the teacher prints a "paper clicker".  Teachers ask a question in class and the students answer the question by showing the "Paper Clicker or Clicker" paper assigned to them.  The teacher uses the camera on their phone or device to read the room's responses.  The teacher will get a real-time bar graph and the data stored individually by student.  A set of student "Plickers" provides enough access for 40 students and could be reused for different classes.
Student "paper clicker or Plicker"

The process to use is simple:

  1. To start the class poll the teacher presses "Start" using the app and holds the device up as though taking a photo.  It will begin to collect student data.
  2. Students hold the card so that the correct response is facing up and the code is facing toward the teacher's camera.
  3. Plickers will collect data until the teacher presses "Stop".  Press "Reset" to reset the graph and save responses.  

 Classroom Ideas:

  • Create a daily Exit Slip question set for students.
  • Offer a fun get started assessment.
  • Use a Plickers Quiz to add interest to the current events of the week.
  • Use Plickers to gather data on a learning target and how well students feel they understand the target.
  • Do quick math review of facts, mental math ideas, etc.
  • Review basic vocabulary.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Olympics Theme - DEN Connects

As the world tunes into the Olympic Games this week, a group of fantastic STAR Discovery Educators has been working on the DEN Connects site to build an Olympics theme that will assist you in making better use of the resources found in the Discovery Education subscriptions you have while learning about the Olympics.  There is an added bonus to this site as you can "connect" with other classrooms across the country to share learning.  The DEN Connects site is broken into several easy to read and navigate parts.   You will find:
  • Mini-lessons - based on a 20-30 minute instructional time rich with media and integration strategies.
  • Student Digital Dives -  A scavenger hunt prepared using Discovery media and focused on the topic of the month (Olympics).
  • Content Creation Challenge - A challenge to inspire you to try something new with your students.   This month it is a Paper Slide Video which many of you have worked to complete in other areas in the past.  I'd love to help with these! 
  • Class-to-Class Connections - This part of the Den Connects site give you an avenue to make a connection with another class and share learning ideas and experiences.  Make use of the Google Hangout feature and make a new classroom friend!  
If you want to plan ahead, there is a new DEN Connect theme each month and you can count on these amazing DEN STAR Educators to come through with awesome content and ideas for you to use. Upcoming themes will include Habitats, and Weather/Natural Disasters.

Interested in doing any of these activities or need help with adjusting any of these ideas to your classroom curriculum?  Let me know!  I would love to help.

Interested in being a STAR Discovery Educator?  I can help with that too!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Power of a Voice though Google Forms

In educational circles and many meetings I have been involved in lately I keep hearing statements about the number of surveys we are asked to fill out.  With the use of Google Apps for Education in the district we are seeing even more as we become familiar with the ease of use of Google Forms.  I got to wondering about Forms and Surveys in general.  Some questions came up in my mind like:

  • Isn't it good to ask an opinion, give people a safer way to share their thoughts or be a part of a conversation?
  • Is a survey or form a digitized worksheet?
  • What do we gain from gathering opinions if we don't then use the results?
  • Why do people get upset by filling out a form?
  • Do students and adults feel the same about filling out a form?
  • If students are more willing to fill out forms, why is that?
  • Why do people like to create and send a form to others as a means of gaining opinions or information?

I am not sure I have answers to these questions nor do I think the answers would be easy to find, but I do know some the answers to some and specifically the last one.  Creating a Google Form is a great way to gather feedback from a sometimes unwilling participant (think middle school kids).  A Form will allow a student to take risks, have purpose when using the Internet, and most importantly, allows the respondent to respond in their thinking time frame as opposed to the time frame allowable in class.  On the receiving end of the data and information that is collected through the form, it becomes easily manipulated, sharable and easy to read.
I wonder if we underestimate how exciting Forms are for students.  I think they enjoy them a lot more than we do.  If the feedback is explored, analyzed (possibly to plan for future lessons or improvement) or used to develop interest in the classroom, then I don't think forms are just a digital worksheet.  I think forms are an underused tool in our classrooms.

A great tour of Google Forms is here:  

Some great Google Form Ideas might be: (Links below are from the Template Gallery)

A survey of the effectiveness of group work after a project is completed.
A personal reflection on a book, project or field trip.
An exit survey after an important lesson (perhaps a kid review notes to complete it - Even better!)
To collect science observations and then work with class data when complete.
As a parent information collection at the beginning of the school year.
As a Book Log for the year.
As a Parent Communication Database
Book Report