Web Resources

Stand out Tech Tools for the Classroom

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A typical week entails working with a wide variety of age groups ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade.  Emphasis is placed on creating standards aligned technology experiences that foster collaboration and creativity while cultivating important digital literacy skills. Listed below are stand out tools that I commonly use in the classroom. Not only do these tools represent multiple modes of learning, they have been student approved as engaging ways to demonstrate knowledge.

Productivity/organization

Microsoft Teams, a new interactive, chat based workspace for streamlined digital learning and teaching.

Assessment

Formative– Online tool allowing you to deliver assessments. Student assessment data is displayed in real time and feedback can be provided immediately.

Edpuzzle– Assess students using online videos. Select a video that aligns with your content, annotate the video using text or voiceover, and add a question set. Edpuzzle generates reports based on usage.

Presentation

Sway- Housed in our Office 365 set of applications, Sway allows students to create multimedia presentations.  Using simple drag and drop functions, Sway is appropriate for students in grades 1 and up.

Digital Storytelling

Story Bird– Create online storybooks using Story bird’s library of artwork. Students can collaborate on stories, share them via email, and provide feedback to their peers. Teachers can easily create assignments using Story bird’s planning tools.

Math

Prodigy Game– A curriculum aligned math game geared for students in grades 1-8.  Prodigy provides real time reporting along with embedded in-game formative, diagnostic, and summative assessments.

Cross Curricular

Kidblog– Blogging is being used across the district in all subject areas. Provide students with a platform to communicate, provide and receive feedback from peers, and connect with other classrooms.

Code.org– A full coding curriculum allowing students to practice computer science, math, reading, and science skills. Easy to implement and engaging for students.

Scratch.mit.edu- Allows students to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations. Creations can be easily shared with an online community.

Smart board

Smart Exchange– Ready to use lesson plans and resources for your Smart board.

Digital Skills

Email Exchange- Teach students how to tailor their writing to a target audience.

  • Students are writing to an authentic audience.
  • Students can practice focused writing skills.
  • Students are practicing a real word skill.

 

Stepping Out Into Nature: Web Resources to Enrich Science Instruction

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While nothing can replace actual experience when exploring the natural world, there are a variety of tech tools that can enhance understanding of the environment. With a multitude of engaging web resources available, students can gain background information and general knowledge about nature and its importance to our lives.

Amp up your science instruction with these comprehensive sites:

arkive.org-ARKIVE is a hub for films, photographs, and audio recordings of the world’s species.

Cells Alive-CELLS Alive! represents 30 years of capturing film and computer-enhanced images of living cells and organisms for education and medical research.  Hosted by Jim Sullivan, and continuously updated, this site now exceeds four million visitors a year.

Animal Diversity Web-From the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, the Animal Diversity Web is an online database of animal natural history, distribution, classification and conservation biology.  The Animal Diversity Web is truly a collaborative effort as students can contribute to web content. To do this, teachers must submit a request form.

Catch the Science Bug– Catch the Science Bug increases science literacy and raises environmental awareness by adhering to national standards and guidelines for content and using varied teaching methods for engaging all types of learners.

Science With Me-Kids love hands-on projects. Science With Me is brimming with fun science projects and resources including science movies, songs, coloring sheets, worksheets and stories.

Active Science-Active Science has 15 different scientific modules, including interactive games and activities.

EcoKids– EcoKids is an interactive environmental web site for children, their families, and educators in Canada and around the world. Multimedia activities allow children an enjoyable channel to learn about the environment.

Periodic Table of Elements – With simple videos, The Periodic Table of Elements offers a glimpse into the properties of each element.

The Science Network-The Science Network showcases the world’s leading scientists explaining concepts including viruses and the birth of neurons.

PopTech– Bringing together a global community of innovators, PopTech has videos explaining economics, water, and plant-based fuels.

National Geographic Kids– The gold standard of nature sites, Nat Geo Kids inspires children to become stewards of the environment through a wide gamut of multimedia learning tools.

In the spirit of Earth Day and the ongoing push to foster a love for science and our natural world, these websites are the ideal addition to your science focused unit of study.

Formative

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When integrated into the teaching and learning process, formative assessment provides key data to adjust instruction and promotes an active, student centered learning environment.  With the implementation of Formative, a free online tool for ongoing assessment,  frequent checks for understanding are easy to implement.  Formative transforms the assessment and feedback cycle to a more sophisticated level where educators can gain deeper insight into student learning. A continuous feedback loop is essential to meeting learner needs. With Formative, not only can feedback be offered quickly, it is in a real time, interactive format that engages the technology driven student.

QR Codes: Scanning to Learn

 

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Photo credit: lydiashiningbrightly via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

QR codes have become increasingly popular. Originally created for Smartphone users, advertisers have used QR codes to broadcast information.  Scanning codes have become commonplace in retail stores as well as in many periodicals and are emerging as an effective classroom tool.   A quick response code is a digital image that can be scanned with the use of a bar code scanner.  The code can take you directly to a website. With many classrooms equipped with mobile devices, QR codes can direct students to endless virtual destinations. To get started you need a Qr code reader and a QR code generator to get your students scanning.  Visualead allows you to generate visually appealing codes in three simple steps. Download a QR code reader on your mobile device and students are ready to scan.

Use your Quick response codes to:

  1. Differentiate in the classroom- QR codes can direct students to different information while working on the same skill. Perhaps after reading the same text, QR codes can direct students to different sets of questions that are appropriate for their reading level.  Specific codes can also be created for various reading groups, directing them to various extended learning sites.  Quick response codes can also accommodate different learning styles. Students can scan to visual or musical representations of information.
  2. Make research easy- From my experience working with research projects, many younger students find googling information too overwhelming.  There is simply too much information that is not child friendly. Create codes for students to scan to websites useful for research projects. This eliminates endless Googling and fosters a more efficient research environment.
  3. Create a learning based scavenger hunt- Post codes around the school or classroom for a skills based scavenger hunt.
  4. Scan for classroom incentives- Students can scan codes that lead to fun apps or simply to a sit with a friend pass.
  5. Scan for clarification- Students who may need extra assistance or explanation can scan to how-to” videos.

Voicethread:Starting a New Type of Conversation

One of my favorite cloud based applications is Voicethread, a powerful multimedia tool that connects voice and images. Capabilities include uploading and sharing documents, presentations, images and videos. Each upload is presented on an individual slide and voice comments are then “threaded” in using one of the following options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, or audio file upload. The result is a seamless multimedia creation that is easily shared via e-mail, unique URL, or embed.

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Collaborative possibilities reach beyond a simple comment on an image. Educators can transform a lecture to a real time, online conversation. The comment feature encourages students to offer unique perspectives, leave feedback, and ask questions.

What does it look like in practice?

  • K-5 classrooms can create collaborative online stories.
  • Art classrooms can leave constructive feedback on individual work.
  • Social studies classrooms can conduct an in depth analysis of historical images.
  • Encourage a meaningful conversation about a current event. Guide students through a discussion about a controversial topic, encouraging respectful dialogue.
  • Create visuals that accompany poetry and include narration.
  • Math classroom can create tutorials on techniques and processes.
  • Higher Ed can create tutorials and lectures.

With Voicethread, commenting or offering ideas is not limited to the outspoken or confident student. Comments can be made either in or outside of class using their Voicethread identity. Each comment is represented by a small icon that represents the student.

Voicethread fosters a new type of conversation by providing an innovative multimedia platform that promotes active engagement in the learning process.

Using Tech Tools to Build Fluency

Fluency and comprehension go hand in hand.

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Students who have the ability to read fluently are more likely to comprehend due to the diminished need to labor and decode each word.  In order for students to achieve reading fluency, they must read, and read a lot. So how can we get our students to read?

These four steps, implemented along with technology tools, can foster motivation and build literacy skills.

1. Model– Teachers must model fluent reading to students on a daily basis. For younger students, echo reading is beneficial. Allow students to repeat a short phrase after hearing the teacher read it. Simple recording tools on your classroom mobile device can  provide opportunities for echo reading. Using your tablet’s recording feature, simply record a passage for students to play and echo. Try a Digital Storytelling site such as Storybird. Write stories with your students and read them aloud. Invite a local author or storyteller to read to your class via a Skype session, or even invite older students to read to younger classes through Skype.

Vocaroo is an online voice recording tool that allows the user to record and share audio content via the web.

2. Practice– Allow students ample time to read and reread passages. Using recording tools such as Vocaroo, or Voki, students can record themselves reading a passage and play the audio back to determine errors and words read per minute. Voki allows students to choose an avatar and give it a voice through a simple recording feature. The participatory nature of blogging promotes both reading and writing practice. Students enjoy reading their peers’ posts and providing feedback. Kidblog is an ideal blogging platform for the classroom setting.

3. Help– Teachers must foster self-correction and self-questioning skills by constantly monitoring student reading. Listening to children read should be done in a small group setting, or ideally on a one to one basis. A classroom set of mobile devices allow students to send the teacher audio clips of short read alouds.

4. Motivation– Perhaps the most important component of reading instruction is motivation. Student motivation can be nurtured by allowing opportunities to read material of interest, and listen and read to others. Technology tools can tailor reading instruction to meet individual learning needs and create much needed motivation in the classroom.

  • Use the internet to find specific reading passages. ReadWorks.org is an ideal hub for high interest, leveled reading passages.
  • Use audio and video tools to enable students to read to others and hear themselves read. Voki, Vocaroo, Fotobabble, Blabberize, or Voicethread are easy to use multimedia platforms that can enhance reading instruction.

How To Blog with your Students

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Students love to communicate. Allowing students to share what they are passionate about, reflecting on what they have learned, and what sparks their curiosity  benefits their learning on many levels. Students have come a long way from journaling in a spiral bound notebook or a lock and key diary.

If you are searching for an implementation of technology in your classroom, blogging should be at the top of your list.  Aside from being cross curricular, blogging facilitates meaningful learning and provides students with an authentic audience.

Why should your students be blogging?

  • They can write about what the want to write about. Consider adults in the “real world” who blog and blog successfully. They are not given writing prompts or topics, but simply write from personal inspiration.
  • They develop their writing voice. Many students do not know what strong voice sounds like and often student writing lacks voice. Not only can blog writing develop voice, reading blogs can allow students experience in identifying personality and emotion.
  • Blogging promotes reflection. Students should have the time to reflect on what they have learned. Reflective thinking is critical thinking.
  • With blogging, learning is archived. Blogging over a school year(or longer) allows students to see growth and change in their learning.
  • Blogging allows students to develop a positive digital footprint. Stress the importance developing a positive internet presence.
  • Blogging creates engagement. Students enjoy using this non traditional writing format.

Blogging tips:

  • Determine your district policy on blogging.  Keep in mind that there are blogging platforms that are secure, private, and specifically for classroom use.
  • Allow students ample time to read and comment on blogs. A large part of blogging is being participatory.
  •  Whether it be from classmates, parents, or teachers, students need regular feedback on their posts.
  • Stress the importance of a polished entry. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again.
  • Consider starting with one classroom blog where students can contribute. Allowing each student their own blog from the beginning will prove overwhelming.
  • Utilize safe, secure blogging platforms such as Kidblog or Edublogs.

For younger students:

  • Start a class blog in your k-3 classroom and make it a collaborative effort. Solicit content from your students and write a weekly blog post.
  • Invite older students or parents as guest bloggers on your blog.
  • Blog posts with younger children  should include visuals. The post can be based on a visual accompanied by smaller amounts of text.
  • Promote commenting. Younger students can be guided through the commenting process.

If you are considering implementing blogs in your classroom, there are a host of resources and tools to ensure it is a smooth process. Kidblog offers students an excellent platform to begin the blogging process while allowing them a secure writing environment.  Launching blogging lessons in the classrooms will motivate students to write while fostering authentic learning experiences.