September 8, 2011
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I read a recent post from Digital Inspiration about using Wolfram Alpha to generate strong passwords, and it just so happened to come at a time when I was teaching my 3-5 graders about the importance of computer security and password creation. For the past couple of years, I’ve shown my students the video Secure Passwords by Common Craft before having them create their own passwords, and there is always a few students who have trouble coming up with a password that works for them. Enter Wolfram Alpha. Students can do a search of “password of 8 letters” and a password will be created with a phonetic form that will make it easier to remember (see below).
If you want to make the password easier or stronger, students can click on “Use Specific Password Rules Instead” and allow special characters so that the password becomes more complex.
This will give you passwords like:
which, admittedly, are not the best passwords for elementary school students, but going through this process is a good practice for students, nonetheless. For those students struggling with creating passwords, they can play around with the password rule allowances, and create an easier password with just lower-case letters and numbers. Delving deeper, within Wolfram Alpha, you can click on any of the passwords that have been generated and find out how long it would take a computer to crack the code. For example, the password nJ$+[pub would take a computer 352.9 years to enumerate (assuming 100,000 passwords/second), therefore, this would be considered a very weak password with a total score of 48. Doing a search for “password of 10 characters,” delivered 3phZaejT7k, which is a strong password, taking a computer 55,456 years to break.
May 27, 2011
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A good majority of northern hemisphere and international schools are winding down the 2010-2011 school year and doors will be closing as the students and teachers take off on their summer adventures. Here are three more sites to keep your kids learning in a fun way during the summer months. This is part 2 of a multi-part series of posts dedicating to summer learning. Part 1 can be viewed here.
Arts Alive is a performing arts educational website developed by the National Arts Centre of Canada (don’t worry, there are no Justin Bieber or Celine Dion references). There are sections for students, teachers, and parentsto learn more about the performing arts and ways to discover a greater appreciation of music, theater, and dance.
Can’t afford that summer vacation schlepping around Europe? No worries, just pull up Toporopaon your nearest browser and learn all about the geographical, political, historical and economical aspects of the wonderful continent.
Story Creator is a great free tool for kids to write creative stories with a medieval theme. Intuitive interface allows users to add pictures from the gallery (with the option to upload your own), record audio, add sound effects, create chapters, and print and/or download the story.
May 12, 2011
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TeacherLed is a site created by Spencer Riley, a UK teacher since 2002 which aims to “provide teaching and learning resources to make the use of the interactive whiteboard in the classroom easier and more productive.” The IWB activities are mostly math-based, but there are several RLA resources and some great geography interactives as well.
If you have a Promethean IWB, hopefully you are using Promethean Planet. It’s chalk-full of thousands of free, downloadable flipcharts that have been created for teachers. Whenever I set off creating a flipchart from scratch, nine times out of ten that flipchart has already been created and is on Promethean Planet. From there, it is easy to download and add your own individual flair.
TopMarks is a great site for finding tons of interactive IWB resources. The site is divided into subjects on the left hand side such as Math, Literacy, Science, Geography, etc. From there, you choose the age level (elementary teachers would choose “Key Stage 2″), and then select the area that you would like to focus.
April 29, 2011
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I’ve always liked Inspiration and Kidspiration for quick, easy to use ways of brainstorming. But with a $900 price tag for a 20 computer license, there just didn’t seem to be any reason to pay that money when there are several robust, free alternatives. In the past couple of years, these alternatives have come close to matching, and in many aspects, surpassing what Inspiration and Kidspiration can do to help students organize their thoughts. Here are my three favs, with a few honorable mentions thrown in to boot.
Just discovered this one and it’s already my favorite. Easy to use (really) drag and drop interface. Intuitive tool bar. Decent amount of shapes, lines, and clip art. You have the ability to right-click on any shapes for editing options. Diagram.ly has a very Microsoft feel to it so if you have students who are used to using Office products, the learning curve with Diagram.lywill be easy. Another great feature is that there is no sign up, no registration and no download. You simply create your mind map and save (.xml, .jpg, .png, or .svg).
Grapholite is another great diagramming site that is, like diagram.ly, very “Microsoftesque.” Grapholitehas a generous amount of shapes, text boxes, arrows, flow chart icons, and blocks. Colors, fonts, and sizes are easily changed, and it’s easy to insert your own pictures directly into the diagram. Without creating an account (demo mode) users can create diagrams (there doesn’t seem to be a limit as to how many) and export their work as either a .jpg, .png, or .pdf. If you sign up for a free account, you can save your work online to be able to come back and edit it at a later time.
Another great tool, bubbl.us allows you to easily create and save mind maps. Without an account you begin brainstorming straight away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up for a free account and you can save the mind map to work on later and/or have others edit it.
Hewe are some other sites worth checking out for brainstorming and flow chart creation:
April 15, 2011
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April 22 is Earth Day and in recognition of this, I’m dedicating two posts of the greatest Earth Day sites for kids and teachers. Part I can be found here. As Earth’s population nears 7 billion, teaching awareness of our environment to children has never been more important.
Environmental Kids Club is a site made by the US Environmental Protection Agency. One thing I really like about this site is that it has Daily Actions, an Environmental Tip of the Day, and a Question of the Week. There are also sections about air, water, garbage & recycling, plants & animals, you & your environment, an art room, a science room, a game room, and many other additional resources for kids and teachers.
The National Audubon Society’s education section has fun activities for kids where they can play games, watch videos of wildlife and see live webcams of nesting birds. There is also an adoption center where classes can learn about endangered animals, and how they can help. In the educator section, there are links to activities, lesson plans, and tips on how to bring nature into your classroom.
From the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, EEK is a very kid-friendly site with links to information on all kinds of animals (would be a great resource for animal research), environmental issues, and a section devoted to cool things to do and read about. The Teacher Page has activities, resources, event calendar, and a news section that will help teachers keep their students informed about environmental issues.
April 14, 2011
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Here’s a great idea for a classroom ice-breaker or a daily conversation starter from Google. It’s called “A Google a Day” and it’s a simple interface that takes the Google search page and adds a daily trivia question to the bottom of the screen. You do a search to find the answer and then check to see if you got it correct by clicking, “Show answer.” The answer is then displayed along with tips on the best techniques to search for it (in case you got the wrong answer).
Ed Tech Ideas: This is a great activity for younger kids as it teaches and reinforces smart search querying. To avoid spoilers, Deja Google was created, which is, “A wormhole inspired time machine that searches the Internet as it existed before the game began.” So you can search for the answer without fear of coming across someone’s blog post with the answer, thus spoiling the fun.
April 8, 2011
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April 22 is Earth Day and in recognition of this, I’m highlighting several of the greatest Earth Day sites for kids and teachers. As Earth’s population nears 7 billion, teaching awareness of our environment to children has never been more important.
Eco Kids has a lot of eco-awareness games and activities to help kids gain a better understanding of environmental issues in fun way. There is a homework help section with information on a variety of earth science related fields, a contest section, and a place where kids can become EcoReporters . The Teacher Section (free registration) has lesson plans, activities, class kits, ESOL Lessons, and many other environmental-related resources.
Aside from an annoying Gilbert Gottfried sounding monkey as a mascot (kids love it), Eeko World is a fun site for kids to learn more about things they can do to take care of our world. Eeko (which stands for Environmental Education for Kids Online) features an engaging interactive environment which invites kids to explore, experiment, and collaborate as they learn about conservation and the environment. There is a parent and teacher section that explains how to use the site, as well as how to integrate Eeko World into literacy activities.
The aim of Earth Matters is to, “Assist classroom educators and schools in teaching a sustainable foods and earth systems curriculum for 4th and 5th graders and inspiring students of all ages to live more aware and sustainable lives.” To do this, Earth Matters presents in-depth, standards-based curriculum, news feeds, some informational videos, along with a few games, and ideas to become environmentally active. There are a couple of sections that are still under construction and I’m wondering if the site is currently being maintained, as the copyright date is 2006. However, the information and activities that are available, make the site a worthwhile visit.
March 31, 2011
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In celebration of Robert Bunsen’s 200th birthday, I’m dedicating this post to four cool science sites for kids. If you’d like to see some of my other favorite science sites, click here.
The Periodic Table of Videos is a site created and maintained by The University of Nottingham. Clicking on any of the 118 chemical elements brings you to informational videos all about that element. A great site for self-directed learning!
The educational goals of Catch the Science Bug are to, “Increase science literacy and raise environmental consciousness by adhering to national standards and guidelines for content and use different teaching methods to engage all types of learners, and encourage life-long learning by featuring scientists who model this behavior.” The site has big goals, but it hits them pretty well. By using the Science Files section, students can learn about various scientific concepts by reading, watching videos, and completing activities.
Science Bob is a fun, interactive site that has several different areas for kids to choose from. There are videos, experiments, science fair ideas, and a research help link with a plethora of fantastic links to other sites. Don’t forget to click on the “Whatever you do, Don’t click here” button (or not).
Here’s a simple flip chart that you can download for free from Promthean Planet to illustrate the flame types of a Bunsen Burner depending on valve position. There is also a series of photographs to identify element flame tests. (Note: You must be logged in to Promethean Planet to download the chart).
March 15, 2011
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I recently revisited Spelling City and thought it deserved another post. The layout and simplicity of Spelling City has greatly improved, and with the additions of a teacher resource section and forum, there is a lot of help for those who want to turn their students into better spellers. You begin by entering your words that you want to work on. You can enter the words individually, in groups of 5 or 10, or you can batch import by simply doing a copy/paste from Word.
Take a Test
In the “Take a Test” section, once the words are entered, you can take a test, where each word is read and used in a sentence. You type it out, hit enter, and go on to the next word. The site checks your answers and lets you know if you are correct.
Another option is to use the “Teach Me” section, where the Spelling City teacher says the word, spells it, and uses it in a sentence. Note: the computer voice is not perfect and occasionally mispronounces words.
The game section of Spelling City contains nearly 2 dozen games which incorporate your words that you entered in your initial word list. 7 of these games are only for premium subscribers ($24.99/yr for a family $49.99/yr for a classroom Learn more), but there are plenty of free games to keep students busy learning their words.
All in all, Spelling City is a great resource to use in the classroom as part of a spelling program, or for students to use for home learning. The site is clear, concise, engaging, and will help students learn words in a fun way.
March 13, 2011
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If you haven’t visited the Khan Academy or used the videos to help enhance your math lessons, watch this recent Ted Talks video.
The idea that Salman Kahn discusses about flipping the classroom is fascinating and echoes ideas that Alan November mentioned when he came to our school last fall.
January 26, 2011
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Gong Xi Fa Cai! 恭喜發財
Chinese New Year (CNY) occurs this year on the 3rd of February. In preparation for the wonderful festivities, here are some sites to help your students gain a better understanding of the significance of this holiday.
- The Holiday Spot – Lots of great information here with links to CNY history, traditions, zodiacs, festivals,music, quizzes, and much more.
- Apples4Teachers – Find out which animal you are, have fun with crafts, play some CNY computer games, learn some Chinese proverbs from Confucius, and cook up some great Chinese food.
- EdHelper - Lots of activities, worksheets, printables, and lesson plans.
- Chinese New Year books – a good list here for ages 3 up to adults.
- Lunar New Year in Taiwan – learn about how the Taiwanese celebrate the holiday.
- CNY Crafts and Activities – from Enchanted Learning, learn how to make tangram puzzles, a lion dance toy, and a plethora of printable materials.
- The Chinese Calendar – Learn about what the Chinese calendar looks like, how it’s calculated, when it started and what is so strange about the year 2033.
- Jackie Chan’s CNY Activities – Learn how to say “Happy new year!” and “May prosperity be with you!” in Cantonese and Mandarin. Print out some coloring pages, or enter a drawing contest.
- CNY Activities for Kids and Teachers – Some basic facts about Chinese New Year, along with some links to lesson plans and other activities.
- From the University of Victoria, this site offers some basic facts about CNY along with traditional food, decorations, taboos, and superstitions.
- The British Council offers up this story site that has cute little cartoon character animations explaining CNY.
Know of other great sites for Chinese New Year? Leave ‘em in the comment section below.
Xie xie! 谢谢