Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Mirage of Facts and a Virtual Vocab Wall

Wallwisher is my best friend. I realize this sounds terribly sad and geeky, but it’s not every day that a website comes along that is easy to use, innovative, collaborative, educational, and free. Beyond all that, Wallwisher is easy to moderate, and there are no ads. (I feel like I need to give one of those, “I am in no way connected to, or affiliated with” disclaimers).  If you have never seen Wallwisher, it can be described as an online bulletin board where students are able to place virtual post-its with textual information, photos, video, and audio. I can think of a zillion ways to use Wallwisher in the classroom, and below are a few projects I recently did with fourth and fifth grade classrooms that show the benefits of Web 2.0 collaboration.

A Mirage of Facts

Recently, the students in one of my fourth grade classes were learning about hot and cold deserts and  I wanted them to begin researching and collecting facts about different types of desert environments. The initial plan was to gather research facts and write them out in a Word document. However, instead of having them do this, I decided to create a desert fact wall that they could all collaborate on.  As students located interesting facts, they would post their fact along with a picture. The motivation of seeing their facts and pictures on a collaborative website was amazing. I had students asking if they could add more. And more!  As the research continued and students added additional facts to the wall, they began to find more obscure and unique facts to add, all of this without me giving them any direction or push.

Virtual Vocab Wall and Writing Tips

Students in one of my fifth grade classes are very much into building their vocabularies. I found that a lot of students were looking up the same words as their classmates and saving them in their own personal lists. There was no collaboration or working together to learn more. We now have a vocab word wall, which allows students to post new words and definitions as they come across them from wherever they are.

Yet another class decided to create a wall with a collection of their tips for becoming a good writer. The wall has several great tips from students, for students, and they have excitedly shared this with other classes in the spirit of collaboration and learning from one another.

Teacher Tip

When I first set up a wall, I leave it open to anyone and have my entire class add to it at the same time. After the session is over, I either close it entirely, or moderate it so that any new additions to the wall have to be approved by me before they go “live.”

Simply put, with Wallwisher, educators have a powerful friend to help students seamlessly collaborate and keep their information organized and accessible in a fun, motivating place.  Students continue to add to the walls long after they are created, and others can benefit from the information displayed in a single, user-friendly place.


Interesting ways to use Wallwisher in the Classroom

Desert Fact Wall

Vocabulary Wall

What Makes a Good Writer Wall

Similar Wallwisher Sites


Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 2

Attribution: "underneath+a+star" http://www.flickr.com/photos/31874781@N00/3133924813Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. BlogJet – Learned about this from Scott McLeod. BlogJet is a WYSIWYG desktop editor that works for WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, Drupal, etc. blogs. Blogjet makes it easier to edit your blog and features tools like YouTube and Flickr support, file attachments, word counter, blog statistics, and more.

2. CoSketch – Another find by Richard Byrne is a collaborative drawing site which requires no joining, logging in or registration. Perfect for elementary classes. It’s a no frills tool, so there are not a lot of extras, but for simple drawing and text, it works great. Users just go to the site, click on create a sketch, and begin drawing. To add more people, you just send them the url. There’s also a nice chat feature. I could see using this to collaboratively solve math problems, play hangman using vocab words, exploring maps (there is a built-in Google Maps support), and a variety of other applications. Finished drawings can be embedded into blogs or websites.

3. Interactive Simulations – From the University of Colorado at Bolder comes some fantastic java-based interactive simulations. From Glaciers, to Natural Selection, to Circuit Construction; these simulations really show students how things work.

What’s in Your Reader?

Attribution: "Rss para blog do Rafa feito por+mim" http://www.flickr.com/photos/31770402@N02/3531293278I’m always looking for new ways to gather, organize and learn about new information regarding technology and education. Listening to an EdTechTalk podcast the other day where Richard Byrne was being interviewed, he mentioned his Google Reader and I was really hoping that he would reveal some of the sites he subscribes to.  Unfortunately, he didn’t (not that he was trying to hide his sources) but it got me thinking that more peeking should be encouraged among educators. Diigo, Delicious, and other social bookmarking sites are great resources to see what sites other people find interesting enough to save; but I want to see what people are reading when they first log in to their computers in the morning.


For those who don’t know about RSS or Readers, let me fill you in on the info. RSS is most commonly expanded as “Really Simple Syndication.” These RSS feeds can be subscribed to using a reader, or aggregator. You can subscribe to as many different sites as you like and then all of the new content comes directly to you in one, easy to use page. You can read the articles directly in your reader, or you can open them in their home site.

Common Craft has a fantastic explanatory video called “RSS in Plain English” that I’d recommend watching if you’re wanting more information.

You can read How to Explain RSS the Oprah Way if you still don’t quite get it (Preview: Instead of calling it “Really Simple Syndication,” RSS is referred to as “Ready for Some Stories.

My Reader

In the spirit of sharing, I’ve inserted a screen capture of my Google Reader subscriptions as it stands today. I have five basic categories: Tech – which is a collection of sites that blog about all technology-related topics. Education – general education blogs, not necessarily dealing with technology. Ed Tech Blogs – the most useful to me as they are primarily written by educators, for educators. News – I used to have more news sites that I subscribed to, but they were so prolific in their amount of posts, that it became too much to keep up. Fun – I should probably have more here to keep somewhat of a balance in my life, but alas, there is but one.

Care to share?

Let’s hear about it:

  1. What’s in your reader?
  2. Which subscription(s) do you find most useful to your everyday life?
  3. Do you have your students use a reader?

Leave your comments below.

Biography Timelines with Excel

Who says Excel is just for lists and numbers? (Probably no one, but let’s pretend someone says that).  For a recent biography project 4th graders were to create a timeline of a famous person. After researching and gathering facts, I had the students open up excel and showed them how to use the drawing tools to create text box shapes, connecting arrows, and multiple page view with page breaks.  There are a lot of online timeline creators where you just plug in a title, date and event; but I wanted to allow my students flexibility to create and design their timelines in their own unique style, as well as, teach them some new tools in Excel that they may not have known about.

Paragons of the Week – Episode 1

I’m always stumbling upon great finds on the web that have educational uses, so I thought I’d begin a reoccurring post highlighting these resources that I find to be worth mentioning. So each week, I plan on scanning through my Diigo and selecting the top few “paragons” that I feel teachers might dig. These will be posted on Thursdays at approximately 5:30 pm p.s.t. (but don’t hold me to this).
(Paragon, btw, means “outstanding example” – don’t feel bad, I had to look it up too).

  • Google Reader – Not new, I’m aware of this, but being this is my first P.O.W. post, I thought I’d start with my main tool that I begin with each morning. Currently I subscribe to 30+ EdTech Blogs, 5 Tech Trends Blogs, 6 General Ed Blogs, 4 News Feeds, The Daily Show Videos (which I never get around to watching) and NPR’s World Story of the Day. I find feed readers to be so useful as it takes out the searching and opening up of multiple sites. All my news and information that I’m interested in comes to me in one place.
  • Active Science – Brought to my attention by Richard Byrne this site has 15 different scientific modules, each with interactive games and activities. Great for use with IWB.
  • MindOmo – This was brought to my attention by Giselda Santos via Twitter. MindOmo is a mind-mapping tool that allows you to add and organize ideas, thoughts, work, websites, lists, etc. I see this useful on a personal level (as in having a visual storage-house for websites that I frequent) and educationally with students. If you want to see a great example of one, click here.
  • KerpoofSusan Sedro showed me Kerpoof a couple of years ago, but I just recently re-visited it and they have made some nice changes. Kerpoof is an online comic-creator which allows students to create comic scenes and stories, as well as animated movies, cards, drawings, doodles and pictures.  Educators are able to sign up for a class account which allows an entire class to login simultaneously using the assigned nickname and password created by the teacher. There are no adds or inappropriate content and the art work is fun and lively.  Finished products may be saved, printed, or emailed.  Great site for story creating!

Insect Life Cycles

As part of our science curriculum we teach a unit called “Structures of Life.” A great resource to use for this unit is the cuddly mealworm (which are actually larva, not worms). They’re easy to care for, the metamorphic phase is relatively short (each stage takes a few weeks), and let’s face it, they’re downright cute.


Here are some resources I use when having my students do research on the life cycle of a mealworm.

  • All about Mealworms – Enchanted Learning. Great site for information gathering about your loveable mealworm.
  • More Mealworm Info – Good facts here from the University of Arizona
  • Mealworm Webquest– Lots of facts and pictures here from Golden Lake Elementary School.
  • Insect Brainpop – “Diversity of Life” (This movie  now requires a Brainpop subscription)
  • Images of Insects — Lots of good images and facts from the Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology.
  • FossWeb – Great collection of information for teachers and students


Some projects that I’ve done in the past with my third grade students include Movies, PowerPoints, Webquests, Collaboration Project with High School Biology Classes, Creating Mini-books, Microscope Explorations, and Interviews with Entomologists.

Wallwishing and Wordling Your New Year’s Resolution

The students returned from Winter Break yesterday. When I was a classroom teacher, I would always have them write about their New Year’s Resolutions; some personal and academic goals that they wanted to set to improve the overall quality of humanity.  I would also have them write the ultimate overused writing prompt: “What I did Over the Break.”

Today, we tried out Wallwisher and Wordle to post my students’ resolutions and write about their vacations.  

Click to see our third graders' resolutions

Wallwisher.com is an online notice board maker that allows you to make announcements, keep notices and do anything that you’d normally do with a sticky note. I set up a wall and posted the directions at the top, set the url and then showed my 20 third graders how to get to the wall. Then it’s just a simple process of double-clicking where you want the note to be placed, adding your name to the note, and writing out your goal.

Click to see Toorno's Vacation

I used Wordle to have students describe what they did over the break. Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with friends.

Martin Luther King Jr. Sites for Kids and Teachers

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up on January 18th and even if you are not an educator in the US, Martin Luther King Jr. is an amazing person for kids to learn about.

In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the King Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” The King Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, addresses social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

-MLK Day of Service 

5 sites that you and your students should begin with to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC’s Classic Clips
Lots of original video clips of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other key players in the struggle against segregation in the US.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute 
Tons of resources, curriculum, news, and projects.

Education World 
Superb links and resources for teachers and kids.

The King Center
Established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, the King center is the official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Day of Service
Site provides ideas of how to serve your community along with tips, project examples, and entire project tool kits to get your students, grade level or entire school community started on a service project.

Learn a Foreign Language – Before You Know It

Before You Know It (BYKI) is a language-learning system, which includes desktop software, online applications, free content, articles, and games, all of which can be accessed through Byki.com. I began using it personally about a year ago when my 2 year old daughter told me (in Swedish) that my Swedish, “Was coming along pretty good.” I know she was too young to have the capacity for sarcasm, but I could’ve sworn I detected just a hint of it in her voice.

What I like about BYKI is:

  1. It’s free.
  2. The clean flashcard-style interface makes it an enjoyable process.
  3. You can have several different users logged into the program who are at different levels.
  4. It’s auditory, visual, and kinesthetic for different learning styles.
  5. It monitors words and phrases that are difficult to the learner and keeps bringing them back until proficiency is achieved.  

Before You Know It would work well in an educational setting for English Language Learners, or in a foreign language classroom. Check out the free download and see what you think.

46 Stellar Math Sites for Kids You’d be Obtuse Not to Visit

Kids can always use some extra help with mathematics. From fractions to basic math facts; problem solving to number sense; geometry to algebra, there is always room for improvements. Here are 46 sure-fire sites that will engage, enlighten, educate and Einsteinify your students. Most of the sites listed below are geared towards students in grades 1-6.


Basic Math Facts

  • Multiplication.com
    Really cool games to help you master your math facts. 
  • Number Lines
    Work on your addition mastery by shooting number balls that add up to a specific number.
  • The Math Page
    This is a really great site from Manhattan Community College 
  • A+ Math
    This site is great fun for third graders and up.
  • Math Dictionary for Kids
    Great math dictionary for kids.
  • DiscoverySchool.com Worksheet Maker
    A super way to make math worksheets. Try it! 
  • Aunty Math
    Aunty Math presents math challenges that encourage thinking skills for students in grades K-5. 
  • Cool Math
    Cool Math is “designed for the pure enjoyment of mathematics.” This interactive site features games, puzzles, calculators, and lesson plans. 
  • Harcourt Animated Math Glossary
    This is a complete online dictionary of math terms. 
  • Math.com
    Math.com: The World of Math Online is chock full of everything to do with math from the most basic to advanced topics. It includes homework help, calculators, games, practice, and much more. 
  • Teach R Kids Math
    I dislike educational sites that misspell words on purpose (in this case, r instead of our) to look cute. However, this site provides online interactive math practice that covers a range of topics from simple to advanced for elementary school children. 
  • AAA Math
    Hundreds of pages of basic math skills to more advanced challenges.
  • BBC Math
    Math game wheel.
  • Multiplication Mystery   
    Drag numbers into the multiplication grid.
  • Fun Brain
    Multiplication Baseball
  • Multiplication
    Multiplication Speed Grid Challenge. Fun game where you race against the clock to complete multiplication problems.
  • Powerlines
    Cool game – students arrange numbers in lines that have to add up to a certain number. Harder than it sounds.
  • Practice Fish
    Help Jungle Jim catch fish by solving multiplication problems. Good for IWBs.
  • Math is Fun
    Assorted math puzzles and quizzes.
  • Mrs. Glosser’s Math Goodies 
    Math Goodies is a free math help portal featuring in-depth lessons, worksheets, and homework help. A pioneer of online help, this site has been reviewed on television and in other media. Math Goodies has hundreds of resources for students, educators and parents.

Miscellaneous Math

  • Graphing
  • Clocks – Teaching Time
    This resource, produced by the Franklin Institute Online Fellows, takes an educational look at timepieces in the collection of the Franklin Institute Science Museum 
  • Polygon Playground
    All about polygons!
  • Builder Ted
    Number line – help Builder Ted fix the roof by putting decimals in order on his ladder.
  • BBC Maths File Game Wheel
    12 games here categorized by: Shape Space & Measure, Algebra, Number, and Data Handling.
  • Magic Squares
    Lots of links to magic square games and activities.
  • More Magic Squares
  • Yet even more magic squares
  • Allmath
    The last magic square site here.
  • Math Cats
    Explore the Polygon Playground to explore symmetry, make tessellations and pictures. Good for IWBs.
  • Math in Everyday Life
    When you have a student ask, “When am I ever gonna use this?” You can direct them to this site.
  • Math Stories
    The goal of this math website is to help elementary school (Grade 1st through 6th) children boost their math problem solving and critical-thinking skills. MathStories.com has over 15,000 online and printable NCTM compliant math word problems for children to enjoy. Word problems are available in both English and Spanish.
  • Prongo.com
    Prongo.com is an educational website for Kids. We offer fun, interactive, and educational games for kids. For teachers, Prongo.com also offers Quizstation. Quizstation allows teachers to create online quizzes for their students.

Got others? Share below.

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