The acquisition of basic computing skills by any set of children can be achieved through incidental learning provided the learners are given access to a suitable computing facility, with entertaining and motivating content and some minimal (human) guidance.
One of the 5th grade teachers I work with saw that video and was inspired to “re-create” it with his students. See for yourself what happens:
Zoo Burst is a digital storytelling tool that allows you to create lively pop-up books with sounds and actual pop-up effects when you turn the page. You first create a free account, and then use the simple interface and tools to begin creating your book.
PocketMod is an interesting site that lets you create a little 8-page printable book with all kinds of information that you add. Some of the ready-made widgets include: weather, calendars, lists, images, conversions, games, emergency information, and more. To use in the classroom you could have students make a little book recapping major events of a story they just read; write a pocket story book; create mini vocabulary books; design a health and exercise journal; or create a quick guide to a country they are studying. The uses are endless.
Another great avatar creator, Doppel.me allows kids to create themselves without creating an account. When you are finished building your avatar, you simply right-click on the picture, and save the image to your preferred storage folder. If you do create a free account, you get access to many more options when building your avatar.
One thing kids (and adults) often have trouble with is the concept of scale. Understanding how big or small something is can be difficult if there is no familiar reference point of which to compare. Here are 3 sites that help students gain an understanding of size and how certain occurrences that happen on our planet compare to places that they are familiar with.
If It Were My Home allows students to choose a disaster and place the disaster somewhere familiar to show the vastness of its destruction. Another feature is the country comparison, which highlights certain aspects of what your life would be like if you were born in another country compared to where you were born. Unfortunately, you cannot change the default comparison country (US). Perhaps this will change in future versions.
Show World visualizes the countries of the world not by land mass, but by certain data entered. For example, in the map below showing the world’s current oil supplies, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela appear largest due to the fact that those 2 countries house the largest reserves.
Google maps has just released imagery of Antarctica that allows you to take a walk around parts of the white continent. A very small portion of Antarctica have been covered (for obvious reasons), but the views are amazing!
In response to Alexander McDonald’s challenge for educators to help build the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010, I have come up with my own personal top 10 list of the tools my students and I used most this year. These tools are based on what I have found to be the utmost useful and productive for students in the classroom, and for me as an educator for continual learning.
Twitter Twitter has been an indispensable learning tool for me on many levels. I have made connections with educators from around the world. My classes have collaborated with other classes on projects because of Twitter connections. There is not a day that goes by that I do not learn something new or discover a fantastic resource due to my PLN on Twitter.
WordPress and Edublogs
Both for my students and me, blogging is a fantastic writing platform with an audience that motivates and challenges. It is interactive, thought-provoking, and truly makes students think about what they are writing, because they know they are “putting it out there.”
Google Reader One of the first things I do when I start my day is to open up my reader and have my news and blogs delivered to me all in one place. Google Reader allows me to subscribe to any website or blog and organizes all the new posts in an efficient, easy to read way.
Diigo Diigo is a social bookmarking site that allows you to have your bookmarks with you wherever you are. You can create lists, add tags as well as follow other users who have similar bookmarking focuses.
Wallwisher I love Wallwisher because there is very minimal registration and you simply create a “wall” and start placing virtual sticky-notes. Students who have the url of your wall can all create sticky notes to create a collaborative wall on any given subject. Here’s an example of one my fifth graders did on the topic of Internet Safety.
Voicethread Voicethread is like an interactive slideshow that allows you to upload photos and then record yours and your students’ voices. Other students can then add their voice in response to others’ postings.
Storyjumper Storyjumper allows you to create online books using a plethora of characters, scenes, and props. Teachers can, for free, create classes to register students so they each have their own account. As of this writing, there does not seem to be a limit as to how many student accounts you can create. Let’s hope it remains this way.
Google Docs Having the ability to create and access your work from anywhere is huge. Google Docs is great for allowing students to collaborate with one another, build and fill out surveys, create presentations, and more. (I’m beginning to sound like I work for Google…)
I love Prezi because it’s an exciting presentation tool. Now that they’ve rolled out Prezi Meeting, I love it even more. Users can collaborate in real time (up to 10 users) on the same presentation.
Google Maps and any Google Maps Mash Up
Google maps is great for students to be able to find and share directions. They can create their own maps, follow a book characters’ travels, plot volcanic eruptions, find distances between two points, etc. I especially like mash-ups like ShowWorld, If it Were My Home, and the BBC’s Dimensions for allowing students to really grasp and understand the concept of size and scale.
Cloud Canvas is a powerful in-browser drawing program that allows users to utilize layers, filters, clip art and other graphics, brushes, textures, and many other features normally found in Photoshop-like programs. You save directly into your Google Docs account or you can export as a .png file onto your computer from the drawing.
Dot-Dash is a brainstorming creator from the BBC that allows quick and easy thought connections that teachers can create with an entire class together, or as individual students. Not as robust as Inspiration, but a nice, free, web-based alternative. If you’re looking for something for older students, try bubbl.us. Hat tip to Susan Sedro for the find.
If you are a fan of word searches, you will like WordSearchMaker.net. They are easy to make, printable, embeddable into websites (does not work within a WordPress site however), and interactive. Just type in all the words you would like to use and either embed the finished word search or direct students to the URL so they can work it out online. TIP: I did notice that it puts a space in-between words like North America, so as you create it, keep your words together.