Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Monthly Archives: November 2010

Poetry VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a site that allows you to upload images or video, and comment on the images via voice recording, text, images, or webcam. Here’s a recent project (still a work in progress) one of my 5th grade classes did using poems they wrote, and pictures they drew which were inspired by the poems. After everyone had uploaded their pictures and recorded their poems, each student viewed all of their classmates’ poems and left a comment of either text or voice. In the embedded version below, you can navigate through using the play button and the left and right arrows. If the text comments are a little too small, you can see the full version here. Feel free to leave a comment to any of the poems.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
EdTechIdeas: Voicethread is a great platform for publishing student work and enabling others to view and comment on it. Students love hearing their peers’ thoughts and critiques. Once complete, a Voicethread can be shared around the world and comments can come from family members and friends living thousands of miles away.

Historical Imagery and 3D Trees in Google Earth

Historical Imagery

Google recently improved upon Google Earth and introduced a historical imagery slider so that you can compare locations with how they looked previously (as far back as imagery is available for any particular location).

3D Trees

Another great new features is 3D trees. With the release of Google Earth 6, there are more than 80 million trees which include over 50 different species. Watch the short video below to learn more.

EdTechIdeas: Google Earth is a great, free tool for students to learn about places in the world, geography, distance, topography, and many other things. Now, with the historical slider, students can get a first hand account of how things change over time due to human “progress,” and how natural disaster shape the earth. 3D trees is a great tool for studying the environment. Students can zoom in to the amazon and identify different types of trees and discover the layers of the rain forest first-hand (well, sort of).  A combination of the historical slider and 3D trees would be a nice tool for students to use as a visual for an oral report about deforestation.

Nuclear Detonation Timeline 1945-1998

Here’s an eye-opening video created by Isao Hashimoto which shows all of the 2,053 nuclear tests and explosions that took place between 1945-1998.

EdTechIdeas: This would be an interesting video to show as a discussion starter for middle and high school students studying World War II, human rights, the arms race, and nuclear proliferation. Students could use the information from the video to pinpoint and identify specific explosions and align each with historical facts about what was going on during that time.

Alan November Comes to Town

Christmas came early to Singapore! We had the great honor of having Alan November at our school this week, and I sit here now, trying to hash out and piece together coherent thoughts, head still swirling with ideas and discussions from this afternoon’s workshop. I think the most useful post is one that shares what was learned that will be useful in the classroom the next day. What have I taken away from the workshop that I can turn around and begin using in my teaching that will enhance and improve student learning? Below I have outlined the key take-aways and how I plan to implement them.

Diigo Social Bookmarking

Diigo is a fantastic tool. One I’ve used for quite some time now to keep my bookmarks organized and available no matter where I am.  During the workshop, Alan said something to the effect of, In the library, Dewey did all the tagging. Today, we have to teach kids how to do this.”

For those who do not know, Diigo, according to Wikipedia, is:

Diigo (pronounced /ˈdiːɡoʊ/) is a social bookmarkingwebsite which allows signed-up users to bookmark and tag web-pages. Additionally, it allows users to highlight any part of a webpage and attach sticky notes to specific highlights or to a whole page. These annotations can be kept private, shared with a group within Diigo or a special link forwarded to someone else. The name “Diigo” is an abbreviation for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff.”

What I didn’t know, (or knew, but forgot) is that educators can create groups and student accounts for free. It’s a fairly simple process that does take a bit of initial set up, but once you have it rolling, you and your students will be tagging, collaborating, researching, and learning at a whole new level. Here’s a link to specific directions on setting up your groups and student accounts. Ed Tech Ideas: I teach 3 different grade levels, and my different classes are always researching for one project or another. Students are always finding great sites, but at best, they bookmark it to their local computer, never to be seen by others. Now with our Diigo groups (I created one for each grade level), kids learn how to tag, organize, and share their finds with everyone else in the group. Everyone benefits from group knowledge, and the students learn an important skill that will stay with them and grow throughout their academic lives.

Who Owns the Learning in the Classroom: Teacher or Students?

This was a question Alan posed an hour or two into the workshop that really got me thinking about how the traditional role of a teacher has changed over the last 20 or so years. Gone are the days (hopefully) of the sage on the stage teacher at the blackboard spewing out information to struggling students with 30 different learning styles. However, we do still need to recalibrate the balance of learning between teacher and students.

Who works harder in the classroom? The teacher or the students?

Ask yourself this question and see what answer you come up with. Then ask yourself, what can I do to recalibrate to enable students to own their learning. For inspiration, watch Michael Wesch’s Ted Talk called, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able.”

EdTechIdeas: Have students take a photo of something in your life and use it to explain a concept. Take a character from a book and have students write dialogue of a topic that is not in the book, that shows their understanding of the character’s qualities/personality. Use a hotseat-type activity and ask students questions. Have students go to the cafeteria and video what kids are eating for lunch – make a production about healthy choices; graph the results. Take photos of simple machines – use photoshop to diagram the parts of what makes the subject a simple machine. Ask Google-proof questions. Create a Google Map assignment. Have students make book trailers instead of writing book reports.

One Thing

As with most workshops, the overwhelming influx of ideas from Alan’s workshop left teachers with a mix of emotions, feeling somewhere in-between, “I’m not doing enough” and “There’s so much out there, I want to try everything now!” A suggestion that Mike Pelletier aptly calls, “TBC” (Tech Baby Steps) is always a good idea. Begin with just one thing that grabbed your attention and go with it – make it work for your classroom, not as an add-on, but as an integration.

Notes, take-aways, the Tweet Sheet, and workshop info can be found here, thanks to Jay Atwood. Also a very special thanks to Alan November for an inspiring,  thought-provoking, mind recalibrating day!

Paragons of the Week: PicLits, CyberChase, Incredibox

Episode 34 >> Previous Paragons

1. PicLits

PicLits is a site that allows users to choose a photo and then drag words onto the picture to create sentences.  There is a freestyle option that allows you to simply type on the picture, and keywords are suggested to help you out. When finished, you can save (free account required), email your piclit, or share it via Facebook, your blog, or other places. Soon there will be a print feature, a weekly contest, and the ability to search and tag photos. EdTechIdeas: This is a great site for inspiring struggling writers and for those times where you hear the complaint, “I don’t know what to write about.”

2. CyberChase

CyberChase from PBS is a fun place for kids with 45 games that focus on problem solving abilities. Challenging games like  Crossing the River, U Fix It, Tangrams, and more will have kids thinking out of the box in no time. EdTechIdeas: Fantastic site for problem solving and creative thinking. Would make a good go-to site for center time in your classroom or a fun activity to spend time on after working out difficult concepts. Use the lessons and activities section for ideas that are tied to the NCTM standards.

3. Incredibox

Incredibox gets my nod for the Odd Site of the Week Award, and I’m throwing it in, just because we all need a little obscure fun in our lives. Not sure of its educational implications, so I don’t have too many EdTechIdeas, but perhaps for music teachers, it could shed light on rhythm, vocal appreciation, harmonic structure, and polyphony. For the rest of us, it’s a great diversion and a good way to bring a little music into your life.

Relinquishing Control

Me in New Zealand

Today I relinquished all control of learning in my lab and shifted the responsibility of learning to the students. Most of my activities in my lab are project-based, but they are usually created by myself and the classroom teachers, have directions, pre-set expectations, rubrics, etc. In a recent workshop I attended, Alan November posed the question, “Who owns the learning in the classroom: the teacher or the students? This inspired me to relinquish control.

It went like this: My 4th graders are studying isopods and beetles in science so I presented to them a challenge: “Using any method you choose, you are to show your isopod/beetle expertise.” That was pretty much all the direction I gave, and looking around my lab, here is what I saw being created:

  • Bitstrip comics starring themselves as scientists explaining the diversity of crustaceans.
  • Students researching sources using advanced search features for trust-worthy and relevant information
  • Online jeopardy game creations
  • Using Scratch to create interactive stories
  • PowerPoint and Prezi presentations
  • Using Flipcams and Moviemaker to create infomercials
  • Podcast radio interviews
  • Glogster Posters

Some students worked in pairs; others chose to work alone. They assigned each other roles. One the researcher, one the graphic designer, one the note taker. They asked if they could research! They created their own rubrics. Their usual, “How do I do this?” questions to me were redirected and asked of themselves: “How can we find out how to do this?” It was truly an amazing experience. Their newly-discovered independence and ownership in their learning freed me up to go around and make suggestions, teach specific search strategies, work one-on-one with each student discussing their projects, and really feel the excitement and buzz of authentic learning taking place.

EdTechIdeas: As teachers, it is often difficult to make a shift from forced learning (teacher delivered content) to student directed learning. I challenge you to just take one lesson; one activity; one afternoon and flip the way you’ve always done it in the past. Take a leap of faith, and relinquish control. See how you feel. Discover how your students feel. Feel the learning.

My Green School Dream

“Dyslexic, we’ve renamed prolexic.” John Hardy mentions about 10 minutes into his talk, and that kind of thinking is a big part about what makes the Green School so special. The architecture is beautiful, and the school is off the grid. However, anyone can build beautiful buildings – the approach that Hardy takes with the children – wanting to make them whole, is in my mind, what elevates the Green School to an amazing place of learning and growth.


What do you think of the Green School?

Top 3 Thanksgiving Games and Activities Sites for Kids

1. FunSchool

FunSchool has several games and activities geared towards Thanksgiving. Turkey Filbriks is a ton of fun and tests your speed and memory. Thanksgiving Feast is an arcade-style game that teaches kids about nutrition. There’s a Thanksgiving Quiz to test your knowledge of the history of Thanksgiving, jokes, crafts, word plays, and more!

2. Primary Games

Primary Games has a great Thanksgiving section that’ll make kids thankful they dropped by. Word searches, puzzles, a cornucopia coloring book, Thanksgiving sudoku, and much more, will keep little pilgrims engaged and learning until the turkey is out of the oven.

3. The Kidz Page

The Kidz Page has more than 50 puzzles, printables, word searches, and other activities that will have kids gobbling up facts and knowledge like they’re going out of style.

Edublog Awards

I learn so much from amazing educators who take precious time from their already jam-packed days to share their ideas and finds. The annual Edublog Awards are a way to pay homage to these great individuals. Here are my picks for the 2010 Edublog Awards.

For many reasons, I had a difficult time choosing my nominations. My PLN provides me with such a push to always be learning and trying to improve – I’d like to nominate them all.

Have you made your nominations yet?

Stop Teaching Calculating. Start Teaching Math

“Math is very popular. Just not in education.”  Conrad Wolfram gives a great talk about how to bridge the math gap between the real world and the classroom by using computers to make math relevant to learners.

What do the math teachers out there think about Wolfram’s ideas?

Seussville for Educators

Seussville for Educators is a section of the Seussville kids site that has activities and ideas which incorporate the great books of Dr. Seuss. There are a lot of  printable activities,  lesson plans, an author study section, and much more. The Educator’s Timeline (shown below) is a great place for teachers to get ideas of theme specific lessons and activities to use throughout the year.

Give it whirl and see what you think.

This is Where We Live

Amazing stop motion book appreciation video created to celebrate 4th Estate Publishers 25th anniversary.  How is this video 2 years old and I’m just now discovering it? Thanks to @openculture for the find.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Paragons of the Week – PinDax, Library of Congress, Google Things to Do

Episode 33 >> Previous Paragons

1. PinDax

Pindax is an online message board similar to Wallwisher, where users can add post-its about any given topic. You begin by creating a free account and then build a new board with a name and specific directions about what you want posted on the board. As a teacher, you can create a board and direct your students to the URL to have them each add their thoughts and opinions about the subject of the wall.

2. Library of Congress for Kids and Parents

The Library of Congress family section is a nice collection of online activities and resources. Use this site in the classroom to help kids learn about history, geographyliteracy, fine arts and more.

3. Google Things to Do

Google is a lot more than just a search engine. With Google Things to Do, you can learn how to instantly convert currencies, check flight arrivals, read a book, even search the web like Elmer Fudd! Now, who doesn’t want to know how to do that??!

Happy Birthday Blog!

It’s been one full year now since I said, “Hello World!” with Tech:-)Happy.  It’s been so much fun writing about what I’m doing in the lab, sharing resources with educators, learning about great new tools and methods, and connecting with so many amazing people. I just wanted to post a big THANK YOU to all my subscribers and readers. It is you who make the time I spend on this blog worthwhile and fulfilling.

Paragons of the Week – BibMe, Professor Garfield, Amateur Science Sites

Episode 32 >> Previous Paragons

1. BibMe

BibMe is a quick and easy to use bibliography maker that allows you to cite books, magazines, newspapers, websites, journals, films, and more. You begin by searching for a book (or any other media you choose). Once the book is found, you select it, make any changes (annotations, whether you are citing the entire book or just a specific chapter, etc.) and add it to your bibliography. You can choose a citation format (APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian), and voilà, you are done.

2. Internet Safety with Professor Garfield

Professor Garfield helps kids learn about online safety with several great videos, activities, and games. The site is broken down into the following categories: Online Safety, Cyber Bullying, Fact or Opinion, and Forms of Media. The “watch, try, apply” method keeps kids engaged and insures that they are learning the content. There are Teacher Materials, Parent Tips, a printable Internet Safety Certificate, and a printable Classroom Poster.

3. Amateur Science Sites

FunSci has been around for a long time, and I don’t think the design has changed since around 1997. What the site lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in content. There are so many great resources here for young scientists to learn about and discover new things. It makes it a worthwhile visit.

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