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Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

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Cool Tools for Writing III

This is part III in a series dedicated to free, online writing tools for kids. You can view part I here and part II here.

1. Learn Something Every Day

Learn Something Every Day is a fun, simple site that is great for a morning opening activity.  In the classroom you could have this site up on the projector every morning to generate discussion or as writing prompts.

2. Grammar Blast

The Houghton Mifflin Company produces Grammar Blast. Grammar Blast offers 35 interactive grammar activities for students in grades two through five.

3. Grammar Practice Park

Grammar Practice Park, produced by Harcourt School Publishers provides 12 games for students in grades three, four, and five.

Cool Tools for Writing II

This is part II in a series dedicated to free, online writing tools for kids. You can view part I here.

Vocab Ahead is a collection of short videos that give definitions, usages, and pictures associated with interesting vocabulary words.  You may subscribe to receive a vocab video of the day and there is also a section of videos by students that are fantastic.

Kerpoof is an online story and 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 and assign usernames and passwords for each student to have their own individual accounts. There are no ads or inappropriate content and the art work is fun and lively.  Finished products may be saved, printed, or emailed.

One Word reminds me of a writing warm-up activity I used to do with my third grade class. The kids would choose a word and then have 1 minute to write as much as they could on that topic. We called the activity Speed Writing. They would then choose a second word and write on that, and so on. We would do this 3 or 4 times, and each time they would count their words and I would graph the results. Every time, they would write more (I would purposely give them a couple of extra seconds more each round… shhh!). My mantra during this activity was, “The more you write, the more you write.”  One Word works the same way. After clicking on Go students write as much as they can. After the minute is up, they enter their name and email and they can see what they wrote, as well as what others have written on the same topic.

Great Valentine Sites for Kids and Teachers

Valentine’s Day, according to Wikipedia, is

“An annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 500 AD. It was deleted from the Roman calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, but its religious observance is still permitted. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“). The day first became associated with
romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Modern Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Here are some great sites for kids and teachers to help celebrate this day of love and kindness.

1. The History of Valentine’s Day

From the History Channel, you can learn about the history of the big day, chocolate, the science of love, and find out interesting facts such as, “85% of all Valentine cards are purchased by women.”

2. Re-cycled Valentine’s Day Art

From National Geographic for Kids, learn how to turn everyday items from around your house into something heartfelt. There’s Candy Hearts Bingo, Valentine’s Day Straw Craft, Pop-up Greeting Cards, and more!

3. ABCTeach

Lots of great resources here for teachers. Printables like heart flashcards, heart bingo, valentine multiplication, word scrambles, and more!

4. Songs 4 Teachers

Not just songs and poems, you’ll find many crafts and activities here for Valentine’s day.

5. TeacherVision

Teacher Vision has a ton of great resources for teachers. There are Valentine printables, slideshows, lesson plans, quizzes, art activities, and more!

Happy Valentine’s Day from EdTechIdeas.com!

Cool Tools for Writing

This is part I in a series dedicated to free, online writing tools for kids. You can view part II here.

1. 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.

2. Read Write Think Printing Press

ReadWriteThink creates a lot of great educational resources. With Printing Press students can create a booklet, flyer, brochure, or newspaper fairly easily. There is a nice guide that walks you through the process and the focus is on writing. There is a place within each publication for a picture, but not one that you can add from your computer. This space is reserved for students to draw a picture after printing.

3. Grammaropolis

Grammaropolis is a fun, interactive site that helps students learn about the parts of speech.

EdTechIdeas: These 3 sites can be great tools to help struggling writers, as well as kids who love to write.  I’ve seen my students so excited about story writing with StoryJumper. The Printing Press makes it quick and easy for elementary kids to create nice looking publications, and learning about grammar and the parts of speech has never been more fun than with Grammaropolis.

Paragons of the Week – Super Teacher Tools, EdHeads, Kineticcity

Episode 37 >> Previous Paragons

1. Super Teacher Tools

Super Teacher Tools has a bunch of great teaching tools that allow teachers and students to create games, quizzes, charts and a variety of other useful things for your classroom. The most popular is a Jeopardy Review Game that you can create custom Jeopardy games for your students. EdTechIdeas: I use this site to have my students create review games for other students to play. They must first research a given topic, come up with questions and answers, and then use those facts to create a game.

2. EdHeads

EdHeads helps students learn through educational games and activities designed to meet state and national standards (US). EdTechIdeas: Students can learn about simple and compound machines, how to predict the weather,  perform virtual knee surgery, and even create a stem cell line.

3. Kineticcity

Kineticcity boasts that they have “the most amazing collection of science experiments, games, activities, challenges, and more.” Along with a pretty solid set of science related games, there are also have hands on games and activities, mind games, and activities for creative writing and art. Kids will really dig the interface. EdTechIdeas: Kineticcity is a production of The American Association for the Advancement of Science, with support from The National Science Foundation, and therefore, all of the content is US standards-based.  There is an educator section with ideas on how to start Kinetic City Club, and also an area to print out forms and leader guides. This would make a nice addition to your current science program or be a great program to start as an after school extension.

Google Body Browser

Google’s latest 3d venture, body browser, allows you to tour the inner-workings of the human body.  You can zoom in to see the muscular and skeletal systems, fly around the organs, and go inside the brain. Take a look at the video below to see how it works.
Note: As body browser is still in beta, you need to have the latest version of Google Chrome, or Firefox 4.0b1

EdTechIdeas: My 5th grade classes are currently studying human growth and development, and this will make an excellent resource for the kids to get a deeper understanding about how our bodies work.

Paragons of the Week – Collaborative Revision w/Google Docs, Learning Science, Story Home

Episode 36 >> Previous Paragons

1. Teach Collaborative Revision with Google Docs

Google Docs has recently partnered with Weekly Reader to come up with ways to help teachers teach collaborative writing to students. Two of the many features of Google Docs is the ability to have multiple people working on the same document simultaneously, and also, the intuitive ability to insert comments into a document. If you are new to Google Docs, they’ve broken this process down into four steps:

  1. Download a step-by-step tutorial [pdf] for Google Docs.
  2. Learn about the comments and revision features of Google Docs [pdf].
  3. Download, print, and share the following articles [pdf] with your students:
  4. Download the Educators Guide: Teaching Revision with Google Docs

EdTechIdeas: Google Docs is great for students to write collaborative poems, stories, book reports, movie scripts, essays, and more. Students can “hand in” their writing and the teacher can make comments and “pass it back” to the student for corrections and improvements. The nice thing about using comments is that editors can see who added what, as a time and date stamp, along with the users name is displayed along with each comment. Going further, a revision history can be accessed for any document to see who did what when.

2. Motion and Forces (Learning Science)

Part of Learningscience.org, this is great place to find games and activities that help students learn about and develop understanding of the fundamental concepts of principles of motions and forces.  There are 17 different activities listed here with explanations about what each learning tool teaches. EdTechIdeas: With high interest games like Simple Machines, Energy Skate Park (very cool), Galileo Drops the Ball, and Projectile Motion (Blast a Buick out of a canon – who wouldn’t like that?), Motion and Forces really come alive and are made understandable for students.

3. The Story Home

The Story Home is a site where students can go to hear free audio stories of original and classic tales. You can search for specific stories, or choose from the many different categories (animal stories, fairy tales, holiday stories, and a bunch more).   EdTechIdeas: The Story Home would be a great listening center. If you’re lacking in computers, subscribe to the podcast, put some stories on an iPod, add one of these, and you’re good to go. Have students write in their own words what they listened to. Re-write the ending to a story. After listening to a few stories, have your students record their own stories (original or classic) and turn them into podcasts for all to enjoy.


Paragons of the Week: Mapeas, Sight Words with Samson, Qwiki

Episode 35 >> Previous Paragons

1. Mapeas

Mapeas is a Google Maps mash-up that shows news happenings from around the world. The hot-spots are divided into categories: Business, Entertainment, General, Science and Sport, so you can select which one you’d like to see, or simply see all of them at once. Each dot on the map represents a story and the numbers indicate how many stories from that particular area there are. When you click on a dot it opens up a quick description of the news event along with a video that can be played directly in the site. EdTechIdeas Social Studies teachers can use Mapeas when learning about current events and also help students understand world geography at the same time.

2. Sight Words with Samson

Sight Words with Samson allows students to learn and practice word spelling and pronunciation in a fun, easy to use way. In a four-step process students are challenged to learn words, build words, identify words, and finally, take a quiz about everything they have learned. Within each step there are 4 different levels of difficulty that contain 7 lists of high-frequency words.  EdTechIdeas: Sight Words with Samson is a fantastic site for English language learners and students in lower elementary. It could be used as a center activity as it is a very intuitive site.

3. Qwiki

Qwiki is an impressive new website that just recently rolled out their alpha phase, which means they are still in testing mode, working out some bugs. Currently, you can request access via email and they’ll send you login credentials within a day or two. What Qwiki is, is this: Do you remember the scene from Wall-e where the captain asks the computer to, “define earth?” The computer then displays tons of pictures, videos and maps while spewing out (in a pleasant sounding voice) various facts and information regarding Earth. This, in a nut shell, is what Qwiki is aiming to do, and they do it pretty nicely. Users simply enter a word into the search form and a 2-3 minute “information experience” is displayed. EdTechIdeas: Once this is out of Alpha, Qwiki will be a great research resource for quick and easy information for students studying a variety of subjects. This would also be a great example for students to mimic. Make a “Quiki” assignment where students create a short film about any given subject, pulling in a wealth of facts and media and create their own “information experience.” Below is a quick demonstration of how Qwiki works.


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.

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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.

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?

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.
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