Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Tag Archives: elementary

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.


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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.

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.

Paragons of the Week – Zoo Burst, PocketMod, Doppelme

Episode 30Previous Paragons

1. Zoo Burst

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.

2. PocketMod

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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.

3. Doppelme

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.

Paragons of the Week – Scale of the Universe, Nobel Prize Edu-games, Antarctica ”Street” View

Episode 29 >>Previous Paragons

1. Scale of the Universe

Scale of the Universe is an amazing journey in scale. The site allows you to zoom out from quantum foam all the way to the outer universe.

2. Nobel Prize Educational Games

The Nobel Prize Educational Games are a series of well thought out games based on Nobel Prize achievements. You can learn about blood typing (my personal favorite), lasers, diabetes, DNA, Conductive Polymers, and more!

3. Antarctica “Street” View

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!

Paragons of the Week – Cloud Canvas, Dot-Dash, Word Search Maker

Episode 28Previous Paragons

1. Cloud Canvas

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.

2. Dot-Dash

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.

3. WordSearch Maker

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.

Paragons of the Week – Family Safety Center, The Learning Edge, Answer Garden

Episode 27

Paragons 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. Google Family Safety Center


Google Family Safety Center is a quick and easy page with pertinent information for parents about how to keep their kids safe while online. The 2+ minute video (above) has some simple tips from experts in the field. There are many other resources on this site as well that will help keep parents informed.

2. The Learning Edge

The Learning Edge is a newspaper-based site that would be great for younger students and English Language Learners.  Navigating the site is as easy as clicking on a headline within the newspaper and then beginning the activity. There are numerous activities within each newspaper that help with concept understanding, reading fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, and much more.

3. Answer Garden

Answer Garden is a quick and easy brainstorming site that allows you to create a question, send out the url, and have others reply. The answers that are most common show up the largest and if you hover over an answer it show the number of replies. No registration or email is necessary, which is always a bonus. Teachers may want to use this for vocabulary building (see above), brainstorming ideas, or general question/answer activities.

Paragons of the Week – Talking Pets, Many Things, Build Your Wild Self

Episode 26

Paragons 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. Talking Pets

This is kind of a weird site, and some may even find it creepy. If talking animals and strange voices bother you, stay away from this site. In a nut shell, Talking Pets works like this: 1. Choose an animal. 2. Make your pet talk by typing in up to 200 characters. 3. Listen to the animal say what you typed. I’ll admit, it’s freaky, but kids absolutely dig it. For reluctant writers and English language learners, Talking Pets may be a good place to go for quick writing activities. Thanks to Askatechteacher for this find.

2. Many Things

A plain looking site, but with an amazing plethora of activities, games and information. Many Things is for people studying English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL). There are quizzes, word games, word puzzles, proverbs, slang expressions, anagrams, a random-sentence generator and other computer assisted language learning activities.

3. Build Your Wild Self

Thanks to Colin Gally for this awesome find! Build Your Wild Self is a fun site from the Wildlife Conservation Society that allows kids (and adults) to build a cool looking avatar without having to login or enter an email. The really great thing about this site is that as you are building your wild self, you are learning the names of the different animals you are using, and what kind of specialized features each animal has. Building my Bis-sha-gib-antula-bat avatar, I learned all about bison, sand tiger sharks, gibbons, tarantulas, and bats! Show me another avatar-creator that can do that!

Paragons of the Week – NASA, Web Research, & Multiplication Tool

Episode 25

Paragons 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. NASA Brain Bites

NASA BrainBites is great question and answer video site that is full of common, and sometimes strange questions that kids have about space and everything NASA-related. “How do you go to the bathroom in space?” “How do you scratch your nose in a space suit?” and “Where does space begin?” are just a few of the dozens of questions answered by astronauts and scientists.

2. Web Researching Interactive Tutorials

From the Vaughan Memorial Library at Acadia University these four great interactive tutorials guide students along to help them learn about credible sources, research techniques, web searching, and proper citation practices.

3. MultiplicationTool

Multiplication Tool is a great little site for mastering 3 different multiplication techniques. Students can practice standard, Partial Products, and Lattice methods of multiplication.

Engage Students! ActivExpression Voting Devices

For a recent lesson with 4th and 5th graders on the subject of Internet Safety, I pulled out our ActivExpression (voting) devices and used a pre-made Promethean flip-chart that I downloaded from Promethean Planet. The students absolutely love using the voting devices and the discussion that ensues about each topic is amazing. The thing I like about the devices is that every student is an active participant and even the shy kids will “voice” their opinions. The graphs which can be embedded in the flip-chart, contain a wealth of instant information which show patterns that would be missed without the use of the voting devices.

Following are a few of the questions asked and answers the students came up with.

Which type of communication tool do you use the most online?

A. email
B. instant messaging
C. social network (Facebook, Myspace)
D. blog
E. other

This is the reality of today’s students. Even though 13 is minimum age of Facebook, over 26% of this particular 5th grade class uses social media as their main source of online communication.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable or unsafe while you were online?

A. Yes
B. No

The discussion that followed this question shined light upon some of experiences children have online, including: Weird emails from strangers; pop-up ads that take them to different sites; abusive/inappropriate comments on Youtube; virus attached via email; chat rooms in game sites; inappropriate images via Google image search.

When you are online at home are you usually:

A. working by yourself away from adults
B. working with a parent
C. working alone with a parent nearby

I was actually a little surprised by this number as I thought that more students would either be working with a parent, or with one nearby. The fact that almost 40% of 9 and 10 year old students are online away from parents is alarming.

As mentioned before, the discussion and aha moments that surfaced because of the devices was priceless. The students took away a lot more from this lesson because they were active participants and had a voice in the conversation.

Nuts and Bolts of using ActivExpression Voting Devices

Device Registration

The first step before you can start polling students is to register your devices. View the how-to video below to learn about this.

Express Poll

Sometimes, you’ll want something quick and easy. Making an express poll is the way to go.

Making a Quiz

To create a quiz in ActivInspire, follow these steps:

Have you had experiences using voting devices? What has worked well and what have been some of the challenges?

Here’s a quick-start tutorial to help you out.



Paragons of the Week – Google Tricks, Surfing Scientist, Art Babble

Episode 24

Paragons 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. 100 Google Tricks

From Onlinecolleges.net comes a great Google list that will “save you time in school,” and life in general. Everything from timelines, definitions, currency conversion, keyboard shortcuts, Google Squared, and beyond. There are actually 102 tricks listed here, but who’s counting?

2. Surfing Scientist

Great science tricks, lesson plans, conundrums, and more at this fun, activity-based site. Surfing Scientist Ruben Meerman from Bundaberg, Queensland takes kids and teachers on learning discoveries.

3. Art Babble

Art Babble is a site dedicated to the discussion about and promotion of Art, in its numerous forms. This is a great place for kids to learn about different types of art and artists, as well as gain an appreciation and inspiration of artistic endeavors. The Channels section allows students to view videos on hundreds of different genres, and the Artists section has hundreds of videos on specific artists. Thanks to Richard Byrne for this find.

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Science House, ViewPure, TeachingBooks.net

Attribution: "Pinwheel Star" http://www.flickr.com/photos/40147761@N04/4193248881Episode 23

Paragons 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. Science House

Science House is a great site created and maintained by scientists that has a plethora of quick videos of science experiments. They show you the materials you will need, walk you through the experiment and give you the educational background as to why this is important.

2. View Pure

The above image is an entire screen shot of a YouTube video being played on ViewPure. You’ll notice no distractions, no ads, basically nothing but the video. Thanks to Makeuseof.com for this great find!

3. TeachingBooks.net

Teachingbooks.net is a great resource for elementary school teachers who are looking for new ways to explore the series of books that their students are reading. One very cool feature is that kids can listen to authors give introductions to their series and read a bit of one of the books. Mary Pope Osborne does a great job explaining how she came up with the idea of her Magic Tree House Series. Thanks to Julie Niles Petersen for the find!

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