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Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Tag Archives: productivity

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Beyond Flipping the Classroom

I was listening to a Radiolab podcast yesterday (which, by the way, if you’re looking for a great podcast to brighten your commute, I’d highly recommend it!) and Google’s concept of 20 Percent Time came up (technically, Google did not create 20% Time, they are just the most prolific utilizers of the idea).

What it is

20 Percent Time is simply taking 20 percent of your day, 1 day a week, 6 days out of a month, however you want to break up the time, to work on something you are passionate about. To give you an idea about the power behind 20 Percent Time, here are a few Google items we have today because of it: Google News, Google Art Project (my personal favorite), Google Sky, Adsense, Orkut, Google Talk, and let’s not forget, Gmail. It got me thinking: What if our students were given the chance to take 20% of their time at school to work on what they love? To learn about, nurture, enhance, create, strengthen, develop a part of themselves, that would otherwise, be pushed aside to make room for the onslaught of ever-expanding curriculum. As a teacher, I’ve quasi-dabbled with this idea in the past, specifically, when I relinquished control, and have seen amazing results from giving students more power and ownership of their learning. Students were excited beyond what I had ever seen before in my lab. They exuded an air of motivation and self-direction.

Going Beyond

20 Percent Time, however, goes a step beyond that. It goes beyond flipping the classroom. When I relinquish control in my lab, I am still telling the students what they will be learning – it’s just they who dictate the method of their discovery. 20 Percent Time gives students the freedom to choose what it is they will be learning for that particular amount of time. Something that would be very difficult for many educators and institutions to abdicate. Katherine Von Jan, CEO of Radmatter and Edu-Innovator ponders:

Maybe if we asked and then gave kids permission to do some of the things they’d love to do throughout their academic careers (K-12), we wouldn’t be so lost and confused in college or in life. And maybe if we start pursuing what we’re passionate about we would actually solve the world’s most impossible challenges along the way.

Patrick Green, Apple Distinguished Educator, Tech Coordinator and blogger at Through a Green Lens, applies 20% in his life and states:

“20% Time” can mean setting aside time to focus on the things that you WANT to do and SHOULD do in your job, but that tend to get pushed aside for the urgent things. 20% Time for me, means changing my priorities and booking out blocks of time to spend on those important things that otherwise would stay on my to-do list for months and possibly years.


20 Percent Time is something that educators can dabble with as part of a new year’s resolution. You may want to begin small and test out how it could fit in your classroom and school. Pick a certain time during the day, call it “20 PT,” or “Passion Time,” or  “Self-Directed Creativity Time,” whatever sounds good to you. Depending on the age of the students it may take a lot of direction and guidance at first. You may want to try it on yourself for a few weeks and see what kind of results you get. That way, you’d have an idea of how best to integrate 20 Percent Time into your classroom.

Learning More

Below are 2 videos that explain the benefits of 20 Percent Time. In the first, fast forward to the 9th minute to hear Larry Page describe Google’s early explorations with 20 Percent. The second video you’ll watch Shannon Deegan explain how Google’s 20 Percent Time fosters innovation.

Image Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/53941041@N00/4977883190

iPad Apps Recommended by Teachers

This year, there are several teachers in my division who are piloting iPad 2s in their classroom, and we meet bi-monthly to discuss our findings of uses and applications that we have discovered. Being that these are not class sets of iPads, the focus here is uses of the iPad as a teaching tool for productivity and organization. 


Evernote is a great app for taking and organizing your notes. You can use it when you meet with students, at staff meetings when there’s something important to jot down, and at workshops and in-services. There are a couple of quirks with Evernote that could be fixed. The inability to copy and paste a table, and no multiple levels of bullets.

Price: Free


Confer is a note taking app that allows you to create classes, group students and take anecdotal notes as you meet with your students.

Here is a short video showing how to use Confer:

Price: $14.99


Flipboard is a magazinesque app that allows you to organize all your online reading. I flip through my Google Reader feeds, my favorite news sites, and Twitter feed in a smooth and easy-to-use interface. You can also share links via Twitter, Facebook, Google, or email with just the tap of a finger.

Price: Free


GoodReader is a PDF reader that allows you to mark up pdfs by typing, using sticky notes, hand-written annotations, lines, and free-hand drawings on any pdf you have. GoodReader also supports TXT, .doc, .ppt, .xls, iWork, audio files, and video files.

Price: $4.99


If you have a Dropbox account, the free app is a must have. The Dropbox app allows you to access all of your files anywhere you are. You can save any of your projects you create on the iPad into your dropbox account and  access them from other computers at work or at home.

Price: Free


TeacherPal is a classroom organizer app that allows teachers to keep track of their students by taking role, manage timetables, take behavior notes, and more. One of our teachers had this to say about Teacher pal: “Can’t rave enough about TeacherPal.  It has been a life saver when it comes to keeping track of my 300 + students. I am able to see their smiling faces on the seating chart, add notes regarding behavior and keep track of their finished assignments. I can back up all the data in Dropbox. All pretty good for an app that is free.”

Price: Free

What are some of your essential iPad apps for your classroom?


ABCya has a lot of great learning games and productivity tools for elementary students and teachers. There is a nice word cloud generator that allows students to easily save their word clouds as jpegs with no registration. There is a friendly letter creator, and a cool keyboard challenge where students need to place the keys back on a keyboard – would be great for an iwb.

Arcademic Skill Builders

Arcademic Skill Builders is a fun site that combines arcade style games with academics to make learning fun. There are 12 different subjects including addition, subtraction, fractions, time, geography, language arts, typing and more. Students can create a public or a private game (private games require students to create a password for that specific game).

At the time of this writing, teachers can sign their class up for the Plus version of Arcademic and have the ability to track student performance, create custom content, analyze problem areas, and earn attachments.

Newspaper Map, Study Jams, and Go Go News

Newspaper Map

Newspaper Map is a nice mash-up with Google Maps that pins many of the world’s newspapers in their respective locations on the map. Students and teachers can look up a specific newspaper or location, filter it by language, and then go to the site of any of the thousands of newspapers included in this site.

Study Jams

Study Jams has a fun selection of animated videos to help students with math and science concepts such as multiplication and division, algebra, fractions, geometry, landforms, solar system, matter, energy, light and sound, force and motion, animals, and much more.

Here’s a preview of one of the videos:

Go Go News

Back to current events, Go Go News is an educational site that has “big news for little people.”  Since its inception in 2006, GoGoNews has provided children with general knowledge, as well as a consciousness and awareness of the world, regardless of geography or culture. Along with the different news sections, there is a free mobile app, and they are developing GoGoTeach, to help educators integrate the site into their classrooms.

Cool Science Sites for Kids

In celebration of Robert Bunsen’s 200th birthday, I’m dedicating this post to four cool science sites for kids.  If you’d like to see some of my other favorite science sites, click here.

1. Periodic Table of Videos

The Periodic Table of Videos is a site created and maintained by The University of Nottingham. Clicking on any of the 118 chemical elements brings you to informational videos all about that element. A great site for self-directed learning!

2. Catch the Science Bug

The educational goals of Catch the Science Bug are to, “Increase science literacy and raise environmental consciousness by adhering to national standards and guidelines for content and use different teaching methods to engage all types of learners, and encourage life-long learning by featuring scientists who model this behavior.” The site has big goals, but it hits them pretty well. By using the Science Files section, students can learn about various scientific concepts by reading, watching videos, and completing activities.

3. Science Bob

Science Bob is a fun, interactive site that has several different areas for kids to choose from. There are videos, experiments, science fair ideas, and a research help link with a plethora of fantastic links to other sites.  Don’t forget to click on the “Whatever you do, Don’t click here” button (or not).

4. Bunsen Burner Flip Chart (Promethean)

Here’s a simple flip chart that you can download for free from Promthean Planet to illustrate the flame types of a Bunsen Burner depending on valve position.  There is also a series of photographs to identify element flame tests. (Note: You must be logged in to Promethean Planet to download the chart).

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.

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.

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??!

Top 10 Tools for Learning – 2010

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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…)
  9. Prezi
    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.
  10. 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.

Those are my 10. Make sure you visit the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies to see the top 100 tools as the list gets finalized.

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.

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