An edublog about integrating technology into the classroom.
Reform Symposium: Free professional development you can get in your ja
This Saturday (January 8, 2011) is the Reform Symposium Virtual conference. We have an incredible lineup of speakers, presentations, and conversations. It just doesn’t get much better than a conference you can attend in your jammies! Don’t forget to spread the word to all of your friends...
What it is: I’ve long been a fan of the BBC’s Bitesize games and activities. They continue to grow and continue to impress me. I recently ran across the BBC Bitesize Trapped! Punctuation game. It couldn’t be a more perfect way to practice punctuation in October. It has all the elements that students will enjoy: a challenge in the form of a story, spooky characters and setting (but not too spooky), a built in extra game challenge to get from one level to the next. The game begins with a short animation explaining how students got trapped in a tower and how they will solve punctuation puzzles to get free. Students have to choose the correct punctuation to complete each puzzle. After they have chosen the punctuation, they have to use some physics/experimentation to get an apple into a hole to move on to the next level. This is FUN punctuation practice!
How to integrate Trapped! Punctuation into the classroom: Trapped! Punctuation is a fun way for students to practice placement of punctuation in writing. This beats worksheet practice hands down. I like that the site puts students in the middle of a story and challenge. Students will have to consider why a punctuation mark is appropriate in each place. After students choose the punctuation to complete the puzzle, students have an additional challenge of getting an apple into a hole. There are some very basic physic principles introduced here. Students have to use the mouse to choose the angle and speed to shoot the apple to get to their goal. The puzzles get increasingly difficult and add the additional challenge of extra twists and turns to get the apple through. The second challenge asks students to choose the correct form of punctuation by “herding” crates with the mouse.
I like that these games are not your typical drill and kill. They aren’t simply choose the right answer and move on. There is an additional problem solving component built into each game. Can’t beat that!
Trapped Punctuation would be a great challenge for kids in a one to one computer setting. Don’t have that luxury? The games are quick enough to be used as a center activity in the one or two computer classroom. Set up Trapped! Punctuation as one of the centers in the classroom for students to visit as part of their rotation.
Tips: This practice is fun and challenging enough that students may want to continue practice at home. Be sure to share this link with parents, they are always looking for good uses of home computer time!
Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Trapped! Punctuation in your classroom.
What it is: Piktochart is a great web app that makes it easy to create your own infographics. Piktochart has free and premium options. With the free version, there are a handful of themes to choose from. Premium themes are also available, if you are so inclined. After you choose a theme, the next job is to change the mood and edit the information on the chart. Students can add shapes, graphics (uploaded), theme graphics, and text to the infographic. Students can add a chart where they manually input data or upload a cvc file. This is especially helpful if they have been data collecting in another program. There are some features that are only available to pro users. Not to worry, there are enough available for free that you can make a pretty rockin’ infographic that gets the point (or data) across.
How to integrate Piktochart into the classroom: Piktochart is a superb way for students to work on those statistics/probability standards. Being a visual learner myself, I love the way that infographics seem to make data easier to digest. Piktochart can be used to display any type of statistical or mathematical data in new ways. Students can show what they are learning in history, about the world population (miniature earth), science, in the book they are reading, geography statistics, etc.
The way that infographics allow students to blend learning across the subject areas is fantastic. It isn’t just math; it is math, and art, and science/social studies/history/geography/technology. Any time we can help students recognize the overlaps that exist in learning and subject area, it is a win!
A few weeks ago, students at Anastasis discovered that America’s biggest export is trash. They started digging and found statistics about the amount of trash Americans throw away each day (7lbs/person) and how much was recycled vs. what ended up in a landfill. They also looked at statistics of what receiving countries like China and India did with the waste being imported. It was fascinating! Students created infographics showing what they had discovered in their research. It was eye-opening when they translated that trash per person into a year’s worth of trash and figured out how many football stadiums that it would fill. When they could see it graphically, it had an impact on their thinking. The result was: “it is up to us to change this…”
Pretty amazing when the conclusion to learning is transformation…change.
Tips: In the free version: Basic themes, 5 image uploads, Piktochart’s watermark. Pro version ($29.00/mo): 80 themes (and growing), additional customization, more image uploads, no watermark.
Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Piktochart in your classroom.
Maybe you have heard of Caine’s Arcade? It is a little movement, started by an 8 year old. This video will restore your faith in humanity and inspire you big time! It inspired us at Anastasis Academy, so much so that when the second video came out, inviting us to a Day of Play, we were all in.
On Friday, Anastasis held our own Day of Play. We collected boxes (lots and lots of boxes), tape, markers, pipe cleaners, glue, aluminum foil, rubber bands, tubes, scissors and paper. Then, we let the kids at it. There were no parameters, no specific rules or directions. The goal for our students was to dream as big as they could. It is amazing what happens when you invite kids to dream and build apart from any rules or expectations of what the end goal is. Our students (k-8) gathered in our big “all in” room and built to their hearts content. The amazing part: no two ideas were the same. We had plink-o, a fortune teller, a minecraft adventure, a time machine (complete with crystal), ski ball, tilt the ball, an old-school computer made of new parts, a hotdog/snow cone stand, dance dance revolution, ferris wheel, tanks, and a mechanical bull. You read correctly, a mechanical bull.
The students spent about 3 hours dreaming and building. Some had plans they created the day before, others came in with a blank slate. After all of the building (and a break for lunch) we gathered to play each others games. It was SO much fun! Students even created their own prizes that could be won (mustaches and uni-brows anyone?).
The casual observer might have watched this all go down and seen chaos or a waste of time. A closer look would have revealed the rich learning taking place. The problem solving, critical thinking, discovery, planning, rich conversations, kids working together, designing, creativity. Have you ever seen those words describe a worksheet? A lecture? This was such a RICH learning experience in so many ways. Best of all: it built and fostered a culture of working together, learning from each other and enjoying each other. That is no small feat.
I saw genius today. I am SO proud of these kids, they truly are geniuses. Two of our students (different classes and ages) built a tank together. The tank shot rubber bands and launched a “cannon” water bottle. These boys decided that the rubber band shooter and cannon should have a “safety” just in case something slipped so that they wouldn’t accidentally shoot anything. The way they worked this out was truly brilliant. The cannon water bottle was held in place by a popsicle stick safety. The rubber band shooter was attached to pipe cleaner that kept the rubber band from releasing unless the safety was off.
Our youngest kids built and manned a hotdog/snow cone stand. My favorite part of the stand was the signs that they created for it. One of the signs read “Snow cones choose a color: limeade, raspberry, blueberry, grape.” I love that it said choose a color, not choose a flavor. SO stinking cute!
A dance-loving student created the cardboard version of dance, dance revolution. She created a dance mat with different colors on it. Then, she climbed behind her box and flashed construction paper colors. When the color showed up, the player had to step on the matching color on the mat. Periodically, she would hold up signs that said things like, “you are on fire” or “fail”. Brilliant!
What it is: History Pin is a really neat website that lets students (and anyone) electronically “pin” historical pictures, videos, audio clips, and stories to a digital globe. There are three main ways to use History Pin: exploring it, adding to it, or curating things on it. History Pin has some great collections and tours that have already been created that can be used in the classroom. Collections bring together content around a theme. Students can explore collections or create one of their own. With a Tour, students can go step-by-step through content, a story, explore a place or walk through time.
How to integrate History Pin into the classroom: History Pin is a neat place for students to learn about history. They can see history through pictures, video and stories submitted by people around the world. History Pin is also a fantastic place for students to demonstrate learning. They can add pins, create collections or tours around their learning. In many states in the US, students have standards that are related to learning about the state history. In Colorado, this is true of our 4th grade students. History pin is a great place for them to demonstrate their learning of their own state. The best part? This learning can be viewed and used by others all over the world. Our students get really excited about sharing their learning when they become the “experts”. History Pin lets them be the experts. Way cool!
Depending on which Collections and Tours your students engage in, there are great opportunities for incorporating other subjects. Our students enjoy comparing statistics from history with statistics of today. They are really enjoying knowing how to use ratios these days!
I love the way that Geography is so ingrained in History Pin. Students can easily see (and track) where history occurred in the world. This helps students understand how movements, revolutions, immigration happen as a result of geography.
Tips: Be sure to check out the school channel on History Pin.
Leave a comment and tell us how you are using History Pin in your classroom.
What it is: Algebra Lab may not be much to look at graphically speaking, but the resources here are pretty stupendous! Algebra Lab was created by Mainland High School teachers in partnership with Georgia Southern University and a host of student assistance. The site includes really well done lessons, activities, practice pages (online), study aids, glossary, and word problems. Algebra Lab is like a free, living textbook. It has enough substance to help students work their way through algebra, while understanding the connections to how that algebra is used in a practical sense. I didn’t appreciate Algebra until I took physics and chemistry. When I saw what those equations I learned were actually used for, I could appreciate the learning requirements in algebra. Algebra Lab does a beautiful job of helping students learn algebra within a context so that they really get a grasp of what these numbers are doing.
How to integrate Algebra Lab into your curriculum: I have enjoyed watching the debate over Algebra unfold in the last year or so. One side of the argument asks if it is really necessary that EVERY child be required to take algebra. The other side argues that algebra has great thinking skills that it develops, it gives students additional tools to understand the world through math. I’m not sure where I land on this debate. I don’t know that I believe that algebra should be a requirement for every child, and yet I think that my exposure to algebra was valuable. Maybe the debate just needs to be reframed…HOW should algebra be taught? I’m all for things being taught within context. If you can teach any subject in a way that sheds light on other learning it is valuable. I love when students make the connections between something like ratios and a site like Miniature Earth. They not only get excited about the math (yes, really) they see a purpose for wanting to learn more about how it works. Sometimes I think our job of teachers is really to help students see the overlaps that occur in learning so that they can make connections and have a cause to want to dig deeper.
Algebra Lab is a great resource for math (and non-math) teachers. Here you will find lessons, activities, word problems and practice opportunities for students. Students can directly access the site, or you (the teacher) can pull ideas out to use within any other teaching you are doing. The site is great for students to explore on their own (blended learning algebra style) or with guidance from a teacher. As a non-math teacher, I appreciate the way the site helps me think like a math teacher. It reminds me how all of these pieces connect to other learning.
Tips: If you have a one-to-one setting, students can practice directly on the website for immediate feedback. Very helpful!
***Want to do your part as a CHANGE MAKER in personalized education? Check out, support and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Algebra Lab in your classroom!
What it is: ScootPad is a really neat site that recognize that no two students are alike and that they will master skills in different ways. ScootPad helps students gain mastery through gradual and thorough practice that is personalized to teach the student. This personalized practice helps build confidence in learning and keeps students moving forward at a pace that is appropriate to them. Students can expect a fun learning environment. Teachers can expect automated practice, real-time progress tracking and assessments that will help you to formulate next steps for students.
All curriculum is based on Common Core Standards, including math and English/language arts for k-5 classrooms. For students in kindergarten or first grade, there is a voice/read-aloud feature.
The ConceptBank is a free app for Common Core standards and concept review.
Teachers can easily manage a classroom of students from the teacher dashboard. Curriculum can be customized for a class, group of students or for each student individually.
Parents have access to all of their child’s progress and alerts. They can encourage their child using customizable rewards.
How to integrate ScootPad into your curriculum:ScootPad is a really fantastic website for k-5 students and teachers. Here, students can get personalized practice for learning new concepts. Teachers and parents receive immediate data about a student’s progress.
ScootPad is a great first step to personalizing the learning experience for students. I like that it is cross-platform so that it could be easily incorporated into a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) classroom. Regardless of what device students are using, ScootPad works for them.
Scoot Pad is really a practice site that helps you to inform instruction based on student needs. The practice is all drill based (not a lot of room for critical thinking or different ways of showing what a student knows) but this could be a great benchmark tool to help you understand where students have strengths and weaknesses in their learning.
Tips: ScootPad is available as an app for the iPad, Android, Chrome, Mac, Windows, Edmodo, and Schoolology. Like I said, it is perfect for a BYOD environment!
***Want to do your part as a CHANGE MAKER in personalized education? Check out, support and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using ScootPad in your classroom!
What it is: The Miniature Earth Project is a great website that poses the question: “what if the population of the Earth were reduced into a community of only 100 people?” Based on this assumption, the site helps students understand what the breakdown of nationalities would be, religious representation, how many people would live in an urban area, how many people would have the majority of the world income, how many would live without clean world, those that live on less than $1.25/day, etc. The purpose of the site is to break our quickly approaching 7billion people in the world down to a number (100) that we can more easily wrap our minds around. The point of the site is to help kids (and adults) understand the real landscape of the world and cause positive action.
There is a video on the site that breaks down the infographic in a different way. Students can submit their own videos about the Miniature Earth.
How to integrate The Miniature Earth Project into your curriculum: Right now the Jr. High at Anastasis Academy is looking at the following line of inquiry: “Understanding our rights and responsibilities as individuals and the similarities and differences of others helps contribute to the development of world citizens.” The Miniature Earth Project is a great place to put the world’s challenges in perspective for students. We have been having fantastic conversations about the rights that we enjoy as Americans, and the responsibilities to others around the world that come with those rights. Students have also been exploring rights they believe all world citizens should enjoy and what responsibility they share in making those rights a reality for those who don’t currently enjoy them. As you can imagine, the discussion has been fascinating!
A great place to start this discussion is by asking students to create their own personal code of conduct. What standards will they hold themselves to? At Anastasis we talk often about managing our freedom. Freedom comes with responsibility, it isn’t a free-for all. We also ask students to think about what their actions would look like if it were multiplied by 7 billion people. What would the world look like? Is it a place they would want to live? The Miniature Earth Project is a great place for next steps. Looking at who makes up their world, what kind of challenges are faced. We ask our students to think about solutions to those challenges. They are NOT too young to come up with solutions!
Since the 100 person Earth is such a manageable number, ask students to create graphical representations of each figure presented in the Miniature Earth Project. What questions do they have based on the data? What challenges do they see? What common ground do we have? What are our responsibilities? What rights should we claim for all humans? What are ways that we can make the world a better place for all? What impact can a small change make on such a large population (does it change when you think about it on a smaller scale)?
Want to show students how their actions can change the world? Share the story of the 13 year old who has the world planting a million trees! The story of Felix Finkbeiner is an awesome one! Equally cool for our students: we have a Mr. Finkbeiner who teaches at Anastasis.
Tips: There are great links to more information about our population approaching 7 billion. Be sure to have your students dig into those resources to learn more!
***Want to do your part as a CHANGE MAKER in education? Check out, support and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Miniature Earth Project in your classroom!
*** If you need the cliff notes version of this post, skip down to the Call to Action section!
Last year I had a “hunch” about learning…specifically about curriculum. That hunch turned into a full fledged idea and a mission to do better for kids. Everywhere. Along the line I met some truly incredible people who taught me things I didn’t know how to do before. Like wire framing (thanks @ianchia), and pitching ideas (thanks @houseofgenius), and how to go about picking up programmers (thanks @toma_bedolla). Now I’m ready to share the culmination of all this work with you.
This isn’t just a post to tell you about what I’m doing, it is a call to action for everyone (yes, even you). It is a request for you to join me in this mission in whatever form that may take.
I have a vision: to make personalized learning a reality for EVERY child.
“The problem with curriculum and textbooks is that they complete thoughts. Curriculum and textbooks give the impression that learning has an end. That when you have made it from cover to cover, the job is done. I know in my own schooling this was true, I thought that school was teaching me what was important and that anything outside of the curriculum wasn’t important or relevant to my life…wouldn’t they have included it otherwise? How did curriculum get this way? Well, people realized that there was no possible way to cover every facet of learning, so they stripped it down to what they thought was important. The problem? What is important to you may not be what is important to me. What’s more, something that is very important to me may have been cut all together so I don’t even get the chance to know that it is important to me. Humans tend to like things that are definable, we like things that we can put into a neat, orderly box and carry out in a predictable way. It feels safe and manageable. This is what led me to the following hunch:
What if curriculum was more flexible? What if curriculum/schools/learning looked more like Pandora. If you aren’t familiar with Pandora, it is an online radio station that plays the music that it thinks you will like. You type in an artist or song and it creates a customized radio station just for you. It is remarkably accurate. Pandora almost never gets it wrong for me. It is like they have a direct line to my brain and can predict what song I would like to hear next. When it is wrong, I can give the song a thumbs down and it apologizes profusely for the error and promises never to play that song again on my station. The other thing I love about Pandora: I can have multiple radio stations. Because sometimes I really couldn’t think of anything in the world better than Frank, Dean, and Sammy; but other times I also want a little Timberlake, Whitestripes, or Bangles. What if curriculum looked like that? What if learning happened as a result of typing in one subject or topic that a student was enamored with and a completely personalize learning journey began playing out for them? What if students were led through a journey that was completely customized? What if they had several stations mapped out for them?”
I believe this is possible. I believe it is within our reach to create a completely personalized learning experience to every unique child. I believe that we can honor humanity instead of treating our kids like widgets in a factory. I believe that teachers should be teachers, focused on the needs and development of the child instead of teaching the masses through scripted curriculum.
The Learning Genome Project will empower teachers and parents to become engineers of learning by providing each individual student the exact content they need, at the exact moment they need it. The Learning Genome will enable students to explore the process of inquiry, experimentation, discovery and problem solving. Instead of learning how to pass the next test, we will enable students to construct meaning and learn how to transfer that meaning to new life context. At the hub, the Learning Genome is a platform that aggregates resources and, using a series of algorithms, provide recommendations of the BEST resources to meet the individual learning needs of a specific child. The Learning Genome creates those serendipitous moments of finding just the right learning tool to meet the needs of children at the right time.
Much like Pandora finds that perfect piece of music, the Learning Genome will find the perfect piece of learning material to aid the student in learning. The key to the Learning Genome’s success is crowd sourcing. I will be drawing on educators around the world (that’s you!) to help me tag curriculum, books, lessons, videos, apps, websites and other educational content. This collection of tagged content lives in the centralized ”cloud” and wil allow users around the world to find and access materials that best suit student needs. By gathering information about the individual student’s learning style preferences, multiple intelligence strengths, social/emotional levels, interests and passion, the Learning Genome can help teachers to create customized learning maps for each individual. This portion will be free. Every child deserves a unique learning experience.
In addition to the Learning Genome Hub (the aggregate), the site will include a complete Student Information System, planning tools, e-portfolios, e-learning, individual learning plans, assessment and blogging tools. All of these will work seamlessly together for you go-to for learning and planning.
4. Tweet about this project…a lot. Let’s completely take over the Internet with tweets about the Learning Genome and taking over education for kids! Please make sure to link back to the indiegogo campaign so that others can learn about it! Use the hashtag #standagain (because after all, we are helping children “stand again” in their learning)
6. Mention us on Facebook and like us on Facebook!
7. Did I mention spread the word? Seriously, that is SO helpful! You never know who might see that tweet and drop a couple thousand (or more) to make this project go!
8. Time is of the essence. I have 40 days starting NOW to make this happen. eeek! I need your help!
So, what are the perks to helping with this project?
$5 gets your name on the Learning Genome Change Makers page. You are changing education. That makes you a big deal. I want everyone to know what a big deal you are! I know many of you don’t think that your $5 can do anything. Wrong. According to my cluster map, I have hundreds of thousands of visits to this blog. If each of you pitches in…we all win fast!
$10 Remember all those cool Bloom’s Taxonomy posters I made? This campaign is now the ONLY place you can get them. These are 8.5″ x 11″ versions of the poster.
$30 Learning Genome beta tester. You get the inside scoop and ability to play before ANYONE else. I know, pretty cool.
$60 EXCLUSIVE A full size large-format print of my Bloomin’ Peacock mailed to you. That awesome little Peacock looks even better large. Did I mention this is the ONLY place you will get a big version of this?
$500 Even more EXCLUSIVE you get all of my Bloom’s re-imagine posters in the large format. Perfect for your classroom, library or as a gift to your favorite teachers.
$1000 My Searching for daVinci webinar for your school. What better way to spend your professional development dollars than learning how to create a daVinci like culture of learning at your school? Worth it!
$5000 For my corporate friends who want to see their logo in lights as a company that supports education and changing the world. If you have an education company, The Learning Genome Project will be the place to be seen.
We have $85,000 to raise. It sounds like a big number. We can do it together. I figured if I am going to lean on crowdsourcing to transform education, the funding should be crowdsourced too. How awesome will it be to join together as an education community to say, together we transformed the way learning is done. We changed things for every child in the world. Yeah, it’s big.
What it is: Claco is a new website that makes it simple to build, organize and share lessons. Your lessons can be dynamic including weblinks, embed codes, online videos, files and more. In addition to creating and uploading your own lessons, you can also search and use lessons that other teachers around the world have built. There is no better way to stretch and grow professionally than to learn from each other! Claco makes it easy to work with other educators in a collaborative environment to streamline the lesson planning process. I love the vision behind Claco, they have even created a movement called “United We Teach” that encourages educators to share and enhance each other’s resources. I learn SO much from my PLN, creating a place where this is encouraged as part of the process is fantastic!
Another feature I love about Claco: no need to download lessons, you can view and use all lessons directly from your Claco profile. That means that lessons are available from anywhere (because they are in the cloud) and can be used from computers, iPads, and smartphones…super handy!
How to integrate Claco into your curriculum: Use Claco to save yourself time. I tend to get lost in the OCEAN of amazing lesson ideas and resources on the web. I like that Claco can be a one-stop shop for resources and lessons. The ability to organize all of my findings in one easy-to-use place that can be accessed by all of my devices is also very helpful.
Aside from the time saving, Claco makes it possible to collaborate on lessons with other teachers in the building, or from anywhere in the world. Lessons can be constructed with teammates and enhanced by anyone. Lessons can also be easily shared with students, parents and colleagues.
Tips: You may recognize some features of Claco. Class Connect (which I wrote about here) has morphed into Claco. The genius behind Claco, Eric Simons who created the sites after some frustrations with his own school experience. Instead of being disenfranchised, he set out to make it better. You gotta love that!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Claco in your classroom!
What it is: Construct 2 is a free program that makes it possible for ANYONE (kids too!) to make HTML5 games without any programming experience. Construct 2 is available for free download for Windows XP, Vista and 7. The approach to game creation is pretty intuitive. It is easy enough for beginners but is robust enough to make some pretty impressive games. This editor makes it possible for your students to take their ideas to production. SO cool! Construct 2 also has physics elements that can be added to games that adds dimension and another aspect of learning in game design.
Construct 2 has a free version, as well as two tiers of paid versions. The free version doesn’t allow students to create iOS native apps, Android native apps and has a few limitations in organization of a project. Other than that, it is fully loaded and pretty impressive!
How to integrate Construct 2 into your curriculum: I don’t know about you, but our students are programming crazy! The only problem: programming comes with a pretty steep learning curve and our kids want to make their ideas come to life now. I’ve found that students respond well to these kind of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors. The great thing about these type of editors: students get to see their ideas come to life and those that are interested in pushing the limits are motivated to learn more coding/programming language. It is the best of all worlds! The downfall of Construct 2: WINDOWS. Yeah, no version for Apple yet. I have no idea what that is like…my world is Apple. BUT, I know many of you are in Windows environments (sorry) and many of our students still have Windows at home. This post is for you!
Construct 2 can be used to create games and HTML5 apps. This means your students can fully flesh out their learning with choose-their-own adventure stories, history explanations, science simulations/games, design thinking, etc. Taking learning to “publish” this way is pretty amazing. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see students take what they have learned and create something new with it. I highly recommend it!
Consider offering game construction as an option for students to show what they know. You will be impressed!
Tips: There are some great tutorials on the Construct 2 website. This is a great way for your students to engage in a little self-directed learning and exploration.