What it is:Check 123 is a new video encyclopedia site for kids. All videos are validated and ranked by Check123 professionals, are 1-3 minutes in length, and a curated on just about any subject you can think of. Broad topics covered on Check123 include: history, sports, politics, food, performing arts, economics, earth, nature, tech, philosophy, music, cars, pets, human body, arts, geography, religion, psychology, TV, gaming, science, literature, fashion, media, and space.
How to integrate Check 123 into your classroom: Check123 is a great place for students to begin their research. These videos are between 1 and 3 minutes each, keeping students engaged in a topic and giving them bite-size information. I like that the videos are so well curated, it keeps search results on topic rather than the endless dig for quality content that can happen in a YouTube search. Check123 videos are also wonderful as provocations for further inquiry. The short format gives students just enough information to whet their appetites and encourage additional questioning. Check123 is a great one to keep bookmarked on classroom and library computers for quick reference.
Video is the preferred learning method of 90% of our students at Anastasis, when they do a search, they usually begin on a video site. With Check123, they are sure to get some quality results back to kick start their learning and research.
What it is:Aurasma is an app (also a website) that allows learners to quickly create augmented reality experiences for others. Augmented reality is the mix of technology and the real world. Probably the most popular or, at least the most commonly used, augmented reality is the use of Snapchat filters. Funny faces and masks are overlaid on top of the real world (i.e. whatever you are taking a picture of). Aurasma makes it simple to quickly create these types of experiences for others. Learners start by uploading, or taking, a “Trigger” photo. This photo is what the Aurasma app will look for to trigger the event that has been layered on top of the photo. Next, learners add overlay images. These are the images that will popup when the Trigger Photo is within the camera viewfinder. It might sound cumbersome, but it really isn’t! It is like having QR codes embedded right in any environment…without the QR code!
How to integrate Aurasma into the classroom: Because learners can create augmented reality experiences for any environment, the possibilities are seriously endless. Below are a few ways I can see our teachers and learners using Aurasma:
A few years ago, our students explored How the World Works through the PBS series, and book, How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson. As a result of their learning, the students decided to build a Domino Museum (you can read about that here). At the time, they put QR codes all around their museum. Some QR codes explained how the museum worked, and others expanded on the information that was presented on each domino. Aurasma could take an experience like this to the next level by allowing students to embed information and instructions all around the museum. As people walked through their Domino Museum with the Aurasma app opened up, additional information would have automatically populated based on where they placed Triggers.
Anastasis students are SUPER creative in presenting their learning at the end of an inquiry block. During the last block, one of our students explored the history of dance. In one of our learning spaces she created a time machine that students could get into. Then she themed other learning spaces for each time period. With Aurasma, she could have had the students actually see the dancers/costumes/etc. of each time period as if they were really in the room, using the room as a trigger.
In a foreign language class, students could use objects/items in the room as triggers for vocabulary overlays. As students look through their iPhone/iPad/Android’s camera in the Aurasma app, all of that vocabulary would pop up as others explored the room.
Our students go on a field trip on average once a week. They explore all kinds of incredible places for learning in context. Often, another class might end up at the same location later in the month or even in another year. As students visit somewhere new, they can overlay their learning on a place. When other classes, or another year’s students visit, they can see the learning that took place when others visited. (How cool would it be to get a network of schools doing this so that we could all learn together!)
We have a strong social justice component at Anastasis. Last year, our Jr. High kids spent time at Network Coffee House. During their time there, they spent a day in the life of a homeless person. They held cardboard signs on street corners and panhandled, they met other homeless, and got a tour of where these people sleep, get warm, etc. Afterward they had incredible reflections about their experience. It would have been a neat exercise to have them end the day by taking pictures of landmarks at the various stops around their tour as Triggers. When they got back to school, they could have created an augmented reality reflection tour for others.
In art class, students could take a photo of their creation and then overlay an explanation about how they created their art, their inspiration, etc. During a school art show, those in attendance would get to experience the heart behind each piece.
In social studies, students could snap a photo of a place on the map, and then overlay their learning on top. As others explored the map with the Aurasma app, all of that information would populate as they explored the map.
Learners could take a photo of the cover of a book (or book spine) that they just read. They can overlay the trigger image with their review of the book. As students are searching the library through the Aurasma app, they will see the reviews that other students have left behind.
Teachers can use Aurasma to embed instructions or norms around their classrooms. I’m imagining this being useful for special equipment use in a maker space or science lab. This would also be a great way to embed instructions when you have different learning happening in the classroom in a center like environment. Multiply your reach by layering the instructions or a demonstration of each center at its location in the classroom.
Teachers could also use Aurasma to amplify the usefulness of posters or bulletin boards around the classroom. Snap a photo of either as your trigger and then layer additional helpful information over top.
It could be fun to “hide” a writing prompt or brain teaser in your classroom each day. Just snap a photo of something in the classroom so that when students look through their camera with Aurasma, the overlay pops up with instructions.
This would also be a fun way to lead students through problem solving of a mystery where they are discovering clues and following directions. At the beginning of the year, you could create a tour of the school or scavenger hunt around the school to help students get acclimated to their new surroundings.
Sooo…the possibilities really are endless with this one!
Tips: Learners can create augmented reality experiences from the Aurasma website, but to actually view the augmented reality, an iPhone/iPad/Android device with the Aurasma app is needed.
What it is: Tonight is the final debate before the presidential election in the United States. While I can’t say that I’m going to miss the absurdity that has been this debate, Watch the Debates is a pretty wonderful site! In addition to the ability to watch tonight’s debate live, students can also explore past presidential debates. Students can filter the debates by the year, or a specific issue.
How to integrate Watch the Debates in your classroom:Watch the Debates provides an excellent way for students to explore the evolution of a specific issue in the United States by watching debates from as far back as 1960. Students can do this for civil rights, the economy, gun control, heath care, immigration, national security, social security, and terrorism.
As it turns out, Watch the Debates is a fantastic site for Anastasis students right now as they are working through an inquiry about ideas that cause change in society. This site could act as a provocation and place to explore how United States politics has changed over time and how our ideas about society have changed over time. Students can also explore the posture of candidates over time (fashion, the way they speak to each other, etc.). This could be a good launching point that leads to discussions about what else is going on historically that impacts these changes. The social constructs in place, the historical moments of pivot, the technological advances, the impact of religion, the scientific discoveries, our perspective as a country, and the political climate in general. Watch the Debates can be a beginning point for discovery and depth of transdisciplinary understanding.
What it is:My Simple Show Video Creator lets students easily create professional level “explainer” videos. The finished product looks just like a Common Craft video, so cool! The step-by-step tool helps students think about storyline and the flow of explaining a concept.
How to integrate My Simple Show into the classroom:My Simple Show is a fantastic option for digital storytelling. Students begin by choosing to write their own script, or by uploading a Power Point presentation. Next, they can choose from one of many templates to start from, or alternately, start from scratch. The templates are an awesome option because they give kids an outline and break down the story telling/explaining process. For each step in the process, it guides students with a prompt and with some examples. My Simple Show auto-magically picks up words in the script and suggests pictures. Students can use the pre-selected images, choose an image from the My Simple Show library of images, or upload their own image or picture. In the final step, students add audio. This can be computer generated or students can record their own audio. The finished product is pretty impressive! Below is a video I made quickly today.
My Simple Show’s obvious use is for explanatory digital storytelling, but it would also be a great way for students to reflect on a field trip, tell a story, retell new learning (pssst. this is an awesome way to check for understanding!), or create their own “textbooks.”
Students can use My Simple Show to explain a historical event, introduce a biological process, introduce a physical law, summarize literature, summarize a biography, discuss pros and cons, explain a law, etc. Use My Simple Show to create whole class stories where each student contributes a portion of the explanation or story. This type of video can be made over a few weeks using classroom devices as a writing center. This would be a fun way to create an A to Z type book of learning, reflections by students after a unit, a 100 day video, fact vs. opinion video, a class video of poems, a phonics video, or a class video about a field trip that students took. Students can take pictures of science experiments and create a digital video detailing the experiment with text, images, and student voice reflections included. The finished product can be shared with parents and families easily through YouTube, Vimeo, or downloaded as a MP4 file.
For a back to school night activity, take a picture of each student to add to a class video and record students sharing an explanation of a school day. This same idea could be used in preparation for parent-teacher conferences. Students can create a video about their learning during the quarter/trimester, record thoughts about why they are proud of the work they did, and add reflections. These can be shared as a starting point for conferences, at the end of the conference, parents have a keepsake. My Simple Show could also be used for character education. Give the students a scenario or problem, and have them work out a step-by-step explanation or solution.
Because of the voice recording capabilities, My Simple Show, would be a great way for students to practice a foreign language. They can illustrate a word or phrase accompanied by the audio. Classes could work together to create a “living” digital glossary.
Be sure to give your students access to My Simple Show in your Maker Space, it is a great option for students to choose!
Tips: My Simple Show has video guides that lead students through each step of the process…I definitely recommend watching these at least once as a class or for the first round of creation!
What it is:INVICTA Challenge combines technology (in the form of an action-packed video game), a graphic novel, maps, an operation packet and an action figure that inspires kids to read and problem solve. Each INVICTA Challenge collection builds problem solving and leadership skills for students 8-14. Part story, part game, students are placed in historical situations where they get to make the decisions that will determine success or failure. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder lets students walk in the shoes of an American Hero.
How to Integrate INVICTA Challenge in your classroom: These challenges are a fun and new way to foster literacy, history, and leadership skills in your classrooms. Stories are highly visual and have enough action and adventure to keep even your reluctant readers engaged. The game component of the challenge almost takes on a choose your own adventure feel as it pairs with the graphic novel, maps, and missions. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder tells the true story of a Native American paratrooper’s D-Day leadership. The way that this combination puts students in the middle of the story is fantastic. Students aren’t passive readers…it is impossible! With Flash and Thunder, students are in the middle of the action, analyzing options, making decisions, evaluating the decisions and building comprehension and understanding of history all the way.
The INVICTA challenge is like a smart recombination of the things I enjoyed most from my own childhood: American Girl dolls/Books, Oregon Trail…only with a major upgrade.
At Anastasis, we’ve been working on an inquiry unit about change makers and the power of one. The INVICTA challenge has been a fantastic launching off point for students as they consider what it means to be a change maker, and what characteristics make up a change maker. This interactive challenge/book/game put students in the middle of thinking like a change maker, building leadership traits like integrity, nobility, valor, initiative, curiosity, tenacity, and accountability.
This challenge would be an excellent addition to your classroom library. You might want a few copies so that students can read together and work through the game and missions together in a book group. The video game component will be available on iOS, Android, and online here. Take a look!
Tips: The INVICTA Challenges can be purchased at Barnes and Noble for $34.99. For all that is included in this kit, it is truly a great value! I’m so excited for the other challenges to come out, some very exciting stories and characters are on their way!
Full disclosure: INVICTA sent me the Flash and Thunder challenge so that I could review it for you all here. But…
You can win your own Flash and Thunder challenge at the 5Sigma Education Conference in February! If you register for the conference today, you can save 20% using the code: CYBERMONDAY at check out. Not only will you get the opportunity to win one of these great challenge kits for your classroom, you also get a conference experience like no other!
What it is:Post-it Notes are among my very favorite office supplies. I use them for brainstorming, my calendar, to jot down reminders, and to collect the brilliant ideas that happen in the middle of the night. At Anastasis, we use Post It Notes constantly to help organize brainstorm sessions and lines of inquiry during an inquiry block. As you might imagine, we use TONS of Post-it Notes during any given week! They are hard not to love, brightly colored squares just waiting to collect brilliance and post it for the world to see. Recently, I stumbled on an app, Post-it Plus, that takes my love of sticky notes to a whole new level! Post-it Plus is an app that lets you snap pictures of a Post-it note brainstorm session, and then arrange, refine, and organize the notes on a virtual board. The newly organized digital board can then be shared out. Students can capture 50 Post-it notes at a time and collect and combine ideas from multiple categories. Notes can be organized on a grid, or free form any way that you would like. Boards can be shared via email, PowerPoint, Excel, Dropbox, by PDF, etc. After the work has been shared, anyone can help contribute and arrange the notes to create a great idea! The app is free and optimized for iOS 8.
How to integrate Post-it Plus in your classroom: Post-it Plus is a great way for students to capture their brainstorms and group work so that they can take it with them.
Collaboratively brainstorm with your class or explore some different lines of inquiry and record each new thought on a sticky note. Students can then take a picture of the group on their iOS devices and arrange and group in a way that best makes sense to them. Now all of your students can manipulate the sticky notes individually and bring their learning with them.
As students are writing (either creative or informational), they can write each new idea or paragraph on a different sticky note. Then they can arrange their notes and take a picture. As they create different arrangements, they can use the digital version to compare with the original to make decisions about the flow of their writing.
Teach young students? Write down the different parts of a story (beginning, middle, supporting details, end) on several sticky notes. Students can snap a picture of the notes and practice sequencing the story. Each student has the digital version, so each can practice ordering and you can quickly assess their understanding.
Post-it Plus could also be used for phonics work. Write phonemes on individual sticky notes and ask students to take pictures of each phoneme with the app. Then call out words that students can create with their phonemes in the app.
Post-it Plus is also fantastic for students learning math processes (order of operations anyone?) and algebraic thinking. Write each part of an equation down and students can manipulate the digital sticky notes to show process.
Students can also use Post-it Plus to categorize and organize ideas and events in history, science, government, etc. How We Got to Now anyone? 🙂
Tips: I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve been to that we used Sticky notes to brainstorm ideas. Post-it Plus makes it easy to take that thinking and learning with you in a very practical form that you can interact with later! Speaking of conferences, the 5 Sigma Edu Conference is a great one to test out this app!
What it is:Press 4 Kids, News-O-Matic is both a subscription-based app and a free daily email delivered in pdf format. News-O-Matic is a fantastic current event, news source for elementary students. It is a great resource for fresh, non-fiction material for your classroom. Recall, discussion, and comprehension questions are included in each News-O-Matic. You can purchase an app subscription for your class in the 1:1 iDevice setting, or you can subscribe for the FREE daily school edition which is delivered by email. The PDF can be printed out to share with your students, or to keep your class paperless, you can share it on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.
How to integrate News-O-Matic in your classroom: News-O-Matic delivers a daily newspaper written especially for elementary-age students. Each edition comes with 5 current-event, news stories that cover the latest news, science, sports, and wacky kids stories. Students get a chance to not only read the news, but also rate articles, submit questions, and submit their drawings. News-O-Matic is a great way to keep your students reading regularly. Each day they will get engaging non-fiction reading that helps build a global perspective. Use News-O-Matic daily, as a class discussion starter. Challenge your students to make connections between the current events they are reading about, and the learning they are doing in class. Integrate geography study with reading each day. If you have a classroom map, put a place marker on it each time you read an article that is location specific. This could also be done virtually with Google Earth. This practice will help students visualize where each event takes place, while at the same time building geography skills.
Tips: All publications are ad free, so you never have to worry about inappropriate content.
What it is:Pixel Press Floors is a seriously magical (currently free) app that brings a child’s imagination to life. With the Pixel Press Floors creation platform, students can literally dream up and draw their own video game without any coding. Students draw their ideas out on paper, and the Floors app turns the drawing into an actual video game that can be played. Print out the special paper so that the app can recognize the shapes “glyphs” that are drawn, or use the in app drawing tools. The drawing is instantly turned into a game that can be tested, designed, played, and even published to the “Arcade” where others can play it.
How to integrate Pixel Press Floors into learning: The first step of creation is to download the Pixel Press Floors app on the iPad. Next, go to projectpixelpress.com to download and print the free sketch guide. Students draw up the game of their dreams and then take a picture of what they drew from the Pixel Press Floors app.
The glyphs (shapes) that students draw are magically transformed into game play objects. After glyphs have been created, students can apply a design to the element, test it, and play it. Within the app, students can create games with:
Run and jump game play (Mario-style)
Create with 14 creator glyphs: terrain, moving blocks, ladders, portals, monkey bars, power-ups, coins, super coins, falling blocks, spikes, exploding blocks, start and end positions, pits and fireballs, keys.
Two original themes to get the creativity jump-started: “Save the Parents” and “Fiddleheads: Stones of Eden”
Publishing and sharing in the Arcade
Pixel Press Floors is a fantastic “maker space” element to add to your classroom. This app is perfect for prototyping ideas, design thinking (ideation and prototyping), teamwork and collaboration, and to build creativity. In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.
There is so much to learn from digital games. As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life. As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing. Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game. Video game creation could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers. It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting. Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth. It is pretty neat to watch!
Students can create games that help them build skills. Instead of simply playing those drill/skill games on other websites/apps, they can create their own! This is visual notes 3.0. Instead of simply practicing math facts, students can create a customized game to help them learn and remember those facts! This type of game is perfect for creating games to practice: math facts, spelling, vocabulary, foreign languages, letter recognition, geography, history facts, etc.
Instead of passively playing games in their free time, students can create their own! The blend of the hand-drawn and technology is seamless and brilliant. Kids will have such fun creating their own games and bringing their imagination to life.
Tips:Game Star Mechanic would be an outstanding place to start, here kids can learn the thinking process behind designing their own video games.
Are you using Pixel Press Floors in your classroom? Leave a comment below and share the ways that you use it with students!
What it is: I can’t help but love Google’s commercials. They are brilliant in their simplicity and weave together a story beautifully. In the past, Google let you build a story by way of a Google search. Now with Google Story Builder, you can build a video story that looks like it is being typed live between two collaborators in a Google doc. SO very happy! It couldn’t be simpler, any age could create a fantastic little video with this tool! Students create some “characters” for their story. These characters are the Google Doc collaborators. Next, students type text for each collaborator to add to the doc. Finally, students choose music to accompany their video. That is it! When students are finished with their video, they can share it via a weblink.
How to use Google Story Builder in your classroom:Google Story Builder is an outstanding little tool for sharing a story or learning. It allows students to demonstrate learning or understanding in a fun, easy way. A lot of tools can become THE focus of a project. You know how this goes, as soon as you mention that students will be creating a video project all of the learning journey goes out the window and immediately the focus is on the hilarious video they are going to create. The learning can become an after thought. With Google Story Builder, this isn’t the case. The outcome is going to look similar for everyone so the focus is the learning and story. Creativity comes through the story and the music chosen. This is the best kind of creativity, it requires students to know the topic or subject well enough to create a mini parody of it.
Students could use Google Story Builder as a book report. Students can think about major themes or the climax of a story and retell it through the collaboration the story characters in this Google Doc. How awesome would it be to have Romeo and Juliet creating a document together? How about Junie B. Jones and That Jim I Hate? The Little Red Hen asking for collaborators for her latest cooking project?
As students learn about major players in history, they can create a Google Story about those historical figures and their interaction if they had a shared Google Doc. For example students might imagine the writers of the US constitution drafting the constitution as a Google Doc. Or Galileo arguing with the “church” (the story I told in my video).
Students could personify any inanimate object or idea as a character in a Google Story. How about parts of speech arguing which part of speech is the best or should be used in the sentence being typed? Countries of the world telling all about what they are known for? Periods of history as characters? Science ideas (evolution vs. creation)? Math stories including characters like Odd Todd and Even Steven? The possibilities are as varied as your student’s imaginations!
Teachers can create a Google Story to help their kids with inference. Create a story between two characters and ask students to infer about context. What is happening? Do you think the characters are friends or foe? Why? What do you think they are working on together?
What it is: EDpuzzle is a neat new educational site to help you better utilize video in your classroom for learning. You can find and crop video to use only what you need, add audio notes within the video or do some voice over work for a video, and you can embed questions throughout the video to track student understanding. EDpuzzle collects data as students watch and interact with the video. You can see if and when a student watched the video, and see the progress of all students through the answers to embedded questions.
How to use EDpuzzle in your classroom: What makes EDpuzzle great is the level of freedom given in cropping, sharing, and tracking video use in the classroom. EDpuzzle enhances the “flipped” classroom by allowing you to embed formative assessment directly into your videos. As students watch, you can check understanding and ensure active watching vs. passive watching. In a flipped scenario, this gives you the ability to completely tailor a lesson the next day based on the formative assessment results you get from homework. This is truly utilizing assessment to inform instruction (which is the point of assessment!).
EDpuzzle can be used in conjunction with videos that you have made for your students, or with videos that you find. I like using video to introduce students to a brand new topic or idea. Well-created video has the ability to quickly and succinctly help students dive into new learning and formulate new questions and lines of inquiry. For example, when Anastasis Jr. High started our last inquiry block about “How the World Works” and explored the topic of food and farming, they started by watching the documentary Food, Inc. This was a great way to launch their thinking and lines of questioning about where our food comes from. Out of that video, students chose different lines of inquiry to explore and research. EDpuzzle would be a good way for students to help others see where their line of inquiry started from. Students could grab the clip of the documentary that intrigued them, and embed audio to show their thought process as they watched. Sort of a Saved-by-the-Bell Zack Morris “Time out” moment where they can describe their line of thinking.
For primary teachers, EDpuzzle could be used as part of a guided reading center. YouTube has lots of great read-along videos. (You can also create your own based on class reading!) Use these videos along with EDpuzzle to check for comprehension. As the video plays, embed questions to check for understanding. Students can independently go through the guided reading (or Close reading) activity, while you work one-on-one with other reading groups. Rotate the reading groups throughout the week so that each student gets the opportunity to go through the EDpuzzle guided reading activity, and each group gets one-on-one time with you. This is a fantastic way to maximize your time and get valuable feedback from all student learning. EDpuzzle could also be used in this way as a science center (with a video pertaining to an experiment or new learning), a math center, etc. I love using center rotations because it ensures that I have time to work closely with each group.
For secondary students, use EDpuzzle is a great way to check for understanding. It is also a wonderful way for students to create and demonstrate understanding. EDpuzzle would be ideal for sub days. I always dreaded being away from the classroom because it was essentially a lost day. Even if the substitute did EXACTLY what I asked, I missed the opportunity to see my students work and think. EDpuzzle would give you the ability to “teach” remotely and embed the same questions and promptings you would give if you were live in the classroom. While you won’t get to hear all of the discussion, you will have some feedback to better understand how your students were thinking.
With documentary-type videos, EDpuzzle can be used to embed writing prompts. Record a prompt throughout the video so that students can pause and write out their reflections and thoughts. I find that good documentaries are often SO packed full of good things that by the end of the video, only the last 10 minutes get well-reflected on. The documentary Baraka would be an incredible video to do this with!
Have you seen Vi Hart’s YouTube channel? I am obsessed! I love the way that she goes through math in a casual stream-of-conscious type approach. Embed related practice math problems based on the topics that Vi is sharing in her videos. As students get those light-bulb moments of, “oh, that is how that works!” capitalize on the new understanding by giving them a place to put it into practice and try it out.
Do you record your students learning? EDpuzzle could be a fantastic way to record audio feedback to the videos that they upload. These can then be shared with parents and students for review.
Tips: Don’t have access to YouTube at school? No worries! You can still use EDpuzzle with your students. EDpuzzle lets you search for video by topic, or pull video from Khan Academy, Learn Zillion, National Geographic, TED, Veritasium, and Numberphile as well. LOTS of incredible learning just waiting to happen!