Plan It Green: build an energy efficient model city

Plan It Green, the Big Switch: Build an Energy Effient Model City

What it is: Plan It Green, the Big Switch is an online game/simulation from National Geographic that allows students to create their own energy-efficient city of the future. In the game, students build new energy technologies and advance energy research; gain points based on their eco-friendliness, energy production, and citizen happiness; compete with others for the highest city rating; tackle challenges and quests; and explore and build a diverse energy portfolio. Through Plan It Green, students begin to better understand various energy options and can experiment with different energy sources and see their impact through this game/simulation.

How to integrate Plan It Green, the Big Switch into the classroom: This game from National Geographic is a great way to help your students understand different kinds of energy, and think through the ways that the energy we rely on in our daily lives impact the environment. Use Plan It Green, the Big Switch as a provocation for an inquiry unit about energy. The game could be a great catalyst for further research and understanding of energy options and how our decisions impact the rest of the ecosystem. Students can test out theories in this SIM-City like game and watch the way their decisions impact citizens and the larger ecosystem.

Plan It Green would also be a great way to end a unit, after students have learned about different types of energy. This game would be a great simulation reflection to see how different decisions about energy play out.

If you don’t have access to a 1:1 environment, this would make a great center on classroom computers during a study on energy or even for whole-class play on an interactive whiteboard throughout a unit on energy.

I like the way Plan It Green puts students in control of decisions and shows them the consequences (or unintended consequences) of those decisions.

Tips: The downfall of Plan It Green is that it requires a Flash Player, so while students can register for the site using an iPad, actual play requires a Flash enabled browser.

StackUp: track self-directed learning online

Assign and track reading online: StackUp


What it is: I’ve written about StackUp before here but, over the last three years, the company has grown up enough that it warrants another post! StackUp has a pretty great back story. Nick Garvin, the founder of StackUp, was fresh out of school and wanted to apply for a job at Tesla Motors. The problem? His traditional resume failed to document the thousands of hours that he spent online in self-taught learning about the automotive industry. This frustration led to the creation of StackUp, a way for Nick (and others like him) to better document self-directed learning. As an educator, StackUp immediately appealed to me for the way that it could capture my own learning. Though I don’t hold a degree in educational technology, my years of independent study should be captured! My blog does a decent job of helping me share my learning with others, but it is still just a small representation of all that I have learned over the years. Similarly, my graphic artist husband has realized that he has a love for industrial design and machining. He has spent hours and hours learning 3D digital design, playing with 3D printers, CAD programs, woodworking, welding, and recently machining with a metal lathe. Though his traditional resume wouldn’t easily reflect it, he has a pretty impressive industrial design background. StackUp is a Chrome browser plugin that tracks everything from personal productivity (I’ve learned I spend way too much of my life in email hell), to verifying independent reading/learning, to helping quantify self-directed learning.

How to integrate StackUp in the Classroom: The beauty of StackUp is that it isn’t one more program to add to your curriculum, it isn’t one more piece of technology that your students have to learn. Simply add the plugin, ask your students to sign in, and it runs automagically in the background while they carry on with their learning. As a teacher, you can login to StackUp and create reading challenges for your students. At Anastasis, we are using these challenges in inquiry to encourage students to spend time on a variety of website types. Right now our students are doing an inquiry on How the World Works. They are inquiring into different types of energy. This lends itself to a lot of research on science websites. The challenges help us encourage the kids to diversify the types of sites they are incorporating into the inquiry block. Yes, we want the kids to be researching the science behind different kinds of energy, but we also want them to explore the history of energy use, the social and economic implications of how we use energy, the current political climate and it’s impact on how we use energy. You know…connective inquiry! StackUp lets our teachers challenge students to diversify their learning in this way by creating a category challenge. Teachers choose categories for students. No matter which websites they visit, if they are included in a category, they will get ‘credit’ for visiting that site. I love the way StackUp works for your classroom, and doesn’t box students into specific requirements for the tracking to work. Teachers can also set up challenges based on a specific website or time spent learning in a category.

One of the unintended consequences of using StackUp with our students, is they way it has added to our Learner Profile. Using StackUp has helped us gain a better understanding of who our students are by uncovering hidden interests that they might have. If a student spends a lot of time in a specific category or on specific websites, StackUp  gives us insight into those passions and interests.

Students (and learners of all kind- teachers count!) can use StackUp to showcase the reading and learning they do online by subject area. At a glance, students can see how much reading they are doing and what topics have been of most interest to them. This can help them discover the things that they are most passionate about, and even help them discover where they waste time. It is pretty revealing when you see how much time you sink into things like email, Facebook, etc. While I appreciate the time to connect with others through social media, I realized that I spend more time there than I probably need to. StackUp can help you manage online time more efficiently by revealing where you spend it.

Students can engage in classroom reading challenges and see how their learning compares to their classmates. This can be used as a motivational element, though we don’t use it this way at Anastasis (inquiry lends itself more to competition with self than competition with others).

One of the things we’ve loved about StackUp is the ability to help parents see the learning that their children are doing online. So often our time spent on devices can appear to be frivolous to those who don’t know what is happening while we are online. With StackUp, parents can see the time students are spending learning and what they are learning about. Of course, if students are spending 90% of their time on gaming sites that tells a story, too.

I really appreciate the way that StackUp helps teachers and students alike metacognate about where and why we spend our time online. It is a great tool to spur on reflection about where we spend time, and what we care most about.

One of the StackUp stories I love was from @SenorG, he talked about students taking a credit recovery class online. One of the things StackUp revealed was for every hour spent on the credit recovery site, students spent 20min on Google Translate. This information was invaluable for those assisting students. It was also valuable information to consider for the credit recovery course platform. Could they better empower students by embedding a translate feature? By translating the whole site? Way cool!

Bottom line: StackUp can help give you insight into your students online reading habits. It gives you a way to see where their learning takes them and how much time they are spending on their online reading/learning. We realized after a few weeks that our students had the bad habit of site hopping. They would start research using Google, but if the answer they were hunting for wasn’t immediately apparent on the site they clicked on, they would go directly back to Google. This helped us realize that we needed to teach students how to search smarter, and that when they arrived at a site, we needed to better equip them with the tools to dive into the learning.

Tips: StackUp is super easy to install, you can do it in under a minute! If you have Google apps, you can do this in under a minute for your whole school! Students can sign in using their existing Google education accounts. Don’t have Google for Education? First, I’m sorry! Second, not to worry, students can sign in using any email address.

The StackUp plugin can be easily turned on or off at any time. All information is private and can be deleted at any time. It is both COPPA and FERPA compliant. Students can choose which information to share on their profile.

StackUp Chromebook

Shout out to StackUp who generously donated a class set of Chromebooks to Anastasis students! Thank you!


Are you coming to the 5Sigma Edu Conference in February? If not, you should be! It is the place we were originally introduced to StackUp!


Literature-Map: Help students find new authors to fall in love with

Literature Map: Help students find new author to fall in love with

What it is: Literature Map is a literature recommendation system. It is really easy to discover a new author. Start by searching for an author you enjoy, and magically a map of names will appear based on what other readers of that author have read. The closer that two writers are on the map, the more likely it is that you will like both of them. Click on any name on the map to travel further and find more recommendations.

Literature Map- find your next favorite author

How to integrate Literature Map into the classroom: It’s a common problem, a student falls in LOVE with an author and devours everything the author has ever written. Then they come to the end of their journey and a sort of sadness hangs over them, there is nothing more. Enter Literature Map. Students can easily enter the name of the beloved author and discover others they are sure to love, leading them down a rabbit trail of reading utopia! Students can discover new voices, genres, and keep the love of reading alive. Literature Map is a great site to bookmark on classroom computers, in the library, or on student devices.

If your students do an author study, this site could be useful for helping them find related authors and then using Wolfram Alpha to compare the authors they find side by side.

Tips: Hat tip to @michellek107 for sharing this with Anastasis staff this week!

8 of the Best Research Tools for Inquiry

8 of the best research tools for inquiry

As an inquiry based school, Anastasis students (and teachers) spend a LOT of time researching. Our students essentially build their own living curriculum as they follow a line of inquiry. Below are my very favorite research tools for students.

Research platforms:

1. Kiddle– This is a kid-friendly, Google Safe powered search engine. What I appreciate about Kiddle is the ease of use for younger learners. Kiddle searches safe sites that were written FOR kids. Kiddle editors hand choose sites that deliver content that is age-appropriate and written in easy to understand language. Best of all, Kiddle’s image and video searches brings about the results you would expect it to for kids. When a student innocently types in “kitten” looking for cute pictures to add to a presentation, they get actual pictures of the feline variety rather than the scantily dressed woman named “Kitten.” So, winning!

The downside to Kiddle: if you have older students doing research on social justice issues, “sex trafficking statistics in America,” they will get an “Oops” message for questionable language. It might not be robust enough as a research tool for jr. high and high school students depending on the issues being explored.

Kiddle- Safe visual search engine for kids

2. Boolify– The best thing about this Google Safe powered search engine is the way it teaches learners how to correctly use a search engine and how to refine their searches. Boolify teaches this skill by asking them to use keywords and Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in a search to refine results using a drag/drop interface. Students drag elements and follow prompts to learn how to correctly complete a search to get the best possible results.

Boolify- teach students to search smarter

3. Wolfram Alpha– This is not really a search engine, but more of a computational knowledge engine. It is a fantastic tool for comparing information (think people in history, weather in different parts of world, etc), exploring mathematics, units and measures, data/statistical information, science, geography, technology…truly you should just go play with this knowledge computational engine because my description isn’t doing justice to the cool things it does! This is a powerful addition to inquiry. My favorite feature is the ability to compare things side by side. The nature of inquiry often has students exploring relationships between events, people, places, etc., Wolfram makes it really easy to do this!

Using Wolfram Alpha for Inquiry Research


4.  Creative Commons– This is a great place to search for images, videos, sounds that are listed under the Creative Commons license that lets learners find content they can share, reuse, and mix into something new. The caution I would add here for kids: Anyone can list content under the Creative Commons license and depending on the search, some questionable material may pop up. This one is best used with supervision! Creative Commons is a great place to start a conversation about licensing and using content created by others.

Creative Commons Search

Resources to help learners work through research independently

5. Michael Friermood who writes The Thinker Builder has a great graphic organizer to help learners work toward independence in their research. You can find it HERE.

Inquiry Research Graphic Organizer from The Thinker Builder


6. Create a culture of thinking by giving your learners the tools to help them through a variety of thinking routines. This is an awesome resource when students hit a wall with a “closed” inquiry question (one that is too narrow and has one answer). It is equally useful when students aren’t sure how they can expand their research. These thinking routines will help them “open” questions and think from new vantage points and angles that may set them off down a path of new or expanded inquiry.

Tracy Ann Clark created this fun-to-use, and great resource for helping learners explore these thinking routines…because who doesn’t love a cootie catcher?! Find it HERE.

Visible Thinking Routines Cootie Catcher Tracy Ann Clark


7. Anatomy of a Google Search- this PDF helps learners understand the how and why behind a search.

Download the PDF HERE.

Anatomy of a Search- Free PDF Download

8. Google Modifiers cheat sheet- this is a good one to explore with students and then hang on the wall as a reminder!

Download the PDF HERE.

Google Modifier Cheat Sheet for Students

Want to learn more about how we run our inquiry powered k-8 classrooms at Anastasis? Join us for our conference in February! 5Sigma Education Conference

Which One Doesn’t Belong? K-12 Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Which One Doesn't Belong? Math sets

What it is: Which One Doesn’t Belong? is a site I learned about from @TeamBaldwin today. This math site is for students of all ages and challenges them to look at a set of four images and determine which image doesn’t belong and justify their answer. The best part of this site is that each problem has multiple correct responses that can be justified. Students have to think through the differences that they see and then make logical decisions and be able to explain it to others. There are three different categories for Which One Doesn’t Belong including: Shapes, Numbers, Graphs and Equations.

How to Integrate Which One Doesn’t Belong? in your classroom: My favorite part about this site is that there are multiple answers for each set. Students can see how perspective and which attributes you are looking at can change the answer. The site is a great catalyst for critical thinking and problem solving in math (or any) class. Put a problem set up on a projector as a math class starter and ask your students to independently choose their answer and be ready to justify it. Then, as a class, discuss answers. After students have done this once, challenge them to find as many possible answers as they can independently before sharing responses. This site would be a great tie-in with the humanities to discuss perspective and vantage point. Even in something that feels as static as math, perspective can actually make any problem quite dynamic.

Yesterday, @TeamBaldwin used the site this way:

Which One Doesn't Belong? Math setsWhich One Doesn't Belong? Math setsWhich One Doesn't Belong? Math sets

This is a class of kindergarten and first grade students! @michellek107 will be blogging more about the class experience on the class blog, Architects of Wonder if you’d like to read more.

Tips: The graphs and equations appear quite challenging, but even young students can begin making observations about the types of graphs that could lead to some higher-level math discussions.

YouCubed: Think like a Mathematician

YouCubed: Help students think like a mathematician

What it is: Do you know about Stanford’s YouCubed? If you are a math teacher (and even if you aren’t) you need to know about this awesome resource! It is packed full of goodness for teachers and parents alike. Fantastic (and approachable) articles about brain science, mathematical thinking, and mindset. Outstanding ideas that you can use RIGHT NOW! Links to really wonderful math apps and games, videos and radio shows, tasks (also known as mathematical brain teasers), and visual mathematics resources. My favorite portion of YouCubed is the Week of iMath. There are 5 days of lessons, each one comes with a lesson plan, video, and list of materials needed.

How to integrate YouCubed into your classroom: There are SO many resources that can transform your classroom! I love the articles and research as references to send parents throughout the year. These are also great for reading with your older students who may assume that math is not their gig. The articles and research included show that math is for all of us, but our mindset may need a bit of a shift! What I love about the articles is the way they quickly dispel so many myths about maths, I guarantee you’ve heard all of this from parents over the years and now you have research to share to help them understand the truth about mathematical thinking and brain science.

The links to math games and apps is really helpful. You’ll find some old favorites, but likely be introduced to something new to use with your class. One of my very favorites listed is an app called Dragon Box…it is truly so brilliant for teaching students algebraic concepts and math thinking without any numbers or mathematical symbols at all!

The iMath section gives you a wonderful inspirational math lesson for each day of the week. These lessons go far beyond your typical math drill/skill/learn-a-new-formula. Instead, they are all about helping your students develop a growth mindset when it comes to math, and arming them with the necessary tools to think like a mathematician. Depth of learning! The approach in each lesson is playful and inquiry driven, it encourages risk taking and mistake making as they work with numbers, patterns, and relationships between concepts. I cannot say enough about this section of YouCubed! Each lesson is broken down into grade ranges so that no matter what age you teach, you can find the fit for your class.

Tips: This is an ideal site to start the year with, and then use as a reference all year long! You should also be sure to check out Jo Boaler’s books and articles. If you’ve ever felt under prepared/qualified to teach math, Jo will help you shift your own mindset and equip you to teach math like a master!

Watch the Debates: help your students explore this debate and the history of debates

Watch the Debates: Compare debate issues and history


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.

Hat Tip to @michellek107 for passing this on to @teamanastasis today! Thank you!


Swift Playground: Apple’s free app that teaches kids to code!

Swift Playground Learn to Code Apps on your iPad!

What it is: Swift Playground is an awesome new app from Apple that teaches kids how to code in Swift. This free app for iPads uses games to teach kids Apple’s coding language used to create apps. Students can drag and drop code, and easily edit the code to customize it. The code can be instantly run so students can test out their code and see if it works. Best of all, in those instances that the code they put together doesn’t work, Swift Playground has debugging tools and hints built-in to help students rectify any problems. Students can also code with Swift from scratch making the app endlessly adaptable to any skill level.

How to integrate Swift Playground into your classroom: Swift Playground requires no previous coding knowledge, making it the perfect tool for learning how to code. For those students who have experience with coding, Swift Playground is robust enough for even seasoned programmers to bring new ideas to life. Swift Playground begins with a series of challenges to help students master the basics, students use code to help characters navigate a 3D world. When the challenges have been mastered, students can build and manipulate their own code to dream up new creations. Use Swift Playground to get your students thinking logically and solving problems from new perspectives. The skills built as students learn to code are the same skills that will help students in other disciplines like math and science. I love the way Swift Playground starts out by giving students a fun environment of challenges to learn the basics of Swift, but also allows them the flexibility of drag and drop code, and allowing students to edit and write their own code. Swift Playground even features a special keyboard that includes the most common coding characters so that students don’t have to hunt through keyboards to find what they are looking for. As students advance in their skills, they can use code templates that allow customization with code. Beyond what most learning platforms allow, students will be able to adjust multi-touch interactions, the accelerometer, and the gyroscope. These features and abilities are such an awesome tie-in to conversations about complex math and physics! When students are finished with their creation, they can share it with others using Messages, Mail, or Airdrop. Students can even post videos of their creation for others to see! For those who are really soaring, Swift Playground code can be exported to Xcode (where the pros create apps).

Swift Playground-Learn to code on the iPad

Many classrooms don’t yet have time built into the day that is dedicated to coding. But perhaps once a week you use coding in math class as applied math, or use Swift Playground as part of a 20% time offering in your classroom. If those are unavailable, consider participating in Hour of Code.  Play with Swift Playground yourself and you’ll start recognizing tie-ins with other learning that your students are doing. When your students are proficient with coding in Swift Playground, they can start creating and reflecting on learning with the code they know.  Swift Playground is a fantastic resource to have available as part of your Maker Space! Maybe they create a new game to help them remember vocabulary, or math facts. Perhaps they build a world based on a historical event. Once those basics are mastered the application possibilities are endless!

Tips: Everyone can code! This isn’t a skill that only a few should possess. Even the youngest students can use Swift Playground, I’m talking kindergarten can use this app! If you are new to the concept of code, check out this crash course from Apple.

Find Your Pi Day

Find Your Pi Day

What it is: Find Your Pi Day is a simple site from Wolfram where students can type in any number (like a birth date) and the site will tell you where that number falls within the Pi sequence. All dates fall somewhere within the first 10 million digits in the sequence. The place in the sequence is depicted by a spiral that goes in and out to display the beginnings and ends of such long digit sequences.

Find Your Pi Day

How to integrate Find Your Pi Day in your classroom: Find Your Pi Day is a neat site to generate conversation and inquiry into Pi. This is a fantastic place to begin exploration of Pi. Students can learn about the mathematical sequence and the science of Pi in this background Wolfram blog post.

Tips: For some extra fun and discussion, have a look at Vi Hart’s lighthearted “rants” about Pi.

Woot Math: Adaptive learning for fractions and decimals

Woot Math- adaptive fraction/decimals

What it is: Woot Math uses adaptive technology to personalize the math learning experience in new ways for 3rd-6th grade students. With a focus on fractions and decimals, Woot Math allows students many inroads to understanding. Flexible implementation options mean that Woot Math can be used in any classroom configuration whether it be 1:1 devices, shared devices, whole-class, or as intervention. The Woot Math system works on the web, iPads, or Chromebooks seamlessly…it truly is a great option for any classroom! It is super user-friendly, and gives teachers the ability to customize for each student in the class as a starting point. Woot Math is adaptive, as students use it, it gets “smart” and creates learning pathways based on the specific needs of the student. Beginning with foundational rational math concepts, Woot Math makes these necessary foundational skills accessible for all students. It is like having a personal tutor sitting beside them as they work through new learning. If a student doesn’t understand a problem, the program adapts to approach the learning in a new way. The illustration of concepts is brilliant! Woot Math gives students a solid understanding of fractions, laying the necessary ground work for algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, and statistics. Sign up TODAY, Woot Math is totally free for the 2015-2016 school year!

How to integrate Woot Math into your classroom: To begin with Woot Math, decide how you will use it in your classroom. Do all of your students have access to a technology device? Do you have a bank of devices that they can rotate through? Do you have a projector/interactive whiteboard? If you are using Woot Math with limited technology access, beginning with the Interactive Problem Bank is best. Here you can quickly access thousands of hands-on fraction and decimal problems for students to work through together. You can project the problems on a whiteboard or use an interactive whiteboard. Problems can be selected by topic or standard and then by model type. Students can either work together in community solving problems, or as a center in a math rotation. If you have better access to technology, and students can work independently on a device, the Adaptive Practice is the place to start. Here you can print out student login cards, assign an initial topic, and the program will adaptively generate and assess thousands of interactive problems. This is also the place where you can track student progress and understanding through concepts and skills. The visual examples and leading through problems is fantastic, it is truly an engaging process for students to learn with! This is the best way (in my humble opinion) to use Woot Math, because it allows students to work in exactly the way they need to increase understanding and build a solid foundation of understanding. Be sure to go through Woot Math independently of your students to truly appreciate the interactive learning modules and visual representation of concepts…they are brilliant!

Tips: Be sure to sign up soon, take advantage of this timing when Woot Math is 100% free! There are some great teacher resources to download to help you as you implement Woot Math.

Hat Tip to @yourkidsteacher for sharing this awesome resource with me!