An edublog about integrating technology into the classroom.
From the other side of the street
Recently I have been talking to the head of a new school that is opening up in town. The conversation has been rich, and challenging, and inspiring. Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut, talking only with people who agree with us and...
What it is: @johntspencer is one of my very favorite bloggers. He makes me think, laugh, challenges me and reminds me that there is always something to push forward for in education. If I’m honest, sometimes he even makes me crazy…usually because he is pushing my thinking into areas I’m not ready to consider yet. How dare he call “me” out?! To be fair, he isn’t calling me out, usually he is calling himself out and I feel the residual conviction. John writes all over the place. The first time I encountered his genius was a chance reading of his blog Adventures in Pencil Integration. Brilliant. I started following it pretty early on in it’s existence and soon found that he writes ALL over the place. He has written several books including Drawn into Danger, Pencil Me In, Teaching Unmasked, Sages and Lunatics, and a Sustainable Start. If you haven’t read these, you should. John is open and honest and has a great sense of humor. His Education Rethink blog leads you to all of his resources, blogs, books, videos and podcasts.
John has also created a resource for his students that the rest of us can use. How nice of him! His Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr is chalk full of images with captions designed to make students think deeply. Browse through the collection and soon you will understand how students can’t help but pour forth their ideas in writing. We do something similar at Anastasis but hadn’t been collecting the images on anything but our own blogs. These prompts are a great addition to what we are doing! Some of them are challenging, some are thoughtful, some are humorous. Sometimes we get a really special treat and John includes his own sketches.
How to integrate Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr into the classroom: This one is best for intermediate, jr. high and high school students. The topics are probably a little too complex for younger students to write about (although some of them would be appropriate and some kids are really brilliant!). Spending time writing creatively is one of the best ways to improve as a writer, to challenge and support deep thinking, and to express themselves. I learn SO much about students through their writing. Whether it be a blog post, an imaginative story or a letter…writing exposes them in new ways.
Use John’s Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr with your students, these can be projected for students to see while they write. John updates the Tumblr often so you won’t be lacking for new material for your students to interact with! Students can write in a traditional writing journal, in the form of a blog post where they link to the original post, or on a class blog together as a group writing project.
Tips: Teach younger students? Take a cue from John and start your own writing prompt Tumbr for your students!
What it is: I just love when I get lost in a bunny trail of links…you know the kind, you go hunting for something specific and click on something that looks interesting which leads you to a browser of 25 tabs open. I had one of these serendipitous link moments today that lead me to Gamestar Mechanic. Gamestar Mechanic is both a game and an online community that teaches kids how to design their own digital games. In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration. The free version of Gamestar Mechanic is available with unlimited use for teachers who want to use it with their students. This account option comes with 1 teacher login and 40 student logins. A premium account offers some additional classroom goodies including: class management, the ability for students to incorporate their own custom artwork, live professional training webinars, tools for tracking student activity and assessing progress, the option of having a “walled” school community, and more.
As a teacher you will find sample lessons for using Gamestar Mechanic, an introductory step-by-step guide, and a full learning guide. Teachers can even play a short quest to learn more about how to use Gamestar Mechanic in the classroom to teach core subjects.
How to integrate Gamestar Mechanic into the classroom: 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. Gamestar Mechanic 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!
Gamestar Mechanic makes it easy for all teachers to incorporate game design into the classroom and weave it into the core subjects being taught. You don’t have to be a tech-superstar, just create an account, read through the getting started guide and enlist the help of a student who’s passion is game design. This type of designing and thinking is wonderful because it lays the ground work for so much other STEM thinking. It nicely blends disciplines and helps students recognize the overlap in the learning that they do.
Students can each create a game of their own in a lab setting where every student has a computer. If you are limited on your computer options for students, create a game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer. Students can create games that incorporate other learning or research they are doing to help teach future classes or younger students. At Anastasis, we have Crave Classes. These are classes that the student gets to choose based on personal passions. In the one or two computer classroom, give your students time for a Crave class where they work on Gamestar Mechanic. Other students can follow their areas of passion…almost in a center type of a set up.
Tips: There are a variety of pricing and package options for classrooms. If your students are really enjoying the game design process, it might be worth taking a look at the premium options available.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Gamestar Mechanic in your classroom!
What it is: Tomorrow is Valentine’s day! While I’m not a big celebrator of this holiday at home, I do enjoy making a big deal of it at school. It is a fun day to build community and culture within a school! Our Valentine’s day plans include jump rope and hoops for heart, the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a read-in, book exchange and some fun games/art projects! I am excited! One of the sites I am looking forward to introducing tomorrow is festisite Text Layout. The site is easy to use and yields some impressive results. Students type a bit of text into the text box. Then they click “Layout text” and get their text written as a shape poem inside a heart. The image is delivered as a PDF which makes it easy for students to print and save their creations. Cute and easy!
Turn the heart text layouts into a game by writing heart-related vocabulary definitions. Students can cut out the heart shape and write the vocabulary word on the back. Students can see how fast their team can get through the deck of cards they have created.
We will be using the heart layout to write a reflection about what we “love” about a book we are reading during our read-in tomorrow. This shape poem can be taped to the inside cover of the book so that when we do our book exchange, it has a personalized message about the book from the giver.
Tips:festisite has other fun text layouts to try including money, card games, logos, iPhones, poems, and text layouts. You can even create spirals, mazes, banners and rebus puzzles out of your text. Way cool!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using festisite text layout in your classroom!
What it is: iTunes U is a true gem that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. iTunes U is a collection of learning from around the world, available for free at your finger tips. It just doesn’t get better than that! Recently I found a new iTunes U course that I had to share with all of my edu friends. Creative Problem Solving is a course by TED (you know that really super, great conference “talks”) that collects great TED talks about creative problem solving in one convenient place. “These speakers from TED assess the prevailing model of education reform by answering the critical question: How do we create educational environments that maximize how students harness their creative and problem-solving potential? Relevant areas of interest, study and coursework include: Education Policy, Curriculum Development, Assessment, Pedagogy, Career and Technical Education, Project-Based Learning, Whole Child Education, 21st Century Skills, and Multiple Intelligences.” These TED talks have had a significant impact on me and have guided many of my thoughts and “hunches” about education. The collection includes Tim Brown, Emily Pilloton, Gever Tulley, Dan Meyer, Kathryn Schultz, and not one but two from Sir Ken Robinson. 7 episodes in one place for a free course on education that will blow your mind and fire up your passion for education reform.
How to integrate iTunes U Creative Problem Solving into the classroom:iTunes U is a great place to learn for both you and your students! This particular collection is a great place to feed your educator soul and boost your own professional development. If you have the ability to shape PD at your school, this is an AWESOME addition to your time together as a staff. In the past, I have done TED Talk Tuesdays and Webspiration Wednesdays over the lunch break with other teachers. We gathered in the library where there was plenty of room to sit, relax, eat and learn together. The discussion that ensued after watching the TED talk was always rich. This is a GREAT way to build culture and community among your staff.
Over the summer, I started every morning with a TED talk to start my day off with a healthy dose of inspiration. I think I will re-instate this habit while I get ready for school.
At Anastasis, we often share videos as a staff. They aren’t always this inspirational, sometimes we share clips from SNL (HVR, HVR! “Write that down.”) or YouTube. Videos have a wonderful way of connecting us and giving us shared language and inside jokes. Gotta love that!
Tips: TED has other great iTunes U courses including Understanding Happiness and Mastering Tech-Artistry. Next on my list!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using iTunes U Creative Problem Solving in your classroom!
What it is: Money Island is a neat site I found today while searching for some fun tie ins for our economic inquiry block at Anastasis. This enchanting virtual world teaches students about money and how the economy works while they go on quests to destinations like the Eiffel Tower and Atlantis. Students learn and practice the real-life principles of financial responsibility. Students build knowledge and skills in three major areas including: saving and spending, earning and investing, and using credit wisely. In addition to these major areas, students learn how to spend, grow and give money; the difference between wants, needs and taxes; different types of income; gain an understanding of interest; how to use credit wisely; and how to build wealth.
The site includes detailed lesson plans and activity suggestions for the classroom, as well as a specialized area within money island where teachers and parents can see what students are learning and track progress.
Money Island was created in partnership with the Young Americans Bank. This bank was designed specifically for children under the age of 21! Our students will be taking a field trip to the Young Americans Bank in Denver to continue their learning during this block. If you are in the Denver area, it is a great field trip!
How to integrate Money Island into the classroom: Kids are not exposed to enough opportunities to learn and practice financial literacy. Case in point: the national debt crisis, housing loan disaster, and credit card stats. It baffles me that we don’t spend more time in the classroom helping kids learn about money and finances! Every teacher should take this on in some capacity, we can’t assume that someone else will teach it. Kids need to learn about how the economy works prior to being neck deep in financial decisions on a daily basis. Money Island is a fun introduction to all of this!
Students begin their journey in Money Island with a mission to help character Stone Broke. Students choose a virtual side-kick who will guide them through Money Island and help them make important decisions. Students are directed through a series of quests to help Stone Broke while learning about money and how to make sound financial decisions.
Money Island is a virtual world so it takes a bit of time to get all the way through it. When students login, they are given a special key so they can pick up right where they left off in the game. This is a great site for a one to one classroom environment or computer lab setting where each student has their own computer. The site could also be used as a center activity on classroom computers with students rotating through the center throughout the week. Because students can save their progress, they can play from both school and from home.
Money Island makes a fantastic tie-in to a money or economics unit for kids.
***Hint: Click “Join” to join. For some reason the “Play” button is a little bit temperamental. It worked for me the first time I played with it but not the second…not sure what that is all about!
Tips: There is a new game featured on Money Island…Episode 2 helps students learn how to “win” at the credit game. There are also fun mini games and comics on the site for kids to interact with and explore!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Money Island in your classroom!
What it is: The higher up I got in math, the less connection I could make back to it’s usefulness in real life. I had math mastered in school, I could memorize the formulas and spit back out the steps to get straight A’s in algebra, geometry, calculus and even trig. It wasn’t until I was watching the Social Network movie (as an adult) that I started connecting that higher math to purposes in real life. That is a problem. Remember the scene in the Social Network when Zuckerberg is writing algorithms on his window? I saw that, looked at my husband in astonishment and whispered “I learned that!”. I had NO idea that trig was actually used for anything. Seriously. That is why when I saw Algebra in the Real World movies on Karl Fisch’s Fischbowl blog, I knew it was a site that needed to be shared again. Algebra in the Real World has mini documentary type films that show the ways that Algebra is used in a variety of jobs and real world scenarios. Movies include:
Designing stronger skateboards
Engineering faster bikes
First one in the ball park
The Lundberg farms
Saving the bald eagle
The surface of Mars
Testing the robotic hand
The wind business
Plenty of variety to help students with a variety of interests!
How to integrate Algebra in the Real World movies into the classroom: After seeing the Social Network, I wanted to go back to my high school trigonometry class so that I could connect the dots. I always really appreciated my physics class because it gave meaning to the algebra classes that I took. I like that these videos help to make connections between the equations students learn and their uses. It is nice to have such a good mix of topics so that students with different interests and passions can find one that helps them make the connection.
These videos would be great to share with a whole class as the algebra topic connected with the video is introduced, at the beginning of the school year, or based on student interest level. Use as an end of the year cap to connect what has been learned throughout the year with the use post classroom.
What it is: Google has all kinds of great resources that many of us use daily in our schools. Every year I look forward to the launch of Google Doodle and wait with anticipation to see what kids from around the US have come up with. This year, I am in a place where we can even try our hands at the Google Science Fair. Very exciting stuff!
Doodle for Google is now open for 2012 submissions! K-12 students can express themselves through the theme “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…” as creatively as possible using Google’s logo as their canvas. The winner gets their image displayed on the Google homepage for a day, $30,000 in college scholarships and a $50,000 technology grant for their school. The winning doodle will also be featured on a special edition Crayola box. Submissions have to be postmarked by March 20th.
The Google Science Fair is open to students age 13-18. Students from around the world compete for over $100,000 in scholarship funds, an expedition to the Galapagos, an experience at CERN, Google and LEGO and an award from Scientific American. Nothing to scoff at!
How to integrate Google Doodle and Science Fair into the classroom: Google for Doodle and Google Science Fair are such fun competitions for students to get involved in. Both let students think and express themselves creatively. If you don’t have time to integrate these contests into your regular school day, consider holding an after school club for a few weeks so that students have a place to gather and participate.
I really love looking through the Google Doodles every year. I was thinking that it would be fun to have the students create a doodle with our school name based on our school theme for the year. Yearbook cover? Now that could be fun!
Tips: Share the new Google edu booklet with your colleagues, don’t hog all of those good ideas to yourselves!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Google Doodle and Science Fair in your classroom!
What it is: Book-it and Suessville have teamed up to do a live read-aloud story time with Tim Tebow. On February 15, 2012, Tim Tebow will be live in a webcast reading Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham. This is especially exciting for our Colorado kids who are huge Tebow fans-HUGE. There are lots of fun printables to pump your students up for the big-day including some tail gate party fun. There are coloring pages, bookmarks, graphing activities, green activities, games and more.
How to integrate America’s Biggest Story Time into the classroom: Set up a reminder for this one, it is sure to be a good time. You just can’t beat a good story…Green Egg and Ham is a classic! Hold a reading party in your classroom, using this event to kick it off. Start by holding a tail gate party complete with fun snacks, a book exchange, etc. Watch Tim Tebow read Green Egg and Ham live in the webcast on an interactive whiteboard or on a projector-connected computer. Set up tents, pillows and blankets around the room where students can choose a cozy spot for a day of reading. This is a fun way to celebrate the joy of reading.
Here are some more ideas I have been collecting on Pinterest for your read-in book party:
Book cakeBook party inviteBubble Gum TimerCaterpillar kabobs
Tips: Sign up for an email reminder for this event on the Book It website! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you should be on Pinterest.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using America’s Biggest Story Time with Tim Tebow in your classroom!
Today I created another speed booking site, this time for our JR. High teacher at Anastasis. Feel free to use it with your middle school students…make sure to create your OWN share page or I will get a whole lot of interesting responses from our Google form. You can create your own form using Google Docs.
What it is: What makes technology SO great is the way that it can make life (and teaching) more productive and fun. Over the years, I have found so many ways that technology can make reading more rewarding for both kids who love to read, and kids who dread reading. Today, I created an “Extreme Speed Booking” website for @michellek107′s class at Anastasis. I created the site quickly using Weebly, an awesome WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website editor. Drag and drop website building is where it is at! The idea behind the site is to introduce students to a variety of books and form classroom book groups. How does Extreme Speed Booking work? A whole lot like speed dating. Students spend a little time with each book and then rate them accordingly with “I want to read more”, “Interesting”, “Not for me”, or “I’ve already read”. Students can also make a note of how interested they are in reading the book (maybe a 1-10 scale)? This process introduces students to a variety of books, genres and authors. Students may come across titles and authors they wouldn’t otherwise find. It also helps teachers form classroom book groups that are of high-interest and investment to students because they had input.
For our purposes at Anastasis, I created the Weebly website with a link to the “look inside” on Amazon. Because all of our students have an iPad, this was the simplest way to get the book preview into the hands of the students. Don’t have technology? No problem! Just make sure that you have enough copies of books so that each student can sit with the physical book during the Extreme Speed Booking sessions. If you have classroom computers, you can do a blend of both.
Explain to your students that they will have 2 minutes with each book. During that time, they can choose to read the introduction or first chapter, read the book jacket, or flip through and look at chapter titles and pictures. The goal during this time is to discover whether this is a book that they would like to read. It is okay if it isn’t a book they would want to read…the goal is to find out which book they are most excited about. After the two minutes is up, sound a bell that signifies it is time to switch. Before they switch, students can quickly make a note of the Title and rate the book. Continue on until students have had 2 minutes with each book. Collect the notes students have made and formulate book groups based on interest in the book.
I’ve added a few extra pages to our Extreme Speed Booking website including places where students can explore other books that they may like to read (Shelfari and Book Wink). I’ve also added a form that book groups can fill out as they are reading. The form gets emailed directly to the teacher. Our students will probably be blogging quite a bit of reflection about their reading. I thought it might also be useful to have a place for groups to answer questions, make comments, or update their teacher with their progress as a group.
@michellek107 created a Google form for her students to fill out while they are speed booking. Great idea! She is so smart. This will make it easy to collect all of the responses in one place to form groups.
Suggestions for books:
Choose books from a variety of levels, make sure you have a few book options for each reading level in your classroom.
Choose a variety of authors and genres, this is a great way to expose students to authors and genres they don’t normally seek out on their own.
Set up classroom computers with some book trailer videos from a site like Book Wink…this is a great “introduction” to a book or genre and acts much like a movie trailer.
Choose a variety of books from ONE author. After students have completed reading in their smaller groups, they can come back together and do an author study as a whole class; each group contributing something a little different.
Choose a variety of books from ONE genre. Students can read books in the smaller groups but discuss common features of the genre as a class.
Choose a variety of books on a similar topic. Students can read books in the smaller groups and then discuss the different character perspectives, author approaches, etc. This would be really neat to do with historical fiction, Holocaust fiction, etc.
Use non-fiction books that reinforce topics and themes that you are using in other academic areas.
Use biographies of presidents, change makers, authors, etc. Students can learn about a specific person in the smaller reading group and share what they have learned with the larger group later.
Tips:Extreme Speed Booking is a lot of fun with tech, but equally doable without tech! If you have access to a 1-1 tech environment, or can reserve the computer lab for a round of speed booking, you can use my technique above. Weebly makes it very easy to do this!
If you haven’t already, check out Shelfari and create a virtual bookshelf of book recommendations for your class or school. You can see our Shelfari shelf for Anastasis below. If you teach 3rd-12th grade it is worth checking out Book Wink!