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Tar Heel Reader

What it is: Tar Heel Reader is an excellent website that is “a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces (i.e. switches, alternative keyboards, touch screens, and dedicated AAC devices). The books may be downloaded as slide shows in PowerPoint, Impress, or Flash format.”  There are hundreds of books on a variety of topics.  In addition to the ready-made books, you and your students can create your own Tar Heel Readers.  Students can add pictures to their readers from Flickr or by uploading their own images.  Each of the stories can be read silently, or read to students with a child, male, or female voice (computer). How to integrate Tar Heel Reader into the classroom:  Tar Heel Reader is a great place for beginning or struggling readers and English language learners.  Each of the stories has the option to be read silently or read aloud.  Use Tar Heel Reader to create custom stories to motivate your struggling readers.  You can include pictures of people they know, subjects they love, and make them a character in the story.  The stories can be read online or downloaded in multiple formats.  Because the stories can be downloaded as PowerPoint presentations, they can be opened in Apple’s Keynote and put on an iPod (Nano, Classic, or Touch) for mobile reading.  Students will love searching the Flickr collection and creating their own stories on Tar Heel Reader.  Older students can create books for younger grades describing science concepts (think weather, food chain, plant cycle, etc.).  This is also a great site for students to use during National Poetry month (April) to create poetry.  Use Tar Heel Readers as a ‘big book’ that your class can read together using an interactive whiteboard or a projector.  Set up a reading listening center during silent reading time with Tar Heel Reader on your classroom computers.     Tips: Create a favorites page for your students.  Although the site has been created for beginning readers, some books may be inappropriate for your students.  There is a section of books for teens that are beginning readers.  Note: to create a book of your own you will need to register for free.  You will need an invitation code.  I requested a code in the comment section and got a response within 10 minutes of my comment.  You can send me a request Tweet http://twitter.com/ktenkely and I will send you an invitation code.   I learned about this site from Larry Ferazzlo’s excellent blog.  Thanks for highlighting this great site Larry!   Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Tar Heel Reader in your classroom.

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Tynker: Computer programming for kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, History, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-11-2013

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iLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kidsiLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kids

What it is: Tynker is about the coolest way for kids to learn how to computer program- absolutely NO prior programming experience is needed!  Tynker leads kids through design thinking through interactive courses where kids can learn how to program at their own pace.

Anyone can teach kids how to program (no really!) because with Tynker, you don’t need any prior knowledge or understanding.  Tynker provides teachers with tools, curriculum and project ideas that will have your kids programming in no time!  The Tynker curriculum pack starts with 6 lessons.  Each one is appropriate for a 45 minute work period. Through the teacher dashboard, you can assign lessons to your students.  A built-in tutor provides step-by-step instructions that guides students toward creating a working project.  The teacher dashboard also helps you track student progress as they learn and master concepts.  No data entry is required, students login and the teacher dashboard auto-magically populates.

When students have completed projects, they can publish them to the class showcase and be shared with family and friends through email, Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

Happily, Tynker works entirely in your web browser.  There is nothing to install or setup.  It is good to go right away!  Equally happily, Tynker is FREE for your school!  Woot!

How to integrate Tynker into your classroom: Not only will students learn the basics of programming with Tynker, they can use it to demonstrate their learning through their creations.  Students can compose stories and comics that retell a story, historical event, recent field trip, fiction or non-fiction.  Using the physics features, students can learn some basics about physics and cause the games they create to be more realistic.  They can also demonstrate understanding of physics principles through their creations.

Students can use Tynker to create their own apps to show off their understanding of new math/science/social studies vocabulary, math or science concepts, retell stories, character sketches, games, animations and more. In addition to being able to create stories, games, and  slideshow- students can also program original music and create computer art.

Don’t think you have time in your curriculum?  Take a look around Tynker and think about natural ways you could use it to enhance your curriculum.  Instead of asking your students to create a book report, have them program a retell using Tynker.  This will take some additional background knowledge (they will need to go through a Tynker tutorial or two) BUT the outcome is well worth it.  You will have asked your students to learn something new semi-independently, beefed up logical/mathematical thinking skills through programming, and invited students to think critically about what they read to tell the story to others through a program.  Worth the additional 45 min!  Students could demonstrate a math concept, show the steps in a science experiment, retell an event in history, and even compose their own music through program.  When you start thinking like a maker as you play with Tynker, you will realize there are infinite opportunities for including Tynker in your curriculum.  If you are still convinced that you can’t find the time in your heavily scheduled (sometimes scripted-sad) day, why not start a before or after school program, summer camp, lunch club, etc.?

At Anastasis, we have Crave classes every Wednesday.  These classes are offered by our teachers every 5 weeks.  Teachers choose an area of learning that they crave and create a class based on that (we have everything from programming, to cooking, to forensic science, hockey history, junk orchestra, iPad rock band, to chess and da Vinci art).  Students get a list of classes at the beginning of a new block, and get to choose a class that they crave.  The result is a wonderful mixed age (k-8) class of passions colliding.  The kids LOVE Wednesdays for this awesome hour of our day.  I’m excited to offer a Tynker class for our next block of classes (along with playing with our new Romo robot!), I think this is going to be a popular class!

iLearn Technology- Romotive robot

Tips: If your school uses Google apps for education like we do, your students can log in with their Google information.

What do you think of Tynker?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

Comments (9)

[…] iLearn Technology […]

I think Tynker is great. I am thinking of trying it with a 1st and 2nd grade class, any comments on appropriateness are appreciated.

[…] iLearn Technology posted a blog about a resource called Tynker, that teaches students the basics of computer programming. This is similar to Scratch, which we also learned about earlier in the year. Tynker, is an easy tool that doesn’t require your students to have any prior knowledge about programming. It starts students off with six, 45 minute lessons that will have students programming in no time! They provide teachers and kids with the necessary tools and curriculum to teach them the basics. It also has a teacher dashboard that allows you to track student’s progress while they go through the lessons. Tynker can also be used to enhance the classroom because the kids can create apps or make stories for English or creations that retell historical events. Another great resource to have for the classroom! […]

I tried it, but in school it is way to slow for the students. Everything is slowed down which makes it basically unplayable for the site. I tried it on different days also, with no luck. The week of Hour of Code was the worst, but it didn’t get better for me after that either.

Bummer! I haven’t experienced that with Tynker. Sorry that you are, it is a great resource when it is working!

I love your Crave class concept. I’ve always thought that there needed to be more variety in what we teach and what we all can learn. Way to be inspirational!

My school doesn’t have the bandwidth to support the tutorials. Someone mentioned downloading them. Can anyone help me with how to do this?

Thank you Vicki!

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