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Fluency Finder App: Updated with new features!

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Interactive book, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 21-08-2013

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Normally I post all of my app posts at my other blog, iPad Curriculum.  Because iDevices are becoming SO common place as a technology in the classroom, I’m going to start posting them here as well.  If you just want apps, head over to iPad Curriculum and you can search apps only!  Just like iLearn Technology, you can search any app by Bloom’s Taxonomy level.  All of the websites I share on iLearn Technology are completely FREE, the apps I review tend to be a mix of free and paid apps.  At the bottom of each post, I share the cost of the app.

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.31 PMFluency Finder

What it is: In the US it is back to school time!  I love these first days of school when you get to meet a new group of students and uncover their passions, strengths and weaknesses.  Fluency is one of those measures that is great to have from the beginning of the year because it means that we as teachers are armed with the background knowledge to help build reading confidence in students.   You can easily find and track fluency rates so that you have more time to help students strengthen reading skills and find books that are confidence-building and enjoyable for them.  I have written about Fluency Finder before (here), but I’m writing about it again because they have just come out with some great new features worth another mention!  Fluency Finder now has a data-sharing email function so that you can share fluency results with all stakeholders easily.  Comprehension questions have been built-in so now you have a one-step fluency and reading comprehension assessment.  Very handy!  Reading passages are being updated with a snapshot list so that you can quickly compare passages.  32 brand new passages are also being added from literary classics for 1st-8th grade reading levels.


I like Fluency Finder because of the way that it instantly calculates results and then stores them in your Student Record for instant access.  Really handy when you are in the library with students and want to quickly remind yourself of their current fluency levels to assist them in selecting the perfect, not-to-hard-book that will keep them reading with enjoyment.

How to integrate Fluency Finder app into the classroom:

Fluency Finder makes it simple to assess reading fluency in 1st-8th grade reading levels.  To get started:

  • Add students to the app
  • Select an appropriate grade level passage for the student to read
  • Print the passage from the www.fluencyfinder.com website (students could also read from their own iDevice or computer if you want to save paper)
  • Begin assessment, start the app timer as the student begins reading
  • Student will read from printed passage as you follow on your iDevice marking any mistakes
  • Tap the (+) button when student makes a reading mistake
  • Tap the (-) button if the student self-corrects a mistake
  • End the timer when the student finishes
  • Tap the “finish assessment” button to instantly see results

Now instead of focusing so much on keeping track of the fluency and score, you can focus on what actually matters: listening for fluency, comprehension and expression.

Being a paperless school, we are LOVING this option for helping students choose books that are at a level that is “just right.”  It gives us the opportunity to help students hunt down the perfect amount of challenge and really focus on a story they can love.  We are all about encouraging an absolute love of reading!

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.58 PM

Tips: Target Fluency Rates

First Grade: 60-70 wpm

Second Grade: 80-95 wpm

Third Grade: 100-120 wpm

Fourth Grade: 120-135 wpm

Fifth Grade: 130-145 wpm

Sixth Grade: 140-150 wpm

Seventh Grade: 150-160 wpm

Eighth Grade 160-175 wpm

Cost$6.99 (iTunes link)

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Fluency Finder in your classroom.

Rewordify: help kids understand what they read

Posted by admin | Posted in Evaluate, Inquiry, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), web tools | Posted on 14-08-2013

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Rewordify-understand what you read iLearn Technology

What it is: Rewordify is a neat online app that helps struggling readers, ESL/ELL students, etc. improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary development.  Students can copy and paste a difficult passage into Rewordify and it instantly transforms the text by highlighting words it has substituted with more common/easily understood, language.  Students can click on the highlighted word to view the original word that was replaced.

Teachers can use Rewordify to create vocabulary activities from any high-interest reading passage, make over 350 classics more accessible, and show students how to surf the web the way a strong reader does.

Settings within Rewordify let students adjust how they interact with difficult passages based on their own preferences and learning needs.

How to integrate Rewordify into your classroom:  Rewordify is a fantastic web app for struggling readers (or any reader!).  Often, non-fiction can be difficult for students to read and understand.  Even strong readers can struggle with the new vocabulary and terms used.  Rewordify simplifies the text so that students can read through it successfully for comprehension.  It doesn’t stop there!  Since all of the words that were reworded are highlighted, students can see new vocabulary in context.  Rewordify can help students build up the ability to recognize context clues and how to use them to increase comprehension.

Anastasis is inquiry based.  We do a LOT of research, even with our youngest students.  The Internet is packed with fantastic resources for learning, but these resources are typically not created with student readers in mind.  As a result, students may struggle through a text and lose out on some of the rich learning in the process.  Rewordify is a great solution for us because students can quickly copy and paste text into Rewordify (works on iPads too!) and instantly read a more student friendly version of the text.

Classic literature is classic for a reason.  This literature holds timeless truths, superior storytelling and enchanting characters.  Students rarely choose to read the classics on their own because the language can add a difficult layer to the reading, causing the story to be lost in the frustration.  Rewordify has more than 350 classics built-in to be read directly on the site.  Students can choose a book to read, modify their settings of how they would like to view the words, and jump right in.  Students can choose to have the words default to the easier, modified word; can ask Rewordify to highlight words that it would have changed so that they can click on the word if they need an alternative; or see both versions of the word in context side by side.

ESL/ELL students will enjoy this site for the way that it allows them autonomy in their reading and vocabulary development.

Rewordify is also a great way for students to learn and practice vocabulary and discovering new synonyms for words.  Any text can be added to Rewordify, high school students could plug-in their own writing to determine if they have used interesting language.  If nothing is highlighted, there could be some work to do on word choice.

If you only have one or two computers available to students in your classroom, why not set up a bookmark to Rewordify that students can visit as needed during research, reading, etc.?  Students will be empowered to read anything they encounter with increased confidence.

Tips: In addition to the classics, you will also see a variety of news websites and articles that work well with Rewordify.  Whole pages of the site are automatically reworded for ease of understanding.

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

Detox: the most important event of the school year

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, education reform, Evaluate, Fun & Games, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 13-08-2013

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Anastasis is in the midst of gearing up for the start of a new school year.  It is year number 3!  In some ways, we are still very much a start-up (I think this will always be the case in some respect, it’s part of our philosophy to keep innovating!).  We are also beginning to establish some nice traditions and events that we look forward to each year at the start of school.

Each year, we take a few days to meet with each student individually to build a Learning Profile.  Teachers sit down with each student and  go through a survey that helps them better understand a student’s interests and passions as well as gain a glimpse at multiple intelligence strengths, learning style preferences, and brain dominance.  These Learning Profile days give students a chance to meet their new teacher in a safe space, help the teacher to learn about the student, and ultimately are used to help Team Anastasis individualize instruction for each learner.  I’ve played around with different ways to gather this information: Google forms that the teacher fills in during an interview, Bento for gathering information in one place, an interactive PDF.  This year I took a different approach, I am hopeful that it will be more fun for the students.  I created a set of cards to sort of gamify the process, giving students a tangible and visual way to think through each statement as it relates to them.  Teachers will record this process and then hand the data collected off to me for future planning.  I used my new favorite find http://thenounproject.com to help me illustrate these cards.  Fun fact: I have an ACTUAL artist working on the next version of these cards that I will be able to share with the world!  @mdusing is creating illustrations for each card to help students better understand what each card represents, some of the concepts can be pretty abstract (empathy is always a tough one for kids to connect with…even when they are VERY empathetic!).  This version will be available for all of you as a download; it will also be woven into The Learning Genome Project.

Learning Profile Interests/passion survey

Learning style preference cards

Multiple intelligence cards

Brain Dominance cards

Because our philosophy and model are so different, we start each year with a week of detox (fitting since our initials are AA) ;).  During this week, we help students “stand up again” in who they are as learners, as creators, as individuals.  We undo some of the messages they have learned about learning: that it happens in specific ways and at specific times, that the goal is answers, that the teacher knows it all, that a test is the only way to measure success, that they are bad at learning certain things, that they can’t be friends with kids who are a different age than they are, that only some people are creative…the list could go on and on!

Our detox week is a time for students to remember that they matter.  It is an opportunity for them to re-frame the ways that they think about learning.  It is a time for them to share their passions with each other.  It is a chance to realize the working together is more productive than competing in learning.  It is a safe time to explore creativity.  It is also the week that new students start to discover that the relationship with their teacher is different here.  That the goal of coming to school isn’t an “A” at the end of the semester.

I love this week!  We see kids who begin to come back to life.  The spark in their eye that can only come through discovering something new.  For some kids, this week is life changing.  Others are a little more hesitant, they don’t trust the freedom that we offer.  They wonder when the “real work” will start and they will settle back into mediocrity.  For these students, the detox week is a glimpse of things to come that they aren’t sure if they can trust.  It usually takes about a month to really settle in and see that we really do mean what we say.

Individual classes explore what it means to be vulnerable.  How to be proud of the individual talents and gifts that make up a class.  How to work together to do hard things.  We also bring the whole Anastasis community together for some activities.  Our first year, students worked together to create iPad styluses out of sponge and wire for less than 10 cents.  Last year we held an all-school day of play (highly recommend that!) and marshmallow/spaghetti tower challenge.  This year we have some fun group art projects and challenges planned.

At the end of second week, we will hold our third annual identity day.  This is an opportunity for students to share an area of passion with the school community.  Students can choose to share anything they want to in a way that they want to.  We hold a school-wide fair and invite families to attend.  The set up almost looks like a science fair when all is said and done.  We spend the day getting to know each other- apart from classroom constraints.  We take a moment to see the world from another point of view.  It is a spectacular day of honoring each child for who they are (teachers participate, too!).  After a half day of sharing ourselves, we spend the rest of the day building community at a local park where we go ice-blocking.  For those who have never had the privilege of ice-blocking, it involves purchasing a block of ice from a grocery store, finding a large grassy hill, sitting on the block of ice, and sledding down the hill in the sunshine.  We have a blast!  Parents, teachers, and students get involved in the fun.  Barriers are broken down, friendships forged and a community bound together for a year of life and learning together.

Our detox week may be the single most important week of the entire year.  It sets the tone, letting students know that this is a safe place to be who they are.  That this is a place where learning looks like life.  That the questions this year will be as important as the answers.  I’m not sure Anastasis would be the incredible place of learning it is without our detox week.

I collect ideas for inquiry units and our detox week on Pinterest.  If you are interested in hosting your own “detox,” check out the ideas saved here!

Of course, you can always follow all of my boards on Pinterest here.

Also random side note, I’m trying to convince Anastasis staff that it is a good idea for us to start an Extreme Combat Juggling team.  It’s a real thing, which is awesome.  Feel free to help me in this encouragement, on Twitter they are: @michellek107, @dweissmo, @bestmscott, @nancybabbitt, @matthewquigley, @lancefinkbeiner.  🙂



Detox concept via Monika Hardy http://redefineschool.com/detox/ adapted by Team Anastasis

Snap! Digital Reading Program: 128 leveled readers

Posted by admin | Posted in Download, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 08-08-2013

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Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

What it is: Snap! Digital Reading Program is a set of interactive leveled books that can be printed, viewed on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, interactive whiteboards or classroom computer.  All of the books in the program have been developed to help teachers meet requirements in the Common Core Standards in vocabulary and comprehension through the use of direct instruction, close reading, modeling, guided and independent practice, and text-dependent questioning.  Each leveled reader has a digital interactive version that includes fluency exercises, comprehension and multiple-choice type assessments.  As your students read, you can track what they are reading, view the digital assessments and performance reports.  These reports include information about CLOZE scores, multiple choice scores, and fluency.  You can also see information about the  last book they read (word counts, difficulty, words read correctly, etc.).  Snap! Digital Reading Program also includes lesson plans associated with each book.  While the program isn’t a free one, a year-long subscription to all materials (interactive ebooks for student, printable PDF versions of the books/lessons/other materials, and the data analytics for all of your students is just $89.  Pretty reasonable for access for every student in your class!

How to use the Snap! Digital Reading Program in your classroom: I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating: when you have a limited classroom library (due to space, as a new teacher, budget, etc.) ebooks are such a great way to instantly expand that library exponentially!  Snap! helps you do that and more.  Not only are you able to offer your students additional access to reading material, they have the added benefit of getting interactive books that give you data so that you can better guide students in choosing books that will help them fall in love with reading.  The readers can also be used for reading interventions, guided reading, shared reading and tutoring.  The leveled readers are for students in grades k-8, so even if you have a super advanced second grade student, you can continually challenge them.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

The flexibility of this program is fantastic!  I’ve long been a fan of Learning A-Z for their printable books, but they are limited to a printout.  With Snap! you have the option of printing out books, but students can also access them from home device, on the iPad, Kindle Fire, Android, interactive whiteboard, or classroom computers.  The eBook version of the reader includes audio, photo slideshows, glossary terms, videos, fun facts, interactive maps and animations.  The PDF version includes lesson plans, alphabet book, word books, assessment materials and individual student record books.  Regardless of how much technology you have available in your classroom, the Snap! program works.

In a one to one setting you get the best of all worlds.  Every student in your class instantly has access to 128 quality interactive books and activities.  Did I mention $89?! That is a great deal!  You also have the ability for offline pdf books that can be sent home for extra practice.  When I taught second grade, my students loved having a print copy of the ebooks that they read in class.  It was always a treat to have those printed to color and share at home.

In a one or two device classroom, you can set up a reading center for students to cycle through.  Students can visit the center once or twice a week to read.

Model reading strategies for the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can practice reading along and be introduced to new vocabulary.

Tips: The iPad version is not called “Snap!” Digital Reader.  The app you will download to access the interactive ebook library is Mobl21 HD.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn TechnologyPrice of app: Free* ($89 yearly subscription required!)

Device: iPad with iOS 5.0 or later, Kindle Fire, Android, computer

Kids Picture Dictionary App

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 30-07-2013

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Kids picture dictionary app- iLearn Technology

Kids picture dictionary app-iLearn TechnologyWhat it is: Kids Picture Dictionary is just what you would imagine it to be: a dictionary, for kids, with pictures.  This picture dictionary has something extra special built in, it includes a self record feature so that kids (teachers or parents) can record their own voice to record sentence examples.  Each word includes a picture, an audio recording of the word, and the ability for kids (teachers or parents) to record their own sentence.

How to use the Kids Picture Dictionary App in your classroom: This is a very simple dictionary app for young students.  It is organized well so that they can search words by letter and picture.  The words included are pretty basic, but would be perfect for an emerging reader/writer.  Students could use the dictionary to help them with spelling during writing time.  I’ve often seen kids who can tell a fantastic story, but their writing is limited because they don’t want to spell a word that they aren’t sure of.  Kids Picture Dictionary app could be just the confidence they need to let their ideas soar.

The Kids Picture Dictionary app could also be really helpful for ELL/ESL students who are learning vocabulary.  Each word not only includes a picture, but also a sample sentence.  Students can listen to the word used in context and then practice recording their own sentence using the new vocabulary.  The recording is saved within the app so students can work independently, and teachers can go back through the app to assess understanding later.

Tips: The Kids Picture Dictionary app is free; however, it does include advertisements at the bottom of each page.  For $1.99 you can get the app without the ads.  A strong suggestion for educational app developers: It is RIDICULOUS to put an in-app purchase option on an educational app.  If a school is going to buy your app, they will want to do it through the Volume Purchase program.  In app purchases are NOT education friendly!  (If you are purchasing this for school, the app exists in the app store twice, the free version always comes up first and if you dig, you can find the $1.99 ad free version.)

Price: Free

Device: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad with iOS 4.3 or later.

HP Envy x2: Tablet/Notebook Review (gasp! it’s not an Apple!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 26-07-2013

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Staples HP Envy x2 iLearn Technology

If you have followed my blog or Twitter feed for any amount of time, you know that this review is kind of a big deal.  I have been a hard-core Apple evangelist for at least 10 years now.  As in: Apple is the only technology product that I own and use.  Why in the world, you might wonder, has she suddenly switched gears and started using the HP Envy x2?  The good people of Staples invited me to do a review for them.  Full disclosure: they sent me a HP Envy x2 to play with.  Being the tech geek that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play with a new gadget!

After taking some gratuitous un-boxing pictures, I plugged it in and got ready to play.

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

The thing is…I haven’t used a non-Apple product in a LONG time.  I forgot that Windows likes you to promise your first-born before you actually get to play.  After signing my life away (not really, but it felt like it!) I played with the Envy and did the tasks normally reserved for my MacBook Pro and iPad.  I’ve been using the Envy for almost a month (and exclusively in place of my iPad today, @jtenkely snuck mine away for a client presentation) below are my notes.

Staples HP Envy x2

The Awesome:

  • The last time I used a non-Apple touch screen, it was a train wreck.  I was pleasantly surprised that this touch screen was everything you expect a touch screen to be.  It is incredibly responsive and works like you would (and should) expect it to.
  • The battery life is pretty great.  I had it on for 4 days of off-on use without having to recharge.  I’m pretty sure I got every bit of the 12 hours of battery life out of it.  The tablet alone gets slightly less battery life. The thought that HP put into charging is pretty impressive, the tablet gets fully charged before the keyboard gets charged.  This makes a lot of sense since you want the most out of the tablet.
  • The cameras are decent quality, the resolution of pictures seems better to me than what I get out of my iPad 3.
  • Beats Audio is a nice touch, the sound quality is good for a notebook/tablet.  This let me rock out to Spotify while I worked.
  • The Envy has inputs on the keyboard base including HDMI, two USB, and SD ports.  This makes transferring, adding, sharing content really easy.
  • The notebook/tablet combination are lightweight at just a hair over 3lbs.
  • Aesthetically the HP Envy x2 is nice.  It feels sturdy but still manages to look sleek (everyone seems to be taking styling cues from Apple these days…hard to go wrong with that inspiration).
  • Flash works all the time. Not having to open a new browser just for Flash is nice.  So many educational websites are still built using flash so for a classroom setting, this feature is handy!
  • Bluetooth connectivity.

The Less Awesome

  • I like the HP Envy x2 better as a touch-screen computer than I do as a tablet.  The screen size is just a little too big and heavy to hold comfortably as a tablet for reading, typing, etc.
  • On this device, I constantly used the touch screen instead of the track pad.  The track pad drove me absolutely crazy.  It  wasn’t as sensitive as I was used to, and there are spots on the pad that were way too sensitive for my liking and kept sending me into full screen mode.  It also has some little grooves in it that make it feel like it is sticky. When you work with children, things that feel sticky are never good.
  • Windows 8- I don’t get it.  It seems hard to complete even simple tasks.  This could just be my bias toward Apple’s OS, but I am not impressed.  When I got the hang of navigating, things got smoother.  I still wouldn’t trade Apple’s OS for it.  One of the things that I missed (and this may just be the apps I was using) was that apps don’t integrate seamlessly together like I anticipated they should.  The Windows 8 store is not my favorite.  It isn’t easy to search for something specific.
  • While the camera’s resolution was good, I wasn’t impressed with the response time to get it to focus on something.

What to Anticipate for the Classroom:

The HP Envy x2 would make a fine classroom computer/tablet.  I like that students can use it as a laptop, they can type on it easily, can access downloadable content, and it stores away nicely so you are not taking up too much space in the classroom.  I also like that it transforms into a tablet so that students can make their learning, and capturing of their learning, more mobile.  Our students constantly take photographs and videos of their learning whether they are inside, outside, on a field trip, etc.  The keyboard dock would be too cumbersome to tote all over so it is great that students could just use the tablet portion when a task called for more portability.  I found the Microsoft store a little lacking in apps that are available.  I think that in the classroom, this gets made up for by the free Flash content you can access online.  I anticipate that with the Windows 8 interface, the learning curve for using the device would be more significant than with an iPad (which has no learning curve).  This is especially true for the primary grades.  It really took me some playing around with to get it figured out, and although I’m all Apple, I am also tech savvy.

Fun Find:

Most of the apps that I downloaded are those that I use regularly on my other devices.  I was impressed with some (Twitter app was great!) and less so with others (Pinterest app was ridiculous…it was easier to just use the browser).  One of the fun finds that I immediately searched for afterward in Apple’s app store was wordBrush (not there).  It lets you type some words into a box and then draw with them.  Pretty awesome!  This could be fun for vocabulary/spelling practice, poetry, book quotes, etc.

I was impressed with the number of free apps available for download.

Overall Impression:

The HP Envy x2 is a nice device that would hold up well in a classroom.  My personal preference is NOT for Windows 8, but if you are used to a Windows environment, it probably won’t phase you.  I was extremely impressed with Staples customer service, after I ordered the HP Envy x2, it came within just a few days. Everyone I worked with on the Staples side was great! (They didn’t even ask me to say that!) 🙂  At $699 this is a good competitor for the iPad.  The combination tablet/notebook is nice.  It really was like being able to use my iPad and then instantly turn it into my MacBook.  Being small, it doesn’t have the same capabilities as my MacBook, but for the majority of what kids do in the classroom, it would be great!

We use Staples a LOT at Anastasis Academy.  I’ve been there every day this week getting school supplies true story.  They have some great back to school deals that you should check out.  The first is Teacher Appreciation Day.  20% back in Staples rewards on all purchases! You can also enter to win a $25 gift card.  Check out the website to find out when your local Staples is holding the Teacher Appreciation Day.

Staples also recently introduced Reward a Classroom.  Sign up and then invite parents to help you earn rewards by buying the school and office supplies they do already.  This could help keep you classroom well stocked all year-long!

**The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own. Thank you Staples for letting me step outside of the Apple world to explore!


Oxford Owl Maths: math ebooks, activities

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Primary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 24-07-2013

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iLearn Technology Oxford Owl Math ebooksWhat it is: Oxford Owl is the awesome site I wrote about yesterday.  They have a fantastic collection of free ebooks and accompanying activities for kids.  The site is making an appearance in today’s post because they ALSO have Oxford Owl Math for ages 3-7.  There isn’t quite the breadth of resources here that you will find on the main Oxford Owl site, but they do have some great suggestions for math activities, both online and offline, and there are some online math e-books.  The 3-5 section currently has the most e-books, online math games, activity sheets that can be printed out, and offline games to play.

How to integrate Oxford Owl Maths into the classroom:  Oxford Owl Maths has some wonderful math themed interactive ebooks that include practice with position words, counting, shapes, time, and adding/subtracting.  The ebooks make for a great introduction or review in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  The telling time ebook and activities are even appropriate for second grade students.  In the kids treasure box, students can collect online trophies for the games and puzzles they complete, find recipes to make in the kitchen, and download offline activities.

Oxford Owl would be a nice center activity that even the youngest students could explore independently or with a partner.  It could also be used for whole class stories with an interactive whiteboard or projector.

This is a good site to introduce parents to for at home reading, play and math practice.  If you have a classroom website, Oxford Owl is a great one to link to!

Tips: If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Oxford Owl Literacy site.

Tell us how you are using (or plan to use) Oxford Owl Maths in your classroom!

Oxford Owl: free ebooks (with audio!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 23-07-2013

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Oxford Owl free ebooks: iLearn Technology

What it is: Oxford Owl is an incredible collection of free children’s ebooks for kids ages 3-11.  Each ebook has accompanying audio so that students can choose to read along, or read independently.  The books also have activities that focus on reading comprehension and story recall.  There are several options for filtering the ebooks so that students can find just the right story including by age, by book type, and by series.  In addition to the ebooks on the site, you can find fun activities and recommendations for each age group, games to print and play, and online games with characters from the books and site.

How to integrate Oxford Owl into your classroom:  I am a big fan of books.  Huge even.  It doesn’t matter where they reside, books make me happy.  It makes sense then, that Oxford Owl would be a squeal worthy site for me.  Free ebooks with audio you guys!  This site reminds me a little bit of Lookybook...I’m still lamenting its demise.

Oxford Owl is a great way to instantly expand your classroom library.  Books are leveled by age and include both fiction and non-fiction.  You will find biographies, dictionaries, fiction, myths and legends, non-fiction, phonics, picture books, poetry and books for struggling readers.   The stories that I went through were truly fun to read!  Use the books on Oxford Owl during reading time on classroom computers.  Students can choose a book to go through as a read along (SO very helpful when there are students who really need to read with a buddy, but the buddy situation is limited).   If you only have one or two computers in your classroom, get a headphone splitter and let students read together in small groups.  The related activities are a great way for students to self-monitor comprehension.  Students can also read these stories independently.  When I taught 2nd grade, I had a voracious reader who quickly read through all of the classroom books and was ready for more.  He was only allowed to check out from the library once a week (and usually those books went home) so I would have him use Lookybook.  Oxford Owl would open a whole other world of books for them to read!

We all have days where a few extra minutes to deal with a problem, set up for the next activity, etc.  Oxford Owl could be connected to your interactive whiteboard or projector for students to listen to a story while you get things sorted.  The whole class can enjoy the story together.  My students loved books on the IWB because they could all see the pictures and read along.  Oxford Owl is also ideal for that time of year when the germs settle in and the voice has gone on strike.

One of my favorite things to do in the classroom was reading with small groups of students.  It gave me the opportunity to give them the individual attention that they really deserved and let me get to know them as readers better.  But…what to do with the rest of the class?  I assigned tub work that students could complete independently.  The tubs were centers related to what we were learning during the week.  Each tub contained all the necessary materials that students would need.  This was independent learning they could work on while I was with the small groups.  Oxford Owl would make a great addition to the “tub” work.  Students could visit the computer center and choose some books to read and play the associated games.

Tips:  Now for the unfortunate news: Oxford Owl is flash-based.  BOO! Not ideal at all for a classroom full of iPads like we have at Anastasis.  Luckily, there is a solution.  There are several Flash Browsers that you can download for the iPad to view flash content.  My favorite is Rover (because it is filtered and created for kids!).  If your network is well filtered, I would also recommend iSwifter and Photon.

P.S. We Give Books is another outstanding place to find free ebooks!

P.S.S. Hat Tip to The Techie Classroom- an outstanding blog to add to your reader if it isn’t already there!

Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Grade Level, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 18-07-2013

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An article I read this week had me thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and what learning really is.  It led to me coming up with a new graphic for Bloom’s Taxonomy, this one a Paint Palette.  I like thinking about Bloom’s in the form of an artist paint palette because each color has equal importance.  For an artist, the greatest beauty comes in the mixing of colors.  Using a multitude of shades and blends on a canvas.  I think the same can be said of learning.  Learning that tells you that you can only use one color is rather uninspired.  But learning that encourages you to use all of the colors can create something really meaningful and beautiful.

At Anastasis, we encourage our students to look at learning through a variety of lenses and outcomes.  Bloom’s Taxonomy helps us do that by showing students that there are different ways to approach learning.  Now our biggest problem is that students will find that they really enjoy one way of showing what they know (iMovie) and proceed to use it for EVERYTHING.  I created the Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette with verbs that help describe the different ways of learning.  I created a painting using the same colors from the palette to give students ideas for different outcomes and evidences of learning.  I’m in the midst of working on an app and website catalog organized by the same colors so that students can be introduced to the many options they have for the different types of learning and producing.  I’ll share that when it is finished!  For now, I’ve included screen shots of the Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette, the Bloom’s Taxonomy Painting and a sample page from the catalog.

Bloom's Taxonomy Paint Palette- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology



Bloom's Taxonomy Painting- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology



Bloom's Taxonomy apps- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology

Knowing Everything and Students with Names

Posted by admin | Posted in Blooms Taxonomy, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 18-07-2013

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This post is in response to a Newsweek article titled “What if You Could Learn Everything”

“Imagine every student has a tireless personal tutor, an artificially intelligent and inexhaustible companion that magically knows everything, knows the student, and helps her learn what she needs to know.”


Jose Ferreira, the CEO of Knewton, has made this artificially intelligent companion a reality for k-12 students.  He has partnered with three curriculum companies including Pearson, MacMillan, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as part of his vision for making Knewton the adaptive learning tool that will make textbooks obsolete.   This “adaptive learning will help each user find the exact right piece of content needed, in the exact right format, at the exact right time, based on previous patterns of use…  Knewton, at base, is a recommendation engine but for learning. Rather than the set of all Web pages or all movies, the learning data set is, more or less, the universe of all facts. For example, a single piece of data in the engine might be the math fact that a Pythagorean triangle has sides in the ratio 3-4-5, and you can multiply those numbers by any whole number to get a new set of side lengths for this type of triangle.”

Knewton works as you might suspect, it begins with a test to see what a student already knows.  Content is pulled in the form of reading and videos to teach the student the things that they do not know.  This is similar to what many other “personalized” adaptive learning systems are doing.  What makes Knewton stand apart is the way that the technology “reads” the student.  As the student is learning, the technology is recording timing, confidence, tabulating each keystroke, and whether the student is guessing or taking their time to answer questions.  So, the more that a student interacts with Knewton, the smarter it becomes and the better that the study recommendations get.

When I see technology like Knewton, it astounds me.  I am always excited about technology that has the potential to improve learning and that feels seamless for humans to interact with.  While the geek in me rejoices that someone is tackling a project this substantial to increase learning, the educator in me is disappointed.  Knewton is all about knowing things. It is about facts.  But, is it really worth all of the effort for technology to train humans to be computers?  I mean, that is essentially what this is doing, no?  We are creating a new factory model, this time the technology is programming us.  Ironically, this is exactly what Knewton’s CEO is working to overcome.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that are worth knowing.  Important, foundational things that shape the rest of what we are able to do.  But, who gets to determine what is foundational and essential for a student to know?  As far as I’m concerned, most curriculum companies are already overreaching in what every single child MUST know.  So, with the vast amount of knowledge available in the world, how do we determine what is really critical for us as a society to know?  The rest of it, while interesting and important, is not necessarily worth forcing.  Even the title of the article, “What if You Could Learn Everything?” makes me cringe.  I don’t want to know everything.  I don’t want to be so crammed full of facts that I can rock a game of Trivial Pursuit, but I can’t actually DO anything useful.

My bigger problem is that once again, we are introducing a tool into education that intends to personalize the learning experience for the student, and in doing so, strips away their humanity.  You see that don’t you?  This is turning children into computers and fact recallers.

But students have names.  They have stories.  Teachers have a different kind of urgency to make things better because we begin and end with students who have names.  This goes beyond the altruistic, “wouldn’t it be great if education worked better” motivation of politicians and curriculum companies who have the ultimate goal of improving our  rank in math and science.  As a teacher, you deal in humanity.  You are concerned with the life that is being shaped.  You want kids to know that they are more than the collection of facts that they have memorized.  The are unique and have something important to offer the world.  That they matter.  Humanity.

So, while I find the concept behind Knewton fascinating, it isn’t what I want for education.  It may fill a need for a piece of the puzzle (namely the foundational knowledge piece), but it isn’t going to make education better if it becomes education.  Being educated is more than just knowing facts (and I’ll remind you again that we already have computers for that).  Being educated means that a child can make connections, synthesize, analyze, evaluate, apply, create something new.  It is learning that is applied.

Technology will play a critical role in the evolution of the classroom.  The role will be different from what Knewton offers.  Instead of assuming that all kids need is facts, the technology will recognize and embrace the humanity.  It will offer more than one way to learn, because while some kids will really enjoy sitting and reading, watching videos and taking an online multiple choice test, others will want to try out a concept through experimentation.  They will want to build something new with their knowledge, or launch further investigation into a concept, or take a field trip and see the learning for themselves.  Learning cannot be reduced to a computer.  This changes the recommendation engine and relies heavily on skilled educators.  This takes into account who a student really is and makes learning recommendations based on that.  The recommendations aren’t relegated to a computer, they can be field trips, videos, apps, projects, activities, experiments, books, and anything else that can be used to learn.  This is utilizing technology for personalization beyond pacing and content exposure to pass the next multiple choice test.  This is empowering teachers to truly shape the learning experience for each student.  This is recognizing that students should have a say in how and what they will learn.  This is why I created the Learning Genome Project.

The Learning Genome Project recognizes that learning is more than just a collection of facts.  It embraces humanity and rejects the idea that humans should be computers.  It will be transformative because it works to make each student the best that they, individually, can be.  It works to strengthen the WHOLE child, not just the fact reservoirs in the brain.  It goes beyond remembering content and challenges students to do something with their knowledge.  I can’t tell you how many students I have met that know their multiplication facts inside and out, but have no idea why finding area requires multiplication.  Knowledge is useful when it can be applied.  The Learning Genome Project urges students to go beyond knowing into the other, rich areas of learning.  Blooms Taxonomy is a useful for thinking through what it means to learn.  Knowledge and understanding are a portion of the learning, but so is the ability to analyze, evaluate, apply and create.  Learning is multifaceted and alive.  It can’t be so neatly all contained in this sort of adaptive learning technology.  Education should utilize technology (I tend to believe this will be the Learning Genome Project) in order to reach the individual.  It must reach outside of itself and meet that student with a name.  It must be able to recognize a student’s need without demanding that the need be met with a predetermined question/answer set.

This post took me some days to think through and write.  It spurred some new thinking for me.  It made me go back through the Learning Genome Project wireframes to dig out any hidden corners that may harbor something that would strip the humanity.  It caused me to think of a new Bloom’s Taxonomy image.  I welcome your thoughts and comments!

Hat tip to @alexbitz for sending me this article!

**If you know an investor who might be interested in the Learning Genome Project, I’d love an introduction!

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