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“Facebook” profile pages for literary characters

Today I worked with a mixed seventh and eighth grade class who is reading To Kill a Mockingbird.  The teacher was looking for ways for the students to explore the characters more in-depth and think about how authors develop characters.  I thought having the students create a fake “Facebook”...

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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!

Adobe Forms Center: Create & Share Interactive Forms

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Inquiry, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 11-07-2013

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Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 4.45.25 PM

What it is: Sometimes I come across a useful site and think, “how in the world is it possible that I haven’t discovered this before?”  That happened today with Adobe Form Central.  This free web application lets you create pdf’s that are actually web forms that can be filled out directly on the pdf.  Fancy.  Forms Central has a huge bank of templates that you can start with including a section just for education.  These are mostly application, appointment, quiz type forms.  But the best…the ability to create your own custom pdf form! Design items include text fields, date fields, email fields, single choice, multiple choice, drop down menu, single check box, rating scale, file attachments, formatted text, images, and page or section breaks.  When you have finished with the form you can set the form up to automatically email recipients, redirect them to a new url, or include a confirmation message.  You can even collect payments through PayPal (I’ll tell you why I find that feature useful!).  When you are ready to distribute your form you can email the link, embed the form or share on Twitter.  From within form central, you can view responses and save to Excel or as a PDF.  You can even sort responses from within Forms Central.

How to integrate Form Central into the classroom:  The obvious (and boring) use of Forms Central for education is for creating quizzes and tests.  Pass.  I’m not interested in using it that way so the custom feature is where I head.  Form Central is a great place for you to create a guided inquiry form where students can view the current inquiry question and fill in their own lines of inquiry and thoughts as they begin into a new unit.  Answers are collected in one place so that you can go through with your class and discuss options.  This could be a great twist on the ideation step in design thinking!

Forms Central could be used to create customized rubrics that you and your students can fill in.  Again, the great feature here is that everything is collected in one spot!  Students can create and use forms to collect scientific or mathematical data that can be analyzed and evaluated later.

Students can create their own custom surveys for collaborative projects and easily distribute their forms and collect answers.  Our students created their own not-for-profit (LSGW Foundation), because they occasionally host fundraisers, Forms Central would be really useful for collecting information and donations online.  The ability to connect the form to a PayPal account where they can collect donations is fantastic!

The PayPal function could also be used by you at the beginning of the school year.  If you’re like us, you have parents fill out loads of Q&A’s at back to school night so that you can get to know the family and child better.  You could include a short wish-list of items that you would like for your classroom.  Parents could choose to donate monetarily to your classroom fund through your forms.  Forms Central also gives them an easy one-stop place to quickly fill out all of the information online.

Do you host an after school club or tutoring?  Use Forms Central to create your application/enrollment form and collect payment at once.

Have your students evaluate your class using a course evaluation (template), collect feedback from colleagues at a conference where you hosted a session, collect interest for a new offering in your classroom, create a risk assessment sheet…the sky is the limit for what you can create.

One of my favorite things about the start of the school year at Anastasis Academy is the Learning Profile that we create for each of our students.  We survey students to learn about their multiple intelligence strengths, brain dominance, learning style preferences, and interests and passions.  Forms Central would be a really great way to collect all of this information (at least until the Learning Genome is finished!).

Tips:  You may be wondering…why not just use Google forms?  I love Google forms, I really do.  But Forms Central gives options that Google does not.  Those options are appealing to me on a number of levels!  The bank of templates they have to start from is also super helpful when time is an issue.

Are you using Forms Central in your classroom?  Share your experience in the comments below!

Here is Today: a web app to put time in perspective

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, Evaluate, History, Inquiry, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 10-07-2013

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Here is today iLearn Technology

Here is today iLearn Technology

Here is today iLearn Technology

What it is:  Here is today is an interesting little web app that helps students visualize time in a new way.  Students start out by seeing a square and a title that says “here is today” with the current date.  When students click “okay” at the bottom, they are taken to a visual of the next step in.  Students can see where the day is falling within the month, the year, the century, the millennium, the epoch, the period, the era, the eon, the earth, life, oxidation, fish, insects, reptiles, mammals, birds, humans, and the universe.  Each stage of the graphic has an arrow pointing out how today (whatever day that happens to be) compares in the grander scheme of things.  Pretty cool!

How to integrate Here is Today into the classroom:  Here is Today is an outstanding way to help students understand where they are in place in time.  They can see where they are and then compare it to the larger history of the world and universe.  Obviously, this is a natural fit into a history or biology class.  Here is Today would also make a great object lesson in math and be great for studying comparison and scale.  It would also make for a great philosophical discussion as we realize just how minute the moment we are living in really is.

Here is Today is a great site for students to explore and inquire about independently.  What questions arise as they explore the site?  After students have investigated and come up with their own lines of inquiry, gather back as a classroom community and discuss those lines of inquiry and the thinking that led to them.  If you happen to follow the IB Primary Years Program, this fits in great to “Where are we in place and time” inquiry.

Here is Today would also be a useful visual on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer where a class can observe and explore together during discussion.  The way that the site compares time is seriously smart.

Here is Today could launch an interesting creative writing assignment.  Invite each student to explore the site and to choose a view.  The story should be written based on the point of view and time that they chose.  This could be a new way to explore setting, time and theme.

Tips:  Here is Today reminds me a little bit of the Scale of Life site that I wrote about here.  Using these sites together could be pretty epic.  Talk about a great sense of our place in the universe!

Are you using Here is Today in your classroom?  Share your experience in the comments below!

Camp Virtual by Common Sense Media

Posted by admin | Posted in For Teachers, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 28-06-2013

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What it is:  Summer time always seems to be a much-anticipated time for a little rest and relaxation.  Over the years I’ve heard from hundreds of parents how much they enjoy the summer months with their kids…until they reach July.  This is when the “I don’t know what to do” sets in and boredom can take over.  Common Sense Media is here to help with those in-between moments when it is too hot to play outside and you prefer that they do something more meaningful than plop in front of the TV for a few hours.  Send them to virtual camp!  The virtual camp is a library of apps, games and websites that will help your kids retain all of the skills they built up over the school year and even build some new ones in anticipation of the new school year.  Recommendations are broken up by age (2-17) and have been further divided by categories including: Outdoor Exploration, Scavenger Hunt, Arts and Crafts, Campfire Friends, Indoor Activities, and Talent Show.  Each recommendation is rated with books.  You are looking for 3 books for an engaging, exceptional learning activity!

How to integrate Camp Virtual by Common Sense Media into the classroom: Camp Virtual is a great way to keep kids learning throughout the summer.  Parents will be extra appreciative of the recommendations for worth-while and safe places for their kids to play while they are at home.  Each activity includes a learner rating and gives a great description of the activity as well as the learning that is tied to it.

Camp Virtual has a guide that can be downloaded and sent home with students at the end of the school year.  Too late for that?  Send a “hope you are having a wonderful summer” email with the guide and a link to the site.

When the weather is nice, I am a HUGE fan of kids getting out and enjoying experiential learning.  However; I know that like all of us, they hit the point of no return when they are hot, tired, crabby and just need a change of activity in a cooler location.  These recommendations of games and activities is a great reprieve for those moments!

Tips:  I love that at the bottom of each page there are some recommendations for parents to continue the learning beyond the game or activity.  Things like “Encourage kids to come up with as many different solutions as they can with each game. Ask them which solutions are most efficient.”

Are you using Camp Virtual?  Share your experience in the comments below!

Student Freelance: connecting talented students with employers for freelance work

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, collaboration, Middle/High School, Subject, Teacher Resources, Web2.0 | Posted on 27-06-2013

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Student Freelance via iLearn Technology

What it is:  Student Freelance aims to connect talented American educated students (sorry, for now this is US only) with employers who want to utilize those talents.  Students get an opportunity to put their talents and passions to work while earning money, gaining experience, and making connections with others in their fields of interest.  Employers win because they get a cost-effective solution and the opportunity to scale up.  The added benefit is the apprenticeship opportunity that exists here.

How to integrate Student Freelance into the classroom: If your students are anything like ours, they are wildly talented and passionate.  They continue to amaze me with the ways that they push themselves to learn in areas of passion.  I’ve had several students ask if I could connect them with someone at Google or Pixar so they can start putting their skills to work. :)  While I don’t always have that ability, I can now point them to Student Freelance.  This offers students the ability to share their skills and passions with the world, while becoming contributing citizens now.  It is also a great opportunity for your students to begin building up an authentic work-experience portfolio while they are still in school as learners.

Jobs are listed by areas of skill expertise and passion.  The opportunity can be a freelance job on location, or in some cases, a freelance job that they can complete from anywhere in the US by connecting online.

I’m looking through all of the freelance offerings of students and wondering…could schools utilize these students as a sort of adjunct teacher/mentor for students at their own school?  This could be a cool way to support students and make valuable connections.

Tips:  Spread the word to local businesses that Student Freelance is an option!  I’m not sure most business owners would know to look here.  It is a great mission to support!

Are you using Student Freelance?  Share your experience in the comments below!

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