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Planet Foss: Investigating Science by Taking Pictures

What it is: Planet Foss is a science photo sharing website for students.  Students are enlisted to help capture science in the real world through pictures and share them with other students around the world.   Students choose a science course to investigate, see what photo challenges exist...

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BBC Bitesize: Converting fractions into decimals

Posted by admin | Posted in Knowledge (remember), Math, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 23-02-2012

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What it is: BBC Bitesize consistently has wonderful games and activities for the classroom.  The Converting Fractions into Decimals activity isn’t one I have come across in the past, but it is a winner none the less.  This is a great place for students to gain some practice with fraction to decimal conversion.  The activity is set up like a secret mission.  Students get their briefing on the mission (including a short description of how the conversion is performed) and must solve a series of problems to unlock secret doors and compartments.

How to integrate BBC Bitesize Converting Fractions into Decimals into the classroom:  I appreciate that BBC Bitesize didn’t just create another boring drill practice game.  Instead, they surround students with story and give them a secret mission to complete that puts their newly learned converting skills to use. The activity takes about 10 minutes (more depending on your students) and could be completed independently in a one to one or computer lab setting, as a center rotation in the classroom, or using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer as a class.  If you complete the mission as a class, make sure that each student has the opportunity to solve a problem to help complete the mission.  With young students I always like to make a big deal of these type of activities if we are completing them as a class.  I might hand out “Top Secret” folders before we do the mission with reminders about how to convert and a few practice problems to jog their memory before completing the BBC Bitesize activity.
Tips:  BBC Bitesize has links under the activity where students can read more about converting fractions to decimals and an online quiz they can take.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BBC Bitesize Converting Fractions into Decimals in  your classroom!

Super Math World

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 22-02-2012

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What it is: Super Math World is a site that has been around a LONG time… I mean, it is on my tenkely.org site for crying out loud! I made that site a good 8 years ago.  I took a look at it again today and am very impressed with the updates and changes that have been made.  Super Math World isn’t a totally free site but it does have a LOT of free content that kids can access.  To utilize the free portions of Super Math World, login as a guest by clicking the “Guest” button.  There are math games that teach and reinforce concepts for kindergarten through twelfth grade.  Free topics include: adding, measures, number patterns, percentages, place value, area, estimating, fractions, negative numbers, set theory, venn diagrams, and series.  The kids will enjoy the arcade-like practice area.


How to integrate Super Math World into the classroom:  Super Math World makes a great computer center activity during math.  The games are quick-enough that students can filter through classroom computers for their turn over a few periods.  The games would also make fun whole-class interactive whiteboard games.  These are intended to be one player, so you can split your students into teams and have them take turns at the board.  Keep a tally of the correct responses to find out which team is the “winner”.  My students always really enjoyed this type of friendly competition.
Of course, the site also makes a great practice area for kids in a computer lab setting.  Some of the games are multi-player so kids can team up on computers to play.
If you want a look at how I rotated students through centers on classroom computers, this post explains it.
Tips:  The paid subscription brings you LOTS more games (and concepts).  If your students enjoy the site, it may be worth getting the subscription.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Super Math World in  your classroom!

BookSource: Classroom Library Organzier

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 21-02-2012

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What it is: Book Source has a pretty incredible tool called the Classroom Library Organizer.  A FREE account on Classroom Organizer let’s you digitally build and keep track of your classroom library, import BookSource orders, import student rosters, track book conditions, generate reports, and more.  All of this equals one thing for your classroom library: organization.  For an organizational freak like me this is heaven!  It makes it SO easy to track your classroom library, check in and out books to students, keep them located where they are supposed to be located in your classroom.  Basically it is a miracle worker (not to overstate it or anything).  As a teacher you can create book rules (like what you are prompted to enter in about a book upon return or how many days books can be checked out), you can choose which fields to display (including reading levels, word counts and interest level), and which fields to display to students.  You can even view reports about students reading habits.  Pretty handy.  And free. Did I mention free?
So, how does this nifty little tool work?  You won’t be spending your time typing in information about each and every book you own, that would be WAY too tedious…not to mention time consuming.  Classroom Organizer comes with a handy little (free) app for your smart phone.  Search “BookSource” in your app store, download the free app and you are armed and ready to go.  The app lets you scan ISBN barcodes on the back of books.  In a few seconds you have a complete entry for the book including the name of the book, the author, reading level, interest level, etc.  This gets automatically added to your classroom library.  You can even set a location on the book so that it is returned to exactly the location it came from.  SO smart!
Now for the downside: The site is not very explanatory.  You have to play around a bit to find what you are looking for and figure it out.  There are no “about” pages or even cues from the home page about what all the tool does.  As a blogger and a teacher, I find that annoying.  I don’t always have time to sit and figure a tool out without a little pizazz that says “don’t forget to look at me!”.  It is a small thing really, the tool isn’t hard to use at all, just not very consumer friendly…it doesn’t sell itself until you play.

How to integrate BookSource Classroom Organizer into the classroom:  Do you have a classroom library? Do you like organization?  Enough said!
We are using this as our only library tracking system at Anastasis since we are so small.  I started adding books to our library today.  If you don’t have time to do this yourself, enlist some of your students to scan books as part of their classroom job or clean up time.
Students can use Classroom Organizer to help them find books to read.  They can search by interest level, reading level, author, etc.
Tips:  If you use BookSource there are even more built in goodies to help you out!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BookSource Classroom Organizer in  your classroom!

Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr from @JohnTSpencer

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, Create, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 20-02-2012

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What it is: @johntspencer is one of my very favorite bloggers.  He makes me think, laugh, challenges me and reminds me that there is always something to push forward for in education.  If I’m honest, sometimes he even makes me crazy…usually because he is pushing my thinking into areas I’m not ready to consider yet.  How dare he call “me” out?!  To be fair, he isn’t calling me out, usually he is calling himself out and I feel the residual conviction.   John writes all over the place.  The first time I encountered his genius was a chance reading of his blog Adventures in Pencil Integration.  Brilliant.  I started following it pretty early on in it’s existence and soon found that he writes ALL over the place.  He has written several books including Drawn into Danger, Pencil Me In, Teaching Unmasked, Sages and Lunatics, and a Sustainable Start.  If you haven’t read these, you should.  John is open and honest and has a great sense of humor.  His Education Rethink blog leads you to all of his resources, blogs, books, videos and podcasts.
John has also created a resource for his students that the rest of us can use.  How nice of him!  His Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr is chalk full of images with captions designed to make students think deeply.  Browse through the collection and soon you will understand how students can’t help but pour forth their ideas in writing.  We do something similar at Anastasis but hadn’t been collecting the images on anything but our own blogs.  These prompts are a great addition to what we are doing!  Some of them are challenging, some are thoughtful, some are humorous.  Sometimes we get a really special treat and John includes his own sketches.

How to integrate Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr into the classroom:  This one is best for intermediate, jr. high and high school students.  The topics are probably a little too complex for younger students to write about (although some of them would be appropriate and some kids are really brilliant!).  Spending time writing creatively is one of the best ways to improve as a writer, to challenge and support deep thinking, and to express themselves.  I learn SO much about students through their writing.  Whether it be a blog post, an imaginative story or a letter…writing exposes them in new ways.
Use John’s Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr with your students, these can be projected for students to see while they write.  John updates the Tumblr often so you won’t be lacking for new material for your students to interact with!  Students can write in a traditional writing journal, in the form of a blog post where they link to the original post, or on a class blog together as a group writing project.
Tips:  Teach younger students? Take a cue from John and start your own writing prompt Tumbr for your students!
I’ve written about another Photo Prompt Tumblr blog that you can find here.  Incidentally, I learned about that blog from @johntspencer. That guy is full of ideas!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Photo Writing Prompt Tumbr in  your classroom!

Gamestar Mechanic: Teaching game design in the classroom

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Art, Character Education, Create, Evaluate, Fun & Games, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 15-02-2012

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What it is: I just love when I get lost in a bunny trail of links…you know the kind, you go hunting for something specific and click on something that looks interesting which leads you to a browser of 25 tabs open.  I had one of these serendipitous link moments today that lead me to Gamestar MechanicGamestar Mechanic is both a game and an online community that teaches kids how to design their own digital games.  In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.  The free version of Gamestar Mechanic is available with unlimited use for teachers who want to use it with their students.  This account option comes with 1 teacher login and 40 student logins.  A premium account offers some additional classroom goodies including: class management, the ability for students to incorporate their own custom artwork, live professional training webinars, tools for tracking student activity and assessing progress, the option of having a “walled” school community, and more.
As a teacher you will find sample lessons for using Gamestar Mechanic, an introductory step-by-step guide, and a full learning guide.  Teachers can even play a short quest to learn more about how to use Gamestar Mechanic in the classroom to teach core subjects.

How to integrate Gamestar Mechanic into the classroom:  There is so much to learn from digital games.  As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life.  As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing.  Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game.  Gamestar Mechanic could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers.  It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting.  Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth.  It is pretty neat to watch!
Gamestar Mechanic makes it easy for all teachers to incorporate game design into the classroom and weave it into the core subjects being taught.  You don’t have to be a tech-superstar, just create an account, read through the getting started guide and enlist the help of a student who’s passion is game design.  This type of designing and thinking is wonderful because it lays the ground work for so much other STEM thinking.  It nicely blends disciplines and helps students recognize the overlap in the learning that they do.
Students can each create a game of their own in a lab setting where every student has a computer.  If you are limited on your computer options for students, create a game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can create games that incorporate other learning or research they are doing to help teach future classes or younger students.  At Anastasis, we have Crave Classes.  These are classes that the student gets to choose based on personal passions.  In the one or two computer classroom, give your students time for a Crave class where they work on Gamestar Mechanic.  Other students can follow their areas of passion…almost in a center type of a set up.
Tips:  There are a variety of pricing and package options for classrooms.  If your students are really enjoying the game design process, it might be worth taking a look at the premium options available.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Gamestar Mechanic in  your classroom!

festisite text layout: Valentine’s word art

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Download, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 13-02-2012

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What it is: Tomorrow is Valentine’s day! While I’m not a big celebrator of this holiday at home, I do enjoy making a big deal of it at school.  It is a fun day to build community and culture within a school!  Our Valentine’s day plans include jump rope and hoops for heart, the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a read-in, book exchange and some fun games/art projects!  I am excited!  One of the sites I am looking forward to introducing tomorrow is festisite Text Layout. The site is easy to use and yields some impressive results.  Students type a bit of text into the text box.  Then they click “Layout text” and get their text written as a shape poem inside a heart.  The image is delivered as a PDF which makes it easy for students to print and save their creations.  Cute and easy!

How to integrate festisite text layout into the classroom: festisite text layout is a neat way for students to play with text.  Students can use festisite text layout to write a shape poem about Valentine’s day or a non-fiction poem about the heart.  Use the site to create fun Valentine wishes for friends.
Turn the heart text layouts into a game by writing heart-related vocabulary definitions.  Students can cut out the heart shape and write the vocabulary word on the back.  Students can see how fast their team can get through the deck of cards they have created.
We will be using the heart layout to write a reflection about what we “love” about a book we are reading during our read-in tomorrow.  This shape poem can be taped to the inside cover of the book so that when we do our book exchange, it has a personalized message about the book from the giver.
Tips:  festisite has other fun text layouts to try including money, card games, logos, iPhones, poems, and text layouts.  You can even create spirals, mazes, banners and rebus puzzles out of your text.  Way cool!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using festisite text layout  in  your classroom!

iTunes U: Creative Problem Solving course from TED

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, iPod, professional development, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, video | Posted on 09-02-2012

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What it is: iTunes U is a true gem that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.  iTunes U is a collection of learning from around the world, available for free at your finger tips.  It just doesn’t get better than that!  Recently I found a new iTunes U course that I had to share with all of my edu friends.  Creative Problem Solving is a course by TED (you know that really super, great conference “talks”) that collects great TED talks about creative problem solving in one convenient place.  “These speakers from TED assess the prevailing model of education reform by answering the critical question: How do we create educational environments that maximize how students harness their creative and problem-solving potential?  Relevant areas of interest, study and coursework include: Education Policy, Curriculum Development, Assessment, Pedagogy, Career and Technical Education, Project-Based Learning, Whole Child Education, 21st Century Skills, and Multiple Intelligences.” These TED talks have had a significant impact on me and have guided many of my thoughts and “hunches” about education.  The collection includes Tim Brown, Emily Pilloton, Gever Tulley, Dan Meyer, Kathryn Schultz, and not one but two from Sir Ken Robinson.  7 episodes in one place for a free course on education that will blow your mind and fire up your passion for education reform. 

How to integrate iTunes U Creative Problem Solving  into the classroom: iTunes U is a great place to learn for both you and your students!  This particular collection is a great place to feed your educator soul and boost your own professional development.  If you have the ability to shape PD at your school, this is an AWESOME addition to your time together as a staff.  In the past, I have done TED Talk Tuesdays and Webspiration Wednesdays over the lunch break with other teachers.  We gathered in the library where there was plenty of room to sit, relax, eat and learn together.  The discussion that ensued after watching the TED talk was always rich. This is a GREAT way to build culture and community among your staff.
Over the summer, I started every morning with a TED talk to start my day off with a healthy dose of inspiration.  I think I will re-instate this habit while I get ready for school.
At Anastasis, we often share videos as a staff.  They aren’t always this inspirational, sometimes we share clips from SNL (HVR, HVR! “Write that down.”) or YouTube.  Videos have a wonderful way of connecting us and giving us shared language and inside jokes.  Gotta love that!
Tips:  TED has other great iTunes U courses including Understanding Happiness and Mastering Tech-Artistry.  Next on my list!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using iTunes U Creative Problem Solving  in  your classroom!

Money Island: a financial literacy virtual world

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, Math, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 08-02-2012

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What it is: Money Island is a neat site I found today while searching for some fun tie ins for our economic inquiry block at Anastasis.  This enchanting virtual world teaches students about money and how the economy works while they go on quests to destinations like the Eiffel Tower and Atlantis.  Students learn and practice the real-life principles of financial responsibility.  Students build knowledge and skills in three major areas including: saving and spending, earning and investing, and using credit wisely.  In addition to these major areas, students learn how to spend, grow and give money; the difference between wants, needs and taxes; different types of income; gain an understanding of interest; how to use credit wisely; and how to build wealth.
The site includes detailed lesson plans and activity suggestions for the classroom, as well as a specialized area within money island where teachers and parents can see what students are learning and track progress.
Money Island was created in partnership with the Young Americans Bank.  This bank was designed specifically for children under the age of 21!  Our students will be taking a field trip to the Young Americans Bank in Denver to continue their learning during this block.  If you are in the Denver area, it is a great field trip!
How to integrate Money Island into the classroom: Kids are not exposed to enough opportunities to learn and practice financial literacy.  Case in point: the national debt crisis, housing loan disaster, and credit card stats. It baffles me that we don’t spend more time in the classroom helping kids learn about money and finances!  Every teacher should take this on in some capacity, we can’t assume that someone else will teach it.  Kids need to learn about how the economy works prior to being neck deep in financial decisions on a daily basis.  Money Island is a fun introduction to all of this!
Students begin their journey in Money Island with a mission to help character Stone Broke.  Students choose a virtual side-kick who will guide them through Money Island and help them make important decisions.  Students are directed through a series of quests to help Stone Broke while learning about money and how to make sound financial decisions.
Money Island is a virtual world so it takes a bit of time to get all the way through it.  When students login, they are given a special key so they can pick up right where they left off in the game.  This is a great site for a one to one classroom environment or computer lab setting where each student has their own computer.  The site could also be used as a center activity on classroom computers with students rotating through the center throughout the week.  Because students can save their progress, they can play from both school and from home.
Money Island makes a fantastic tie-in to a money or economics unit for kids.
***Hint: Click “Join” to join.  For some reason the “Play” button is a little bit temperamental.  It worked for me the first time I played with it but not the second…not sure what that is all about!
Tips:   There is a new game featured on Money Island…Episode 2 helps students learn how to “win” at the credit game.  There are also fun mini games and comics on the site for kids to interact with and explore!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Money Island in  your classroom!

Algebra in the Real World movies

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video | Posted on 03-02-2012

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What it is:  The higher up I got in math, the less connection I could make back to it’s usefulness in real life.  I had math mastered in school, I could memorize the formulas and spit back out the steps to get straight A’s in algebra, geometry, calculus and even trig.  It wasn’t until I was watching the Social Network movie (as an adult) that I started connecting that higher math to purposes in real life.  That is a problem.  Remember the scene in the Social Network when Zuckerberg is writing algorithms on his window?  I saw that, looked at my husband in astonishment and whispered “I learned that!”.  I had NO idea that trig was actually used for anything.  Seriously.  That is why when I saw Algebra in the Real World movies on Karl Fisch’s Fischbowl blog, I knew it was a site that needed to be shared again.  Algebra in the Real World has mini documentary type films that show the ways that Algebra is used in a variety of jobs and real world scenarios.  Movies include:
  • Aquarium makers
  • Backpack designers
  • Designing stronger skateboards
  • Engineering faster bikes
  • First one in the ball park
  • The forester
  • Landscape architects
  • The Lundberg farms
  • Maglev trains
  • Reliable Robots
  • Roller Coasters
  • Saving the bald eagle
  • Solar power
  • The starshade
  • Structural engineering
  • The surface of Mars
  • Testing the robotic hand
  • The wind business
  • Windsails

Plenty of variety to help students with a variety of interests!

How to integrate Algebra in the Real World movies into the classroom: After seeing the Social Network, I wanted to go back to my high school trigonometry class so that I could connect the dots.  I always really appreciated my physics class because it gave meaning to the algebra classes that I took.  I like that these videos help to make connections between the equations students learn and their uses.  It is nice to have such a good mix of topics so that students with different interests and passions can find one that helps them make the connection.
These videos would be great to share with a whole class as the algebra topic connected with the video is introduced, at the beginning of the school year, or based on student interest level.  Use as an end of the year cap to connect what has been learned throughout the year with the use post classroom.
Tips: The Algebra in the Real World movies are available online or for purchase on DVD.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Algebra in the Real World movies in  your classroom!

Google Doodle, Science Fair, Booklet

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Art, Character Education, Create, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 01-02-2012

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What it is:  Google has all kinds of great resources that many of us use daily in our schools.  Every year I look forward to the launch of Google Doodle and wait with anticipation to see what kids from around the US have come up with.  This year, I am in a place where we can even try our hands at the Google Science Fair.  Very exciting stuff!
Doodle for Google is now open for 2012 submissions!  K-12 students can express themselves through the theme “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…” as creatively as possible using Google’s logo as their canvas.  The winner gets their image displayed on the Google homepage for a day, $30,000 in college scholarships and a $50,000 technology grant for their school.  The winning doodle will also be featured on a special edition Crayola box.  Submissions have to be postmarked by March 20th.
The Google Science Fair is open to students age 13-18.  Students from around the world compete for over $100,000 in scholarship funds, an expedition to the Galapagos, an experience at CERN, Google and LEGO and an award from Scientific American.  Nothing to scoff at!
Google also has a new booklet available called “Google in Education: a New and Open World for Learning“.  This is a great resource to see how others are using Google tools in education.
How to integrate Google Doodle and Science Fair into the classroom: Google for Doodle and Google Science Fair are such fun competitions for students to get involved in.  Both let students think and express themselves creatively.  If you don’t have time to integrate these contests into your regular school day, consider holding an after school club for a few weeks so that students have a place to gather and participate.
I really love looking through the Google Doodles every year.  I was thinking that it would be fun to have the students create a doodle with our school name based on our school theme for the year.  Yearbook cover?  Now that could be fun!
Tips:   Share the new Google edu booklet with your colleagues, don’t hog all of those good ideas to yourselves!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Google Doodle and Science Fair in  your classroom!

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