What it is:Check 123 is a new video encyclopedia site for kids. All videos are validated and ranked by Check123 professionals, are 1-3 minutes in length, and a curated on just about any subject you can think of. Broad topics covered on Check123 include: history, sports, politics, food, performing arts, economics, earth, nature, tech, philosophy, music, cars, pets, human body, arts, geography, religion, psychology, TV, gaming, science, literature, fashion, media, and space.
How to integrate Check 123 into your classroom: Check123 is a great place for students to begin their research. These videos are between 1 and 3 minutes each, keeping students engaged in a topic and giving them bite-size information. I like that the videos are so well curated, it keeps search results on topic rather than the endless dig for quality content that can happen in a YouTube search. Check123 videos are also wonderful as provocations for further inquiry. The short format gives students just enough information to whet their appetites and encourage additional questioning. Check123 is a great one to keep bookmarked on classroom and library computers for quick reference.
Video is the preferred learning method of 90% of our students at Anastasis, when they do a search, they usually begin on a video site. With Check123, they are sure to get some quality results back to kick start their learning and research.
What it is:My Simple Show Video Creator lets students easily create professional level “explainer” videos. The finished product looks just like a Common Craft video, so cool! The step-by-step tool helps students think about storyline and the flow of explaining a concept.
How to integrate My Simple Show into the classroom:My Simple Show is a fantastic option for digital storytelling. Students begin by choosing to write their own script, or by uploading a Power Point presentation. Next, they can choose from one of many templates to start from, or alternately, start from scratch. The templates are an awesome option because they give kids an outline and break down the story telling/explaining process. For each step in the process, it guides students with a prompt and with some examples. My Simple Show auto-magically picks up words in the script and suggests pictures. Students can use the pre-selected images, choose an image from the My Simple Show library of images, or upload their own image or picture. In the final step, students add audio. This can be computer generated or students can record their own audio. The finished product is pretty impressive! Below is a video I made quickly today.
My Simple Show’s obvious use is for explanatory digital storytelling, but it would also be a great way for students to reflect on a field trip, tell a story, retell new learning (pssst. this is an awesome way to check for understanding!), or create their own “textbooks.”
Students can use My Simple Show to explain a historical event, introduce a biological process, introduce a physical law, summarize literature, summarize a biography, discuss pros and cons, explain a law, etc. Use My Simple Show to create whole class stories where each student contributes a portion of the explanation or story. This type of video can be made over a few weeks using classroom devices as a writing center. This would be a fun way to create an A to Z type book of learning, reflections by students after a unit, a 100 day video, fact vs. opinion video, a class video of poems, a phonics video, or a class video about a field trip that students took. Students can take pictures of science experiments and create a digital video detailing the experiment with text, images, and student voice reflections included. The finished product can be shared with parents and families easily through YouTube, Vimeo, or downloaded as a MP4 file.
For a back to school night activity, take a picture of each student to add to a class video and record students sharing an explanation of a school day. This same idea could be used in preparation for parent-teacher conferences. Students can create a video about their learning during the quarter/trimester, record thoughts about why they are proud of the work they did, and add reflections. These can be shared as a starting point for conferences, at the end of the conference, parents have a keepsake. My Simple Show could also be used for character education. Give the students a scenario or problem, and have them work out a step-by-step explanation or solution.
Because of the voice recording capabilities, My Simple Show, would be a great way for students to practice a foreign language. They can illustrate a word or phrase accompanied by the audio. Classes could work together to create a “living” digital glossary.
Be sure to give your students access to My Simple Show in your Maker Space, it is a great option for students to choose!
Tips: My Simple Show has video guides that lead students through each step of the process…I definitely recommend watching these at least once as a class or for the first round of creation!
What it is:INVICTA Challenge combines technology (in the form of an action-packed video game), a graphic novel, maps, an operation packet and an action figure that inspires kids to read and problem solve. Each INVICTA Challenge collection builds problem solving and leadership skills for students 8-14. Part story, part game, students are placed in historical situations where they get to make the decisions that will determine success or failure. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder lets students walk in the shoes of an American Hero.
How to Integrate INVICTA Challenge in your classroom: These challenges are a fun and new way to foster literacy, history, and leadership skills in your classrooms. Stories are highly visual and have enough action and adventure to keep even your reluctant readers engaged. The game component of the challenge almost takes on a choose your own adventure feel as it pairs with the graphic novel, maps, and missions. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder tells the true story of a Native American paratrooper’s D-Day leadership. The way that this combination puts students in the middle of the story is fantastic. Students aren’t passive readers…it is impossible! With Flash and Thunder, students are in the middle of the action, analyzing options, making decisions, evaluating the decisions and building comprehension and understanding of history all the way.
The INVICTA challenge is like a smart recombination of the things I enjoyed most from my own childhood: American Girl dolls/Books, Oregon Trail…only with a major upgrade.
At Anastasis, we’ve been working on an inquiry unit about change makers and the power of one. The INVICTA challenge has been a fantastic launching off point for students as they consider what it means to be a change maker, and what characteristics make up a change maker. This interactive challenge/book/game put students in the middle of thinking like a change maker, building leadership traits like integrity, nobility, valor, initiative, curiosity, tenacity, and accountability.
This challenge would be an excellent addition to your classroom library. You might want a few copies so that students can read together and work through the game and missions together in a book group. The video game component will be available on iOS, Android, and online here. Take a look!
Tips: The INVICTA Challenges can be purchased at Barnes and Noble for $34.99. For all that is included in this kit, it is truly a great value! I’m so excited for the other challenges to come out, some very exciting stories and characters are on their way!
Full disclosure: INVICTA sent me the Flash and Thunder challenge so that I could review it for you all here. But…
You can win your own Flash and Thunder challenge at the 5Sigma Education Conference in February! If you register for the conference today, you can save 20% using the code: CYBERMONDAY at check out. Not only will you get the opportunity to win one of these great challenge kits for your classroom, you also get a conference experience like no other!
What it is:Post-it Notes are among my very favorite office supplies. I use them for brainstorming, my calendar, to jot down reminders, and to collect the brilliant ideas that happen in the middle of the night. At Anastasis, we use Post It Notes constantly to help organize brainstorm sessions and lines of inquiry during an inquiry block. As you might imagine, we use TONS of Post-it Notes during any given week! They are hard not to love, brightly colored squares just waiting to collect brilliance and post it for the world to see. Recently, I stumbled on an app, Post-it Plus, that takes my love of sticky notes to a whole new level! Post-it Plus is an app that lets you snap pictures of a Post-it note brainstorm session, and then arrange, refine, and organize the notes on a virtual board. The newly organized digital board can then be shared out. Students can capture 50 Post-it notes at a time and collect and combine ideas from multiple categories. Notes can be organized on a grid, or free form any way that you would like. Boards can be shared via email, PowerPoint, Excel, Dropbox, by PDF, etc. After the work has been shared, anyone can help contribute and arrange the notes to create a great idea! The app is free and optimized for iOS 8.
How to integrate Post-it Plus in your classroom: Post-it Plus is a great way for students to capture their brainstorms and group work so that they can take it with them.
Collaboratively brainstorm with your class or explore some different lines of inquiry and record each new thought on a sticky note. Students can then take a picture of the group on their iOS devices and arrange and group in a way that best makes sense to them. Now all of your students can manipulate the sticky notes individually and bring their learning with them.
As students are writing (either creative or informational), they can write each new idea or paragraph on a different sticky note. Then they can arrange their notes and take a picture. As they create different arrangements, they can use the digital version to compare with the original to make decisions about the flow of their writing.
Teach young students? Write down the different parts of a story (beginning, middle, supporting details, end) on several sticky notes. Students can snap a picture of the notes and practice sequencing the story. Each student has the digital version, so each can practice ordering and you can quickly assess their understanding.
Post-it Plus could also be used for phonics work. Write phonemes on individual sticky notes and ask students to take pictures of each phoneme with the app. Then call out words that students can create with their phonemes in the app.
Post-it Plus is also fantastic for students learning math processes (order of operations anyone?) and algebraic thinking. Write each part of an equation down and students can manipulate the digital sticky notes to show process.
Students can also use Post-it Plus to categorize and organize ideas and events in history, science, government, etc. How We Got to Now anyone? 🙂
Tips: I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve been to that we used Sticky notes to brainstorm ideas. Post-it Plus makes it easy to take that thinking and learning with you in a very practical form that you can interact with later! Speaking of conferences, the 5 Sigma Edu Conference is a great one to test out this app!
At Anastasis Academy, we are in the middle of the inquiry block “Where We Are in Place and Time.” During this block our students are exploring orientation in place and time, personal histories, explorations and migrations of humankind, and the relationships between the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations from local and global perspectives. Serendipitously, Steven Johnson’s new book “How We Got to Now” just came out along with a PBS documentary. The timing could not have been better!! Steven looks at 6 innovations that made the modern world. In his telling about these 6 innovations, he demonstrates the inquiry approach in really brilliant ways. The interdisciplinary nature of this series is fantastic! I’ve been reading “How We Got to Now” (I highly recommend it!) and the students have been watching the new PBS documentary series by the same name as part of the inquiry unit. In addition to the book and documentary series, PBS has a brilliant How We Got to Now website for the classroom!
What it is:How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson is a website from PBS. The resources on the site are meant to support the documentary series (or book) and recommended for 6th-12th grade. At Anastasis, we are using it with students as young as 3rd grade and they are all getting something out of it and loving the connections of history and these innovations.
How to use How We Got to Now in the classroom: I love the way that Johnson explores innovation through these 6 lenses. Instead of offering up the typical “heroes” of invention, Johnson introduces students to concepts that span hundreds of years of invention and many of the unsung heroes. The six innovations include: glass, time, clean, light, sound, and cold. I’m telling you, the way that Johnson helps kids see connections in innovation and invention is brilliant! So much the way that inquiry works. 🙂
The How We Got to Now site has a great “Big Ideas” section that leads students to dig deeper into the six innovations and has provocations for students to continue making connections, learning, asking questions, and even coming up with their own innovations.
Students can explore and discuss how change happens and think about how we get to “next.”
As I mentioned, our students at Anastasis are really loving this block. They are enjoying exploring Where We Are in Place and Time with the help of Steven Johnson and through the lens of these six innovations. It has led to a lot of additional lines of inquiry and has also prompted our students to create their own innovations and inventions for the “next.”
As I was reading “How We Got to Now,” I couldn’t help but imagine a set of dominoes. Each innovation connects to something prior that sets off a chain reaction like the domino effect. I suggested to our classes that the students choose one of the six innovations to illustrate this way. The students will create a mini museum for our families to go through that is full of large cardboard dominoes with the inventions and catalysts of the chain reaction. The last domino will be their invention. I’m excited to see this come together!
What it is: I can’t help but love Google’s commercials. They are brilliant in their simplicity and weave together a story beautifully. In the past, Google let you build a story by way of a Google search. Now with Google Story Builder, you can build a video story that looks like it is being typed live between two collaborators in a Google doc. SO very happy! It couldn’t be simpler, any age could create a fantastic little video with this tool! Students create some “characters” for their story. These characters are the Google Doc collaborators. Next, students type text for each collaborator to add to the doc. Finally, students choose music to accompany their video. That is it! When students are finished with their video, they can share it via a weblink.
How to use Google Story Builder in your classroom:Google Story Builder is an outstanding little tool for sharing a story or learning. It allows students to demonstrate learning or understanding in a fun, easy way. A lot of tools can become THE focus of a project. You know how this goes, as soon as you mention that students will be creating a video project all of the learning journey goes out the window and immediately the focus is on the hilarious video they are going to create. The learning can become an after thought. With Google Story Builder, this isn’t the case. The outcome is going to look similar for everyone so the focus is the learning and story. Creativity comes through the story and the music chosen. This is the best kind of creativity, it requires students to know the topic or subject well enough to create a mini parody of it.
Students could use Google Story Builder as a book report. Students can think about major themes or the climax of a story and retell it through the collaboration the story characters in this Google Doc. How awesome would it be to have Romeo and Juliet creating a document together? How about Junie B. Jones and That Jim I Hate? The Little Red Hen asking for collaborators for her latest cooking project?
As students learn about major players in history, they can create a Google Story about those historical figures and their interaction if they had a shared Google Doc. For example students might imagine the writers of the US constitution drafting the constitution as a Google Doc. Or Galileo arguing with the “church” (the story I told in my video).
Students could personify any inanimate object or idea as a character in a Google Story. How about parts of speech arguing which part of speech is the best or should be used in the sentence being typed? Countries of the world telling all about what they are known for? Periods of history as characters? Science ideas (evolution vs. creation)? Math stories including characters like Odd Todd and Even Steven? The possibilities are as varied as your student’s imaginations!
Teachers can create a Google Story to help their kids with inference. Create a story between two characters and ask students to infer about context. What is happening? Do you think the characters are friends or foe? Why? What do you think they are working on together?
What it is: Timelapse is an incredible visual satellite timeline powered by Google. Timelapse is about as close as you can get to a time machine, if that time machine hovered above the earth and gave you a bird’s eye view of development and change. Students can choose from some highlighted Timelapse views including: Las Vegas, Dubai, Shanghai, Oil Sands, Mendenhall Glacier, Wyoming Coal, Columbia Glacier, and Lake Urmia. Alternatively, students can use the search box to view a satellite timelapse of any place in the world. Students can change the speed of the timelapse, pause the satellite imagery, and zoom in or zoom out. The imagery begins in 1984 and goes through 2012.
How to use Timelapse in your classroom:Timelapse would be a fantastic way to begin an inquiry unit. The site itself sparks lots of questions. Depending on the location, students may inquire into climate change, history, development, expansion, human impact on land, satellites, etc. Timelapse could also be used in science classes and history classes. This is a great tool for students to use to analyze and evaluate visual data.
Timelapse would be a neat way to explore history of the world from a completely different perspective. Students could use Timelapse as a creative writing prompt to imagine the world from a new perspective. What changes when you aren’t down in the midst of life on earth? Do problems appear different? Does success get measured differently?
Tips: Below the Timelapse map, students can read about how satellites are used to capture the imagery they are exploring. Well worth the read! It is also separated into “Chapters” that each tell a larger story about the featured Timelapses.
Okay, it is 2014…time to kick it into gear and get back to blogging. The awesomeness of what exists in educational technology is stacking up and NEEDS to be shared. I’m on it!
What it is: Buncee is a super cool creation and presentation tool. Buncee is useful for students and teachers alike as a digital canvas. Students can use Buncee to create neat interactive presentations and stories. Teachers can use it to help teach new concepts, in a flipped classroom, or to share information with families. There are three account types to choose from within Buncee. The free account lets students and teachers share finished presentations with social media, upload your own photos, create Buncees with two slides, offers 500mb of storage, and lets you save the Buncee as a jpeg. The education version cost $9.99/month or $59.99 for the year and includes: sharing to social media, uploading of files (audio, media, image), record audio, create Buncees with unlimited slides, storage of 2G, ability to save as a clickable pdf or jpeg, 1 teacher account to create and manage 30 student accounts, create and post assignments, and view/grade student submissions.
How to use Buncee into your classroom:Buncee is a great creation webapp. As a teacher, use Buncee to assist guided reading by recording a read aloud. Use the recording as part of a classroom reading center where struggling or emerging readers can get a customized lesson. Stop during the reading just like you would if you were doing a read along sitting with the child. Include slides with questions that students can answer, ways that they can reflect on the story, etc. While you are working with a small group of students on close reading, other students can still get some great reading support. This is also great for those kids who don’t have a parent at home that can read with them- you can “go home” with your students every day! Buncee can also be used for guided learning. Create your own digital “textbooks” complete with multimedia, images, audio, and text. I’ve often been let down by what a boxed curriculum provides for students, create your own resources for students to access. This is especially helpful for young students who won’t be able to independently research using the Internet on their own. Buncee could be a great help for the flipped classroom model. Send students with learning to complete at home in preparation for a project or activity that will be done at school with your support.
Students can use Buncee for multimedia presentations to demonstrate learning. Students can create interactive presentations when learning a foreign language connecting vocabulary words with meaning. Because it is so easy to combine multimedia types, students can create their own digital “textbooks” where they collect learning in history, government, geography, science, social studies, etc. and present it in new and meaningful ways. These digital “textbooks” can be shared and commented on by other students.
Buncee could be a great way for students to reflect on a book that they have finished. They can complete character sketches, retell, or combine media types to create a book review.
If you have a digital camera (built in or separate), students can take pictures of a science experiment and create a digital review of the experiment including any hypothesis and conclusions.
Tips: With the education version, students can submit their work and it can be graded and commented on directly in Buncee. This could be a really great way for students to keep a digital portfolio that you, and parents, can comment on throughout the year.
What it is: Smithsonian Quests encourage students to explore learning through discovery and collaboration. As students learn, they can earn digital badges for their quests. Students can explore their own interest through a series of online activities while incorporating knowledge and skill-building in the online quests. The quests ask students to explore a topic of interest as part of a standards-based curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity. By signing up for Smithsonian Quests, you will receive an invitation to join a grade-level based group in the Smithsonian Quest Community. Students from kindergarten through adult learners can join Smithsonian Quest and collect badges.
How to integrate Smithsonian Quests into the classroom: Smithsonian Quests is a great program that connects transdisciplinary learning with digital badges. As your class works through the site, they will start to realize how they have been learning, exploring, connecting and acting. Students can unlock a badge by completing a set of quests that go with it. Some Quests are independent and others are collaborative. Quests get reviewed by a group of “specially selected experts” before badges are awarded. Badges include: oral historian, historical biographer, cool curator, cultural storyteller, portrait reader, community historian, symbols spotter, correspondent, dirt detective, art advocate, environ-scientist, culture keeper, eco-journalist, time traveler, H2O hero, conservation campaigner, invasions investigator and tree hugger. Quests include things like listening to audio, taking pictures, recording, etc. As you can see, there are quests for every interest!
When students sign up for quests, they get invited into a group (class group when the teacher sets up the account), can add friends, see the badges they have collected, and view friends who are online. Students also get an online journal where they can reflect on learning or update their status with the kind of learning they are doing.
I like that these quests can be done collaboratively (a whole class goal to earn the digital badges by learning?) and that they are largely discovery based learning. The quests really challenge students to dig deeper in learning and often lead to additional questions. Quests can also be completed individually by students. Students can explore areas that are high-interest for them. These Smithsonian Quests would be a fantastic end of the year project where students are driving their own learning but working toward a known goal. Spend the last week of school with a time for students to share their learning with others.
As we head into summer break in the United States, consider suggesting Smithsonian Quests to parents as a great summer-time learning opportunity.
Tips: Register for free and have a look around to see all of the cool opportunities for your classroom!
What it is: Soo Meta is an awesome new site that lets students build mixed media stories. Students can use this storytelling tool to collect, sort, edit and publish web content easily.
There are two options for login, with name/email/password or through Facebook. For students who don’t have their own email accounts, you can have them login using a temporary inbox like Tempinbox (just type in a word or words followed by @tempinbox.com and you are in business!).
After students have logged in, they will be asked to enter a title for their new story. Then, they can search for videos, pictures, sounds and text or copy and paste their links into a new story. Videos can be trimmed and edited, pictures resized and text edited.
Soo Meta is incredibly simple to use. Just search the web, choose content to remix and off you go! You can also simply drag and drop content from your computers desktop to create something new.
When finished, just publish the story and you can share it via link on Facebook or Twitter or you can embed the story like I did above. (I literally spent a grand total of 2 min creating this story!)
How to integrate Soo Meta into the classroom: Soo Meta is a fantastic online tool for digital storytelling. It makes the process incredibly easy and the possibilities are limited only to your student’s imagination.
With Soo Meta, students can compile research on any topic or subject and create their own digital “textbook” of the learning to share with other classmates or students around the world. I love that Soo Meta combines the research component with the creation piece. So often students want to skip right to creation…with Soo Meta the two are so interdependent, it would be impossible to do one without the other!
Teachers can use Soo Meta to create learning stories for their students. Pull together various videos, pictures and articles and mash them up for your students. Embed finished video stories on a classroom website or blog.
Older students can create interactive video stories for younger “buddy” students. They can solidify their own learning of history, math, science, geography, etc. by putting together learning opportunities for younger students.
The storytelling aspect of Soo Meta is fantastic! Students can do story re-tells, current event mashups, historical documentaries, political commentary, science discoveries, etc.
Tips: Don’t be discouraged if your students are too young to create their own Soo Meta stories, create your own mashups for them to enjoy!