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Timelapse: 3 decades of photo imagery of the world

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...

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How to create an online Advent calendar

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Art, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Fun & Games, History, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 01-12-2013

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I love this time of year, it comes with such wonderful anticipation of things to come. A time to be mindful.

 How to make a digital advent calendar- iLearn Technology

You can build some of that anticipation into your classroom with a digital advent calendar that reveals something each day in preparation for the holiday season. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, “coming.” In Christian traditions, this refers to God’s coming into our midst. Anastasis is a faith-based school, so the advent calendar I created for our students and families is to be in celebration of this coming.  Your classroom advent calendar doesn’t have to be faith-based.

Your advent calendar could be in anticipation of the coming new year, the coming break from school, or just a fun way to surprise your students with something they get to reveal each day.  It would even be fun to reveal some sort of “Mission Impossible” task each day for your students. Be creative! This could be related to something they are learning/working on in your classroom, a kindness challenge, a video of the day, a writing prompt for the day, brain teaser, a book/poem/website for the day, a peek into your classroom for families, inquiry question of the day, song/podcast, 25 days of science experiments, etc.  Even as adults we enjoy moments of anticipation, why not capitalize on that in your classroom?

I used Weebly to create our digital advent calendar.  You can follow our calendar here. Weebly is an easy to use, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website builder. It makes it simple to quickly put together a site that you can easily edit in preparation for the next day of revealed surprise.  Weebly also lets you include a nice variety of content so that it is flexible enough to meet your needs. I started December first with some text and an image.  My plan is to take a video each day of our students sharing a verse, quote, thought, blessing, song, etc. and embed the video using the YouTube option.  The only thing for me to do each day will be to take the video and upload it to our Anastasis YouTube channel and then copy the url into the Weebly image for the day. SO easy to keep up with each day!

How to build your own Weebly Advent Calendar:

  • Sign up for a free Weebly account
  • Choose a template to start with for your calendar. Any of the templates will work, choose the look you like best!
  • Start by dragging some text onto your page. This is a great place for a few sentences about your calendar and what students/families can expect to find each day.
  • Under the “Structure” section, select and drag over the “Columns” onto your page. I chose 5 columns.  Repeat so that you have multiple rows of 5 columns.  I have a total of 5 for 5 rows and 5 columns.
  • Into each row and column, drag over the “Image” option so that you have 25 image place holders.
  • I used Apple’s Pages software to create my daily images with the dates listed on them. I used some digital paper, layered a solid box of color, and two text boxes. I took a screenshot of each date (I just created one image and then changed the text for each screenshot).
  • Back in Weebly, click on the image placeholder to upload the images created (alternately, you can just use the search option to find images to use). Repeat for each image.
  • Create a new page (under the Pages tab a the top of the Weebly screen).  Be sure to check the box so that the page is hidden from navigation.  This is going to be your “come back on the appropriate day” page. Click “Save and Edit.”
  • On your new page, add some text and an image.  Type a greeting message from those who are trying to sneak a peek early.
  • Navigate back to your home page. Click on each image, an edit box for the image will come up.  Select “Link” and choose “Standard Page” and then the page you just created.  Save.
  • Create other pages for your site if you would like to, I created an “About” page for those who are curious about Anastasis.  It might be fun to include a “contact” page where students can submit ideas for the calendar (maybe original writing or other work?)
  • Publish your site.
  • Each day go back and click on the image for the appropriate day. From the edit box, go back to “Link” and change where the image links to.  It can link to another page that you create on the Weebly site, a website or video, a file, or an email address (what if your students got a new email address each day to email an encouraging note to?).  Alternatively, you can delete the image for that day all together and embed a video, html, flash, etc.
  • Don’t forget to re-publish after you’ve added/edited the site!

There is something truly wonderful about revealing a surprise each day. Don’t leave the families of your students out, it would be great to give families a glimpse of your classroom so that they can see what there kids are up to each day. This can be photos, original student writing, video, or fun activities to be completed as a family in lieu of homework.

Students can also be in charge of creating their own advent calendar. The possibilities for this are endless!

 

What great ideas do you have for using an advent calendar in your classroom? Share them below!

Our Little Earth: Global News for World Citizens

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Character Education, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 20-11-2013

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iLearn Technology- Our Little Earth international newspaper for kids

What it is: Our Little Earth is a great international online newspaper for kids.  It is delivered every two weeks directly to email and best of all, it is free!  Past editions of Our Little Earth can be found on the site for students to read and explore.  Each issue helps students stay informed about what current events are happening in the world around them.  Every edition has a map showing students where the news came from for the issue.  The articles are easy for students to read and do a great job of offering enough background information so that students can make connections to the text and better understand it.

How to integrate Our Little Earth into your classroom: I really like Our Little Earth kids news, it is simple in its delivery, but packs a substantial punch of great information.  This is a fantastic source for students to read just-in-time, non-fiction text, at a level that is accessible to them.  Subscribe to Our Little Earth and read through a story-a-day for the weeks following.  Make sure to model for kids how to explore the themes, politics, geography and history that is related in each article.  This is also a great starting point for kids to fact check, make connections, and confirm the reliability of a source.  The news is current, so there is always something fresh!

I love using current news with students, it keeps the classroom relevant and touches enough transdisciplinary themes that students can make connections to other reading and learning they are doing.  Combine Our Little Earth with @angelamaiers What Breaks Your Heart project.  As students are more informed, they will be able to better articulate things about the world they would like to be a part of changing.

Use Google Earth to help students learn geography at the same time.  Create a pin on the map for each story read.  Ask students to come up with a title for each story (or use the title provided) to help them remember what they read about that location. Add to the same Google Earth map all year-long so that students can begin to see common themes by geography.

Tips: Use the search feature to help students dig even deeper into events and themes.  What happened a year ago at this time?

What do you think of Our Little Earth?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

6 Days and 78 Resources for Digital Literacy Internet Safety

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Evaluate, Internet Safety, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 15-09-2013

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At Anastasis Academy we are a 1:1 BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school with EVERY student using technology throughout the day every day.  Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship are important topics for us because it is so integral to what our kids do while they are at school.  Whether or not you have a 1:1 program, these are topics that shouldn’t be overlooked!  Don’t assume that because your students are fairly savvy when it comes to learning technology, that they will automatically pick up on digital literacy.  Digital Literacy isn’t a topic that should be relegated to school either, it is essential that parents learn about digital literacy so that they can echo and enforce good technology use at home.  This week we will have a week of intensive digital literacy training for our students.  Being a BYOD school means that these topics come up as we go through the year often, it is nice for us to have an intensive week to refer students back to throughout the school year.  So much of digital literacy echoes good safety practices in “real” life.  As such, we spend time discussing online and offline safety practices during this week and have our local school deputy join us.  When I was a technology teacher, I would end this week with an Internet Driver’s License, students had to pass a safety quiz in order to get their license.  This was their ticket to being able to be online in my class.  Students could lose their license for inappropriate online behavior.  This was always popular for kindergarten through fifth grade students!  Below are our favorite resources to use.  We choose a different digital literacy topic for each day of the week, follow along or mix it up to meet your own needs!

6 Days and 78 Resources for Digital Literacy Internet Safety- ilearn technology

Monday- Online Identity

Students tend to assume that if something is online, it must be true.  This is especially true of people they “meet” online.  Students believe that anyone on a social network, blog comments, forum, etc. are who they say they are.  It is important to help students understand that not everything and everyone online is what they seem.

Elementary:  Faux Paw the Techno Cat: Adventures in the Internet

Faux Paw PDF book

Privacy Playground: The First Adventure of the Three CyberPigs

Cyber Cafe: Think UKnow

Child Net: Primary

Internet Safety Cartoon

Professor Garfield: Internet Safety

Jr. High: NS Teens Friend or Fake- a video that helps students realize that not everyone they meet online is trustworthy

NS Teens- RescueRun Game

Be Seen app (iTunes)  (Google Play)

 ThinkUKnow Teen

ChildNet: Secondary

CyberSmart: Unwanted Contact

Everyone Knows You Online

Do you really know who you are talking to online video

Tuesday: What to do

Every year I would ask my students how many of them had seen something they knew they shouldn’t have online.  100% of kids from kindergarten through eighth grade would raise their hands.  When I followed up with: how many of you told an adult about it? Only about 2% in the same age group raise their hand!!  When you ask students why they don’t report to an adult they list the following reasons: I didn’t want to get in trouble; Mom/Dad/Teacher would take the technology away from me if they knew, it was just an accident so I don’t tell; I was embarrassed.  This is a big deal!  Kids need to know that there is a trusted adult in their life who can help them navigate their online interactions without blaming them for accidental exposure.  After sharing these videos, we discuss appropriate responses to inappropriate material.  I ask kids to turn off the screen without shutting the device down.  This keeps other students or siblings from seeing the inappropriate content before it can be reported.  If a student sees anything online that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, confused or something they know is inappropriate they should report it to a trusted adult right away.  I always let students know that they will never be in trouble for reporting this to us.  It is a big help for us because then we know which sites to block so that other kids don’t run across the same material.  Empower your students to do the right thing by letting them know that they are doing their part to keep a wider community safe.  If students do come to you with inappropriate content, take a deep breath, thank them for their help and report the URL to your tech department to be black listed.  No matter how shocking the content is, do NOT get upset with the student!  This will keep them from ever telling you about it again.  Do not punish students for dong the right thing! Follow up as necessary to help the student properly navigate what they were exposed to.

Elementary: NS Kids: Bad Netiquette Stinks!

NS Kids: Tell a Trusted Adult

NS Kids: UYN game

Welcome to the Web

ThinkUKnow kids

CyberSmart: Offensive Content

CyberSmart: unwanted content

Jr. High: NS Teens: Mike-Tosis

Wednesday: Online Identity/Digital footprint

Students often separate who they are online with who they are in “real” life.  This is a mistake!  It is important for students to understand that who they are online and who they are in person is one and the same.  Decisions made online can impact their real life in big ways!  Students also need to know what information is okay to share online, and what information is private and should not be shared online.

Elementary: NS Kids: Be safer online

NS Kids: Be safer offline

CyberSmart: Digital footprint

Jr. High: NS Teens: Profile Penalty

NS Teens: Tad’s Profile Panic game

Top Secret!

CyberSmart: Digital Reputation

Thursday: Cyber Bullying

Cyber Bullying is becoming a big issue for kids all over the world.  Kids say things to each other online (or about each other) that they wouldn’t dream of saying to someone in person.  It is important that kids know what cyber bullying is and what to do if they encounter a cyber bully. Kids need to know that it is always inappropriate to cyber bully in all of its forms.

Elementary: Faux Paw Meets the First Lady: How to Handle Cyberbullying

Faux Paw PDF book

Communications level 2 mission: cyberbullying

Stuart and Scout: Cyberbullying

The Great Bully Roundup

Hector’s World: Cyberbullying

CyberSmart: Cyberbullying

Jr. High: NS Teens: Terrible tEXt

NS Teens: Cyberbully Zombies Attack

NS Teens: Stand by or Stand Up comic

CyberSmart Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying video

 Cyberbully virus video

Friday: Online Privacy

Here’s the thing about making online content private: it’s never really totally private.  Kids forget that even if they only share with people they know, the people they know may not necessarily keep online content private.  I always use the example of my mom who keeps many of her pictures “private” online.  However, I have access to those photos and nothing stops me from downloading them or taking a screen shot and sharing them with the world.  It is important for kids to know if something is digital, that it can be shared.

Elementary: NS Kids: Passwords

NS Kids: Password game

Google: Playing and Staying Safe Online

Disney Surfswell Island

Privacy Pirates: An Interactive Unit on Online Privacy

Safety Land

Communications Level 1 Mission: Personal Information

Hector’s World Personal Information

Do’s and Don’ts when using social networks

Jr. High: NS Teen: Post to be Private

NS Teen: Stop that post…again game

NS Teen: Stop that post! game

Google: Playing and Staying Safe Online

CyberSmart: Identity Theft

Online Safety bulletin board video

Do’s and Don’ts when using social networks

Every Day Learning: Online Discernment

Students tend to believe that everything they read or see online is true.  Obviously this is SO not the case!  Help your students learn how to have discernment as they are surfing the net.

Elementary: Google: Detecting Lies

Co-co’s AdverSmarts: An Interactive Unit on Food Marketing on the Web

CyberSense and Nonsense: The Second Adventure of the Three CyberPigs

Passport to the Internet: Student tutorial for Internet Literacy

Using the web for research

Jr. High: Google: Detecting Lies

Allies and Aliens: A Mission in Critical Thinking

Jo Cool or Jo Fool

MyWorld: A digital literacy tour for secondary students

Using the web for research

 

Teacher resources/lesson plans:

Net Smartz: Includes an online safety education kit, teaching materials, presentations

Web Wise Kids: teacher resources, safety night, safety kits

iKeep Safe: Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum

Media Smarts: lessons, resources, professional development

Carnegie Cyber Academy: lessons, game guides, printouts/activities

ThinkUKnow- videos, lessons, resources

Child Net- presentations, resources, lessons, videos

CyberSmart- resources, professional development

Google: Good to Know

Tree Octopus- Help Kids see that not everything that is online is true.  The Octopus Tree Frog site will put their critical thinking skills to the test!

 

Remember, as you go through these topics and resources for kids, it is crucial that you tie in the equivalent off-line behavior.  Think stranger danger, reporting inappropriate behavior, bullying, and critical thinking.  At the end of the week, challenge kids to create their own PSA video about the digital literacy and safety tips they learned this week!

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!

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!

Digital Life: Video Killed the Radio Star

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Evaluate, Inquiry, Internet Safety, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), video, Web2.0 | Posted on 01-03-2013

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What it is: Being a child of this decade, I am LOVING @amyburvall‘s newest video to the tune of “Video Killed the Radio Star.”  Brilliant.  If you don’t know @amyburvall, you should.  She is amazing and makes learning history so very enjoyable.  The newest music video is all about Digital Life.  A great one to kick off discussions with your class about digital life and clue them into what MTV used to be about in the pre “16 and Pregnant” days.  How I long for those days to be back (at least as far as programming is concerned).

How to integrate Digital Life into the classroom: The Digital Life video is a fun way to start a discussion or inquiry into digital life.  I don’t know about you, but the digital is becoming SO common that it tends to blend right into the background and we take it for granted.  This is an important discussion with students because most of them have never known a life without idevices and smartphones that instantly connect them to the world.  This “invisible” tech can be problematic. Kids can take it so for granted that they don’t see the separation between their digital life and their real life.  Not everything needs to live online forever (how many duck faced pictures can a person have?).  That break-up that happened in 8th grade is probably not the footprint kids want to leave for future employers.

When we talk with students about digital life at Anastasis, we make sure to highlight the following: EVERYONE has access to things posted online- even when you think it is private; deleted from Facebook or Instagram doesn’t always equate to being gone-it can always be resurrected (screenshots are killers); disrespecting others online is bullying-period; there is no sarcasm font- choose your words carefully; emoticons can’t capture every emotion-sometimes conversations are best had f2f (that’s face to face); words can be damaging and lasting-don’t be a bully; cherish your relationships off-line-take time to be away from the connected world.

Tips: If you haven’t seen @amyburvall history videos, go now.  You can thank me later.  :)

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Digital Life in your classroom.

Grade Trac: Piles of paper to grade got anyone down?

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Teacher Resources | Posted on 21-03-2011

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How many of you are stuck in a school *wishing* that you had more technology…especially one to one technology?  How many of you look longingly at the schools that are able to use Google forms or Turn It In to make assessment easier and more useful?

Grade Trac is a program that makes grading faster, easier, and provides teachers with more useful information to guide planning and learning in the classroom.

Grade Trac automates paper grading while offering increased accuracy and provides teachers with useful information that can be used to plan learning.  Grade Trac has shown to reduce grading time by 30% to 70%!  Pretty amazing…anyone need a weekend back?

Grade Trac automates the grading process of paper assignments, quizzes, and tests. Multiple choice questions get graded automatically, written or short answer style questions can be graded using the Grade Trac Rapid grading feature online.  Students grades and benchmark scores are automatically computed and displayed in Grade Trac.  These grades and benchmark scores can be printed for easy gradebook entry.  Teachers can quickly view a summary for an entire class…this makes it easy to determine what reteaching or next steps are necessary for learning.  After an assignment/quiz/test has been scored, teachers can generate a PDF hand back for students showing their answer, the correct answer, and comments.

Grade Trac also provides a place for teachers to create custom answer sheets with a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions.  The answer sheets can be enhanced with question text and pictures.  Everything you build in Grade Trac can be reused by you, and shared with other teachers in your school.

Grade Trac is brilliant in the way that it works.  First, teachers create an assignment, quiz, or assessment using the Grade Trac performance benchmark selection and question editor.  The assignment/quiz/assessment gets printed.  Students fill out the paper assignment/quiz/assessment.  These assignments/quizzes/assessments get scanned and all of their information is instantly uploaded to the Grade Trac website.  Any multiple choice questions get graded automatically.  The Rapid grading feature is my personal favorite- this is for grading written answers.  Let me give you an example of how this works, let’s say that we have 5 written questions.  Answer #1 shows up below the answer key for the first student.  The teacher can add comments and annotations as they grade.  Then they can view the next student’s answer for #1, and the next students, and so on until ALL of #1 is graded.  Fantastic!  This makes grading SO much easier.  Anyone else ever been grading and lost track of the number you were on and then suddenly wonder why a student is getting EVERY answer wrong?  (At least I hope I’m not the only one who has done that!).  When you are finished with the grading, you get a great summary of each question.  This is an at-a-glance resource for finding out what needs to be re-taught and where students need more challenge.  The grade summary helps guide your lesson planning.  The student hand back can be in pdf form or printed with all of the comments and annotations.

Essentially Grade Trac takes all of that paper grading and automates it, letting you grade it online.  No more taking stacks and stacks of paper home to grade.  Grade Trac puts everything online so all you need is an internet connection.  Pretty cool huh?  So, no more pouting that your school is in the dark ages, take this step and help them make inroads into the 21st century all ready!

Grade Trac was created by a parent of one of my students, he asked if I knew of 5 teachers that might like to try Grade Trac for FREE?  He would love to hear stories from the trenches of how Grade Trac works for you, what you might change, add, or delete from the program.  Not only will you get to use Grade Trac for free, you will get one on one support, guidance, training,  and fantastic customer support.

If you would like to be one of the five to test out Grade Trac at your school, leave a comment with your name, grade you teach, where you teach, and a way to contact you.  Five of you lucky ducks are going to say goodbye to piles of paper and use Grade Trac for FREE!

Draw That Habitat

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Art, Create, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 24-02-2011

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What it is: I am a fan of everything PBS does, recently I ran across this gem while looking for some activities that help students learn about habitats.  Draw that Habitat is SO much more engaging than most of the “match the animal to the correct habitat” lower level thinking “games” (if you can call them that) that are out there.  In Draw that Habitat, students are introduced to imaginary animals.  They are briefed on the animal and its needs and are then given drawing tools to create a habitat.  Each month a new imaginary animal is introduced. This month’s challenge is an animal called a Flarch.  During the activity students learn that a habitat is a place that an animal lives where they get food and water, find shelter, search for a mate, and raise babies.  Students are asked to think about how and where the imaginary animal gets food and water, where it keeps safe from weather and other animals, etc.  What I love about this activity is that it calls on student’s creativity and imaginations.  They are asked to come up with a solution for an imaginary animal and in the process learn about habitats, camouflage, and adaptation.  When students are finished with their habitat, they can share it with other students and view and rate the habitats that others have created.

How to integrate Draw That Habitat into the classroom: Draw that Habitat is a great little activity for primary students who are learning about habitats, camouflage, and adaptations. It is probably best to use Draw that Habitat after students have a general understanding of what a habitat is.  This is a place where they can solidify that understanding and expand on what they have learned by creating something new.  I like the abstract nature of the activity, they aren’t creating a habitat for a known, real animal; instead, students are coming up with new solutions based on some key information they are given.  This gives students a chance to think critically, problem solve, and use some creativity and imagination.

In a one to one setting where each student has access to a computer, each student can create a habitat for the month’s challenge.  When students are finished, have a class parade, where students walk through and view the different solutions that classmates came up with.  Students can explain why they made the choices they did and see what other solutions might work.

In a one or two computer classroom, students can visit Draw that Habitat as a learning center in small groups.  Students at the learning center can each contribute to the habitat.

If you don’t have access to computers for students to visit, create a class habitat using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computers.  Each student in the class can add to the habitat and describe how their contribution is important for the animal who lives in the habitat.

As an extension activity, students can write a story about the imaginary animal and its habitat.

This site is intended for younger students (early elementary), but don’t discount it’s usefulness in upper-grades.  I find that when drawing-coloring are involved, students of all ages get excited about it- I have had 6th graders jump on this site and have a great time creating a habitat (they were jealous the younger kids got to do the activity and they didn’t- reminding me once again that kids like opportunities to play and be creative!).

Tips: Students can save the habitat they create offline as a .jpg file.  Click the “save” button to download.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Draw that Habitat in your classroom!

Enter the Group: Making Group Project Easier

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blogs, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0 | Posted on 07-02-2011

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What it is: Enter the Group is a fabulous online tool that makes it simple to work with, and organize, groups online.  The tool has similar functionalities to Wiggio. Enter the Group includes shared calendars, site email, file sharing, instant chat and message boards, the ability to create private groups and classrooms, tasks and assignments, polls, blogging, Twitter, and question/answer forum, and best of all: it is totally free!  Enter the Group has some really nice classroom features that other online group management sites like Wiggio don’t have.  The built in blog feature is useful for the classroom setting, it provides students with a place to reflect that can be set as “private” so that it is a closed network for your classroom or school.  This is especially helpful in schools where administration and the school community is hesitant to enter the world of blogging! Enter the Group Classrooms provides a virtual classroom space that can act as an extension of the physical classroom.  Teachers and students can interact, keep track of due dates and special events, share files, post messages, and more.  Students can take their learning with them anywhere and access the resources they need anytime.  Enter the Group is easy to use and has really helpful tips and video guidance throughout the tool.  No matter what your technology ability level is, Enter the Group has made it easy to get started.

My favorite thing about Enter the Group?  They understand that the classroom is about learning, from the classroom page: “What do we do in classrooms? Simple answer is we learn. The longer answer is we; listen, ask questions, start debates, get group feedback, work on assignments, take tests and exams, present our work and perhaps many other things I haven’t thought of as well. Should all these things stop once the bell sounds and the students walk out the door? We all know the answer is no.”  Enter the Group isn’t about the technology, but about the learning opportunities that it enables.

How to integrate Enter the Group into the classroom: Enter the Group is a way to extend learning beyond the walls of your classroom.  Use it to extend conversations, debates, and offer support through online discussion; help students (and parents) keep track of assignments and classroom events, keep track of and share files so students who are absent are never left behind, to collect shared resources and information (a kind of “digital textbook” that you create for/with your students); to expand on class topics with video; and to create a collaborative learning environment.  Students can use Enter the Group to plan and organize projects that they are working on in groups, providing a virtual meeting space outside of the classroom to collaborate.  Enter the Group is perfect for students who are out with an illness or to continue learning opportunities when pandemic illness or bad weather keeps us from the physical classroom (anyone had SNOW problems this year? :) ) Enter the Group provides a platform where students can continue learning and collaborating from any Internet-connected computer.

Do you have students collaborating with another class in another state? Another country?  Enter the Group is a great place for students to work together, discuss, debate, and share.  The ability to create a private network adds a layer of security and manageability to the online group.

Enter the Group also makes a great platform for working with colleagues and for professional development.  Share important dates, files, and reflections within the group.  Enter the Group is a nice way to gather and share resources from one centralized location making it easy to add to, and grow, year after year.  No more, “remember that great lesson we used last year? What was that site/resource again?”  (I cannot tell you how many times I have had THAT conversation!)

Tips: Enter the Group provides a few options for sign-up.  Teachers, parents, and students can sign up with an email address (don’t forget to use tempinbox.com or mailinaitor.com for temporary inboxes for students who don’t have an email account), Twitter, or Facebook.  It would be nice if Enter the Group had a feature like Wiggio where group members could join without registering-this is really helpful in elementary classrooms.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Enter the Group in your classroom

14 Online Interactive Advent Calendars

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Art, Create, Foreign Language, Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Music, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 30-11-2010

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It is December again, which means the beginning of Advent.  Advent calendars are a fun way to reveal information and “surprises” for your students to look forward to each day in December leading up to Christmas.  This year I thought I would make an advent calendar of my own using Wix.  I created a Web 2.0 advent calendar by choosing 25 of my favorite web 2.0 tools for the classroom.  Each day you can check out a new one.  (I’ll let you in on a secret, you can cheat and look at them all by clicking on the bird to get back to the calendar page…shh don’t tell anyone!)  You and your students can create your own custom advent calendar like I did using Wix.  Students can create an advent calendar of pictures of their school work, trivia for their parents, special audio notes, or anything they are learning.  To create your own Wix advent calendar, choose a template, add shapes to the template to create your calendar pieces, add 25 pages to the site, add links to those pages.  You could also create an advent calendar of your own using Glogster.  Create a customized advent calendar for your students with fun surprises, quotes, video clips, sound bites, etc.  It can be related to the learning they are doing in your classroom, suggestions of books to read,  or reveal special rewards like extra computer time, time playing a favorite game, time for reading, etc.  Be creative!

Woodlands Jr has a great online advent calendar every year that tests students knowledge about Christmas around the world.  The Woodlands Jr. 2010 advent calendar is now up and ready for viewing! This is a fun way for students to test their knowledge and learn about the ways that Christmas is celebrated all around the world.  As an extension, plot the places around the world that they are learning about on a world map.

BBC Radio has a fabulous Bach advent calendar. Each day your students can listen to a story about Bach or music.

The National Museum of Liverpool has an advent calendar that reveals a piece of art from the museum each day.

The Dirt Dirt advent calendar is purely fun, each day click on a number and an animation will be added to the tree.

For those of us who are app inclined, you can download a free app for your iDevice every day from Appvent Calendar.

Below you will find my interactive advent calendar finds from last year.  You are bound to find one that is a perfect fit for your class!

What it is: It is December!  This means the beginning of Advent along with the anticipation and excitement that it brings.  The Internet is full of interactive advent calendars that you can use in your classroom to teach about how the Christmas season is celebrated all around the world.  These advent calendars reveal fun facts, interactive activities, and stories.

Santa’s House Advent Calendar- This advent calendar tells a fun story.  Each day reveals another secret about what goes on inside Santa’s home on the 24 days leading up to Christmas.  In each picture, there is a little mouse hiding.  When students click on his ears, he jumps out.

Picture 1

Christmas Around the World Advent Calendar- Each day students click on the date to reveal a fun fact about how countries around the world celebrate Christmas.  The facts are accompanied by great illustrations and pictures.  This site shows up very small inside my Internet browser (Firefox).  To remedy this problem, click on “view” in your menu bar and choose “zoom”.  You may need to zoom in several times.

Picture 2

Christmas Mice Advent Calendar- This calendar tells the story about a mouse family who celebrates Christmas.  Each day a little more of the story is revealed.  Each picture includes some animation.

Picture 3

Santa’s Advent Calendar- On this advent calendar, each day reveals a new song or activity for students to complete. There are some fun Christmas themed mysteries to solve, stories to read, and activities to work through.

Picture 4French Carols Advent Calendar-  This is a French advent calendar.  Each day contains a new French Christmas carol sung by children.  This advent calendar would be a fun one to include in a study of Christmas around the world.

Picture 5

Christmas Around the World Advent Calendar Quiz-  This advent calendar tests students knowledge about how other cultures celebrate Christmas.  Each day students are asked a question and given hints to help them answer.  When the answer is revealed, students can click on links to learn more about the Christmas celebrations in that country.  This site also includes great activities and teaching resources for Christmas.

Picture 6

Christmas Advent Calendar- Follow the adventures of Zac the elf as he tries to find a Christmas present for Santa.  Each day a little more of the story is revealed.

Picture 7

Christmas Activity Advent Calendar-  This advent calendar has fun little games and activities to play each day.  The games and activities are quick and easy to complete, building mouse and keyboard skills.  This advent calendar would be a good one for the classroom computers as a center activity.

Picture 8

How to integrate Interactive Advent Calendars into the classroom: The season of Advent is always filled with eagerness and expectancy. Build some of that anticipation into your school day by allowing students to unlock a new secret on the advent calendar each day.  Use these advent calendars with the whole class on an interactive whiteboard or projector, or set them up as a quick center activity that students can visit.  Use the advent calendars that reveal a story to practice looking for foreshadowing clues, using context clues to guess what will happen next, or as story starters for students own stories.  The Christmas around the world advent calendars are wonderful for teaching students some of the history of Christmas and the way that other cultures celebrate the familiar holiday.

Tips: Each of these advent calendars has some fun goodies and hidden surprises, find the one that best fits your classroom needs.

Leave a comment and share how you are using Interactive Advent Calendars  in your classroom.