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:Making & Science is an initiative by Google aimed at showing students that anyone can be a maker or a scientist. Using the featured Science Journal app (Android and Chromebook only), students can measure light, sound, and more. They can also use the app to record observations, organize data, and add observational notes. Making & Science has partnered with Exploratorium for some fantastic activities that will have students exploring the world as a makers and scientist in no time. Students will explore light, sound, motion, graphs, conductivity, and much more through activities powered by the Science Journal app.
How to integrate Making & Science with Google in your classroom: The Science Journal app makes any Android phone or Chromebook computer into a scientific tool that students can use to collect data on light, sound, and motion. The activities included encourage students to explore the world as scientists and makers. The activities are simple enough for any classroom, and lead the students through understanding how the world around them works. They are a great kick-off to more in-depth studies of light, sound, and motion and teach students how to use the sensors on their phone and computer to collect data. Most activities take 15-30 minutes, so would be the perfect length for groups of students to visit as a center if you have a few devices for students to use. I love the way each activity thoroughly introduces a concept, and equips students with the tools and understanding for further experimentation and investigation. The activities included are wonderful, but after students have a basic understanding, encourage them to come up with their own investigations of light, sound, and motion.
Students could use the Exploritorium Activities as guides for creating their own investigations and activities to share with the class.
Tips: While the activities reference the Science Journal app for data collection, if you have access to other types of devices you can still use these activities! Just download a light, sound, and motion sensor app and your students can complete any of the activities on the Maker & Science site.
What it is:Plan It Green, the Big Switch is an online game/simulation from National Geographic that allows students to create their own energy-efficient city of the future. In the game, students build new energy technologies and advance energy research; gain points based on their eco-friendliness, energy production, and citizen happiness; compete with others for the highest city rating; tackle challenges and quests; and explore and build a diverse energy portfolio. Through Plan It Green, students begin to better understand various energy options and can experiment with different energy sources and see their impact through this game/simulation.
How to integrate Plan It Green, the Big Switch into the classroom: This game from National Geographic is a great way to help your students understand different kinds of energy, and think through the ways that the energy we rely on in our daily lives impact the environment. Use Plan It Green, the Big Switch as a provocation for an inquiry unit about energy. The game could be a great catalyst for further research and understanding of energy options and how our decisions impact the rest of the ecosystem. Students can test out theories in this SIM-City like game and watch the way their decisions impact citizens and the larger ecosystem.
Plan It Green would also be a great way to end a unit, after students have learned about different types of energy. This game would be a great simulation reflection to see how different decisions about energy play out.
If you don’t have access to a 1:1 environment, this would make a great center on classroom computers during a study on energy or even for whole-class play on an interactive whiteboard throughout a unit on energy.
I like the way Plan It Green puts students in control of decisions and shows them the consequences (or unintended consequences) of those decisions.
Tips: The downfall of Plan It Green is that it requires a Flash Player, so while students can register for the site using an iPad, actual play requires a Flash enabled browser.
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: Swift Playground is an awesome new app from Apple that teaches kids how to code in Swift. This free app for iPads uses games to teach kids Apple’s coding language used to create apps. Students can drag and drop code, and easily edit the code to customize it. The code can be instantly run so students can test out their code and see if it works. Best of all, in those instances that the code they put together doesn’t work, Swift Playground has debugging tools and hints built-in to help students rectify any problems. Students can also code with Swift from scratch making the app endlessly adaptable to any skill level.
How to integrate Swift Playground into your classroom:Swift Playground requires no previous coding knowledge, making it the perfect tool for learning how to code. For those students who have experience with coding, Swift Playground is robust enough for even seasoned programmers to bring new ideas to life. Swift Playground begins with a series of challenges to help students master the basics, students use code to help characters navigate a 3D world. When the challenges have been mastered, students can build and manipulate their own code to dream up new creations. Use Swift Playground to get your students thinking logically and solving problems from new perspectives. The skills built as students learn to code are the same skills that will help students in other disciplines like math and science. I love the way Swift Playground starts out by giving students a fun environment of challenges to learn the basics of Swift, but also allows them the flexibility of drag and drop code, and allowing students to edit and write their own code. Swift Playground even features a special keyboard that includes the most common coding characters so that students don’t have to hunt through keyboards to find what they are looking for. As students advance in their skills, they can use code templates that allow customization with code. Beyond what most learning platforms allow, students will be able to adjust multi-touch interactions, the accelerometer, and the gyroscope. These features and abilities are such an awesome tie-in to conversations about complex math and physics! When students are finished with their creation, they can share it with others using Messages, Mail, or Airdrop. Students can even post videos of their creation for others to see! For those who are really soaring, Swift Playground code can be exported to Xcode (where the pros create apps).
Many classrooms don’t yet have time built into the day that is dedicated to coding. But perhaps once a week you use coding in math class as applied math, or use Swift Playground as part of a 20% time offering in your classroom. If those are unavailable, consider participating in Hour of Code. Play with Swift Playground yourself and you’ll start recognizing tie-ins with other learning that your students are doing. When your students are proficient with coding in Swift Playground, they can start creating and reflecting on learning with the code they know. Swift Playground is a fantastic resource to have available as part of your Maker Space! Maybe they create a new game to help them remember vocabulary, or math facts. Perhaps they build a world based on a historical event. Once those basics are mastered the application possibilities are endless!
Tips: Everyone can code! This isn’t a skill that only a few should possess. Even the youngest students can use Swift Playground, I’m talking kindergarten can use this app! If you are new to the concept of code, check out this crash course from Apple.
What it is: You guys, the World Education Games is back again, taking place around the world October 13-15, 2015! More than 5 million students from over 200 countries and territories will participate in the games for 2015. This is an exciting online challenge for students around the world. The competition begins tomorrow and continues through October 15. The World Education Games includes World Literacy Day, World Math Day (which has been around since the first World Education Games), and World Science Day. Just by participating through the answering of questions, students will be earning UNICEF points which are converted into money that goes directly toward supporting UNICEF education programs where class and school resources are desperately needed.
In World Literacy Day, students will enter the Spellodrome to compete with students from around the world. A sentence will be read aloud and it is the student’s job to spell the missing word.
For World Maths Day, students will enter Mathletics, to compete with students around the world. This is a place for students to practice and work on math fluency speed and accuracy.
World Science Day will bring students to the IntoScience dashboard where students will test their knowledge with a panel containing 16 question boxes, split into four categories of science. Each question is worth one, two or thee points based on the difficulty. In this game, you must answer faster than your opponents.
How to Integrate World Education Games into your classroom: I love the World Education Games for the fun way that it helps students (k-12) practice facts in math, spelling, and science knowledge. This makes drill/skill infinitely more fun. Students can practice with their own classmates and with those around the world. When I was still in the classroom, World Math Day was a time of year that students looked forward to. They ASKED for homework (can I keep playing at home?). True story. The kids loved finding out which country they would be paired with. It was always very motivating to see someone half way around the world playing the same game at the same time. My students worked hard to see if they could be paired with someone on every continent before the Games were over. Keep track of the countries that your students get matched with on a Google Map or on the printable maps offered on the World Education Games Website.
For at least one week, ditch the worksheets (or do it like we do at Anastasis and ditch them every day!) and practice math facts and spelling with fun games instead. This is a few days of fun, friendly competition for your students. The adjacent learning opportunities during the World Education Games is great (similar to what the Olympic games brings!). Geography, math, spelling, and science investigations are the obvious adjacent possible. This year, UNICEF is partnering in on the Games and the points that your students earn goes toward a very worthy cause, for every point your students earn, money is being donated to UNICEF for education. In addition to the drill/skill, your students can inquire into the Power of One (as our students at Anastasis Academy are doing), or can inquire into organizations that make a difference in the world (like UNICEF) and explore the social issues that these types of organizations are working to solve.
Tips: Using an Android or iPads in the classroom? World Games Day has Apps for that! Download the Mathletics app here for free!
What it is: I’m telling you, the edublog alliance I created in 2010 is like the gift that keeps on giving. Year after year I continue to be inspired, excited, and made to think by my edublog alliance PLN! These are my go to blogs before all others! Karen Ogen recently posted about a Virtual Escape room. It is so much fun, I had to share here as well on the off-chance you don’t already follow Karen’s blog (iTeach with Technology). Virtual Escape Room is reminiscent of the Clue Rooms or Escape Rooms that are popping up all over the US (I assume they are happening overseas, can anyone confirm that?). These real-life rooms are not only fun, they are a great way for students to think critically and problem solve together. The premies of the rooms is this: You find yourself locked in a room and, using the clues in the room, must find your way out. There are props, puzzles, and clues all over the room and a time limit. The Arizona Science Collaborative has created a virtual version of the escape room (cue cheers from me!). While a real-life escape room would be amazing, often this is not a realistic school field-trip because of funding, class size, and transportation. Enter the virtual version!
How to use Virtual Escape Room in your classroom: The Virtual Escape Room is a great way for your students to work in small groups to solve a mystery together using critical thinking and problem solving. Students must work together to find their way out of a dark virtual room using the clues in the room and solving some puzzles. Students learn how to work together in teams, communicate effectively, go through the scientific method, and solve problems creatively. Put students together in groups of 3-4 students to solve these problems on classroom computers, using an interactive whiteboard as a center, or on individual devices. Before completing the room, discuss what makes a good team member. How can we best solve problems together quickly? Students can go through the room together. Find out which team can get through the virtual challenge the most quickly. Follow up with discussion about what clues they used, how the students worked together as a team, and what things slowed them down. How was the scientific method used?
Tips: If you aren’t familiar with Breakout/Escape rooms, check out http://www.breakoutedu.com to find out how other teachers are creating their own! The virtual room could be a great introduction to a larger room. Even better, introduce your students to this idea using the virtual room, and ask them to create their own escape room challenge (in-real-life) for each 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: “Oh my gosh! This is SO AWESOME!!” – Exclamation from a student upon playing with the Ozobot for the first time.
Last week, I got an Ozobot in the mail…I couldn’t wait to play! These little robots are game pieces with brains. They are about the size of a large bouncy ball and kids can interact with these little robots in a variety of ways. Right out of the box, the Ozobot is ready to use. After a quick calibration (which consists of holding down the power button and setting on a “dot” card) the Ozobot is ready to play and learn with. Ozobot reacts to color codes. The color codes have already been programmed which means that your students can use those codes to create their own games and challenges. Red, blue, green, and black markers can be used to create their own challenges, games, and courses for the Ozobot. In addition to your student’s imaginations, the Ozobot website has pre-made mazes and games that can be downloaded and printed out. The Ozobot can also interact with your iPad or Android devices, download the Ozobot app and you suddenly have a lot more ways to interact with the Ozobot!
How to integrate the Ozobot into your classroom for learning: The Ozobot is a great way to teach your students the basic building blocks of coding. While they won’t actually use code to make Ozobot move, the color codes teach students to think like a programmer. Students start to realize that they can make the Ozobot move and react based on their input of different colors. Before you give your students the OzoCode sheet (which can be downloaded from the Ozobot website), use the color card included with the Ozobot and ask your “scientists” to observe this strange new discovery. Students can play the part of scientist and record observations about what Ozobot does in reaction to the different colors and codes on the maze. Can they reproduce some of these behaviors on their own drawings for Ozobot? Next, give them the color code reference chart and let them experiment with the different color codes. IF they make a red and blue dot next to each other THEN what does Ozobot do? Help students think in terms of IF/THEN and not only will they get practice with the scientific method, they will also get some great building blocks for coding. Students can use the color codes to design their own mazes and challenges for the Ozobot, they can even create their own games! The Ozobot kit that I received is from the Competition Series and included two Ozobots and some Ozoskins (so that you can tell them apart). Students could create large self correcting math or vocabulary puzzles for Ozobot to solve. They can write down the question and try to “beat” Ozobot to the correct answer. Each student can create a problem and they can be used as a center game…Beat Ozobot. Ozobot can move, set timers, pause, exit and win, count down, walk backward, spin, zigzag, etc. While it travels to the correct answer on the sheet of paper based on the path drawn, students have to try to solve the problem first. A fun digital buddy to practice math, vocabulary, geography, etc. with!
Tips: Ozobot is also a pretty great dancer. It should definitely be included in any classroom dance party!