8 of the Best Research Tools for Inquiry

8 of the best research tools for inquiry

As an inquiry based school, Anastasis students (and teachers) spend a LOT of time researching. Our students essentially build their own living curriculum as they follow a line of inquiry. Below are my very favorite research tools for students.

Research platforms:

1. Kiddle– This is a kid-friendly, Google Safe powered search engine. What I appreciate about Kiddle is the ease of use for younger learners. Kiddle searches safe sites that were written FOR kids. Kiddle editors hand choose sites that deliver content that is age-appropriate and written in easy to understand language. Best of all, Kiddle’s image and video searches brings about the results you would expect it to for kids. When a student innocently types in “kitten” looking for cute pictures to add to a presentation, they get actual pictures of the feline variety rather than the scantily dressed woman named “Kitten.” So, winning!

The downside to Kiddle: if you have older students doing research on social justice issues, “sex trafficking statistics in America,” they will get an “Oops” message for questionable language. It might not be robust enough as a research tool for jr. high and high school students depending on the issues being explored.

Kiddle- Safe visual search engine for kids

2. Boolify– The best thing about this Google Safe powered search engine is the way it teaches learners how to correctly use a search engine and how to refine their searches. Boolify teaches this skill by asking them to use keywords and Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in a search to refine results using a drag/drop interface. Students drag elements and follow prompts to learn how to correctly complete a search to get the best possible results.

Boolify- teach students to search smarter

3. Wolfram Alpha– This is not really a search engine, but more of a computational knowledge engine. It is a fantastic tool for comparing information (think people in history, weather in different parts of world, etc), exploring mathematics, units and measures, data/statistical information, science, geography, technology…truly you should just go play with this knowledge computational engine because my description isn’t doing justice to the cool things it does! This is a powerful addition to inquiry. My favorite feature is the ability to compare things side by side. The nature of inquiry often has students exploring relationships between events, people, places, etc., Wolfram makes it really easy to do this!

Using Wolfram Alpha for Inquiry Research

 

4.  Creative Commons– This is a great place to search for images, videos, sounds that are listed under the Creative Commons license that lets learners find content they can share, reuse, and mix into something new. The caution I would add here for kids: Anyone can list content under the Creative Commons license and depending on the search, some questionable material may pop up. This one is best used with supervision! Creative Commons is a great place to start a conversation about licensing and using content created by others.

Creative Commons Search

Resources to help learners work through research independently

5. Michael Friermood who writes The Thinker Builder has a great graphic organizer to help learners work toward independence in their research. You can find it HERE.

Inquiry Research Graphic Organizer from The Thinker Builder

 

6. Create a culture of thinking by giving your learners the tools to help them through a variety of thinking routines. This is an awesome resource when students hit a wall with a “closed” inquiry question (one that is too narrow and has one answer). It is equally useful when students aren’t sure how they can expand their research. These thinking routines will help them “open” questions and think from new vantage points and angles that may set them off down a path of new or expanded inquiry.

Tracy Ann Clark created this fun-to-use, and great resource for helping learners explore these thinking routines…because who doesn’t love a cootie catcher?! Find it HERE.

Visible Thinking Routines Cootie Catcher Tracy Ann Clark

 

7. Anatomy of a Google Search- this PDF helps learners understand the how and why behind a search.

Download the PDF HERE.

Anatomy of a Search- Free PDF Download

8. Google Modifiers cheat sheet- this is a good one to explore with students and then hang on the wall as a reminder!

Download the PDF HERE.

Google Modifier Cheat Sheet for Students

Want to learn more about how we run our inquiry powered k-8 classrooms at Anastasis? Join us for our conference in February! 5Sigma Education Conference

EDpuzzle: Like Video in the Classroom 2.0

EDpuzzle- Making video better: iLearn Technology

What it is:  EDpuzzle is a neat new educational site to help you better utilize video in your classroom for learning.  You can find and crop video to use only what you need, add audio notes within the video or do some voice over work for a video, and you can embed questions throughout the video to track student understanding. EDpuzzle collects data as students watch and interact with the video.  You can see if and when a student watched the video, and see the progress of all students through the answers to embedded questions.

How to use EDpuzzle in your classroom: What makes EDpuzzle great is the level of freedom given in cropping, sharing, and tracking video use in the classroom. EDpuzzle enhances the “flipped” classroom by allowing you to embed formative assessment directly into your videos. As students watch, you can check understanding and ensure active watching vs. passive watching. In a flipped scenario, this gives you the ability to completely tailor a lesson the next day based on the formative assessment results you get from homework. This is truly utilizing assessment to inform instruction (which is the point of assessment!).

EDpuzzle can be used in conjunction with videos that you have made for your students, or with videos that you find.  I like using video to introduce students to a brand new topic or idea.  Well-created video has the ability to quickly and succinctly help students dive into new learning and formulate new questions and lines of inquiry.  For example, when Anastasis Jr. High started our last inquiry block about “How the World Works” and explored the topic of food and farming, they started by watching the documentary Food, Inc.  This was a great way to launch their thinking and lines of questioning about where our food comes from.  Out of that video, students chose different lines of inquiry to explore and research.  EDpuzzle would be a good way for students to help others see where their line of inquiry started from.  Students could grab the clip of the documentary that intrigued them, and embed audio to show their thought process as they watched.  Sort of a Saved-by-the-Bell Zack Morris “Time out” moment where they can describe their line of thinking.

For primary teachers, EDpuzzle could be used as part of a guided reading center.  YouTube has lots of great read-along videos. (You can also create your own based on class reading!) Use these videos along with EDpuzzle to check for comprehension.  As the video plays, embed questions to check for understanding.  Students can independently go through the guided reading (or Close reading) activity, while you work one-on-one with other reading groups.  Rotate the reading groups throughout the week so that each student gets the opportunity to go through the EDpuzzle guided reading activity, and each group gets one-on-one time with you.  This is a fantastic way to maximize your time and get valuable feedback from all student learning.  EDpuzzle could also be used in this way as a science center (with a video pertaining to an experiment or new learning), a math center, etc. I love using center rotations because it ensures that I have time to work closely with each group.

For secondary students, use EDpuzzle is a great way to check for understanding.  It is also a wonderful way for students to create and demonstrate understanding.  EDpuzzle would be ideal for sub days.  I always dreaded being away from the classroom because it was essentially a lost day.  Even if the substitute did EXACTLY what I asked, I missed the opportunity to see my students work and think.  EDpuzzle would give you the ability to “teach” remotely and embed the same questions and promptings you would give if you were live in the classroom.  While you won’t get to hear all of the discussion, you will have some feedback to better understand how your students were thinking.

With documentary-type videos, EDpuzzle can be used to embed writing prompts.  Record a prompt throughout the video so that students can pause and write out their reflections and thoughts.  I find that good documentaries are often SO packed full of good things that by the end of the video, only the last 10 minutes get well-reflected on. The documentary Baraka would be an incredible video to do this with!

Have you seen Vi Hart’s YouTube channel?  I am obsessed! I love the way that she goes through math in a casual stream-of-conscious type approach.  Embed related practice math problems based on the topics that Vi is sharing in her videos.  As students get those light-bulb moments of, “oh, that is how that works!” capitalize on the new understanding by giving them a place to put it into practice and try it out.

Do you record your students learning? EDpuzzle could be a fantastic way to record audio feedback to the videos that they upload.  These can then be shared with parents and students for review.

Tips: Don’t have access to YouTube at school?  No worries! You can still use EDpuzzle with your students. EDpuzzle lets you search for video by topic, or pull video from Khan Academy, Learn Zillion, National Geographic, TED, Veritasium, and Numberphile as well.  LOTS of incredible learning just waiting to happen!

 

Degree Story Teacher Contest

Eliademy: Democratizing education with technology

ilearn Technology: Eliademy- Democratizing education with technology

What it is: Eliademy has a wonderful mission of democratizing education with technology.  The tool makes it easy for anyone to create an online classroom, for free!  Eliademy makes it easy for educators to create, share and manage courses.  Eliademy is a free learning management system and course content created by you.  Educators can engage students through discussion boards, videos, images, news feeds, visual notifications and calendar with a fast and easy to use interface.  Eliademy is available everywhere: Mac, PC, tablet, smart phone. Very handy!  Even better, you can create a course from your tablet (not available in a lot of LMS/online classroom options).

How to integrate Eliademy into your classroom: Eliademy isn’t just for offering distance-learning.  It is a great way to connect your students in new and awesome ways in a blended-learning environment.  Keep all of your digital classroom resources in one, easy-to access place.  Make sure that your students can always be connected to what is happening in class with a shared calendar. Extend classroom discussions with discussion boards, video, and news feeds.

I’ve long been a fan of blending online experiences with offline.  Students begin to see that learning can happen anywhere, not just in your classroom.  They also connect in different ways online.  I’ve found that kids are willing to have deeper, more vulnerable conversations in an online environment.  This is especially true when the relationships are established first in the classroom.

Host your “flipped” materials using Eliademy.  Not only can students access video, they can extend the experience with access to additional classroom materials, the ability to discuss and share resources online, etc.

Challenge students to create their own course to share.  What are they passionate about?  What can they offer to teach others?

Tips: Eliademy makes the promise that it will always be secure, without advertisements, and free.  Outstanding.

What do you think of Eliademy?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

6 Days and 78 Resources for Digital Literacy Internet Safety

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!

Digital Life: Video Killed the Radio Star

 

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.

Google Digital Literacy Tour

What it is:  No matter what subject(s) you teach, digital literacy is something we all need to take the responsibility to expose our students to.  iKeep Safe (one of my favorites for Internet safety with Faux Paw the Techno cat!) teamed up with Google to create a curriculum for educators to teach what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.  The outcome is wonderful, it is designed to be interactive, discussion oriented, and hands-on.  Each separate piece of curriculum (workshop) includes a pdf resource booklet for both educators and students, videos to accompany lessons, and presentations.  The three workshops available are:
  1. Detecting Lies and staying true
  2. Playing and staying safe online
  3. Steering clear of cyber tricks
How to integrate Google Digital Literacy Tour into the classroom:  Google never disappoints, and the Google Digital Literacy Tour is no exception!  These are a great discussion starters for every classroom.  I like this Digital Literacy Tour because it doesn’t give a lot of drill and kill type exercises to find out if the student can tell you the “correct” answer.  Instead, it invites conversations and deeper thinking…exactly what is needed for true digital literacy!
The videos and presentations can be used throughout the year (and multiple times throughout the year) to open discussions about online behavior.  Too often educators assume that because students are adept at using technology, that means they know how to properly use that technology.  Students can understand the freedom and benefits that technology brings without knowing how to properly manage that freedom, that is what digital literacy is all about!  It is up to us to help students understand what their digital relationships represent in real life, and how their actions online can affect what they do in real life.
Use the Google Digital Literacy Tour as a conversation starter for the whole class or ask students to break into smaller groups to discuss before they share with the larger group.  If you have some added time for reflection, ask students to write about their own experiences, or reflection, on why digital literacy is important.  Every year I have taught Internet safety, I am amazed by what students tell me they have encountered online!  I am telling you now, no matter what grade you teach, your students have encountered something online that they didn’t know what to do with.  Help them navigate that!

Tips: Share these resources with parents.  They often hear reports that emphasize the negative aspects of online behavior and, instead of teaching students how to properly manage their freedom, restrict it all together.  This is okay for the short term but does nothing that is beneficial for students long term!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Google Digital Literacy Tour in  your classroom!

My Online Neighborhood: Internet Safety

What it is: I learned about this gem of a video today from my friend @techfacilMy Online Neighborhood is a video created by Common Sense Media.  The video is a great way to introduce kindergarten through third grade students to online safety.  I like how this video compares the online world with the real world.  This helps students understand the rules in a way that goes deeper than just following the rules because we say so.  The video approaches Internet safety in a fun way through the eyes of a student, as you will see above, it is very well done!

How to integrate My Online Neighborhood into the classroom: My Online Neighborhood is a nice entry point for teaching Internet safety.  Use the video to spur classroom discussions about online safety.  The video also makes a nice lead in to the Internet safety lessons from Common Sense Media on Digital Life (sending email, online communities, rings of responsibility), Privacy (follow the digital trail), Connected Culture (screen out the mean, show respect online, power of words, group think, writing good emails), and Respecting Creative Work (whose is it, anyway?).  These units and lessons are detailed, fun, and get right to the heart of the matter of raising digitally responsible citizens.  The lesson plans are leveled by grade and can be used for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Tips: There are some fantastic parent tips and resources on the Common Sense Media website, be sure to share them with your families so that online safety is modeled and reinforced at home.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using My Online Neighborhood in your classroom!

Figment: Writing community for students

What it is: Figment is a brand new website and writing community for students 13 years old and older (middle or high school only!).  This is a place where students can read student writing, share their own writing, connect with other student writers, and discover new stories and authors.  Students will find a community of writers and readers who like to share collaborate, and discuss a variety of topics in the online forum.

How to integrate Figment into your curriculum: Do you have students who can’t get enough creative writing time?  Figment is a perfect match.  Students who love to write can join a community of other students who enjoy to write.  This is a great place for them to share their writing, read other students writing and learn how to give, and accept, critiques and recommendations on their writing.  This is a great place for students to analyze and evaluate each other’s writing.  Have a class of creative writers?  Send all of your students to Figment to share their writing with other students.  Your students can learn and practice providing constructive criticism and netiquette in Figment.  Working with another class from another school, district, state or country?  Send both sets of students on Figment as a platform for sharing and discussing their writing.

*There is no teacher portal for Figment, if your students are using Figment in school, be sure to sign up for an account and monitor your students use of Figment.

Tips: The sign up requires an email address, twitter account, or Facebook account. Make sure your students have one of the three before using Figment in class.

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

Interactive book from Google: 20 Things I Learned

What it is: Google has done it again with a new online e-book called 20 Things I Learned.  This interactive e-book is your guide to how browsers and the web work, how the World Wide Web has evolved, cloud computing,  and what we need to know to navigate the web safely.  The book has an enchanting quality with its humorous approach to the web (love the titles) and fun illustrations.  This guide-book is one you will want to share with all of your colleagues, relatives, friends, students…you will want to dive into it yourself.

How to integrate 20 Things I Learned into your curriculum: This handy little online book is a great one to share with students.  Share an individual chapter (called a thing) or the whole book.  Here your students can learn all about the web, how to keep themselves safe, and will know the difference between cloud computing and a web app.  20 Things I Learned is also a must share with your co-workers, neighbors, mom, grandpa, and the rest of the crew that is constantly calling you for your tech expertise.

Tips: Each page has a little red bookmark that drops down, scroll over the bookmark to share the thing on Twitter, Facebook, or printout.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using 20 Things I Learned in your classroom!

Netsmartz Kids: Router’s Birthday Surprise (Internet Safety)

What it is: NetSmartz Kids is an incredible Internet safety site for kids.  I have reviewed this site in the past here, and use it every year with my students to teach and reinforce Internet safety.  Router’s Birthday Surprise is a new feature of NetSmartz.  It is an interactive video where students are drawn into the story, playing a contestant on a game show to learn online safety rules.  Clicky, the robot star of NetSmartz, is planning a surprise birthday party for his robo dog Router.  As they follow Clicky through his hectic day, students play games, help Clicky put the Webville Outlaws back in jail, and decide who is a trusted adult.  When students complete the video and games, they become certified NetSmartz Kids complete with an official certificate.  Students have to complete all sections correctly before they can be certified.  The complete video and game play runs for about 45 min, but NetSmartz has broken the video and game into manageable pieces so that it can fit in any schedule.  Students can watch a portion of the video and play the associated game and save their progress for the next time they are able to login.  Games include Make-a-Match where students think about the fun things they do online (history, music, jokes); What Rule is it Anyway where students play a contestant on a game show to learn about the rules of online safety; Get Clicky to Webville where students choose an Internet tube to get Clicky to his destination, Outlaw Roundup where Clicky captures the Webville outlaws and students match the outlaw to their crime; Who Can You Trust where students define a trusted adult; Router’s Gift Grab where students choose a gift for Router;  and a NetSmartz song about the four rules of real-world safety where students drag words to complete the lyrics of the song.

How to integrate NetSmartz Kids: Router’s Birthday Surprise into your curriculum: I truly didn’t think that NetSmartz Kids could get any better.  They have outstanding videos and songs about Internet safety that my students love year after year, they have fantastic educational resources (lesson ideas and downloads), and the games get requested by my students frequently.  Router’s Birthday Surprise manages to make it even better!  This interactive video is an excellent way for students to learn about Internet Safety and has the added bonus of tracking their understanding of the concepts being learned.  Regardless of what subject you teach, Internet Safety is something that we all need to teach and reinforce in our classrooms.  In the past, I have used NetSmartz in addition to the sites listed here to help my students learn proper use of the Internet.  The rule that I love that NetSmartz includes is the “Tell a trusted parent or adult if there is anything online that makes you scared, uncomfortable, or confused.”  I cannot tell you how many students see inappropriate content but fail to tell an adult about it because they think they will be in trouble.  This is a rule I make sure that my students know and a rule that I pass on to parents so that they can handle inappropriate web content appropriately (without banning use).

Router’s Birthday Surprise is such a nice addition because it invites students to be part of a story.  It breaks the learning down into manageable pieces so that it can be used in any class situation.  In the computer lab setting, students can each create an account and save their progress as they go.  In a classroom setting, the video can be played for the whole class on an interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  Poll students to find out how they would respond to each question and invite students to take turns coming to the whiteboard or the computer to interact with a game.  If you have a student response system (clickers) students can respond to the game show questions using them.  In the one or two computer classroom, Router’s Birthday Surprise can be played as a center activity over several weeks.  Each week students can complete another video portion and game.

In my class, after students had learned the Internet safety rules (which we came up with as a class), we would have an Internet safety quiz.  This was similar to a drivers permit test.  I made a big deal about how using the Internet is a privilege just like driving a car.  Just like driving there are rules to learn and follow that will keep them and others safe.  Just like driving they would have to prove that they knew the rules in order to get their license.  And just like driving, they could lose their license if they weren’t following the rules.  When students passed the test, I handed out Internet Licenses.  Most years I used their previous yearbook picture and created the license myself, but a few years before I had the pictures, I used the NetSmartz UYN club cards, these are great because they list the UYN rules on the back.

Tips: Mike Hill, a creative producer with NetSmartz, generously sent me some DVD copies of Router’s Birthday Surprise to share with my readers.  If you don’t have Internet access in your classroom, or don’t have reliable Internet access, let me know in the comment section and I will be happy to send you a DVD version-free!  If you need a DVD let me know why, and be sure to leave your correct email address when filling out the comment form.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using NetSmartz Kids in your classroom!