Edublogger Alliance Wack Wall

In the last year I started two edubloggers alliances (you can learn about them here and here).   I have had wonderful teachers from around the world join me on this journey of blogging, commenting, and supporting fellow educational bloggers.  As it stands, there are nearly 200 educators who have committed to reading, commenting, and encouraging other bloggers.  I am still truly amazed at the results of this “crazy” idea I had.   Many have asked me when I am going to start another alliance or when I will open it up for more to join.  My answer, I have NO idea.  You see, when I started the edublogger alliance, I committed to commenting on each and every post that members of the alliance posted.  I did really well with this until the end of the school year hit.  I am still commenting, but I can’t seem to get through the 400+ edublogger posts in my Google Reader.  It made me re-think the reason I started the alliance in the first place.

My initial goal was to encourage others in their blogging.  It can be hard for those new to blogging to break into the “club” and stick with it long enough to gain readers.  My thought was, if we could encourage each other from the beginning of the blogging journey, more would stick with it.  The problem?  There are teachers who are new to blogging every day!  I can’t keep up with it on my own and yet I still have a desire to help those who are new to blogging.  My solution?  Create an edublogger alliance social network on Wack Wall.  I know what some of you are thinking: “is she out of her mind?  I already belong to 15 social networks, subscribe to countless numbers of blogs, follow people on Twitter, how in the world am I going to keep track of one more thing?!”  This isn’t my intent.  For those of you who feel overwhelmed by the prospect of joining ANOTHER social network, don’t.  It won’t hurt my feelings.  I get it…I feel the same way every time a new social network pops up.  It is too much, I can’t keep track of it all.  But, I also know that there are thousands of educators out there who would like to try their hand at blogging but need a support system.  You need someone to encourage you, answer your newbie (or not so newbie) blog questions, help you figure out how to blog with your students, help you navigate the blogging platform choices, etc.   You need a place to be plugged in with others who are working through all of this themselves.  Don’t misunderstand, the Edublogger Alliance is for everyone; of course I would love to have all of you join!  I just don’t want you to feel an obligation to sign up for one more thing if you are already overwhelmed.

Let me be clear, I am by NO means an expert of any sort on blogging, I just know that I wish that I had someone to guide me in my blogging journey.  I wish I had someone to ask questions, and sort through WordPress and blogging etiquette with.   My hope is that this will be a place where blogging educators can come together, share what is working and what isn’t, ask questions, and get answers.  I want it to be a place where those who have been blogging for a little while can help those who are just dipping their toes in.  I want it to be a place of discussion and encouragement.

If this social network isn’t for you, if you are already stretched in a million directions, that is fine…I truly do understand.   I will ask you to keep your ears open and offer it as a suggestion for those new to blogging, or those looking for a place to connect with other educators.

Below are a few screen shots of the new iLearn Technology Edublogger Alliance with some explanations about how it works and what you can expect to find there.

The dashboard is your
On the blog tab you can write, share, or read a blog post.
Add the link to your blog on the link tab.
Join a group to find others using your same blog platform, or to share blogging tips, tricks, and ideas.
Start or add to a discussion on the forum page.

If you are interested in joining me on this journey, you can sign up here.  Don’t forget to pass this on to all those teachers who are deciding to try blogging for the first time this year.  They are going to need help!

Sharendipity

What it is: Sharendipity is an excellent online tool that lets you easily create your own learning and educational game.  You can do this by using one of the Sharendipity ready-made templates, or you can create a game from scratch.  There just isn’t always a quality game for students to practice with when you need one.  I know I have found myself wishing that I could find a game focusing on the exact phonic skill or a game that used the vocabulary that we were working on in class.  Often those tailor-made games just don’t exist.  Sharendipity is the answer, making it simple to create your own custom games.  Games are a fun way for students to practice a new skill and they make a great quick center activity on classroom computers.

How to integrate Sharendipity into your curriculum: Create games that are tailored to your students learning needs.  Sharendipity makes it easy enough to create fun games, you can create one in the time it would take you to make copies of worksheets.   Use one of the ready-made templates for the easiest game creation, or if you are feeling brave, start from scratch and make your own.  You can upload all of your own images to Sharendipity making customization really easy.  Consider using pictures of your class, school, or students as the background of a game.  Your students are sure to love seeing familiar faces or landmarks as part of the game.  These games are great for fact practice and recall in math, vocabulary, spelling, phonics, or geography where quick recall of the basics is key.  Sharendipity will walk you through each step of the game making process and when you are finished, you can share the url or embed the game in a class website.  If your students are a little older, they can make their own Sharendipity games to practice with.  Students can create games for their classmates to play as a way to study.  I have students who were constantly creating games and practice activities for my classroom; they got really good at it!  If you are teaching in a computer lab, Sharendipity is a fun way for students to create “original” content for their wiki, blog, or website.  At my school, we buddy up older grade level students with younger grade level students.  It was fun for the older kids to create special games for their buddies after learning about their buddies favorite things.  For example, one student found out that their buddy loved basketball and created a basketball themed spelling activity for them.

If you collaborate with another class or another school, it would be neat to swap customized games with them.

Tips: If you are braving creating your own game, be sure to check out Sherendipity’s learning center for a great guide on how to use the tools.

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

Treasures MacMillan McGraw Hill Supplement

I am not a fan of canned curriculum.  It has some benefits and is relatively easy to teach, but there is a lack of differentiation for different learners and the activities for practice are often shallow.  Treasures has some fun stories and themes but they are really lacking in their activities to practice the essential learning.  The activities are often shallow and don’t change from first grade to fifth grade.  The same copy from the dictionary activity is suggested for learning vocabulary for every unit in every grade level.  I created the Treasures supplement as a way to help teachers provide students with multiple ways of practicing the essential learnings.  I just finished the supplement for unit 1.  This is the supplement for first through fifth grade.

Energyville


What it is: Energyville is a game sponsored by Chevron.  In the game, students have to provide enough power to meet the energy demands of a city with a 5.9 million person population.  As they play, they must keep the city prosperous, secure, and clean.  The energy decisions that students make for the city in 2015 are based on current lifestyles and the projected energy demands and costs for developed countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.  The Energyville game environment is a lot like SimCity in the way that students build and maintain the city.  Students begin by dragging energy sources to the city to bring it to life.  Students can choose from biomass, coal, hydro, natural gas, nuclear, petroleum, solar, and wind.  As they add energy sources to the city, they can observe the impacts on the economy, environment, and security of the city.  The goal is to keep the impact low.  There is a comparison chart where students can view the impact of the different energy sources on the environment, economy, and security to aid them in their decision-making.  As students move their mouse over the different energy sources, they can read about that energy source in the Energy Advisor panel.

How to integrate Energyville into the classroom: Energyville is an excellent simulation game that helps students to experiment with energy sources.  They are able to see the way that their decisions directly affect people and the environment.  Students can see how some energy sources may have a low impact on the environment but are high in cost or impact security.  This is a great way for students to weigh decisions and defend their choices.  Set students up in a computer lab setting where each student has their own computer.  Give students a set amount of time and see which students can get the highest score (lowest impact) on their city in that time.  Afterward, discuss the best and worst energy sources, and have the highest score walk the class through their strategy.  If you don’t have access to a lab, you can send students to Energyville in small groups as a center activity on the classroom computers.  You could also play as a whole class with an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.

Tips: There are two levels of game play.  In the first level, students make decisions to meet the city’s energy demands in 2015.  In the second level, they must make additional decisions to prepare for the energy demands of 2030.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Energyville in your classroom.

Can Do Street: Hector’s Being Selfish

What it is: Can Do Street is a website that has games, lessons, and videos focused on character development for young students.  The site is membership based but does have some free content. Hector’s Being Selfish is a free video on the site that teaches students what it means to be selfish.  The cartoon is easy to understand and helps kids recognize selfishness and what it means to be a good friend.  Throughout the video, students are given the chance to interact by answering questions.

How to integrate Hector’s Being Selfish into the classroom: Selfishness is one of those characteristics that young kids find difficult to understand.  It is hard to separate wants from being a good friend and expressing empathy!  This videos helps children recognize selfishness and offers ways that they can be a good friend.  Character education needs to be taught, we can’t expect that all children will naturally pick it up.  Kids come from different backgrounds and differing expectations at home.  Hector’s Being Selfish is a good video to begin the school year with, and would be a great reminder mid-year.  Watch the video as a whole class and invite students to vote on their answers throughout the video.

Tips: Each section of the Can Do Street website has a preview so you can get a feel for the types of activities they offer.  If you decide on a membership, plans are very affordable from $4.95/month to $24.95 for the year.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Hector’s Being Selfish in your classroom.