Starting with Soil: Organic Exploration App

Organic Exploration Starting with Soil App

What it is: Starting with Soil is a free app from the Whole Kids Foundation that teaches the importance of healthy soil and lets kids discover the harmonious roles that plants, animals, and people play in keeping it healthy. This high-quality, interactive app lets kids explore the life in soil through lots of interactive experiences. They can use a compost wheel to learn about which things can be composted; learn about pollinators and their role in the food we eat; explore fungi, bacteria, protozoa, algae, and nemotodes with a built-in microscope; and learn how long it takes to make an inch of healthy soil with an interactive timeline. Kids can also plant digital seeds, make it rain, and build their own digital compost pile.

How to integrate the Starting with Soil App in your classroom: The Starting with Soil app is a fantastic interactive experience that will help your students learn about how nature creates organic soil, the role that animals and cover crops play in organic farming, how different plants can thrive together, the importance of pollinators, and how compost is made and its part in growing healthy food. This free app can be used as a provocation for an inquiry unit about soil, in your science classroom, or during discussions about ecosystems or nutrition.

My favorite part of this app is the way it let’s kids explore soil. Rather than telling them why healthy soil is important, it reveals its importance through discovery, exploration, and play.

Follow-up learning by giving students the opportunity to put that new understanding to work. Have students design pollinator hotels for your school yard or garden, start a composting bin, or start a school garden. Check out the Whole Kids Foundation site for fantastic resources, ideas, and grant opportunities.

Tips: Starting with Soil is available on the App Store and Google Play.

Flash & Thunder- Part graphic novel, part game, all fun and learning

INVICTA-Challenge- graphic novel/game/maps

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What it is: INVICTA Challenge combines technology (in the form of an action-packed video game), a graphic novel, maps, an operation packet and an action figure that inspires kids to read and problem solve. Each INVICTA Challenge collection builds problem solving and leadership skills for students 8-14. Part story, part game, students are placed in historical situations where they get to make the decisions that will determine success or failure. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder lets students walk in the shoes of an American Hero.

How to Integrate INVICTA Challenge in your classroom: These challenges are a fun and new way to foster literacy, history, and leadership skills in your classrooms. Stories are highly visual and have enough action and adventure to keep even your reluctant readers engaged. The game component of the challenge almost takes on a choose your own adventure feel as it pairs with the graphic novel, maps, and missions. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder tells the true story of a Native American paratrooper’s D-Day leadership. The way that this combination puts students in the middle of the story is fantastic. Students aren’t passive readers…it is impossible! With Flash and Thunder, students are in the middle of the action, analyzing options, making decisions, evaluating the decisions and building comprehension and understanding of history all the way.

The INVICTA challenge is like a smart recombination of the things I enjoyed most from my own childhood: American Girl dolls/Books, Oregon Trail…only with a major upgrade.

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At Anastasis, we’ve been working on an inquiry unit about change makers and the power of one. The INVICTA challenge has been a fantastic launching off point for students as they consider what it means to be a change maker, and what characteristics make up a change maker. This interactive challenge/book/game put students in the middle of thinking like a change maker, building leadership traits like integrity, nobility, valor, initiative, curiosity, tenacity, and accountability.

INVICTA-Challenge_ops-package_WEB

This challenge would be an excellent addition to your classroom library. You might want a few copies so that students can read together and work through the game and missions together in a book group. The video game component will be available on iOS, Android, and online here. Take a look!

Tips: The INVICTA Challenges can be purchased at Barnes and Noble for $34.99. For all that is included in this kit, it is truly a great value! I’m so excited for the other challenges to come out, some very exciting stories and characters are on their way!

Full disclosure: INVICTA sent me the Flash and Thunder challenge so that I could review it for you all here. But…

You can win your own Flash and Thunder challenge at the 5Sigma Education Conference in February! If you register for the conference today, you can save 20% using the code: CYBERMONDAY at check out. Not only will you get the opportunity to win one of these great challenge kits for your classroom, you also get a conference experience like no other!

Seesaw: The ultimate ePortfolio for every classroom!

Seesaw: the ultimate eportfolio for every classroom

What it is: Seesaw is the first truly student centered/driven digital portfolio tool that I’ve seen. What makes Seesaw such an awesome option as a digital portfolio is the way that it empowers kids to build and keep a digital portfolio totally independently with features like QR code login for young students. Students can log their learning using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. Seesaw also has direct import features from lots of popular apps. From the teacher perspective, Seesaw makes it simple to access student work immediately from their own device. Content is easily searchable by student and makes it simple to review student progress over time and keep track of growth. In addition to browsing by student, teachers can use folders to organize work by subject area or project. There is also an awesome flag feature that makes it easy to highlight work that you want to go back to for conferences or follow-up with the student. The built in audio recording and drawing tools mean that students can reflect on what they’ve learned or explain how they reached an answer. Parents are also able to login to see work and give feedback on it (you as the teacher can control who sees what and what feedback can be given. Teachers can approve peer feedback before it is seen by students or parents.

Seesaw: the ultimate eportfolio for every classroom

How to integrate Seesaw into the classroom: We’ve long used Evernote as our eportfolio of choice, because it was a simple (enough) entry point and gave students enough flexibility to show what they were working on. With each new release of features, Seesaw is quickly winning me over. This is an app that was clearly created with students and teachers in mind. It has incredible flexibility while equipping with just the right tools and features to make it extra valuable in a school setting. I love the options for feedback that teachers can give, and that all stakeholders are able to login and see what kids are working on. The way that Seesaw enables teachers to give quick feedback to students is incredible. I am also impressed with the integrated audio and drawing features that allow students (even young students) to comment and reflect on their own learning and thinking process. The metacognition implications of Seesaw are awesome!

At Anastasis, even non-digital native assignments get captured in our eportfolio through the camera or video. This means that work “travels” with students from year to year. Future teachers can go back through their progress, but students also have this incredible “bread crumb trail” of learning that they can go back through. It is always fun for us to hear students exclaim over the difference in their writing from day one to day 100. Often the learning process is so infinitesimal that students (and sometimes parents) have a hard time seeing the growth. An eportfolio is a great way to capture all learning so that those baby steps can be seen over time. This has been encouraging for our struggling students especially.

Seesaw supports a variety of platforms making it super simple to use in any classroom environment and particularly in a BYOD setting. Supported platforms include iOS devices, Android devices, Chromebooks, and any computer with a Chrome web browser.

Best of all: Seesaw is FREE!!! If you want to store and organize a child’s portfolio beyond the current year, a Plus account can be purchased by parents for $9.99/year OR a school account.

Tips: Seesaw also has Google App integration, if your school uses Google in Education, they can login with the same Google login they use for everything else!

StackUp: Get professional development credit for Twitter edchats

StackUp: Get credit for everything you read and learn online

What it is: StackUp is a really neat new web app that automatically scores online reading and learning. As you work online, StackUp captures data through the free web app and plugin which can be used on Mac and Windows (iOS and Android coming soon). When active, StackUp captures and attributes a score time that is spent anywhere online. It then categorizes it into 60 different subject areas including: news, finance, engineering, fashion, technology, sports, and online classes. StackUp is a metric that can offer insight into the commitment and study of a certain field.

How to integrate StackUp into the classroom: In the increasing digital landscape of the world (and classrooms) it is important to offer the opportunity for students to research and direct their own learning. StackUp offers students a way to share the commitment of learning with teachers and other stake holders. So often, we think about time spent online as “wasted” because, let’s face it, there can be lots of moments of wasted time online. But, the Internet is also a rich landscape for learning and continued learning in areas of passion. StackUp is a way for students to offer proof of this time spent learning so that teachers can appreciate and offer credit for that learning. Often classrooms have certain parameters and reading expectations for students. What if instead, we offered kids the ability to spend time researching, reading, and exploring things that they are passionate about…and then offer credit for it! StackUp could be the catalyst for more independent learning opportunities and studies within areas of passion. One of the things that I find holds teachers back from allowing this type of reading, is the inability to measure whether a student has really spent time on task.

I’ve often lamented about how I wish that the time spent in online education chats and reading educational blogs, articles, and whitepapers counted as professional development and credit hours. Seriously, I rack up the hours and it is always time well spent. As an administrator, I would happily accept a StackUp record of the time that my teachers engage in online material and offer credit and professional development hours for that time. I’ve gotten more out of the connections, chats, and learning that I’ve done with all of you online, than most of the required professional development. This could be transformational for helping tell the story of the learning that we do independently.

Imagine “Stacking” up the learning from a young age in areas of passion, and continue throughout their lifetime giving students another way to distinguish themselves. Tools like StackUp could start to change the landscape of learning and how we decide who the “experts” are. Hint: it isn’t always the person with the most letters behind their name.

Tips: Worried that one of your students might be able to cheat the system and simply open a webpage and walk away? No need to worry! StackUp is built on a patent-pending software system that can detect the difference between a student who just opens a webpage versus the student who is actually engaged.

StackUp doesn’t always have to run in the background and record every single move you or your students make online, it allows users to turn it on or off at any time and delete time spent on a website or in any category…you know, for those of us who spend an embarrassing amount of time on Pinterest. ūüôā

 

Want to really amp up your professional development with the best education conference you’ve ever been to? Join us for the 5 Sigma Edu Conference!

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

Meraki: Manage Mobile Devices from the Cloud…FREE

What it is: Meraki lets you centrally manage mobile devices, macs and PC’s from the cloud based dashboard.¬† The systems manager makes it simple to centrally manage applications on iOS, Android, Mac and PC devices.¬† It integrates with Google Play, Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store and Apple’s Volume Purchase Program.¬† In addition to being able to manage apps, Meraki makes it easy to enforce and deploy restrictions on mobile devices. Choose how your students access the app store, gaming and content, how they connect wirelessly, security settings and remote VPN access.¬† Meraki has a virtual backpack where content can be shared with devices.¬† Files and documents can be added and sent wirelessly.¬† Separate backpacks can be delivered to different classrooms so that the correct documents are shared with the students who need it.¬† The cloud platform makes 1 to 1 projects and BYOD (bring your own device) roll outs manageable.¬† The best part?¬† Meraki is 100% free.¬† You just can’t beat that!

How to integrate Meraki into the classroom: This is one of those tools that I WISH I had seen before I spent $3,000 on another solution.¬† Blerg.¬† Live and learn, right?¬† Next year, this is the solution I will be using to manage all of our BYOD iPads at Anastasis.¬† It has everything that we need.¬† The integration with Apple’s Volume Purchase Program is pretty fantastic.¬† This is a great way for the school to purchase and manage educational apps that we want to share with students.¬† The cloud management means that we can manage devices from anywhere and we don’t have to have a dedicated server to do it.¬† I can do a lot of things, but managing servers is not one of those things that I want to spend my time doing!

Meraki is a great solution for whole schools or single classrooms that need to manage devices.  I love that Meraki can be used for a school initiated roll-out or in a single classroom BYOD initiative.  Either way the tools are easy to use and will make the integration of technology in the classroom run smoother.

Tips: Check out the FAQ page to learn more about how Meraki gets installed on the student devices.  The installation changes based on device.

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

Moglue: Create interactive ebooks and release as apps!

What it is:  Moglue is an interactive ebook builder that helps students create and share their stories on mobile devices as an app.  This download desktop platform makes it a snap for students to create interactive ebooks and release them as apps for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), Android tablets and Android phones.  Students only need to build the content once and Moglue makes it compatible with each user interface seamlessly.  No programming is required, this is a great creation platform for all classrooms!  Using a simple drag and drop interface, students can make their stories come to life.  Every child is enabled to be an artist now.

How to integrate Moglue into the classroom:  I think tools that make content creation simple are absolute genius.  As much as I would love for every student (and myself) to know how to program, it takes quite a bit of know-how before students can make their stories and ideas come to life.  The intuitive interface of tools like Moglue let students focus on breathing life into their creations and not on the technology tools used to build them.  Tools like Moglue are wonderful for the classroom where students are often short on time and resources (someone to teach them programming).  Because the interface is so easy to use, students can focus on telling a story, releasing their inner artist, and letting their creativity shine.

Students (or classes) can use Moglue to:

  • Tell a fractured fairy tale
  • Create a choose your own adventure story
  • Demonstrate science concepts in an interactive “glossary”
  • Create a class dictionary of math, science, economics or geography words
  • Write creatively
  • Create an interactive “textbook”
  • Create an illustrated dictionary for a second language
  • Create an interactive “travel-the-world” geography book
This is a neat way for students to publish their work and share with others!

Tips: The Moglue builder can be downloaded on Mac or Windows computers and has a great tutorial to get your students started!

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