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Sphero: the coolest robot around

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Evaluate, iPod, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 14-04-2014

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Sphero- coolest robot ever

This week, the wonderful people at Orbotix sent me a Sphero to try out and play with. HOLY COW, I haven’t had so much fun with a new toy in a long time. The better part of today was spent learning about the Sphero and stealthily “driving” it into classrooms (much to the delight of kids). Sphero is a robotic ball that gets controlled by iPhone, iPad, or android device. I had it rolling all over school this morning…I only wish I had thought ahead to record student reactions (I was using my iPhone to control it and didn’t think about video and pictures). I had so much fun with it, that I brought it home to play and learn some more. It is equally loved by my dogs! 😉

Sphero seems like a simple concept, a ball that can be controlled via tablet or phone. Even though the concept is simple, I have to admit, I’m pretty floored by the way that this little ball moves around effortlessly as if by magic. We have a hallway in our school that includes an incline and it rolled up it without any trouble, like a champ! It is SO much more than a fun rolley ball. There are a slew of apps that interact with the Sphero making it ultra fun and educational. The majority of apps available are totally free to download. There are a few that cost $0.99. Apps include:

  • Sphero Nyan Cat Space Party- Even if you have no idea what Nyan cat is, your students will. They will think it is awesome.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode One- A labyrinth game for the 21st century.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode Two- Defeat obstacles and enemies using your Sphero.
  • Sphero- the app I played with all day. This app drives Sphero and teaches it (and you) new tricks with basics of coding.
  • GoGo Mongo- Designed to teach toddlers and primary students healthy eating habits.
  • Sphero Exile- Arcade-like space-fighter game. But with real life actions!
  • Sphero Draw N’ Drive- Use your finger on the tablet or phone to draw a shape or path and watch Sphero follow it.
  • Sphero MacroLab (great for education!)- Learn basics of programming by arranging simple commands and settings in any combination. Save favorite programs and share them with friends.
  • Sphero TAG- A great tag game when you have access to more than one Sphero.
  • Zombie Roller- A zombie app. Need I say more?
  • Sphero Lights- Basically the coolest night-light ever. Keep the Sphero lit even when charging.
  • Last Fish- Try surviving as a fish in toxic water filled with goo and shadow fish. The goal: survive.
  • Sphero Macro Draw- Draw using your Sphero robot.
  • DJ Sphero- Go ahead and be a party rock star with Sphero. Load tracks from your iPad/iPhone music library . Cross fade between songs and speed up or slow down music by spinning your sphere robot. Basically you will be the star of the lunch room.
  • Astro Ball- An arcade-syle 3D flight simulator.
  • Sphero Golf- I played this one as soon as I got home. Create a physical golf course and then virtually control Sphero to make it into the holes that you create. Hit Sphero with either a flick of the finger, or (for more fun) by swinging your arms while holding your tablet/phone.
  • Sphero Cam- Currently Android only. Use the built-in camera on Android to record video with Sphero.
  • orbBasic for Sphero- This is a great app for learning and practicing program. Students can execute basic programs and create and prototype autonomous behaviors for their Sphero robot.
  • Sphero H2O- For real, this robot can be played with IN water!! This is a game for a summer pool party.
  • Etch-o-matic- 21st century toy makes drawings like it is 1965. LOVE this app! Brings me right back to about 1987 when I sat in the back seat of the Jetta on the way to Grandmas. Just like an etch-a-sketch, only better.
  • Sphero Snake- Classic Snake game brought to life.
  • Disc Groove- Control your Sphero to avoid being hit by “flying meteors”
  • Doodle Grub- A new twist on the classic Snake game. Lots of fun.
  • Sphero Pet- Wishing you had a class pet? Sphero fits the bill well without being overwhelming. Kids can teach it to shake, flip and move in any direction.
  • Pass the Sphero- A game of dare for multiple players where Sphero becomes a ticking time-bomb. Lots of fun when there is lots of snow and recess has to occur inside.
  • Sphero Measuring Tape (AWESOME, measuring our Anastasis Academy garden!) Virtual measuring tape. Amazingly accurate. Our kids have been learning Area/Perimeter and using the Anastasis Academy garden as a learning space. Sphero helped verify their calculations.
  • Sharky the Beaver- Sphero turns into an augmented reality beaver that you can interact with.
  • Sphero ColorGrab- A multiplayer tabletop game. Sphero flashes colors and you have to pick him up at the right time to earn points. Best indoor recess ever!
  • Sphero Chromo- Like an old-school Simon game for this little robot. Makes me a little nostalgic for my childhood. 🙂
  • The Rolling Dead- an augmented reality game featuring zombies. Not sure how it gets better than using Sphero as a fireball to shoot virtual zombies. Anastasis Academy backs to a cemetery where the teachers walk/jog after school. I’m pretty sure the Rolling Dead/Sphero combo will be a welcome addition to our exercise.

The Sphero apps the are available to download range from just plain fun, to serious learning capability and augmented reality. There are so many possibilities with this little robot and, it seems, that the apps and abilities of this little robot will only continue to grow. This robot is resilient. It can stand up to dogs, water, outdoors, hills, etc. Truly so magical and amazing!

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

I dig technology that effortlessly blends real world with imagination and technology. Sphero definitely fits this bill in ways that I haven’t seen before. I’m excited to dig into Sphero Education to try out the STEM lessons that can be used with Sphero with students. I’ll be sure to blog our progress through them! Stay tuned.

 

Tynker: Computer programming for kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, History, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-11-2013

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iLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kidsiLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kids

What it is: Tynker is about the coolest way for kids to learn how to computer program- absolutely NO prior programming experience is needed!  Tynker leads kids through design thinking through interactive courses where kids can learn how to program at their own pace.

Anyone can teach kids how to program (no really!) because with Tynker, you don’t need any prior knowledge or understanding.  Tynker provides teachers with tools, curriculum and project ideas that will have your kids programming in no time!  The Tynker curriculum pack starts with 6 lessons.  Each one is appropriate for a 45 minute work period. Through the teacher dashboard, you can assign lessons to your students.  A built-in tutor provides step-by-step instructions that guides students toward creating a working project.  The teacher dashboard also helps you track student progress as they learn and master concepts.  No data entry is required, students login and the teacher dashboard auto-magically populates.

When students have completed projects, they can publish them to the class showcase and be shared with family and friends through email, Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

Happily, Tynker works entirely in your web browser.  There is nothing to install or setup.  It is good to go right away!  Equally happily, Tynker is FREE for your school!  Woot!

How to integrate Tynker into your classroom: Not only will students learn the basics of programming with Tynker, they can use it to demonstrate their learning through their creations.  Students can compose stories and comics that retell a story, historical event, recent field trip, fiction or non-fiction.  Using the physics features, students can learn some basics about physics and cause the games they create to be more realistic.  They can also demonstrate understanding of physics principles through their creations.

Students can use Tynker to create their own apps to show off their understanding of new math/science/social studies vocabulary, math or science concepts, retell stories, character sketches, games, animations and more. In addition to being able to create stories, games, and  slideshow- students can also program original music and create computer art.

Don’t think you have time in your curriculum?  Take a look around Tynker and think about natural ways you could use it to enhance your curriculum.  Instead of asking your students to create a book report, have them program a retell using Tynker.  This will take some additional background knowledge (they will need to go through a Tynker tutorial or two) BUT the outcome is well worth it.  You will have asked your students to learn something new semi-independently, beefed up logical/mathematical thinking skills through programming, and invited students to think critically about what they read to tell the story to others through a program.  Worth the additional 45 min!  Students could demonstrate a math concept, show the steps in a science experiment, retell an event in history, and even compose their own music through program.  When you start thinking like a maker as you play with Tynker, you will realize there are infinite opportunities for including Tynker in your curriculum.  If you are still convinced that you can’t find the time in your heavily scheduled (sometimes scripted-sad) day, why not start a before or after school program, summer camp, lunch club, etc.?

At Anastasis, we have Crave classes every Wednesday.  These classes are offered by our teachers every 5 weeks.  Teachers choose an area of learning that they crave and create a class based on that (we have everything from programming, to cooking, to forensic science, hockey history, junk orchestra, iPad rock band, to chess and da Vinci art).  Students get a list of classes at the beginning of a new block, and get to choose a class that they crave.  The result is a wonderful mixed age (k-8) class of passions colliding.  The kids LOVE Wednesdays for this awesome hour of our day.  I’m excited to offer a Tynker class for our next block of classes (along with playing with our new Romo robot!), I think this is going to be a popular class!

iLearn Technology- Romotive robot

Tips: If your school uses Google apps for education like we do, your students can log in with their Google information.

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

The Making of the Learning Genome Project

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, education reform, For Teachers, Grade Level, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 28-10-2012

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So many of you have offered tremendous support, donations and a megaphone to spread the word about the Learning Genome Project.  I am so grateful!  Today I thought I would lift the curtain just a bit and share a behind the scenes look at the Learning Genome Project.  My plan was to do this in video form using Screenium or Screeny. Those plans were foiled when NEITHER worked even with updates.  #sigh  Instead, I’ll write out my story and take you on a picture journey of how it all took place.  If you haven’t had a chance to lend a helping hand, it is not too late.  Honestly, even $1 makes such a BIG difference!  If everyone of my readers gave just $1, this would be taken care of tonight and we would be able to start the next phase of development. Click here to help out now!

I come from a family of entrepreneurs.  If it doesn’t exist or it can be done better, that is what you do.  This mind-set can be a bit of a curse…once I get an idea in my head, it is like a broken record that plays over and over until I do something about it.  My dad is prime example of this, he started Koostik with a styrofoam cup and an iPhone. Once the idea was there, it stayed until he saw it realized…in this case that means a growing company and product in Restoration Hardware and Red Envelope.  He is awesome.

For me this process started as I dug through curriculum and worked to supplement it with technology tools.  The idea was to “fill” the gaps with technology tools that would make the curriculum work better for students.  As I went through publisher after publisher, I started realizing that the problem wasn’t a lack of technology (if you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know that is a BIG realization for me). The real problem was that we were trying to address the needs of an incredibly diverse population of kids with a one-size-fits-all curriculum.  The troubling thing for me was that I sat on the committees that made the curriculum decisions.  I was sold (just like everyone else) on the premise that these curricula had “differentiated” instruction.  I have come to hate that term.  You know what it means?  It means that curriculum companies can sell more curriculum because they add in a highlighted section that says “differentiation!” and gives a one-size bigger or one-size smaller approach to the exact same problem.  As I went through all of this curriculum, I couldn’t shake the feeling that adding in a bit of technology wasn’t going to solve the problem.

As a computer teacher, I taught 435 students every week.  I taught the same 435 kids for 6 years.  I saw them grow up, learned what made them tick, watched the frustration grow when they didn’t understand a learning objective.  These kids were amazing. They were brilliant. They all had strengths and weaknesses that made them special. They all have a different understanding and approach to the world.  We were stripping all of that uniqueness away and making them learn everything the same. We were expecting that they would learn the same things, the same way, and at the same time.  Ludicrous! Nothing in life or growth and development happens this way, and yet that is what our education system is built on?  This was really troubling for me.  I couldn’t shake that it shouldn’t be that way.

In 2010 I took a year away from teaching for health reasons.  During that year, I acted as an educational consultant for many area schools.  This period of time re-emphasized those stirrings that I was having about education. This curriculum wasn’t working because it assumed too much sameness. I saw brilliant, gifted kids losing their passions because it wouldn’t get them into the swanky private high school (that looked just like every other school). How sad that we ask kids to give up their areas of gifting to get to the next level of learning.  Something is wrong!  One day I was working my way through curriculum, supplementing the holes with technology tools.  I was listening to Pandora Internet radio.  A song came on that I had never heard before, by an artist that was also new to me.  I frantically searched for something to write on so that I could remember this new find.  I remember thinking, “how amazing that we have come to a place in history where we can use technology to predict something as personal as music.”  I was truly amazed that I could put in one piece of information and through a series of algorithms, Pandora could predict other music I would like.  If it can work with music, surely it could work with curriculum.

This was the birth of that niggling thought that wouldn’t go away.  This was the beginning of the Learning Genome Project.  I had recently been introduced to a programmer (@ianchia) through @Doremigirl on Twitter.  Ian and I had shared many conversations about what education apps could look like.  This time it was my turn to ask a question.  I wanted to know if it was possible to program what was in my head.  “Well of course.”  Ian introduced me to some wireframing tools and I was off and running.  Over the next months, I dreamed up how the Learning Genome would work.  I thought about the students that I wanted something better for. I thought about the frustrations I had as a teacher. I dreamed about a tool that would make the whole process easier.

Teachers share something in common: we all want the very best for our students.  There are a few problems with this.  First, we don’t always get to choose what we will teach. Many times our school or district hands us the curriculum and says, “go.”  This is not conducive to doing the best we know how for every child.  Second, we don’t always know that their is a tool/lesson/resource out there that could make all the difference for each student.  Third, we have a limited time to search for that perfect tool/lesson/resource.  A lot of system problems to overcome.  If Pandora can do this for music, I can do it for education.

I started researching how Pandora works, what happens in the background that makes my experience possible?  Pandora is called the Music Genome Project because it used the Human Genome Project as its inspiration.  In the Human Genome Project, genes are mapped out.  In the Music Genome Project, the “genes” of music are mapped out.  I called my version the Learning Genome Project.  Together, we will map the genes of education, those attributes that help us find commonalities that match the right content to each student at the right time.

First, we need to collect information about the learner. If we don’t know the learner, we can’t know what content best fits their needs.  This is, in short, the best student information system ever.

Next, we have to know enough about the school and the classroom to make recommendations. It does us no good to recommend an iDevice app if the school has no access to that device.

We also have to know something about the lead learner (the teacher).

After we have the profile information, it is critical to know where students are in their learning. What needs to be learned?  This is the individualized learning plan…each student has one.

 

From within the ILP, teachers, students and parents can create and have input on the learning goals.  These learning goals inform what happens in the hub of the genome.

When the learning goal has been identified, the genome “hub” comes into play. This is where resources (lessons, videos, apps, experiments, activities, etc.) are matched and recommended for the student.  Much like Pandora, a learning channel is created.

Teachers (and students) can expand the results to view more information about the recommendation.  From here it can be added to teacher and student planners, and materials for the curriculum can be selected.

Teachers can see all student assignments within their planner. Here they can create groups for overlaps of student learning.  They can also create whole-class events.

After a student completes an activity, they record it within their ePortfolio.  This is all completely integrated.  Within the portfolio they can keep notes, documents, pictures, video and badges.  Badges help students have a bread trail of where they have been in their learning.  Portfolio’s are forever associated with a student, from year to year it travels and grows with them.  Students can also have the option of downloading their portfolio for offline viewing.

In addition to portfolios and planners, the Learning Genome Project includes wiki, blog and photo tools.

Community tools keep students, teachers and parents in collaboration.

My brother and I had many of the same teachers growing up.  We are very different people with 5 years separating us.  My favorite teachers were not his.  We had very similar experiences, the same outstanding teachers. But some teachers connected better with me than him.  How do we help every child have influence of a “favorite” teacher?  I created Twitacad.  Even if that teacher isn’t in the child’s school, there is a blended learning component that makes that connection possible.

Twitacad offers teachers and students a platform for sharing, communicating, and learning.  It is all tied in to the Learning Genome. Everything works together.  Virtual teachers are listed as teachers for parents, students and other teachers to interact with.

The Learning Genome Project has assessment tools built in.  Assessment is based on mastery of a skill or concept.  This is directly related to what is happening in the student portfolio so that students, teachers and parents can view evidences of the learning.

How does content, resources, tools, lessons, apps, videos, etc. get into the genome?  It gets tagged with its learning attributes by incredible teachers around the world like you.  We all contribute to this project and we all benefit from it.

The hub (resource aggregation) portion of the Genome is free to everyone.  Every child deserves an education tailored to them.  Additional portions of the Learning Genome Project (planners, ePortfolios, blogs, wikis, Twitacad) will be a subscription based service.

The Learning Genome Project is not curriculum.  It is a sorting tool that pulls the best options for every child.  Teachers will be able to sort results based on price, Bloom’s Taxonomy level, standard, subject, and type of resource.  This will tell you what curricular resources will best meet every child’s needs.  Every time a resource is used, it gets rated by both student and teacher. Resources that are highest rated will be recommended first.

This is truly a quick overview of the Learning Genome project.  There are so many intricacies and features that will make it revolutionary to education.  The one hang up? I need help funding it!  Sure, I could go and get some venture capitalists to fund it. The problem: I want the force that drives what happens to the Learning Genome Project to be what is best for kids…not what best impacts the bottom line.  I believe that if we all put a little into this project, that we can create something revolutionary.  We can all have a part in transforming education for the world.

I hope you will join me.  I hope that you will realize that $1 and a few minutes is a small price to pay for a resource that has the potential to reach every child in the world.  This is a small price to pay for our future.  We can do this.  Please click here and donate now…then spread the word to everyone you know and encourage them to do the same.

Claco: United We Teach, build lessons collaboratively

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-09-2012

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What it is:  Claco is a new website that makes it simple to build, organize and share lessons. Your lessons can be dynamic including weblinks, embed codes, online videos, files and more.  In addition to creating and uploading your own lessons, you can also search and use lessons that other teachers around the world have built.  There is no better way to stretch and grow professionally than to learn from each other!  Claco makes it easy to work with other educators in a collaborative environment to streamline the lesson planning process.  I love the vision behind Claco, they have even created a movement called “United We Teach” that encourages educators to share and enhance each other’s resources.  I learn SO much from my PLN, creating a place where this is encouraged as part of the process is fantastic!

Another feature I love about Claco: no need to download lessons, you can view and use all lessons directly from your Claco profile.  That means that lessons are available from anywhere (because they are in the cloud) and can be used from computers, iPads, and smartphones…super handy!

How to integrate Claco into your curriculum: Use Claco to save yourself time.  I tend to get lost in the OCEAN of amazing lesson ideas and resources on the web.  I like that Claco can be a one-stop shop for resources and lessons.  The ability to organize all of my findings in one easy-to-use place that can be accessed by all of my devices is also very helpful.

Aside from the time saving, Claco makes it possible to collaborate on lessons with other teachers in the building, or from anywhere in the world.  Lessons can be constructed with teammates and enhanced by anyone.  Lessons can also be easily shared with students, parents and colleagues.

Tips: You may recognize some features of Claco.  Class Connect (which I wrote about here) has morphed into Claco. The genius behind Claco, Eric Simons who created the sites after some frustrations with his own school experience.  Instead of being disenfranchised, he set out to make it better.  You gotta love that!

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

TED-Ed: Lessons (videos) worth sharing

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Evaluate, History, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 26-04-2012

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What it is: I have long been a TED talk fan, so much so that I started a lunch group at my previous school called TED Talk Tuesdays where teachers could gather over lunch, watch TED Talks and discuss it’s implication on education.  TED has a brand new education site that I am excited about.  TED-ed is a collection of educational video lessons that have been animated.  These lessons can be used as a supplement in any classroom.  Each video on the TED-ed site has an associated lesson, a Quick Quiz with multiple choice comprehension questions, Think which asks questions to help students think more critically about what they have watched, and Dig Deeper which helps students to explore the topic further.  In addition to the videos, TED-ed gives educators the ability to “flip” videos.  You can use, tweak, or completely re-do any lesson that is featured on TED-Ed, or even create lessons from scratch based on any video from YouTube.  You can re-title a lesson to fit your classroom, add context, questions and follow-up suggestions, and create a custom URL for your video lesson.  You can even track your student’s progress to see who has viewed the assigned video, the number of questions they attempted, the answers they provided, and the answers they got correct.

How to integrate TED-Ed into the classroom:  TED-Ed is a fantastic new resource for the classroom.  The videos can be used for flip teaching.  Flip teaching changes up the classroom model.  Normally students come to school to get instruction and do their practice work at home as homework.  In a flipped teaching model, the instruction is watched at home as “homework” and the practice happens in the classroom where students can receive teacher support.  This means that the focus in the classroom is on higher-order thinking and learning skills instead of on instruction.  How novel. 🙂 Student can come to class ready for deeper inquiry, critical thinking, discussion with classmates, collaboration and get more personalized attention from the teacher.  You maximize classroom time by “going home” with the students.

Video is a great medium for learning because it allows students to learn at their own pace and gives them the ability to replay as many times as they need to.  Visuals are always useful when learning something new, video is a great medium because of the way that it helps enhance understanding through the use of visuals. 

Videos are searchable by those that have been featured, those that are part of a series or by subject.  Students can learn about the arts, business/economics, design/engineering/technology, health, literature/language, math, psychology, science/technology, and social studies.  The library will continue to grow as teachers flip the videos and TED-ed adds content from educators around the world.

The videos are great in a flipped classroom model but can also be used within the classroom.  Videos can be watched and discussed as a whole-class or put on classroom computers as a learning center.  When I taught second grade, I made sure that I had time individually with my students each week.  In the mornings, my students worked on groups with “tub work” to make this time possible with individual students.  These videos would make a great “second teacher” in a blended learning classroom where students could continue their learning while you work with students individually. 

Tips: Remember, if you don’t find a video that meets your classroom needs, you can always flip any video you find on YouTube!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using TED-ed in  your classroom!

ClassConnect: all-in-one digital organization for the classroom

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools | Posted on 14-03-2012

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What it is:  ClassConnect is a website I have written about in the past (here) that has made some great changes that make it worth taking another look!  ClassConnect is a fantastic one-stop-shop for collaborating, storing, and organizing your life as an educator.  The real powerhouse of ClassConnect is the ability to build, organize and share lessons and resources easy.  You won’t be pressed to remember where you stored everything (dropbox, diigo, pinterest, twitter favorites) because with ClassConnect you can store it all in one place.  Even better, you can search and use lessons and resources that other teachers have built.  The collaborative nature of ClassConnect makes it easy to work together on planning out and sharing learning.  ClassConnect even started a great movement called “United We Teach” encouraging educators to share more.  ClassConnect is super easy to use, just find lesson plans and snap them into your lessons…there is no need for downloads!

You can set up ClassConnect to automatically notify your colleagues, students and parents when you make updates.  What’s even handier is that everything is viewable on computers, iPads (woohoo) and smartphones.  This makes it easy to plan and use from everywhere!  The lessons in ClassConnect aren’t only files, they are also interactive websites, games and videos.  Everything in one place.  Gotta love that! When a lesson gets updated, everyone who is shared on the lesson gets updated.

Did I mention it is free?  It is 😉

How to integrate ClassConnect into the classroom: ClassConnect is a no-brainer for introducing to your classroom routine.  Who could argue with an all-in-one organizational tool? ClassConnect makes it SO simple to share resources with colleagues, parents and students.  Think about how this could transform differentiation in your classroom.  Instead of just using the “one-size-fits-all” differentiation that curriculum offers (I hesitate to even call that differentiation…what a joke!), you can create folders of lessons; resources; and learning that perfectly fit the needs of your students.  Because they are so easily shared, you can bring everyone who needs to be on board, on board.  Students can go right to ClassConnect to view what you have stored for them there.  Parents can go to ClassConnect for additional support and ideas for furthering learning at home.
The colleague sharing shouldn’t be overlooked.  Imagine how much richer learning could be if we were sharing our best finds with each other freely and in an easy to access location.  Changing the world here.
***By the way, ClassConnect has a truly AWESOME start up story.  This isn’t just some company. ClassConnect was/is created by a student who wanted school to look different. Be sure to read Eric’s story on the About page.
Tips: For every colleague you invite that signs up, ClassConnect will give you BOTH 500mb more of free storage (you start out with 1GB)!  That is a pretty sweet deal!

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

Google Digital Literacy Tour

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Evaluate, Internet Safety, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 04-01-2012

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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!

ABC Mouse: math, reading, geography, and science curriculum (interactives/games/books)

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Geography, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Social Studies, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 27-10-2011

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What it is:  ABC Mouse is a complete online curriculum for pre-k and kindergarten students that provides a step-by-step learning path.  There are six academic levels that include curriculum that includes over 350 interactive lessons and more than 2000 learning activities.  As a student completes one activity successfully, they are guided to the next.  The interactive lessons include online picture books, puzzles, games, songs, art, activities and printable activities that relate to different topics and disciplines.  Each lesson offers different ways to learn to meet the needs of a variety of students.  The reading curriculum in ABC Mouse helps students recognize letters and sounds of the alphabet and sight words.  There are hundreds of books build in including fables, fairy tales and non-fiction.  In addition to sight words, students can learn phonics, sound recognition and rhyming words/word families.   The math curriculum teaches students numbers, shapes, patterns and measurement.  Students will play games and activities that help them to recognize and count numbers 1-100, identify and draw shapes, and the meaning of addition and subtraction.  ABC Mouse’s World Around Us is an introduction to science, social studies and health curriculum.  In the World Around Us, students will learn about the body and health, sports, plants and animals, weather and seasons, and earth/moon/sun/stars.
The lesson builder, lets you choose the content and activities for students to interact with based on their needs and interests.  Progress tracking makes it easy to see the number of learning activities that have been completed.  There are a lot of fun goodies tucked away including a virtual zoo, farm, aquarium and the ability to record a book in your own voice.
This is a comprehensive, well put together site that is FREE to public schools in the United States and Canada.  It is a wonderful addition to the kindergarten classroom!

How to integrate ABC Mouse into the classroom:  ABC Mouse is a fun website.  Activities in ABC Mouse are fantastic for center use in a one-two computer classroom (or more).  The activities and games are short enough for a center activity that students can cycle through.

For kindergarten students in a computer lab, this is a great site to get their feet wet with the technology at the beginning of the year.  I often started my students on fun academic sites like Starfall.com where students could practice clicking, navigating, dragging/dropping, etc.  These type of sites build students computer confidence, improve their fine motor skills and provide them with content area learning at the same time.  I wish this site had existed when I was teaching kindergarten computer!

If you don’t have access to computers for the students but have an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer, students can take turns interacting with the ABC mouse activities.  The books make great class read along stories on the big screen!

ABC Mouse is a fun way to introduce new concepts/skills, as a place for students to practice concepts/skills, or for review.

Tips: If you aren’t at a public school, sign up for the sample content…the private school dollar amount is reasonable!

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

Pegby: Online Collaborative Peg Board/Organizational tool

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-07-2011

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What it is: Pegby is a neat online organizational tool that has fantastic customization features.  With Pegby, students (and teachers) can share boards enabling them to collaborate with friends, family, coworkers and classmates.  Pegby is organized by a series of columns, students can decide on the number and organization of columns.  Columns can be easily expanded and collapsed so students can focus on exactly the columns they need at any given moment.  Students (and teachers) can add cards to each column.  The cards look just like a 3×5 note card and can include a title, content, tags, attachments, a due date and color coding.  Note cards can be dragged from one column to the next, shared with others or added to a stack of cards.  Students can filter all of their cards by tags to find exactly the cards they are looking for when they need them!  Pegby lets you have multiple boards so you can organize life to your heart’s content.  A Pegby board can be downloaded as a .yaml file (not familiar with that file extension, it is a unix executable file.)

How to integrate Pegby into the classroom: Pegby is one of those tools that I get totally geeked out about.  I love the 3×5 note card look, the columns, the tagging, the associated calendar dates.  A recipe for edu-love I tell ya!  Pegby is a great tool for organizing your teacher self this year.  Add ideas for the school year, tasks, lesson plans, to-do items, etc. to your board as cards.  Create columns that make sense to you and organize to your heart’s content!  Want one better?  Share your board with colleagues so that you are all on the same page and can share lessons/resources/task responsibilities.

Older students can keep their school year organized by adding assignments, tasks, uploading work, taking/keeping notes and sharing their board with Pegby.  As students work on and complete tasks, they can move items from one column to the next.  Those unit tests won’t be a problem because they can tag pertinent information and easily study and review tagged information.

Pegby would also be a great tool for organizing research projects (even collaborative research projects).  Students can decide how they want to organize their research and notes, tag information and attach documents.  All of the research is in one place and tagged for easy reference when it comes time to compile the research.  Pegby could be a useful tool for students attending college classes online.

Does your school use standards to keep track of learning?  Why not create columns of Standards headings, and associate each standard with a note card?  Students can upload any files or work associated with the standard.  OR instead of making each column a standard heading, columns can be associated with mastery level of the standard.  As a student moves through levels of mastery, they can move that standard card from one column to the next making stacks out of the standard subject.  Students can keep track of their own learning, share their “Standards” board with teachers and parents.

Is your class collaborating with other classrooms? Create a collaboration board where all involved classes can organize a project together.

For younger students, create a class Pegby that can be accessed on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  The Pegby can be added to and organized as a whole class.  Make Pegby updater one of your classroom jobs that happens first thing every morning.  Each student will have the chance to be in control of the board throughout the year and all students will benefit from observing and helping organize the day.  (Something we don’t model enough for kids in my humble opinion!)

Tips: Pegby does require a verified email account for access!

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

10 Steps to Better Lesson Plans

Posted by admin | Posted in Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 14-10-2010

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Recently, an article that I wrote for The Apple was published: 10 Steps to Better Lesson Plans.  I thought I would share it here and encourage you to check out The Apple for great lesson plans, education news, resources, and even job postings.

This is a repost of the article:

Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com

Master teachers are also master lesson planners. They can look at a learning goal and piece together key components that will ensure that their students meet the goal. Not all lessons need to be a reinvention of the wheel, but there are several hallmarks of well-crafted lesson plans. Whether you are building your own lessons, or searching through databases of lessons, be sure to include these 10 key components:

1. Learning Goal-

Every lesson plan should have a clearly defined learning goal, after all, that is the reason for teaching! I have seen some very inventive lesson plans that lack this important ingredient. No matter how entertaining a lesson may be, if it is lacking a learning goal, it has missed its mark.
There is a day celebrated annually by students all over the country affectionately referred to as Mole Day. Celebrated every year on October 23 (10-23), Mole Day honors Avogardro’s Number (6.02 × 10^23), which is a basic unit of measure in chemistry. There are some fun lesson plans out there for Mole day (and in fact entire websites dedicated to the celebration). Mole day is uniquely celebrated by creating moles (the animal) and creating a diorama that represents a play on the word ‘mole’. For example “guaca-mole” or “Remember the Ala-mole”. Students spend weeks creating their moles and mole puns. But in all the entertainment, does the lesson completely lose its meaning?
What does the mole (the animal) have to do with Avogardro’s Number aside from sharing a name? When the learning goal is lost, so is the learning. When writing and searching lesson plans, make sure you always have a clear learning objective in mind: everything hinges on this.

2. Resources-

List the resources needed for a lesson. Nothing is worse than having the perfect lesson planned only to find that you are missing an important material. Jotting down a list of resources needed for the lesson will ensure that you have all the paper, glue, copies, etc. when the time comes to use them.
Don’t forget to list digital resources as well. Make sure if you are using technology that the websites you intend to use with students aren’t blocked at school. A great lesson you created at home could come to a screeching halt if you can’t access the video you found the night before. Also, be sure to note any of the plug-ins that may be required for a website (Silverlight, Flash, Shockwave, etc.). Often, if you can plan ahead, your tech department can confirm that you have everything in place for your lesson.

3. Standards-

It is important to note any standards being met by the lesson. Most schools are requiring a standard tie in for every lesson. Even if your school doesn’t require that you note which standards you are meeting, it is good practice to be familiar with your state and national standards. You will be surprised how many standards you are meeting in any given lesson. You may also choose to note how a lesson falls into the scope and sequence for yearlong learning.

4. Anticipatory Set-

After the learning goal, the anticipatory set is one of the most important ingredients in a quality lesson plan. The anticipatory set engages your students in the learning that is about to happen. It sets the tone for the lesson and makes students hungry to learn more. Think of the anticipatory set as a movie trailer. The trailer doesn’t tell everything about the movie but provides enough glimpses to leave you wanting more.

When I was in first grade, my teacher planted a UFO made out of cardboard boxes and yogurt containers spray painted silver in the middle of our classroom. All around the UFO were purple play dough “space rocks”. We were immediately engaged and excited about the lesson. We had no idea what we would be learning, but she already had us thinking and questioning. As it turned out, the UFO was introducing a new leveled reader we were going to read together called “My Pet Space Rock”. All these years later I still remember that lesson.

A good anticipatory set activates prior knowledge or encourages students to ask questions. Students learn, by making connections and exploring. Build anticipation for your lesson through props, secret notes from historians or scientists written to your class, a video clip, a song, a short story, or role play. Students love pretend play, so think about how you can get them to use their imagination and pretend as they are learning.

For example, if your students are studying dinosaurs, tell them they are paleontologists going on a dig. Outfit them with field journals and a ‘special’ paleontologist pencils that they can use to take notes. In my classroom, I like to use Wordles to begin my lessons. These are word clouds that you can create at www.wordle.net. I include several “clue” words about what we will be learning and project the Wordle on the whiteboard. As students come into the classroom, they guess what we will be doing based on the Wordle.

This gets students thinking about what they will be learning, activating prior knowledge, and asking questions. It takes 2-3 minutes of guessing before we begin the lesson and it readies students for the learning that will follow. It seems to me that the anticipatory set is the piece most often left out of lesson plans, and it is a shame because it’s what excites students about learning.

5. Introduction-

The introduction of your lesson is a great place to give your students a 30,000 foot view of the lesson. Tell your students what they will be learning (the learning goal) and give them an overview of what will be expected of them during the lesson. During the introduction, you can also begin to activate prior knowledge about the subject. Do this through class discussion, a KWL chart, or through small group or buddy discussion.

6. Direct Instruction-

Direct instruction is the meat of your lesson. This is where you are actually teaching or coaching your students. This can be done in a variety of ways. Sometimes direct instruction is simply giving students directions and guidelines for the self guided, discovery learning they will be completing independently or with a friend. During direct instruction, make sure that you are incorporating different learning styles. I have found that one of the best ways to teach something is through a story. Students may not recall a list of facts about the Civil War, but if you can tell an engaging story about an event from the Civil War that includes pictures and role-playing for students, they will be able to recall significantly more later on.

Humans learn and relate to the world through stories and pictures. When someone mentions September 11th, you likely don’t think about a definition type answer of what happened on that day. What comes to mind are the stories people told, the video, and pictures that you saw. This is how we construct and frame knowledge. As often as you can, teach through stories. This is a difficult task at first, because it requires each of us to become storytellers. The rewards are great and as you compose lesson plans; you too will begin to think in story.

7. Guided Instruction-

Guided instruction is the instruction that happens in small groups or one on one with students. This is the point where students have actually begun a project or assignment. As students work, you can encourage and guide students in their learning. Guided instruction gives you the opportunity to find out what your students know and can do through anecdotal assessment. You are observing and helping or redirecting as needed. Students can pair up in partners or work in small groups to guide each other in new learning or review. During this time, if you notice students who aren’t quite getting it, you can pull them into smaller groups to re-teach.

8. Assessment-

Every lesson should have some form of assessment. This can be formal, informal, or anecdotal in nature.Formal assessment is usually in the form of a test, quiz, worksheet, or project that is turned in and graded. Informal assessment can be done during direct instruction. Asking students to write down their answer on a small whiteboard and hold it up, using clickers with an interactive whiteboard, or a simple “thumbs up if you agree, thumbs down if you disagree”. These are all great informal ways to gauge understanding. Anecdotal assessment is usually done during guided instruction as you are walking around and observing your students understanding. Not every lesson needs to be graded but every lesson does need to be assessed. As the teacher, you need to know if your students understood the learning and what re-teaching or follow-up teaching may be required. Every lesson should include informal and anecdotal assessment throughout the lesson.

9. Closure-

Every lesson should have some type of closure where students can summarize or wrap up their learning.

This could be done in several ways:

  • Through informal class assessment with clickers or thumbs up/down
  • Students could each list something they learned as a ticket to line up for lunch
  • Students could write a sentence in their journal summarizing a lesson
  • Students could whisper the answer to a question to their elbow buddy
  • The class could complete the KWL chart
  • Students could blog about their experience or learning
  • Students can add a piece of learning to a Wall Wisher wall www.wallwisher.comOften times a completed project is adequate closure for students, but don’t let them just turn the project in, let students show off their work to others and discuss.
    10. Differentiated Instruction-
    Students all learn in different ways and at different rates. Make sure that you account for adjustments that may need to be made for students. For example, if you have a student who struggles with reading, and the history lesson for the day requires extensive reading, plan to pair them up with a buddy, make an audio recording, etc. Think about those who will struggle with the learning and make a plan for them.

    Don’t let these rules for lesson planning overwhelm you. After you have written out a few lessons you will be able to start jotting notes down in your lesson planner and still fulfill every one of these key components for a quality lesson plan.

    Lesson planning takes practice, but with a little planning, your students will be learning more effectively and you will know exactly where they need review or additional practice.

    There are thousands and thousands of free lesson plans online. As you are looking through lessons, make sure that they follow these rules. If there is a component missing, add to the lesson and customize it for your classroom.

    For some free lesson plan resources, please check out the article in it’s entirety on The Apple.com, you will find the resources on page 3 of the article.