A big fan of using Google Docs in your classroom? The English department, especially, use it avidly here in Park Ridge to exchange multiple drafts of work between teacher and student. This free Google Drive add-on, called Kaizena (available through the drop-down Add-On menu) allows the teacher to easily mark up student work with 4 different color highlights, add tags and text comments, and even insert voice recorded feedback. All working seamlessly with Google Drive. Email notifications are even available to students to let them know their instructor has provided them with feedback. Kaizena can even store comments and tags for you, so you do not have to retype feedback that is more common among your students. Once the Add-On is installed, it is available directly within the Google Doc through the Add-On menu.
Text 2 Mind Map is a free, online-based outline tool great for concept mapping and pre-writing. It is easy to use, as it organizes hierarchies using tabs/indents in a list, and automatically generating a colorful (and editable graphic). I's even free to grab your final product (into a PDF or JPEG). Some editing features include colors, fonts and "locking" of branches.
By: Tina Bacolas, Supervisor of Instructional Technology
I recently observed a high school science lesson that left me feeling like I had just swished some super-minty Listerine. I was refreshed. I was inspired… so much so, in fact, that I built and entire upcoming PD session around my takeaway from this lesson. I will return to this in just a moment.
One of the best viral YouTube sensations I’ve caught in the past few years, titled “The Difference Between Cats and Dogs”, features a Golden Retriever and its puppy. The puppy stands at the top of a flight of stairs, looking down the seemingly endless slope, not knowing what to do. The parent dog proceeds to walk up and down the stairs relentlessly demonstrating the task. Mom even pauses occasionally, nudging the pup that backtracks a step or two to the landing. After some time, the pup finally makes his way down the stairs guided every single step by mom’s gentle nose. The video then shows a kitten at the top of some basement steps that looks cautiously over the edge, and then to his mother and back at the flight again. He nervously takes a single paw and places it on the first step, only to be shoved from behind by mom’s paw. This results in the kitten tumbling loudly down the stairs.
While this video has nothing to with education, it has everything to do the student-centered learning I saw taking place in that high school science class. On this particular day, these junior and senior physics students were learning about the relationship between force and acceleration. After a very minimal background lesson was disseminated, the teacher pointed out an array of lab equipment available to the students and instructed the lab groups to design an experiment to test this relationship (force and acceleration). No worksheet. No materials list. No lab procedure. Just a goal.
While the students did not look quite as bemused as myself, it was obvious after a few minutes that they were frustrated. Some time passed and ideas began to flow. Students talked about distance of toy cars and stopwatches. They drew diagrams and talked openly, pointing out the need to control certain variables. The conversation was amazing. Being a science person myself, I could tell some of the experiment ideas were way off. However, the conversation was completely focused. The students were problem solving. They were compromising with group mates and considering multiple ideas in a collaborative solution. While the stumped groups received guiding questioning from the circling instructor, groups on the right track received encouraging words.
You see, this teacher is a cat – and, while I am by no means suggesting pushing students down a flight of stairs – this teacher set up a finish line for them and let them grapple. Her student-centered lesson ended in more than just a physics lesson. Student social interactions and critical thinking skills were piqued while they struggled through the task. Far too many teachers are Golden Retrievers too often. It is so difficult for us, educators, to let go of traditional methods and handholding. What we must understand, however, is that while our puppies are getting to the bottom of the stairs, the kittens are arriving with a greater skill base and a deeper learning experience.
The Osmo, a one-of-a-kind set of tangible pieces that work with the camera on any iPad to bring spatial relationships and fine motor skills together with technology.
The Osmo, compromised of three pieces: a base (universal - fits any iPad), letters of two colors (blue and red) and tangram pieces is supplemented by free apps available through iTunes. Three games are currently available:
Each Osmo kit comes with all three pieces (base, word pieces and tangram pieces) and is currently being offered at $59.00/each. Visit www.playosmo.com or @PlayOsmo!
As if the David Rumsey Map Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com/) wasn't cool enough, I am just now discovering the super-neat MapRank feature. This built-in app allows the user to zoom in any region in the world (for example, Baltimore, MD), and view all the maps available in this archive for that region in an easily browse-able column to the right of the search field. Thumbnail previews of the maps, along with dates and other crucial info can also be seen in the list before viewing a full-size map. The list can then be narrowed to a time frame (from 1690 to present) or sorted by a key word/person.
A worthwhile peek for aspiring historians and of course, social studies teachers!
Timetoast.com, a great little 2.0 tool that was launched in April of 2008, eliminates the old-school method of posters and glue! Whether your social studies class is discussing the major events of the US Civil War or your business students are mapping the life of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, this 2.0 tool is sure to please.
Still offered as a free tool (with limited options), TimeToast.com allows users to add an unlimited number of events to their timelines. Each event is abbreviated with a title, picture and date - but when clicked, the event expands to include text and hyperlinks to outside websites!
My only "thumbs down" is to the non-collaborative nature of this tool. The Basic ($5.99/mo) and Pro ($8.99/mo) do offer collaboration, but even this is limited to a set number of users.
I recently discovered EDPuzzle from my Twitter PLN and thought - "wow, this makes me want to be back in the classroom"!
This tool (located at http://edpuzzle.com/) allows you to take educational videos, such as those found within Khan Academy, YouTube, National Geographic, TED (and many more) and alter them to make them your own. In what ways?
What else is great?
This tool is free and allows you to sign-in (required to save) with your Google ID.
With all the recent snow storms and closings here in New Jersey, my mind has been thinking of ways to keep connected to students to avoid fragmented lessons. These EDPuzzle videos are perfect for self-paced learners, replicating a teacher (in case of an absence by the teacher OR the student) and even to "catch up" a single class that was missed due to an assembly or early closing.
What a great tool!
S'more - a website for creating beautiful, media-rich flyers, is revolutionizing the way people "spread the word" about events, sales, and information! This easy-to-use, free platform features drag-and-drop media integration and viewer analysis [number of visitors, tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest]. While the free version of the site offers sufficient capabilities and features for most, businesses and corporations can choose to upgrade to a paid plan for increased month email maximums, personalized URL addresses for flyers, elimination of S'more branding, email tracking, and more! Visit www.smore.com to see examples of trending flyers and for a free registration!
Supervisor of Instructional Technology, Park Ridge High School