Sunday, October 23, 2016

HOW You Use Video Makes ALL of the Difference

Do you have students watch videos for class? Are you flipping your classroom? I love using the power of video, but have you ever thought about the potential barriers students might face when watching videos?

Here are a few things to think about:

  • How would a student with hearing difficulties listen to your video? 
  • How will non-visual learners access information? 
  • How will students without Internet access or devices access your videos outside of school? 
If we don't think about these things, we create unintentional learning barriers for our students. Here are a few tips for utilizing an important medium like video, while still providing access to all learners:

1. Where you post makes all of the difference. Are you using YouTube to post your videos? If not, you may want to consider using this powerful tool. Why? The automatic Closed-Captioning feature provides access to students with hearing difficulties or who need to see the words.

2. If you cannot use YouTube, have you considered putting together an outline with key ideas or a transcript of what was said? 

3. How will students access your videos if they do not have Internet access? In the technology era, it is often a requirement that students have access to the Internet; however, many families still cannot afford devices or access. 
  • It may be helpful to help students come up with a gameplan on where they can go if an assignment requires a device and Internet access, such as computer labs, public libraries, or a friend's house.  Even if students have access to WiFi, what happens if it goes out? I would recommend having a backup plan in place for ALL students!
  • Students may have a device, but no access to Internet. In this case, are you able to put your video on a flash drive that the student can borrow? 
  • Is there a way for students to borrow devices? Do you have access to old iPods, cell phones, or laptops that students could use for the night?  

It is important to think about these high-probability barriers before they happen so that you have a gameplan in place for students to spend more time on learning.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Are You Still Playing "Not-It"? Why Not Chwazi?

I am always looking for unique classroom management tools that take a new spin on old practices. Having trouble deciding who will share their analysis of an article? Trying to decide who will present your group's findings to the class? Whatever the dilemma,  Chwazi  makes random group selection fun.

This iOS and Android App is known as the "finger chooser" and is very simple to use.  There are two different features

  •  Fingers  is a very helpful feature to randomly select one person. Choose the number of people that will be selected (from 1 to 4), place one of your fingers on the screen, and the randomly selected finger(s) will be highlighted on the screen. 

  • Groups is a helpful feature for creating random groups. Choose the number of groups and people within the group, everyone places their fingers on the screen, and random groups will appear highlighted in different colors the screen.


Chwazi can be an excellent tool for any classroom and any grade level, where small group work and collaboration takes place. It keeps everyone accountable and randomly selects students. Instead of playing "not it," why not try Chwazi? 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

7 Reasons Why You Need to Use PBS Election Central

We are less than a month away from the Presidential Election in the United States. Regardless of who you are or are not voting for, there are many great tools to help our students understand the entire process. PBS Election Central is an excellent resource to understand the entire election process, providing engaging resources to foster learning and debate.

Here are seven reasons why you should be using this awesome tool!

1. Election Collection

The Election Collection is a comprehensive set of resources describing why we have elections, how democracy works, and the foundations of the US Government.

2. The Election Process

Have you ever wondered how Presidents get elected or how the election process works?  The Election Process provides a set of PBS Learning Media videos and resources describing the process in user-friendly language and terms.

3. Understand the Presidential Debates

How do Presidential Debates work? Check out the Understanding Presidential Debates section for lesson plans, videos, and other resources to help students understand the importance of debates.

There is even another section that contains a Debate Toolkit, where you can facilitate your own classroom debates.  This is a powerful way for students to learn the power of civil and meaningful student-led discussion.

4. We The Voters Films

PBS partnered with We The Voters to create a series of short-films, handouts, and lesson plans to provide a non-partisan understanding of the election process, debates, democracy and government for students in grades 8 - 12.

5. The Electoral Decoder

The Electoral Decoder will take you inside every single Presidential Election and help you understand the Electoral College and its impact on the Presidency. This is an excellent analysis tool that highlights an often overlooked component of the US Electoral process.

Not sure how the process works? There is a helpful set of resources that explain the process.

6. Interactive Map

The Interactive Map provides you with information about each of the candidates, when and where they are campaigning, information about the event, information about the state they are campaigning in, and interactive resources. Follow each candidate from now until November!

The Virtual Field Trips section gives your students an opportunity to see important places related to the Presidency like Monticello, Mount Vernon, The US Capitol Building, and the Congressional Record.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

More Than News! The New York Times Learning Network

Finding useful resources to engage students is one of the biggest challenges many educators face. The New York Times Learning Network could provide teachers with valuable lesson plan resources, student activities, relevant articles, stimulating current events, and much more!

Student Activities:

The New York Times Learning Network is filled with student resources, such as articles, writing prompts, multimedia, and contests. There are several different types of materials for students to use in the learning process, such as the Article of the Day and Teenagers in the News. The Writing Prompts section provides students with numerous options for starting the writing process, such as student opinions and picture prompts! One of the best ways to get students writing is to provide them with real-world audiences. The Contest section contains a calendar of opportunities for students to compete in writing contests and more!

Lesson Plans:

Need lesson plan ideas? The New York Times Learning Network combines the power of news / current events and lesson plans in Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science, ELL and the Arts, and Current Events. The NYT Learning Network designs lesson plans and provides ideas, activities, and resources to tie together current events with your subject area!

Why is Engagement Important? 

Engagement is not only the fuel necessary for learning to occur, but it is also one of the most sensitive elements in the learning process. Brain research is crystal clear in how educators can foster higher levels of engagement in their classrooms. First, we need to recruit student interest and find relevant topics, resources, and tools for learning. Secondly, we need to provide strategies, tools, and routines to help students sustain their effort and increase persistence. Finally, we need to help our students develop necessary self-regulation strategies such as developing coping strategies and reflecting on learning.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Transform Learning Inside and Outside of the Classroom with SeeSaw

Do you give your students options for showcasing their understanding? We know from brain research that the way we learn is as different as our DNA; therefore, providing options for demonstrating understanding is critical in the learning process. SeeSaw is a free digital portfolio too to give students the ability to express their knowledge in different ways through written text, drawings, images, video and web links.

What I Like

There are several things that I like about SeeSaw:

  • It is easy to use and makes it the perfect tool for elementary classrooms.
  • Students can annotate, record, and capture images directly in the App.
  • SeeSaw is available on multiple platforms, which makes it perfect for any school environment. 
  • Teachers have control over what is posted, including student and parent comments.
  • Teachers can give access to parents to see their child's work. Recently, my son's teacher gave me access to his SeeSaw account. I am able to hear him read stories and share what he is learning when he is learning!

How Can I Use It?

SeeSaw is easy to incorporate into any classroom, which gives you many different options. Here are a few ideas:

  • Blog - Have students share what they learned in class through a blog entry, video recording, or a picture. Once students have posted content, have classmates learn how to use comments to comment on their classmate's work. Encourage parents to participate too!
  • Solve Problems - Have students take a picture of math problems or grammar practice and solve using the annotation and video recording features. This provides you with the perfect way to understand their thinking. 
  •  Practice Reading - Have students use the video and audio recording features to practice reading their favorite book, poem, or something that they have written. This provides you with an excellent progress monitoring resource as well. 
  • Share Announcements - My son's teacher often shares what's going on in class through a 30 - 60 second video on SeeSaw. I love hearing about what is happening!  

There are so many other ways to use SeeSaw, but I highly recommend that you check it out! It can be the perfect tool in the elementary classroom for teachers, students, and even parents.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Give Your Students a Voice, One Dot at a Time

Each one of us makes daily decisions that impact the lives of others. How often do you take the time to have students and colleagues vote or share a voice in how decisions are made? Although this can be time consuming, Dotstorming is a tool, much like Padlet, where participants can add ideas, share opinions, and vote through dots. 

Step 1: Create Your First Dotstorming Board

First, you will need to create your first Dotstorming topic by providing the title of the topic, a description, how many votes (or dots used to cast votes) you would like each person to have, and how do you want to share your board (via a link or email). 

Step 2: Share Your Topic

Next, you will want to share your Dotstorming topic with others through a link or via email. As with other collaborative sties, participants do not have to have an account to participate. 

Step 3: Add Your Ideas

Then, you will want to add your ideas in the form of text, images, and videos. There are tons of was that you can use this tool, such as:

  • Determining topics to cover in class or professional development
  • Which resources to share at your next faculty meeting
  • Plan your next unit with colleagues
  • Have your students or colleagues give feedback on what worked and what didn't
  • Have your students use this as a project-based learning workspace

Step 4: Vote

Last but certainly not least, you will want to have participants vote on your topic. Simply click on the idea you like to place a "dot" or cast a vote.


Humans are naturally wired to want to have choice; however, we often struggle with how to give options and receive quality feedback. Allowing others to have a voice is the perfect way to create engaging and collaborative environments, where everyone has an opportunity to share and be heard. Dotstorming is the perfect tool to get the feedback that you desire. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

3 Reasons Why You Should Use PBS Learning Media

What if you had access to thousands of free and engaging digital resources that are aligned to academic standards? What if you had access to tools to make your job easier? What if you had access to tools that provide students with engaging and customized learning experiences? You and your students can with resources from PBS LearningMedia.

Here are three reasons why you should be using PBS LearningMedia:

Access to over 100,000 videos, images, interactives, and lesson plans for every grade level and subject area. Resources are aligned to national and Common Core academic standards.

Tools to make your job easier! PBS LearningMedia provides tools to increase your productivity, such as Lesson Builder, Storyboard and Quiz Maker. Teachers can create customized and self-paced lessons for students to effectively learn content. Students can use the Storyboard to demonstrate their understanding of a concept in their own way. Each resource can help you create customized and effective lessons for all students to learn.

Access to a larger community of educators, who are committed to helping ALL children succeed. It is the perfect place to connect, whether you are looking for a webinar to use digital tools more effectively or want to connect with other educators in your subject area.