Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interactive PPT's for Elementary Teachers!

ATTENTION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS!

I have a great resource for you! Pete's Power Point Station is a great site for you to download interactive PowerPoints for your elementary students! It includes PPT's on science, history, math, language arts, geography, and games! There are literally hundreds of PPT's that are already created, that you can download and use for your classroom today!

Just for kicks, I wanted to relive my elementary school days and chose the painful topic of "Grammar." When I looked at the PPT's available, there were over 20 on sentence structure, using commas, capitalization, etc. When I looked through several of the PPT's, I felt depressed. If only this resource was around when I was in elementary school!

Happy hunting!

You may want to also check out this hilarious video by Don McMillan called "Life After Death By PowerPoint!"


Monday, May 21, 2012

Great Ideas Come From Others

This past weekend, I was privileged to teach a graduate course containing teachers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and soon to be Virginia. I was really excited to have the chance to have learned some ideas from them! Here are some gems that I learned:

  • Have you ever needed to keep multiple words together in Wordle and they split apart once you create it? Simply placing a ~ in between each word keeps them together. For example, if I wanted to keep the phrase Universal Design for Learning together, I would write it as Universal~Design~For~Learning. 
  • A new idea for blogging! Why not put your essential questions, key questions, or whatever you call them...on a blog for students and parents to see each day? As an assessment, students could reply back to the post. 
  • Need a temporary email address for your students to create a username and password for another site? Mailinator and Tempinbox may be good alternatives. 
  • I love Ted Talks, but I never realized that there was an educational version called Ted-Ed or "Lessons Worth Sharing." This site has a lot of cool bells and whistles that you may want to see if you can use in your classroom. 
  • Do you want a free version of SMART Notebook? SMART allows you to download the second most recent version of the software for free. This may be a good alternative for cash-strapped districts, who want to use technology, but are concerned about how to pay for it. 

Do you have any gems or ideas worth sharing? Feel free to comment below! 

Matt

Monday, May 14, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog....

How do you feel about blogging in the classroom? Depending on the teacher, you may see it as a good thing or a bad thing. If you think its a good thing, you are reading this blog! If you think its a bad thing, then you aren't reading this at all!

As a form of electronic communication, blogging has many uses in today's classroom. Take for instance one 5th grade teacher that I know. She uses blogging as a way for her students to write about historical events from the perspective of historical figures. One of her students wrote a series of entries about Paul Revere and his midnight ride. As a culminating activity, her students read postings by other classmates and posted comments. It was a great way for her students to connect history and technology.

Due to privacy, many of us stray from doing things like this. We worry that our kids information may not be protected. What are some ways to protect their information? One great blogging site for kids is called Kidblog. This is a safe way for your students to blog in a secure online community. Kidblog allows you to create an online classroom, where students can post and respond to information, only if they belong to your class.

Maybe you don't want a blog per say, but you like the idea of getting your kids to write. I often use a social network called Edmodo for my students to complete a "Do-Now" or ice breaker. It's a great way for students to respond and post to a particular question aimed at activating prior knowledge. I will often have my kids write for the first 5 minutes. After everyone has posted, I will have my students briefly discuss with a partner what they have written. Then we discuss as a whole group.

No matter how you use blogging or the idea of blogging, it will benefit your students. They are using this form of communication everyday, so why not try to use it yourself?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No Cell Phone? No Problem!

Cell phones are not allowed in school! We see it over and over and over and... Yes, our students are still using their cell phones in school whether we are looking at not. Kids wear their hooded sweatshirts to hide phones in their pockets. They hide their phones under their books, in their purses, and even their book bags. Some schools are even raising the white flag and saying that they are allowed. 

Leave it to our students to be creative and find a loophole! Many people worry about how our country will regain its status as one of the most powerful countries in the world. Well, maybe if our kids grow up to be as creative as they are when solving problems about using their....cell phones....maybe we'll be ok! 

The fact is that our students are still using their cell phones without using cell phones! They are texting via websites like:
Simply type in the phone number of your choice, leave your email address, and type a message.  What other sneaky technology tools are you seeing? 

Leave comments below: 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Interactive Directions?

When you give instructions, what is the first thing that you do? You explain everything, provide examples, ask if there are any questions...and....then you realize that there were 3 kids who weren't there that day. The next day one of your three students is still missing. You realize that 8 of your students have no idea how to complete a certain portion of the assignment and your other 20 students have a pretty good grasp on the material. The story goes on and on. The scenarios are endless.

I thought about this the other day. How can I provide directions that reach all students and not leave a few out in the dark? How can I provide the supports I need from the beginning and not make adjustments when they arise (regardless of the scenario or situation)? This is the Universal Design for Learning approach to giving directions, taking ALL learners into consideration from the start when designing a lesson.

I decided to take a different approach to giving out directions and combined LiveBinders and Screencast-o-Matic to accomplish the task. This may sound very difficult, but this is what I did.


  • I created a LiveBinder with 2 tabs. In one tab, I provided a PDF copy of my directions. 
  • In my second tab, I used Screencast-o-Matic to provide short video clips / tutorials of information my students needed to know for the assignment. 
  • See my sample directions here!
This was a great way to provide supports for the students that needed it and allowing the students who had a good grasp on material, the ability to work ahead. My role has shifted from sounding like a broken record (isn't it sad that our kids have no idea what this expression means?) to providing them with the content that they need. I am able to teach instead of repeat! In a sense, we are creating interactive directions!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Get Organized with Wunderlist

What is springtime like for you? Many of us use it as an opportunity to "spring clean" and get organized. It's a time to get our lives together and our cabinets organized. What about your schedule and task list? It's during this time of year that schools are winding down and teachers are starting to think ahead for next year. Why not keep a list of your plans / tasks on your iPhone, Droid, iPad, or laptop? 

Wunderlist is a great site out of Berlin, which allows you to do exactly that. If you sign up for an account, you can sync you "to-do" list between your phone, computer and iPad. I really like that you can divide your list into categories. For instance, I like to come up with a list to do "Today," "This Week," and "This Month." 

Wunderlist gives you an opportunity to "filter" your lists or see them all together. Like many task list sites out there, it allows you to even "star" important tasks and see tasks that you have completed.


However you use it, it may be a great way to help you stay organized and save those post-it notes for something else!