Tag Archives: Education

20 Online Tools to Make Learning Fun

by Karen Schweitzer

Looking for a great way to engage and stimulate students in even the most tedious subjects? There are many online tools, games, activities, learning aids, and even web apps designed to make learning fun. Here is a list of 20 sites to try when the new school year begins:

Games and Activities

History Detective Kids – Based on PBS’ History Detective television show, this site encourages children between the ages of 8 and 12 to use critical thinking, problem solving, and dramatic play while digging through the past.

Funbrain – Funbrain hosts dozens of interactive educational games for children. This site covers most subjects and features web books, comics, and movies.

Math Is Fun – Math Is Fun is intended to make studying geometry, algebra, data, money, and measurements more enjoyable. This site also offers puzzles, games, and worksheets.

Brain POP – This interactive educational site offers games for a wide variety of subjects and grades. Brain POP also offers entertaining and creative way to explain difficult subjects to students.

Kerpoof – Kerpoof is an educational game site provided by the Walt Disney Corporation. This interactive site was created to help kids discover, learn, and be creative.

Discovery Dinosaur – This Discovery Channel site offers several interactive learning games, including the Dino Viewer. This handy interactive tool allows you to view facts and descriptions and watch movement.

Geography Action – Geography Action from National Geographic offers several interactive mapping games that allow children to view and map the world.

NASA – This NASA educational site offers a wide range of interactive games and activities for math, engineering, science, and technology.

Funschool – Funschool provides games primarily for elementary children. Games are interactive and cover an assortment of subjects.

PlayKidsGames.com – This site provides fun, interactive games for K-6 graders. Games cover math, vocabulary, spelling, computer, and other problem solving skills.

Learning Aids

Shmoop – Shmoop is a study guide site for U.S. history, literature, poetry, and writing. The site tries to make literature and other subjects more enjoyable by providing easy-to-read study guides and book summaries.

FREE – This teaching resource site from the federal government offers an array of educational resources, including animations, primary documents, photos, and videos.

Sparknotes – Although this site was created primarily for seniors and college students, Sparknotes does provide a wide range of resources for younger students. The most useful resources include study and literature guides, test prep materials, and a grammar guide.

The Stacks – This Scholastic site encourages children to read with book clubs, book chats, games, quizzes, and much more.

Slideshare – Slideshare makes it easy to upload presentations and documents to the web. This site is a great place to find information or just have students share ideas and connect with others.

Web Apps

Empressr – Empressr is a free multimedia tool for creating presentations. This app allows you to add music, video, pictures, and audio to each presentation.

Mindomo – This free brainstorming app stimulates creative thinking. Mindomo also makes it easy to organize your wild ideas into streamlined mind maps.

Altas – Altas is a great Twitter app that maps tweeters around the globe. This is a fun, interactive way to encourage students to learn geography and culture.

Whiteboard – This writing web app allows students to collaborate with others in real time. Whiteboard makes it easy to write, collaborate, and share work.

OuTwit Me – Outwit Me is a Twitter app with fun, challenging games, including storyteller, crack the code, and guess word.

This is a guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the author of the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about accredited online colleges for OnlineCollege.org.

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Filed under Apps, Classroom, Education, Instruction, Technology

21st Century Students need 21st Century Teachers

I’m recycling a couple of videos that I have posted in the past, mostly because I believe that they’re worth watching again.  These videos – the original higher ed version of “A Vision of Students Today” by Mike Wesch, the spin-off , called “A Vision of K-12 Students Today”, and “The Networked Student”, created by Wendy Drexler‘s high school students  – bring to mind many thoughts that I find both challenging and encouraging.  Hopefully you will, too.

Students are moving forward, in terms of technology, and they are finding limitless opportunities to explore and create on-line.  Are we making sure that we teach them how to do this wisely?  Are we building on these innate interests and talents?  Are we harnessing the power of technology to optimize their educational experience?

A Vision of Students Today (higher-ed)

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

Networked Student (by students)

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Filed under Classroom, Classroom Culture, Education, Education 3.0, Higher Ed, Instruction, Technology, Web 2.0

A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter

Twitter is apart of my life almost every day because:
–    It’s a great source of news.
–    There are rich conversations among educators and edtech people.
–    People post entertaining, interesting, and very useful links.
–    I enjoy the easy interaction with others from around the world.

Most people start off in a rocky relationship with Twitter.  It doesn’t seem to be as easy or as useful as everyone has said, it takes awhile before you find your niche, and there is an overwhelming amount of information to deal with.  But, just hang on – it’ll be worth it!!!  This is a guide to help teachers, or anyone for that matter, have a smoother and more enjoyable experience.  It is, by no means, the most comprehensive list of tips but hopefully it’ll be helpful.  If you need a little more convincing that Twitter is amazing, check out Mark Marshall‘s post “Twitter – What is it and Why Would I Use it?”

Getting Started

  • Your picture: you should definitely have some sort of picture – people seem to respond better to actual photos, but avatars, cartoons, or logos are fine, too.
  • Your bio: it is very helpful to include keywords here because often, when someone is deciding whether to follow you or not, this is where they’ll get their “first impression” of you.  And, Twitter Grader scans bios for keywords for their ‘search’ feature.
  • Your URL: this is important! People will want to know more about you than your bio and what you tweet.  Even if you don’t have a blog or website, you could post a link to your school’s website or another account you have, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Classroom2.0.

Managing your Life on Twitter

Finding People to Follow

This can be the biggest challenge at first.  Not anymore!  Here are some great ways to do it:

Not Getting Overwhelmed

You’ll hear people talking about the Twitter “stream”.  This is derived from a beautiful metaphor in which the tweets people send out can be considered drops of water in a stream.  You’re standing on the bank, enjoying the stream as it passes, but you can’t worry about enjoyoing every drop of water that’s there.  Don’t worry about the tweets you missed – I promise that there are always, currently, very interesting things to read.  But – it is nice to catch up sometimes by browsing old tweets on peoples’ profile pages.

Tweeting

You’re limited to 140 characters, but this seems to do the trick.  Here are a couple of links to help with your tweets:

  • TinyURL – if you want to tweet a link, but it’s very long, this will shorten it to 25 characters.
  • Bit.ly – this also shortens a link, and it allows you to specify part of the new URL.  If you sign up for an account, you can track how many clicks your shortened URLs get.
  • TwitterSymbols – fun symbols you can insert into your tweets.

Other Ins and Outs

@replies

If you start a tweet with @(username), this will automatically land in that person’s “@replies” folder.  You’ll notice that if you reply to something someone said, your message will automatically start with this “address”.  These tweets will show up in your friends’ tweet-streams only if they have chosen to see @replies – you can change the settings for this.

DM

This stands for Direct Messages.  These are private messages that most people choose to use to introduce themselves or to bring an elongated “@reply conversation” over to a more appropriate venue.  You can DM someone from your DM folder or from the sidebar of their profile page, but only if they are following you.

RT

This stands for ReTweet.  If you want to share what someone else tweeted, it is only polite to give them credit by including “RT @(username)” somewhere in your message.

“Following” Etiquette [more on this topic in the ‘comments’!]

Some people say that it is polite to follow anyone who follows you, others choose to follow very small, select groups.   I have found a happy balance by following *most* people, but having select groups of people that I really don’t want to miss out on in my Tweetdeck.   There are probably only two types of people that I avoid following:

•   Those who only write mundane, one line messages, like “This coffee is good”.  I want to be able to  have conversations with people.
•    Marketers – there are a ton of marketers on Twitter.   Be wary of someone who’s following 5,000 but only has 18 followers.  Sometimes they’re worth following because they are actually interesting, but do not feel obligated to follow them if they are not.  I find it’s best not to clog up my Tweet-stream with advertisements.

My Favorite Twitter-related Tools

*note: some of these require you to enter your Twitter username and password – I cannot guarantee their security, but I’ll say that I’ve used all of these and have never had any problems (yet…)

  • Searching Twitter: Tweetscan – & Twitter Search
  • What’s hot on Twitter: Twitscoop
  • Who’s hot on Twitter:  Retweetist
  • Cool Stats about your account: TweetStats & Twitter Counter
  • Who’s following you compared to who you’re following: Twitter Karma & Friend or Follow
  • Make a poll to tweet: TwtPoll
  • Tweetdeck –  This is a free download that gives you a separate window (your Tweetdeck) that has multiple columns to display tweets concurrently – with a live-feed, too!.  You can choose their content – personalized groups, an entire column just for your DM’s or @replies.  I like to keep it in the background of my computer-work all day.
  • Twistori – live-feed for tweets that include “love”, “hate”, “think”, “feel”, “believe”, or “wish” – the result could be called art.
  • TwitterMosaic – Create a mosaic with pics of all of your Twitter friends – put it on your blog, or a coffee mug, or a t-shirt.

Useful Links regarding Twitter

Christine Morris put Twitter to use in her class for some real-time research and shares the experience and great tips here.

Here is an extensive and helpful list of ‘100 Tips, Apps and Resources for Teachers on Twitter’.

Twitter for Academia

**21 (and counting) Interesting Ways to use Twitter in the Classroom**

Nine Reasons to Twitter in Schools

Twitdom –  a Twitter application database, with over 300 tools to play with!
TwitTip –  a blog bursting with Twitter tips
Twitter’s Blog – enough said

@butwait has a ‘Twitter for Newbies’ page here, with TONS of resources.

If you’d like to follow me, click here.

And, if you’d rather read this guide in Portuguese, see Rodrigo Vieira Ribeiro’s blog!

Happy Tweeting!

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Filed under Apps, Education 3.0, Instruction, Technology, Web 2.0

Using Weebly to build your Classroom Website

Here’s a follow-up to an earlier Weebly post:

There have been increasing numbers of educators who find that a classroom website is a good way to stay organized.  Here are some basic, very useful functions:

  • Announcements
  • Class Calendar
  • Homework Assignments
  • Supply Lists
  • Pictures
  • Post Student Work
  • Parent Involvement/Volunteer Opportunities
  • Classroom Rules and Policies
  • Links
  • Your Bio and Contact Info

A website is more informative, while a blog, ning or wiki is more interactive because they allow students to contribute.  I actually suggest having both.  But because blogs, nings and wikis require constant maintenance, it’s nice to have a website that is super-easy to build and edit.

I suggest using Weebly for this.  It’s free and extremely user-friendly.

Weebly_Ed

Here are some classroom websites built on Weebly:

If you have a Weebly website, or plan to get one, please share your URL in the comments!

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Filed under Apps, Classroom, Classroom Culture, Education, Technology

Bloom’s Taxonomy 2.0

Over the few months that I’ve been blogging, my post on Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy has been the biggest hit.  And, what interests my readers interests me.  Here’s more on the subject:

Probably every classroom teacher in this country has at least come across Bloom’s Taxonomy at some point.  Most of us can recite the ‘level’s by heart, in order from lowest- to highest-order thinking:

Knowledge –> Comprehension –> Application –> Analysis –> Synthesis –> Evaluation

We’ve come to associate certain action words, activities, and types of questions with each level, and we know that the higher the level, the more challenging the approach.  It ‘s helpful to think about where your content falls on this scale.  I must admit that I referred to my laminated ‘Bloom’s Chart’ almost daily during my first year – because it was useful, but also because I couldn’t quite remember it.  Something about it didn’t seem to stick – it seemed contrived, a little archaic, and not very user-friendly.

Enter: Bloom’s revised Taxonomy, ca. 2001, by Lorin Anderson.  From Mary Forehand’s article on Bloom’s Taxonomy:

During the 1990’s, a former student of Bloom’s, Lorin Anderson, led a new assembly which met for the purpose of updating the taxonomy, hoping to add relevance for 21st century students and teachers. This time “representatives of three groups [were present]: cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists and instructional researchers, and testing and assessment specialists”… Like the original group, they were also arduous and diligent in their pursuit of learning, spending six years to finalize their work.

Let’s look at the original and the revised versions side-by-side:

Bloom's - Original and Revised

“The graphic is a representation of the NEW verbage associated with the long familiar Bloom’s Taxonomy. Note the change from Nouns to Verbs [e.g., Application to Applying] to describe the different levels of the taxonomy. Note that the top two levels are essentially exchanged from the Old to the New version.” (Schultz, 2005)

6 years to change nouns into verbs and to flip two levels??  I guess Bloom had it almost just right.  Despite the parsimonious revision, the new taxonomy makes alot more sense to me.  It also seems to make alot of sense to Andrew Churches.  If I was still in the classroom, I would definitely toss out my old ‘Bloom’s chart’ and replace it with this:

Churches_Blooms_chart

Notice that the yellow box contains 21st-century-type/web 2.0 skills!  Churches takes the taxonomy and almost completely updates it again – providing digital verbage that you can easily apply in your classroom.  If you’re a forward-thinking instructor and you’re interested in integrating more technology into your instruction, check out ANDREW CHURCHES’ entire paper – BLOOM’S DIGITAL TAXONOMY – here.  He gives great, concrete examples of how to apply these ideas, he lists many free resources that can be used, and he has tons of rubrics for different activities that address the different levels.  Fun read!  Makes me think again about my retirement from teaching…

Do you use the old Bloom’s or the Revised Bloom’s?

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Filed under Classroom, Curriculum, Education, Education 3.0, Instruction, K-12 Curriculum, Technology, Web 2.0

Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education – only time will tell

arneduncan_08

With only 3 days left before our country celebrates the beginning of Obama’s presidency, different groups of people are  thinking really hard about what changes will take place.  We all know that the majority of us liked what Obama was saying, but what about his cabinet?  Most prominent on my mind, and likely yours – what’s the deal with Arne Duncan, our soon-to-be Secretary of Education?  His words sound promising, but only time will tell:

While reading Steve Hargadon’s blog, I learned that Duncan will hold a round-table discussion with 12 teachers on January 21 to discuss their thoughts on the following 5 questions:

1. What is the one most important education issue you wish Secretary Duncan to focus on during his tenure and why?
2. How shall the tenets of the No Child Left Behind act be altered or invigorated? What are its positives? How can its negatives be improved?
3. How should the new administration respond to the nation’s need for better prepared and more qualified teachers?
4.What should the new administration do to increase student engagement in mathematics, the sciences and the arts?
5. How should funding equity issues be addressed?

Hargadon has started a new Ning called ‘Future of Education’ where you can join in the discussion about how you would answer these questions.  One of the teachers selected to chat with Duncan, Carol Broos, is asking for feedback and ideas before the 21st – here’s your chance to speak up!

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Filed under Education, Legislation

The Beauty of Personal Learning Networks

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve already begun building your personal learning network.

Here is a clever video called The Networked Student about how students are doing it these days, and how this new approach to learning will enhance their 21st century skills.  Highlights include using iPods to listen to college lectures posted on iTunesU and videoconferencing with experts for research projects.  It was created by Wendy Drexler‘s high school students (!), inspired by a course on Connectivism offered by Stephen Downes and George Siemens this fall.

It sums up the role of the teacher as this: a learning architect, a modeler, learning concierge, connected learning incubator, network sherpa, synthesizer, and a change agent.  Educators will be solely enablers of searching and discovering, creating life-long learners who will be invested in their own learning.  Every small step you take in your classroom to encourage exploration and collaboration brings us all one step closer to this goal.

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Filed under Classroom, Classroom Culture, Education, Education 3.0, Instruction, Technology, Web 2.0