Using Google Hangouts in the Classroom

I’ve written before about the amazing potential of Google Hangouts in classrooms. Last week, however, I was actually able to experience that “awesomeness” first hand.

My students were able to take part in a Google Hangout with our Congressman, who was in Washington DC at the time. Students were able to ask our Congressman basically any question they could think of. We discussed everything from the Congressman’s views on the use of drones and same-sex marriage to his favorite movie and baseball team.

My students and I truly enjoyed this activity. In class, we identified the elected individuals that represent us in Congress. This Google Hangout was a gUsingreat way to not only connect students to their elected representatives, but also to bring life to the names we discussed in class.

Our Congressman was very clear to point out to my students that they should never feel intimidated, or that they are too young to contact their elected representatives, and that they should take advantage of new avenues, such as social media, to get involved.

My students were also thrilled that we were able to take a selfie with our Congressman :)

This event, especially at the end of the school year, was a great way to engage students in content related activity that was…fun! I hope to make this a tradition in my classroom.

As we ended our Hangout, I asked my students if they could think of anyone else they’d like to “Hangout” with. The top response was, “President Obama!!”

Of course, I told my students that a Hangout with the President of the United States is most likely not going to happen.

However, I do plan to contact the President. After all, the worst he can say is no!

We would also love to connect with similar classrooms throughout the United States, as well as in England.

If you know of a classroom that would like to participate in a Google Hangout with my classes, please let me know in the comments or email me at bjfink1s@gmail.com!

Let’s use technology to shrink the world!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks for reading :)

OUTDOOR GEAR

 

Find Great Educational Technology Tools with Ednak

The school year is coming to a close! We have just shy of three weeks remaining…how about you?

EdnakSummer is rapidly approaching, and as we all know, teachers DO NOT take the summer off! We are constantly updating curriculum, researching new teaching methods, and finding cool tools to increase engagement in our classrooms.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an EdTech GEM, Ednak.

Ednak includes dozens upon dozens of amazing educational technology tools, complete with instructions and ideas for using the tools.

Ednak is incredibly organized, breaking down tools by a variety of different categories. Learning Management System, Collaboration Tools, Content Tools, Mobile Learning tools, and so much MORE!

Ednak is so simple to navigate and 100% FREE! Teachers can create an account and can then curate and share tools.

Add Ednak to your summer “to-do” list and find awesome tools for your students!

Thanks for reading :)

Google Classroom Saved the Day!

If you’ve read my previous posts about Google Classroom, you might find today’s post extremely surprising.

It’s no secret, especially around my building, that I have not been 100% happy with Google Classroom this year.

How Google Classroom Saved the Day (1)Yes, I know Classroom is in it’s infancy, and yes I know bugs and kinks are still being worked out.

Today, however Google Classroom saved the day.

Here’s what happened.

I was treated to a wonderful, long (and free) lunch today…it was fantastic! However, I had fully planned to be back in time for my next class period.

I didn’t make it back in time.

As we were finishing our lunch, I was beginning to panic. Not panicking enough to skip dessert, but panicking nonetheless.

My Chromebook was at school, as were my Macbook and my iPad. The only technology I had on my person was my cell phone.

Thank goodness for cloud storage and Google Classroom!

I was able to quickly download the Google Classroom app to my smartphone, sign in to my account, tap a few buttons and voila, the assignment was on its way to my students as they were entering the classroom.

To say that I was relieved would be a slight understatement :)

My students received their study guide for their massive dual credit Western Civilizations final, and I got to finish my steak and eat my delicious frozen custard dessert.

Crisis averted, thanks to cell phones and Google Classroom.

While I would love Google Classroom to add new features, and I’m sure they will…come on, it’s Google…I’m very happy with this document management system.

Especially now that Classroom has FINALLY added a Co-Teacher option! How great is that?

Happy Friday!

Thanks for reading :)

Online Tools to Help Teachers Teach the Writing Process-Guest Post

Happy Friday!

I am so excited for you to read the second guest post presented by Teaching with Technology. Online tutor, Robert Morris, has created a list of great tools to help teachers teach the writing process.

Without further adieu…

Online Tools that Help Teachers Teach Essay Writing as a Process

When you expect your students to complete essays and other types of papers, you have a responsibility to guide

them through the different stages of the process until they become a natural part of their routines. Many educators

neglect this duty and leave their students with an impossible burden.

If you are wondering how you can help your students improve their essay writing skills, you should consider

breaking up the process in different stages. There are online tools that will support you along the way.

I. Pre-Writing Stage

Before your students can start working on their assignments, they need to come up with a plan. The following tools will stimulate the process of brainstorming and outlining:

1. Imagination Prompt Generator provides random writing prompts that can get the writers’ creative juices flowing. You don’t have to assign specific topics all the time; enable your students to take some inspiration from this tool once in a while.

2. Storybird is a digital storytelling platform. Before you ask your students to write an actual essay, you should allow them to go through the inspiring stage of storytelling. Then, they can use that visual story as a base for their papers.

3. Mind42 is a simple, fast, and free mind mapping tool that will make the stage of brainstorming more productive. Most of your students are inspired by visual content, so they will get better ideas if you encourage them to create their own mind maps.

4. Bubbl.us is another brainstorming and mind mapping tool, which is especially appealing to younger students. They can create colorful mind maps and share them with the class to get feedback and more

II. Writing and Editing Stage

Once your students have a strong base of ideas, they are ready to tackle the writing process. Of course, they will still need your guidance, so you can suggest some of the most effective tools they can use for inspiration, writing

1. Write My Essay is a tool that can help you bring the process of academic writing closer to your students. You can get a paper written by a professional author and show it as an exemplar model of the structure each writer should aim for.

2. Google Docs is an effective writing platform that will prevent cases of lost content. Your students will forget to save the text continuously on MS Word, so they can easily end up with a deleted document after hours of hard work. If they write on Google Docs, their papers will be saved automatically.

3. TitanPad is a collaborative platform that makes team projects more fun than ever. The members of the team can work on a single document simultaneously and benefit from each other’s ideas. The contributions of all authors will be recognizable with distinctive highlights.

III. Tools for sharing and editing

Once the paper has shape, your students may lack the confidence to submit it for grading. If you inspire them to share the content online, they will be motivated by getting feedback from the classmates and other readers, so the entire process will become less frightening. These are the tools you can recommend for such purpose:

1. Slideshare is a growing community of people who decide to get their projects published online. If your students turned the content of their essays into slideshows, this is the platform they can use for simple

2. Scribd is a huge source of inspiration for writing. Your students can become part of the community if they start sharing their work on this platform. Scribd can get those papers distributed to a large audience.Online Tools to Help Teachers Teach

3. ISSUU is another platform where your students can publish their slideshows, documents, and even eBooks for free. The tool also provides the users with statistics about how many people viewed and shared

Remember: there is always room for exploring your options further. The tools provided above will help you explain the different stages of essay writing and enable your students to go through them with ease.

Robert Morris is an online tutor, educator and writer. Loves everything EdTech. Follow Robert on Google+!

Thanks for reading!

 

Using Padlet to Review for State Testing in the Flipped Classroom

It’s that time of year, folks. Testing season is upon us.

This means the school year is drawing to a close, and summer is in the not-so-distant future!

Keep thinking happy thoughts!

Standardized testing, and the review that accompanies it, is my least favorite time of the year. I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling.

However, since I began employing the flipped classroom strategy this year, my students have access to the entire course lecture via YouTube. Hopefully, this wealth of information serves as a great resource for my students…I emphasize HOPEFULLY because I am HOPEFUL that my students actually watch the videos :)Padlet for Testing

I mean, come on, it’s that time of year when even juniors come down with a nasty case of senioritis.

To encourage my students to watch and interact with the instructional videos of days gone by, I’m using a tool that has become a trusty favorite in my journey as a 1:1 teacher.

Padlet.

As my students view instructional videos beginning waaay back in September, I’m encouraging them to record questions about the content, concepts they have no memory of discussing, and topics on which they may want more information on a course Padlet wall. With this information, I have a better idea of exactly what need to be reviewed, as opposed to discussing concepts that I want to review.

During review sessions, I can simply display the Padlet wall on my whiteboard, and discuss those concepts with students. Padlet is such a wonderful tool!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Thanks for reading :)

Using Humor to Review for Standardized Tests

Attention teachers:

Using HumorIf you enjoy administering or reviewing for standardized tests, please digitally raise your hand.

Anyone?

I didn’t think so.

No one likes to review for standardized tests, including students. Since we cannot provide our students with a traditional study guide for their standardized tests, we simply say that the entire course has been their study guide.

 

This might be slightly overwhelming for our students, and just might add just a bit of stress for them.

Just maybe. :)

My classroom was no different today than many classrooms around the state, and country for that matter. It’s testing season!

My students have been completing EOC practice tests, refreshing skills with a variety of activities, playing review games, re-watching instructional videos, discussing landmark cases, and the list goes on and on.

I’m afraid of two different responses:

1. That students are becoming extremely stressed and beginning to question their content knowledge

AND

2. Students are beginning to feel overwhelmed and are approaching “system shut-down” mode.

In an attempt to alleviate some of that stress and increase student engagement in our review activities, I’ve decided to combine technology with my strange sense of humor, along with the fact that I’m not (typically) easily embarrassed, to create funny, yet informational, videos.

There are a few key concepts and facts that my students are having difficulty remembering, which prompted me to create some crazy, slightly insane rhymes/songs that I hope with help!

If you need a good laugh, then definitely watch these videos.

If you would like to share these “catchy jams” with your students, please feel free!

 

Whatever helps them remember concepts, right?

Happy May Day!

Thanks for reading :)

Current Events + Common Core = Curriculet!

I have a dilemma.

I teach American Government, arguably one of the most important courses in the Social Studies content area for obvious reasons…you know, teaching students about how their government works, how to be a part of it, and of course, what characteristics a good citizen embodies.

No big deal, right? 😀

In the state of Missouri, Government is an end of course tested area, which means my students and I are nose to the grind every day trying desperately to learn and retain course content…and have fun doing it!

Here’s my problem. I feel so bogged down with content that I can’t afford to spend as much time as I would like to in discussing current events topics, which I feel are extraordinarily important.

Don’t forget to throw in the Common Core Standards and helping students prep for the ACT.

Please tell me someone else “feels my pain.”

How can we expose our students to current events topics, meet Common Core Standards, and help students prepare for the ACT reading comprehension questions?

Curriculet!

Common Core

I have only scratched the surface of this fantastic site, and I’m telling you, this is awesome.

Teachers can create a free account and view all of the wonderful readings Curriculet has to offer. Dozens upon dozens of eBooks are available for rent (some are free while others charge a small fee per student) and are easily assigned to students. “Curriculets,” or lesson/unit plans that correspond with the eBooks, are also available.

These Curriculets are ALIGNED TO COMMON CORE STANDARDS!!

It’s great!

My absolute favorite feature of Curriculet, however, has nothing to do with eBooks.

Curriculet has joined with USA Today to provide students with quality, reputable current events articles with embedded quizzes that are comparable to an ACT type reading comprehension question! USA Today articles and embedded questions are added daily, keeping your students up-to-date on current events while the participate in CCSS/ACT type activities. It’s fantastic!

Teachers can easily view student performance on each question (aligned to standards of course) and can even view the time students spent on the activity.

Teachers can assign USA Today articles through Curriculet at three different levels, Elementary, Middle, and High School, and students CANNOT change the reading level of the assignment!

Curriculet + USA Today does come with a price tag, but is quite reasonable.

Teachers (building wide) can purchase Curriculet + USA Today for $4.99 per student for an entire school year.

I personally see this as a steal since Curriculet + USA Today can be used across the curriculum.

How can you get started with Curriculet + USA Today in your classroom?

Simply access Curriculet and sign up for the free trial (45 days) of Curriculet + USA Today. Access your teacher account to create classes…this process is very similar to how you would set up classes in a typical Learning Management System.

Students also access Curriculet and sign up as a STUDENT…you may want to emphasize this particular step :)

When my students create an account for a site we will be using in class, I always ask them to choose the sign in with Google option, simply because this prevents them from having to remember yet another username and password.

While Curriculet offers this option to teachers and students, users can also create an account with “Clever” which is apparently as safe, or safer, as the Google sign in option.

How do I use this in my classroom?

So far, my students have completed Curriculet + USA Today article assignments as a Bellringer (on days they do not have an instructional video to view). I have also assigned these activities during our school’s SSR time (Silent Sustained Reading) for students who claim they have nothing to read :)

The student response has been extremely positive, and this is most definitely a tool I will continue to use (and learn more about) during the next school year!

Thanks for reading :)

 

Just so you know…I have not received, nor will I receive, compensation for writing this post. I have found an awesome tool and want to share it with you!

3 Ways to Improve Student Engagement with Technology: Guest Post

I am SO excited to feature my first post from a guest blogger! Thanks so much to Jessica Sanders at Learn2Earn for contributing this awesome post!!

Without further adieu…here are “3 Ways to Improve Student Engagement with Technology!”

3 Ways to Improve Student Engagement With Technology
By Jessica Sanders

Peer connections, curiosity and a thirst for learning are all important factors in creating an engaging classroom. But how do you make all of those things happen every day, on top of prepping students for testing and sticking to a curriculum? Technology. 

As with anything new, there’s much debate in the education world about the use of technology in the classroom. About whether or not it’s changing our education system for the better.

In the case of engagement, many believe it is changing education for the better. Teachers now work with students who are growing up in an interactive, instant-gratification culture, and their needs and desires for this is the same, both in and out of school—these are things that engage the 21st century citizens that are sitting in your classroom.

Students are thirsty for technology and these tools will help you harness that thirst to keep them engaged and improve their learning experience.

Connect Students With the Outside World

“Authentic audience” is a phrase that’s been buzzing around in the world of education lately, and for good reason. Using technology to connect students with an audience outside of their classroom improves excitement and engagement by giving the lessons a more applicable purpose—I can’t wait to send this blog post to Uncle John!

“The ability to connect life in school with life outside of school…allows learning to be personally centered,” says Mark Edwards, author of Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement.

He continues, “It helps students feel that school has meaning and purpose, which can make a world of difference in their level of engagement and achievement.”

Technology makes it easier for you to bridge the gap between life inside the classroom and life outside of it. Here are a few tools you can use to bring these two worlds together.

Instagram: Teacher Nicole Long uses Instagram as a way of sharing school information with her students, including homework assignments and classroom reminders. “When you intertwine what they do for fun, with what you do in the classroom, it perpetuates that idea that learning is fun,” she said. You could also create a classroom Instagram account where students could take turns posting a “photo of the day” to give them that authentic audience as well.

Google Maps: Use Google Maps to connect the world in a book, story or lesson with the world around us. Here are three examples for using this tactic with a book’s setting:

Is the setting a real place? Instruct students to find it on Google Maps. Use street view and “walk around” the area.

If the setting isn’t a real place, send students to Google Maps to find a spot in their town that they think looks most like their vision of it.

If the book set in the past, instruct students to look at the region now. Does it look different? What’s changed?

Get Students Talking With Social

An important aspect of engagement is connecting students with their peers, in and out of the classroom, allowing them to explore and discuss lessons and their work together.

“Teens find it most interesting and exciting when there is a little bit of talking involved. Discussions help clear the tense atmosphere in a classroom and allow students to participate in their own learning,” said one of Healther Wolpert-Gawron’s 8th grade students.

These two tech tools make it easy to facilitate these conversations.

Skype (Mystery Skype): This “game” (classes skype with other “mystery” classes and work together to determine where each other is located based on real-time research and asking questions) forces students to be fully engaged, looking through resources and assessing answers from the class they’re skyping with.

“We’re actively experiencing how education and technology can come together to create a truly authentic and engaging learning experience,” said Long about her class’ experience with Mystery Skype. They’ve now skyped with students in five different countries; you can read more about their experience here.

Online Discussion Forums: Keep students engaged in the classroom discussion with an online discussion forum. Ask students to site resources to support their answers. This keeps them engaged in the conversation while practicing a variety of skills, such as research and safe use of the Internet.

Personalize Lessons With Data to Cater to Student Strengths

The idea behind Genius Hour or passion projects in the classroom is simple: if you allow students to do the things that they love and are good at, they’ll excel. “Helping students discover their talents is a great way to boost engagement and confidence,” says Kathy Magnusson, M.Ed., in 5 Ways to Nurture Strengths in Students.

While students should be working with materials that challenge them, you can use technology to discover where they’re excelling, and then encourage them to push themselves to learn and explore that area more.

For example, a student who is at a lower reading level will only be discouraged if he or she is continually forced to read at a level that’s difficult to comprehend. However, that same student may be your top learner during coding lessons in class. Data allows you to:

Discover these strengths and weaknesses

Watch how their skills develop as you begin to personalize their learning   

You can glean important data from a few simple tools, including:

Whooo’s Reading: This free tool provides a variety of data points that you can use to personalize student-reading suggestions and diversify your classroom library. You’ll be able to see how many minutes your class has read as a whole, average scores given for comprehension questions and more. This data will help you understand who’s excelling and who’s falling behind.

Google Forms: Use Google forms to get individual and class-level data in a survey format. For example, you could use this method to gauge student interest in certain tools that are new to the classroom. One question might be: On a scale of 1 to 5, how much did you like the tool we used today?

If you tally the results and find that the class is split, you could use this new tool during activity times, when students can pick and choose what they’re working with.

Other noteworthy tools for data gathering are:

Flubaroo

LearnSprout

Plickers

Technology makes the process of improving engagement easier than ever before: “Although these [engaging] learning experiences were available in a more limited way before the advent of technology, digital conversion has taken them to an entirely new level,” Edwards said. Remember this as you plan lessons and bring tools into the classroom.

3 Ways to Improve Student EngagementBio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, an online fundraising platform that allows students raise money by reading books. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

Thanks for reading!!

Technology Troubleshooting Tips

If I had a dollar for each time I heard these questions….I would be incredibly wealthy :)

“The webpage isn’t loading”

“My screen froze. What do I do?”

“Um, I don’t see the right stuff on this website.”

Do you hear these same questions from your students? Are you frustrated with repeating the same instructions day in and day out?

I am!

-3- BEFORE ME (1)Tomorrow, I’m putting this poster in the front of my classroom…in a place that my students will notice the very valuable instructions it includes!

I don’t EVER want to discourage my students from asking me technology or content questions. However, I want to provide them with quick troubleshooting tips for technology problems the encounter.

If you’d like to display this poster in your classroom, please click here for a PDF version of the image.

Thanks for reading :)