Friday, January 13, 2017

Nearpod: Free interactive classroom

Are you looking for a way to change up your lessons a little?  Do you use PowerPoint and maybe files that relate?  Using a site like Nearpod makes it very easy to upload a presentation and embed files within so students can follow along and complete the tasks at hand.

Nearpod is free, but premium access gives you the capabilities of embedding links and websites.  I was able to get a free month of Gold level so I spent some time building activities I know I would use during that time.

One of the things I like about the site is the capability of adding activities along the way.  It's very cool to have a presentation and then stick a few questions in to check for understanding.  It is easy to use and the adding content part is included with the free version.  This is a fantastic add-in.  I love the ability to do quick checks for understanding along the way.  The outcome is placed into a report so you can review immediately to see what needs retaught or what is understood.   This is a huge bang for the buck!

I think this is a great tool to try for new instruction or if you are doing a flipped class.  (A live code is offered if it is full class, or a student paced option is available if kids are doing a flipped lesson.)  They can do the checks for understanding a long the way.   It's fantastic and definitely worth looking at.




Friday, December 30, 2016

From the Archives: Diving into Technology

As the winter break ends for many of us, it is time to get back into the grind and start a second semester (or in come cases, trimesters).  Some of us are currently One to One, but some might have a district that is piloting for the second semester or  are starting a program.  I have been a part of a district that has one to one for five years now and the tips below are things to think about as you make that transition. 
  1. Technology shouldn’t be used as a replacement for instruction.  It should merely be a tool to help you.  Don’t plan lessons around the technology, sometimes, you can get better results as a human leader than as a tech leader.   Kids love technology, but there isn’t always a need to have it.  If you can teach a lesson the traditional way do it.  Just because you have technology doesn’t mean you have to use it all of the time.
  2.   Spend some time using a tool.  Before you implement something, use it yourself.  Don’t assume kids know how to do something, you must teach them to use the tool.  When you know the tool, you can help the kids use it better.  
  3. Don’t use a ton of tools, focus on a few that work.  Overwhelming kids with a dozen tools for projects will make them despise using technology.  Stick with a few that you know work for the projects you are doing and use them.  Some tools can be used for many different things with great success.
  4. Find sites that you can refer to for help.  There are a lot of great blogs out there that provide readers with hundreds of tips, tricks and sites that can be used for education.  Spend a little time checking them.  I was told once by a very smart edtech blogger to spend just a little time each day to check out stuff.  Don’t spend hours working on this, just a little time is all you need.  
  5.  Get a twitter account.  Twitter is the best place to find technology tools and tips.  There are thousands of edtech specialists out there who can help you find what you need. Follow them, they will all offer great things.

All in all, jumping into a One to One environment can be done very simply with preparation. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Curating the web with Bag the Web

Through the years, I have spent a lot of time saving links and articles in various places to refer to at a later date.   It always seems as if I am very busy and I fall behind and having these available gives me a chance to stop back later to check things out. I love curation sites.  I took a webinar at the beginning of the school year and the presenter was raving about a site called Bag the Web.  I, being an investigator, had to check it out.

I discovered a few things:  First of all, it is very easy to follow.  You don't have to have previous knowledge to use the site, you just create a bag and then add links or dividers to the bag.  (A bag is your hub, per se, where you can store the links together that relate to a topic.) 

I thought a lot about using this to put links about specific books for the library.  Maybe make bags about genre.   The problem, our school filter blocked the site for teachers as well as students and I had to have it unblocked.  Make sure your school's filter lets it through.

This is a great tool to sort content specific links or to make lists for kids to use for projects and papers.  It allows the teacher to have more control over what students are looking at.  It's a great tool for the classroom.  I think it will help kids not just google the sources, but use links and pages that the teacher has evaluated it. 



Friday, December 2, 2016

Choosito for web searches and reading

 If you are one who requires students to do research and find that kids spend more time just googling their topics and not actually doing hard core research or, they come across items that exceed their reading level, take a look at Choosito.  While Choosito isn't 100% free, there are free components that can be used by anyone with an account.

I spent a little time investigating the site and was pleased with what I learned. I did a search for something generic and got a lot of results.  I modified my searches for different reading levels and received a lot of different levels of results.  It was exactly as anticipated.

I think this is a good source to refer students to use when they need research.  It's got a better response than google as there were no advertising coming back in the searches, and with google, it seems that those results are the most common.

Because of the leveled results, I think the site will be helpful for kids of all levels when it comes to research, despite the age of the students. Sometimes in researching, students find materials that are so above their level that analyzing them and using them for a successful paper is often a challenge.  This site helps alleviate that problem.