Friday, October 16, 2015

Formative: Collecting info in a different way

For many of us in education, we are often in search of new and fun ways to assess kids to see if the material we covered that day stuck.  There are several web 2.0 tools out there to do this, poll everywhere, todaysmeet, kahoot, but, I found another site that also can be used to collect data and information but, it is done a little bit differently than the other sites, as it allows interaction and doodling.  It's called Formative.

Formative is set up a little like Kahoot, where the teacher creates a panel of questions (or even just one question) and sends the kids a link to a question, survey, short answer response, etc.  It saves all of the questions within the site so you can reuse them year after year.  The site also establishes a data summary so you can check and see understanding.

One of the components I appreciated was the capability of making classes within the site.  I feel that is an awesome aspect of the site.  It can help aggregate data even better by comparing classes to each other, gauging needs of different levels.  I can help a teacher do differentiation.

I decided to try the site out with my yearbook staff.   I added a photo of a student at the fair and ask the students to caption the photo.  They received 5 points for doing so.  I think I am going to start doing this for a daily starter.  There are hundreds of yearbook photos out there.  If they caption them together, we can get several done with good captions!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Interactive Lessons with Aurasma

A few years back, I attended a conference where one of the speakers shared a program on her iPad called Aurasma.   It takes a specific trigger image and makes it interactive.  I was intrigued but didn't think much about it again.

Not long ago, my yearbook representative stopped in and showed me something a school district in Indiana is doing with Aurasma and it blew me away!   The kids are shooting photos for the pages, but also short video clips as well.  They used images on the pages to trigger the video clips.  (For example, at the championship Volleyball match, they did a few short video clips of a serve, a spike, etc... and had one of the images tagged to trigger the video clip.) It is AWESOME.

That got me thinking, what can classroom teachers do with this program to make their lessons interactive?   Even teachers of secondary students could use this app to make class different and exciting.

Picture a social studies class.  Place clips of images around the classroom and find a short video clip or audio piece that links to it.  (I have discovered about 30 seconds max for the clips) Have kids download the aurasma app and take a tour of the room.  The same could be done in an Art class, a math class, or even in English.

The whole concept is a great way to incorporate technology but also make class different for the kids.

To use it, one has to have a login and an account create and the app has to be downloaded to the device (tablet, smartphone) so it works.  You can create the actual triggers (or aura) on the computer and merely use the device to make it work.  It really doesn't take that long to make things happen either.

My yearbook staff decided quick to make the book interactive and have video clips of things that happen.  I can't wait to see how it comes out.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Using Newsela to Differentiate a Classroom

One of the expectations of every classroom teacher is to differentiate the classroom and create lessons that fit to the needs of each student.   Many teachers who incorporate reading into the classroom are probably finding difficulty managing this concept and struggle to get good, quality articles.   I have come across a way:  Newsela 

Newsela is a collection of nonfiction articles that cover an array of topics.  It is free to use, just create an account.  The exciting part about this website is the ease of differentiation.   Every article has options to choose the lexile level of the text.   What does this mean?  You can print the same article but have different versions so the lower reader can read the same information with simpler text.

The site allows you to establish classes so you can store content relevant stories for later use.  These are saved in binders.  What is awesome about this, it also creates reading comprehension questions for each article as well.

I created a student account and a teacher account so I could see how it worked. It was very easy to establish a class and find articles.  There is even a progress check which identifies student needs.

This is definitely a site to look at and play around with.  Every content area can benefit from the articles and it helps pull that nonfiction need into the classroom. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Symbaloo organized my library

Being organized via weblinks helps me share what I know with my staff and students.  Symbaloo is so easy to use and user friendly that anyone can figure it out. The outcome can organize a lot of great links for your students and for you.

I decided after I saw a school library media specialist library use her Symbaloo to organize her library, I had to do it as well.   I made a color coded Symbaloo for the different components of information kids can access through the library website.   I learned that I can actually embed the Symbaloo directly on the Follett Destiny site so kids can see it immediately when they go to the card catalog.

I selected links that are specific to my kids.  Book report info, PBL type materials, Research sites (paid and free), citation sites, even some places for homework help.   It was a simple process and it was fast to complete.  When I did in class lessons, I shared the Symbaloo with the students and showed them how simple it was to use this method to access their needed information.  I even have some additional space later to make more tiles if I come across some.  

Symbaloo is a MUST HAVE for any educator.  It is a simple way to sort and organize.  For my purposes, it offered a large amount of information in a more organized way.  It has made life for my students easier for sure.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Voki to audio record

Being a foreign language teacher, I am always looking for neat and innovative ways to make class fun and different.  I went to the Central States Conference a few years back and was introduced to a lot of web 2.0 tools to use for audio recordings but the one I liked for a quick chat was Voki.  I loved the idea of making an avatar that talked and so did my students.  I sampled the Voki site with my French three and four students and they really seemed to like all of the things they were able to do.  The fact that they can use their cellphone and call their voki to make the recording is also a great way to incorporate byod and cell phone usage in the classroom.

Voki is a free site, but there is a classroom version that can be purchased.  The paid version lets you create the student accounts and also lets you view student work.  I stuck with the freebie, my students are old enough to create an account on their own.  The free version still gives you access to lesson plans, ideas and templates.

I have used voki for a few things in my classroom.  I have made a welcome page to the media center website.  My students made a short one to talk about themselves.  I have a few other plans in mind as well.  Some could be used for more than a foreign language class.

1.  Day one introductions. Students can record themselves and make an introduction. Talk about name, age, family members, etc.  They can submit that to the teacher and the teacher can assemble the link on a wiki and the students can guess who is who.

2.  Practicing a reading.  Have students read a poem or a paragraph aloud in the target language and submit it.  The practice will make fluency so much better and a voki is a different way to do a task that sometimes lacks excitement.

3.The alphabet.  Have students record the alphabet in the target language and submit the voki to you.  It's a different way to do the same thing.

4. To practice conjugation and tenses.  Have students record themselves practicing the verb of the day.  For example, in French we use the verb avoir a lot, so, kids can record themselves using avoir in expressions or just breaking it down.

5. Pretend phone call.  Have students call their voki via phone and have a pretend conversation to practice talking on a phone in the target language.

6. Short  presentations.  In a foreign language, there is always a cultural need. Have the students record themselves talking about a country, a cultural icon, a landmark, etc. into the voki.  It's something different.

7.  Ask the kids.  Let your students help you come up with some interesting ways to use a voki in the classroom.   Kids love to guide their learning.

8. Book Reviews.  Have the kids do a book chat about a favorite or do a book report orally via Voki.

Remember, however, don't overdo it.  There are so many tech tools out there.  Using the same one over and over gets frustrating for the kids.  The spark goes away if it is overused.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pixton as a writing tool

Someone on twitter once mentioned that she used Pixton to practice writing.  I had to check it out.  I have used comic strip generators before, but I decided to nix them because they were a little boring and the final outcome was published online for many others to see.   Pixton is a little different.  It is very colorful and visual.  There are numerous options for comic strip layout and it allows for foreign language symbols.  I was really excited at how fast it went to complete a task.
I spent about ten minutes making a comic strip.  I was able to manipulate the positions of the characters, add text and accents, and a cool background.

There is an educational version as well as a for fun account.  (There is a 30 day trial, so if you are going to use it that way, make sure you get it when you need it so you don't lose the opportunity.)  The for fun account posts the work on the web, so if you have students who do not have permission to post work online, don't use it, or print off a blank template and have the kids fill it in. I created the for fun account.  It is free. The educator account is based on the number of kids.  I have 9 students, so for me, it isn't worth $60/ year.  I can add up to 20 kids for that price, but it isn't worth it to me.  I see myself using it but not often enough to justify the cost.

Here is my quick comic to review lesson 1 in French 2: Quick and simple, and a great model for my kids.  I think this program is very good for foreign language teachers.  I also think it could benefit elementary teachers to address writing skills and it could be used as a means of identifying incorrect grammar.   One could have grammatical or spelling errors and ask students to identify them.  That is a way to make grammar fun.

So, if you are looking for a simple way to practice writing and do so in a funny and creative manner, check out Pixton.  It is something different for your classroom.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Padlet in the Classroom and Library

At many of our staff development meetings this year, we have been exposed to several tips and tools to use in our classrooms.   One of the concepts we have looked at is Padlet.  I have talked about Padlet before and how I have used it in my French classroom to organize, but I got some more ideas from our tech coach about ways to use it and I have some thoughts for use in the library.

Since the library gets to be my main focus this school year, I am going to make some attempts to do more programming.  One of the main goals I have is to start a book club.  This is where Padlet comes in.   I was able to create a Padlet board asking kids for input about what they would want to see as a book club book.   That gives me an idea of students who are interested as well as the title they want to focus on first.

Padlet is very simple to use, it's free and it's customizable.  The link you have can be kept private and only accessed by people who receive it.  I sent the link to all of the students in my school from the library email and explained what the plan was.  I had a few who went to the site and posted their comments.

It's awesome and it's free. It's a great tool to incorporate into the classroom.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Newseum: Free Primary Sources

I received information from about it being Women Rights Day and to look at the free resources available on Newseum Digital Classroom regarding Women’s Suffrage Movement.   I was able to do some exploring and learned the site has a lot more to offer, free of charge.
The focus of the site is the First Amendment, but there are many articles about Journalism and topics Journalists have dealt with to impact society. (Berlin Wall, Watergate, etc.)
There is a video archive, an image library and also a few learning modules that feature specific topics. I also noticed a primary sources section featuring Civil War newspapers and images alongside the First Amendment information.
While it doesn’t offer as much information as some primary source sites, student working on a paper or a topic that needs reference to the First Amendment could use this as a great place to start.  

There is an opportunity to create an account for both students and teachers.  These are free accounts.  There is also an opportunity for students to submit work and do extension activities about the topics involved.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Importance of a Backchannel

When I was a classroom teacher, I used a lot of different tools to help my students, but since I have left teaching and became I librarian, I have learned of another thing that is just as important as some of those resource:  a Backchannel.  
In our technological times, a backchannel is the comments and questions that happen during a social media interaction, a lecture or a webinar.   In the classroom, that could mean using a tool like TitanPad or Padlet to allow students to create questions and comments about something happening in class.   
It could mean letting kids use to chat during a presentation about the topic being discussed.  Regardless of the form, a backchannel is a huge asset to the classroom. Why? Because a backchannel isn't going to go away and kids can refer to it whenever they need to as an aid to study.
I have participated in a lot of twitter chats, webinars and discussions and in many of them, having that backchannel later as a reference has helped me numerous times.
It's simple to look at the notes and find the comment someone made about their use of a tool or find the link to the web tool that worked for a teacher.
It's a fantastic and necessary addition to your classroom.  Teachers, a backchannel is easy to do- find a site that kids can access to type in notes. Here are some easy and free sites you can use for the backchannel.
Titanpad, todaysmeet even google docs can work. 
Be sure to monitor the kids, but, the results are a lot of resources kids can use for a future assignment or test.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Blendspace to flip a class: From the Archives

My edshelf connection is turning into a goldmine for new tools to use in the classroom.  One such tool I came across was Blendspace.

Blendspace is a board per se, that allows users to add video, text, quizzes, and more to make the flipped class experience even more in depth.   It is very well organized and easy to use.  Some may remember edcanvas, this is now blendspace.

I sent a copy of a canvas/board to my French 2 class and I loved how the page worked, looked and assessed.  I was able to embed several videos to the site and then add a quiz at the end.  Even if the quiz is treated more as an exit slip, I am still going to see how much information the students have obtained and maintained.

The blendspace platform allows users to connect to many different web based tools, including dropbox, vimeo, google drive and educreations.   I can see, with the educreations component being an add-in that a teacher who uses that program for flipping a class will find a great deal of ease and success pulling tools for student use.

I am really impressed by how easy and quick this is to use. It takes very little time to establish a space, add documents and information.  I am excited to see how it works for my classes.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Pinterest for the Library: From the Archives

So many teachers are starting to use Pinterest to get ideas for the classroom.  I started using it several years ago, when it was in beta, so I know how huge it can be to curate and find ideas.  It got me thinking that maybe using Pinterest could also be a great tool for the library.  I decided to create a Pinterest account for the Library and share the information with the students and teachers at my school.  What a great tool for everyone.

I decided the key was to create boards that were based on our genre selections in the Library as well as tools we could use in the library.  We are adding boards left and right featuring titles, displays and specific genre.

I love using the boards to organize things.  I am hoping our students and teachers also refer to the site to see what we have available.  I am going to spend a large amount of my summer and snow cancellation days building the boards so they are easy to use and meet my needs.  I also made a lot of posters and advertisements to put around the school and let everyone know what we have been doing.  Let's hope we see an influx of people using the tool to help them out.

To check out either of my Pinterest boards, you can go here:  Library  or Personal

Friday, July 31, 2015

Emaze for presentations

As the school year approaches it is time to start organizing and planning for lectures and presentations.  Most people turn to the traditional PowerPoint but there are some other programs out there that can do neat presentations for free or cheap.

Emaze is one of these sites.

Emaze is a platform that allows users to build professional looking presentations with various backgrounds.   Aside from creating your own presentations, there are millions already available to use.

Pro members can download and collaborate, but free members can basically just make slides and save them at emaze. There is a pro plan available for education as well that is half the price of the business plan.  The paid version is monthly and there are different sized accounts.   But, I don't do anything that isn't free, so I will stick with the freebie.

I found some really nice presentations that relate to content I plan to teach this year.  Why re-invent the wheel?

I am impressed by the ease of use of the site and the availability of so many presentations to be used.  Teachers can find a lot of sources for their classes and can build presentations as well.  I can also envision a teacher using this in a class as a means of a project.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Diving into technology

As the school year nears, many teachers are ready to get back into the grind.  Some are going to walk into new endeavors, including being in a One to One environment.   This transition can be tricky for some, so there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge.

  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, July 17, 2015

Make a free video fast: Stupeflix

I have been a frequent user of Animoto for quite some time.  I use it to do my new releases videos for the library and for my classroom.  It's easy to use and doesn't take much time.  I found another site that does a very similar thing- Stupeflix.  Stupeflix lets videos and images merge to a video using music.

I made a test video, and it went really fast.  I added photos and then I selected music from the website's built in library.  It is very similar to the music on Animoto.  Photos can be uploaded from computer, caught from the webcam or pulled from an online storage (flickr, instagram)

There is a free version as well as a paid version.  I did the free version, got a minute of video which for a new releases presentation is sufficient.  I felt it was a fairly easy to use program as well.  Simply create an account, and make a free video.   Once you do that, you can actually send it out to Youtube, Vimeo and others.

It seems like a pretty easy site to use.  It just took me a few seconds to make a video.  It is worth looking at.

Friday, July 10, 2015

MIXLR for live broadcasting

While I am not much of a podcaster, I know a few of my colleagues who would probably enjoy hosting their own radio show.  Even as a foreign language teacher, I could see myself having my students do a small radio broadcast for a speaking activity.

Mixlr is a free broadcasting site that downloads an app to your computer or device.  The free version gives you an hour of broadcasting whatever you wish.  You can be a DJ and play music, do a talk show- whatever.

You can embed the broadcast into your blog so when people visit, they can listen to your podcast/ broadcast.

I can envision this as a way to do school announcements each day; it seems easy, as each broadcast gives you a specific embed code to add to the site. This would be a great way to link to social media as well.  As you record, it also creates a live link to share on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and Google+.  The showreel can be placed on a blog to see archived conversations.

There is also a chat component built into the program, so visitors can go to your showreel, listen live and ask questions to the speaker over the system.

I can see a lot of possibilities with a school using this program.   A virtual interview | Daily announcement |  A broadcast of a library program | A message from the administrator | A student radio show | Basketball game play by play - the list goes on and on.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Looking for cloud storage? Try Otixo

I am sure that many of my readers are a lot like me, cloud storage junkies.  I have accounts in seven or eight different places to store my data and documents.  As some of my past posts have mentioned, I use a lot of different places:  Dropbox, Box, Drive, OneDrive, just to name a few.

A discussion at one of my tech counsel meetings resulted in me learning about a place that unites all of your cloud storage into one easy spot.  It's Otixo.  Otixo has several versions, a free one with a limited amount of capabilities and a paid version that allows more file transfers at once.
I am still getting to know the site, but, I have found that you can link personal and professional cloud drives together (if you are logged in to the right one when you do the initial setup.)  This is perfect for me because sometimes, I have documents on one that I need on the other. Since each of my accounts has different amounts of space, I often have two.  

One cool component, the app.  There is a version of this available for all devices: Windows, IOS, Android.  It seems very easy to use and the fact that it is so mobile makes me really like it.  I love how simple it is to maintain and how much you can see.  I also like that it doesn't just do file storage, like PDF and DOC but, it also works with image storing platforms like Picasa and Flickr.  

I think this is a fantastic place for the cloud storage junkies like me to visit.  I suspect you will find a lot of use in a site like Otixo.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Edutecher: How I find my tools

As many of you know, I am quite a researcher and I spend a lot of my time searching out tech tools to benefit my colleagues and my students.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and can’t remember what I have looked at and evaluated. Sometimes, I find a cool tool and forget about it a few months later and don’t remember what it is.  I have shared, several times,  my process for finding and blogging about tools and I want to share a little more today about what I use to find my information.
I stumbled upon  EduTecher in a webinar a few years back. The speaker talked about it as a way to find tech tools for the classroom.  I had created an account a year or so back but hadn’t spent a lot of time using the site.  I decided to spend a little time investigating it and learning about it and sharing with my readers.
EduTecher is a virtual backpack were you can visually store sites you use.  There is a small icon called an educlipper that can be added to your browser and you can use it to add pages to your backpack.   Think of it like Pinterest but solely for education. There is also an app for Android and Apple.

You can also add contacts to your account and share your backpack with others. There are tons and tons of tools there to sift through and add to your backpack to try as well.  I love the enormous amount of tools to look through. There is definitely something for everyone.

Friday, June 19, 2015

TTL Back to the grind

Finally, I am on summer vacation, and as many of you in the education setting knows, that means we have a few days on and off to refresh and then... back to the grind.  Planning, learning, designing, etc. I have decided that even though I don't have a lot of planning and things to do this summer, I am going to spend a great bit of my time researching things for the library and for my staff.  I tried in 2013-14 school year to do Tech Tuesdays.  I had very few visitors and felt let's do it again in 14-15.  Then, we decided to migrate to PowerSchool and I got to be the migrator/data manager.  That took so much of my time on a daily and weekly basis that there was no way I would be able to spend time evaluating and researching tech tools for my staff.  On top of that, I was asked to coach a swim team and that took my evenings. That whole scenario made my blog almost non-existent.   I have decided to spend a lot of the summer working on things for blog posts so I can get back to the grind and again do my blog on a weekly basis.

Starting June 26th, I will be posting a blog a week regarding something libraryish or technology.   I hope some of my readers will return and check things out again. I am going to work ahead so I have a nice collection of posts to refer to.   I will also be maintaining my school library blog with weekly updates about new releases and things going on in the learning commons.   I invite you all to visit there as well. You can visit through this link: HHS Library

I also established a blog for my teachers with tips and things that are relevant to our school.  While some of it isn't going to help everyone, maybe someone can benefit from it.  You can visit it here: TTL Tech Help

Again, I thank all of you for your patience as I work on rebuilding my PLN and my blog.  I miss my twitter friends and my Google + things and I hope the school year to come opens up more doors for me so I can enjoy them all a little bit.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Using Kahoot in the classroom

One of my staff members has been very busy using an app to keep her students engaged.   I had the chance to use it myself, at a conference over the summer, and I can see why kids enjoy using it as a review tool.

It's called Kahoot and it is a free website taking place of that old school powerpoint we had back in the day, but it is very interactive.   Have you ever gone into a restaurant and played the question and answer game with the people around you?  You get a question and it times down adding more info as you wait until you ultimately see the final answer?  That, my friends is Kahoot!

Kahoot allows for question/ answer creation in the form of multiple choice.  Teachers can input questions that relate to the specific topic and it generates an online quiz.   The audience chimes in via their phones, computers, tablets, whatever.  They simply get a code for the kahoot you are using and join in.   The game launches and it runs through.  Teachers get instant feedback from student responses.   The timer ticks down once the question starts and the first to answer wins the most points and it goes down to the last respondent.  The final results determine the winner.

A few of our teachers have been using this with a great deal of positive results.  The kids love it and the teacher is getting very quick feedback about what needs re-covered and what is mastered.  It is a quick and easy tool to use.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Marketing the Library

One of the requirements of my evaluation is to develop a student learning objective (SLO) that relates to something measurable in the library.  I pondered and pondered what I could do to collect data. Through the years, I have been doing visitor counts to see how many people come in on a daily basis to use the library.  I decided to use that as my SLO, to show growth in visits.

This made me realize that to get people here, you have to make people want to come here.  As I have mentioned time and again, I do a lot of things to make the library a better place.  I have changed the layout, added tons of new books, weeded old books, organized, cleaned, you name it.  Another thing I have done a lot is market.

I majored in Journalism at one point in college and ended up minoring in it instead, but, I was fortunate enough to take a class in Public Relations and a class in graphic design.  I have really used a lot of that knowledge to make tools for the marketing of the library.   Here are a few of the things I have been working on:

  1. Weekly posts about new releases which are emailed to the students.  (I use Animoto to make short videos, link them to YouTube and embed the content on the library website.)  It takes about 10 minutes to do each week, but, the kids are starting to catch on and new releases are starting to disappear off the shelves.
  2. Posters:  I made simple but clean cut posters to hang around the school featuring information about our social media campaign.  They were printed on 11"x 17"paper in color and laminated.  I hung them everywhere kids go (bathrooms, above water fountains, in the cafeteria and in classrooms.)  I also made posters reminding kids about checking email and about things they can get in the library.
  3. Genre specific fliers and posters: I made posters that compare books. "If you liked this, try this".  I hang those around the library and plan to make more over the summer to put in different places in the school (particularly English classrooms).
  4. Newsletters: I can't take credit for this one- a library media specialist in a district here in Indiana shared a copy of hers with the state listserv and I LOVED the idea. I now do a quarterly newsletter via that features current hot titles, a special tip and some basic information.  It gets emailed to the staff and students.
  5. Press releases: It pays to know people in print.  Our local newspaper owner (printing about 500-1000 papers a week) has asked me to write a small column about the library, about programs, promotions, what's hot, etc. to be printed each week in the paper.  What a way to get the community aware of what we do.
  6. Teacher reads posters:  I am still working on this one, but, I am going to make a poster for each teacher that they will jot down what they are currently reading and the author.  I am hoping kids will see the adults they look up to reading and decide to do the same. (Fingers crossed!)
These are a start of my plans.  I am still working to develop more ideas and ways to promote the school library.  Since I have started this, my numbers of visitors has increased dramatically.  In 2014, I had 17,000 visits during the school year from August to July.  So far, since August 1, I have 16,000.  We still have 35 days left of school so I can already see an increase in my numbers.  Doing that little extra has really paid off.

Monday, April 6, 2015

From the Archives: Pinterest for the Library

So many teachers are starting to use Pinterest to get ideas for the classroom.  I started using it several years ago, when it was in beta, so I know how huge it can be to curate and find ideas.  It got me thinking that maybe using Pinterest could also be a great tool for the library.  I decided to create a Pinterest account for the Library and share the information with the students and teachers at my school.  What a great tool for everyone.

I decided the key was to create boards that were based on our genre selections in the Library as well as tools we could use in the library.  We are adding boards left and right featuring titles, displays and specific genre.

I love using the boards to organize things.  I am hoping our students and teachers also refer to the site to see what we have available.  I am going to spend a large amount of my summer and snow cancellation days building the boards so they are easy to use and meet my needs.  I also made a lot of posters and advertisements to put around the school and let everyone know what we have been doing.  Let's hope we see an influx of people using the tool to help them out.

To check out either of my Pinterest boards, you can go here:  Library  or Personal

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Finding Primary Sources Part 4

I am back to the topic of primary sources and have come across even more that can be used by many for research projects and papers.  All of them are free, some of them have a focus more International than National, so the opportunities are endless.

America in Class is a site established by the National Humanities Council.  The focus is primarily literature and history, but it also offers Professional Development.  The site links topics to the Common Core State Standards as well.  The site focuses on America from its beginnings to present time. The site also has a collection of secondary sources, such as essays and literature written by scholars.  It’s all free to use.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has started chronicling newspapers from all over the United States.  Users can access newspaper articles from every state in the US.  It is sorted by state and paper name.  It lists the oldest issue available as well as the number of issues available.  It’s free to use.

The Wilson Center Digital Archive features an international collection of documents that have been previously hidden from society. The browse themes and documents features send readers to clippings, maps and images about the topics available.  Users see a map with pins in specific areas.   The themes section leads users to many international topics.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Finding Primary Sources: Part Three

The last few posts have focused on Primary Sources for a paper.  Because I am such a nerd when it comes to research and I feel that the most accurate information is by far the best, I feel this topic is one to address over several posts.  I continue with three new places to visit to locate primary sources.

The Avalon Project:  Yale Law has established a large database dating back to the 4000 BC.  Most of the focus is historical and legal, but, it has a lot of materials that a classroom teacher can access.   You are going to find more documents in the 1800s and beyond, but there is a collection of material that can be used for a paper or project.

Spartacus Educational is a collection of documents about specific people and events throughout history. There are specific events listed in the database, but you can also connect to the Index and get a visual link to several topics, including the World Wars, General American History, British History and Biographies.  This site is developed by a Brit, so the text might be written with British flair, (for example, the History of Football isn’t what we American’s know as football, but soccer) it does covers a lot of information.

Fordham University has created a large database of full text sources that is accessible free of charge.  The content  includes a lot of information about Western Civilization, Religion, Revolutions both foreign and domestic.  When you find the topic of interest, you click it and it takes you to a large list of links that relate.  Some topics have hundreds of items available to use for research.   The information is both internal on Fordham’s site as well as external on the web.  Either way, it offers a lot of free information for a paper or research project.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Finding Primary Sources: Part Two

Last week, I posted a brief article about finding primary sources for free.   With the drive to go One to One in school and the push to back away from traditional textbooks, using digital primary sources is a fantastic way of getting the information you need online.

In part one, I mentioned the Library of Congress, The National Archives and DocsTeach.   Let's look at a few other sites to use for primary source searching.

First of all, Historypin.  History pin is Pinterest for primary sources.  It features a series of projects loaded with images from all over the world.  It's a global collection of materials that people don't normally see.   There are projects, basically tagboards, loaded with images that relate.  People add them to the community as a reference.  When the board is opened, a map appears and community members pin an image, document, etc, to the map.  It's a great idea, but it seems to be early in it's life cycle so it's continuing to grow.   I would recommend this for Middle School age students and up.  Some of the visuals may be difficult for a younger child to understand. (Holocaust, Genocide, etc.)

Second off, let's take a look at the Digital Public Library of America.   This site is a huge collection of images, documents and artifacts that anyone can access free. Per their website: "The DPLA  brings these different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage." The site pulls information from libraries all over North America into one main location.   It is loaded with things are it seems to be fairly easy to use. It has an exhibitions tab that focus on a specific topic.  Within that exhibitions, users can see a large amount of information that pertains to a topic.  It's a great way to get a lot of information.

Finally, the Life Magazine Photo Archive.  Life Magazine's photo collection is by far one of the most vast photo collections out there with all sorts of images that can lead to writing prompts, research topics and even more. The page has been taken over by google, but the images are sorted by dates and as well as topics. They go back all the way to the 1860s. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Locating primary sources: Part One

One of the goals of both teachers and school library media specialists is to help students locate sources for papers and primary sources are one of the best to offer a researcher.

There are several digital tools out there that help. 

First of all, the Library of Congress.  This site has an abundance of information about everything.  It is the largest online collection of everything from documents to images.  It is totally free and covers just about every subject you look for.  There are also external links to other sites controlled by the government, including the Library of Congress Card Catalog, The US Copyright office and the US Congress.  Because it's so large, you may find it a bit overwhelming to investigate, but, you will find primary sources to use for any paper or research you are doing.  The fact that it is free makes it all the while.

Second and Third, the National Archives and it's counterpart, DocsTeach. 

The National Archives features documents, genealogy and veteran's service records.  It is geared toward older students, perhaps grades 6 and up, but if students are working on a paper about genealogy, military history, and a focus on specific documents, this is the place to go.  Users can use an online database as well as research ancestory.  The site offers users a series of explanations about using the Archives and how to do research.  

DocsTeach features tools for teachers to provide students to encourage critical thinking and advanced research skills.  Both sites are free to use.  If you are in a district that is migrating away from textbook adoption and relying on personal creation of materials, this is a great place to go and find the materials you need.   The activities can be a bit more challenging.  Students younger than middle school will probably find it impossible to use. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Current event sites for students and teachers

It's the new semester and you are looking for some fresh ideas to start 2015 off with a bang.  The new Common Core requires more nonfiction texts, so where do you go?

Take a look at some of these free or inexpensive sites featuring tons of articles and grade level content.

·   Content Based Searches
·   Videos about different topics
·   Scientific in nature
·   Games
·   Includes an APP section that links apps to the videos/games

 ·   Free account creation.
·   Numerous Content Areas
·   Book and Movie reviews
·   Topic specific searches
·   Searchable by grade.
·    Free App for android and iPad.
·   Nonfiction texts
·   Customizable per student
·   Create class accounts to monitor students.
Visit Site here
·    Student Driven blogs
·   Games
·   Sports Nonfiction
·   More Grades 3-8 based
Visit site here
 ·   Grade Specific Content
·   FREE!
·   Student Interaction/ Blogging
·   Teacher Can Override/Admin 
·   Daily “Wonder” with trivia and info about a topic.
·   Searchable by grade and content area.

·   Educator Resources included.