Best of the Best Websites

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Image from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/en/gold-bear-gummi-bears-bear-yellow-318359/CC0

 

The AASL 2015 Best Website list is jampacked with lots of great teacher resources. It was difficult for me to narrow the list down to three favorites, but here they are:

Google Classroom

I was drawn to this one immediately since the new school I am going to be working at this year encourages all teachers to use it. I have not had a chance to check it out until now. I love that it allows collaboration between teachers and students and it seems like a great tool to use to keep the problem of missing work at bay.I love that you can create documents for each student and that their work is automatically organized.   I went in and actually set up my classrooms on there and posted the first word study assignment documents for my students.I also set up a page for my lesson plans so that I can share with my principal this year.  I look forward to sharing documents and staying organized with this great tool.

Google Classroom

Remind 101

This one is a website and an app. Remind 101 is a fantastically efficient way to communicate with parents through text messages to their phones or email messages. Mass reminders can be sent out in an instant to let parents know their is a book report due, a field trip coming up, or library trip scheduled. Messages can be sent to individuals also and you can even set up your account to allow the receivers to text back. Sometimes reaching parents by phone or getting notes home proves unreliable. Remind 101 taps into the resources that most parents have on them at all times, their cellphones, and for those that can’t receive text messages, email is an option. Remind 101 will even notify you if you are sending a message out at a late hour and give you an option to schedule it to be sent at a later date. I love the convenience of Remind 101. Communication just got easier.

Remind.com

My Storybook

I love that this tool allows students to write a story and create a cover for the digital book they write, incorporating writing and illustration into projects, and options are plentiful. They can create a cover by selecting a scene, objects, drawing, or even adding their own saved objects. Not only that, but they can add pictures throughout the book along with their text. Access is available without signing up and students can use the website to write individual stories and do collaborative projects as well. However, if they want to save stories, signup is required. A reminder tells them to use a parent email if they are under the age of 13. Stories may be as short or as long as the project requires as users can continue to add pages (I am assuming unlimited as I kept adding and it never stopped me). Students love creating books that they can save and print. I would also incorporate some peer editing when using this tool. Students could give one another feedback before story completion.

My Storybook

 

 

 

 

Gimme a B, gimme an L, gimme an O, gimme a G!

 

 

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Image from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/en/cheerleader-basketball-child-cute-673490/ CC0

After checking out several blogs this week, the one I was most impressed by and chose to follow was Gwyneth Jones’ Daring Librarian blog. What stood out to me was her positivity and enthusiasm. Even her page design is vibrant and energetic. As we begin to open up a new school year, I found her energy contagious. Her comments about reflection and starting anew each year resonated with me, particularly this year as I prepare to begin a job at a new school. I have found myself very anxious as the time has drawn near, but Gwyneth’s blog made me refocus on the excitement and promise that comes each August. She even made reference to my long held belief that the teacher’s lounge is often a cesspool of negativity to be avoided at all costs. I will follow this blog as I’m certain Ms. Jones will continue to post inspirational, positive, helpful posts throughout the year. Not only is she presenting handy tips for libraries and classrooms but she is sowing seeds of positivity too. What a great approach to blogging.

http://www.thedaringlibrarian.com/

 

The Future is Now!

 

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Technology image by Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/board-face-binary-technology-1364650/CC0

QR codes and augmented reality? We are not in Kansas anymore, people. Am I really going to be using things like this? Am I going to be able to figure it out? My first reaction was that I am an old dog and these new tricks are getting ridiculous. But teaching does not leave us with the luxury of hitting “pass.”We must get on board or get off the ride. This is what is going on in our kids’ lives. They need to be able to feel confident and comfortable with the technology that is available to them. We owe it to our students  to first learn these skills and then pass what we know along to them.How else will they be able to compete? So…I dove in.

QR Codes

I knew that a QR code was that little cryptic looking black and white square that seems to be popping up everywhere. I knew you could scan the square with your phone and get information. That was pretty much the extent of what I knew. Monica Burns’ article introduced me to  some new things that are going on with QR codes. Audio is a feature that I didn’t realize could be tied in. The dynamic links that she spoke about really interested me as well. I use bellringers in my class daily, and a dynamic link would allow me to create ever changing daily starters for students to work on as they arrive in class. I also have a class pet and we have a Twitter account for him. Dynamic QR codes could be linked to the Twitter account to relay information or new photos from our classroom.

I’m also beginning to explore using Plickers as a formative assessment tool. The Plicker cards are embedded with a QR code and each card is assigned to a particular student. Students use the cards to answer by holding up side A, B, C, or D of the QR code. The teacher scans the classroom with a smartphone and each student’s response is recorded. Instant assessment.

Another site I  checked out was classtools.net. What I liked about this website was that you could program questions and answers in, get a QR code, and have students search for answers. I think students would have fun with something like this on orientation night. With clues scattered throughout my classroom, they could find the answers to the questions they find by scanning the QR code. Here is a link to what I came up with using classtools.net for fun: Mrs. Dishner’s Orientation  I also came up with a QR code using i-nigma.com to direct students to a read aloud inspirational story about a struggling reader. Thank You Mr. Falker

I think it would be fun to use QR codes as a scavenger hunt in a library setting. QR codes could be affixed in areas of the library and links could explain things like features of particular genres, author information, details about what can be found in various resource materials, available technology, and checkout policies. I actually had a student help me add QR codes to my classroom library books last year. He programmed the title and author’s name in and assigned each book a QR code which we printed off and he affixed the codes in the back of the books. I will admit that I still used my index card system as back up. See “old dog” statement above.

In the article by Kelly Walsh, I found the suggestion for using QR codes to let students vote interesting. I would use this for student government elections. It would allow for anonymity and create a new level of excitement, I think. She also suggested using QR codes around a building to provide information. I think it  would be a great way to orient our sixth graders to a new building by placing QR codes around our campus to allow them to explore with their parents in a fun way.

 

Augmented Reality

Is this what Pokemon Go is? That’s been all over the news this week and I think that it is timely that this is what we are discussing in class. My daughter has had me drive around chasing Pokemon each time we’ve been in town this week,claiming  that we are close and just drive a bit more. Kids, even big kids, love this type of technology. But forgetting Pokemon, when I read the article by Eddie Makuch regarding Oculus Rift, I felt like my brain was going to explode. In the article he mentions the possibilities of exploring all over the world without having to travel or pay the expense it would take to do so. He talks about the limitations schools have of providing field trip experiences due to time and money constraints but explains how students will not have to continue to miss out on these opportunities because of what augmented reality programs will be able to provide. I started thinking about how all of this could impact the elderly and physically handicapped people as well. People with physical limitations could have the world available to them through augmented reality technology. As I said, my brain is exploding. After reading the articles and watching the videos I think I could use Aurasma in the classroom for many things. I love the idea of having students upload a picture of work they have done then overlay videos explaining the work. The printed images could be posted in the classroom on a bulletin board and then students with the Aurasma app could scan and listen to classmates explain their projects. Another way I would use this with students oral book reports. Each year I have students who have anxiety issues and presenting live is a problem for them. Aurasma would be a great alternative. Aurasma in the library could involve instructions on how to use self checkout technology. Students could scan pictures of other available technology too to find out how to check those out and how long check out periods are. In younger grades, students could scan images of books that are available as read aloud, then listen to them through their devices. Take a look at my Aurasma attempt if you download the app. https://share.aurasma.com/YXVyYXNtYTovLz9jaGFubmVsaWQ9ZDFjNzJmYzkxMjJmMjE1MTNhYWU3NGUzNzY2ZGI0NzgmYWN0aW9uPXN1YnNjcmliZSZhcHBuYW1lPUF1cmFzbWEmcGxhdGZvcm09aU9T

We are living in stimulating times. I’m going to buckle up and enjoy the ride.

 

Citations:

Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook! (2014, December 7). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from http://www.emergingedtech.com/2014/12/25-ways-to-use-qr-codes-for-teaching-learning/

QR Codes Can Do That? (2016, March 14). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/qr-codes-can-do-that-monica-burns

 

3D learning and the bad word “coding”

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Image citation: https://pixabay.com/en/humanoid-robot-face-1477614/CC0

 

Coding seemed like a bad word to me. In fact, I put it right up there with trigonometry, statistics, and taxes. I didn’t really know what it meant, to be honest, but I was sure it was bad news. But after exploring the program Sphero, I realized, it’s not so bad. In fact, I think I can do this.

This is the world our students are coming up in. We have to get familiar with things like coding and 3D design; we don’t have a choice. I was able to download Macrolab on my smartphone and play around with coding a bit. After watching the youtube videos, I became less threatened by the whole process. I found that I was able to navigate the app and, although the Sphero is not available to me yet, I could envision being successful with the programming of the robot when the time comes.

The idea of using a 3D program and creating a 3D model to print out was equally as daunting to me before I began. I chose to use Tinkercad, and although it was tricky to manipulate at first, I found myself getting more comfortable with it. I was able to produce a bookmark that contained several different features that I was happy with.

By involving students in programs like the hour of coding and introducing them to programs like Tinkercad and Sketchup, we are giving them access to tools that they will be able to manipulate, probably much more naturally than we can. Students are growing up in a society where new technology is constantly being introduced and they are open to it and embrace it wholeheartedly. I can see students being extremely excited by being introduced to something that they HAVEN’T seen or used before, where we, as adults, tend to be afraid of things we haven’t used before.

Before my own exploration of these tools, I thought that they would only be relevant in tech or math classes, but not now. I can see these programs being used in language arts classes. Students could use these 3D models to create images that represent symbolism in stories they are reading. They could code a robot to tell a story they have written, or to create an alternative ending to something they read. I think it would be prudent to open up classroom discussions to get student input on how they would like to use these tools. I can imagine they would offer up things I hadn’t even thought of.