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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders

  • Have you ever started a classroom blog with the best of intentions only to see it fall by the wayside after a couple of months? 
  • Are you wondering, "what's the big deal about Twitter?" 
  • Would you like to engage your students, their parents, and your community as a whole in more consistent and efficient manner?
If your answer to any of those questions is "yes," then my online course Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is for you.

Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is a five week webinar series during which teachers and school administrators will learn the how to choose the best blogging platform for their situations, how to set-up a blog for classroom and school-wide use, and learn about strategies on how to manage blogs in classroom and school-wide settings. Participants will also learn how to avoid the mistakes that often lead to blogging endeavors being abandoned. After establishing blogs we’ll jump into using social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Instagram to reach out to parents, students, and other members of school communities.

The course starts next Tuesday at 7pm Eastern Time. There is still time to register.

Don't worry if you cannot attend every live webinar in the series. Every live webinar is recorded and emailed to you after the meeting is completed. 

Are you wondering why I charge for these classes? Please watch this short video

More Than 100 Sets of Primary Source Documents for Students - Best of 2016

As I usually do during this week, I'm taking some time off to relax, ski, and work on some long-term projects for the next year. This week I will be re-publishing the most popular posts of 2016. 

A few years ago I wrote a post about searching through the Digital Public Library of America to locate primary source documents to use with students. At that point the DPLA had relatively few, loosely organized collections. Yesterday, I received an email from DPLA informing me that they now have more than 100 primary source document sets for students.

The DPLA's primary source document sets are organized by subject and time period in United States history. Depending upon the time period the DPLA primary source sets include documents, drawings, maps, photographs, and film clips. A list of points to consider accompanies each artifact in each set. Teachers should scroll to the bottom of the page on each artifact to find a teaching guide related to the primary source set.

Applications for Education
The DPLA's primary source sets provide teachers and students with a convenient way to find primary source documents. For teachers it can be a good way to locate resources to use in a lesson plan. For students the sets can provide a good start to a research project.

On the topic of primary sources, this video provides students with a great explanation of the differences between primary and secondary sources.

Join Teaching History With Technology to learn more about using technology and primary sources in your classroom. 

10 Ways to Use Adobe Spark in School - Best of 2016

As I usually do during this week, I'm taking some time off to relax, ski, and work on some long-term projects for the next year. This week I will be re-publishing the most popular posts of 2016. 

On Tuesday morning I published a video about how to use Adobe's new creative suite called Adobe Spark. That video was focused on how to use the three parts of Adobe Spark; post, page, and video. If you haven't seen the video, it is embedded below.


Now that we know how the tools work, let's take a look at some ways that teachers and students can use Adobe Spark.

Post:
Post is the part of the Adobe Spark that lets you create graphics like posters, announcements, and Internet memes.
  • Students and teachers can create simple posters to print and post in their schools to announce club meetings, campaigns for class elections, or to post encouraging messages to students.
  • To help students understand and show that they understand what propaganda messages look like, I have had them create simple early 20th Century-style propaganda posters of their own. Adobe Spark has built-in Creative Commons search that can help students find pictures to use for those posters. Students can also upload pictures they've found in the public domain.
  • Create a meme-style graphic to share on your classroom, library, or school website. The graphic could be intended to encourage students and parents to remind each other of an upcoming school event. You could also create a meme to encourage students to continue reading over the summer. 
Video:
As the name implies, this is the Adobe Spark tool for creating videos. Videos are created by adding text and images to slides. You can record yourself talking over each slide. A library of free music is available to layer under your narration or you can use that music in lieu of narration.

  • Create a short flipped-lesson with Adobe Spark. The recording tool makes it easy to precisely record your narration over the slides in your lesson. 
  • Have your students create video lessons. The slide aspect of Adobe Spark's video tool lends itself to students creating short Ken Burns-style documentary videos. Have them use Spark's search tool to find images to use in their videos or have them use a place Flickr's The Commons to find historical images. I've had students make this style of video to tell the stories of people moving west across the United States in the 19th Century. 
  • This is the time of year for end-of-school assemblies and celebrations. Use Adobe Spark's video creation tool to make a video of highlights of the school year. Rather than narrating the video you can use music from Adobe Spark's library. 
Page:
Page is the tool for creating simple web pages to showcase pictures, posters, videos, text, and links. 
  • Create an event invitation page. Create a page that outlines the highlights of an upcoming school event like a fundraiser or open house night. Include images of past events, images of prizes, or include a video about the event. Should you need people to register for your event, include a link to a Google Form. (Learn how to use Google Forms).
  • Create a digital portfolio. Spark pages provide a great format for digital portfolios. Students can organize their pages into sections to showcase videos they've made, documents they've written, and their reflections on what they've learned. 
  • Make a multimedia timeline. While it wasn't designed specifically for making timelines, Spark Page's formatting does lend itself to timelines. Ask your students to research a series of events, find media representative of those events, caption the events and media with dates, and then place them into the proper order.
  • Write an image-based story. Students can write a story about themselves by using pictures they've taken placed into a Spark Page. Another way to think about image-based stories is to have students search for images and use them as writing prompts. Ask them to choose five pictures and write a story that connects the images. 

Adobe Spark works in your web browser including on Chromebooks. Adobe Spark is also available as a series of iPad apps for Page, Video, and Post. 

Great Tools for Creating Screencasts - Best of 2016

As I usually do during this week, I'm taking some time off to relax, ski, and work on some long-term projects for the next year. This week I will be re-publishing the most popular posts of 2016. 

Over the last few weeks I have shared my favorite tools for creating screencast videos on Chromebooks, on Windows and Mac computers, on iPads, and on Android tablets. Many people who read this blog work in BYOD environments or otherwise need tools for creating screencasts on a variety of devices. Therefore, this morning I put together a PDF featuring my favorite screencasting tools and methods. You can view the document as embedded below or you can grab a Google Docs copy here.

10 Sites and Apps for Vocabulary and Spelling Practice - Best of 2016

As I usually do during this week, I'm taking some time off to relax, ski, and work on some long-term projects for the next year. This week I will be re-publishing the most popular posts of 2016. 

Last night I watched the conclusion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. A recap of the finals is available on the Associated Press YouTube channel. Like many others who watched the finals, I have to admit that there were some new-to-me words in the final rounds. That reminded me that I have a bunch of sites and apps in my archives that can help students learn new vocabulary words and practice spelling new words.

Stumpy’s Alphabet Dinner is a fun app in which students feed letters and shapes to cartoon characters. The letters and shapes that students feed to the characters have to match the letter or shape displayed on the character’s stomach. If the child makes an incorrect match the character spits out the letter.

Building Language for Literacy offers three nice little language activities from Scholastic. The activities are designed for pre-K and Kindergarten students. The spelling activity is called  Leo Loves to Spell. Leo Loves to Spell asks students to help a lobster named Leo identify the first letter of a series of spelling words arranged in a dozen categories.

Spell Up is a fun Google Chrome experimentSpell Up is a game in which you hear a prompt to spell a word then have to speak into your laptop or Chromebook to see the word spelled on your screen. If you spell the word correctly it stays on the screen where it becomes part of a tower of words. If you spell a word incorrectly, it will fall off the screen and you will be prompted to try again (you can skip a word after a few tries).

Knoword is a fun and challenging game that tests your ability to match definitions to words. Knoword is played like this; you're presented with the first letter of a word, its part of speech, and the definition. You then have to fill in the correct spelling of the word. If you enter the correct word, you earn points. If you don't get it right, you lose points. You don't have to register to play Knoword, but you can register if you want to. Registering for Knoword gives you the option to keep track of your game statistics. Registered users can also earn badges based on their performances. In the few games that I played I noticed that Knoword is probably best suited to use by students in middle school and high school. I think many of the words would be too difficult for elementary school students and they could end up frustrated with the game.

Your students can test their spelling skills against those of past winners of the Scripp's National Spelling Bee on Vox's Spell It Out challenge. Vox's spelling challenge presents you with the final winning words from twenty past national spelling bees. You will hear the word pronounced then you have to type it in the spelling box to submit your answer. Before submitting your answer you can hear the word used in a sentence and see the origin of the word.

WordWriter is a neat writing tool from BoomWriter. WordWriter allows teachers to create vocabulary lists that they want students to incorporate into a writing assignment. Assignments are distributed directly to students through the class lists that teachers create in their BoomWriter accounts. Students do not need email addresses to receive the assignments. Teachers can log-in at any time to see if and when a student has completed an assignment. Click here for videos on how to use the service.

World’s Worst Pet is a free iPad app that contains a series of fun vocabulary games. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. World’s Worst Pet is designed for students in grades four through eight. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words.

PrepFactory is a free service for high school students can use to prepare for the SAT and or ACT. PrepFactory offers students a series of tutorial videos and written tips to help them prepare for both tests. After completing a tutorial students can test themselves in a series of practice questions. Each question set is timed and and limited to chunks of ten questions at a time. Students can earn badges for completing tutorials or question sets. Click here for video of PrepFactory in action.

Spell 'til You Drop is a free iPad published by McGraw-Hill. To play the game students have to correctly spell words as they are read aloud to them. The app gets its name from the game format used throughout the app. For each correctly spelled word students move across a footbridge. For each word spelled incorrectly a piece of the bridge drops away. The object is to cross each bridge before it collapses.Spell 'til You Drop offers eight levels of difficulty for students to play. The levels are loosely based on grade levels. One complaint about the app is that it lacks a QWERTY keyboard. Students who are familiar with QWERTY keyboards may be frustrated by searching for letters in Spell 'til You Drop's letter bank.

Flippity offers a great template for creating spelling practice activities for your students. Using Google Spreadsheets you can create an activity in which students hear a word read aloud then have to type it correctly into a quiz form. Students receive instant feedback on their practice attempts. A demo of the Flippity spelling practice activity is available here.

Disclosure: Prep Factory and Boom Writer are advertisers on FreeTech4Teachers.com.