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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Listening Effectively - Tips from a Student

The head tilt says, "I'm listening."
Last week I stumbled upon an older Life Hacker article about how to improve your listening skills. It's a good article that students should read. After reading the article I did a YouTube search for videos on the topic. I found plenty, but none that I thought were worth sharing here. So I headed over to Next Vista to see if there were any student-produced videos about listening skills. Sure enough there was one.

The following student-produced video explains the LEAP technique for effective listening.


How to Use ReadWorks Digital - Create, Share, & Grade Reading Assignments

A few weeks ago ReadWorks teased the launch of a new platform called ReadWorks Digital. Yesterday, ReadWorks Digital finally launched to general public.

ReadWorks Digital is built upon the popular ReadWorks service for finding articles aligned to grade level, lexile, and Common Core standards. ReadWorks articles are accompanied by reading comprehension questions, vocabulary lists, and discussion questions. The ReadWorks Digital platform makes it easy for you to distribute articles and assignments to students in an online classroom environment. Within ReadWorks Digital teachers can track students' progress on assignments, see responses to questions, and grade students' responses to questions.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate the teacher side and student side of ReadWorks Digital.



Neat Resources for Learning About Yellowstone

This month's issue of National Geographic Magazine is all about Yellowstone National Park. The magazine's website has some excellent articles, videos, and interactive graphics about the animals and geology of the park. Unfortunately, about half of the resources on National Geographic Magazine's website are restricted to people who have paid for a subscription to the magazine. Here are some other free resources for learning about Yellowstone National Park.

PBS offers some excellent videos about Yellowstone. Return of the Wolves examines how and why wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and the effects of their reintroduction. The Volcano Under Yellowstone takes a look at the geology of the park including the famous geysers.



The USGS in partnership with the University of Utah produces the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory records and publishes data about volcanic activity in Yellowstone National Park. Much of the material on the site is very scientific in nature, but the Observatory website does offer some educational materials accessible to the non-scientist. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory offers videos about the volcanoes of Yellowstone. The Observatory also offers photographic tours of Yellowstone.

Some other good resources for learning about Yellowstone National Park can be found in Google Earth. Turn on the National Geographic and Street View layers to some excellent images from within the park.

In March National Geographic published a great video containing remarkable footage of elk, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer migrations in Yellowstone National Park. The short video describes the length and direction of the migrations made by these beautiful animals. Make sure you turn up the volume to hear the sounds of the elk, mule deer, and pronghorn bleats.

10 Ways to Use Adobe Spark in School

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. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thousands of Free eBooks for Summer Reading

A couple of weeks ago I featured the summer reading packs offered by ReadWorks. Those reading packs are a great option for those teachers and students looking for relatively short articles. For those teachers and students in need of longer ebooks, I recommend taking a look at what Zing has to offer.

Zing is a service that offers thousands of free fiction and non-fiction ebooks to teachers and students. On Zing you can browse for books by topic, language, or reading level. You can read the books in your web browser on a laptop or tablet.

Zing is more than just a repository of free ebooks. In the Zing reader students will find a built-in dictionary and tools for taking notes while they read.

Applications for Education
If you create an accounts on Zing you will be able to create Zing classrooms. In those classrooms you can create and manage accounts for students. Through your Zing classroom portal you can check your students' reading logs.