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Sunday, August 31, 2014

August's Ten Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from Maine where I had a busy day of fishing and walking with my dogs. I hope that all of you had an equally good weekend. At the end of every month I take a look back at the ten most popular posts of the month. Writing this post gives me a chance to see what I should write more of and it gives you a chance to catch neat things that you might have missed earlier in the month.


The ten most popular posts from August, 2014.
1. Two Good Random Name Selection Tools
2. Math Word Wall Posters for Elementary School Classrooms
3. Two Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed This Week
4. Seven Web-based Tools for Delivering Flipped Lessons
5. Great Google Search Strategies Every Student Can Use - Infographic
6. 20 Good Map Creation Tools for Students
7. Five Good Resources for Teaching Digital Safety and Citizenship to Elementary School Students
8. NEWSELA + Google Docs = Differentiated, Collaborative Reading!
9. WordWriter - A New Way of Learning Vocabulary Through Writing
10. Two Ways to Explore the News Through Maps

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

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CNN Student News - A Great Resource for the 2014/2015 School Year

One of my go-to resources for current events lessons is CNN Student News. With the start of a new school comes a new season of CNN Student News. The video format for the 2014-2015 school year is the same as it has been for years. The roughly ten minute episodes feature US stories, a world news stories, "shout out" to a classroom, and a quick quiz. Transcripts for each show are available for download. On the CNN Student News site you can also find suggested viewing questions to cover with your students. The latest commercial-free episode is embedded below.

12 Good Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback from Students

Chatrooms and polling services provide good ways to hear from all of the students in a classroom. These kind of tools allow shy students to ask questions and share comments. For your more outspoken students who want to comment on everything, a feedback mechanism provides a good outlet for them too. This summer I tried out a few new tools for gathering real-time feedback from students. Those new tools are featured at the top of my updated list of backchannel and informal assessment tools.

Newer tools on the block...
81 Dash is a nice backchannel platform that I learned about during the "Smackdown" at Hack Ed 2014. 81 Dash provides a place for teachers to create chat rooms to use with students to host conversations and share files. Once you are registered you can begin creating rooms. In your chat room you can exchange messages and files. As the owner of a room you can delete messages written by your students. Students join your 81 Dash room by going to the URL that is assigned to your room. When they arrive at your room for the first time they will be asked to register. There are two registration options. Registering as a "guest user" does not require students to enter email addresses.

EverySlide is a free (for educators and students) service that allows you to share your slides directly to the iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, and Android devices used by members of your audience. As you move through your shared slides you can pop-up a poll to gather feedback from your audience. EverySlide supports PowerPoint and Keynote slides. To get started just upload your slides to EverySlide (you can re-use uploaded slides for multiple groups). When you're ready to present give your audience the access code for your slides. At the end of your presentation you can grab a spreadsheet of the responses to your poll questions.

Geddit is a new service that allows you to quickly gather feedback from your students through any web-enabled device. Like similar services Geddit gives you the ability to push questions to your students' devices. You can create and send multiple choice and short answer questions. You can also simply ask "do you get it" at any time to check for your students' general feelings about a lesson you're conducting. The feedback that you gather from your students through Geddit can be displayed in a variety of graph and list formats. The list format that I like best shows me how each student responded to my "do you get it" question and highlights the students who responded with "no" or "kind of." you can now comment and send messages directly to individual students through Geddit. This feature will allow you to follow-up with a student who replied "I don't get it" to a question.

Plickers is a neat student response system that I learned about at ISTE 2014. Since then I have shown it at a handful of conferences and it has been a smash-hit every time. Plickers uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses. Click here for a full run-down of ideas for using Plickers.

AnswerGarden is a neat service that allows you to embed a open-ended feedback tool into your classroom blog or website. With an AnswerGarden embedded into your blog your students can simply type responses to your question and see their responses appear in a word cloud. Creating an AnswerGarden is a simple process that does not require you to create an account. To get started go to the AnswerGarden homepage and click "create AnswerGarden." On the next screen you will enter a question or statement for your students to respond to. To share your AnswerGarden with students you can give them the link or embed the AnswerGarden into your blog as I have done below. Optionally, before sharing your AnswerGarden you can turn on moderation of responses and set an admin password.

ParticiPoll is a service that you can use to add interactive polls to your PowerPoint presentations. Your polls are created and delivered within your PowerPoint slides. Once you've added ParticiPoll to your PowerPoint you can create as many polls as you like. Each poll can have up to six response options. The best aspect of ParticiPoll is that you don't have to leave your slidedeck at all in order to administer the poll and see the results of your poll. Your audience can respond to your ParticiPoll poll through their cell phones, tablets, or laptops. To respond they simply go to the URL for your poll and choose a response. When you want to display the poll results you just click to the next element in your PowerPoint slidedeck and the results are displayed for all to see. All polls are anonymous.

The Old Reliables...
Infuse Learning is a free student response system that works with any Internet-connected device. Infuse Learning allows teachers to push questions, prompts, and quizzes out to students' devices in private virtual classrooms. In an Infuse Learning room a teacher can give students a wide variety of formats in which to response to a question or prompt. Students can reply to prompts and questions in standard multiple choice, true/false, and short answer formats. Infuse Learning also offers an option for students to reply by creating drawings or diagrams on their iPads, Android tablets, or on their laptops.

Kahoot is a service for delivering online quizzes and surveys to your students. The premise of Kahoot is similar to that of Socrative and Infuse Learning. On Kahoot you create a quiz or survey that your students respond to through any device that has a web browser. Your Kahoot questions can include pictures and videos. As the teacher you can control the pace of the Kahoot quiz or survey by imposing a time limit for each question. As students answer questions they are awarded points for correct answers and the timeliness of their answers. A scoreboard is displayed on the teacher's screen. Students do not need to have a Kahoot account in order to participate in your activities. To participate they simply have to visit Kahoot.it then enter the PIN code that you give to them to join the activity.

Socrative is the standard to which I compare all new student response systems. Socrative uses cell phones and or laptops (user's choice) for gathering feedback from students. You can post as many questions as you like in a variety of formats. One of the more fun question formats is the "space race" format in which students can work individually or in teams to answer questions as quickly as possible.

Poll Everywhere is a service that allows you to collect responses from an audience via text messaging. The free plan for K-12 educators provides selection of features and quantity of responses that is adequate for almost any classroom. One of the neat ways to display feedback gathered through Poll Everywhere is in word clouds. The word cloud feature integrates with WordleTagxedo, and Tagul.

TodaysMeet, a long-time favorite tool of mine for backchanneling in the classroom, this summer introduced two long-requested features. First, you can now create an account on TodaysMeet. By creating an account you can keep track of all of your chatrooms in one place, restrict access to your rooms, and close rooms early if the conversation gets too far off track. The second feature added to TodaysMeet is the ability to moderate comments in a chatroom. Click here for more information about these updates.

Padlet (formerly known as WallWisher) is a tool that has been used by teachers in a variety of ways for years now. I've often used as a collaborative know-want-learn chart and as an exit ticket tool. Padlet works on interactive whiteboards, on iPads and Android tablets, and in the web browser on your laptop.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts of the Week

Good morning from Maine where the cool air, sweaters on sale, and school buses rumbling down the road indicate that school is back in session in my county. If you started school this week, I hope that it was a great first week of the 2014-2015 school year. Enjoy the weekend! If part of your weekend includes getting caught up on educational technology news you might have missed, the list below is a good place to get started.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. NEWSELA + Google Docs = Differentiated, Collaborative Reading!
2. How to be Notified When Someone Completes Your Google Form
3. Interactive History Posters and a Dictionary of Historical Terms
4. Try the New ViewPure for Distraction-free Viewing of YouTube Videos
5. Five Good File Conversion Tools
6. StoryMap JS - Create a Mapped Story to Save in Google Drive
7. Remind Launches Stamps and Voice Messages

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Cautionary Reminder About Backchannels

I frequently write about and talk about the benefits of using backchannel tools like TodaysMeet in the classroom. Some of my favorite backchannel tools are featured in this guide. Here's a cautionary tale from my early days of using backchannels in my classroom.

Four years ago I had a short (15-20 minutes) video that showed to students in my Civics class. For some reason I got the idea that I would award a bonus point (added to a quiz I recently gave) to the first student to correctly answer the questions I posted in the back-channel. In hindsight making chat a contest was a very bad idea because most of my students either posted guesses as quickly as they could or they tuned-out because they didn't think they could answer quickly enough. In the end, because of my mistake, my students didn't pay attention to the video as well as they would have otherwise. So while a back-channel can definitely improve the educational value of showing a video in class (case in point here), it must be done correctly.

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