Saturday, April 23, 2011

Museum Webquests, Sites and Apps for Using iPods or Laptops in Your Classroom

As I attended the Iowa 1:1 Technology Conference this past week, it has become apparent, now more than ever, that technology is vastly changing the way we teach (if we want to be effective, that is). Apple iPods and iPads have become big-time players in such advancement. They are mini-computers, of sorts, that allow for a synthesis of apps and websites to take students to the next level through challenge, cross-curricular study, real-life application, and the amalgamation of higher order thinking skills (HOTS). Below is just a tiny sampling of some of my favorite free iPod apps and websites for classroom use.

The British Museum provides a host of terrific sites for teaching Social Studies and world cultures. It provides extensive information, pictures, and games, paired with links for word meanings and extended exploration.














The museum's site is intriguing, inviting, and has very user-friendly navigation. Among my favorites are the specific sections about Ancient Egypt, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, and Ancient India. For a link to my printable webquests for each of these sites, click here.

The sky's the limit in terms of what this site provides to educators and students. The challenge games within each section do require Flash Plug-Ins, but are fun and educational, appealing to any and all individual learning styles.

There are also many free apps that I have used for my classroom iPods/iPad. Included in my favorites is Splashtop Remote Free. It is an app that also has a download for your PC/Mac which enables you to control your computer (and, thus, your Smartboard) with your iPad. While the free version does limit you to 5 minutes of connectivity per session, it is a great way to manipulate your computer with a more portable device . If 5 minutes is a struggle, there is a paid version that allows for unlimited time.

Bump is an app for sharing pictures, facts, ideas, information, and audio files/stories. By gently nudging two iPods together, information is transmitted back and forth between iPods or iPads with ease. In school, this has been a valuable tool, as my students have the ability to transfer information temporarily for such purposes as editing work, sharing pictures or stories, apps, or even location. You can also "virtually bump" without being near each other. I have found this to be a great feature to use on scavenger hunts. Students can "bump" information back to me as they go out and about answering curriculum-based questions. I can also instant message them through Bump to give hints, clues or other important information.

English-Zone is also a great website that we access via iPods and laptops. There are many free activities, quizzes, and printables throughout the site, and it's not just limited to English. There are many reading, social studies, and standardized test prep links, as well.

TweenTribune is one of our favorite sites for keeping up on age-appropriate current events. The site is very easy to maneuver and allows students with a username and password (also free) to blog posts on articles. Adding to the safety of this site is the ability of classroom teachers to manage all posts and print any class posts for grading purposes.

TodaysMeet is a fantastic site for backchanneling. We use this site for online "forum quizzes", which are ways that we can have an all-class "discussion" about a topic, plot, theme, etc... It is a phenomenal venue for students who typically shy away from oral discussions. Dialogues can be printed upon completion for grading purposes or for written record. Very simple setup.
While this is in no way a complete list of the various free tools we use in my classroom, hopefully this can jump start you to explore even more ways to integrate free technology into your classroom. A special thanks to Richard and FreeTech4Teachers for always being a source of inspiration and information!

Rachel Langenhorst is a 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in Rock Valley, Iowa and has been in education for 16 years. As a child and grandchild of former educators, she shares a life-long passion for learning and helping kids push themselves to reach their full potential. She is a wife to Deric, mother to Alex, Mason, and Ella, and owner of an insane black lab, Howard.
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