Monday, January 24, 2011

Planet Orange - Money Lessons for K-6 Students

Planet Orange is a website developed by ING Direct for the purpose of helping elementary school students learn some basic money skills. Through a series of "missions" (games) to Planet Orange students gain or lose money. Students can design an avatar to represent themselves on their missions. The students gain invest or spend the money they gain to match their budgets and reach their goals.

Planet Orange offers teachers a series of lesson plans for students in grades K-7. The lessons are designed around student play in the Planet Orange environment. The highlight of the teacher section are two 65+ page activity books. The activity books include materials for pre-teaching important money-related vocabulary prior to having students go on Planet Orange missions. The activity books also include worksheets and lessons to build upon the student missions in Planet Orange.

Applications for Education
To use Planet Orange kids have to enter a parent's email address so to use it in your classroom you will have to contact parents. That could be a good way to communicate with parents about what's going on in your classroom. In the event that you can't get students online to use Planet Orange, some of the lessons in the activity books could be used effectively without going online.

Clorox Offers Free Lesson Plans About Germs

In an effort to help elementary school teachers educate their students about germs and disease prevention (and to sell disinfectant) Clorox has developed a website for teachers. Clorox Classrooms offers ten lesson plans, four "take home" activities, and a couple of interactive whiteboard activities for K-5 classrooms. Each of the ten lesson plans are designed to help students understand what germs are and how to prevent the spread of germs. Most of the lesson plans include an "extension" activities for interactive whiteboards.

Applications for Education
There are K-2 and 3-5 versions of four lesson plans; The Case of Invisible Invaders, Follow Those Germs, The Usual Suspects, and Science Fair Investigation. For 3-5 only there is How Clean is the Scene? And for K-2 only there is Removing the Evidence. The lesson plans are published as PDFs with handouts for students. The lesson plans are designed to get students out of their seats and actively engaged in problem solving. - A Backchannel With Voting Features is an open-source backchannel tool developed at the MIT Media Lab. Using you can create an online forum through which users can exchange messages in response to a presentation they're watching. There are a lot of free services that do the same thing, but there are a couple of things that make different. allows you to select a start and end time for your backchannel. As the administrator of a account you can create and manage multiple backchannels and schedule them to go live at different times. also includes voting tools that participants can use to vote messages up or down.

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of that I'm excited about is the option to create multiple channels ahead of time. This will be a useful time-saver on the days when I have four consecutive classes and I want each class to have its own channel.

As I mentioned during my Reform Symposium presentation about backchannels in the classroom, student backchanneling solves a few challenges that all teachers face at one time or another. Those challenges are having time to hear every student's question or comment, providing voice for shy students, and improving the relevance and timeliness of your responses to students and their responses to each other. The recording of my presentation is now available here (clicking the link will open an Elluminate page). 

Here are a couple examples of using a backchannel in an elementary school classroom. Here is an example of how I've used backchannels with my high school students. 

Kippt - Share Bookmarks Across Devices and Networks

Kippt is a free service designed to enable sharing of bookmarks and notes between devices and social networks. On your computer and on your iOS device Kippt works as a browser bookmarklet. Once you have Kippt installed you can highlight text on any webpage then click the Kippt bookmarklet to save it in your Kippt account. From your Kippt account you can send any link or clipped text to Twitter, Delicious, or Facebook.

Installing the Kippt bookmarklet on your computer is a simple drag and drop process. Installing the bookmarklet on your iOS device requires you to copy and paste a line of code.

Applications for Education
The option to highlight and save text from a page could make Kippt helpful to students while they're conducting research online. The saving the text along with the url eliminates the situation of students bookmarking a site then later wondering what it was about that site that they found important.

Two services similar to Kippt that are also worth investigating are The Awesome Highlighter and Evernote.