Saturday, November 24, 2012

10 Google Search Tips All Students Can Use

I'm often asked for recommendations on how to help students use Google more effectively. This morning I sat down and thought about the recommendations that I make most frequently when I am asked. I wrote up my list and put it into PDF form for you to download and print if you like.
A few things about the PDF. The list is not detailed (I wanted to keep it to one page) so you may have to show your students how to do some of the things on it. There is a link to Google Search Lesson plans in the bottom left corner of the page. I was going to publish the PDF through Google Drive, but when I uploaded it some of the color blocks were stripped out. I have enabled downloads through Scribd. And for some reason a line appears in the Scribd viewer, but that line is not present when you download the PDF.

Techniques Google Search Star

Spell + Friends Helps Students Learn to Spell

Spell + Friends is a free iPad app that provides students with word lists to practice in a virtual spelling bee manner. There are three modes in Spell + Friends. Learn mode is for creating word lists to study. Practice mode reads words to students that they then have to spell correctly in the app. Compete mode allows students to compete head-to-head against other users of the app. 

In the Learn mode students select new words to learn. There are more than 2,000 words in the word bank. The words are divided into three categories based on how frequently they are used.

In the Practice mode students practice spelling words that are read to them from their word lists. In addition to hearing the pronunciation of the words they can find the definition and origin of the word. Students can also read a sentence that uses the word they're trying to spell.

In the Compete mode students can play against others who are nearby in a peer-to-peer environment. The Compete mode will search for other iPads and iPhones that have Spell + Friends running at the same time. Students can also compete against the world in the Spell + Friends game center.

Applications for Education
Spell + Friends provides students with a way to track their progress as they learn their new word lists. I like that students can find the origins and definitions of the words without having to use another app or open a dictionary.

5 Educational Toys for Your Holiday Shopping List

Once a year I break away from websites and apps to check out some tangible educational games and toys for your holiday shopping list. I'm not a toy and games expert, but my uncle Christopher Byrne has been working in the toy industry for more than 30 years. Some of you may have seen him on Oprah, the Today Show, and other nationally syndicated shows. So when I want to find out which educational toys and games are popular right now I turn to his company's website, Time to Play. I spent some time exploring Time to Play this morning and found five toys and games that I think kids will enjoy playing with while learning at the same time.

LeapFrog has been popular for years. I just learned that they have a couple of interactive maps that look like fun. They offer interactive maps like LeapFrog Tag Maps: USA which allow children to use the LeapFrog reader to explore the map. They also offer the LeapFrog Tag Solar System Adventure Pack which is an interactive map of the solar system. Learn more about the solar system adventure pack in the video below.

For the children in your life that are just learning to write, Mead offers Letter Stories Dry Erase Flashcards. These flashcards have uppercase and lowercase letters for children to trace.

My family played a lot of board games when we were growing up. In fact, we still play them when we get together during the holidays. (My uncle Chris hates to lose at board games). Two educational board games that look good to me are Wise Alec Family Trivia Game and Flag Frenzy! see Flag Frenzy in action in the video below.

Professional Learning in the Digital Age - A Review

Last spring my Google Teacher Academy buddy Dr. Kristen Swanson sent me an email asking if she could interview me for a book that she was writing. I agreed and we connected over Skype for a conversation about the role that blogging has played in my professional life. This week Kristen's book came in the mail and I was surprised to see how much of our conversation made it into her new book, Professional Learning in the Digital Age. (I've been interviewed for other books and research projects and usually a five minute conversation boils down to one sentence).

Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator's Guide to User-Generated Learning is a succinct 84 page (plus appendixes) guide to harnessing the power of online communities to become a better educator. Kristen uses examples of people like me, Patrick Larkin, Kim Sivick, and others to illustrate the power of user-generated learning. What is user-generated learning? According to Kristen it's learning acquired through active curation, reflection, and contribution to a self-selected collaborative space. In other words, learning through the professional connections you make.

As you might expect from the title, Professional Learning in the Digital Age, the book introduces readers to a variety of ways to digitally connect with other professionals. In each chapter Kristen provides a list of resources and a small "do now" action plan to help you get connected. The format of the book makes it easy to read a chapter, stop and do the "do now" things that Kristen lists, and then come back to reading the book later.

If you're looking for a book to give to faculty members that need to get connected, Professional Learning in the Digital Age is the perfect book for them. Kristen has written it in a style that makes the importance of user-generated learning clear while at the same time she avoids preaching "the gospel of social media." Professional Learning in the Digital Age will give readers the feeling that user-generated learning is important and that they can do the things Kristen recommends.

To support people new to user-generated learning Kristen will be hosting a Professional Learning in the Digital Age virtual book club in January. You can get more information about the virtual book club on the website User Generated Learning.

You can get the book from Eye on Education and hopefully soon from Amazon too.

Week in Review - The Thanksgiving Edition

Good morning from Maine where we're all ready for snow. This week's week in review picture is one that I took on the tarmac of the Denver International Airport in April. I'm sharing this picture because it represents to me a great year of traveling to speak and work with teachers all over North America and Europe. Those opportunities came because so many of you invited me to your events, shared blog posts, and generally help spread the reach of Free Technology for Teachers. Thank you!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Create Your Own iPad Games on TinyTap
2. Read & Write - An Accessibility App for Google Documents
3. Discover Great iPad Apps on Apps Gone Free
4. Free 63 Page PDF - Google Drive for Teachers
5. 9 Ways Students Can Host Peer Tutoring Sessions Online
6. European Exploration - A Game for Learning About the Age of Discovery
7. gClass Folders Helps You Organize Files Shared By Your Students

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
Send Hub offers an excellent service for sending group text messages to parents.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

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