Monday, August 5, 2013

A Few Widgets To Consider Adding To Your Classroom Blog

I've been fortunate to have been invited to lead quite a few blogging workshops over the last couple of years. In nearly all of those workshops there are a few widgets that I generally recommend adding to classroom blogs and websites.

SpeakPipe is a service that allows visitors to your blog to leave you voice messages without picking up a phone. With SpeakPipe installed on your blog anyone can click on the "send voicemail" button and leave a message for you. When a visitor clicks the "leave voicemail" button she will be prompted to allow access to her computer. Then the visitor can start recording a message for you. Visitors can, but don't have to, enter their names and email addresses for you. You can listen to and download the messages left for you in your SpeakPipe inbox. SpeakPipe has easy-to-install plugins for Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr. It took me about two minutes to install SpeakPipe on a Blogger blog. For use on other blogging platforms SpeakPipe has a script that you can install manually.

Google Voice is an alternative to SpeakPipe that I used in the past. You can read about that here.

DropItToMe is a service that integrates with to allow students to upload files to my Dropbox account without seeing the contents of my account. DROPitTOme works by synchronizing with your Drop Box account. After connecting the two services DROPitTOme provides a url that you can give to others to upload files to your Drop Box account. You must specify a password that has to be entered before an upload can take place. Give the url and password to those people you want to be able to upload files to your Drop Box account.

Your classroom blog doesn't have to be all business all the time. Consider adding a fun, educational game to your blog. Having a game on it could make your blog a little more appealing and hopefully help your students get in the habit of visiting your blog on a regular basis. Novel Games offers more than 200 games that you can embed into your blog, wiki, or website for free. Most of the games are simple logic games, basic mathematics games, geography games, and spelling games like hangman. Novel Games also offers Sudoku and Mahjongg games.

Create a public Google Calendar and embed it into your blog to share all kinds of helpful information. In my Google Calendars events I include links to public Google Documents that include outlines of upcoming lesson plans.

Why Historical Thinking Matters & Tips for Historical Thinking

Historical Thinking Matters is a good resource for U.S. History teachers that I reviewed about a year ago. This afternoon I took another look at it and found a good interactive presentation titled Why Historical Thinking Matters. The ten part presentation starts out by explaining why historical thinking isn't just memorization of facts. The presentation walks viewers through a model of how to think and study like a historian who analyzes and compares information.

Teaching History offers two interactive posters that show students how to work like historians. Doing History is Like Solving a Mystery is an interactive poster for elementary school students. The poster uses images with notes to guide students through the process of developing good research questions and recording their ideas. History is an Argument About the Past is an interactive poster for middle school and high school students. The poster walks students through identifying primary and secondary sources of information then using that information to create an argument.

What Is Fire? - A Short Explanation

Last year I featured a seven minute award-winning animated video explanation of flames. This afternoon I found another video on the topic. What Is Fire? is a short video from Minute Physics. It doesn't go into much detail which could actually be a good thing because it could spark your students' investigations into the topic to learn more.

Minute Physics has disabled embedding of the What Is Fire? video. I have embedded What Is a Flame? below.

What is a Flame from Ben Ames on Vimeo.

The Syrian Conflict Explained in Five Minutes

Social Studies teachers who are beginning the new school year by reviewing current events from around the world may be interested in this video about Syria. The Syrian Conflict in Five Minutes provides a quick overview of key events and people. The video is appropriate for use with high school students and possibly some middle school students. Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for sharing it a few weeks ago.

Two iPad Apps to Help Students Learn About a New School

The first few days at a new school can be an overwhelming for some students. From meeting new people to simply knowing their way around a new building there is a lot to take in all at once. If you have iPads in classroom, there are a couple of apps that could help you help your students get familiar with the people and places within your school.

TinyTap allows you to create simple iPad games based on the pictures that you take with your iPad. To create a game on TinyTap you upload pictures or take new pictures and arrange them into a set. Then select each image to create questions about it. To create your question press the record button and start talking. When you have finished talking select a portion of your picture to serve as the answer. You could use TinyTap to take pictures of hallways and rooms in your school then turn those pictures into identification games.

ThingLink's iPad app allows you to import pictures from your iPad's camera roll and or take new pictures to turn into interactive images. Use the app to take pictures of your important places in your school and put interactive labels on them through ThingLink. After creating your interactive images you can post them on your classroom blog and or share them directly to your students. (This activity can also be done by using instead of the iPad app).