Monday, January 30, 2017

Three Themes to Brainstorm About for Your Classroom Blog

Maintaining any kind of regular posting schedule on a blog requires some planning. To that end, one of the things that I do on a regular basis is have a brainstorming session in which I develop themes to write about and then topics within those themes. You can do this for your classroom blog by inviting your students to participate in a group brainstorming session. Here are three themes to get you started.

1. Unique aspects of your town/city/state/region. 
This is a great theme for classroom blogs that are going to be read by students in other parts of the world. Connect your classroom with a classroom in another part of the world to learn about the customs and physical geography of each other's parts of the world.

2. Tech tips.
Let your classroom blog be a place that other students, teachers, and parents come to for help with common tech questions. Ask your students to think about the questions that their parents often have about technology.

3. Time management/ study strategies.
Between homework, extracurricular activities at school, and responsibilities elsewhere it seems that our students are busier than ever before. Have them share ideas with each other on how to manage their time and priorities. Or take the theme in a slightly different yet related direction by asking students to share their favorite studying tips.

I'll be sharing more about brainstorming and mind mapping activities in a webinar this Wednesday at 4pm Eastern Time

Quick Key + Google Classroom = Great Way to Conduct Formative Assessments

Quick Key is an excellent platform for creating and conducting formative assessments. I often include Quick Key in my presentations about formative assessment because it is a tool that works equally well in classrooms that are 1:1 and in classrooms that are not 1:1. This is possible because Quick Key allows you to create formative assessments that you can distribute electronically as well as on paper.

If you use Quick Key to distribute your assessments electronically, Quick Key will score your students' responses automatically. One of the latest features of Quick Key is an integration with Google Classroom. This integration lets you use your Google Classroom rosters to distribute and collect assessments.

If you distribute your assessments on paper, you can use the Quick Key mobile app to quickly scan your students' answer sheets and receive the scores. Watch the following teacher-produced video to learn how easy it is to use Quick Key to score formative assessments.

Applications for Education
Conducting formative assessments on a regular basis is one of many ways to understand what your students know and don't know. That information can help you design your next lessons to meet the needs of your students. Or as Tyler Welch from Sumner Schools in Tennessee wrote, "Quick Key allows me to give ten standards-aligned questions at the start of each block of instruction. It takes 5 minutes for the students to complete and less than two minutes for me to grade. I am able to tool my instruction towards the specific needs of my students much more quickly.”

Disclosure: Quick Key is an advertiser on

Make Your Own Virtual Reality Headset

On Saturday afternoon I saw Hall Davidson give the closing keynote for the Fort Worth ISD Technology Conference. In his presentation he spoke extensively about the possibilities for use of virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence in the classroom. One of the things that he mentioned was that you don't need to spend a lot of money in order to use virtual reality in your classroom. In fact, most schools already have the materials necessary to create virtual reality viewers. With some cardboard, glue, and plastic bottles you could build enough virtual reality viewers for a classroom.

The Google Cardboard website has templates that you can print and follow to build your own virtual reality viewers (scroll past the items listed for sale). Instructables also offers a template and directions for making your own VR viewers. And for those who would like to see the process before embarking on the project, the following video covers the process from start to finish.

Three Reasons to Maintain a Photo Gallery With Your Students

We are all taking so many more pictures today than we did fifteen to twenty years ago. Thanks to cloud storage we can save and share thousands of images from our phones. No one knows this better than our students who will never understand the agonizing waits we used to endure after dropping off rolls of film at the local photo developer. Since our students are already snapping thousands of pictures, let's take advantage of that habit and use it in our classrooms. Here are three reasons to maintain photo galleries with your students.

1. Copyright freedom.
Use a Google Drive, Dropbox, or another cloud service to create a gallery of pictures that your students can access for use in their multimedia projects. Ask your students to submit pictures that align to themes that you designate. For example, you might have a nature theme or pet theme in your gallery that you have students add pictures that match that theme. If you're worried about inappropriate submissions, moderate submissions by first having students upload to a folder that only accepts files then move the pictures to a publicly viewable folder. DropItToMe is a great tool for doing that. Learn how to use DropItToMe by watching this video.

2. Writing prompts.
Anyone who has ever taught a language arts class will tell you that one of perennial challenges is helping students who say, "I don't have anything to write about" when you give them a creative writing assignment. Having an image gallery for those students to scroll through can be of assistance in those situations. Have your students scroll through one of the thematic galleries you've created and choose a picture or two to craft a story about.

3. Concept illustrations.
Math and science is all around us. Have your students take pictures that they think illustrate or are representative of the concepts they are learning about in your math or science lessons. By putting those pictures into a classroom gallery you're letting all of the students learn from and with each other.

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