Friday, April 3, 2015

Find Your National Park

A buffalo I saw while hiking in
Grand Teton NP in 2006.
Find Your Park is a new campaign by the U.S. National Parks service. The purpose of the campaign is to increase awareness of National Parks and their programs. To that end, Find Your Park offers an interactive map of hundreds of national parks and public lands. You can search for a park or public land by name and or location. Clicking on the park's name in the map will take you to more information about the programs at that park.

If you visit one of the parks, Find Your Park encourages you to share your pictures and videos of the experience with the hashtag #FindYourPark. You can also upload your pictures and videos directly to the Find Your Park website.


Applications for Education
As the weather warms and you start to think about outdoor activities for your children or your students, take a look at Find Your Park. Find Your Park could help you discover educational programs happening in a national park near you.

H/T to The Adventure Blog.

Webinar Recording - Best Backchannel and Informal Assessment Tools

Last night I hosted a free webinar about backchannel and informal assessment tools. If you missed it, the recording is now available to view here or as embedded below. In the webinar I covered TodaysMeet, Padlet, Dash 81, Tozzl, Socrative (although it crashed during the session), and Kahoot.

Storyboard That Releases New Teacher Guides for Classic Literature

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

For the last couple of years Storyboard That has offered great guides to using storyboards in the classroom. The latest update to their Teacher Guides section includes new guides for using storyboards to help students understand classic works including Lord of the Flies, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Oedipus, The Tell Tale Heart, and Animal Farm. The guides include plot diagrams, character diagrams, and vocabulary diagrams. Each guide also includes references to Common Core standards.

In February I hosted a webinar all about the features of Storyboard That and ideas for using it in your classroom. The recording of that webinar is embedded below.


Applications for Education
Storyboard That provides a great way for students to visually organize their thoughts about a topic, to plan a story, or to illustrate their understanding of a story. As you can see in the teacher guides, Storyboard That also provides great visual tools for teachers to use to help students understand big concepts.

SeeSaw Gets a Bunch of Helpful Updates for Organizing Digital Portfolios

Disclosure: SeeSaw's parent company is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Back in January the developers of the popular Shadow Puppet Edu app launched SeeSaw to help teachers and students organize digital portfolios on their iPads. Since then I've shown the app at a bunch of conferences and it has been a hit. One teacher recently sent me an email about how happy she is with it. She described it best by saying, "it's like Educreations, online portfolio, drawing tools, photo booth, etc. all rolled up in one. I LOVE how it feeds to the teacher easily for checking purposes (unlike Google Classroom that needs 100 clicks to open your class' work). It's perfect for 2nd grade."

To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions.

SeeSaw allows parents to create accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new SeeSaw submission.

This week SeeSaw received a handful of updates that will make it even easier to organize digital portfolios through your iPad and your students' iPads. Here's what's new in SeeSaw this week:

  • Folders: Now you can organize student work in to folders. You can set up colored folders for subject areas or learning objectives, and choose whether students self select folders when adding items or teachers do it as part of item approval. Folders are visible to teachers, students and parents. You can browse work by folder across your class or for a particular student.
  • Teacher Flags: Teachers (and co-teachers) can flag items to review later -- at a parent teacher conference, with a student, or however you'd like. Which items have been flagged are only visible to class teachers and co-teachers.
  • PDF Documents: Now you can add PDFs to Seesaw journals. You can import PDFs from many other iOS apps (like Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Google Drive, Book Creator) using the iOS share extension / open in feature. Just tap share in those apps and select Seesaw.
  • Tag Everyone: Want to add a class photo to Seesaw journals, or send a quick note to all parents in your class? Now you can add an item to all student journals with a single tap.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

5 Resources for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. Writing and or understanding poetry can be a challenge for those of who don't consider ourselves the creative writing type. Surely we have students who feel that way too. Here are five resources that can help us understand and create poetry.

ReadWorks has a new selection of famous poems available on their website. The selection is organized by grade level. As with every passage on ReadWorks, each poem is accompanied by a set of guided reading questions.

BoomWriter has put together new vocabulary sheets for Poetry Month. The poetry vocabulary is part of a larger poetry lesson plan for elementary and middle school students. You can download the vocabulary words and lesson plans as PDFs. (Disclosure: BoomWriter advertises on FreeTech4Teachers.com).

The Poetry Foundation offers some helpful resources for teachers and students. One of the resources that immediately jumped out at me when I visited the Poetry Foundation's Learning Lab was the glossary of poetry terms. Students can search the glossary alphabetically, by form & type of poem, by rhyme & meter, by schools & projects, by technique, and by theory or criticism. The Poetry Foundation offers a free mobile app for iOS and Android. The app allows users to search for poems, save poems, and share favorite poems with their friends. You can search for poems by poet, by title, or by entering a line or two of a favorite poem.

Word Mover is a free iPad app and web app from Read Write Think. The app is designed to help students develop poems and short stories. When students open the Word Mover app they are shown a selection of words that they can drag onto a canvas to construct a poem or story. Word Mover provides students with eight canvas backgrounds on which they can construct their poems. If the word bank provided by Word Mover doesn’t offer enough words they can add their own words to the word bank.

Scholastic has assembled a big list of lesson resources for teaching poetry this month. One of the resources that I really like is the Poetry Idea Engine. The Poetry Idea Engine is a simple, interactive tool that helps students create four types of poems; haiku, limerick, cinquain, and free verse. To create poem on Poetry Idea Engine students select one of the four formats. If they pick one of the first three format students will be given a short explanation of the pattern before completing the template to create their poems.