Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Interactive Posters on Historical Thinking and Investigation

TeachingHistory.org is an excellent source of lesson plans and other materials useful in teaching US History. Visitors to TeachingHistory.org will find resources appropriate for students in elementary school, middle school, and high school. One of my favorite resources from TeachingHistory.org is their historical thinking posters.

TeachingHistory.org's historical thinking posters are interactive displays that guide students through the process of examining and thinking about history. There are two interactive posters available. The poster for elementary school is called Doing History is Like Solving a Mystery. The poster for high school students is called History is an Argument About the Past. Both posters include images of primary sources. Clicking on the images in the posters opens a series of guiding questions.
Screen capture of poster, visit TeachingHistory.org for the
interactive poster. 

Applications for Education
These interactive posters could serve as a good introduction to the research process. What I like about the posters is that they're not focused so much on "how to find things" aspect of research but rather on the process of investigating and digging into what you have found. In other words, these posters could help students ask better questions that then help them search for things they might have otherwise ignored.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Classroom Blog Add-ons - A Playlist of Tutorials

Once you have your basic classroom blog created, you'll probably find that there are some additional features you want to incorporate. You may also find that you want to create back-up copies of blog entries and or change viewing permissions for your classroom blog. All of those topics and more are covered in my playlist of videos called Classroom Blog Add-ons. The playlist is embedded below.

Design Magazine Covers With Canva's New Templates

Canva is an excellent tool for design and creating image collages, flyers, slides, and infographics. I've featured it a handful of times since its initial launch. Most recently I published a video about how to create a collage in Canva. This week Canva released a bunch of new template sets that anyone can use. One of those new template sets is for creating magazine covers.

The magazine cover template set in Canva includes a mix of free and paid templates. There are enough free templates, fonts, and color customizations that most students will never need the paid templates.

Applications for Education
In a social studies class I might have students use the Canva magazine templates to create covers that serve as summaries of the week in news. In that sense they would make covers resembling The Economist or Newsweek.

Monday, September 7, 2015

ClassDojo's New Class Story Feature Makes It Easy to Share Highlights With Parents

Last month ClassDojo opened a new feature in beta called Class Story. According to ClassDojo's press release, more than 60,000 teachers registered to try it out. This week Class Story left beta and opened to all teachers.

Class Story is a feature within ClassDojo that allows you to post pictures, text, and links for parents and students to see within the ClassDojo apps and website. The feature is intended to help you keep parents informed about what's happening in your classroom. Class Story provides a wall onto which you can post text and image updates for parents. Only parents whose students are in your classroom can see the updates and they cannot share them outside of the ClassDojo environment. Parents can "like" your posts on the Class Story wall. As a teacher you can see which parents have read the Class Story updates and which ones have not read the updates.

Applications for Education
Class Story provides a good middle ground between being a full-fledged blog and a simple SMS update delivery system. Posting to Class Story could be a good way to share highlights of classroom activities and or reminders about upcoming events.

The Great Debate: Graphic Organizers vs Mindmaps

This is a guest post from Beth Holland (@brholland) from EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Over the summer, I had an interesting conversation with a group of teachers in a writing workshop. When exploring ways to enhance the pre-writing process with technology, we ended up in an interesting debate: graphic organizers vs mindmaps - which best supported the pre-writing process?

Digital Graphic Organizers

The debate began when I introduced participants to the Holt Interactive Graphic Organizer web site. I would like to note that there is NOTHING interactive about this site; however, it does provide some fantastic, FREE graphic organizers in PDF form. My participants explored the possibilities of interacting with these graphic organizers through the DocHub Chrome app, which I have written about previously, as well as a host of iOS apps.

Several of the teachers in the room saw tremendous benefit in being able to type or draw on these PDFs and to work within the confined structure of the graphic organizer. With digital graphic organizers, students have the look and feel of paper combined with the benefits of digital tools such as the ability to type, draw, and even record audio. We also explored the possibility of using these PDFs with screencasting tools so that students could explain their thinking.

Mindmapping tools

On the other hand, some students find the confines of an 8.5x11 page to be constraining to their thinking. They need a larger canvas as well as a more flexible environment to map out their thoughts. After pre-writing with graphic organizers, we repeated the process with a handful of mindmapping tools. At the time, we focused primarily on Popplet and Lucid Chart (both available on the web & iOS). However, I would now add Coggle into the mix. In fact, the one embedded below provides an overview of how and why you may choose to use it.



With all of these tools, it is possible for students to expand on their ideas with an infinite amount of space. Students can include text, links, and images in their maps as well as collaborate with others. Like with the graphic organizers, these mind maps could also be combined with screencasting tools to encourage students to elaborate on their thinking. While some of my workshop participants found working with mindmaps to be liberating, others preferred the organized nature of the PDF graphic organizers.

Though our debate proved to be inconclusive, we did reach the consensus that a host of free tools exist to support students' writing.

Looking to learn more? EdTechTeacher has a FREE Back to School webinar series on their site. They will also be hosting their 4th annual EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston, November 17-18. Early Bird Registration is open for that event.