Monday, September 14, 2015

Help Students Get Organized with My Study Life

This is a guest post from Jennfer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

Students and teachers often operate on fast-moving, jam-packed schedules with lengthy to-do lists. Check out My Study Life, a free tool for students that allows them to incorporate complicated schedules (like that new rotating block schedule your school implemented last year), to-do lists, homework reminders, and more. My Study life works on Chrome, Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS; even better, it will sync across all of those platforms.

One of my favorite features of My Study Life is that, unlike traditional planners, it allows students to set up their schedule based on things like terms, class periods, and even incorporates changing schedules like rotating or block schedules that are becoming more popular. They can also incorporate holidays into their schedule so that they don’t show up on a Teacher Work Day or wake up early on the first day of vacation!

Tasks are not a simple “to-do” list, rather they are larger elements that students must tackle every day to meet an end goal. Students can also attach a task to an exam, so that they can focus a little on it every day leading up to the final assessment. By incorporating reminder tools, My Study Life keeps you on task every day!

With so many options available to students, My Study life stands out from the crowd. Try it as a student or even test out the beta teacher version!

Looking for more ideas? EdTechTeacher has a list of apps to help students improve organization as well as other learning activitiesNovember 16-18, they will also be hosting their fourth annual EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston

Sunday, September 13, 2015

15 Topics for Your School/ Classroom Blog


Whenever I talk to teachers about blogging I field questions about developing blog post topics and or maintaining a posting schedule. My suggestion is to come up with a list of topics that you can write about every week. I have fifteen suggestions below to help you get started with your blog this fall.


Student-written posts:

  • Three favorite moments from the last school year. 
  • Favorite part of summer vacation. 
  • All-time best moment in school. 
  • Three questions they want to find the answers to this year. 
  • Favorite book or movie and why. 

Teacher-written posts:
Think about what your students' parents want to know about. What do they ask you about at open house night or parent-teacher conferences? Think about that for a few minutes and you'll have a some good blog topics. I did that this spring as I prepared to teach a course on blogging. Here's the list of blog post topics that I developed.
  • How to manage your child’s web use
  • How to talk to kids about web use
  • How to prevent the summer slide
  • 5 fun, free educational activities to do at home (think Maker activities)
  • 5 local field trips to do on rainy days
  • 5 local field trips to do on sunny days
  • A glossary of Tween vocabulary
  • 5 things parents should know about Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ Snapchat/ YikYak
  • 5 tasty and healthy snacks to send to school
  • How to talk to kids about bullying

Join Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders to learn how to develop a great school or classroom blog. 

Saying Goodbye to My Best Friend

Morrison always loved truck rides.
This is a purely personal post that I'm writing and sharing as a therapeutic exercise for myself. If you're not inclined to reading stories about dogs, skip over this post.

Somewhere around 2008 Denise (my partner at the time) and I started volunteering our Sunday afternoons to walk dogs at Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. We were both dog lovers but agreed that getting a dog of our own wasn't practical at the time. In 2010 Morrison arrived at the shelter. He was an older dog then (somewhere between 8 and 10) and a little stand-offish with strangers. For some reason though, he got attached to me quickly. Older dogs have the hardest time getting adopted out so he was there for months. Every week when Denise and I arrived, he got excited and loved to play fetch in the large (1/2 acre+) pens at the shelter. Finally, after months of seeing Morrison and seeing me have a very hard time leaving him Denise caved and I brought Morrison home to live with us. On that day I posted on Facebook, "after 32 years of waiting, I finally have my own dog!"

As I mentioned, Morrison was an older dog when I adopted him. He was intensely loyal to me, to Denise, and to anyone else that he deemed trustworthy. He was never far from me in my house, in my yard, or anywhere else we went. When we went camping as part of a 10,000 mile roadtrip to Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana Morrison always slept next to me and didn't settle down until he knew that everything was safe. Morrison saw more of North America than many humans I know.

Morrison saw me through the darkest days of my life in 2011 and I can say with near certainty that without him I may not be here today (please, if you're feeling depressed and overwhelmed, ask for help). Morrison celebrated many of the best moments of my life too. He "high fived" me on the day that I figured out that I would earn enough money to leave my full-time position and go out on my own as a consultant/ blogger/ part-time teacher. He was also a very fine judge of character who, in his own way, gave me advice on women I met after Denise and I separated (btw, we're still great friends and she came with me to say goodbye to him yesterday).

Morrison peacefully passed away yesterday. I'm going to miss my best friend terribly.


If you're considering getting a dog of your own, please consider adopting an older dog. The years you have with him or her may be shorter than you like, but the years you do have will be fuller for it.

Thank you to the wonderful staff of Bridgton Veterinary Hospital (Bridgton, Maine) for all of the great patience and care you gave to Morrison over the years, especially this last year as his health declined but his spirits never did. Thank you to my good friend Sara for her advice and support over the last month as Morrison's health declined (Sara, when we met 20+ years ago who knew we'd be counseling each other on things like this). Thank you to all of you who have asked about Morrison over the years. Finally, thank you to Denise who gave me and Morrison more kindness, comfort, and support than I deserved (Morrison deserved it all).

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Week in Review - Autumn Is Near

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where this week we went from blazing heat and high humidity to crisp, cool fall weather. For so many reasons this is my favorite time of the year. Not the least of which is that I love walking in the woods with my dogs and seeing the bright colors of the changing leaves. In fact, that's what we're going to do as soon as I complete writing the list of this week's most popular posts. As always, I hope you have a great weekend and take some time to get outside away from a computer.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Great Google Drive Add-ons for Teachers - A PDF Handout
2. Have You Tried Voice Typing In Google Docs? - It's Easy to Use
3. A Round-up of Recent Google Classroom & Drive Updates
4. A Guide to Blogging and Examples of Classroom Blogs
5. Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - A PDF Handout
6. An Easy Way to Create Video Blog Entries
7. How to Use the Google Drive Templates Gallery
8. How to Use RefME to Create Bibliographies
9. How to Create Custom, Multimedia Maps on Scribble Maps - No Account Required
10. Interactive Posters on Historical Thinking and Investigation

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
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Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers.
HelpTeaching offers online tests and printable resources for teachers.  
King University offers online M.Ed programs.

Friday, September 11, 2015

10 Good Tools to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words

A couple of weeks ago I published a video about using Vocabulist to create vocabulary lists and study sheets from a document. This week, I was contacted by a reader who liked Vocabulist for her own use but wanted something a little different (easier to use) for her students. Over the years I've reviewed a number of tools that students can use to help them learn new vocabulary words. Here are ten of them.

World’s Worst Pet is a free iPad app that contains a series of fun vocabulary games. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. World’s Worst Pet is designed for students in grades four through eight. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words.

Knoword is a fun and challenging game that tests your ability to match definitions to words. Knoword is played like this; you're presented with the first letter of a word, its part of speech, and the definition. You then have to fill in the correct spelling of the word. If you enter the correct word, you earn points. If you don't get it right, you lose points. You don't have to register to play Knoword, but you can register if you want to. Registering for Knoword gives you the option to keep track of your game statistics. Registered users can also earn badges based on their performances. In the few games that I played I noticed that Knoword is probably best suited to use by students in middle school and high school. I think many of the words would be too difficult for elementary school students and they could end up frustrated with the game.

Vocab Genius is an iPad app from Brainscape. Vocab Genius features more than 800 vocabulary flashcards. Like any flashcard application the cards present one word at a time. To get the definition tap the card to read it. After reading the definition and sample sentence rate your understanding of the word. Over time the app learns the words that you know better than others and shows you the words you don’t know more often than those you do know.

Sight Words is a service that provides vocabulary flashcards and games designed for K-3 students. On the site you can find pre-made flashcards and pre-made vocabulary games. All of the the flashcards and games are PDFs that you print to use offline. In addition to the pre-made flashcards and games Sight Words offers templates for creating your own printable flashcards and games. Most of the games on Sight Words include detailed directions and videos on how to utilize the game in your lessons.

Flashcard Monkey is a fun little site on which students can review SAT vocabulary words. The flashcards feature simple cartoons that illustrate the meaning of the words on the flashcards. Flashcard Monkey currently offers cartoons for more than 500 SAT words. Flashcard Monkey is a nice little review tool for students preparing for the SAT. The model of Flashcard Monkey could easily be applied to any other set of vocabulary words. Your students could make their own cartoons to depict the meaning of the vocabulary words they're trying to learn.

WordWriter is a neat writing tool from BoomWriter. WordWriter allows teachers to create vocabulary lists that they want students to incorporate into a writing assignment. Assignments are distributed directly to students through the class lists that teachers create in their BoomWriter accounts. Students do not need email addresses to receive the assignments. Teachers can log-in at any time to see if and when a student has completed an assignment. Click here for videos on how to use the service.

Winning Words is a series of free iPad apps that feature matching / “memory” style vocabulary games. There are six apps in the series. Each app is played in the same manner of flipping a card and trying to find a match for it. The six apps are synonym match, antonym match, homophone match, compound match, double letter match, and singular/plural match. Each app supports up to four players and has three levels of difficulty.

PrepFactory is a free service for high school students can use to prepare for the SAT and or ACT. PrepFactory offers students a series of tutorial videos and written tips to help them prepare for both tests. After completing a tutorial students can test themselves in a series of practice questions. Each question set is timed and and limited to chunks of ten questions at a time. Students can earn badges for completing tutorials or question sets. Click here for video of PrepFactory in action.

Flashcard Stash is a free vocabulary flashcard service for teachers and students. The service makes it easy to quickly create flashcards and sets of flashcards. As a registered user of Flashcard Stash when you type a word into a blank flashcard suggested definitions and sample context sentences are provided to you. You can then choose to add one or all of those definitions and sentences to your flashcard or you can write your own definitions and sentences. When making your own flashcards you can include images. If you don't have time to create your own flashcards you can choose to work with some of the pre-made lists of flashcards. Teachers registered on Flashcard Stash can create flashcard sets to share with their students.

Vocabulist enables students to upload a document and have it extract words and definitions from it. Each word in the document is matched to a definition. If the definition rendered isn't exactly right, students can modify it within Vocabulist. Once the list of words and definitions is set students can download the list as a PDF or export the list to Quizlet where it will then be turned into a set of digital flashcards. (Students must have a Quizlet account).

Disclosure: Prep Factory and Boom Writer are advertisers on FreeTech4Teachers.com.