Monday, March 21, 2016

A Nice Set of Animated Science Lessons for Children

The Children's University of Manchester has great collections of animated lessons covering seven science subjects for students of early elementary/ primary school age. The lessons cover The Body and Medicine, Energy and Environment, Earth and Beyond, Teeth and Eating, Micro-organisms, The Brain, and Exercise.

For each science subject covered by The Children's University of Manchester there is an introduction followed by seven to ten interactive animations. For example, in The Earth and Beyond students can see how the position of the sun affects the length of shadows. Students can advance the sun through the sky. As they advance the sun they can use a ruler to measure the lengths of the shadows that they create.

Applications for Education
The Children's University of Manchester science lessons could be good place to find supplementary interactive materials for your elementary school science lessons. You could extend The Earth and Beyond shadows activity by having your students measure shadows in your school yard throughout the day at different times of the year.

5 Great Writing Activities from Read Write Think

Over the years Read Write Think has published dozens of excellent templates and tools for elementary school language arts lessons. Five of my favorite Read Write Think activities are featured below.

Read Write Think offers a good interactive guide that can help students craft a good persuasive essay. The Persuasion Map asks students to start with a thesis statement before walking them through developing support for that thesis. Students can print their persuasion maps or email them to you. RWT offers a number of lesson plans that incorporate the Persuasion Map. You can find those lessons here.

Essay Map provides students with step by step guidance in the construction of an informational essay. Some of my students seem to struggle most with constructing an introduction and conclusion to their essays. Essay Map is particularly good for helping students visualize the steps needed to construct good introductory and conclusion paragraphs. After students complete all of the steps in their Essay Map they can print their essay outlines.

Alphabet Organizer is a great little tool from Read Write Think that students can use to create alphabet charts and books. The idea behind Alphabet Organizer is to help students make visual connections between letters of the alphabet and the first letter of common words. In the video below I demonstrate how to use this tool.

RWT Timeline is available as a web app (Flash required), as an Android app, and as an iPad app. All three versions make it easy for students to create a timeline for a series of events. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of the RWT Timeline creation tool.

RWT's Animal Inquiry guide is a good fit for elementary school science lessons. Animal Inquiry provides students with four templates; animal facts, animal babies, animal interactions, and animal habitats. Each template is an interactive template in which students respond to three prompts to help them create short reports about animals they are studying. Read Write Think suggests using the questions in the Animal Inquiry template as prompts for research. The questions in the templates could also be good for helping students brainstorm additional questions to research.

Vibby - Annotate YouTube & Vimeo Videos on Your Own Site

Last fall I wrote a couple of posts about a new video annotation tool called Vibby. Over the last few months the Vibby developers have been hard at work to add some useful new features for teachers.

You can now use Vibby to annotate Vimeo videos as well as YouTube videos. To annotate a YouTube or Vimeo video on Vibby simply grab the URL for the video and paste into the Vibby editor. Once inserted into Vibby you can highlight a segment on the video timeline. Vibby then play only the sections you've highlighted. Click on a highlighted section to add a comment to it.

Vibby's annotation tool can now be embedded into your blog or website. To do this you embed your Vibby profile to your blog or website. Once your profile is embedded into your blog or website you can start annotating videos directly on your blog or website.

Applications for Education
Vibby can be a good tool to have students use to analyze videos. For example, you could ask students to watch videos and identify people who make consistent eye contact, who pace their presentations well, or any other characteristic that you want them to emulate when they deliver their own presentations. You could also have students use Vibby to identify and highlight examples of people using logical fallacies in debates, identify forms of advertising and manipulation, or highlight the best arguments made in a presentation.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What is BYOD? And Why Do Schools Opt for It?

Last week I wrote a post about some of the things that will be taught during the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp on July 11th and 12th. As has been pointed out to me by a handful of people, one thing that I didn't do in that post was explain what BYOD is and why a school might opt for it. Here's my short overview of BYOD.

What is BYOD?
BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device. You will occasionally hear people use BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) in place of BYOD.

In school settings I've seen BYOD used as a supplement to a school's 1:1 program (programs in which schools provide laptops or tablets to every student) and I've seen it as a replacement for 1:1 programs. In either case students are allowed to bring their personal phones, tablets, and or laptops to use on the school's network.

Why do schools opt for BYOD?
As mentioned above, some schools will implement BYOD policies as a replacement for maintaining their own 1:1 programs. In a public school setting, that is the worst reason to choose BYOD as it puts students from disadvantaged homes in an inequitable position compared to their classmates. That said, if the choice is BYOD or nothing, I'll take BYOD.

Allowing BYOD can be a good way to supplement the 1:1 program a school has in place. Schools will allow students and staff to use their own devices for a variety of reasons including familiarity with a particular operating system, teaching in or attending classes in multiple systems, and making it easier for staff or students to take work with them between home and school.

What are the challenges of BYOD?
In 2014 my friend Vicki Davis wrote a good piece for Edutopia in which she outlined the challenges of BYOD from an IT management view point. From a classroom teacher's perspective there are some other challenges to worry about in BYOD settings.

One of the biggest challenges for teachers in BYOD settings is identifying websites and apps that function correctly across a variety of operating systems and devices. For the most part, when preparing to work in a BYOD setting I look for sites that are written in HTML5. Sites written in HTML5 will function correctly in mobile web browsers as well as in desktop and laptop web browsers. When an HTML5 site isn't available or practical I will search for apps that function correctly on iOS and Android. Generally, I start my search looking on the Android platform first. I start there because there are more Android mobile devices on the market than iOS devices.

Register for the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp by April 30th and you can save $50 off standard registration. Subscribers to the newsletter can save an additional $25 by entering the code "subscriber" at checkout.

Have a colleague or two who wants to join you? Special rates are available for two or more people registering from the same school district. Email me richardbyrne (at) for details.

FreshGrade Now Offers an Android App for Teachers

FreshGrade is a free digital portfolio service that launched last year and has quickly become popular in some schools. The service allows teachers and students to create portfolios containing video and audio files, pictures, and text files. Recently, FreshGrade introduced an Android app for teachers.

FreshGrade's Android app for teachers essentially brings all of the core features of FreshGrade to the Android platform. Teachers can use FreshGrade's Android app to snap pictures of students' work and upload it to a portfolio. Teachers can also use the app to add notes to a portfolio. Through the app teachers can invite parents to view a portfolio.

Applications for Education
In addition to the teacher app, FreshGrade offers Android and iOS apps specifically for students and their parents. Through the apps students can add content to their portfolios and parents can view their students' work.

Come to the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp this summer and learn how to design and build digital portfolios with tools like FreshGrade and others. Discounted early registration is available now. Discounted group registration is also available now. Click here for more information.