Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Lesson on Bears and Punnett Squares

A recent conversation with a friend about black bears in our neighborhood (neighborhood is a relative term as I live on a six acre woodlot) reminded me about a neat National Geographic article that I read about five years ago. Back then National Geographic magazine had a cover story about the "Spirit Bears" of British Columbia. "Spirit Bear" refers to the Black Bears that are white in color due to a recessive trait called Kermodism. As always the National Geographic website has some neat resources to support the main article. One of the online resources for the Spirit Bear article is a Punnett Square that explains how two black Black Bears can produce a white Black Bear.

On a related note, National Geographic has a short video about photographing Polar Bears in their natural environments that you might find interesting. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The story of the Spirit Bear could provide a good backdrop to an introductory lesson in genetics.

Scrible Edu Helps Students Organize Research

Scrible is a free service that offers a nice tool to help students organize their online research efforts.

Scrible offers a Chrome extension that includes tools for highlighting, creating sticky notes, and altering the font on any webpage that you save in your Scrible account. Scrible also offers an option for formatting bibliographies while you bookmark. And to help you organize your favorite parts of articles Scrible allows you to compile your article clippings into one package accessible through your Google Account.

Scrible's Google Docs Add-on provides students with access to all of their saved resources. From the Add-on students can insert inline citations into their documents. Scrible also formats a bibliography for students based upon the citations that they insert into their documents. MLA, APA, and Chicago style bibliography formatting is available through Scrible's Google Docs Add-on.

As many teachers have pointed out over the years, automated bibliography generators don't always format citations with 100% accuracy. That's why Scrible's Google Docs Add-on lets students edit the formatting of a citation.

Applications for Education
Scrible's Google Docs Add-on could prove to helpful to students who are writing research papers that are primarily based upon online research. Scrible's Google Docs Add-on does not support book or periodical citations unless students are subscribed to one of Scrible's paid plans.

GeoGebra Exam Mode Lets You Choose Which Tools Your Students Can Use During Tests

GeoGebra, a free mathematics modeling tool, seems to be continuously improving and in the process becoming more and more popular with teachers. Thanks to Guillermo at Math and Multimedia, last weekend I learned about GeoGebra's exam mode.

GeoGebra's exam mode allows you to specify which GeoGebra tools can and cannot be used during an exam. Exam mode runs in full screen so that students cannot access other browser tabs while using GeoGebra during an exam. If a student does exit the full screen the top of the screen turns to make it easy for a teacher to spot when a student has exited full screen mode.  GeoGebra keeps a log of when students start using exam mode, when the exit full screen, and when the re-enter exam mode.

Applications for Education
GeoGebra offers an extensive set of suggestions and guidelines for using exam mode. One of the suggestions that stood out to me was the idea of coming up with an "emergency protocol" with your students in case they accidentally leave exam mode or their computers freeze.

Monday, April 18, 2016

ReadWorks Offers a Nice Set of Poems and Guiding Questions for Poetry Month

ReadWorks is one of my favorite nonprofit services for teachers. ReadWorks offers hundreds of lesson plans and thousands of non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. Additionally, each article is listed with a Lexile score and suggested grade level.

ReadWorks recently released a new set of poems and guided reading questions. The collection has poems appropriate for students in middle school and high school. Each poem in the collection comes with a set of questions that you can give to students to answer individually or simply use as a group discussion guide.

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of ReadWorks that I like is that lexile scores are listed for each article. ReadWorks makes it easy to find fiction and non-fiction articles that are appropriate for your students.

With a free ReadWorks account you can search for lessons and reading passages by grade level, lexile score, reading skill, subject area, and text type (fiction or non-fiction). In your ReadWorks account you can create digital binders of the lesson plans and reading passages that you want to use.

Quizlet Live Offers an Easy Way to Turn Vocabulary Lists Into Team Games

Quizlet has long been a great website and app for students to use to create and review flashcards. Teachers can also use it to create flashcards to share with students. Last week Quizlet added a great new feature called Quizlet Live.

Quizlet Live allows teachers to select a set of vocabulary words in Quizlet and that set as the basis of a review game that students play in teams. Much like Kahoot and other multiplayer review games controlled by teachers, in Quizlet Live students go to a dedicated webpage (Quizlet.live) then they have to enter a game pin. As soon as your students have entered the correct game pin they will be randomly assigned to teams (teachers can reshuffle teams). The game aspect is that students have to work in teams to sort vocabulary terms to their matching definitions (you can also create vocabulary sets that feature math problems or other questions). Teams earn points by making correct matches quickly, but their progress is reset to zero if they make a mistake so they need to focus on accuracy more than speed.

How to Play Quizlet Live from Quizlet on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Quizlet Live could provide you with an easy way to turn existing review materials into a fun review activity. I do wonder if the "all or nothing" aspect of the progress meter will be discouraging for some teams of students.

(Thanks to all of the folks on Facebook and Twitter who encouraged me to try Quizlet Live after I published my post about Kahoot's new team mode).