Friday, October 27, 2017

Connect with Real Scientists

Yesterday we took a look at the history of hashtags and how teachers can use them to find information about different topics. Today, I would like to introduce you to the hashtag #ActualLivingScientists and the role it played in my World Geography classroom last year.

One of the projects required students to make contact with a specialist on their chosen topic. Many of the topics they selected were closely related to science in some way. Just by chance I happened to come across the hashtag #ActualLivingScientist that started gaining popularity just a month or so earlier. Scientists from all over the world began using this hashtag to in their tweets to showcase pictures of them working in the field and to help people understand what scientists do during the day. I began following the #actuallivingscientist hashtag and when I came across an expert that fit any of the topics my students had selected, I added them to a Twitter list which was linked on my classroom website to make it easy for my students to access. It was still up to my students to make the connection with a scientist, but the list made it pretty easy! For my students who did not use Twitter, they were able to use the information from the Twitter bio section to connect with them.

Applications for Education
The exchanges my students had with the scientists were great! If it had not been for this hashtag, my students would have wasted lots of valuable time tracking down experts who may or may not have been happy to hear from them. No matter what topic we are researching, hashtags save us time and provide a way for us to connect with experts around the globe in a matter of seconds.

Advanced Google Search to Gain Different Perspectives

One of the activities that students are frequently asked to do is search for information on current and historical events from around the world. The issue is that when students perform a search, they typically are not searching in a manner that will provide results that offer different perspectives.

For example, if a student is asked to research the causes of World War II, they are most likely going to do a Google Search for "Causes World War II" or something along those lines. They will read the first few articles and assume they have all of the facts they need. The problem is that they do not view any results that provide more global answers to this question. There is a simple change they can make to their search that will improve their results. Once they enter their search, they can either go into the Search Settings or Advanced Settings and change the region where the search takes place. If students are searching in the United States, they will see very different results than when they set the region to Japan or Germany.

Students can also search results from different countries without modifying anything in the setting by using country codes on the omnibox. A search for causes of World War II using results from Germany would look like this: "site:de Causes World War II."

Applications for Education
It is imperative that students are taught how to critically evaluate information and how to view events from a multitude of perspectives. We need to emphasis the importance of locating quality results and not assume that students know how to complete good Google searches.

Update on 10/28/17- Ironically, just hours after this post was published, Google will no longer allow you to change the country code using the omnibox. You will have to select the country you wish to search in the actual settings as described in the second paragraph.

You can learn more search strategies in the on-demand webinar, Search Strategies Students Need to Know.

Resources for Family and Consumer Science Teachers

This is a collection of resources for FACS teachers. It includes links to professional organizations, lesson plans, grants, and more.

  • American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences- Professional organization that provides leadership and support to students and professionals from both multiple practice settings and content areas.
  • FamilyConsumerSciences- Website that is full of ideas on a wide range of topics including child development, foods and nutrition, interior design, life skills, and clothing.
  • NASCO FCS Lesson Plans- Over 3 dozen lessons aligned to national FCS standards.
  • FCS Livebinder- Collection of resources related to FCS.
  • FACS Exploration- Home Economics curriculum for students in grades 7 & 8 from the Utah Education Network.
  • FCCLA- Resources, lessons, grants, contests, store, and more. 
Here are some additional FACS resources that have appeared on Free Technology for Teachers: 

Join Me for Fun With Formative Assessments

Conducting formative assessments is one the ways that we can gauge our students' understanding of the topics that we teach. Formative assessment doesn't have to be boring for your students and it doesn't have to be tedious for you. To help you make formative assessment fun for your students and informative for you, I am hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Fun Formative Assessments. This live webinar will be held on Monday afternoon at 4pm ET. (Yes, it will be recorded).

In this webinar you will learn how to use free tech tools to create and conduct fun, engaging, and informative formative assessments. Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, or high school, you will come away from this webinar with fun formative assessment activities that you can do the next day.

Fun Formative Assessments addresses the needs of teachers who don't have computers or tablets for every student. And teachers who do have laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets for every student will learn some new ways to have students use those too. Register here.

Five Things You Can Learn In This Webinar:

1. What makes a formative assessment valuable to you while also fun for students.

2. How to create fun formative assessments for classrooms that aren't 1:1.

3. Why you should leverage students' picture-taking habits for formative assessment.

4. Development of engaging formative assessment activities that use a variety of question formats.

5. How to include students in the creation of formative assessments.

The cost of this webinar is $20.

Can't make it to the live webinar? Don't worry because, as long as you register in advance, you can access the recording on-demand the next day.

A note about fees for webinars:
Whenever I advertise a Practical Ed Tech webinar I am asked why they aren't free. There are two reasons. One, hosting professional development events is one of the ways that I am able to keep the lights on at Free Technology for Teachers. Two, while all of the tools featured in my webinars are free to use, my time for teaching about them is not free.

Using Classcraft for Gamified Motivation and Formative Assessment

This is a guest post from Rachel Langenhorst. Rachel's work has appeared here in the past and been quite well received. I was excited to get another guest post submission from her. 

Every teacher in this day and age must be able to juggle 3 to 45 things at any given moment. There are days when I feel that my head might spontaneously combust because, quite simply... Nothing. Else. Will. Fit. Classcraft, however, has proven to be a tool with which I can most effectively lead with the least amount of disruption, in a way that is both engaging and motivating for students of all ages. Gamification is a research-based way to take the fundamental appeal of play and apply it to non-game activities such as schoolwork and classroom management. My first experience with the game came at a Google Summit session I attended this summer. At first, I was curious, although admittedly skeptical. How effective could a game really be? However, upon signup and the interactivity provided during that session, a fire was lit. I signed up for the free version and experimented with it throughout the summer. It didn’t take long to see that this was the real deal. Since then, we have been able to successfully incorporate Classcraft into our at-risk room, elementary classrooms, as well as my middle-high school technology team, with more sure to follow!

What sets Classcraft apart from other forms of gamification is the fact that it is grounded in actual classroom behavior and accomplishments. There is the ability to create teams within Classcraft, which, I have found, adds a particularly effective form of peer motivation. Teachers can and should be the creators of their own environment and should adapt the experience to fit their own classrooms. There is a preset list of items for which students can receive or lose points, but they are completely customizable. While these are touted as “classroom management” points, I have found that with a little ingenuity, I was able to tie points to anything, including other types of formative assessments I do in classrooms like Kahoot, Wizer, and Quizzizz. These points can be divvied out to individuals or teams as desired.

There are five different point types found in the game. There are HP (Health Points), XP (Experience Points), AP (Action Points), GP (Gold Pieces), and PP (Power Points). Each serves a distinct purpose that helps maintain student interactivity and success. Additionally, there is a parent connection, where you open up the ability for them to award GP to their child for good deeds done at home. Within Classcraft, students have the capability to completely customize their own avatars and select from the role of Warrior, Mage, or Healer. Each role comes with a certain set of skills that can be advantageous for their team. With a coordinating Classcraft app and a Chrome Extension, you are able to manage your class with ease. This video helps describe a typical day in Classcraft.

A Typical Day in Classcraft from Classcraft on Vimeo.

Classcraft does offer premium access to their site for a minimal cost of $12 a month, discounted to $8 per month if you pay for 12 months up front. There is also a school/district account package available. If you should decide to upgrade, all data will be carried over into your premium version. The paid account allows for additional features such as linking to Google Classroom, analytics, gamified curriculum, extra gear/pets to earn, as well as several interactive class tools like the volume meter. The school/district package adds those plus admin controls and security features.

Classcraft has a unique penchant for encouraging positive behavior and deterring negative through common sense cause and effect. Their continued goal of using gamification for good has resulted in a recently published online guide for using Classcraft to prevent bullying.

Classcraft has been a fun adventure that has the kids abuzz and showing real progress and teamwork. Give it a shot! Before you know it, you will have the power to encourage continued learning, accountability, collaboration, and ownership through gamification, leaving you to do the one thing you never seem to have enough time for….teach.

About the author:
Rachel Langenhorst is a K-12 Technology Integrationist and Instructional Coach for Rock Valley Community Schools in Rock Valley, Iowa and serves as an adjunct professor in the graduate programs of the University of Sioux Falls and Northwestern College. A 20+ year teaching veteran, she presents throughout the country, focusing on technology integration strategies and best practices. Rachel serves as a contributor for, Mackin Educational Resources, and Education Talk Radio. Find her on Twitter and other social media @rlangenhorst and her blog, Tech from the Trenches.

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