Tuesday, February 6, 2018

PrepFactory Introduces New PARCC and SBAC Review Content

PrepFactory is a free service that has offered great ACT and SAT prep materials. Last year they started to branch out into guided math and language arts review lessons for middle school students. This year the folks at PrepFactory released PARCC and SBAC content for students in sixth through tenth grade.

Just like their ACT and SAT study guides, PrepFactory's PARCC and SBAC content consists of interactive lessons, practice, personalized study paths, and teacher tools. One of the core elements of PrepFactory's programs is continuous diagnostics that are used to identify the content and the activities that students should spend the most time reviewing. In other words, PrepFactory directs students to work on the concepts they are having the most difficulty mastering.

Beyond the content, PrepFactory helps students familiarize themselves with computer-enhanced question formats. Technology enhanced questions present on the PARCC and SBAC are mirrored in PrepFactory's program, giving students and teachers an extra level of comfort on test day.

Applications for Education
Teachers can also easily set up classrooms on PrepFactory to monitor and guide students through the site's curricula. This can be done whether you have your students use PrepFactory for PARCC and SBAC content or you have them use the site for ACT or SAT content.

Currently, they are only releasing content for grades 6-10. Darin Singh, PrepFactory's CEO did tell me that they have plans to release content for all PARCC and SBAC grades in the near future.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

ClassHook Adds a New Feature for Using Videos in Your Classroom

ClassHook is a free service that helps you locate video clips to use in your classroom. ClassHook's best feature is being able to search for video clips according to subject and topic. Most of the video clips that you'll find on ClassHook come from well-known television shows and movies.

Over the weekend ClassHook introduced a new feature that filters profanity from videos. ClassHook calls the feature "profanity skipping" and it does what the name implies. As a video plays back, any profanity in the clip is skipped. ClassHook developed this feature in response to teachers who said they had found a clip that would be useful in a lesson except for one two swear words. ClassHook's profanity skipping feature will let those teachers use those clips.

Applications for Education
ClassHook can save you time the next time that you're searching for a video clip to support a point in your lesson plan. It can also be helpful in finding a video to build a flipped lesson upon.

ClassHook uses YouTube as its source of videos. Create a YouTube playlist to organize the clips that you find through ClassHook.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects

"Hacking STEM" was one of the initiatives that Microsoft was heavily promoting at the BETT Show last month. I asked a few Microsoft employees what "hacking STEM" meant. They all replied with explanations that centered on the idea of providing teachers with hands-on STEM lessons and projects that can be done without having to spend much money, if any, on physical materials. One of the many examples that Microsoft had on display to represent their hacking STEM projects was the homemade wave machine pictured in this blog post. You can find directions for that project here (link opens PDF).

Microsoft's Hacking STEM Library is divided into activities that take multiple days to complete and activities that can be completed in one day. All of the activities in the Hacking STEM Library include detailed directions, materials lists including places to acquire materials, and lesson objectives. The homemade wave machine project is an example of a one-day project. This lesson on harnessing electricity to communicate is an example of a multiple day project.

Try the Redesigned Make Beliefs Comix

Make Beliefs Comix has long been one of my favorite tools for creating comics. In fact, I recently featured it in this post about using comics in social studies lessons. Over the weekend the founder of Make Beliefs Comix sent me a note about the redesign of his free comic creation tool.

The new version of Make Beliefs Comix offers a streamlined homepage. Streamlining the homepage made it easier to find the comic creation tools and other resources that the site offers. The new version has been optimized to run efficiently on iOS and Android phones and tablets. Another new feature of Make Beliefs Comix is a capacity for creating comics containing up to nine frames.

The thing that Make Beliefs Comix has been known for is its support for multiple languages. Previously, that feature was limited to six languages. That feature has been expanded to support any language that you can type on your keyboard.

Applications for Education
Make Beliefs Comix doesn't require students to register on the site in order to create, share, and print their comics. In addition to excellent comic creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix provides dozens of free ebooks that contain writing prompts and story starters that you can access for free.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

FAQs About G Suite for Teachers

In January 36 people completed my Practical Ed Tech course called G Suite for Teachers. A couple more people started this weekend. The course is designed to equip you with the skills you need to feel confident using G Suite for Education tools in your classroom. If you have been thinking about taking the course, but had some questions, take a look at the following FAQs.

1. When can I start?
The first lesson of the course is available to you as soon as you complete your registration. After that two new lessons will be sent to you ever week until you have all ten lessons. If you want to move through the course more quickly than that, that's an option too.

2. My school doesn't have G Suite for Education yet, can I still take the course?
Yes, you can. In fact, many people have taken the live version of this course without their schools having G Suite for Education in place. They took it as a way to get familiar with what they would be using when their schools did make the complete transition to G Suite for Education.

3. Is there graduate credit available?
There is not graduate credit available for this course. I am, however, able to provide you with a certificate for five hours of professional development.

4. Is there a time limit on the course?
You can start the course any time that you want to and finish it whenever you like. The default pacing is two lessons per week, but you can complete it quicker or slower than that.

5. Are there any discounts available?
Yes. If you register five teachers from the same school/ school district, you can register five more for free! In other words ten people can join for the cost of five. Have more people than that? Want to register your whole school? Contact me at richard (at) byrne.media for information discounts for larger groups.

6. I teach math/ science/ elementary school/ will there be anything for me?
Absolutely there will be! This course is designed to teach you how to use the tools within G Suite for Education as well as get you thinking about how the tools apply to your classroom. In the course I've included examples for math, science, social studies, and language arts in elementary, middle, and high school settings.

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