Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorite Things

My favorite things December 2013



At this time of year I am thinking about my favorite things and I thought it would be a good time to share some digital ones. If these are familiar to you that is awesome, if they are not familiar to you I encourage you to try one. All of the tools can be synced to any device for you to have access to all of your work at any time and anyplace (as long as you remember the password).
Encouraging lifelong,anytime,anyplace learning for teachers is just as important as it is for students. I had the privilege of hearing Steven Anderson speak at VSTE 2013. He is a Director of Instructional Technology in NC and supports educators learning from others through social media. His blog is full of great tips for the “connected educator” and classroom. He is a great resource for educators to connect with others around the world.



Evernote: I use Evernote from every device to jot notes, thoughts, and ideas. Add images and text for note taking from a meeting or conference. Organize files for lessons or the eportfolio.  Share with anyone. Evernote also has products such as Skitch that students can use to mark up photo’s that have been collected for a collaborative project in an evernote folder. Notes can be shared by social media and email.  Steve Anderson wrote a great post about how he became a more organized educator through Evernote.  Make sure to scroll down to read the comments with even more uses for Evernote.I use Evernote food at home and the Clearly extension to view sites minus all the junk. Penultimate is the Evernote sketchpad app on the iPad.


Diigo: This is my favorite personal library where I collect sites and pictures for public and private viewing. Add annotations and sticky notes to remember what parts of the site is important to you. Share with individual people or be a part of a learning group that will send weekly email collections of what everyone in the group has shared. Search in Google and the Diigo library at the same time. Tagging is important on this site and there is a help section that has answers to even the most advanced features. Check out my library from the link at the top right of this blog


Dropbox: “Your stuff anywhere”. This is especially useful for transporting files in and out of the classroom computer. Set your smartphone to send camera shots directly to dropbox for review and edit later. If there is sharing of one mobile device in the classroom this is a great storage app that everyone can put files or images into for later products. A Smartphone can be synced to do automatic uploads to the dropbox folders from anywhere. I have set up an automatic upload of all camera photo’s as soon as they are taken.


Edmodo: Sign up for a free teacher account and you can set up your students to use edmodo as a blogging platform. Create specific groups such as different teacher teams to collaborate. Create assignments for students and upload content for them to work on. Join other educators in learning groups from around the world, ask questions in groups and get answers that day. Load apps that your students can access directly - I like Storylines for collaborative writing or the Learn street app to create an online card practicing beginner coding. Get rewarded for progress with badges. This is a secure and safe site that is fun too.



Graphite This one is from CommonSense Media that is just wonderful for education in general. At Graphite teachers review websites, online games, and apps for use in the classroom. The ratings include helpful teaching tips, price, and grade level appropriateness. You can collect your favorites based on the lesson objectives in a “flow chart” that can serve as a lesson plan. Create a board (ala Pinterest) and share with other educators.


There are some great ideas here. It does look overwhelming but my hope is that you will try one. These are tools to help lighten the teacher workload and can be shared with students.


I forgot one at this time of year :)  because it is fun:

Have a great break!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Geography Awereness

November 17th to the 23rd, 2013 is GeoWeek!


Every grade level in Virginia incorporates geography into the curriculum and it should include more than just learning to read a map. GIS day is on Wednesday, November 20th of GeoWeek. GIS is a geographic information system that integrates multiple layers of data and overlays it to one single map to help us discover patterns in the data that can be useful to our life.One example of a GIS is the picture below of the flooded areas after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This image tells a digital story and can be used in a classroom as a writing prompt or for math to work on size and scale, as well as weather.What type of information can you get from looking at the patterns in this image?




Starting as early as first grade we can use the technology in our classrooms to bring this information to our students. Virginia Standards of Learning History and Social Science 1.6 states “The student will describe how the location of his/her community, climate, and physical surroundings affect the way people live, including their food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and recreation.” National Geographic Education is celebrating all week with activities and lesson plan resources from it’s website GeographyAwarenessWeek.org or ask a GeoMentor to help your class with it’s geographic awareness.

Use Google Earth to find the digital story in New Kent or beyond. From the Google Earth blog students can learn about the satellites that circle the earth, how they gather the images and even find the hidden “faces”. Try the Google Earth Tour Builder as a whole group to map the story of a family member or significant event, or explore tours that have already been created. For teachers find resources and tutorials at Google Earth for Educators and Google Earth Lessons.

The Virginia Geospatial Extension Program and Virginia View have created a  Virginia State geographic image from many Landsat satellite images and a lesson activity for grades 1-3. The image can be used as a discussion starter for all grades and is best viewed from the interactive whiteboard. (be aware that the image is very large and can only be opened if it is downloaded)

As an extra challenge download the ArcGIS Explorer for the desktop and build a personal information map!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Digital Citizenship Week

Educators around the globe are celebrating Connected Educator’s Month and this week (October 21st to 25th)  is Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Week.


All of us are adding content online more frequently, but are we doing it with thought to our digital history? Teachers and students need to be reminded of the following questions as we text, chat, post, download files,and update profiles: Are we creating content or borrowing another’s, are we respectful or damaging, are we communicating “just the right” information or providing too much?


Your digital footprint is your digital history and is not the same concept as internet safety although it goes along with it.Thinking about your digital footprint is recognizing that every time you go online you create a digital trail that will stay with you forever! Students have a different idea of what forever means but encouraging a positive digital footprint will help them succeed in the future (especially with college and job applications).


If you are considering a digital project this year with your students (blogging, podcasts, movie or story creation) planning needs to be done. Perhaps the students will create a project map as an outline that leads to a written script; and they will probably be searching online and collaborating. Before you start the project consider adding a digital footprint activity Share this video from Common Sense Media  and ask this guiding question:“What online information do you want connected to your name in 10-15 years?”


The link below is the complete activity from the creator of the Tidy Teacher blog http://thetidyteacher.blogspot.ca/2012/11/digital-citizenship.html
The foot poster is a great reminder to students of what a digital footprint means and should be shared.


What do we need to talk about in a digital footprint lesson?
Common Sense Media.org has a scope and sequence tool to access apporpriate lessons by grade level. The three most relevant elements are Relationships and Community, Digital Footprint and Reputation, and Creative Credit and Copyright


Edmodo is partnering with Common Sense Media as a resource for educators where we can enter the discussion and post ideas. You do not have to sign up for Edmodo to access this. Below are two pdf documents to get started with this topic and the link to the discussion for educators.
Elementary plan for net-etiquette http://goo.gl/B8GAz5
Educators Starter kit http://goo.gl/FS11OW


Youtube developed a digital curriculum last year for educators The lessons are for older students but there is a lot here for teachers to learn.


For the adults: learn what our students really do online and how important it is to their learning:



“self-reflect before you self-reveal”
"Internet Safety: Rules of the Road for Kids | Common Sense Media." 2011. 18 Oct. 2013 <http://www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents/rules-road-kids>

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Creating Games for learning

Mr. Michael Geiger at George Watkins Elementary School has discovered an interest in creating games that will help his students learn math. He asked me to investigate and it took me a while to understand what he had in mind. Other teachers recently expressed an interest in the subject, after a recent meeting at George Watkins. The idea of the teachers creating subject-specific games is a great one. The game can be individualized for the class and the SOL. One caution, it can be a time consuming (and addictive) activity.


What would make it even better is to get the students in on the fun.Creating digital games is a great way to get students thinking and engaged. Perhaps they could create a game to illustrate a learning goal. They could extend that learning by letting others play the game and collect feedback. (Of course teachers would have to pre-teach acceptable forms of feedback.).


I am most familiar with Scratch as an animation/game creator. This program is free from MIT and encourages programming, critical, and systems thinking. Another very popular game development tool is Gamestar Mechanic. Both of these resources have tutorials and guides for educators and students. Common Sense Media also likes Sploder for game creation.


If this list is not enough for game design check out this Scoop.it! of Game Making and Learning and a wiki of Game Building tools from Magical


For those of you interested in learning more about the value of games in learning I encourage you to explore this Scoop.it! collection of articles on the subject: http://www.scoop.it/t/game-based-learning


Happy Gaming and remember I can help!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Celebrating International Dot Day at George Watkins Elementary School, New Kent County

For those of you who do not know, there is an International Dot Day designed to inspire creativity and based on the book “The Dot” written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. The day (or week in our case) is on or around September 15th. This year a collaborator in the celebration was Puteko Ltd., the developer of the colAR Mix application. The librarian, Peg Noctor, and I teamed up to bring a technology enhanced lesson to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
Augmented reality makes an image of the real-world  environment ”come to life”. In this instance the computer application colAR Mix senses the image of the coloring pages through the camera of an android tablet and an iPad. We printed the pages from the colAR Mix website, the students colored them creatively and the application made each image 3-dimensional and interactive. All of the students could observe the interactive images from the SMART board attached to one of the tablets through a VGA adapter. The application adds another layer to the creation.
Augmented reality applications in general add a virtual layer of information on top of  the information from the physical image. Many applications are available on the iTunes or play store that can add valuable information to our everyday life: Layer, Wikitude, Theodolite, Worksnug, Carfinder,  and Yelp Monocle to name a few. Some applications add information and fun: the IKEA furniture catalog app, Google Sky map, and SpecTrek (for ghost hunting) would be some to try.
What can we do with this in education? Educator Erin Klein, author of the education blog Kleinspiration, uses Aurasma to create augmented reality in her elementary classroom.  One of her projects was to have her students bring their word wall to life. Besides engaging the students, augmented reality provides another avenue for students to create their own learning experiences. Richard Byrne writes in his FreeTechnology4Teachers blog about Zooburst to create stories and Fetch! LunchRush! by PBS for creating math lessons.

Create something with your students using augmented reality!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blog Under Construction

Soon I will have posts about all the technology happening in the Elementary Schools but for now take a peak at the blog roll and links I have on the right side bar.