Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Google A Day

A Google a Day is a rather unique way of teaching your students how to research, while trying to answer a trivia question. You are given a question at the bottom of your screen, while you use a Google powered search to find the answers. Although still in its infancy, it may be a great way to help your students learn how to search for information.

"A Google a Day is a new daily puzzle that can be solved using your creativity and clever search skills on Google. Questions will be posted every day on agoogleaday.com and printed on weekdays above the New York Times crossword puzzle," states Google.

The most interesting thing about Google's new site is that it uses something called Deja Google which leaves out recent web pages, giving users a spoil free experience. You could easily make this into an individual activity each day, if you have the luxury of computers for each student in your classroom.

You could easily make it into a whole group activity, where students could help you search for information. You could extend the activity by providing higher level thinking questions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

YouTube EDU

I hear from teachers all of the time, "I love the idea of representing concepts through video, but finding the right video is so difficult. Unless I want to waste away my weekend, I will never find the right video."

YouTube EDU

Perhaps YouTube EDU may help you refine your search. YouTube EDU contains videos submitted from colleges and universities like Harvard, Stanford, and Washington State. When you visit the channel, you will notice that it is divided into subcategories like: Business, Health and Medicine, History, Mathematics, Law, Science, and Social Studies. Just pick one and browse!

Maybe you want to look at a specific school's channel. You are provided with links to visit other channels in YouTube, like Stanford University, Harvard University, and even Berklee Music.

Perhaps you want to search for a specific topic. YouTube EDU's search gives you the opportunity to look for specific videos.

Although, many of these videos may not be at the level where our elementary students can comprehend, you may be able to show these clips at the middle school and high school levels.

How Does this Relate to Universal Design for Learning?

By providing multiple means of representation for a specific topic, we are providing students with opportunities to make connections with subject matter. The power of video is almost mandatory in education today.

When we design course material, we often forget about the students in the margins (your gifted students and lower level students). We provide accommodations for our IEP students when necessary, but we often leave our gifted students out of the equation. YouTube EDU may not be appropriate for all students in your class (depending on your situation). Perhaps differentiating the videos that you show to your students may help. Perhaps providing multiple videos on the same topic could provide the connections that our students need.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Debt Clock Tools

How do you get a group of students to care about the national debt, when even adults struggle with this? I believe that we have to provide multiple means of representing the material. Brain research has shown us that our learning styles are as different as our finger prints. If this is true, then the way that we perceive information is different.

The Debt Clock has been a very popular topic, due to the recent events in our government. You see it mentioned everywhere. Everyone in education has been sharing the US National Debt Clock website, which is an excellent source. The US Debt Clock breaks things down into different areas that will interest your students. If you haven't taken a look at this, I would!

However, let me share with you a tool that will help you break down the global financial crisis that we are experiencing. The debacle in Greece has shown us that economic issues are global.

The Economist:

The Economist has an excellent interactive site, which compares debt across the globe. It allows you to compare each country's debt, breaking things down according to public debt, public debt per person, the population, and the total annual debt change.

On the site, there is a color coded map, comparing and contrasting the debt of each country in a visual format. You can choose individual countries to analyze or compare and contrast up to 3 different countries. The timeline feature can also look at trends and debt across the globe per year.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

TitanPad Collaboration Tool

Need a collaboration where students can work together on a word-like document without a sign in? Many choose to turn to Google Docs, but let me show you another alternative.

TitanPad is a free online collaboration tool, where students can collaborate on a word-like document and share information in real-time. Each author is assigned a different color, which makes tracking easy. You don't need a sign-in to create your own "public pad." Instead, you just need to share a link (just like Google Docs) with your collaborators.

One of the biggest disadvantages of TitanPad is the fact that it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of Google Docs and Word. If you are just using this as a collaboration tool, it will probably not matter much! In fact, you can export your file into Word, PDF, HTML, and Plain Text formats.

You can even upload your own documents to modify in TitanPad. One of the coolest features of the website is the TimeSlider, which allows you to see each change that was made. You can click on the play button that appears in the TimeSlider and see what was done and how it was done. What an excellent tool to track student progress and whether or not students were on track!


When curriculum is Universally Designed from the beginning, you need to find tools to help you accomplish your goals before teaching takes place. Much thought is given to specific teaching methods, but in order for learning to take place, prior knowledge needs to be activated. In my opinion, this is an area where many of us struggle (including myself).

Why is it a struggle?

Activating prior knowledge is nothing new. Many teachers turn to brainstorming tools to activate this knowledge. Some turn to conversation. Others scrap paper. Some technology. Often these choices are limited, because they only help a certain type of learner, which is usually the student who can read and write well.

SpiderScribe is one of the best mind-mapping sites that I have come across, in my quest to find a way of brainstorming to reach all types of learners.

You need to have a log in and password to get started. It reminds me of Google Docs, in the sense that you can make your mind map private or share with a group of people, simply by providing a link. Users cannot make changes without permissions or having a username and password.

It even has a demo, which you can use to experiment and see how it works. I would highly recommend doing so.

Where does it fit in with UDL?

Creating opportunities for students to have Multiple Means of Representation is important when trying to connect concepts and activate prior knowledge. SpyderScribe allows users to add pictures, word documents, text, maps, and even calendars to their map.

Imagine the possibilities...Students are brainstorming what they know about France and they place a map of Paris in the map. When they do this, they learn where the Eifle Tower is and where popular tourist sites are located. The visual learners in your classroom place pictures of Paris in the map. Another student, who enjoys writing, attaches a report that she did about Napoleon from another class.

SpyderScribe gets past the text, which we can create on a piece of paper, and allows visual learners the ability to enjoy mind mapping!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Create Your Own Custom Search Engine

Google Labs has recently created a custom search engine, which will allow you to create your own customized search engine, powered by Google. It allows you to choose which websites you want visitors to get information from, creating an easier search for your students.

All you need to do is find the websites you want your students to search and follow a few quick steps. Once you have created your own personal search engine, it will give you the html code, so that you can embed it in your own blog, webpage, or wiki.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Multiple Ways of Representation through Organization?

Organization. It's either a word that makes you take pride or want to hide! In the digital age that we live in, paper organizers and lists are going by the wayside. They are replaced by electronic calendars and iPhone apps.

So how do we teach our digital learners how to organize their thoughts, tasks, projects, etc.? Or what can an educator use to organize lessons, tasks, or ideas? You may want to take Pegby into consideration.

What is it?

Pegby is an electronic cork board, where you can "stack" index card like notes to it, so that you can get organized. Pegby is divided into 3 columns Pending, In Process, and Done. You can attach notes, documents, or tags to your index card. There is also a feature that hides your index card until a certain date.

You can use this to assign tasks to yourself, share your Pegby, and even assign tasks to other people! What a perfect tool for delegation!


Although this will never replace your Google Calendar or iCal, it may be a good way of teaching students how to organize their thoughts, tasks, and projects, representing a mundane task in a new way. This site provides users with multiple means of representation and ways of engaging students.

Image a group of students working on a civics project, using Pegby to organize and assign tasks. Imagine a group of students sharing documents and collaborating, while one student is half-way around the world or 3 seats away!

Imagine collaborating with other colleagues on the next staff development. Imagine team meetings in a whole new way. Imagine the possibilities.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordia: A Great Site for Teaching Vocabulary

Providing multiple ways of learning information is one of the challenges of Universal Design for Learning. With UDL's focus on providing "Multiple Means of Representation," "Multiple Means of Action and Expression," and "Multiple Means of Engagement," it can be tough to find technology that enhances the use of vocabulary.

I came across an excellent site designed to provide multiple means of representation and expression, while teaching vocabulary. It's called Wordia. So you may be asking yourself, what makes this site so different?

Well, for starters, this site provides video clips that accompany text definitions of the word. The videos are user-submitted professionally done pieces, which illustrate the word, its meaning, and its use. Students need to have multiple means of representation to understand a concept and this may help students learn important concepts.

Although not as detailed as sites like VisuWords, the site is an excellent addition to any classroom.