Thursday, July 23, 2015

Defy Gravity By Camping with #Google This Week!

I had mentioned last week about a free way to engage your kids over the summer called Camp Google. The activities are designed for children ages 7 - 10 and are a great way to have fun with the entire family. 

Each week has a different theme filled with numerous video clips, activities, and ways to earn cool badges. 

Each activity is carefully designed to be engaging, create background knowledge, and provide hands-on experiences. This week's theme is all about space. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Learn how to defy gravity by making your own zero-gravity zone out of magnets, cardboard, and pencils!
  • What are constellations? This week's activity provides you with a quick way to make your own constellation using a flashlight, cupcake liner, and toothpicks.
  • Learn all about surviving in space and help NASA create space food for astronauts 
Very little effort is needed on your part and each activity provides kids with meaningful and engaging ways to explore content. Each week brings a new set of activities and themes. Explore the ocean, space, nature, and music! As students complete each week's set of activities and challenges, they get to earn new badges of completion. Jump in anytime!

Do you have questions about Camp Google? Check out these FAQ's.


Monday, July 20, 2015

8 Ways You Can Use Screencasting to Help Students Learn

Are you using the power of screencasting to get your message across? Screencasting is a great way to combine the power of visuals and audio to represent concepts in a way that works best for students. As technology is becoming more advanced, you can upload your screencasts to YouTube and automatically generate Closed Captioning for your hearing impaired students.

Where can I go to screencast? 

There are dozens of free screencasting tools out there. I would suggest using one that is easy to use, fits your needs,  can upload to YouTube directly, and has annotation features. Here are some of my favorites:

Now what? How can I use screencasting? 
  1. Use screencasting to pre-teach lessons and flip your classroom. 
  2. Record yourself  from your computer, while you are actually teaching in class and post online. This is the perfect way for students to revisit today's lesson or check out what they missed if they were absent.
  3. Not going to be in class tomorrow because of snow or sickness? Teach your lesson from home. 
  4. Can you anticipate questions your students will have about assignments? Create mini clips that answer your student's FAQ's. 
  5. Want to increase the rate of homework completion? Help students (and parents) by explaining how to do the homework assignment, provide sample questions, and upload to your own YouTube channel. 
  6. Pre-teach important vocabulary terms that will be found on tonight's reading assignment through verbal and visual explanations. 
  7. Do your students have a test coming up? Do your test review through a screencast. Share diagrams, explanations, and definitions. 
  8. Keep parents and students in the loop. Create your own multimedia class newsletter with important dates, information, and announcements. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Avoid Gray Hairs and Send Your Kids to Camp Google!

If you are a parent, then you know that summer vacation is one of the most challenging times of the year. It's a time when gray hair grows exponentially in proportion with our children's complaints of boredom.

How do you keep kids engaged over the summer without losing your sanity? Take them to camp -  Camp Google that is! If you have not had the opportunity to check out Camp Google, it is the perfect way to keep kids ages 7 - 10 excited about science in creative and innovative ways.


No Google account is needed and each activity gives kids the chance to explore new places and see new things! The best part is that kids explore and learn from experts all across the globe, like:

  • Khan Academy 
  • National Geographic Kids
  • NASA 
  • The National Park Service
Very little effort is needed on your part and each activity provides kids with meaningful and engaging ways to explore content. Each week brings a new set of activities and themes. Explore the ocean, space, nature, and music! As students complete each week's set of activities and challenges, they get to earn new badges of completion. Jump in anytime!

Do you have questions about Camp Google? Check out these FAQ's.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cool #Chrome Extensions: Turn Off the Lights

I am privileged to have been invited to serve as a facilitator and presenter at Harvard University's Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Institute. My posts this week will focus on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.

This afternoon, I presented 9 Ways Google Addresses Learner Variability to show how teachers can use free tools to address the needs of students. While I was teaching, one of our participants suggested that I take a look at the Turn Off the Lights Chrome Extension.

What is it? 

When you are showcasing a YouTube video in class, students can often get distracted by the advertisements appearing on the side of the screen. Turn the Lights Off will darken your screen and leave the video on your screen. 

It works with other sites as well. You can darken any website that you visit, so that students cannot see content, pictures, etc. until you are ready for them to do so. The extension gives you the opportunity to customize how dark or light your information appears. For example you have the option to change the black opacity to 100% or less.


How do you customize? 

Right click on the Turn Off the Lights icon on Chrome's omnibar (where URL's are entered).  Here are other great customizations:

  • Autoplay feature will automatically darken advertisements when you play a YouTube video
  • Atmosphere lighting places a glow around your YouTube video
  • Several awesome mouse features like spotlight and select custom areas
  • Dynamic backgrounds
  • Eye protection that automatically dims your screen at 9 am

Harvard University Presentation: 9 Ways Google Addresses Variability

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

3 Excellent Math Tools for the Classroom #UDL_HGSE

I am privileged to have been invited to serve as a facilitator at Harvard University's Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Institute. My posts this week will focus on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. 

Several participants at the UDL Institute have asked me for some tools to help support students in the math classroom. Let's take a look at a few:

#1: Desmos Graphing Calculator

Graphing equations can often pose difficulties to students in the math classroom. Remember when we had to buy those expensive TI-80 calculators? This can cause an extreme disadvantage to students living in poverty; however, there is a free alternative for students.

If you have never seen Desmos Graphing Calculator, it provides students with access to an online graphing calculator is available as a website, App, and Chrome Extension. It provides students with the ability to interact with and understand equations in new and interactive ways. 

#2: Screencasting Tools

If you are not familiar with Screencasting, it gives you the ability to record anything on the screen of your laptop or Smart device. It can be used for teachers to "flip" their classroom or have students teach important concepts. Some of my favorite tools are:
Screencasting provides students with the scaffolds and supports they need to do homework, understand important concepts, or flip your classroom. In the past, I have used screencasting as a way to solve FAQ's to help students complete homework or provide the support's they need to complete assignments. It can be even more powerful when used by students because it gives us tangible insight into our student's thought process. 


#3: Annotation Tools

Annotation is a powerful tool and can serve a purpose in the math classroom. Several weeks ago, I had mentioned that you could use Skitch to solve math problems. How would this work? Students take a picture or screenshot of a math problem and annotate (or solve) it with Skitch, which is a great way to see all of the work. 

Students are not limited to hand writing because they can add shapes, arrows, and text to diagram their drawings. I like the fact that this tool provides students with another option for demonstrating their knowledge of how to solve math concepts. 


What tools are you using to help students in the math classroom? I'd love to hear from you!

Harvard UDL Institute: What are You Doing With the #LAST5? #udl_hgse

What are You Doing with the Last 5? (12:15 - 1:00 pm in Austin Hall 111)
The last five minutes of a class period are one of the most notoriously wasted parts of class. Students often use this time to pack up materials, socialize, and get into trouble. What if there were strategies and tools to maximize this wasted time period? Join Matt Bergman as he shares with you practical and effective strategies to use technology to maximize learning and reclaim the last five minutes of class. Participants will learn how to incorporate effective technology tools and strategies to maximize learning in a timely manner (5 minutes).

Readability-Score.com #udl_hgse

I am privileged to have been invited to serve as a facilitator at Harvard University's Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Institute. My posts this week will focus on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.

Today Dr. David Rose discussed how the brain works when we read. I had no idea how our brains comprehend information. If we do not have the background knowledge of a word or theme in the text, we cannot comprehend. The parts of the brain that recognize faces also run mini-simulations in our brain when we are reading about a character. 

We found an awesome tool to check the readability level of a text. It is called Readability-Score.com. If you copy and paste a text into the site, you will have a report analyzing the text structure, readability level, and grade level.  

Want to check out more about the UDL Institute at Harvard? Follow #udl_hgse

Extreme Makeover: Word Wall Edition #UDL_HGSE

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Favorite UDL Sites #UDL_Hgse

I am privileged to have been invited to serve as a facilitator at Harvard University's Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Institute. My posts this week will focus on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.

What is UDL?


It can be frustrating to think about ALL of the challenges and barriers that exist in any classroom, lesson, or school. Then there is the fact that we all learn differently. UDL is a framework for looking at high-probability barriers that exist in a lesson or curriculum and provides scaffolds, supports, and instructional techniques to help all students learn.

Even Though We are Different - We are the Same

Even though we are different, there are three predictable differences that we (and students) all have. Students NEED:

  • Options for how information is represented
  • Options to show what we know 
  • Options to engage differently 
Want to know more about UDL?  Check out some of my favorite UDL websites

Friday, July 3, 2015

Get Technology for Students Living in Poverty: Credit Unions #ISTE2015

One of my biggest takeaways from ISTE 2015 was the fact that our students living in poverty are NOT getting the technology resources they need. If students do not have the tools they need, they cannot learn. iPads, Chromebooks, and Google Apps for Education are certainly becoming the equivalent of pen and paper in the digital age. How can we help our students get resources if they do not have them?

Suggestion # 1: Credit Unions

Credit Unions? Yes! These non-profit organizations are owned by their members and are always looking for creative ways to give back to schools and the community. For example, I was privileged to attend a financial literacy institute in Pennsylvania and meet several credit union leaders, who informed me about grant programs for schools.  The hook - I had to tie my purchases to financial literacy and just needed to teach a few financial literacy lessons over the course of the year. If I did not feel comfortable teaching the concepts, I was given resources and experts who were willing to come into my classroom to co-teach. 

At the time, I came from a rural school that could not afford to buy technology and immediately put them to the test. Over the next several years, I was able to purchase over $15,000 worth of iPads, Apps, software programs, printers, and digital camcorders. 

Conclusion:

You may want to check with your local credit union to help your students because they are willing to help and have the resources you need. Best of all, you are impacting the lives of your students and their families for years to come. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Teaching Students Living in Poverty #ISTE2015 #ISTE15

I will be presenting at ISTE on Wednesday, July 1 from 11:45 - 12:45 pm. I will be sharing my experiences on  Using Technology to Address The Needs of Students Living in Poverty in PCC 120B.

Check out my presentation below: