Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Top Ten Tech Tools I Can't Live Without

10. Type on PDF App

I like my classroom to be neat and organized and I do not like a lot of paper and notebooks if I can have the information on the computer.  This app allows me to cut down hundreds of copies each year as I give my yearly reading assessments from the iPad instead of on paper.  As my students read the leveled books, I keep a running record and notes on my iPad through this app.  I have all of the files stored on my computer, so I can easily access them and see where I can help my students without having to keep tons of copies in a notebook.
For more about this app, check out my Post: Apps for the Classroom

9. Worksheet Generators

This worksheet generator has been a wonderful tool that I have used throughout my teaching career.  If my math book did not have the kinds of problems that my class needed or if certain students needed additional help with math concepts, I was able to use this website to quickly find math work for my students.  Because this is a worksheet generator, I know that there will never be two worksheets exactly the same.  I will never run out of resources for my students.  I don't know how many hours of preparation that this worksheet generator has saved me.  I love it!

8. Document Camera

I remember the days of overhead projectors when the teacher had to use Visa Vis markers and her fingers always turned blue from the ink.

Today in my classroom, I have a similar tool, but the technology has come a long way.  I have a document camera instead.  This camera connects to my computer and projects through my overhead projector.  The advantage of having a camera is that I can put anything under the lens to show my students.  The paper no longer has to be clear so the light can shine through like before.  I have used my  document camera to project images of warm-up problems, samples of students' writing, class demonstrations, and the process of how our classroom caterpillars became butterflies.

7. Online Reading Websites

Everyday my students spend an hour in authentic reading.  This hour is broken up between different reading stations including independent reading and listening to reading.  There are some wonderful websites my students are able to use to for listening to reading.  This station allows students to work on fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension as the text is read aloud to them.  Each of these sites have been purchased by my school for my students.  They are wonderful resources and I highly recommend them!

This website is wonderful for my second graders.  There are different packages including Animals, Earth and Space, Biographies, and Social Studies.  The text is read aloud to the students and each word is highlighted as it is read.  The text level is perfect for elementary students.  There are also additional resources including videos and non-fiction text features like diagrams, captions, and timelines.

Tumblebooks is a great fiction reading resource for students.  The words are read aloud to the students and the words light up as they are read.  This allows students to match the text with the sound.  This resource has many of its books read aloud in Spanish as well as English.

Bookflix is a wonderful resources because it pairs books by topic.  Non-fiction books are paired with the fiction books that on the same topic.  This is a great resource when you are teaching your students the similarities and differences between these two genres.  My students really love this site and all of the books that are available.

6. Electronic Math Manipulatives

I use electronic math manipulatives to teach my students addition and subtraction.  After the students have a chance to use manipulatives themselves, the online ones are a great reminder of the process of adding and subtracting.  I project these manipulatives onto my Promethean board, so all my students can see as I solve the math problems.

Below are some different examples of electronic math manipulatives:

This app has been a wonderful resource as I have been learning the new Common Core Standards.  It is so handy to have the standards always at my fingertips.  I had saved each document onto my computer since I do not like always having a printed copy, but it still took time to open each document to read it.  With this app, I can quickly select the subject and grade level and see my standards.  It is also very easy to switch between grade levels to see what my students should already know and what they will learn next.

4. Promethean Board

I have been blessed to have a Promethean board in my classroom during my entire teaching career.  The Promethean Board and its ActivInspire software have so many wonderful options and create so many opportunities in my classroom.  I am able to create flipcharts to engage my students, write directly onto of any computer screen, and screen shot any image with the ActivInspire software.  My students are able to use technology and also manipulate the screen and the items to help them learn.

3. Computers, iTouches, iPads 

Providing my students with the ability to have immediate access to the internet and all of its resources has been wonderful.  Through these electronic devices, my students have been able to view these reading websites, research topics for writing, take reading comprehension tests, and publish their writing.  I plan to allow my students to conduct mini-research projects and create more online products in the coming year.

2. Classroom Website

Through my classroom website, I am able to connect with parents and students about what is going on in my classroom.  Parents are able to see daily schedules, weekly homework, spelling words, and any awards that have been awarded throughout the month.  Students have access to many online websites and games that we use in class.  My hope is that through these links, my students will continue to be learning even when they leave school for the day.  My parents know exactly where to look on my website if they ever have a question or a concern about my class.  

1. Email

My fiance is currently working at Camp McCall, a Christian summer camp in Sunset, SC where there is very little phone service and definitely no internet service.  He tries to call me when he can, but because of the poor service, the phone cuts out at least 3 times within our ten minute conversation.  
I have begun to write him letters, and they have reminded me how wonderful email is.  If I write a letter on Monday night and mail it on Tuesday, then he will receive my message from Monday on Wednesday afternoon if I am lucky.  With email, we are constantly connected with so many people around the world in an instant.  I can send questions, concerns, comments, or encouragement to my teachers, administrators, and parents in the matter of seconds.

Apps for the Classroom

As my school transitions to a 1- to -1 school district with each student having access to an iPad or a Microsoft tablet, I have been working to compile a list of some great iPad apps for my second grade classroom.

Show Me

Teachers can model how to solve a particular math problem and record the steps along with the audio of the process.  Students can watch the video on a computer or any electronic device to remind them how to solve the problem.  

Students can also create videos to demonstrate how to solve a problem.  Teachers can grade these videos and hear each student's method as he or she solves a math problem.  When students are able to explain and demonstrate how to solve a problem, they will have a deeper understanding of the mathematics. 

This teacher resource has all of the Common Core standards compiled in one place.  No longer do you need notebooks of copies of the standards that you teach.  This app includes all grade levels of math, and language arts Common Core standards.  There are some science standards included as well.  This resource can be a great place to always turn when you need to be reminded of your grade level standards or to see what your student have learned the year before or will learn in the coming years.

This app allows you to edit Microsoft Office documents on your iPad from your computer through DropBox, Google Drive, Skydrive, and Box.  Anywhere with an internet connection, you can edit documents or create new documents that are completely compatible with your computer or laptop.  Cloud On has many of the same editing and formatting toolbars as Microsoft Office, so you can make any changes that you need from your iPad or electronic device.

With this app, you can open any PDF document on your iPad and type onto of it.  This app does not let you change the text of the PDF, but you can add any text or notes to the document.  There are options for adding text, highlight, and drawing on the document in different colors.  I use this with my Fountas and Pinnell Reading assessments.  I test each student's reading level throughout the year and the assessments use a lot of copies.  I knew there had to be another way to store these assessments besides notebooks after notebooks.  Now, I download the assessment sheets to my iPad, open the file in the Type on PDF app, make my notes, and send the file as an email attachment to my computer.  I now have organized folders for each student on my computer instead of in notebooks that take up lots of space in my classroom.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Does Your Digital Citizenship Matter?

Just like we should do our best to be good citizens in our community, we should also strive to be good digital citizens.  The manners and kind behavior that we display to others should also be displayed to people on the internet.  Whether you are participating in online games, messages, social media, chat rooms, email, etc, it is important to remember that there is a real person on the other side of the computer.

Online etiquette or netiquette is the way that you follow these rules to have good digital citizenship.  Be careful in the messages that you send and way you say certain things.  WHEN YOU WRITE IN ALL CAPS ONLINE, IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE YELLING!  You also should be careful how you tell jokes online because when people cannot hear the change in your voice, they may take the joke the wrong way.

BrainPop has some great videos about digital etiquette and other related topics!  Check it out! 

Your digital reputation is also sometime that you should be aware of.  Every post that you make online can be tracked in some way.  Colleges and universities as well as employers look at the internet and social media.  They do not want individuals to represent their company or university in a poor light.  

Check out this Microsoft video about how your digital reputation really does affect you!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Using Material Generators in the Classroom

Interactive Whiteboards
My school district has purchased Promethean boards for every classroom, which have quickly become a part of daily classroom instruction.  I use my Promethean board to project activities, text, or graphics from my computer and the use the Promethean pen to write on top of the items.  Daily, my students lead the Calendar Math lesson on the Promethean board.  My students are able to write, manipulate, and add items to the Calendar Math lesson as needed.  I am able to create flipcharts in ActivInspire to use in my daily lessons.  ActivInspire also allows me to create assessments where students use clicker-based devices to respond.  These assessments give me individual responses in the format of a graph.  This way, I can address misconceptions that I see during my lesson.  I can also create a spreadsheet of the answers for each student so I can know exactly which student struggled on each question.

Web Design Software
My school district provides every teacher with a classroom website.  Through web design, I am able to adjust the website to best meet my students' and parents' needs.  On my website, I post announcements, my classroom schedule, weekly homework, and spelling words.  I also have additional links to the instructional games and websites that my students can access at home.  I would like to add more links to iPad apps that my students can download on their devices at home as well.

Worksheet Generators
With the transition to Common Core Math Standards, my district has to use a lot of outside resources for assessments and homework assignments.  I found many worksheet generators like www.themathworksheetsite.com and www.math-aids.com that would create any kind of math worksheet that I needed.  I was able to adjust the questions to the needs of my students.  These were a wonderful math resource this year!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Super Software

There are different types of software that have different functions with in the classroom.

Drill and Practice
This software helps students solve problems or work assignments and receive immediate feedback on correctness.  Some feedback is "OK" or "No, try again."  Other feedback may include an explanation of how to solve the problem the right way.  Drill and Practice can be online flash cards, fill in the chart, or branching questions.  It is important to know how the computer is grading the answers and if it will allow more than one correct answer.  Drill and Practice is a great resource to use when studying for a test, as homework practice, and can be assigned individually to students.

Examples of Drill and Practice websites:

This instructional software is similar to a teacher's instruction.  Tutorials provide a step by step instructions to complete a task and includes practice exercises at the end.  Tutorials can be linear and follow the same sequence every time.  The can also be branching tutorials that change depending on how students answer questions.  Tutorials can be great when teachers are unavailable and can be individualized for each student.

Examples of Tutorial websites:

This instructional software is a computerized model of a real system that is designed to teach how the system works.  Students have a chance to experience hypothetical problem situations and react accordingly.

Example of Simulation websites:

Instructional Games
This instructional software mixes game-like rules and competition to learning activities.  Instructional games often have rules, competition or challenge, and amusing or entertaining formats.  Instructional games are appealing to students.

Example of Instructional Game websites:

Problem-Solving Teaching Functions
Problem-Solving software helps students practice various problem solving in content-area problems.  Some problems can be content area problem solving and others can be content-free problem solving.

Example of Problem-Solving Teaching websites:

Web 2.0 Resources

Web 2.0 Resources are ways that students can interact with technology as they demonstrate understanding of content.  These resources can also be used to create interesting ways to teach students within the classroom.

You or your students can create video clips with images, audio, and text.  You can create free 30 second videos or pay for a subscription to create longer videos.  This would be a great way to introduce a topic to your students or a great assessment for students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. I liked this resource and the way it already had a list of audio that could be used for the videos.

Click here for a Animoto about animal life cycles.


Students can create interactive posters to share their understanding of content.  They can use these to present to their classmates.  Glosters can also be teacher-created to allow students to explore topics on their own.  I think students would really enjoy making and sharing these in class.

Click here for a Gloster about animal life cycles.

With Voki, you can animate a cartoon to dictate the text that is typed in.  This can be used as a teaching tool to introduce a topic, ask questions, or present a problem to students.  Students can use Voki to explain a topic to others.  I will allow my students to explain how they solve math problems with this Web 2.0 resource next year.

Click here for a Voki about Mammals.

Click here for a Voki about Fish.

Bubbl allows teachers and students to create concepts maps online.  These can be used to organize writing ideas or to sort information about any kind of topic being studied.

See the example of a Bubbl Concept Map about animals below.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hot Topic Debates--Wikipedia

I remember hearing my high school teachers tell me over and over that Wikipedia is not a reliable source and could not be used and cited for any research projects.  Even though so many teachers do not like Wikipedia, its still remains as a very common source of information on the computer.  The question comes, should Wikipedia be forbidden in Social Studies Research?

Pros:  Students need a way to access their schema, or current understanding about a topic, before the can focus their research.  Wikipedia is a convenient location that has a lot of basic information that students can use.  Students can use Wikipedia as a starting point to begin a project as they activate their prior knowledge about a topic before they begin their actual research.

Cons:  Students need to use reliable websites when finding information and develop research skills that teach them to search for information in other places besides Wikipedia.  The skills that students learn in their Social Studies classes will carry them throughout their lives.  It is important to that teachers teach students what information is credible when there is so much information at a student's fingertips.

Wikipedia should not be entirely banned because it is a great source that students can use to activate their schema and prior knowledge before they begin a research project.  However, the information and data that is used within the actual project should come from another source.