Friday, January 30, 2015

Edcite - Create Online Assessment Opportunities for Your Students

With SBAC on the horizon the stress level is high on teachers who have concerns about giving the students testing scenarios that model the tech skills they will need to be successful with the new tests.  Edcite is a great solution for this.

There are multiple ways of using this resource.  The simplest is to reuse or modify an already created assignment from the site which are easily found using filters and search terms based on topics, CCSS, and/or grade level.  Once saving the assignment to your own personal library you can quickly send out an assignment through a URL to students to take and gather data on.  Students will not need an edcite account to utilize the site this way.   Students must finish the assignment in one sitting in this scenario.

The second scenario is to create a class and assign username and passwords to the students.  The benefit of this is having the ability to quickly assign and have the assignment appear in the students' accounts.  It also would allow for a student to start an assignment, leave for the day, and then relog into the assignment and finish at a later time.

Both ways will track data for the teacher that gives the assignment.  Assignments are automatically graded outside of the open ended, which the teacher will go in and self grade.  Teachers can create their own questions and own assignments aligned with the curriculum that they are working on.

Why do online assessments and assignments?  Edcite allows the students to have experiences with the different questioning styles that they will experience in the SBAC.  For example, open ended, drag and drop, make a line on a grid, etc... The more online reading and writing opportunities students are given the opportunity to do, the less "lack of tech experience" will impact their performance when they are assessed in the spring.  Free and usable from Kinder to 12th grade, this resource is well worth your time!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Epic! - Thousands of Books for Kids

One awesome aspect of a tablet, such as an iPad, is the ability to have one device containing many books.  However, the challenge is finding the books.

Epic, an iDevice app which is free for teachers and librarians, contains thousands of titles which can be accessed by students using a variety of filters such as age level of reader and interest.  Formats include books that are read to students, books for early readers, and extensive chapter books.

As students read books, they can be awarded badges and obtain new themes to use with the app.

Once you set up your teacher account, you can create profiles for students on one iPad.  This is great if you have students sharing one iPad.  Epic keeps track of what students have read under each profile as well as providing a list of titles tailored to the students interest. Note: when setting up these profiles each account will be asked to confirm via a parent email address.

If you are in a one to one environment where each student has their own iPad, or iPod, then they would be fine using the guest profile.

Be sure to sign up as an educator when you first open the app.  You will need to complete an online form submitting your educational information such as school, grade, and email.

You may consider creating your account online at, then download the app and begin your reading adventures.  The online site allows you to browse through titles, but reading the books is done via the app.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Google Classroom Releases Their iPad App

Google Classroom released an iDevice app, available for both the iPad and iPhone. Requires IOS 7 or higher.

The app interface to Google Classroom is very similar to the online interface.  This should be an easy transition. One difference is when posting, find and use the plus down in the lower right hand corner.

What I like about the app is you can add photos from your camera roll to include on any post.

I also like the ability to switch classroom accounts by clicking an icon.  This will come in useful in scenarios where there are multiple students sharing an iPad in a classroom.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Elevate - Train Your Brain

Voted as one of the top apps in 2014, Elevate is a nice iPhone, iPad, or Android app which offers a wide variety of tasks focused on all parts of your brain.

You begin using the app by creating your account and taking a placement activity so your brain practice is adaptive to your needs.

The app is free, however you can upgrade to the premium version.  With the premium version you get access to additional games and your growth is charted against others online.

There are nearly 20 games in five areas of brain training including reading, writing, listening, speaking, and math.

Each day three different tasks, which take about 5-10 minutes, are available for you to complete.  Elevate then charts your individual growth over a period of time which you can access at any time by checking your performance.

This app would be perfect for a personalized middle school or high school 1-1 environment so students can track their improvement over the course of a month, semester, or year.  As a teacher, take 5-10 minutes during the evenings and Elevate your brain, which probably can be done during a commercial set while you are relaxing on the couch.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jefferson Lab - Science Education Resources

There are several National Science Laboratories in the United States.  One of these, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), has a nice collection of  resources for middle school and high school science classrooms.

The Jefferson Lab Science Education site, iPad and chromebook friendly, contains resources for the teacher and student, including loads of games and videos, to assist with the physical science classrooms.  

Games can include Element Hangman

Or Speed Math Deluxe.

Watch videos from the Frostbite Theater where Joanna and Steve provide you with many liquid nitrogen experiments, as well as other scientific eye catching topics.  These videos are typically 1-4 minutes in length.

Another video series hosted at Jefferson Lab is Physics Out Loud containing 1-4 minute videos regarding many explanation of common words used in nuclear physics research.

If you are interested in hearing a 40 minute lecture from highly credible scientists, check out archived science lectures from as far back as the early 90's. Many interesting topics to choose from.

Again, a nice collection resources to help students learn and review physical science concepts.

Friday, December 19, 2014

HSTRY - Create Interactive Timelines

I’m always searching for new tools that allow for student creativity and critical thinking, particularly those that are device neutral with the only cost involved is time spent learning.  When new resources become accessible, I encourage teachers to implement them because often times the newness is enough motivation to get students highly engaged.  And with newness students embark on a learning quest figuring out how to use the resource enriching their critical thinking skills.

HSTRY seems to be spot on with these criteria as a tool to allow a person to put together a linear list of resources called a timeline.  Some timelines can be chronological by the calendar, while others may be viewed as different sections of a report.
Using the teacher login, they can create a class, then either manually add students or have students join via a class code.  The student will not need an email address, just a username and password.

One feature I look into from the student perspective is what they can view by searching public resources, which HSTRY calls timelines.  This is particularly valuable for elementary students in case they stumble upon high school curriculum inappropriate for their age level.  HSTRY only allows students to view their own timelines, or those provided to them from the teacher.  

The teacher can search timelines posted to the community, and with a click share with the class. Once a timeline is shared with the class, students will be able to comment on any item, and yes the teacher can moderate all comments.

Which brings me to cost.  To use HSTRY, it’s completely free.  There is a premium version which provides you with access to created content, for instance Timeline bundles about the American Revolution.

Timelines contain a series of blocks which may include a text block, an image block, a video block, a question block, or a “did you know” block.  The author is free to drag and drop the blocks freely to fit their intended linear path.  

Sharing of timelines is limited to the teacher sharing one they create or find to the students.  HSTRY is working on a feature where students can share timelines with their class, but are very hesitant at allowing students share timelines with the community.  Currently a student submits a timeline so only the teacher has view privileges.

A nice getting started task could be to have everyone create an “About Me” timeline.  Then use this tool to have students demonstrate understanding for many projects throughout the curriculum, like state reports, expedition reports, animal reports, book reviews, author biographies, science lab write ups, or even math concepts. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Photomath - Mobile Device Solves Math Problems

I remember teaching Advanced Math in High School, and often times I would randomly write down a few Algebra problems for students to solve.  However, I also needed to solve them to generate a key.  Even though that isn't a huge hurdle, there is an app for that.

Photomath, available for most any mobile device.  Yes, using the camera you get the problem into your viewfinder, and the expression is either simplified or the equation is solved.  You don't even have to key in the problem.

You can examine the steps taken to solve the problem.

The app also contains a history of all the equations or expressions you've scanned.

This would be a nice tool for students to use in order to check that they complete practice problems correctly. 

At this time the app can simplify arithmetic expressions, interpret fractions, decimals, powers, and roots, and solve linear equations.  It can't comprehend higher level math like Trigonometry or Calculus, yet.  Hopefully in the future, as the app was released just a couple months ago.