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.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Google Docs on the iPad - Continuing to Improve - Table Editing!

A frustration for many of the teachers and students has been the limited usability of google apps on the iPad.  It seems that Google hears the needs and does work on adding them....slowly but surely.

 A recently added feature to the Google Doc app on the iPad is the ability to finally view and edit in a table!  Tables have always caused a problem in the app before this.  Requiring students to use the browser to access which is always a few extra steps that teachers would like to avoid.

With this great addition, there is still a few things missing like creating the table inside the app.  This is hopefully an option that will make an appearance soon. (fingers crossed)  Right now it's just editing in an already created table.

Another Quick Google Doc Tip:  If there is a file you access often, or would like to continue to work on even when lacking internet access, be sure to choose to make that file available offline by choosing the option to "Keep on Device".  This is great to show students especially who have access to their iPads at home but may have little or no internet access outside of school.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hour of Code - Are You Participating?

I would guess you could look around at this moment and observe several items that require the skills of computer programming.   How many do you see?

Most of us understand all the games on our cell phones are computer programming generated, but what about items not so recognizable like stop lights, microwave ovens, or automobiles.  This list is practically endless.

It is estimate by the year 2020 there will be 1,000,000 more computing jobs than students.  So what can we do?  Take part in the movement to inspire our youth and involve them in the hour of code.  It's a start.

The Hour of Code takes place December 8-14, 2014.  Over 52 million have tried an Hour of Code.

Here are a few resources that all work on an iPad.  Select one that works for you, or maybe try a couple.

    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    Post It App - Great for the Teacher iPad!

    I used post its a lot in class.... exit tickets, brainstorming, questions and we still do in our teacher trainings.  Post-it has a free app that allows the user to take the notes with them, move them around, group them, even edit and add additional notes.

    These are the actual physical paper post-its.    We used this app to collect thoughts by teachers at the NE Oregon Regional EdTech Cadre about coding in schools.

    Teachers wrote thoughts onto Post Its and then used the app to categorize and compare common thoughts that teachers had in their small group. They then sent a picture of their board to our working blog so other groups could see what their thoughts were.

    Lots of conversation grew from this as to how to use this app in the classroom. Most common was the comment of how this would be great for a single iPad classroom.  Capture brainstorming, vocabulary, exit tickets, etc... Teachers could use it for later evaluation or in class to project for the whole class to see and help group.    

    Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Teenagers Sexting - What Is Your School Doing About It?

    Earlier this week a story broke of high school teenagers from Portland, Oregon taking video of other students engaged in sexual activities, then sending them to peers via Internet resources.  These incidents happened both on and off high school property.

    One parent of a high school student feels it isn't just a Grant High School problem, but that the problem exists nationally.

    As the police stated, not knowing that sharing a sexual photo or video of a friend who is under the age of 18 is no excuse, and will be considered distribution of child pornography which will have significant impact on the life of anyone.

    This discovered behavior prompted immediate action by the school principal to encourage all parents to have conversations with their children regarding the seriousness of their behavior.

    When I read that the principal sent home a letter to all parents with resources, I thought about all the other principals of high schools throughout the region, state, and nation.  What are they doing?  Are they encouraging parents to talk to their children about these issues?  Are these discussions happening in schools between teachers and students?  What should be the responsibility of the schools in teaching digital citizenship? 

    Common Sense Media is a great resource to find talking points and lessons regarding this issue and many more.  In particular there is an entire lesson they host called "Overexposed: Sexting and Relationships".

    Here are resources from Netsmartz addressing the issue, Tips to Prevent Teens Sexting for Parents, Tips to Prevent Sexting for Teens, and a video "Your Photo Fate".

    I encourage all teachers to talk to students regarding digital safety, and if you happen to use this topic to get you started, excellent.  If this activity happened in Portland, Oregon, can it be happening in your school?


    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    CC Quest and Open Ed

    We are always looking for ways to help prepare students and assist teachers not only for the shifts of the Common Core but also the increase of depth of knowledge levels and tech skills needed for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Using technology as a tool in the classroom has so many benefits, but in the case of the new assessments students will be taking this spring, the skills associated with how to use technology correctly could pose a problem for many of our students who do not have regular access within their regular curriculum.  From tech skills to questioning styles, rethinking how you traditionally assess your students will benefit them in more ways than one!

    An easy way to do common core aligned quick checks for specific standards is using apps or sites such as Common Core Quest from Open Ed (app for iPad and Android).  CC Quest could be used in isolation or along with the main Open Ed website.  Open Ed is a classroom resource library of lessons, activities, videos, etc all aligned to the CCSS.   The app can be used as a stand alone.  Students would need to log in with their school google account, they can choose their grade level and either Math or ELA.  From there, each standard has a quick 3 to 5 problem quiz that assess their mastery of the standard.  If they do not do well, the app will suggest sites or videos to visit to continue practicing that skill.  This would be a great way for students to check mastery, as well as many questions have multiple parts, similar to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

    As a teacher, you can log in and create an account at Open Ed.  From there you are able to enter in students and establish usernames and passwords for them, especially for young students or students in districts were email use is not allowed.  Adding students into a class in the website will also allow for the teacher to monitor which standards students have taken and how they have done.  More features on the website include lessons and resources aligned to the standards that teachers can assign to the class.  Most resources are open source (free access) though there are also lesson and activities from some paid subscription sites.

    It's worth the time to explore!

    Monday, November 10, 2014

    Classflow - an Engaging Presentation Tool

    Imagine presenting to your students a typical PowerPoint or Prezi.  You have a great presentation planned with images illustrating key ideas instead of a screen filled with text.  However, this presentation is still in the form students watch while teachers present. 

    What if you can push individual slides of a presentation to student devices, so those sitting in the back row who forgot their glasses aren't squinting to see the slide?  Those that are losing attention because they are looking over a half dozen other students, can now maintain focus because the material is 6-12 inches in front of them.

    And what if students could respond back by adding content to an existing slide, in which the instructor obtains x number of alternative results from students and can select which slide or slides to display in front of the class.

    Classflow is a free online tool allowing teachers to have engaging presentations with their students.

    Some of you are asking, but "Nearpod" does that already.  Correct, this is very similar to Nearpod.  One difference is Classflow also integrates with an existing Interactive Whiteboard, the Active Inspire or Promethean environment.

    First step is to create your free online teacher account at Classflow.

    If you are an Active Inspire user, give your students the class code and have them join your Classflow session.  Students can join using the Classflow Student app or connecting through

    Start by pushing out flipchart pages to student devices with a click of a button inside the software.

    When you want the two way engagement piece you'll need to toggle over to the Classflow website.  Send students a slide in "Ad-hoc mode", which keeps your students in the same class as they are when you're using Classflow inside Inspire.

    With the Classflow Student app, students can use pens, shapes, text, and even add images from the camera or their photo album.

    As a teacher, you also have the traditional student response opportunities like multiple choice, text, numeric, and true false for questioning the class.

    Another nice student response feature is the Word Seed.  Great for brainstorming ideas with your students as they enter in their text response, and words are placed in a circle around the slide as they send in their results.

    Once you begin using Classflow, look into more advanced features like integrating Active Expression or assessment activities, or individualizing content by providing students with web links and videos during a lesson.

    If you do choose to use the web based Classflow presentation platform, you can upload existing Promethean Flipchart or SmartBoard Notebook presentations.

    Classflow is a program that may take some time learning, so be sure to check out the Classflow Youtube Channel.

    Friday, September 5, 2014

    My Story - Book Maker for Kids

    My Story - Book Maker for Kids is an ad free iPad only app that makes story writing and book creating simple for your primary students.  Today, September 5th, it is free, normally this app is $3.99.

    A few of the features of this app make this an ideal app for a classroom with a center of iPads.  The app allows for the adding of multiple authors, which all of us with centers knows, is not always possible inside apps.  This allows students to each work inside their own project without having to finish or delete other work before starting.  This is super!

     The work space is easy to navigate with drawing, text, sticker, and photo album access.  Students can also record themselves on each page as well. 

    Finished products have multiple ways of sharing, including email and iBooks.  This makes sharing of projects to other devices very simple.