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The 123s of Summer Retention

We all know that the months of July and August can undo a year’s worth of hard classworkwork. The right math app used over the summer, however, can mean the difference of starting over and building on what the students have already learned. Don’t feel bad about giving assignments over the summer, because students often have to read a novel or two to get ready for the next year’s English class.

Math upgrade KLearning Upgrade’s Math Upgrade Kindergarten can help in a big way. It has 50 music- and video-filled fun lessons with interactive games that can help reinforce the year’s curriculum and push forward into new mathematical territory. Everything is aligned with the Common Core standards and the company is working on activities and lessons. Schools that use license Learning Upgrade get it for free over the summer months.

Math motionThe $3 that Motion Math costs may be the best money spent on math education throughout the year. That’s because this math app not only works with iPads and Android tablets but Windows Phones as well. Aimed at third and fourth graders, the app focuses on fractions, what they are, how they work and why students shouldn’t be afraid of them. The lessons are Common Core aligned and really games that work with everything from pie charts and number lines to numerators and denominators, decimals and percentages. For those who’re having trouble grasping the concepts, Motion Math has hints.

Math bugsRather than concentrate on any particular skill, Math Bugs goes after the whole gamut of math. In addition to the basics, like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, the app teaches shapes, common factors and algebra. It has word problems as well as a series of mental math tricks that can streamline figuring out problems. On top of single-player and group modes, you move among its different skill levels and set the program up to present as many rapid-fire questions in 60 seconds as can be answered. It’s free and has ads, but for a small upgrade fee, there are harder problems available.




Texas 1, 2, 3 Step

Stepping stones bOrigo Education just updated its Stepping Stones program to add special features for classrooms needing to meet the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards. The K-through-5th grade math curriculum focuses on thinking and reasoning skills but is chock full of furry cute animals for children to relate to. The program runs in a Web browser so there’s no new software to load and update.  It costs $169 a year for a teacher’s subscription, but you can try it out for a month for free.


Freebee Friday: Be an Author

5_Screen_iBA_StarterKit_Pg90.480x480-75With ebooks, the cost of creating a personalized textbook has been reduced to nearly zero. Apple’s iBooks Author Starter Kit is a great way to get started because rather than needing to know any programming, all you do is write, copy and paste. In addition to laying out blocks of text, video and images, you can set use existing presentations, set up quizzes and take advantage of an iPad’s touch capabilities.

Map Apps

Map leadIf history can be read as a series of interlocking maps, then teaching social studies can be thought of as more of a visual activity. Whether it’s for showing the westward trek in the U.S., how people made it from Asia to North America or the movement of troops during just about any war, the right maps can make social studies come alive.

The good news is that there are dozens of high quality map apps that are either free or cost next to nothing. The bad news is that few work on both iPads and Android slates, making it an either-or choice.

The next time you want to discuss how Hawaii came to be a state or why the Suez Canal was so importnat to the British empire, put the text book aside and reach for a map app. It’s all there.

Us puzzle mapsSometimes all you need is a little trick or game to teach a class the names of the states or European countries. That’s where the $2 United States Puzzle Map comes in. It not only has a game where kids drag the state to its proper position and give it a name, but as you play the game, the hints start to disappear. There’s also a trivia game to help them remember the difference between North and South Dakota. The prolific Jenny Sun has created a whole family of related Puzzle Map iPad games with ones for Europe, Asia and Africa, among others. 

GeacronAs its name implies, GeaCron involves the intersection of time and geography. Actually, it’s an impressive app that can show human history for the past 5,000 years in terms of land and people. You can keep the maps simple or layer in detail, like topography and events and roll the timeline forward or back to see the action. Tap or click on a name label to get details about the place and move around to see where the action is. It’s an excellent way to show the class what’s going on at different places in the world at the same time, such as the effect of the Napoleonic campaigns and our War of 1812. Just pick your time, place and scale, and you’re off. It’s an Android only app that costs $3.54.

Maps HistoryPut together by Seungbin Cho, Maps of the World has a slew of them, perfect for teaching about anything from early polar explorations to the battle for the Aleutian Islands during World War II. The free History: Maps of the World app only works on iPhones and iPads and lets you choose from hundreds of key maps that illustrate the before, during or aftermath of a change or conflict, sometimes all three. There are also versions of the app for showing the history of Asia, Oceania, America and the Middle East and the site is ad-supported. All have links to Wikipedia for detailed information and are overflowing with maps that can be printed or emailed to students.

Google mapsWhy rely on others to make maps for you when you can make your own set of historical maps for whatever the lesson plan is for the day. The key is learning the ins and outs of Google Maps. By taking a couple of hours to explore what’s possible with this amazingly deep program, you can get the idea of how to create your own teaching maps. There are ten lessons that run from the basics to 3-D imagery. It can turn jsut about any teacher or student into a map pro.

Old maps onlineWhen it comes down to it, you don’t need a tablet at all to view a series of instructive maps of the world. Old Maps Online is an excellent repository of antique maps that not only works in any browser window but has one of the best ways of finding a cool map for your lesson. On top of a basic map of the world is a zoomable rectangle that shows its geographic scope and a timeline above for the time period you’re looking for. The maps are generally of exceptional resolution and quality, range from 1000AD to the present. They come from the world’s greatest collections, including the Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia and the Utrecht University Library. Every map is a gem and a potential class lesson.




Chrome-Plated Windows

4. Frame - SolidWorks running on Frame (in Chrome, on Mac)Chromebooks are priced right for schools but because they don’t run Mac or Windows software, they can leave teachers wanting more. Frame can help by delivering Windows apps over the Web for students to use anything from Adobe’s Photoshop to Word. Rather than running the software locally, all the Windows apps are stored online and the heavy work is done at Frame’s server farm. The screen data is sent to each system, ready for interaction with the user. The software will be available later this year.

Fun, Games and Learning

Filament evolutionWhy fight with students and a dull textbook to teach biology when they can have fun getting to know how things live and grow. Filament Learning’s PLEx Life Science is meant for middle-school students and augments the traditional biology curriculum with games and interactivity that takes learning to a new level. It can either run in a browser or as an iPad or Android app for $130 a year for up to 30 students.


Freebee Friday: GoQuest, Young Student

GoQuest - PBLThere’s bad news and good news for those of you who like teaching with Compass Learning’s Renzulli Learning curriculum software. The Renzulli product will be discontinued, but Compass is putting the final touches on a follow-on program called GoQuest. The new software covers elementary, middle- and high-school subjects and runs in a browser window, so any recent computer will work.

 GoQuest picks up where Renzulli leaves off with its familiar profile questionnaire. The idea is that kids start by taking a 45 minute survey that quizzes them on their interests and learning style. Based on the answers, GoQuest prepares a personalized education program that draws from the company’s library of 40,000 curriculum resources.

GoQuest - ProfilerTeachers can create individual or group assignments and share them across a school or district with other teachers, but the real worth of GoQuest comes at the end of each learning section with a project that each student needs to prepare. Based on a timeline of deadlines, the teacher can track who’s doing what and is presented with a yellow light for students who are three days from a deadline and red for assignments that have been missed. GoQuest will cost $25 per student for a year when it starts commercial operation this fall, but for now you can try the beta.

Curriculum Mapping Made Easy

Curriculum trakIf mapping out your school’s curriculum is turning into a time sink that doesn’t seem to end, think about automating the task. Dynamic’s online Curriculum Trak is based in the cloud so any computer can be used and teachers can collaborate by doing different sections at the same time. The results can be shared across classes, other schools and even to parents.  A district with less than 400 students will pay a $475 set up fee, which includes creating school-specific templates, plus $600 a year. A free demo is available.

Pre-School Brain Power

Screen520x924With the current expansion of pre-K classes, getting kids ready for school has never been more important. Kiko’s Thinking Time is an iPad app that stimulates and exercises a small child’s brain, readying them for critical thinking. It all seems like games, but the app can improve learning capacity in three to seven year olds. The app is free but it costs $8 a month or $50 a year to use the 10 games.

Freebee Friday: Hour of Coding Power

Code studioOne of the best ways to teach how to turn ideas into working programs is to use Coed.org’s Hour of Code interactive lesson. Once you’ve introduced the kids to the art of programming, go to the site’s lessons where students (ad teachers) can make simple programs in a matter of minutes. Many have familiar characters, such as Elsa from “Frozen.” There are tutorials on JavaScript, phone apps and making games. It’s all free and ltos of fun.



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