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Freebee Friday: 60 Full Minutes of Programming

Hour-of-code-5Apple’s Hour of Code program takes a big step off of the Internet and into the company’s iconic showrooms. From December 5th through the 11th, every Apple store will host an Hour of Code Workshop. Just type in your state, pick a store and pick your time. The latest addition is the Swift Playgrounds app that can help get younger students to use their iPads to write programs and create games. Based on the open source Swift language, the playground software may seem like fun and games, but students (and teachers) will quickly learn the basics of coding and how programs work.


Freebee Friday: Tree Teaching

Sen teacher printablesSen Teacher is a great resource for the entire school with free digital curriculum for everything for science, math and language as well as art education. Most of the activities are like games, so learning can be fun and there’s a good selection of printable worksheets and assignments. The site both uses cookies and has advertising on it.

School is Online

Connections academyThe place for the virtual curriculum is everywhere because it can free up students to study at their own pace and teachers to concentrate on actual teaching. Pearson’s Connections Academy is an elementary school curriculum, including math and science to reading, writing and social studies. The big bonus is that in addition to the basics, the online academy’s curriculum has electives for students interested in digital art, music and a small set of foreign languages. Schools can set up the Connections Academy digital curriculum directly with the company or through their district or state officials.

DIY Whiteboard

Ormiboard planetIf your school can’t afford the expense and hassles of dedicated digital whiteboards for its classrooms, you might have all you need at hand. That’s because Ormiboard can turn any connected computer into projector collaboration tools. Just connect to the Ormiboard site, pick your lessons from the hundreds available and start working on it. The site has full lessons on everything from the solar system to nouns and pronouns as well as a good variety of clip art, educational games and audio so you can make your own. You can try it out for free, but the service costs $60 per teacher and school-wide discounts are available.

Nearly November

Polldata_1024x1024With election day coming quickly. Second Avenue’s Voter’s Ed 2016 Edition is ready. At $10 it’s a bargain of an app that can turn any student into a presidential pundit with insight into the coming vote. There’s a look at the history of presidential plebiscites, a continually updated Electoral College map with the latest polling data as well as a candidate tracker. It comes with a lesson plan for your choice of lower- and upper-elementary, middle, high school as well as AP students and works with just about any connected computer.


U Kin Spill 2

In this age of thumb typing and spell checkers, you’d think that actually learning to spell would take a backseat to free expression. Happily, spelling is even more important to keep the writer’s meaning true and avoid ambiguities or misunderstandings. Here’re seven apps that can help kids learn that it’s always “i” before “e,” except after a “c” – or something like that.

         SCHOOL ZONE

08165_03-15_c2009_1Anyone who’s been in an early education classroom with computers probably recognizes School Zone Spelling because it’s been around for nearly a decade. At $25, it can be used with an interactive projector and works with both PCs and Macs. The program has 2,800 words ready to be spelled (or misspelled) for grades one, two and three, and you can add your own word lists to its vocabulary. It focuses on independent self-paced learning with a variety of animated characters who help students to spell correctly, which is reinforced with exercises.


UsboxThis name Ultimate Speller is appropriate here because this program is the complete package for classrooms with games that help kids learn to spell correctly and the ability to create class worksheets to hone skills. It delivers extensive analysis and reports while covering the gamut of platforms with compatibility for PCs, Macs as well as Linux computers and Chromebooks. its unique Word Explorer shows how different words are related shows it in an innovative visual manner. Ultimate’s $30 price tag for up to five users can be lowered for schools with a volume licensing program of the company’s EDU edition.

              SPELL QUIZZER

MainScreenVista (1)This small program does one thing and does it exceedingly well: Creates tests to give a class to see how well they can spell the latest word list. With 10,000 words at its disposal, Spell Quizzer reads the words of interest to the student and then checks what’s they have typed. On the downside, there’re no games or activities to actually learn the words. It costs $30 and is well worth it.

               HOOKED ON SPELLING

Hooked on spellingWhile not as lively as its Hooked on Phonics series, Hooked on Spelling is custom made for the classroom with 20 minute discrete lessons that’re aimed at making 5-through-8-year old students into better spellers. The Hooked on Spelling lessons cover everything from consonant and vowel sounds to plurals and singulars. Along the way, there’re several games to reinforce the instruction, but the program won’t work on newer Macs.

                              SPELLING FORCE

Spelling forceWith more than 9,000 words at its disposal and a sample sentence for each, Spelling Force can help a learn the ins and outs of spelling. There’s a special emphasis on phonics and homonyms, so everyone should be able to tell the difference between their, there and they’re. An Australian import, the $35 program runs only on PCs, but includes four separate games that help build spelling skills, rules and patterns. 

                                               SPELLING BEE

Spelling beeGot a lot of Android tablets? Socratia’s Spelling Bee can help a class master the ins and outs of spelling with more than 2,300 words available as text and as audio to listen to. If you like the app, it can be set to deliver increasingly hard words and its assessments have the word in a sentence next to a place to type an answer. At the end, Spelling Bee tells you how you did and the level of severity.

                           LITTLE SPELLER—THREE LETTER WORDS

Three letter wordsThis is an iPad app that starts small for a school’s youngest students. Little Speller has a vocabulary composed entirely of simple and easy to learn words that can be built upon in subsequent grades. Built around flash cards, Little Speller has an image of the item, a place to play an audio clip of the word and a keyboard to type in the word. Best of all, it’s simple and free.


Freebee Friday: (Almost) Back to School, Part I

Back to schoolIt’s never premature to get thinking about back to school activities for the fall's first day of class. Scholastic (the corporate parent of Tech Tools) has a bunch, including a great variation on the “what I did over the summer.” Aimed at third-through-fifth graders, Genia Connell has put together a good way to teach the rudiments of storytelling and organizing thoughts while having kids talk and write about their summer trips, family reunions and diversions. The lesson plan includes suggested readings, exercises -- like creating long- and short-versions -- writing a poem and making an arts and crafts project of some element of the summer that could end up being a hallway exhibit for parent’s night. In more ways than one, it says “Welcome Back.”

A Multitude of Lessons

Spelling-400_4The library of online lessons from Odysseyware has been enlarged by 250 with an emphasis on math, Spanish and English. The new lessons are visual and include subjects from Math Fundamentals for grades sixth through twelve to Spanish III and Spelling.


Freebee Friday: The App as a Class

UdacityForget about teaching how to use Word and Excel, because kids often know it better than the teachers. The future of computer education at schools is teaching programming and Udacity’s Android development for Beginners is a great start. Aimed at those who want to try out programming, the course takes 24 hours to complete. It is built around a step by step progression for how to go from idea to app. The course is video based, includes exercises for students to test their knowledge and abilities and each student should be able to build two apps before it’s over. 

Freebee Friday: Happy Earth Day

IPad_Earth_Day_2016_resources_riskNext Friday is Earth Day, a time we stop and thank mother nature as we try to help clean up our planet. With help from E.O. Wilson’s Biodiversity Foundation, Apple has a lot of content that you can build a lesson around with everything from conserving water and understanding ecosystems to climate change and how important keystone species are. It all comes together with the backyard Bioblitz, an activity where kids investigate and document the fauna and flora all around us.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.