It’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.”
The 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.
Forget 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.
Next 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.
Learning the state capitals, shapes and locations is now a matter of playing rather than rote memorization. That’s because Stack the States makes it into a game with a state-shaped avatar to help kids learn the ins and outs of the 50 states. In addition to animations and interactive elements the app has high-resolution images of the important landmarks for everything from Alaska to Wyoming. There’s a free Lite version, but the full app costs $1.99 and works with Android and iPads.
Few educational apps fulfill the promise of the iPad more than Osmo, which just gets more and more interesting as time goes on. Aimed at the smallest learners in a school, Osmo works with all iPads and includes a reflector stand that works with the software and small manipulative materials that help to integrate the lesson. The kit comes with Numbers (to explore early math concepts), Tangrams (making shapes from small geometric figures), Words (which lets you write out things with small characters), Newton (that turns anything into a digital pachinko machine) and Masterpiece (for creating artwork). The Starter kit costs $79, which the Genius kit goes for $99.
The latest version of Reading Rainbow, the Skybrary School Edition is perfect for teaching and motivating kids to read. Aimed at elementary school early learners, the school edition includes access to more than 500 books as well as video clips, classroom lesson plans and assessments with open-ended questions that probe reading comprehension. It lets students read when they want to while teachers can sneak a peek as to how often kids are actually reading. An annual license costs $179 per classroom (for up to 35 students) or $1,450 (for up to 350 students), but there’s a 30-day trial.
With a slew of dynamic and interactive classroom devices, why use boring static documents? Knomadix can liven them up, transforming flat into multi-layered interactive material that can help get and keep a child’s attention. The Android apps can help create everything from interactive worksheets that self-grade to educational games that can help with instruction and deepen understanding. There’s a free trial with sample lessons.
DimensionU’s online edu-games are now available on Android slates and smartphones. The company continues to focus on math and literacy skills aimed at third-through-ninth graders, but the new software opens a new, well, dimension for teachers at Android-centric schools. At the moment, DimensionU has hundreds of games for individuals and groups and teachers can get a trial account.