Ever need ideas on how to put together a technologically up to date curriculum and lesson plans? I know you have, and Teaching Matters is a great place to start. A non-profit organization whose goal is to improve public education with technology, Teaching Matters has a cool selection of lessons available on social studies, writing, media literacy and other areas. The site has three sample class lessons on “Democracy in Greece,” “Constitution Today,” and “Civil Rights.” Each has objectives, an outline of the lessons and animated lessons that are sure to catch your class’s attention.
Description: The Activity Builder is an online product that allows teachers to customize activities for various subjects. Teachers can create worksheets, games, letter cards, flash cards, puzzles, sentence strips, word wall cards, homework assignments, and tests.
Pros: I love the idea that the teacher can customize the work and the site is very easy to navigate. The home page is uncluttered and laid out in an easy to understand style. The left side of the screen lists FAQs, Instructions, Manuals, and Contacts. Under Manuals are sample activities to give you an idea of what the product can do. This is a really helpful feature for the first-time user. The right side of the screen consists of buttons to take you to activity builders for Letters, Numbers, Pictures, and Words. There are also buttons that take you to your Saved Lists and Black Line Masters.
I looked at Pictures (which include math activities), Numbers, Words, and Masters. Masters had pre-made, non-customizable activities that touched on various math subjects as bar graphs and base 10. Under Pictures you could create an activity for lessons in shapes, clock, money, etc. Selecting fractions in the Pictures section, I created flash cards and a cube for the students to make representing ½, 1/3, ¼. The Words category lets you select Words students need to know in each subject. What’s great about this category (and the picture category) is that there’s a district link included. At the moment, there’s only CA and PA listed. Within each state, there are links to grade levels. This would be an amazing tool for teachers when all states are listed. In the numbers category, a large number of activities can be created using 8 different math operations. For subtraction, I created an old maid game, a write 3X each sheet, and a test.
Cons: As mentioned above, this product would be much more useful if it listed every state’s requirements (at least NJ’s!). Also, using fractions as an example, I wasn’t able to create activities for anything besides ½, 1/3, ¼. (Although I was able to create a huge number of activities for those three fractions.) But perhaps this has to do with the grade levels targeted.
How would you use this in the classroom? This is an extremely useful product. I would use it for in class exercises, homework, to create flash cards, to create activities that students would enjoy, and to create tests. It would also be good for enrichment. Whenever students have free time, they could do a word search or a puzzle and reinforce whatever is being taught in the classroom.
We spend a lot of time searching the Web for the best resources for teachers and Susan Smith Nash’s E-Learning Queen site is a real winner. It’s appropriately named because she writes about such diverse topics as creating online courses and using cell phones to enhance learning in a clear and informative style. Check out her recently-posted tips for getting the most out of an online Webinar and don’t miss the photo of her friend’s Corgi, whose name is Gizmo. Very fitting.
Looking for quick just-in-time training? Atomic Learning has become a leader in video-based online tutorials, and they just released a new version of their latest product, Atomic Training. Atomic Training lets schools manage and deliver training videos and procedures. Version 2.1 allows network administrators to easily customize the training environment and video tutorials. The can assign content to specific users and user groups and track the progress of the trainees.
Bottom Line: Atomic’s quick video online tutorials are ideal for busy teachers and administrators. The new management feature of V2.1 is a good enhancement to this product.
To celebrate their 10th anniversary, SchoolNet has announced a new social networking for K12 educators. The site is broken down into “viewpoints” where educators can share their opinions about issues that matter most to them; “ask the community” where the community can respond to specific questions; “discussions” where the community can have an online conversation; and a “K12 wiki” where educators can set up a wiki.
Bottom Line: The social networking site is clean and easy to navigate. A good source for ideas and issues that really matter to K12.
The Army wants a few good students – and they’re willing to offer some free test prep courses to prepare them. I was skeptical, but they were right: no strings appear attached to the March 2 Success mini course offerings. Students CAN choose to be contacted by an army recruiter, but they have to check a box if they are interested. The courses range from Comp English to SAT/ACT Prep to advanced science.
Bottom Line: Students simply answer a few quick questions for a free 45-day registration where they can access dozens of courses. The army rep states about 10-percent of the students registered request to be contacted by an army recruiter, so that’s the payoff for them.
Are you looking for ways to reach out to your home-bound students? A story from Agnes Risley Elementary School is an inspiring model of how technology can be used to reach out to this population.
When Celest McCaskey had Leukemia, her chemo treatments left her too weak to attend classes. Her condition cut her off from her school and social community – until her fourth grade teacher, Brian Crosby, figured out a way to let her join in again. Crosby used Activboard interactive whiteboards, Logitech cameras, PCs, and VOIP (Skype) software to create a unique distance learning experience that made sure Celest remained an active part of the class. A little over a year later, Celest is back in class. This inspiring story is captured in Crosby’s blog and a mini-documentary. What kind of a difference would technology make to your home-bound students?
Tis the time of year to scramble for Earth Day lesson ideas, so let your teachers know about the new “Living Green” blog at http://sallyridescience.com. The “Living Green” blog will run through the month of April — just in time for Earth Day — with new postings each week. Teachers can introduce students to science topics such as climate change, and encourage students to think about ways they can help take care of Earth’s precious resources — air, water, land and other living things.
Bottom line: The “Living Green” blog provides teachers with interesting ways to connect the classroom to the outside world and discuss the many ways science is used in everyday life.
Who says a camera has to cost hundreds of dollars? Corbis, the photo stock agency, has created five different cut and fold pinhole cameras. Called ReadyMech, all you do is download, print and put together. More than a great science project for a class, these no-cost cameras can take cool picures. Just add film.
Specs: Choice of five fold-together pinhole cameras
Bottom line: These pinhole cameras can teach optics and art skills.
Finding appropriate resources to engage elementary school children in scientific inquiry can be a challenge. Enter Discovery Education Science for Elementary, the new digital service from the creators of Discovery Education streaming that is basically an extension of Discovery Education Science for Middle School, launched in 2007. The service is organized into four areas: Learn, Explore, Demonstrate, and Extend. This provides a well-rounded approach to elementary science, giving students and teachers plenty of opportunities to understand tricky concepts using a variety of tools.