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Posts tagged with "ed"

Sep 2

BBC Launched new site to encourage kids to code

Wouldn’t it be cool if a major TV network in the US would do the same? I know that BBC is government funded and all, but heck, how much cash do you need to do something like this ABC?

From the press release:

BBC Children’s and BBC Learning today announce a range of content across Bitesize, CBBC and CBeebies that will encourage children across the UK to get involved with computing and coding, with new education resources, lively television series, games and competitions.
These early examples form part of the BBC’s coding and digital creativity initiative for 2015, which aims to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology. More detail on this initiative will be announced soon.

To support primary and secondary schools across the UK, and to coincide with the new computing curriculum in England, BBC Learning has introduced a new range of media-rich computer science content through Bitesize. These include curriculum-mapped guides using animation, graphics, video and interactive games

In Appsolute Genius on CBBC, Dick and Dom learn about the geniuses whose ideas, creations and discoveries have shaped the world of coding, computer programming and gaming. As part of this brand-new interactive series, Dick and Dom will also be challenging CBBC viewers to design and help build their very own game – giving a budding young designer the once in a lifetime opportunity for their idea to be released as an app that people across the UK can download and play. Competition details will be announced on CBBC and on the CBBC website later this month.

Also launching on CBBC this autumn is Technobabble, a fun new series delving into the exciting world of technology and taking children on a journey to discover how digital innovations may affect their lives in the future. Presenters Frankie Vu and Clara Amfo will be highlighting the latest apps, games and brilliant examples of digital creativity from around the world, from 3D printers to movie special effects and immersing themselves in the world of virtual reality.

For younger viewers super scientist Nina returns to CBeebies with a brand-new series, Nina And The Neurons: Go Digital, which sees Nina and her young experimenters travel the UK in search of wonders of computer technology. Nina and her experimenters have a go at computer code, find out how the internet works and even try some 3D printing of their own.

Sinéad Rocks Acting Head of BBC Learning, said: “We know that many children are genuinely interested in technology and we want to play our part in inspiring and empowering them to pursue their passions and to find out even more. Our new education resources are designed to give a hands on approach through a range of great animation, video and interactive games that we hope will really engage and entertain whilst also enabling our audiences to develop key digital skills. This combined with great television and online output from CBBC and CBeebies means that the BBC can inspire children to get creative digitally both within the formal setting of the classroom and at home through television, games and competitions.”

The new resources can be found at bbc.co.uk/schoolscomputing, which will link to all the new Computing content on Bitesize as well as to other BBC classroom resources, including content to support Dick and Dom’s Appsolute Genius.

Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children’s, said: “It’s really important that BBC Children’s is at the forefront of digital creativity, because for millions of children CBeebies and CBBC are their first port of call for facts, information and inspiration. And with Dick and Dom and Nina and her Neurons leading the charge, we are sure it will be huge with our audiences.”

Sep 1

Free Ebook Offer from Curtis Bonk: Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online

From Curtis Bonk one of the people you need to be following:

When my book, “The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education" first appeared in the summer of 2009, people asked me two insightful questions: #1. If this truly is an open educational world, then why isn’t the book free?, and #2. What can educators actually do in this more free and open world? A couple years later, when Massive Open Online Courses or "MOOCs" first arrived on the scene, people around the globe were asking me a third question; namely, #3. how to increase MOOC retention rates. They read MOOC related articles in the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC News, CNN International, the Korea Times, and all of the other hype about the global transformation of higher education. But they also knew that there were a host of problems surrounding MOOCs.



It took more than five years, but I finally have responded to all three questions. Where? How? And when, you ask? Well, my latest book, "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online," provides a framework of 10 proven psychological principles of motivation (see visual below) and more than 100 activities for addressing the vast learner motivation and retention problems we all witness today. In responding to all those who joked with me that my next book should be free, this book, written with Elaine Khoo from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, not only is FREE as an e-book (all 367 pages), but you can download each chapter separately for free as well. Since the book release in May, over 20,000 people have already downloaded the entire book and thousands more have selected individual chapters. Chapters on curiosity, tone/climate, and relevance are among the most popular ones.

You too can download it all right now and share it with others. In addition, a Chinese version of the free e-book will be available soon. This free and open access book is my way of expressing my thanks for the opportunity to live in this vast and exciting open educational world.




Besides the free e-book, “Adding Some TEC-VARIETY” is also available from Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle. More specifics about the book can be found in a recent blog post of mine as well as at the book homepage.

This book is an experiment for me both in self-publishing as well as pushing the edges of the open educational world. I hope you enjoy my new free book and share it with others. Oh, by the way, my son Alex designed the cover. I hope you like it.
Best wishes.


Curt Bonk, Ph.D. (in educational psychology), CPA
Professor, Instructional Systems Technology Department; Adjunct, School of Informatics
Indiana University
President, CourseShare, LLC

Boring is as Boring Does in Class Assignments

I have become interested in the idea that in order to get students engaged, we as educators need to make some kind of interest connection with them. I know, you say, that is what relevance is all about. Yeah yeah, I know. But to me, this idea goes way beyond relevance. It goes more towards how do you make a lesson RELEVANT AND INTERESTING?

To me, relevance and interest are two separate terms, and just because something is relevant, it does not mean it is of interest. And just because something is interesting, does not mean it is relevant. I can have a great interesting lesson that means nothing either to the standards that I need to teach, or to the kids I am teaching. On the other hand, I can have a lesson that kills it when it comes to relevance in my student’s lives but be boring as hell.

This goes back to that idea that there needs to be some kind of emotional attachment to learning, as I wrote about in “Remembering the Kiss.” We don’t have to be recreating the late Robin William’s manic routines in front of them in order to be engaging or to create that connection. I remember in the movie “Teachers” where Richard Mulligan plays a man that has escaped the asylum and was mistaken for a substitute teacher: He actually ended up being more interesting to the students than the regular teacher, reenacting historical theater of the absurd in the classroom:

Boring it certainly was not, but whether the students were actually learning, well, that is left up to the viewer.

We are now blessed with an overabundance of ways of teaching. Indeed, in my 27 or so years as an educator, I cannot recall a time when there ever was such an infusion of knowledge, techniques, sharing, and general just education-related material available as there is today. Online, in class, at home, at the coffee house, listening while riding the bus or driving a car, there is now so many opportunities to learn that really someone must purposely avoid it.

Yet, I wonder if those opportunities are any better than they were before? Are we growing more crops in our larger fields or more weeds like in this picture:

Do we still produce low interest lessons?

We want to create a sweet spot where our lessons are both high in relevance and interest:

I was thinking about flipped classrooms the other day. I know, everyone is hot for flipped classrooms, where you take the lecture (READ THAT: BORING) part of the lesson and “flip it” so that the kids get the boring part of the class at home, and the actual stuff they would have done at home in class. (I have several entries about flipping the classroom here.) So are we flipping the boredom to home instead of in class? Is that such a good thing? I am not sure. Are we not just shifting stuff around instead of making it more engaging and more relevant in many flipped class examples? Afterall, boring is boring, whether it is presented in class or on a computer screen at home. Watching this on a computer screen does not make it more meaningful, relevant or interesting:

Dan Melzer’s book “Assignments across the Curriculum A National Study of College Writing" looked at over 2000 writing assignments in post secondary schools. What he found was not surprising: Boring writing assignments lead to boring writing. As he recently told Inside Higher Ed:

"There’s a lot more testing with the teacher-as-examiner going on than we probably think, and that’s a real negative to me because it’s such a limited kind of writing,” Melzer said. “It should make people think about how we can improve upon the situation and have student do richer kinds of writing.”

Professors are also “obsessed” with grammatical correctness, even when they claim to value critical thinking, the study says. “Based on their discussions of grading criteria, instructors devote as much time to formal correctness as they do talking about content, and often grammatical correctness was a baseline for acceptability” – even when most syllabuses had typos or grammatical errors, Melzer says in the book; one of the “strongest patterns” in his research was the expectation of perfect grammar.

“At a minimum, your writing should be free of spelling errors and grammatical errors,” reads one sample assignment. Another business law professor’s assignment offers very specific guidance about how different grammatical and spelling errors will affect a student’s grade. Then, seemingly as an afterthought, the professor says: “Please offer analysis, also.”

Melzer argues that such an apparent emphasis on surface-level writing sends students “mixed messages” about the value of higher-order writing skills. It would also impede many students’ ability to “let things flow” to build writing fluency, he says.

You can find Melzer’s original paper here.

This HAS to apply at all levels, not just post secondary AND it has to apply to assignments other than just writing. If we create boring ,single disciplinary, low cognitive ability assignments, we will get back from students exactly what we ask them to provide: Low level, low interest papers.

If we assign those types of problems, we should not complain that students cannot “think out of the box” or “lack creativity.” If the assignment is stuck in the box, don’t expect the students to exist anywhere but in that same box.

This certainly makes the case for programs such as Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) which has been around for quite a while, but is not used widely. Indeed, Melzer seems to be quite an advocate of WAC:

"The instructors in my research who assign the widest variety of purposes, audiences, and genres, who provide students with interesting and complex rhetorical situations rather than just the traditional lecture/exam format, and who teach writing as a process through peer response or responding to rough drafts are most often teaching in a course connected in some way to a Writing Across the Curriculum program. This may mean a writing-intensive course, a team-taught course with an English department faculty member, a learning community, or a course connected to a writing fellows program. Instructors from writing-intensive courses connected to established WAC programs at institutions such as the University of Missouri, University of Pittsburgh, Cornell, University of Hawaii, Duke, University of Massachusetts, and Stanford assigned the most writing, asked students to write for the greatest variety of audiences in the greatest variety of genres, and adopted common WAC pedagogical tools such as journaling, freewriting, grading rubrics, and peer response."

"Boring is a boring does" to paraphrase Forrest Gump.

Aug 9

Reflections on District Site Visits: Not Everything is About Money

This week, I have the privilege of traveling with a delegation from my school district to three Dallas Texas area districts: Plano, Lewisville and Coppell. The purpose of the trip was to meet with representatives of the districts and see first hand some of the interesting and innovative programs that they have instituted and to pick their brains on the good and bad of what they were doing.

Now I know that these three districts are in economically well-off areas of the state of Texas. There is no way around it, they have money. They are located in high SES bedroom communities outside of the Dallas-proper area. They don’t have many of the problems that property poor districts have. I understand that. But we were not there to feel sorry for ourselves and make a wish list of things we could never afford. We were there to see how innovation works in innovative districts. Innovation was easy to find there.

After a few hours, it became apparent that some major themes were common in these districts.
And it wasn’t about the money. It was about attitude.

Without exception, the employees we met with seemed to have a consistent set of attitudes:

They enjoyed working in the districts they worked in.

They believed that they could do interesting and awesome things if only they tried.

They were not afraid to fail at something if they learned, moved on and grew from the failure.

They had a spirit of cooperation. One district even called another their “sister school district.”

They understood the direction that the district was headed. They were familiar with the district’s plan.

They worked hard to incorporate the community into their decisions and to maintain a strong community relationship.

I noticed that many of things that they did were not as much to do with money but rather simply attitude. For instance, one district had a professional development center that had a snack area which included an area that looked like it came out of a 7-11: Hot Dogs, popcorn, nacho chips and sauce…serve yourself and clean up after yourself as well. When teachers were hungry during PD, go get a snack.
A very inexpensive thing, However, what that does is send the message that we value having you here and we value you enough that we will provide little things to make you more comfortable.

That attitude of valuing the employees, was evident everywhere and that does not require a lot of money. Employee input was not just something done as part of a yearly or quarterly survey, it actually was just the way business was conducted.

Having an enjoyable place to work. Is that a money thing? I don’t think so. I think it is a leadership thing. Indeed, almost all of the above points are leadership things.

Cooperation, no fear to try new things, communicating the district’s direction, community involvement. Are those money things or are they leadership things?

It is easy for us in the low SES districts to look at districts like these and say “Yeah, well if WE had money, we could do that too.” It is easy to have that attitude and it is easy to use that attitude to not try to excel. (It reminds me of the old story of the amateur photographer that owned a less expensive camera that told the professional photographer that they could take good pictures if they just had a “good camera.” Turns out it is not the camera, it is the photographers. Crappy photography comes from crappy photographers, not crappy cameras.) In districts with High SES, it might be easier to get the word out to parents for instance and that translates into better parental involvement. But really, that is just a logistics thing, not a money thing.

When I was leaving, one of the ladies I was with had an interesting story. “Tim, she said “When I got married , I really wanted to dress like celebrities that I saw on TV and in the movies. Of course we were poor and just starting out, so I couldn’t afford the fancy clothes. My husband said to me ‘You know how they look. You know where the cloth store is, you know how to sew. Why not try to replicate as best you can? It may not be the exact copy, but it would be pretty close.” She went on to tell me how she would make clothes that were pretty close. Good enough. (As Kevin Honeycutt once told me it was “China Good.”) Maybe, she said, we could duplicate what these districts are doing but on our terms, on our budgets (Much like this website tries to do with celebrity fashions.)

The point was, we may not be able to exactly duplicate what these districts are doing, but we can try, with the limitations we have, work to replicate other’s successful programs so that they fit in our needs , our community.

And if we aren’t afraid to fail, we can make magic.

Aug 8

My school district is making the move to digital textbooks, starting with high School science classes this year. Here is a little video that a local news channel did on it.

Aug 1

Only Reporting the Planes that Crash in #edtech

As Don Henley once sang that the news loves to report when planes crash:

"We got the bubble headed Bleached blonde

Comes on at five

She can tell you ‘bout the plane crash

With a gleam in her eye

It’s interesting when people die

Give us dirty laundry”

-Dirty Laundry 1982

The fact is of course, that the news rarely reports the planes that land safely. News is only news, it seems, when the unusual happens. Houses that DON’T burn down are never news, Houses that burn down? Always news. Marriages that last forever? Not News. Divorce rate goes up? News. You get the idea.

With that in mind, I am noticing a trend in the news of reporting when big ed tech initiatives crash and burn. The most famous of course is the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout where the kids immediately found a way around the built-in security and the iPads had to be recalled. Amid all of that, the district’s $1 Billion program crashed and burned, and recently the district rebooted the initiative with Windows laptops. I won’t debate the merits or lack thereof of the program, but it made for great news: giant ed tech program crashes. Millions of dollars wasted!

Then just this week, we learned that another large scale 1:1 initiate was cut back by the Hoboken School district, which decided to pull back it’s large-scale laptop initiative: Listen to the story here:

Of course, we could have a nice discussion about how these programs had some significant failures in implementation, not in goals. Poor logistics, bad training, poor communications. In the Hoboken case for instance the current Superintendent Toback “admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.”

The planes crashed in LA and Hoboken. Sigh.

The point however, is that there are 100s if not thousands of successful iPad and mobile device rollout programs across the country that the media does not report on. Both large scale and small scale. From chromebooks to laptops to tablets. From classroom implementations to district wide, to statewide programs. Consider the McAllen ISD in Texas who has had a wildly successful iPad 1:1 program. They are not alone. Remember the state of Maine? They still are going with laptops for all their kids in grade 7-12. Don’t hear too much about that anymore do you?

McAllen and the state of Maine: The planes are landing safely there. No one talks about them. Sigh again.

One major downside of all of this is that the average news watcher is going to see the plane crashes in Ed Tech and think that the NORM is for a bunch of money to be unwisely spent in times of budget cuts which it is not. Never seeing the positive or only tangentially by going to their kids school and seeing kids with technology.

We as ed tech proponents need to get the word out to our communities, not just report to ourselves about how wonderful we are, That is preaching to the choir. We need to preach to those that watch the bubble headed beach blondes for the evening news.

We need to celebrate the planes that land safely.

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

(Source: recitethis.com)

Five Ways to Get People on Board with #edtech

Education technology is always a hard sell, epsecially with those teachers and administrators that are perfectly happy with the status quo. “Why change? My scores are just fine.” is a phrase that we hear all the time. I have always thought of a bell curve that I learned about in my ed admin classes all those years ago:

A certain percent of your teachers, if you are a new principal, will do whatever you ask. A certain amount will never do what you ask. The vast majority of teachers however, want to be convinced that what you are doing is correct.

So what are some strategies that can convince those teachers that they should get on board with ed tech initiatives? Here are five ways that should help you convince those teachers and administrators that your ed tech initiative is worth their time:

Start With the Why
Why are we doing this? What is the reason that we are doing this initiative? So often, we see some ed tech THING coming from central office, we are not told why this is being done, only that we have to do it. The issue with this, other than the trust, is that decisions seem to be made in some sort of vacuum, without consideration of WHY the decision was made.
Explaining WHY this particular ed tech decision was made will go a long way towards teachers and administrators trusting that the technology was not just purchased because we could.

Explain How This Technology Makes their Jobs Easier
This kind of is an addition to the “WHY” argument: How does this new thingy make my job easier? If you can honestly show teachers that this technology actually makes their jobs easier, even if there is an upfront expenditure of time and effort, then you will win many converts, especially if the effort to keep using this new technology requires less effort than the whatever it replaces.

There should be some trade off as well. Don’t push a new effort out if you are not willing to give something up. What is it that teachers will NOT have to do if they adopt the use of this new technology? If you do not have an answer to that question, it will appear that you are “piling on” something else.

Explain How this Help Students
No technology effort in a school district should not even be considered if you cannot somehow explain how this will help students. What are students doing with this technology which is superior to what they are doing without the technology? How does this make learning more meaningful? How can students use this across classes? How does this allow students to address their learnign weaknesses? Show how this helps students, and many teachers will be convinced that this is a good thing.

Provide Meaningful Professional Development
Meaningful professional development means more than just showing how something works. Meaningful means how do you put this work in a classroom setting, using the new tool. If I teach science, then show me how to use this in science. Same for any class I teach. Do not just show me how to turn it on. Show me how to use this with my students.
If the PD is weak, then the implementation will be weak as well. Ed tech is not the field of dreams, where if you build it they will come. Meaningful PD provides the wedge between the naysayers who argue that the tool is a waste of time or money or effort.

Always Provide for Feedback and Transparency
From the very outset, allow for users to provide feedback. If teachers or administrators feel they have no voice in the process, then they will feel that they are being forced to use something that they may not need. Users of technology should be able to vent frustrations in a constructive way, as well as be able to provide feedback on what is working and what is not working. The folks that put in the technology should also be willing to admit when something is not working and be able to swallow their pride and create constructive work arounds for problems. There has never been a 100% successful implementation of anything. If you expect problems will occur, then when they happen, it is easier to respond.

Seven signs of professional learning.


To be successful in professional development efforts we must plan backward, beginning with the student learning outcomes. ( Thomas R. Guskey,p. 10)

Just as surgeons see observations and coaching as vital to improving their craft, so should teachers. ( Emily Dolci Grimm, Trent Kaufman, and Dave Doty, p. 24)

We have to remember that teachers are professionals who use their classrooms as innovative laboratories and want to engage in authentic learning. (Kristen Swanson, p. 36)

Teachers have a great deal of knowledge about their practice and their students that is incredibly valuable to other teachers. (Rebecca Van Tassell,p.76)

When video recording is shared in a way that supports each educator’s intrinsic desire to improve, it can be a powerful tool for rapid, significant improvement.  (Jim Knight, p.18)

Educators must ensure that professional learning networks are more than a forum for sharing war stories or platform for promoting personal preferences about instruction. (Richard Dufour, p.30)

When professional development fails to deliver genuine, face-to-face interactions with other people, educators feel cheated.  (John Settlage and Adam Johnston, p.67)

Get the image here.

Seven signs of professional learning.

  • To be successful in professional development efforts we must plan backward, beginning with the student learning outcomes. ( Thomas R. Guskey,p. 10)

  • Just as surgeons see observations and coaching as vital to improving their craft, so should teachers. ( Emily Dolci Grimm, Trent Kaufman, and Dave Doty, p. 24)
  • We have to remember that teachers are professionals who use their classrooms as innovative laboratories and want to engage in authentic learning. (Kristen Swanson, p. 36)

  • Teachers have a great deal of knowledge about their practice and their students that is incredibly valuable to other teachers. (Rebecca Van Tassell,p.76)
  • When video recording is shared in a way that supports each educator’s intrinsic desire to improve, it can be a powerful tool for rapid, significant improvement. (Jim Knight, p.18)

  • Educators must ensure that professional learning networks are more than a forum for sharing war stories or platform for promoting personal preferences about instruction. (Richard Dufour, p.30)
  • When professional development fails to deliver genuine, face-to-face interactions with other people, educators feel cheated. (John Settlage and Adam Johnston, p.67)
  • Get the image here.

    Handy Guide to The resources from Thinkfinity

    As most of you know, the website aggregator Thinkfinity is shutting down. For years, Thinkfinity was a great place to find loads of lesson plans that spanned curricular areas. For instance, if you needed a lesson that combined arts with pretty much anything, Thinkfinity was the place to go.

    Thinkfinity may be gone, but the resources and websites are still available. For those of you that are not familiar with Thinkfinity, let me assure you that ALL of these websites are of the highest quality and all have tons of resources for teachers.

    Here is the list of partners that helped make Thinkfinity so great:

    Edsitement

    EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities.

    EDSITEment offers a treasure trove for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality material on the Internet in the subject areas of literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social studies.

    All websites linked to EDSITEment have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom. They cover a wide range of humanities subjects, from American history to literature, world history and culture, language, art, and archaeology, and have been judged by humanities specialists to be of high intellectual quality. EDSITEment is not intended to represent a complete curriculum in the humanities, nor does it prescribe any specific course of study.

    The EDSITEment experience includes:

  • a user-friendly website that offers easy homepage access to the latest offerings from EDSITEment
  • NEH Connections: a robust feature that links to NEH-funded projects of particular relevance to educators
  • user-defined lesson-plan searches that can be customized and filtered five different ways
  • direct access to student resources and interactives from the homepage
  • a rotating calendar feature with access to a full, yearly calendar
  • Closer Readings +, a unique blog for and about the humanities in the classroom
  • EDSITEment was selected as one of the top 25 websites for 2010 by the America Association of School Librarians and has been accepted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Permanent Research Collection of Information Technology, the world’s premier historical record of computing applications and innovations.

    Illuminations

    If you are a math teacher, you need to be here. Illuminations is a project designed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

    Lessons and interactives searchable by NCTM’s Principles and Standards and by the Common Core State Standards.

  • Over 600 lesson plans
  • Over 100 activities; these are virtual manipulatives, applets, and games
  • 13 Calculation Nation® games
  • Play online math strategy games against a computer or players from around the world. 8 Issues of Bright Ideas yearly

    Bright Ideas is the e-newsletter of Illuminations. This newsletter provides the inside scoop into the best and latest resources, information, and new ideas to interested teachers.

    5 mobile apps for iOS and Android

    6 social media platforms


    National Geographic Education

    The National Geographic Education Portal offers free geography, science, and social studies content resources for K-12 educators, learners, and families. Created by the National Geographic Center for Geo-Education, the Portal’s highly engaging materials maximize learning in and out of the classroom.

    The Portal features wide-ranging instructional content—spanning pre-kindergarten through post-secondary—that brings concepts and real-world events to life for our worldwide audience. Cutting-edge multimedia and mapping tools engage a new generation of young people in National Geographic’s iconic research and media.

    With over one million visitors each month, the award-winning Education Portal is recognized as one of the most innovative sources for educational and reference content.

    Teaching Resources

  • Standards-based lessons and activities use National Geographic photos and video to enable teachers and students to explore the world.
  • Hundreds of free activities and lesson plans are available for use in classrooms, homes, and other educational settings. They are searchable by grade, subject, and audience.
  • Lessons, activities, units, and ideas
  • Professional development resources and courses
  • Collections for STEM, Common Core, citizen science, and other timely topics
  • Educational interactives and games
  • Reference and News
  • The Portal’s extensive reference offerings for students combine maps, videos, photos, and text to explain complex topics in an accessible, student-friendly way. Students can search by grade and subject to satisfy their personal curiosity or conduct research for school.
  • Geography and geoscience encyclopedia
  • Real-world profiles of explorers and scientists
  • Articles on events and research
  • Homework help
  • National Geographic video, photography, and illustrations
  • Mapping
  • Interactive maps and tools offer students the chance to see the world in new ways by inviting them to create and print their own maps,
  • incorporate thematic data about the world, and supplement it with graphics and links of their own creation. FieldScope, our interactive mapping platform, lets citizen scientists view and analyze data geographically.
  • Interactive maps with thematic data layers for data analysis
  • Geo-tours and geo-quizzes
  • Black-and-white outline maps to print in sizes from 8.5x11 inches to 8x10 feet
  • Historical maps and maps from National Geographic magazine
  • Games and Interactive Multimedia
  • The Portal’s many games, apps, and interactives for learners focus on decision-making, interconnections, and learning through exploration.
  • History interactives
  • Interactive science models and calculators
  • Exploration games
  • Vocabulary games
  • Geography games

  • Read Write Think

    At ReadWriteThink, their mission is to provide educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials. A great source for cross curicular activities, including lots of ideas and materials for after school lessons.

    RWT contains lesson plans, professional development parent resources. after school resources, and a wide variety of videos.


    Science Net Links for the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science

    Science NetLinks is a premier K-12 science education resource produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At Science NetLinks, you’ll find teaching tools, interactives, podcasts, and hands-on activities, and all of it is free!

    Science NetLinks provides K-12 teachers, students, and families with quality resources for teaching and learning science.

    All of the resources are Internet based and free to everyone. Lessons and activities can be printed or used online. Many of the interactives, esheets, and tools work great on an interactive white board or in a computer lab. All of the resources are designed to be delivered in a variety of formats and classroom settings.

    Lessons

    At the heart of Science NetLinks are standards-based lesson plans that incorporate reviewed Internet resources, and can be selected according to specific learning goals and grade ranges. Each lesson is tied to at least one learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies that support student learning. The lessons are written for the teacher, but include student-ready materials such as student sheets (student reproducibles) or esheets (online worksheets that enable students to engage directly in Internet activities).

    Each Science NetLinks lesson ties to at least one specific learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies to support student learning. All Science NetLinks lessons follow pedagogy guidelines recommended by the AAAS Project 2061, as well as many other education researchers, and begin with motivation exercises. These exercises allow students to engage in an introductory exploration, with guiding questions. These explorations may be conducted online or offline, and involve concrete, relevant involvement with the subject matter.

    The activities in a typical Science NetLinks lesson provide an opportunity for students to participate in a series of guided reflections that will engage them in the subject matter. These can take a variety of forms, including the following:

    Full class discussions, in which the teacher leads the class in a group discussion of the questions and situations that are posed; Self-guided exploration involving one student or a small team of students responding to the questions in case journal work sheets printed from the web site;

    Individual participation, using a student virtual workspace, in which a student responds to the material online in a personal, electronic notebook that stores the student’s answers on a web-accessible file. Online interactives that illustrate concepts or processes (for example, investigating the layers of the skin or how organs work together in a system) or other supplemental information that will help students understand the content. All lessons include detailed teacher components that offer content framework, instructional strategies, and suggestions for ongoing student assessment. Strategies for checking students’ understanding are embedded throughout the materials and guide teachers in making instructional decisions, and provide measurable learning results.

    Tools

    Science NetLinks Tools are a comprehensive collection of the best resources on the Web for students and teachers. Included in Tools are original interactive lessons developed by Science NetLinks as well as annotated reviews of the best STEM resources on the Web. Each Tool includes a detailed description of the resources as well as substantive suggestions for using the resource in the classroom. Also included in each Tool are customized links to other related Science NetLinks content.

    Collections

    Science NetLinks Collections are resource lists compiled around a theme or topic. They may include lessons, tools, Science Updates, or other Science NetLinks content as well as additional resources from trusted sites that support or enhance the Collection theme.

    Science News

    Science NetLinks Science News is the place to go to get the latest news on what’s happening in the world of science. It includes several dynamic features that provide links to articles from ScienceNOW and Science for Kids as well as the latest Science Update, Mystery Image, Science Blog, and Thinkfinity Community discussion. Science News is updated frequently to stay fresh and relevant to science educators and students.

    Science Updates

    Science Updates are 60-second radio programs presenting current science research, as well as responses to questions phoned in to the Science Update hotline (1-800-WHY-ISIT). Science NetLinks Science Update lessons include suggestions for using the research in the K-12 classroom, as well as the transcript and an MP3 file for playback.

    Afterschool

    Science NetLinks Afterschool is for afterschool facilitators and daycare providers who would like to bring more hands-on science to the children in their care. It includes a list of activities, grouped by age. Each experiment includes a facilitator page and a student page. The facilitator page not only includes the instructions for setting up and running the activity, but also offers an explanation of the science involved in plain English and suggests related activities for further follow-up. The student page includes a link to the student’s instructions for conducting the experiment or online activity, as well as one or two links to additional youth-friendly resources, such as videos, podcasts, or websites.


    Smithsonian History Explorer

    This site appears to have moved to Edmodo. The links, at least when we tried them were slow or dead.


    Wonderopolis

    Welcome to Wonderopolis®, a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.

    Wonder is for everyone. It can happen anywhere and at anytime. Connecting the learning we do in our schools, our homes, and our communities, Wonderopolis walks the line between formal and informal education. Each day, we pose an intriguing question and explore it in a variety of ways. Our approach both informs and encourages new questions, sparking new paths of wonder and discovery in family and classroom settings.

    Since our inception in October 2010, Wonderopolis has been lauded for our fresh approach to wonder and learning. Some of our awards and recognition include:

  • TIME magazine’s “50 Top Websites of 2011”
  • Parenting.com “Best Kids’ App”
  • EdSurge featured School Tool
  • WOMMY winner (2011)
  • USA Today 4-star rating
  • TIME Techland Technologizer endorsement of the Wonderopolis app
  • Winner of Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award for the Family
  • With multi-disciplinary content that purposefully aligns to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the STEM Educational Quality Framework, and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we’ve earned a place in K-12 curriculum and in classrooms worldwide. Teachers can use the daily Wonder to jumpstart their students’ critical thinking, or dip into our ever-growing collection of Wonders for content that relates to specific themes and student interests. The possibilities for using Wonderopolis in the classroom are endless, and we invite you to find firsthand accounts and additional resources in the Educator Sandbox.

    Children, parents, teachers, schools, and families all benefit from Wonderopolis—as well as contribute to its content and growth. Supporting 21st century communication and digital citizenship, visitors who leave comments on the site receive personalized responses from the Wonderopolis team. Users are encouraged to nominate their own Wonders and to vote on Wonder ideas from others.

    - See more at: http://wonderopolis.org/about/#sthash.yXQSQ3Mw.dpuf

    It was sad to see Thinkfinity die, but most of the material lives on in one form or another. Most of this content is free to use and replicate.

    Jul 8

    Apple Updates iTunes U Bigtime

    Apple updates the iTunes U app so that most of all the functionality is now available on the iPad. Introducing the new iTunes U New features in this version:

    Let the discussion begin

  • The new iTunes U makes it simple for students participating in private courses to pose questions on the course or any post or assignment
  • Other students in the class can jump into the discussion and ask more questions or provide answers
  • Teachers and students can keep up with the conversation when they receive push notifications as the discussion progresses
  • Create courses on iPad

  • Teachers can now create and update their courses using the iTunes U app on their iPad—getting started is fast, simple, and completely free
  • Provide every student a course outline, write posts, distribute assignments, upload class materials, easily track participating students, and much more
  • Take advantage of the built in camera on iPad to easily capture photos or videos and upload them for course assignments
  • Create materials using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—or other apps from the App Store—and add them to your course by using “Open in iTunes U” from within each app
  • Teachers affiliated with qualified institutions have the option to publish their courses to the iTunes U Catalog—making them available to everyone for free
  • Jul 7

    Extension of a Review of Flipped Learning

    I found this paper, a review of literature and more by Pearson, the Flipped Learning Network and George Mason University. Some interesting insights on the current state of flipped learning and a good intro for those not familiar with the topic. Essentially it says that Flipped Learning is taking off at a rapid pace in education. No duh there.

    From the report:

    While continued research and evaluation is certainly needed, the studies reviewed in this document along with the original literature review (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Arfstrom, 2013) provide support for the efficacy and potential of the Flipped Learning model. Not only do many more teachers report successfully implementing the Flipped Learning model, but the initial empirical evidence is promising. In several of these studies the Flipped Learning model is associated with increased student learning and positive perceptions of the unique elements, such as presentation of material outside of class and increase in active learning activities.

    Despite this support, the Flipped Learning model likely does not work in all contexts and there are understandable concerns about the time involved and fundamental shift in teaching style required. Research is needed on identifying the contexts in which the Flipped Learning model works best and how to most effectively apply the elements of the Flipped Learning model to enhance student learning. In addition, teachers would likely benefit from institutional support and professional development during the transitional period when implementing the Flipped Learning model. Despite these concerns and limitations, the Flipped Learning model represents an innovative approach to teaching with the potential to create active, engaged and learning-centered classrooms.

    Click on the Title to get the report.

    Got Chromebooks? Now what?

    "More and more schools are realizing that Google Chromebooks are the answer to updating outdated schools. Unfortunately though, in many cases they are making purchases for large scale deployment with little investment toward preparation for implementation issues or knowledge of where to turn to connect with others who have had experience in Chromebooks (and Google Apps for Ed) deployment.

    That’s where learning networks come in. Fortunately there is an experienced online community available to support others venturing into this world.

    Here are some resources:”

    Click on the title to go to the article.

    Can you add to the list? Do so in the comment section.

    American Assoc. of School Librarians Best Education Websites 2014

    Every year the American Association of School Librarians publishers their list of what they consider the best Education Websites for teaching and learning. This year’s list is broken down into these categories:

  • Media Sharing
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Manage & Organize
  • Social Networking & Communication
  • Content Resources
  • Curriculum Collaboration
  • I like these types of lists because they always introduce me to sites I have never heard of ,or had forgotten about. Although I wish they would be a bit more transparent on how they chose this year’s winners. Thanks to the AASL for making this yearly list. At the bottom of the page is the previous year’s winners. Click on the title of this entry to go to the article.

    Five Characteristics of Innovative Organizations

    I enjoy reading the thoughts of George Couros. If you are not reading his blog you need to, especially if you are a campus administrator. In this article (click on the title to go to his article), he lists the five characteristics he thinks define an “Innovative Organization:”

    They include:

    • Promotion and modeling of risk-taking
    • Competitive-Collaboration.
    • Proud of where we are, but know we have a way to go
    • The focus on sharing
    • Relationships, relationships, relationships

    While this is a good starting list, I think that there are a few he might have missed. For instance, I think that innovative organizations have the ability to look at trends and adjust or modify their organization to match the trends. Perhaps this could be called “Forward Thinking.”

    I think innovative organizations, as he says take risks, but I also think that they “fail with a purpose" where organizations learn form failure. I also think that most non innovative organizations quickly dismiss or forget failures. Innovative ones will remember what they used, and perhaps revisit the failure. Sometimes, failure happens because the idea was ahead of its time. Holding on the idea of being able to try something again even after it failed the first time is powerful.

    Innovative organizations steal. I don’t mean they literally steal, but they can see what others do and adapt those things to meet their needs. The book “Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon is all about that.

    What are some things that you think innovate schools or organizations do?

    Add to the list!