"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." --John Dewey

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Scribble Maps

Have you seen one of those "you know you're a teacher when  . . . " lists?  The statements are generally pretty funny, rather poignant, and remarkably true of most teachers I know.  (If you haven't seen a list of teacherisms, check out http://pinterest.com/jeanniepartin/you-know-you-are-a-teacher-when/ or http://www.adprima.com/teacherwit.htm and see if you don't find yourself chuckling.)

Here's my contribution to the list:  You know you're a teacher when many of your summer travel photos become not only a slideshow, but a history or geography or computer lesson for your students as well.  (Yes, I'm guilty.)

If you're planning a trip this summer, think about chronicling your trip on scribblemaps.com.  Whether you intend to share your comments, pics and flicks with family and friends, or your future students, Scribble Maps provides a fun and easy way to share the details of your travels.  Here's how to get started:

Go to http://scribblemaps.com and click on the green Create Map button in the upper left corner of the page.  (No account is needed, even though you'll want to save your map to the site.  You'll be given an access code when you save, that will enable you to get back to your map to view or edit.)

Use the search bar below the tools at the upper left of your screen to zoom in to a particular destination.  Add a place marker using the tool just to the right of the text tool.  You can add a title and description to the marker, and by clicking on Advanced Editing at the bottom of the box, you will access the tools you need to embed an image (via URL) or video (via YouTube) into the place marker.

Add a place marker for each stop on your journey, and use the line or shape tools to trace your route, add dates or comments, or whatever is needed to put your photos into context.

When you're finished working, save your map either by going to the Menu on the left side of the tool bar, or by clicking Get Widget/Embed.

The site will generate the map id, and you provide a title and description for your creation.  You can then share your map through Facebook or Google Maps, by emailing a link to your friends, or by embedding the scrollable, searchable map in your blog or wiki.

The next time you visit Scribble Maps, you will be able to continue work on your map by choosing Load from the main menu, and entering your map id.  Or, if you're using the same computer you used when saving your map, you can load it by choosing it from the Recent Maps menu you'll see when you are at the Scribble Maps home page.

So, fellow teachers, safe travels to all of you who will be hitting the road this summer.  Enjoy a well deserved break, but don't forget that come August (or September, or whenever you return to school) someone is sure to ask how you spent your summer.  Imagine how impressed they'll be when you share every detail that's suitable for sharing, complete with pics and flicks, on your very own Scribble Map.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

E2BN is GR8!

Have you discovered the treasure trove that is e2bn.org?  E2BN is the East of England Broadband Network, part of a regional broadband consortia whose purpose is to "help raise standards in teaching and learning by the use of broadband technology."  To that end, they provide a wealth of useful online tools for classroom use, as well as picture and audio galleries, along with plenty of information and resources for teachers.

I recently shared their website, Myths and Legends (http://myths.e2bn.org) with my 4th graders.  After a brief introduction to the tools of this animated story creator site, my students eagerly dove in and before long the room was completely (almost eerily) silent, with each little mind busy creating wonderful stories inspired by the graphics on the site.  I've since heard students tell me that the site was "awesome," "cool," and one that "I will definitely use over the summer."  High praise, indeed, from a 4th grader, don't you think?

With literally hundreds of graphics and sound effects, and the possibility of up to 90 pages of illustrated text, students can easily create amazing stories with the tools provided by the site.  Additional pictures and sounds can also be imported, or students can use the record feature to create their own audio accents.

Now, your students will need an account to use the site, and in order to get an account teachers need to be sure their school is registered.  Visit http://myths.e2bn.org/story_creator/register to complete the registration process.  According to the site, registration approval may take up to 5 days, but it seems that they tend to actually work much more quickly than that.  Once your registration is approved, you will be able to quickly create as many student accounts as you need by uploading student names, along with username and password information from a spreadsheet.

Need more convincing that the e2bn website is worth bookmarking?  Check out http://discoverybox.e2bn.org/ (formerly Museum Box).  This site has inspired one of my favorite end of the school "year-in-review" projects.  The site was modeled after the actions of Thomas Clarkson, who campainged against slavery by carrying a box of artifacts with him that illustrated his arguments.  Along those lines, the Discovery Box website enables students to create a virtual box of artifacts on the topic of their choice.  Each Discovery Box can hold layer upon layer of text, images, video and sounds.  I've found it to be a wonderful way for students to document what they've learned throughout the school year.  In addition to adding clipart images to represent things they've learned, students can link documents they've created during the year, pictures of themselves and their friends from that year, and even add a short video commentary.  Students love the options, and I love that it makes them actually think about all the things they've accomplished during the school year.

There is much to explore at the e2bn Teaching and Learning website (http://www.e2bn.org/tandl), and the handy subject grid they provide makes finding resources appropriate for your subject and/or age group quick and easy.  Thanks, East of England Broadband Network, for sharing such an amazing collection of classroom resources!  And, on behalf of my 4th grade students, thanks for providing activities that are "so awesome" they don't even realize they're learning.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jux--Easy as 1, 2, 3!

You know what they say.  "A picture is worth a thousand words."  But suppose the message you intend to deliver requires a thousand and one, or two, or twenty words.  Now you need an effective way to combine pictures and words.  Not to worry--just think Jux.

If you're looking for a way to share a photo summary of a wonderful school year with your students and their parents, consider one of the many possibilities at jux.com.  The Jux website makes creating and sharing beautiful, impactful photo stories as easy as 1, 2, 3.  And, while many websites (like your school site, perhaps) have restrictions when it comes to sharing large photographs, the motto at Jux seems to be "the bigger, the better".  How wonderful to see your lovely class photos full screen, in all their glory, the way they should be!

Choose from a number of ways to share your photographs that can be embedded in a class web page or blog, and shared with families, or view on your big screen whiteboard.  Whether you choose to create a single captioned image, an entire slideshow,  or (my favorite) a countdown set of instructions, Jux makes the process quite simple and provides a number of ways your finished project can be shared.  Take a look at the sample slideshow below (be sure to view in full screen, if you can), or visit the Jux website and explore the projects that have been shared on the site.  This is one website that will make viewing your photos a real visual feast!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Play with Purpose

It won't be long now.  In just a matter of weeks, many of us will be sending our students off for a summer of sun and fun . . . and forgetting how to reduce fractions.  Wouldn't it be nice if your students wanted to practice some of their math and language skills over the summer so you wouldn't need to spend so much of the new school year getting them back up to speed?  Now is the time to get them hooked on the fun games at Arcademic Skill Builders, Lure of the LabyrinthTypeRacer and more.

Sign up for a free teacher account at http://plus.arcademics.com/register and you can create accounts for your students, and assign activities (games) specific to each of your student's needs.  There are games for a wide variety of math topics, as well as some language arts, geography and typing games, and while most games are designed for K-6 students, a "plus" account will allow you to customize games with your own material for older students as well.  Some games are for individual players only, while others will allow up to 12 players to compete.  Use the grouping feature of your teacher account to make sure that students of like abilities can compete against one another.  Students earn achievement points, and can print certificates at their discretion after the completion of each game.  In the meantime, you can view reports of time spent, and accomplishments by student, or by activity.

Need something a little more challenging for your pre-algebra students?  Introduce them to Lure of the Labyrinth.  This formidable maze game will keep your students engaged for hours . . . days . . . even weeks (I've not yet had a student who didn't like it).  While this site has the familiar look and feel of a just-for-fun video game, students must complete challenging math puzzles to earn coins needed to help them through the maze.  Organize your students into teams, and they can communicate through the site to help each other with the maze, the math and more.

And, just because it is definitely a favorite of my students, let me also recommend TypeRacer.com as a fun way of keeping up keyboarding speed and accuracy.  Users will type paragraphs from songs or novels, and compete to finish typing the text before their fellow racers.  Compete against random opponents, or share a specific race URL with a friend and race against each other.

Let's face it--summer is a time for having fun.  Let's make sure that some of that fun is academically productive.  Do you have an educational game to recommend?  Please let me know, and I'll add it to the custom Google Search Engine below.  Together we can compile a searchable list of resources that will ensure our students enjoy a summer that is both fun and productive.