Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Everfi

The best type of educational technology is robust, flexible and FREE. Those terms are not normally used together. Fortunately, it appears like Everfi might fit this mold. Since they are funded by outside resources, they are free to us!

Everfi has a database of educational and interactive resources to teach concepts from financial literacy to college and career readiness to STEM. Each one has a grade span that it works best for, so it’s definitely worth considering.



One of the weaknesses of Everfi right now is that they do not have single sign-on. That’s a big deal to me because when a website has that, we know Google is not sharing the child’s name with them, but instead sharing a “code” with which to recognize them. Being a little concerned about CIPA and COPPA compliance, I decided to check into it more. It turns out that many schools in our area are already using this for some of their courses, such as financial literacy in the high school.

Students would have to go to everfi.com/register and make an account, so this should really ONLY be used with students 13 or over UNLESS you are going to get permission from their parents to create an account for them. Please also note that Warrior Run student accounts cannot receive outside emails. A teacher can add students from the teacher dashboard, but the same rules would apply for privacy compliance.



Once a student has successfully completed one of the courses, you can print a certificate for them.



Here is an example video overview for the “Ignition” course on Digital Literacy and Responsibility.

Everfi may be free, robust and flexible, but there will be an initial setup for the teacher, and it’s not ideal for every grade level. If you teach one of the topics listed in their K-12 resources and are looking for something that students can work through independently that is also engaging, I recommend you give it a try.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

eLibrary Guided Research Topics


As patrons of the Warrior Run Libraries, everyone has access to a wonderful database called eLibrary (login info below*). eLibrary has always been an excellent source for research at all level, but sometimes it was a bit tedious to use. In December, the company rolled out a bunch of updates that make eLibrary both easier to use and nice to look at.





Of these updates, I am most excited about Guided Research Topics.




Previously, students have been overwhelmed by the many options and results offered by eLibrary. They knew the results were credible, but had a hard time discerning relevance. Guided Research Topics allow students to begin their research with small collections of resources that are guaranteed to be both credible AND relevant.





Of course, users can explore eLibrary as they see fit.  But when students begin their research and just aren't sure where to start, THIS is the answer.

Other updates include:
  • Linking to Google account
    • Log in more easily
    • Save articles directly to Drive
    • Share directly to Google Classroom
  • Visual and intuitive navigation
  • More efficient search engine
  • Simplified icons
  • Citations (including MLA 8)


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*When prompted, use the following login:
Username: wrsd
Password: student

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New Year, New Opportunities

Happy 2018!

First, some housekeeping.  I used this online random selection tool to choose the winner for our Hour of Code.  So congratulations to Andrea Heller on being the winner of the $10 Dunkin gift card!  Next year, I'd love to see some more of you try this out, especially as our children get better and better at coding from all the fun gadgets on the market.  Also, try the random picker sites for randomly selecting volunteers in your classes.

It's that time of year when everyone is looking back on 2017 and looking forward to what's in store for 2018.  So let's do just that. 

First, I'd love to share a list (I love lists) from one of my favorite resources for educators: Common Sense Media's Best EdTech of 2017.  It's organized by subject matter and grade level and free/paid/platform, etc, so it's great for finding a new tool. 

Second, let's discuss and reflect on portfolios for students.  We could write a book on the definition and purpose of portfolios, but I want to talk specifically about portfolios for students as they move through K-12.  First let me pose some questions to you:

  • If you were (or are) implementing portfolios in your class and you wanted them to continue until graduation, what tool would you use?
  • What would this portfolio contain?
  • How would you connect what students are learning in your class to other subject areas?
  • Who would select the best elements to include in the portfolio?
As you reflect on these ideas, you may already have assignments or methods in mind.  If you work at the secondary level, your students may already be able to share some ways in which to make it work or in which they see the cross-curricular nature of their education (my words, not theirs).  As students enter high school and they start to choose career pathways, how would the elements of their portfolio reflect the skills and knowledge base of the pathway they chose?

I want to delve more into this topic for future posts, but I would love to hear and learn more from anyone in the district who is already using portfolios of any kind!  I would also love to discuss this topic if you have experiences from children in other districts.  My son is in 2nd grade and he brings home a million papers!  I feel like I'm creating a portfolio when I choose what to keep.  Does anyone else have this experience?



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Keep Learners on Task with Focused Browsing

Hapara has recently rolled out great updates designed to “refocus learners on the task at hand.”  Their updated include Open Tabs, Focused Browsing, Scheduled Browsing, and Viewing Browsing in Progress.
This blog post will focus on Focused Browsing.  See what I did there?
Focused browsing allows teachers to focus their students on a specific site for a specific amount of time.  While focused browsing is active, students cannot open new tabs, go to a different tab, or browse new/other URLs.  This helps them stay on task without getting distracted.
This is ideal for online assessments.  If you give quizzes, tests, or other timed exercises online, now you can eliminate the worry of cheating and plagiarism simply with focused browsing.  If you’ve thought about online assessments but weren’t sure how to overcome the worry, focused browsing is the way to go.
There are several options for customization in focused browsing:
  • Allow students to go anywhere within a particular site or limit them to only select pages
  • Time limits up to 3 hours
  • What happens at the end of the session, whether you close the pages or keep them open

If you're intrigued by focused browsing, give it a try in class! And then click here to see the rest of Hapara’s new updates.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WR's Hour of Code

This week is National Computer Science Week.  As part of this, Code.org hosts the Hour of Code, where they encourage everyone to learn a little bit of code.


So, with that in mind, I thought we could celebrate #throwbackthursday a little early and throw all the way back to 1999, when I took a high school coding class at Bishop Neumann High School.  In the class, we learned msdos and html (those were simpler times).  Html has evolved and become more complex, with xhtml and html5...blah blah blah.


Anyway, basic HTML is not that complicated.  You just need to start the code by using the <> blocks and then tell it to end by using </> blocks.  For example, <html> begins the block and </html> ends the block.


Then there are basic other commands, such as:
<head> and </head> create a header
<body> and </body> (Everything you want to appear on the page must be between these blocks.)
<br> which inserts a line break
<p> which inserts a paragraph (or two line) break
<a href=””> and </a>which inserts a link
<center> and </center> which places the text in the center
<hr> puts a horizontal line across the page
<body bgcolor=””> changes the background color of the page
<body text=””> changes the text color of the page


You can also use hex values to determine a color, which is identifying colors by a combination of six digits.  Here are some hex values.


There are many other commands and you can find some of them here.


So for example, if I wanted something to look like this:


Welcome to Warrior Run Hour of Code!


Are you learning about the basics of html today?
Visit the blog for more information.




The code would look like this.


You can use a site like practiceboard to write code and check the output of the code.
I also recommend the following sites to learn more about coding in general, including HTML.


So here’s the fun part.  Below is a small amount of text and I want you to use the code and the practiceboard website to type out the code.  If you email me the code and it is correct, you will be entered into a drawing for a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.  Everyone knows that teachers run on Dunkin.  :)


Try this:


I learned how to code with HTML!


Please enter me into the drawing for the Dunkin’ gift card.  Thanks!


---

That’s it!  The due date is December 15, 2017.  Email me the link to your practiceboard. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Making Gmail More Efficient

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your Gmail account, I assure you, you’re not alone.  We all receive a bazillion emails all day long, from colleagues, students, administrators, advertisers, organizations… so. many. emails.  But we need email to communicate.

So today’s blog post is how to make Gmail less overwhelming and more efficient.

Turn Off Sharing Notifications
Our students share Google files with us daily.  But it’s frustrating to receive an email for each file every time a student shares something.  It can clog up our inboxes real quick.  To combat that, ask your students to turn off sharing notifications when they send you a file.  The file will still land in your Shared folder, but you will not receive an email notification.

Archive vs. Delete
I love getting rid of things.  Love it!  But I also like to save things just in case I need them later.  This is when you should archive emails, instead of deleting them.  Archiving allows you to clear your inbox (woo hoo!) without the anxiety of “what if.”  As Google says, “archiving removes messages from your inbox, but keeps them in your account so that you can always find them later.”  Bingo!  So the next time you’re waffling over an email, click the archive button instead the trash button.  Benefits to this include:
  • You’ll still have the email under the All Mail label, so you can search for it easily.
  • If someone replies to that email, it will come back to your inbox.
  • Your inbox is clear!

Inbox Setup
There are several ways to set up your inbox.  To change to one or the other, click “Settings,” under Settings .  Then choose “Inbox.”

  1. By default, Gmail gives your inbox tabs, like Primary, Social, Forums, etc.  Your emails will be auto-sorted into these categories, or you can sort them yourself.  Some people really like this, as Google sorts through things for you; it keeps your “real” emails under the Primary tab, then sorts coupons under Promotions and Facebook under Social.  To change/add/delete any tabs, click “Configure Inbox,” under Settings .
  1. Choosing “Unread first” will separate your emails into two categories: “unread” at the top, and “everything else” at the bottom.  I like to use my inbox as a “to do list,” so this works best for me.
 
  1. Three more layout options include “important first,” “starred first,” and “priority inbox.”  They are variations on the “unread/everything else” layout, but allow for more customization.

Conclusion
Email is a necessity but can be overwhelming and/or frustrating.  But Gmail can be made more efficient through a few simple tweaks, like asking your students to turn off sharing notifications, archiving emails, or choosing a different inbox layout.  Don’t let a clogged inbox keep you down!

Even More Helpful Stuff

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Flipgrid for giving every student a voice

While graphic organizers, exit tickets, and worksheets are a standard in every classroom, it is not the only way to get input from kids.  Google Classroom, Kahoot, Quizizz, and other tech tools can collect discussion answers, documents, or quick answers from students.  A tool I recently learned about, Flipgrid, is set up to accept picture, text or video responses to a prompt.  Students can see and comment on the posts of others as well.  Here’s how it might work:


  1. Teacher creates a “grid” related to a specific subject or grade level such as social studies, 3rd grade, or HS art.
  2. Teacher creates a topic related to their grid subject, such as volcanoes, narratives, or solving two step equations.  This should ask a question or require input from students.  For example, it could be, “Tell me a story using time order words,” or “How do you solve this equation?”
  3. Teacher shares the topic to the students and students give their input as a picture, text, and/or video.  That way they can talk through their learning, speaking out loud about how to complete a task, or they can show and talk about their results.
  4. Students can view and comment on their classmates’ submissions using emojis similar to Facebook.


There is an iPad app, but you can also record from the chromebook.  When you click the + to add a response, it will prompt you to use your camera and microphone.




Once they allow these, then students will click the camera to record.




It will prompt the students to give their names and emails.  I would recommend you just have them put their first name and last initial.  Or just initials.  Once they post, they can view the posts from others.



You can contribute to my example here.

This could be a great first step to making great digital citizens who know how to use the tech resources for their learning.  If you have questions or need help, let me know and I’d be happy to stop by!