Thursday, April 28, 2016

Social Studies and Educational Technology

We have shared a lot of “big picture” blogs with you lately, so we narrowed our focus to one content area this week.  In coming weeks, we’ll focus on specific content areas, one at a time.  In recent weeks, we’ve highlighted math, science, and elementary classrooms.  This week, we focus on SOCIAL STUDIES.  In the post below, you’ll find TOOLS, RESOURCES, and IDEAS related to SOCIAL STUDIES and EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY*.  


Create free interactive timelines. Offering a Google single sign on, HSTRY is a free digital learning tool which promotes collaboration and engagement in the classroom.  You can browse and utilize their library of timelines, or you and your students can create your own.  Mrs. Wolfe has used this web tool with her 10th grade World Cultures II students, experiencing exciting results!

This is an interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015.   The site draws historical events from Wikipedia and self-updates daily with new recorded events.  Users can view decades or eons, specific events or categories.  It was created as an art/design final project.

TimeMap's World History Atlas is the most comprehensive history atlas available on the internet.  Use it to visit any civilization, nation or empire and see the context, chronology, connections and big pictures of history.  This history atlas makes history easy to visualise and navigate, through both time and place!


Unlimited access to hundreds of leveled news articles and Common Core–aligned quizzes, with new articles every day.  Every article at five (!) levels: Newsela makes it easy for an entire class to read the same content, but at a level that’s just right for each student.

Designed by Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), this resource "engages students in historical inquiry."  The site provides lessons that "revolve around a central historical question and feature sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities."  It has resources for US History, World History, and Historical Thinking.  From what I saw today, Read Like a Historian seems pretty customizable.  It is interesting resource to build knowledge AND skills in students.

The Karpeles Library is the world's largest holding of important original manuscripts and documents.  The website allows users to view and read these documents (for free).  So what?  Many original documents are written in elaborate cursive, which is difficult for many to read.  So this archive gives users the digital "translation" alongside the original document. And many of them are interactive!  This seems to be an accessible way for students to access primary sources.  Content includes arts, political history, religion, war, literature, and science.


Mr. Shaffer’s and Mrs. Swartz’s 9th and 10th grade history classes created infographics and screencasts to share information on presidential candidates and campaign issues.  This could be done at any level for any topic!

Features several ideas for integrating edtech in the social studies classroom.  The first idea is about CoveritLive, a publishing tool that allows users to instantly publish their blog posts, which allows it to serve somewhat like a chat room.  The teacher presents information, and students simultaneously live blog about the content.  (Each comment needs approval, so internet safety is a feature.)

Watch how a social studies teacher incorporates into his classroom through traditional and digital literacy skills. (5:00 minute video with additional resources).

* Please note, just because technology is new, doesn’t mean it’s always better.  If traditional flashcards work for you and your students, keep using them!  But if StudyBlue could work for you, ask some of your kids to give it a whirl.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Useful Chrome Extensions

In a previous post, Liz explained why you should be using Google Chrome if you aren’t already.  Along with Google Chrome, you can add extensions that will extend Chrome’s capabilities.  In the following information, you may find one that can help you get organized, boost your productivity or be more prepared.  Follow the links to add them to chrome.

  • Make a screencast with Screencastify or MediaCore.  These are great for making a video for your students on how to do something with the chromebooks.  Students can also use them to create a video presentation on a topic that they have researched.

  • Schedule e-mails to send later with Boomerang.  If you want to send an email but don’t want it to go out until a certain day, use Boomerang to tell it when to send.  If you need Boomerang to re-send you an email and move it to the top of your inbox, tell it when to remind you as well.

  • Organize your e-mail like a to do list with Sortd.  If your e-mail functions as a checklist of tasks, you’ll like this one that allows you to sort it into different lists, check them off as you complete them, and even add other non-email tasks under 3 different customizable headings.  There’s nothing more satisfying than hitting “DONE!”

  • Make a functional home screen in a new tab with Momentum.  This extension will give you the local weather, a to do list, a place to put in your goal for the day and an inspiring photo from around the world to relax you.  Each time you open a new tab in chrome, you will see the photo for the day.

  • Quickly save something to the cloud with Save to Google Drive.  Do you see something on a website that you want to save for later?  Click on the icon for this extension and it will quickly save it to your Google Drive for you to use later.

  • Look at your calendar for the day without loading the calendar in another tab with Checker Plus.  If you just want to quickly reference something without waiting for the whole calendar to load, this can save you some time.

If you have one to share or I missed one that has changed your life, feel free to send them my way.  If you have questions about using one of these, let us know!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Elementary Classrooms and Educational Technology

We have shared a lot of “big picture” blogs with you lately, so we narrowed our focus to one content area this week.  In coming weeks, we’ll focus on specific content areas, one at a time.  So far, we've highlighted math and science. This week, we focus on ELEMENTARY CLASSROOMS.  In the post below, you’ll find TOOLS, RESOURCES, and IDEAS related to the ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM and EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY*.  


Keyboard Shortcuts
This is a very handy list to help your students (and yourself) use your devices efficiently.  The most common shortcuts include:
And in case you were also wondering, “how the heck do I ‘right click’ on a Chromebook,” here ya go:

From math and science to language arts and typing practice, there are countless Google Apps for elementary students.  If you would like your students to have access to any of these, just email Greg.

For those of you using iPads with your students, here’s a brief list of great educational iPad apps for elementary learners in a variety of subjects.


This page has a TON of links -- while it’s all pretty great, look at the section on “Successful Chromebook Practices.”

There are a LOT of links on this page -- again, don’t be overwhelmed!  Check out the sections on “Classroom Uses of the iPad” and “Especially for Special Education.”

Here is a free, view-at-your-leisure webinar on empowering elementary learners with technology.  The slideshow provides even more resources with examples of their use.


Update a traditional spelling test with a Google Form (click above for a sample).  In addition to spelling practice, students will also get typing practice.  Since Google Forms automatically create a Google Sheet for the responses, you can see the whole class at a glance.  You could take it one step further and grade it using Flubaroo, which would save you time!

This website “rounds up” great lesson plans for educational technology in the elementary classroom.

Twitter has become pretty popular with teachers at Warrior Run -- faculty all over the district use it to share what’s happening in their classrooms and what they’re learning beyond them.  What if YOU (and your students!) used it to connect with other students, other schools, other states, other countries?  Here’s a great explanation on Twitter in the classroom, and here’s a list of 50 ways to use Twitter in the classroom.

* Please note, just because technology is new, doesn’t mean it’s always better.  If traditional flashcards work for you and your students, keep using them!  But if StudyBlue could work for you, ask some of your kids to give it a whirl.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Best Practices in Classroom Collaboration

As part of my graduate class right now on Online Teaching and Learning, I am learning a lot about collaboration in an online classroom.  As mentioned by the authors of the many articles I read on this topic, many of these ideas can be applied to the traditional classroom, so I thought I would share.  These will be especially useful to those of you using hybrid or blended learning with a station rotation.

  1. Start with a lesson on teamwork.  Help learners understand team roles, how to be a good team member, and how to resolve conflicts.  One example of this is a lesson where students create guidelines in small groups of what teamwork looks like, then this is refined as a class into a collaboration contract, either for the whole class or for each team.   A sample “Team Agreement” could include:
  • Project Title and Due Date
  • Project objectives and purpose
  • Team members
  • Member expertise or team roles
  • Project tasks and deadlines
  • Deliverables (the new word for the finished product, to put the responsibility back on the student)
  • Conflict management procedure
All members of the class sign this and agree to abide by the parameters in it.  A smaller lesson before diving deep into a more complex project will also help build team rapport and work out any personality conflicts.

  1. Use a two-part collaboration grade - one for the group and one for the individual.  The group grade could have different criteria than the individual grade.  This will help to avoid “loafing”, or a small percentage of the group doing a large percentage of the work.  The individual grade could include a portion of peer evaluations done by group members, for example, students A, B and C give input into the grade of student D.  A sample peer evaluation could include:
    • Does this team member accept responsibility for tasks determined by the team?
    • Does this team member respect differences of opinion and backgrounds?
    • Does this team member provide positive feedback of team member accomplishments?
    • Does this team member keep in contact with team members for the purpose of maintaining team cohesion and collaboration?
    • Does this team member meet team deadlines?
If you’re looking for a good rubric resource, I recommend Cult of Pedagogy’s single-point rubric.  Lay out the expectations and then indicate when they fall above or below those expectations.

  1. Be ready with a list of teamwork problems and possible solutions.  Depending on the age of your students, you may want to mediate conflicts, but encouraging students to work out their own problems leads to a lot of personal growth.  Problems can include team members not contributing, being too bossy, using negative language, personally attacking other team members, technical difficulties, misunderstandings, students who complain, etc.  Hopefully my list doesn’t discourage you from using collaboration - the good outweighs the bad!

  1. Group students according to technical ability, learning style or common interests.  These arrangements will allow for each group to have at least one student who is capable of troubleshooting issues with technology and they will start in the group with something to discuss.  Visual learners can create a comic, kinesthetic learners could design a webpage, auditory learners can create a song, etc.  This also allows for more personalization and student-driven learning.

  1. Consider blogging for conducting class discussions.  Margaret Anderson, a professor at the State University of New York at Cortland, starts with a question the first week that everyone answers directly.  Then in the following week, students are encouraged to respond to a class member’s post.  Be careful about grading by counting posts - quality over quantity, in order to create equitable access.  Some students might work on this at home, but that is not a possibility for all of our students.  Blogging encourages reflection and connection to the real world and their lives, which makes more synaptic cell-to-cell bridges, thus increasing dendritic growth. The other advantage of blogging is that posts are timestamped, so you can see when the post was completed.  If this sounds like a possibility to you, check out or consider, since it works seamlessly with our Google accounts.  If you prefer to keep it simple, stick with Google Classroom for threaded discussion posts.

I hope you are able to use at least one of these ideas.  Please feel free to send me more ideas for a future post - I learn a lot from my colleagues.  Please also let us know if you want help with implementing any of these ideas.  We are a resource, so use us!