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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fanastic Free Digital Content Sources for K12 Classrooms!

Flipping your classroom? Blending instruction? Or just trying to find a way to better personalize learning for your students? Technology has made it so much easier for teachers to differentiate instruction and design personalized learning opportunities for all students. We can do so much more for our students than ever before with as little as one computer in the classroom!

That being said, it can sometimes be daunting to search the web, trying to figure out where to get reliable material at the right level for our students.  Below are some of my favorite... and FREE!... resources for digital instructional content:

PBS LearningMedia
PBS has curated the best of their educational content, and partnered with other well-known educational organizations (Library of Congress, NASA, etc.), to provide teachers and students with free access to standards-aligned educational videos, articles, games, interactive lessons, and primary source artifacts that support learning across all subject areas in the K-12 classroom. material is being added every day!

Teachers can browse by standard, grade level, or subject area to find digital content to support instruction, and create folders to save their favorites. Teachers can also create lesson plans, quizzes, and learning storyboards that can be shared with other teachers or students using a share link. Students over the age of 13 can sign up for their own accounts and teachers can assign lessons right from within LearningMedia. Schools also have the option to upgrade to Custom Accounts, which provide teachers with access to an extended content library, performance reports and analytics, and the LearningMedia content management system (CMS).

Khan Academy
Khan Academy has been around for a while now, and just gets better every year! Math instructional videos and practice problems are available for all levels, K-12, and when students sign up for an account (or log in using their GAFE accounts), teachers can track progress and areas for intervention, and assign lessons to individuals based on their needs.

Khan Academy also offers instructional videos in science, the humanities, economics, and computer science (mainly for older students) as well as some awesome lessons in coding and programming (using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS). In addition, Khan Academy has partnered with numerous museums and other educational institutions (NASA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pixar, etc.) to provide access to instruction produced by experts working in their fields and link student learning to real world experiences.

Newsela brings non-fiction and current events into the classroom by providing stories from major news agencies modified to 5 different reading levels. Teachers can assign the same article to different students and choose the appropriate reading level for each group of students. Students can annotate the articles while reading, using the highlighting and note-taking tools. Each article comes with a set of Common Core-aligned digital quiz questions (and many also come with a writing prompt) to test students' comprehension of the article. Teachers that upgrade to a PRO account can also track student progress on quizzes and grade writing assignments.

LearnZillion provides teacher-created Common Core-aligned lesson plans and instructional videos in math, close reading, and writing skills for grades 2-12. Students can use the LZ Code linked to a lesson in order to watch the video and complete the lesson, or sign up for account and use an enrollment code in order to join classes created by their teacher! Many lessons also come with additional teaching materials including slideshow presentations and practice worksheets or graphic organizers for students to use during the lesson. All math lessons include interactive practice questions that ask students to demonstrate their learning by drawing, dragging and dropping, balancing equations, or responding to open-ended questions.

LearnZillion lessons are also available on NearPod and Edmodo.

... So how do I know if students are actually watching the videos that I assign?
There are some great tools out there for creating interactive viewing options that also hold students accountable for watching the instructional videos assigned. Check out EdPuzzle, Zaption, and eduCanon if you're interested in making your instructional videos interactive and want to collect data about students' viewing habits.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

More than just a whiteboard app-- Using Explain Everything to enhance instruction & support student learning

One of my favorite presentation apps for the classroom is Explain Everything (available for iOS, Google Play, Microsoft Store, and Chrome Web Store, $3.99). With a plethora of whiteboard apps on the market, the tools included in Explain Everything make this particular whiteboard app a powerful tool for enhancing instruction in the K-12 classroom... and more than worth the cost!

First off, some of the tools:
-Create new presentation from blank template or saved image
-Multiple width drawing tool
-Text tool
-Variety of writing colors
-Insert objects including images, videos, sounds
-Group & ungroup objects
-Record video and audio
-Pointer tool for presenting
-View audio/video timeline for editing of specific clips of audio or video
-Export slides/recording as image, video or pdf
-Save in Explain Everything app and/or export directly to camera roll, mail, iBooks, or other linked 3rd party apps (GDrive, Dropbox, Evernote, iTunes, YouTube)

So, what does the use of Explain Everything look like in the classroom? And how can you use Explain Everything to enhance instruction and improve student learning?

Teachers can improve instruction & support student learning by:
  • Delivering direct instruction from tablets (combined with AppleTV or Chromecast) allowing the teacher to "untether" themselves from the front of the room and circulate to students while teaching
    Recording a lesson
  • Recording lessons for students to access later (I like to record my direct instruction in the moment and then post the videos to my class website for students to access anytime they need reteaching or help on classwork/homework)
  • Blending/flipping the class environment with teacher-created instructional videos (and being able to download videos means they can be uploaded to websites/blogs or burned to disc)
  • Quickly sharing slides or videos to specific students in class by uploading into Google Drive
  • Allowing students to record (using audio/sketches) their ideas before writing
  • Having students take notes (while reading, during lectures) on multiple slides using text, audio, images, diagramming

Students can demonstrate their learning by:
Primary source analysis
  • Solving math word problems and explaining their work using annotations and written/spoken explanations
  • Creating models or animations to show their thinking in all subjects
  • Creating their own story problems
  • Recording videos or images of a science lab and then annotating and explaining observations and results
  • Documenting real world examples of subjects being studied in class and then recording an explanation of the connection between learning and the artifact found (ie. recording the weather one day and explaining how it connects to learning in science, etc.)
  • Creating teaching videos for their peers
  • Turning written stories into digital stories and videos
  • Importing primary source artifacts or art and recording their analysis
  • Creating collages and murals to show what they know

Have more ideas for how to use Explain Everything in the classroom? Share them with us in the comments below!