Friday, September 30, 2011

Web Tools That Every Educator Should Have in the Bag, from Tech&Learning Magazine


This great post from Tech & Learning Magazine lists a number of free tools that educators can use to help infuse more technology in their instruction. (This was also cross-posted to Ozge Karaoglu’s Blog, which is most-excellent!)  Among these tools are:

  • SafeShareTV – safe video sharing site (like YouTube, TeacherTube, SchoolTube, etc.) that allows you to create an ad-free, nasty-comment-free environment for kids to use video as part of instructional activities.
  • AdOut – removes ads, banners, etc., from websites to help you avoid inappropriate content and random clicking away from the sites you want kids to use.
  • Vocaroo – A browser-based voice recorder, with no software to download/install! I still like Audacity far better, but for a casual user who doesn’t want to mess with installing a bunch of software just for one quick project, this could be a nice alternative.
  • MultiURL – Allows you to create & share short URL links with students. A whole lot less gobbledy-gunk means a whole lot more learning.
  • Jing – One of my perennial favorites! This screen-recording utility allows you to make a movie of your mouse-movements on-screen and narrate your actions. Great for creating a how-to video or recording your lessons for absent or off-site students.
  • Twurdy – allows you to search for Web pages based on reading levels that are appropriate for your students. There is also a way to do this with Google.
  • Howjsay – <sounds like “how do you say” only quicker> This is a free online dictionary with audio pronunciation by actual persons, not a computer-generated “vocalization.” Great for kids of all ages, especially ELL/ESL crowd!
  • BatLyrics – Safer searching for song lyrics & music videos? Well… sort of… This site is less likely to dump viruses on your computer like some lyrics searches will, but teachers should still pre-screen for language & content that is appropriate to kids at their grade levels.
  • PlagiarismChecker – copy-and-paste electronic text into the search box to find out if the paper or passages have been plagiarized or not. FREE! There are others out there too – here’s one that’s good, but only allows limited use each day without a subscription.


- Web Tools That Every Educator Should Have in the Bag

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Above & Beyond, from The Partnership for 21st Century Skills -

Found a great inspirational video on The Partnership for 21st Century Skills web site. It offers a nice reminder that (1) a teacher’s way of looking at instruction & assessment isn’t the only way to do things, and (2) kids are capable of amazing things, if we just let them spread their wings. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate… Enjoy!

Above & Beyond, from The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, reminds us to differentiate student instruction and assessment whenever possible.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills - Above & Beyond

Monday, September 26, 2011

Columbus Day Resources

This year, Galesburg (IL) District #205 is holding school on Columbus Day. Locally, this has been a somewhat controversial move, but the controversies surrounding an observance or “celebration” of Columbus Day have been around for a great many years. Here are just a few that my classes of 7th graders have struggled with on Social Studies writing assignments and debates:
  • Should we observe the accomplishments of a man who might be considered one of the most successful failures in world history? After all, he never did reach the <East> Indies at all.
  • Should we celebrate the man responsible for bringing slavery and diseases that are responsible for wiping out millions of Native Americans in North and South America?
  • Is it appropriate to lay the blame of genocide, accidental or otherwise, which undeniably followed as a part of the Columbian Exchange, on the shoulders of this one man? Was it instead the entire European society during the Age of Discovery that should bear this responsibility?
All that aside, since many of us are going to be in classrooms this Columbus Day – not just our District, but nation- and world-wide – I thought I’d look for some electronic resources that can help you with your classroom activities. Unfortunately, many perpetuate the old-school promotion of Columbus-the-Hero, but a few take the revisionist Columbus-the-Villain stance. Many would help set up a lively debate amongst your students, expand their world-view, and help them participate in a discussion about global citizenship.
Many of these resources and more can be found on Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day blog, under The Best Online Resources About Christopher Columbus!
Once again, most of these resources and more can be found on Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day blog, under The Best Online Resources About Christopher Columbus! I highly encourage readers to bookmark his site or subscribe to his blog's RSS feed for lots of great links, resources, and ideas!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thinking Blocks: Model math word problems with virtual mantipulatives

Here’s an interesting resource from iLearn Technology.

Thinking Blocks is a site that helps teachers and students break down elements of word problems visually and manipulate/interact with them. This looks like a great site to use in a SMART Board- equipped math classroom!

While I haven’t personally testing this site, the iLearn Technology blog always contains quality resources. I’d encourage readers to look into this post for more details.

iLearn Technology » Blog Archive » Thinking Blocks: Model math word problems with virtual mantipulatives

Last WWI Veteran on Video

Found this link on Free Tech for Teachers.
According to this post, Mr. Frank Buckles, who passed away in February 2011 at the age of 110, was the last surviving US veteran of The Great War. Learn more about his life and experiences below.
This would be a great way to teach kids about the importance of honoring all those who served, on Veterans Day and every day.

Buckles from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

Buckles on Vimeo

Teachers' Channel - YouTube

I learned about this new development from Free Tech for Teachers!
According to Richard Byrne at Free Tech for TeachersYou Tube has launched a new channel aimed at teachers and classrooms! Read his post to find out more about YouTube for Teachers! This is a great resource to help you integrate technology and instructionally-appropriate video resources into your classroom!
Teachers's Channel - YouTube

Interactive Civil War Poster

imageAnother great site from Free Tech for Teachers!

Teaching History offers free posters for History teachers and Civil War buffs, along with a companion interactive Web site to support primary source research.

Free Technology for Teachers: Interactive Civil War Poster

5 Ways to Incorporate Football Season into your Classroom Instruction

BearsSeasonally appropriate ways to “hook” kids into your lesson can be found just about anywhere, if we look carefully and creatively enough. On that note, here is a great “guest-post” on Kleinspiration about how we might blend football season into instruction.

Of course, this former Geography teacher would also look at how teams are distributed across the nation, how they are organized into regional divisions, etc.

And, as a perennial Chicago sports fan, it’s always a nice way to illustrate to kids how we should persevere in the face of difficulty and adversity! Go Bears!

Kleinspiration: 5 Ways to Incorporate Football Season into your Classroom Instruction

Dissection Resources

As a former middle grades science teacher, I loved introducing kids to the wonderful world of hands-on dissection experiences. However, I also know that a number of students and parents sometimes object to dissecting animals, organs, etc., in the classroom regardless of how valuable these actual experiences are to the student and developing their understanding of anatomy & physiology. (For an overview of many of the reasons parents and students cite in their objections to classroom dissections, see Save The Frogs.) Unfortunately, recent budget crunches have also made a number of science teachers throughout Illinois to take a scalpel to their classroom expenditures instead of their specimens.

So, regardless of which side of the dissection issue you may lean toward, virtual dissection experiences may offer solutions that could help your classroom science activities. A number of online resources exist to offer teachers and students low-cost alternatives to tried-and-true classroom dissection activities. Here are but a few:
  • KidWings Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection: A great way to introduce kids at earlier grades to dissection procedures and identify bone structures, make hypotheses about habitats, and so on. This is by far one of my favorite digital resources! (My previous post about this site perennially gets lots of hits!)
  • Froguts: I LOVE THIS ON A SMART BOARD! In fact, an older version of this comes with SMART Notebook software and would work nicely to guide students during a whole-class step-by-step dissection. The newer browser-based demo now offers 3-D rotations of the frog as well. Froguts also offers a subscription-based service that opens up a school's curriculum to other virtual animal and plant dissections, like starfish, squid, fetal pig, peas and more!
  • Virtual Fetal Pig Dissection from Whitman College (Washington): This browser-based collection of links and Web pages takes students through the steps of dissecting a fetal pig, more common at the high school levels.
  • McGraw Hill Higher Ed contains several links to virtual dissections, including a virtual frog dissection and a virtual earthworm dissection. While these appear a bit more simplistic at first look, they contain a lot of great step-by-step information for kids, and the technology doesn't substitute for on-site guidance from a teacher and hands-on experience by the student. It is probably better suited as a site to help supplement classroom instruction rather than a complete alternative.
  • ThinkQuest Salmon Dissection Game: Not sure how much of a "game" this really is, but it is a neat way to work through a fish dissection experience in a virtual environment or to lead a classroom demonstration or whole-class dissection activity.
Free Software Alert: Schools who choose to do so can earn a virtual dissection software package (nearly $900) for free from Save The Frogs, the Animal Welfare Institute, and Digital Frog International, by signing a contract end all animal dissections for 5 years. If that fits in with your school's philosophies and curriculum and your professional point-of-view on the issue, it's hard to beat that price!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kids Against Bullying, from the PACER Center

October is National Bullying Prevention Month!  PACER’s National Center for Bullying Prevention has a great web site for teachers and teens dealing with bullying prevention. The site includes links to statements of support from teen stars, like Demi Lovato, Hayley Reardon, RJ Mitte, and others. Students can learn bullying resistance skills, sign a petition to support bullying prevention, and play anti-bullying online games, among other activities at the site.


Check out activities and research you can use in your daily lesson plans here: kidsAgainstBullying

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

GHS Participates in Eratosthenes Experiment

Galesburg High School Science classes (Ms. Buebe & Mr. Baxter) are participating in the Eratosthenes Experiment this year! This project helps students recreate the experiment conducted by the Greek Mathematician & Father of Geography (he "invented" the concept of latitude & longitude) allowing him to calculate the circumference of the Earth by a series of large-scale geometric measurements & calculations.
While the calculations of Eratosthenes were close-but-not-quite-perfect, we hope that GHS students will find success as they attempt to recreate this experiment!

Math Pickle: Put your students in a pickle encouraging genuine problem solving!

I learned about this site from iLearn Technology. Please visit the blog for a more detailed explanation.

imageOne of the big concerns I’ve heard expressed about the change in our state from our current Illinois Learning Standards to the National Common Core State Standards is that it will require that we “move” many of the concepts we are currently teaching to earlier grades. This means that Algebra and Geometry concepts, as just one example, will need to be taught to students at ever-earlier grade levels. How do we teach our students ready to think abstractly at such early ages?

Along comes Math Pickle. This Web site offers a number of video-based Math challenges for students at all grade levels (K-12). Some are unsolved/unsolvable problems, some have distinct answers. They all promote grade-appropriate (at least as far as the Common Core Standards might be concerned) Mathematical thinking skills – many with cross-curricular connections – to help stimulate student problem-solving skills in students in your classroom.

For more information, please see: iLearn Technology » Blog Archive » Math Pickle: Put your students in a pickle encouraging genuine problem solving!

Flip Your Classroom and Enhance Achievement

I learned about this infographic from Erin Klein’s blog, Kleinspiration:

“The Flipped Classroom” is another “Next Big Thing” that has actually been around for a very long time. The concept of the Flipped Classroom is that kids take the lead in creating their own knowledge through activities and exploration that is facilitated by a teacher who functions as the proverbial “Guide on the Side.” However, there’s a 21st century twist – kids utilize increasing amounts of technology to facilitate their exploration and demonstrate or share their learning, as the infographic below illustrates. (Please note the data cited at the bottom as evidence of its effectiveness)
The Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media
Please visit Kleinspiration: Flip Your Classroom and Enhance Achievement for more information.

NBC Learn Free Resources

I learned of this site from Lori’s Latest Links. Please visit her site to learn more!

imageNBC Learn offers a number of free resources to use in your classrooms!

  • Chemistry Now
  • Changing Planet
  • Science of NFL Football
  • Finishing the Dream: Learning from the Civil Rights Era
  • Science of the Olympic Winter Games

Please click to visit Lori's Latest Links: NBC Learn Free Resources


Online StoryTime by Barnes and Noble

I learned of this site from Lori’s Latest Links. Please visit her blog to read more details.

imageOnline StoryTime by Barnes and Noble offers a number of stories and picture books read aloud by authors and other celebrities. According to the Web site, a new (free!) story will be posted each month, with previous postings available for free as well. These would look great on a SMART Board or classroom projector! (Please note the “full screen” button at the lower-right corner of the player window.)

Among the stories currently available are:

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
  • Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
  • The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Mitten, by Jan Brett (The beautiful illustrations look almost as good on-screen as they do in the book!)
  • And several others!

imageCheck out this and more at Lori's Latest Links: Online StoryTime by Barnes and Noble

Friday, September 16, 2011

iPad App Catalog for Teachers, from

For those of you who love iPaddling around the Internet and in your classrooms, here's a great story from Tech & Learning Magzine, listing iPad apps to help teachers and the students they serve.

A Catalog of iPad Apps for Teachers and Students, from

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Future of Education–TEDxPhiladelphia

Recently the folks at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) hosted a conference in Philadelphia focusing on best practices in education. Attendees at these meetings shared some great, thoughtful ideas with visionaries about the past, present, and future of education. Here are some highlights from YouTube:

Dr. Adam Grant on teacher burnout – “Always Wear Dark Suits”

Barbara Chandler Allen – Fresh Artists

Kristen Swanson – EdCamp: Practical Solutions to Invigorate Teaching and Learning

George Moore on Teaching Mindsets

John Hunter on “The next big thing”

Zac Chase – “See Every Student”

Dr. Joyce Valenza – “See Sally Research”

Dr. Stewart Pisecco on Why Behavior Matters

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beloit College Mindset List

Teacher: Know Thy Students!

Each year, the distinguished staff at Beloit (WI) College publishes a list of ways that the world of their incoming class of Freshmen is different from their own, known as the Beloit College Mindset List. This year's list has been published, and, while it refers to a group of students who has just left the compulsory public education system, it still provides valuable insight on how students and we who serve them differ.  Here are some highlights:


And a few of my favorites from the list:
  • Ferris & Sloane could be their parents
  • Their school's "blackboards" have always been getting smarter
  • Amazon  has never just been a river in South America
  • Refer to LBJ and they just might think you're talking about LeBron James
  • Music has always been available via free downloads
  • Andy Warhol is a museum in Pittsburgh...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Constitution Day Resources

Constitution Day will be here soon! 
This 2005 statute requires that schools observe a Constitution Day to recognize the anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution, on September 17, 1787. As this date will fall on a Saturday this year, the law provides schools the flexibility to schedule their mandated observance during the week preceding or following this date, as appropriate.

Here are some resources to help you satisfy this federal requirement:
Of course, there are lots of other Web sites and non-tech-related activities that can also be used to satisfy this law. I just hope this might help out those of us "11th-hour Lesson Planners" (like myself). TCB...

Clean Those Filters, Please!

Suggestions from the District #205 Technology Department:

The SMART Board projector's air filter is a small but vital part that will help keep your classroom activities running smoothly. Just like the air filter or oil filter in your car, the air filter next to the lens on the projector must be regularly maintained. Please help extend the life of the projector in your classroom by cleaning the filter regularly, and never operate the projector without a clean, dry filter installed!
  • Every 10 hours or once each week (whichever comes first), when the projector is off, simply remove the filter and gently shake it or blow air across it to help remove dust, dirt, or debris, please. Do NOT rub the filter - this will stretch or break down the foam filter and render it useless. Make sure you re-insert the filter in the same direction it was removed. Once again: Never operate the projector without a clean, dry filter installed.
  • Once every month when the projector is off, in addition to cleaning it as described above, please remove the filter and hold it under gently running water for a more thorough cleaning. Do NOT rub the filter or use any soaps or cleaning products. Shake any excess water from the filter and allow it to COMPLETELY air-dry before reinserting it. Don't forget: Never operate the projector without a clean, dry filter installed. 
If you would like assistance in learning how to perform these simple tasks, or if you have any concerns about using technology tools in your classroom, please submit a Tech Help Desk request by typing the word support into the address bar of a Web browser on your classroom computer.

American Indian Day in Illinois

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, and Illinois School Code,

The fourth Friday of September is designated "American Indian Day," to be observed throughout the State as a day on which to hold appropriate exercises in commemoration of the American Indians. (105 ILCS 5/27 20)  (from Ch. 122, par. 27 20)    Sec. 27 20. American Indian day.

Wives Honoring Husbands, circa 1880
This year, state law requires that schools observe American Inidian Day on Friday, September 23. There are countless web sites and other activities that can help satisfy this mandate; here are just a few online resources to help with your school's observance activities:

Teaching: The Most Honorable Profession

Many thanks to Mr. Jeff Houston, Director of Galesburg Area Vocational Center, for bringing this CNN story to my attention.

CNN: West Virginia learns Finland's 'most honorable profession': Teacher

Brightstorm = Free Math & Science Videos

Brightstorm is a web site I learned about from Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of  Cyber Hero. Brightstorm offers free Science and Math how-to videos on a wide variety of high school and middle school topics.

Here's a feature that sets it apart from the rest, though: In addition to arranging the videos by topics like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, and so on, Brightstorm has also taken a handful of popular textbooks from various publishers and allows users to sort through videos that are cross-referenced by chapter and lesson within each title. Handy!

Absolute Value, from Brightstorm

Friday, September 2, 2011

9/11 Remembrance Activities

From the SmartBrief on EdTech (via our District Superintendent):
Journalist and author Suzie Boss provides resources for teachers who will be observing the 9/11 anniversary with their students. The National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center offers multimedia resources and includes a section for teachers, and there are other sites that include interviews about the attacks and writing prompts for students. The Library of Congress American Memory project also has amassed a collection of pictures, songs and writing related to 9/11. Boss's blog

From one of our textbook representatives:
To help elementary students understand the significance of September 11, Pearson is providing for elementary teachers and students a website with:
·         White-board interactive timelines and activities 
·         Each timeline page includes Teacher Support materials, discussion questions and ideas on how to differentiate instruction.
These items can be accessed at    All of these materials are complimentary.  

The Center for Civic Education's 9/11 and the Constitution Web Site has powerful activities for secondary school students.

And, my personal Go-To Favorite It-Has-Everthing blog:

Read the latest post!

"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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