Curate the Web

As the start of the school year rapidly approaches, one thing you might want to consider is planning for how your students will access online materials.  In the past many of us have used our classroom website, blog, or wiki.  Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those methods, we now have a great deal of tools that can help teachers to curate online content.

graphic depicting the idea of selecting and sharing links

Web curation tools make sharing links with our students a snap, ensuring that our students can quickly access relevant resources. It seems that time is always of the essence, so providing students with the links they need to complete their task is a huge timesaver.  Curation tools also allow teachers to preview sites to ensure they are classroom friendly, free of unwanted ads or pop-ups, not blocked by the school server, do not require downloads or software updates, and any other condition that makes students accessing online content challenging.  Curation tools can also provide teachers with an easy way to differentiate resources for individual students.  Teachers can provide resources for the same content presented in various methods (i.e. video, audio, interactive, etc.), or at different reading levels to make it easier for students with differing skills be able to understand the message the teacher is trying to convey

Curation tools are not just for teachers!  Students today are inundated with information, so one of the most important 21st century skills will be for students to learn the art of accessing and evaluating information then use and manage that information.  Putting web curation tools in the hands of your students forces them to use critical thinking skills to determine if the online resources they have located fit the criteria for selecting relevant resources.  Curation tools also require students to consider how to manage the resources once they have located them.  Setting aside time for students to curate online resources, also helps to improve students search skills, and provides opportunities for mini lessons and individualized instruction on sorting through the over abundance of online content.

There are many excellent tools to choose from, so I have selected my top 8 web curation tools to share with you today.  Hopefully you will find many useful tools for you and your students.

 

Jen Foster is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist and authorized Google Education Trainer. 

New to Google+? Here are 10 Tips for Success!

When using Google for the first time, it”s hard to know where to start. These ten tips provide a guide that will assist you in getting connected with other educators around the globe.

Google Plus Icon

1. Completely Fill Out Your Profile:  Be sure to add an actual photo of yourself, not just an avatar or other image.  Google has excellent privacy settings that can be used if there is personal information that you do not want visible to the public.  A complete profile page helps others learn more about you making it easier to determine if they would like to add you to their circles and / or communities.

2. Develop Your Circles:  Think about everyone in your contacts list.  Some of those people are friends, some are family, some are work associates, while others are acquaintances you have met online or at conferences.  Generally a post created for your work associates is not going to be of much interest to your family or friends.  You may also want to create a post for your friends that you do not want sent to your family or work associates.  Circles can help with that!  To develop your circles, you consider which groups of users you have and you simply drag people into the circle they belong in.  But what if someone falls into more than one circle?  No problem!  You can add users to multiple circles.  You can also create and delete circles as needed, so if you have an upcoming event, you can set up a circle to communicate with the event planners efficiently, then simply delete the circle after the event is over.

3. Join Communities:  Google Communities are a great way to find amazing resources and conversations about nearly any topic you could imagine.  There are thousands of communities to choose from, so look around and see what communities are out there to support your interests.  Some communities are public so anyone can join, others may require permission, so be sure your profile is complete!  Communities are a great way to connect with like minded people, pokies online sharing inspirational ideas and materials from around the world.

4. Post, Post, Post:  Please share your ideas with the world!  You have amazing thoughts, unique ideas, wonderful talents, and so much more to offer your communities and circles, so please share them.

5. Engage with Others:  There are multiple ways to engage with others in Google .  One of the simplest ways is to 1 someones post.   1 is similar to liking or favoriting on Facebook and Twitter.  Another way to engage with others in Google is to comment on someone’s post.  Adding meaningful interactions help to develop relationships within communities.  Users can also share posts they find interesting with their communities and circles.  Finally, posting publicly, and adding unique content is the highest form of engagement within Google .  Active engagement will help attract others to follow you and/or join your community.

6. Use #Hashtags:  When you are creating posts, be sure to use appropriate #hashtags.  #Hashtags simply help to further identify your post making it easier for others to find specifically what they are interested in.  Try to keep the #hashtags to 3 or fewer, so that you don’t overdo it.

7. Give Credit Where Credit is Due:  When you share a post written by someone else include “ Their Name” in your post to give the original author credit.  If someone has shared a post that you would also like to re-share with your circles at “h/t Their Name.”  H/t stands for hat tip this gives credit to the person who shared the post.

8. Add Content to Your Posts:  Make your posts more meaningful by adding text to your post when sharing photos, links, videos, and events.  We are very interested in what you are hoping to share, but often times others don’t have time to investigate what you have shared to discover why it is important.  Adding text to your posts to explain what you are sharing and why you feel it is important will help others see value in your posts.

9. Reply to Others:  When some comments on your post, ask questions, shares your post, and/or mentions you in their post, it is important to follow up with them quickly.  Answering questions while the discussion is still new in everyone’s mind is alway important.  Also, a quick thank you for the mention, a thanks for the wonderful comment, or thank you for sharing my post goes a long way when building relationships!

10. Try Out Other Google Features:  Check into the other features of Google such as Hangouts, Photos, Events, and Local to discover online chats, video chats, event sharing and discussions, and even find local hotels, restaurants, and attractions.  Download the Android or iPad Apps, and look into the Photo Backup to upload all of the photos from your mobile device to Google automatically.  Do this and so much more with Google

Here are some additional resource to help learn about Google :

*image provided by Wikimedia Commons

Math Stories or “There’s More Than One Way to Solve a Problem”

Maybe I have been watching a little too much TV with G,  my 4 year old, but I am absolutely LOVING Peg + Cat on PBS. It is the perfect mix of math concepts, problem solving strategies, songs, stories, and all around silliness. All of this stuffed into a cute little girl named Peg and her “AMAZZZINNNNGGG”, talking pet cat. One of the best parts of the show is when they finish every challenge with this song…

I am so inspired by all that G is learning from Peg and Cat that I thought I might share some Math inspiration for your kiddos in your classrooms. The Three Acts Of A Mathematical Story from Dan Myer is very similar to Peg+Cat in that teachers create a story built around real-life math.

Here’s the idea :

  • Act 1 – “Introduce the central conflict of your story/task clearly, visually, viscerally, using as few words as possible.” (check his site for examples)
  • Act 2 – “The protagonist/student overcomes obstacles, looks for resources, and develops new tools.”
  • Act 3 – “Resolve the conflict and set up a sequel/extension.”

Here is an Example – The Slow Forty

(eMINTS teachers….seeing any connections to the Instructional Procedures unit expectation?)

Check out Dan’s Three Act Math Tasks Spreadsheet and his 3-part blog series with videos and instructions.

This blog post is from 2011, but Dan is not a one hit wonder. I encourage you to explore his recent blog posts and see what he’s been up to….hint hint – he is quite an active presenter and does so much more than Three-Act Math Stories.

Brooke Higgins, occasional blogger, is an eIS for the eMINTS National Center working with eMINTS teachers, trainers, and administrators. All of her posts, including this one, can be found at The Higgins Helps blog.

Fostering the Next Generation of Storytellers

eMINTS is partnering with KCDigiKids!

eMINTS will be collaborating with KC DigiKids and the KC DigiStory Center on a project focused on bringing digital storytelling into the classroom.

The eMINTS National Center is pleased to announce that we have paired up with KCDigiKids on a new project to help develop a comprehensive storytelling curriculum for grades PK-12.  KCDigiKids was founded in June of 2013, and are working to develop the “next generation of digital storytellers” in the mid-west.  The project is currently in the early stages, but will result in a “curriculum that can be used by educators as formal units of instruction and by non-profit leaders as after-school and summer learning projects.”  The students will experience hands-on learning activities that will utilize a variety of technology platforms and digital formats.  These units will help educators bring digital storytelling to into the classroom as a way to help students reflect, build community, think creatively, become media literate, and much more.

To learn more about KCDigiKids, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Coding in the Classroom

Not every child will grow up to be a historian, yet there is value in teaching history. Not every child will be a mathematician, yet there is importance in teaching math. What about teaching computational thinking? Computational thinking is a way of describing and solving problems that applies higher level critical thinking. How can programming be a productive addition to an already overloaded curriculum? Consider this quote from Steve Jobs.

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”

— STEVE JOBS, THE LOST INTERVIEW

AgentSheets Logo
AgentSheets is a software program that lets you create your own agent-based games and simulations using drag and drop, rule-based programming. For more information on AgentSheets and Scalable Game Design, visit scalablegamedesign.org.

Programming encourages children to use technology to solve problems, first by designing games, then by transitioning to STEM-oriented simulations. Learning to program with Scalable Game Design and AgentSheets software introduces computational thinking patterns using motivational and interesting methods tied to the core subjects. The benefits include enriching learning, elevating critical thinking and expanding 21st century and STEM skills.

eMINTS is offering a course in Scalable Game Design. The pilot begins in August and the course will be offered again in the spring. If you are interested in coding in the classroom, please fill out our eLearning interest form.

Carla Chaffin is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Join Us in Celebrating Digital Learning Day on February 5th!

Can you imagine education without technology?  In order to prepare the next generation for college and for their place in the workforce, it is very important that students and teachers embrace the benefits that modern instructional tools can provide.

This is why thousands of educators answer the “call to action” and join the celebration of Digital Learning Day each February.  A national event designed to allow educators to gather virtually to share and discuss the successes and challenges that they are experiencing with integrating digital tools in their classrooms.

To help build this awareness and to promote enhanced instruction with modern technology tools, join us by participating in national Digital Learning Day which is scheduled for February 5, 2014!  The online event will feature demonstrations, interactive lessons, presentations, resource sharing, tips, and even tricks designed for classroom educators that possess a passion for incorporating powerful digital tools into their lessons.

Here are some ways you can participate…

I hope to see you participating and making a difference with digital learning on Digital Learning Day!

-Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Time to Register for the 2014 eMINTS Conference!

It is that time of year again, when educators from near and far make plans to attend the annual eMINTS National Center Conference.  This exciting event takes place Feb 26-Feb 28 at the Stoney Creek Inn in Columbia, MO and is designed for anyone who is passionate about learning, teaching, and connecting with technology.

register2014_cropped

If you have never before attended this conference, please accept this invitation.

eMINTS teachers, trainers, technicians, and administrators  are looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. They are preparing session workshops and designing their materials, selecting activities, resources and choosing strategies that can be taken back and used by participants almost immediately and in practically any learning environment.

The Keynote speakers will be Dr. Alex Repenning – “‘Excuse me, I need better Artificial Intelligence!‘ Igniting Students’ Intrinsic Math Motivation through Game Design” and Dr. Wesley Fryer – “Mapping Media to the Common Core”.

There are also two brand new opportunities that take place during the conference this year.  On Wednesday afternoon, there is a pre-conference 2.5 hour session called the “eMINTS Academy”.  During this session, eMINTS Instructional Specialists will be showcasing several custom PD offerings.  Actual activities from those recent and upcoming sessions will be delivered to participants.

On Wednesday and Thursday evening, the eMINTS community will gather to have the very first Camp eMINTS”.  This event will have a guest speakers, group sharing, games and resources that will be sure to allow attendees to help build professional relationships.

Both the eMINTS Academy and Camp eMINTS are free!

To register and find more information, visit http://www.emints.org/conference-2014/

Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Firefox: Organizational Tip – Tab Groups

This was my browser workflow before finding Firefox Tab Groups….

I would be working on, let’s say, a blog post. I would have open multiple browser windows (2-3 usually), each with their own VERY IMPORTANT plethora of tabs, all in some sort of order that made sense in my delusional organization plan. I thought I was organized! With my tons of tabs, in order, in multiple windows, trying to figure out which to bring to the front, where a specific webpage was, and then deciding that they were grouped wrong and then dragging tabs from one window to another. (See mess below)

TooManyWindows

BEFORE

I would drive myself nuts trying to position the windows just right so that I could drag tabs to new windows. It was crushing when I would accidentally close a window FULL of sites to never see them again. Don’t even get me started about the amount of prime property it took up in my dock when all these windows were all minimized. It really was going to be the death of me until…

enter stage right…my savior, my knight-in-shining-armor, my hero ….Firefox Tab Groups. I had the webpage with instructions in an open tab for more than a month before adding it to my “EXPLORE” list in my Outlook ToDo list. It took me a few more months before I had a week this summer to do some R&D and get back to that “EXPLORE” list.

It was AMAZING, I read the instructions and made a couple of quick clicks, typed in a couple of names, and turned that crazy mess of windows and tabs into THIS (see below). It became a beautifully organized, gathering of websites sorted into groups of small images with titles all in ONE window. Ahhhh, sweet organization!

PinnedTabinGroups

AFTER

How to Tame the BEAST: It’s pretty simple to set up, but the directions from Firefox didn’t work exactly as stated on the website under the “How do I create a tab group?” section. What I did was first add a couple of tabs, then selected “Customize” toolbar from the View>Toolbars drop-down menu.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 4.34.12 PM

From there it was a piece of cake. I created new groups by double-clicking in the gray area to add a new tab in a new group. Then i named my groups by hovering over a group until the “Name this group” text field showed up (where you seem my “Work – Must Do” title) and then I typed in the name I wanted. Named Tab GroupThen I dragged the existing tabs around to the appropriate group and resized the group areas so that I could see a larger or smaller image of the tabs to help me identify them. I have 3 main groups, 2 for work and 1 personal group.PinnedTabinGroupsWhen I am ready to start browsing I click on the tab I want front and center, notice all of the other tabs in that group are available in the same window. When I want to get back to view all the tab groups I just click the “Group Your Tabs” button in the top right corner of the Firefox window. TabGroupsIconYou should practice going back and forth between tabs and groups but be careful because when it asks if you are sure you want to close the windows it means all of your Firefox windows.

DontCloseWindowsThere are a few additional features such as searching and saving resources for reviewing later using Pocket. These instructions, and more, can be found on the Use Tab Groups Mozilla Support Page. All images captured by Brooke Higgins.

Brooke Higgins, occasional blogger, is an eIS for the eMINTS National Center working with eMINTS teachers, trainers, and administrators. All of her posts, including this one, can be found at The Higgins Helps blog.

Common Core State Standards Tidbits: Episode 2

After the webinar I overviewed in CCSS Tidbits – Episode 1, I did some additional research to gather more information about the CCSS.  Below is a collection of links that you might find helpful as you move forward with your Common Core implementation.  I have also linked to this great infographic on becoming a Common Core Ninja!  For anyone interested, I am working on pulling together some resources for developing and using infographics in the classroom, so stay tuned!

Resources:
 
Explanation of the Standards
This is a sample document that shows how the standards are broken down, which grade levels teach to the standard, the DOK level of the standard, what it might look like in the classroom, and much more.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a full copy of the book for free, however, you can get a full copy from Amazon.com.
The North Carolina State Board of Education has developed a site with a great deal of resources, including an explanation of the standards “unpacked.”  They also have tool for implementing the standards.
ASCD has pulled together several great resources that provide an explanation of the CCSS as well as tools to help teachers implement.
If you’re a visual learner like me, you will love LearnZillion’s visual representation of the standards!
COREpedia is a resource tool to assist you in the understanding and implementation of the Common Core State Standards
Teacher Professional Development
This site is AMAZING!  They have a great deal of videos that will help teachers implement the common core   standards.
Pearson has done an excellent job at developing some top notch professional development resources! Teachers can watch webinars, they can access practice tests, find information for ELL students, and learn about rigor, instruction, assessment and much, much, more!
Classroom Tools / Resources
This is a nice collection of common core resources for 5th grade.
An CCSS integration tool that allows you to plan and track standards in your lesson plans.
“We Are Teachers”  has a nice collection on Pinterest for Common Core including great visuals, infographics, and other images.
This is a comprehensive site for all things Common Core including curriculum, assessments, PD, Videos, and tons more!
Curriculum Alignment
This sight helps schools ease the transition into Common Core.  They have excellent explanations of the   shifts taking place in both math and ELA.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills has additional information and resources on how to align to the CCSS and meet the needs of our 21st century learners.
Scholastic has pulled together some really great lesson plans, glossary of terms for teachers, Nonfiction & Literature lists, info on assessment, and professional development tools for teachers.

Jen Foster is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist and blogger. Check out her blog at eMINTS Classroom Strategies where she shares her thoughts on learning theories, teaching tips and strategies, practical classroom applications, and reflections on her journey to continue learning. This post was originally published on August 5, 2013.

Common Core State Standards Tidbits: Episode 1

I recently listened to a webinar provided by edWeb and Follett about the Common Core.  Common Core: High Impact Planning was an excellent, and highly informative webinar.  I have linked the recording so you can listen to it yourself, but I also wanted to give you the highlights in the form of my notes. Any educator will gain a great deal of information from this webinar, but it was specifically targeted to administration.

  • The goal of Common Core State Standards is College and Career Readiness.  The question we need to ask ourselves is “How can we reach ALL kids, and help them achieve the goal of CCSS?”
  • Common Core goals were set by companies, corporations, higher education, military, etc.

Students should be able to:

    • Understand concepts and new developments in science and technology
      • This is one of the most important new skills in light of our world that is data-driven!
    • Analyze and solve complex problems.
      • Real-world problems are complex, so we need to engage students in real-world complex problems to prepare them for life after high school.
    • Apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings.
    • Use critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills
      • We no longer have to memorize information.  We have access to all the world of knowledge at our fingertips.  Instead we have to focus on how to navigate through the world of information, think through it, and analyze it.
    • Effectively communicate orally and in writing.
      • Students must be prepared to communicate, and must practice often, especially in the use of electronic communications!

Being Prepared:

  • We need to begin to prepare our stakeholders for the change.  Test scores will go down, because CCSS have raised the bar.
  • We must “stretch” our students Lexile scores by 2-3 grade levels from what they are reading now.
    • Reading is a national security issue because 75% of our high school graduates cannot join the armed services because they cannot read well enough to pass the test!
    • There are a great deal of welding jobs currently available, but we cannot fill those jobs because we cannot find young people that can read the technical manuals required for the job training.
    • Students are leaving college early, and in considerable more debt because they are have to take remedial reading and math course to bring their skills up the level necessary.
    • Libraries will need to be reconfigured to provide students with the books they need to meet the new lexile requirements.

Lesson Design and the Common Core:

  • Recipe to align units and lessons with CCSS assessments
    • 2 Anchors (ELA Standards) or Practices (Mathematical Practices)
    • 3 – 5 Content Standards (this adds complexity)
    • 2 Questions: DOK 1 / Bloom’s 1-2
    • 2 Questions: DOK 2 / Bloom’s 3-4
    • 2 Questions: DOK 3 / Bloom’s 5-6
    • Write 1 (short write focused on comprehension or in math focused on fluency)
    •  Essay 2 (longer writing piece)
  • Only 86% of the standards will be tested

Content Areas:

  • Math
    • 7th & 8th Grade (these grades contain the critical skills necessary for students to move through high school and into college!)
    • All about fluency of basic math skills
    • Even the simplest math problems on the CCSS assessments will require a great deal of reading.  Students will be required to read multiple types of texts to solve one problem.
    • Performance Events will take approximately 2 – 2.5 hrs., will revolve around a real world problem, students will read, and analyze multiple types of texts to gather information to determine the type of problem that needs to be solved, what data is needed to solve the problem, and then actually solving the problem.  Students need to learn how to do all these things and PERSEVERE throughout the entire event!
  • ELA
    • Writing, Vocabulary, Argument
    • Student writing skills must be improved (this is critical!)
    • To expand vocabulary students need to read materials at a wide range of ability (low, medium and high)
    • Content needs to be presented in multiple formats (text, multimedia, video, real-world, literature and non-fiction)
    • School leaders should constantly have conversations about reading data!
      • Know the starting level of each student
      • Ask the questions:
        • What does the data say?
        • How are the students growing?
        • How do we know?
        • What are we doing about it?
        • Are students reading non-fiction in our libraries?
    • Connect lit studies to non-fiction
      • Example – A teacher loves to engage students in a lit study of Huckleberry Finn.  The students read about Huckleberry pies, they eat pie, they study Mark Twain, and read the novel Huckleberry Finn.  To engage the students in a more complex, more in-depth study, the teacher could have the students read a non-fiction work on the Mississippi River and learn of the changes that have taken place over time.  The students could then engage in a conversation as to how the story Huckleberry Finn might have changed because of the difference in the river system.
    • Students should be writing a lot and often (4 – 5 pages weekly for some grade levels)
      • Writing should be for an authentic audience
        • Traditional prompt: What did you do over the summer?
        • CCSS Style prompt: Write an paper (blog, wiki, etc) to convince me of where I should vacation next summer!
        • Use technology! Write on the computer, publish often!
        • Use a thesaurus (students need to consider word choice in written communication)
        • Follow the NAEP writing requirements

Overall this was an excellent webinar!  The next installment of this series Common Core & Back to School – Issues for the Upcoming Quarter is August 23rd at 1:00 pm central time.  If you can’t attend, no worries, they record the sessions :)

Jen Foster is an eMINTS Instructional Specialist and blogger. Check out her blog at eMINTS Classroom Strategies where she shares her thoughts on learning theories, teaching tips and strategies, practical classroom applications, and reflections on her journey to continue learning. This post was originally published on July 25, 2013.