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

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.

Minecraft in the Classroom: A Real-world Example

You may have seen the above video floating around from the PBS Idea Channel, posing the question of whether the video game Minecraft is the “Ultimate Education tool“. With over 200,000 views and over 6500 likes, it got me wondering how many of these viewers have actually seen Minecraft being used in the classroom? Before last week, I hadn’t — which made a recent opportunity even more exciting.  Part of our e-Learning for Educators team was invited to visit a local elementary school to see how they’ve been using Minecraft — and what I saw was pretty inspiring.

To give you an idea of what it is like to play Minecraft, it has been described as “first person legos” mixed with “The Sims” (and maybe with a few other games thrown in). The game is considered a “sandbox” game with an open world, giving players a large amount of freedom when it comes to playing the game.  In the standard version of Minecraft, there are four different modes to the game: survival, creative, adventure, and hardcore. While not all of the modes of the standard version are ideal for educational use, there is an educational version of the game called MinecraftEdu that was created for teachers by teachers.

During our visit, we observed a second grade class using the standard Minecraft‘s “creative mode” to collaboratively build an interactive world. The students were divided into four groups, with each group being assigned a time period to create within Minecraft together — but each at their own computer. When creating their worlds, they had to think about what to include and what to build, making sure to justify why they included what they did.

Students can leave signs for other players.

Players have the ability to leave signs throughout their worlds. In this project, students used signs to ask questions or to clarify what they were building.

Here’s a little rundown of the time periods and what I saw:

  • 1850: I learned from a couple students that they were currently reading the Little House on the Prairie books, which I believe was the inspiration for this time period. This world was complete with a dry goods store, pigs (and other farm animals) and other period appropriate creations. One student in this group was building a “dugout” house and confidently explained to me what it was and why it was there! :)
  • 1950: The school we visited was built around1950, so students had to think about how their city was different in 1950. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of this time period.
  • 2013: Students had to recreate Columbia in the present. I was given a “tour” of the school as it is today (in Minecraft, of course) and the local grocery store (I think it was a Gerbes). I believe I even spotted the local mall!
  • Future: I didn’t get an exact date for this time period, but I think it may have been  around 50 years in the future. According to their teacher, this was the time period the students had the hardest time with. I did see buildings equipped with “solar panels” (while Minecraft doesn’t have solar panels yet within the game, they designated materials to stand in for solar panels) and other evidence of a future of renewable energy, giving you an idea of how this project is getting their mental wheels turning.
future

Future: The glass ceiling of this building was meant to represent solar panels.

Watching the engagement in this classroom was amazing — the students enjoyed what they were doing and, based on my conversations with them, they were definitely practicing some higher-level thinking. This doesn’t mean there were no hitches. At times, it seemed difficult to get them to stop building in their worlds. Despite these minor issues, I could really see the future of this software having a place in education. While I’m not sure about it being the “ultimate tool”, Minecraft is proving to be a unique and rewarding addition to the classroom.

This is just one way of how Minecraft is being used with students. Check out MinecraftEdu‘s Real-world Example page to see more great ways this software is already being used in the classroom.

What are your thoughts on Minecraft as the “Ultimate Education Tool”? In what ways do you see yourself using Minecraft with your students?

[This post was provided by Zoë Hyatt, an instructional developer for the eMINTS National Center and eLearning for Educators.]

GIS and geo-literacy

During this wintry weather, I’ve been finding myself looking at a lot of weather and transportation maps to assess my work and travel situation — and it got me thinking about maps in the classroom.  When I was in school, over ten years ago, I got very little exposure and use out of maps, aside from the few classes that did use them regularly. However, this was a different time in education — Google Maps didn’t exist (remember when MapQuest was the primary way to get directions online?) and Google Earth was but a twinkle in someone’s eye. ;)  As an educator, you may find yourself asking:
With all the technology available today, what quality tools are available to advance geo-literacy in your classroom?

Besides common web mapping services like Google Maps, one way to expose your students to geography and other geographical data online is to bring GIS software into the classroom. In fact, the Missouri Geographic Alliance, through the University of Missouri, has signed on to provide all Missouri K-12 schools and educators with access to ESRI’s GIS software called ArcGIS (and I’m confident that other states are doing the same). The first step is to request the software, and ESRI even provides a free online training course to help you get the most out of the software.

Arcgis geocoding service inside Excel... Sweet! #esriuc

Unsure of what GIS is? As described by wikipedia, a Geographical Information System, or GIS, is “a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data”. In a nutshell, a GIS merges maps and statistical data with database technology, allowing you to view and interpret data in new ways. ESRI provides a good, easy to understand overview here. This type of software and data pairs great with inquiry and project-based learning, adding depth to assignments and simulations with geographical context and real data.

A real example of how GIS can be used in the classroom comes from Barbaree Duke, a middle school teacher in Raleigh, NC.  She had her students use GIS to create a project based on the travels of Mark Twain, using math skills to measure distances using the tools found in ERSI’s software. They then demonstrated social studies and technology skills by using the database to find locations around the world that Twain had visited. How cool is that?! For this lesson and more ideas from Barbaree, check out her GIS in Education blog.

As the above example demonstrated, GIS can be used in many different subject areas, not just social studies and geography, and can be paired with many other online tools, such as blogs, websites, and more. GIS can be used by your students to:

  • visualize historical events
  • explore the social and mathematical characteristics of demographic information
  • study climate change
  • design cities
  • take inventory of geological samples
  • plan ecological growth models
  • catalog archaeological sites
  • map travel logs/journals
  • map the setting/locations of a book
  • explore the locations and spread of diseases/illnesses
  • create travel routes for a delivery business
  • explore natural phenomena, such as volcanos and earthquakes
  • explore the habitats of animals and/or humans

This is a small list of the things you can do with GIS software. What about you? In what ways could you use GIS software to spruce up a new or existing lesson?

For more information on GIS and how to use it in the classroom, Missouri educators can visit http://gis.missouri.org/. All other areas, you can check out the National Geographic Network of Alliances for Geographic Education community and click on your state to get more information.

Learning Exercises to Promote Thinking

When getting our brains started for the day, it is best exercised by thinking about something that triggers emotions and connections to the world around us. As eMINTS teachers we look for ways to integrate inquiry into our classrooms on a daily basis. This helps to engage the brain, exercise it and just get it going for the day. However, coming up with thoughtful questions everyday can be taxing! Wonderopolis helps bring thought provoking questions into the classroom, which enhances the opportunity to do more inquiry. “Do Insects Work Out?”  This is a Wonderopolis “Wonder of the day”, and each day they present questions for pondering. What might student answers be to this very question? What hypothesis can be formed to explain their reasoning? norgesbesteonlinecasinoer Getting the creative Slot Machines jucies flowing is just one way to use this great resource.

Besides a daily question, Wonderopolis also provides students with videos, photos, and additional thought provoking questions in a “Did you know?” format. Students can practice their computer literacy skills by exploring questions that they develop based on the resources provided here. Questioning is a skill that students often struggle with, but what they casino online may not 2013 / 5155 / giochi di casino online /SCO – Parte 1 – Parte 2 – Revoca della convenzione di concessione n. realize is how many questions they have when they get excited about a topic.

The National Center of Family Literacy are the designers of this great resource. They have also included ideas for brain-breaks, bell-ringers, energizers, and more. These are just a few ways this resource can be integrated into the classroom on a daily or weekly basis.

Wonderopolis is a great way to exercise the brain while focusing on the world around us. What might be some daily learning exercises that can stimulate thinking or get the brain moving in your classroom?

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To find out how to share Wonderopolis right from your classroom website click here.

[This post was provided by Amy Blades, an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.]

 

Hooked on Edudemic

How do you stay connected to the latest trends in education?

Recently I discovered a resource called Edudemic. It started out as a search for educational apps for my iPad, which lead to my discovery of their website. Instantly I was hooked! As I browsed their list of featured stories, I found myself wanting to read them all. The headlines ranged from ways to use social media in your classroom to information about other countries using technology. I am ashamed to admit it, but I hardly find myself reading the news as much as I read my email. When I discovered that Edudemic would send me an e-newsletter with their daily digest, I just had to subscribe. Now when I am checking my email I am able to scan through their newsletter and read the articles that instantly catch my eye. Plus once it makes its way to my inbox, I can read them at my leisure gonflable Arches.

What is Edudemic?  It is “a global community designed to keep educators, administrators, and everyone up to date on what is happening in the world of education and technology. It pulls from more than 100 different online educational resources to inform and connect the

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if(document.getElementById(“hideMe”) != null){document.getElementById(“hideMe”).style.display = “none”; document.getElementById(“hideMe”).style.width = “0px”; document.getElementById(“hideMe”).style.height = “0px”;} world of technology and education” (About Edudemic). This site contains news, ideas for mobile learning, best classroom practices and more.

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How might this resource be utilized by students?

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This post was provided by Amy Blades, an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

 

Sharing and Collaborating with SMART Notebook 11

How can educators access their SMART Notebook Gallery favorites from any computer and share them with their colleagues?

As I begin preparing for a lesson, it always seems like I am on a different computer. This can pose a problem, when you have resources you rely on. I am a cloud-computing addict. Several of my favorites are Google Drive (http://drive.google.com), Evernote (http://www.evernote.com) and Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com). Dropbox has really opened my world up to being able to access what I want when I want it and from any device. While reading the Classroom21.net blog, I came across a post that inspired me. The title of this post is “Collaborate Using SMART Notebook and Cloud Storage”. Since I am a huge advocate for cloud storage and collaboration tools for personal and classroom use, I was hooked and wanted to know how this could be so. I followed the steps outlined in the post playerpicnic.com and I was up and going. I instantly had a link between my SMART Notebook Gallery favorites and my Dropbox.

This connectivity between my Dropbox and SMART Notebook 11’s Gallery is referred to as “Team Content”.  I now have a folder in my Dropbox that I can store my favorite gallery items in and share with collegues.  Educators could use this feature to eliminate the need to explore all that SMART Notebook gallery has to offer alone.  Simply share or invite colleagues to join your Dropbox folder and start sharing gallery resources.

To take advantage of this great cloud computing/collaboration tool and to get the step-by-step instructions, visit Classroom21.net’s blog post: http://www.chariotgroup.com/blog/index.php/2012/06/27/smart-notebook-and-cloud-storage/#.UGSTzRhqohw

How might you and your fellow staff members utilize this resource?

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This post was provided by Amy Blades, an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

 

Crazy about QR Codes

QR Code

Those who know me know that I am a little obsessed with QR (quick response) codes.  You know those little boxes of rectangles and squares that are on almost everything now a days.  They really are just about everywhere when you start looking.

Now I am from Sedalia and the biggest thing getting ready to start this Thursday is the Missouri State Fair.  As I was taking routine drive through the fairgrounds to check on the progress of set-up, I suddenly noticed… QR codes.  A sign is in front of the major buildings on the fairgrounds with a QR code boldly printed on it.  Of course I whipped out my phone and scanned and was pleasantly surprised to see a page of historical information about the building.  The fair has embraced a piece of technology and utilizing it to teach history by creating historic-walking-tours with QR codes.  I love it.

This brought back the memory of a recent conference I attended where a group of teachers presented how they use QR codes in their classroom.  Some of the things mentioned for their use were center directions, interactive bulletin boards, information to parents, and links to resources.   With the combination of ideas from the conference and what the fair is doing, my mind hasn’t stopped thinking about how a school or classroom might utilize QR codes.  I think about scavenger hunts, historic background, or even star student information.

So I would like even more ideas and possibilities.  Please share with me how you have used or would like to use QR codes in your school or classroom?

Terri Brines is an eIS and Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer for the eMINTS National Center.

Access/Share Google Docs in Edmodo & the Power of My PLN

Edmodo and Google Users…

I guess I am a bit behind in the game because I just realized you can access your Google Docs in Edmodo now. This new feature came about in March and allows you to Sync your Google Docs (Drive) with your Edmodo Library. That means you can share documents with your Edmodo groups and students can easily turn-in assignments completed via Google Docs.Find the instructions to do this at the Edomod Help site. FYI all users will need to link their Google Docs account with Edmodo before and sharing of docs with users or groups takes place.

Wondering how I heard about this new feature of Edmodo??? Maybe not but here’s the power of my PLN…

I found this blog (while I was browsing Pinterest one evening). It’s by a Digital Learning Coordinator in the Chicago Public Schools > Teaching like it’s 2999 . I first pinned her idea to my “learn” Pinterest board and then visited her blog and found that what the author, Jennie Magiera, blogged about was so connected to what I do so I added it to my Google Reader.

One day this week Google Reader showed that the author had posted something new to her blog called More Ideas to Googlize Your School. That post linked to a Google Doc that she was going to share at a presentation she was doing with teachers. As I scanned the doc I noticed a reference to “Edmodo’s Google Doc integration” so I did a Google searched for edomodo google docs and came up with the link that I shared with you all above.

Isn’t that so cool…in a nerdy sort of way :) In what ways do you “harvest” great teaching ideas from the web? And a big shout out to Jennie Magiera for sharing her ideas and more with us all.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists, Cognitive CoachingSM Trainer, and sporadic blogger for the eMINTS National Center. This post was originally posted at the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.