Category Archives: Resource Links

Supplementing Your Classroom Website

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Creating and maintaining a classroom website or portal can time-consuming and taxing on a school’s servers. Even when using a free, online host like Weebly or Google, integrating a website with one’s curriculum and classroom community can be difficult. Of course, one can always turn to the myriad of online tools to help supplement a classroom website.

One typical use for a classroom website that can be tedious is the constant updating of resources. In the past, we would have to edit our pages to include new and updated resources with hyperlinks, possibly adding descriptions or even additional pages. Instead of creating and updating resource pages, use social bookmarking tools like Delicious and Diigo.  Both tools offer “bookmarklets” that work in almost any browser. This button allows easy bookmarking. By carefully including descriptions and thoughtful tags, users can easily create pages of resources under a variety of topics.

One issue with maintaining a website is keeping it up-to-date in regards to classroom news and announcements. With most web sites, we have to actually edit the pages only to have to redo it periodically so that it appears updated. Additionally, passing along information this way leaves no opportunity for interaction and discussion. A blog, however, is easy to update while archiving past posts, plus it allows for parents, teachers, and students to respond and continue the discussion. Weebly features its own blogging tool, but tools such as WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr can fill your blogging needs well.

Some school districts have in-house learning portals or shared folders that allow teachers and students to pass files back and forth. However, this is not available everywhere or districts have limited server space. Two online tools can make sharing files easy. Google Docs isn’t just a tool for collaboration and creation. Google’s ample server space makes storing and sharing documents a breeze. The other great site for file sharing is DropBox which provides users a downloadable app for easy file transfer without navigating to and logging into a remote site.

Some teachers would like to create a working space for students to display their work online. Uploading and adding student content to one’s site can be quite the endeavor. Setting up a wiki at a site like Wikispaces can allow students to upload, publish, and share on their own. The commenting feature makes it easy for additional interaction.

Back when we in eMINTS would help teachers create calendars from scratch using web-authoring software, one of the greatest challenges was creating calendars. These calendars either required multiple pages on a site or would require regular updates. By using a calendar through Google or Yahoo, users can keep a public calendar that updates every time they enter events. Users have the option of linking their audience directly to calendars or embedding calendars in their home sites.

A website is limited in that it is absent the personal interaction we have with students on a daily basis in class. However, social networking can fill that void. Facebook’s group feature makes it easy for classes to interact in as public or private a forum as necessary without teachers worrying about friending their students. Twitter is a bit more open to the rest of the web, but through the use of groups, hashtags, and tools like Tweetdeck, discussion is easy to manage. However, if either of these tools are inaccessible at your school, there is always the school-friendly option at Edmodo.

Whatever your website needs may be, there are creative ways to use online tools to help you make the most out of your site’s effectiveness. Hacking an online tool to make it suit your educational needs is often an efficient way to make a website more than just…well, a website.

How have you used online applications to enhance your classroom website? What is something you want to do with your site that you just can’t figure out using online applications? How might you envision using web apps to enhance a classroom website?

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Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

How to Use TED Ed

A very exciting development happened late last month when the popular conference series TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) entered the education arena with TED Ed. TED announced the establishment of the educational site featuring the best minds providing talks in lecture form while accompanied with engaging animation. Included with the lectures are quizzes and other teacher tools geared toward customization.

As pointed out at Teach Paperless, the site’s concept of a lesson is disappointingly narrow, even traditional. Blogger Shelly Blake-Plock suggests that learning happens when students do rather than just consume and that TED’s model is all about consuming their video content. He concludes, “If I took the name TED out of this scenario, I would suggest that many educators would say that this format is exactly the type of traditional assessment that project-based, inquiry-driven, personalized learning is at odds with.”

How should we use TED Ed in a progressive classroom?

One model is one that TED promotes. Like the Khan Academy, the flipped schooling method is gaining momentum. Basically, teachers provide these lectures and tutorials for students to digest on their own and complete assessments so that a more active and engaged kind of learning can happen in the classroom. Teachers can guide student learning in class while someone else (TED presenters and animators) dispense the knowledge outside the classroom, in-place of homework.

The only trouble with the flipped classroom is when we rely too heavily on the resources and assessments in evaluating student learning. The video lectures also take over and become the only measuring stick of learning as opposed to the growth and experimentation that happens in class.

Where I see TED Ed video lectures and their ilk supporting learning is as a resource. The difference between these lectures and more traditional resources is that someone has compartmentalized and presented the content in a way that is engaging to visual and auditory learners. It’s a new way to deliver information. It also doesn’t help that the videos are entertaining.

The assessment pieces accompanying TED Ed videos (as well as Khan Academy, MITx, etc.) also have a legitimate application when not teachers do not disproportionately depend upon them. As a formative assessment tool, these online quizzes allow for instant feedback to be given to students as well as providing a way for teachers to check in on student progress in order to know when best to intervene. Again, it’s a valuable tool that should be used appropriately and not consume instructional focus.

TED Ed should be seen as a supplemental resource to the many great things we do to promote learning and growth in our students. It should not replace inquiry, project-based learning, and other student-centered forms of instruction.

Another place these TED Ed videos can support learning is in an area all TED videos have thrived over the last several years: inspiration. Imagine showing a video of an engaging presenter clearly providing authentic uses for knowledge with animation that gives their words life. Why can’t students then create their own TED Ed videos to demonstrate their learning? Why can’t they teach each other using this method?

The key is not to depend on TED Ed to teach for you. The videos TED is releasing are beautiful, insightful, and inspiring. This is where their value lies and should be tapped for bringing so much life to otherwise boring and/or confounding content.

Other sites that function similarly to TED Ed and similar resources:

How have you used TED videos in your classroom? What are some of your favorite TED Ed videos? Have you submitted your own lesson for TED yet?

Zac Early is a blogger and instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

eThemes: A Reminder and Time Saver

Look what showed up in my inbox yesterday…

As you have noticed over the past weeks I have been sharing the ins and outs of stop-motion video. During my search for resources I checked eThemes and noticed they didn’t have anything available. Since I am a former eMINTS teacher I can request new eThemes. In just minutes I filled out the form including the types of resources I was looking for, grade levels, standards, and specific details further describing what I needed. I also shared a few links that I had already found to help them understand what I was specifically looking for. In less than 2 weeks they returned my eTheme and I was ready to roll.

For those of you not familiar with eThemes it is a “source for content-rich, kid-safe online resources that will help enhance your teaching and save you time. eThemes provides free, fast access to over 2,500 collections of websites, on topics ranging from Aerodynamics to Zebras and everything in between!”

eThemes saves teachers’ time looking for resources by doing the searching for you. Anyone can use the existing themes and any eMINTS teacher can request a new theme be searched giving them more time to focus on teaching.

Check out eThemes now and make a request to start planning your next classroom project.

Brooke Higgins and Julie Szaj are instructional specialists with the eMINTS National Center.

Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 3

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Welcome back to the third, and final, installment on stop-motion animation. When planning a stop motion animation project with students teachers need to be aware of the tools necessary, the steps for creating a project like this, some tips for success, and  additional resources to ensure students learn, have fun, and create quality products.
Basic materials/tools are all that is needed to get started:

  • Stop-Motion software (JellyCam or StoMo are just a couple available)
  • Digital camera (stand alone, iPad camera, phone camera, web cam)
  • Tripod or sturdy base for camera/computer/iPad
  • Lighting
  • MovieMaker or iMovie *adding audio and splicing with other media like video (optional)

How To:

  1. Plan the movie using a storyboard (visuals and audio/script)
  2. Design set, characters, and props
  3. Determine Frames Per Second (# of images needed to make a second = # of images needed to make the full length feature) Frames Per Second for video are normally 30 but programs can let you adjust that) – let your students do the calculations when planning their projects.
  4. Capture images using stop motion software (with onion screen option)
  5. Export as movie
  6. View movie
  7. *optional – Import Movie into MovieMaker or iMovie and add audio and/or other media, export as Movie, view

Tips for Success:

  • Plan carefully – Make a storyboard before you animate.
  • Keep it simple – Don’t try ambitious models or backgrounds
  • Small movements – A little goes a long way; use the onion-skinning option to see where the last frame was placed.
  • Assign roles – Modellers, clickers, spotters, movers; each student can be responsible for a task.

Resources:

Leave a comment…..We’d love your thoughts and ideas about stop motion animation as authentic products in the classroom. Share links to your student’s stop-motion projects. Tell us about all of your experiences using stop motion animation including implementation ideas, tips, additional resources, etc.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center and Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.

Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 2

Recently, Allison Byford shared the basic tools and steps for helping students to create stop motion animation movies in her post Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 1 . Today we’ll take that a step further and share more examples, tools needed, step-by-step how to instructions, and some tips for a successful implementation.

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Many of you have seen the OK GO video for their song “Here it Goes”,  but have you seen the LEGO “Here it Goes”. It’s an example of how a student with a creative mind and a camera recreated the video. If you are an eMINTS teacher you have surely seen some of the great Common Craft videos covering topics such as “GoogleDocs in Plain English” or  “Electing a US President in Plain English”. While common craft videos aren’t purely stop motion they include some content recorded in stop motion animation as well as video.

When thinking about how stop motion animation could be connected to curriculum teachers can use stop motion video to present new concepts, record what happens during an extended Science experiment, or to present learned content.

Stop motion animation can be used in creative writing lessons to tell story with or without words or retell stories.

Students can present their understandings of math concepts by creating videos that may be used to teach newly learned skills to others.

Students can represent historical concepts, create documentaries, or reenact historical events to show their understanding of the impact of history.

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Not only can curriculum content be covered but students can also focus in on using 21st Century Skills when creating stop motion animation projects. These kinds of projects can require students to Think and Work Creatively with Others, Communicate Clearly, Collaborate with Others, Adapt to Change, Be Flexible, Manage Goals, Time, and Projects, Produce Results, Create Media Products, and Apply Technology Effectively.

Tune in tomorrow to learn the steps for creating successful projects like these.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center and Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.

Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 1

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Have you ever watched a movie like Wallace and Grommit  or The Nightmare Before Christmas or even films like Toy Story or Up and wished that you were good enough to do that? Have you ever marveled in amazement in what it takes to animate and the frames and frames of footage that have to be created and put in place to produce even one minute of video. The intricacies of this kind of project have to be mind-boggling, right?

Well, I’ve got good news! Animation and creating animated projects is easier that one might think. In fact, not only is it easy to do for one person….but better yet, it’s even easier if you use a team approach with interdependent roles! In fact, it is proving to be, in our district, one of the most engaging ways for students to create a culminating project. They can create movies fast and they love it so much they can’t STOP!!

Stop-motion animation is essentially collecting a series of photographs and rendering them together at a rate of anywhere from 8 frames a second to 30 frames a second. Thanks to some amazing web 2.0 tools, kids (even our youngest) can do this with ease.

At the most basic level, for stop-motion animation projects to be created, you need a storyboard/script, camera, some props, and software that “sticks” all the photographs together. If you are using a PC, a good option is Jellycam. Jellycam has a quick and simple tutorial that will walk a learner through the specifics of the software in just a couple of minutes. It allows the user to easily capture and manipulate the pictures taken with a web cam within the program. Users determine how many images per second and can play back the video as it is being created. It also allows for adding credits and music within the software. JellyCam is a completely free download.

Creating a stop-motion animation project can also be easily created on an iPad2. One favorite App for doing this is StoMo. In this App, you capture images directly into your iPad using the capture button. You can set the rate of pictures being seen per second, arrange and re-arrange the images captured, playback projects as you work on them and use either the front or rear camera. When you export the project to the library, the images are rendered together and the “film” is put in the iPhotos library to be viewed. StoMo does not allow users to add music, voice over, or text to the film but once a project is finished it can be exported to iMovie, Moviemaker, or some other movie editing software to add music, voice over, or text.

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Both of these applications have a key feature that is critical for stop motion creators – onion skinning. If you think about the skin of an onion, it is somewhat transparent. In stop-motion animation it is critical to be able to see the last image taken and be able to compare it to the one about to be taken. Onion skinning allows for the creator to move objects in the films as much or little as desired. Another classroom benefit of onion skinning allows for students, who’s “filming” schedule is often interrupted by the bell, to come back the next day and pick up where left off. They can see the last image captured and begin from there on a new day.

As a teacher, the best part of stop-motion animation projects is that the students REALLY need each other to complete a quality project quickly! In a group of four students each has a vital role. One person serves as the project manager, or director of the project. That person focuses on the vision and directs the project as it progresses. One person needs to focus completely on the software. That person knows exactly how the software works, captures images, and keeps the program running. The other two members of a group are moving manipulatives (characters and props) to create the animated sequences. It takes everyone in the group doing their parts to be successful.

Check out some examples of student stop-motion animation projects below and start planning a project for your students. Stay tuned for the next Stop Motion Animation installment sharing more classroom examples, how-to’s, tips, and resources for classroom stop motion projects.

How might your students express what they have learned with a stop motion animation project in your classroom?

Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.

Is it About Presenting or the PowerPoint?

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Having students create presentations is a very popular learning activity in many classrooms especially classrooms loaded with technology like eMINTS classes. Teachers love to have students create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned about a topic. Students are often times responsible for teaching others about what they have learned. Asking learners to do this encourages them to take responsibility and internalize content while building the necessary life skill of presenting to an audience.

But here is what is often heard when teachers are giving the assignment….PowerPoint PowerPoint PowerPoint…Is making a presentation all about PowerPoint?

There are many ways that students can show what they have learned. While PowerPoint is a great presentation tool it isn’t the only one out there and it isn’t always the most appropriate tool for everyone and every project. Assigning an entire class to use PowerPoint can make the activity easier to manage and requires a teacher to know how to use only one tool. But giving students an option in what presentation tool has its benefits. Students sometimes get more engaged in a project when they have a say in how it will be completed. Giving students choice can also begin to teach them about the benefits of using one tool over another and how the features of one might be able to help them convey their message in a more effective and meaningful way.

The biggest issue I hear from teachers is they think they need to create a different rubric for each option they give students. My suggestion…How about creating one “Presentation” rubric that could be used for all the different types of presentations in many different units. By including things teachers value like quality and quantity of information, creativity and originality of the media, and presentation skills such as clarity, focus, and eye contact, teachers will ensure that students walk away with the necessary understandings and skills they need in the future. Also creating one rubric for all presentations can save teachers precious time in the future.

Another road block many teachers run in to is the feeling that they have know how to use every tool for each option they give students. While having a good understanding of the basics of how a presentation tool works is beneficial, giving students tutorials for tools a teacher is less familiar with is another option. Another option might be to develop student experts that learn about different tools and be a resource for those using that tool.

Be aware, just like with PowerPoint, students can waste time “exploring” all of the bells and whistles and might need to be reminded that content comes first then customizing. They can easily be reminded of this by using a checklist or rubric to keep them on track.

A few alternate presentation tools you may want to offer students in addition to PowerPoint in your next project could include:

  • SMART Notebook
  • Movie Maker/iMovie
  • Prezi – “The zooming editor” create a presentation on a flat canvas and customize it with panning and zooming, imported media, the ability to collaborate and so much more.
  • Google Presentation Tool - now with drawing tools, animations, and the ability to collaborate
  • Zoho Show – Create, Edit and Share Your Presentations Online
  • Empressr – Media presentation tool. “Tell your story anyway you like. Add photos, music, video, and audio, and share it publicly or privately in an instant.”
  • GlogsterEDU – “Make your interactive poster easily and share it with friends. Mix Images, Text, Music and Video.”
  • TimeToast – An interactive visual timeline builder. “Timetoast is a place to create timelines that you can add to your blog or website.”
  • Animoto – “Turn your photos, video clips, and music into stunning video masterpieces to share with everyone. Fast, free, and shockingly easy!”
  • Extranormal – “Telling your story is easy… Choose from hundreds of actors. Type or record your dialogue. Select your background.” It’s that easy to get started.
  • Go!Animate - “Make a video online for free with GoAnimate!”

What might be some presentation tools you and your students like to use when creating presentations?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Civil War Resources

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One of the challenges of teaching history is that certain topics and time periods are pushed to the end of the school year. One such time period occurs in curriculum which splits American history into two years (usually 7th and 9th grades). At the end of the first year, teachers have to scramble to cover the American Civil War, a time period that deserves quality instruction and resources. Today, we’ll share with you a few of those important online resources for teaching the American Civil War.

WebQuests: The following WebQuests are a great way to get students actively engaging the content with a twist on traditional research projects.

  • Civil War Museum – This webquest allows the students to research aspects revolving around the Civil War as well as how to effectively compile it into a museum structure.
  • The South will Rise Again – This WebQuest is a depiction of troop movements during the Battle of Gettysburg. Students are to recreate the Battle of Gettysburg and create alternative movements of the battalions to make the South win the war. Students must know who commanded what unit with how many soldiers they were in charge of. Students must take in to consideration the topigraphical and land formations in the battle grounds.
  • Letters from the Civil War – This WebQuest involves students taking roles as a Union or Confederate soldier during the Civil War. They are writing letters to each other telling about their wartime experiences.
  • A Nation Divided – It is the year 1861 and President Lincoln has assigned you a very important job. In hopes of showing future generations how life was different during the Civil War, he has asked that you document this tragic time in history. You will be asked to document the places and people you come into contact with by creating a scrapbook of your journey. It is your task to show how this great nation was once a divided nation. Now to begin your journey….

Civil War Lesson Resources:

Other Civil War Resource Links:

General Social Studies Resources

What resources have you turned to when teaching the Civil War? What’s your unique approach to teaching this topic? What are some other topics that land at the end of the year that we should cover?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center. H/T to eMINTS staff Ruth Henslee, Jen Foster, and Michelle Kendrick for helping to gather these resources.

SMART Notebook 11 – Coming Soon

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How did I miss the announcement??? Back on January 9, SMART Technologies announced the updates to SMART Notebook to be expected in SMART Notebook 11. I am super excited!

Here are some of the new features and capabilities:

  • Embedded web browser will allow users to insert a live browser page directly into a SMART Notebook file and then interact with that page. (I can’t wait to see how this works.)
  • Widgets, such as a dictionary and translator, will let users handwrite a search query, receive the answer and move that answer to the SMART Notebook software page. An avatar widget will let teachers bring their dynamic talking avatars into SMART Notebook 11 and save them to the Gallery. (It’s an embedded Voki). Widgets will be available for download at the SMART Exchange. SMART is even allowing 3rd party developers to create custom widgets.
  • Crayon feature that allows users to create authentic crayon drawings on the interactive whiteboard.
  • Customizable creative pen builds individual pen types based on any image.
  • Create activity objects with the activity builder tool that reacts to actions made by students or teachers with animations or sounds for engaging interactions.
  • Contextual toolbar that responds to actions by changing when users choose a certain object, giving them the required tool choices they need to work with that tool.
  • Reset page function brings the SMART Notebook software page back to its last saved state. (So much better than undo or clear page for those teachers that teach the same class multiple times.)
  • SMART Board 800 series interactive whiteboard and the SMART Board 8070i interactive display boards will now have 4 touch capability. (Wish I had access to one of these…I did get to play with one at the eMINTS Conference this past month and WOW it was pretty cool.)
  • SMART Notebook 11 is compatible with Microsoft® Windows 7®, Microsoft Windows XP®and both Mac Snow Leopard® and Mac OSX Lion operating system software. (Possibly my favorite addition – I really hope this takes care of many problems my eMINTS teachers have been having.)
  • Shake feature will allow for quick grouping and ungrouping of objects.
  • Audio recording records sound directly into a file.

To see all of the new features and functions of SMART Notebook 11 visit SMART Technologies. Watch the video Sneak Peak by clicking on the Video tab.

SMART Technologies usually makes the new software available in June or July, right around ISTE, but the media release said this version will be ready this Spring. Going to keep my fingers crossed and keep checking their site.

What new feature are you most excited about and in what ways do you plan on using SMART Notebook 11 to support learning in your classroom?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Project-Based Learning – Resource Links

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Yesterday I shared the basics of what Project-based Learning is and key things to include when planning your own PBL units. Today I thought I might offer some resources to help with planning these types of learning activities and tools that may help when implementing Project-based Learning units for both a facilitator (you) and learner. Since a lot of you are eMINTS teachers I also included some extra technology tools you may find helpful.

What tools and resources do you think should be included in this list? Leave a comment and share your favorite PBL links.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.