Tag Archives: Brooke

Tuesday’s Tools: eBooks in the eMINTS Classroom

A goal in all eMINTS classrooms is to make lessons relevant to students by having them create products and solve problems that are based on real life issues. One profession that lends itself to standards that many teachers teach is the job of an Author. Oftentimes teachers include writing a book as an end product in the Elaborate portion of the Constructivist lesson plan form. Having students write and publish original works requires students to think at higher levels including synthesizing information to create real world, authentic products.

There are tons of websites that allow people to create printed books for a cost, but what many don’t know is that some allow users to produce them electronically as well. Electronic books (or e-books as they are known) allow authors to embed code or link directly to the online story, thus eliminating the need to pay for a printed copy.  Here is a short list of some of these sites including the designer’s descriptions:

  • Snapfish Create books from templates using your photos.
  • Shutterfly Create books from templates using your photos.
  • My eBook Create and share dynamic books. Site needs to be previewed by teacher and possibly start projects to avoid interaction with some content. Shared in previous post
  • UDL Book Builder Use this site to create, share, publish, and read digital books that engage and support diverse learners according to their individual needs, interests, and skills.
  • Mix Book Photo books that are free and easy to create and share.
  • Story Bird Short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print.
  • Story Something Allows users to add kids names into books, save to their computer and share with kids – good Early Childhood resource.
  • Story Jumper A place to create and discover stories for kids. Free to create/publish but cost for printing hardback book.
  • Big Universe Get a free 14 day trial – see what other kids are writing and create project to see how you like it.

Whether you look at “new Bloom’s” revised by Lorin Anderson or the works of Benjamin Bloom, writing original works would be considered CREATING which on both hierarchies is a higher level intellectual behavior important for learning.

Written by: Brooke Higgins & Julie Szaj, eMINTS Instructional Specialists
Image by: alless&ro http://www.flickr.com/photos/regi_a/4462985171/

Thursday’s Tip: The Classroom Blog – An Instructional Tool

powered by Fotopedia

I have heard a lot of teachers ask “Why should I blog?” and “Why should my kids blog?” In response I often say “So you want to know why you should write?” …..that is really what blogging is all about. A blog has simply taken the old journal or “Author’s Chair” to a new level….a global level. No longer are students and teachers thoughts and ideas meant for only them to hear, think about, and learn from. Now the world can read them and respond to them and everyone can learn. So when it’s time for writing in your classroom, don’t say….”let’s blog” say “let’s write”!

Edublogs has put together a Teacher Challenge for blogging, a 30 day free professional development challenge to help teachers increase their blogging skills while collaborating with a global teacher community. For more information check out the Teacher Blogging Challenge.

Other sites that may help you improve your class or teacher blog include:
Do you have a class or school blog?
Blog Ideas

So good luck and start writing!

HD Links: Your Own Virtual Corkboards

Are you the kind of person that likes to post sticky notes everywhere and have all your ideas, inspirations, lists, and more right in front of you? Well you may find virtual bulletin boards are the tool for you. Many of these tools available on the web offer a simple click, type, and drag feature with the option to make your board public and some  can even be used as a collaboration tool.

Web 2.0 is making what were once organizational tools that filled our classroom and office walls now tools that can follow us anywhere and be at the tip of our fingers when we want access to them. What is even cooler is that these tools are so easy to use your students will be able to utilize them in a matter of minutes and be using them all while learning how to manage, compile, and share information and make connections between abstract ideas and their world.

A couple of free and easy to use virtual cork boards you may want to check out are: (some do require users to create a free account)

  • Spaaze.com -in beta and free for now, basic tool will be free forever
  • Corkboard.me -creates a corkboard page and you share the URL
  • Wallwisher.com -no account necessary
  • Linoit.com -in beta and free for now
  • Stixy.com -a bit more than just a bulletin board
  • Postica.ca -“create, attach, and share” – works with Twitter & iGoogle

Classroom Applications: Students can use these sites individually or to collaborate with others and brainstorm ideas, share information learned through research, plan projects, create project time lines or checklists and so much more. Share your ideas for using these sites in the classroom by sharing a comment.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can find her blog, Higgins Helps, here.

“Victor Beutner House.” Flickr – Nate Hofer. Web. 12 Jan 2011. <http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3582/3503238138_01a4b70971_m.jpg>.

HD Links: Math & Constructivism

Finding the natural overlap between Constructivist teaching and mathematics can often times be a challenge for teachers that are departmentalized and are responsible for teaching just one subject. The nature of math encourages educators to often times focus on the skills and can make it hard to blend the skills together to show how they overlap in real life. The following links might help in creating more authentic learning opportunities where students can use the skills of math in real life applications.

Yummy Math – Focus to supply math teachers with relevant, motivating, and timely mathematics to bring to their classrooms.

Real World Math – Lessons that use Google Earth and collaboration to present math topics, such as rates or scientific notation in unique ways.

Project-based Learning Math Projects – information about PBL and Math including links to PBL resources and lesson ideas.

Scholastic Authentic Math Unit Plans – Ideas to bring the real world into the classroom and create opportunities for students to interact with each other and integrate math into authentic learning situations.

Authentic Activities for Connecting Mathematics to the Real World
– presented at NCTM Regional Conference, Richmond, VA, October 12, 2007 by Leah P. McCoy

These are just a few websites teachers might find helpful when planning inquiry, project or problem-based lessons. If you have additional sites please share them by leaving a comment.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center and writes for her own blog, Higgins Help.

Tuesday’s Tool: My eBook

Create electronic books for free at MyeBook. Their simple and easy to use online tool offers many options for creating original books. You can use one of their templates or start from scratch with blank pages. The tool is so easy to use that an author can simply click on the text tool and start typing to begin.


The online book creator uses drag and drop technology allowing an author to drag items around on pages placing them exactly where they want them even offering the ability to create 2 page spreads. MyeBook includes a Gallery where users can upload their own images or choose from the hundreds of images and backgrounds MyeBooks provide. The gallery also allows users to upload flash items, files, audio clips, and video or embed code to display an online video. Users can drag items from the gallery directly to where they want them on the page or make them the entire background for a page or set of pages. Formatting the book is easy with the formatting toolbar that changes to the tool you need depending on what items you have selected on your page.

MyeBook will save your books to their site and will give you a link directly to it or you can copy and paste the code into your blog or website to display your original creation. To create your free account you must have an email address. The site will allow you to log into multiple locations at one time with one account and work on the projects simultaneously. There is not a printing option for the eBooks

Check out the book I made in a few short minutes. The password is: rocky

Myebook - The Adventures of Rocky - Part 1 - click here to open my ebook

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center and writes for her own blog, Higgins Help.

A Picture Shouldn’t Be Worth a Thousand Minutes

Worth 1000 - 3rd edition
We all know the saying A picture is worth a thousand words and good practice suggests using images to convey a message and evoke feelings when creating materials for learners. It’s another way to grab the learner’s attention and engage them at the same time speaking to different learning styles.

The problem is that copyright free images can take more than a thousand minutes to find. While we know using images is important, eMINTS teachers are challenged to find those they can legally use on published documents. It’s very difficult to find images they and their students can include in websites, WebQuests, and other online content as well as classroom materials. With student’s eyes on them daily, teachers want to model ethical practices and give credit where credit is due to pass that skill on to students.

Take this blog post for example…. I wanted to find an image to drive home my point. It could have taken me longer to find the image than it did for me to create the entire post but I used a couple of strategies and resources to help expedite the process. Some of these strategies may help you on your next search for images.

  1. Brainstorm key words to search and go beyond the obvious to identifying main themes you want to communicate.
  2. Use your own original images. Take pictures with your own camera or scan in images you or your students have created.
  3. Search for images under the Creative Commons license (Flickr offers a quick and easy explanation of that licensing)
  4. Find and use sights for finding photos as well as clip art such as those listed below. Always remember to save the link back to the original image so that you can give credit to the owner.Photos
    Flickr – use advanced search to only search within Creative Commons lisence content
    EduPic
    Pics4Learning
    Wikimedia (how to use wikimedia)
    Clip Art
    Phillip Martin Clip Art
    Microsoft Office Images – not all content is copyright free for online publication, read fine print
    Discovery Schools Clip Art Gallery – read copyright permissions

If you have additional resources or suggestions on this topic please comment and share them with us all. Happy image searching to you; may your searches be short and sweet.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.

Image – “Worth 1000 – 3rd Edition.” Flickr – spcbrass’. Web. 21 Oct 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/spcbrass/4543486633/#/>.

As Easy as Reading an Email – RSS in Outlook 2007

In these times of budget cuts, when teachers are being told there is no $ available for PD, they are beginning to depend on their PLN’s more important than ever. It is amazing how many teachers are reading blogs these days and even more amazing at how many are just now learning about the opportunities out there to learn from a global PLN.

Made in Wordle

At one of the last meetings with our training cohort, we talked about “what are” and “how to build PLN’s” (professional/personal learning networks). I shared how following blogs from other educators/experts in the field using Google Reader to subscribe to those blogs, can put them in charge of building their own capacities as eMINTS teachers. Google Reader is a great RSS aggregator but for those that forget to go to Google Reader another tool may work better…that would be your trusty Microsoft Outlook 2007……

If you haven’t notice (or didn’t know what it was) a folder called “RSS Feeds” with the little orange RSS image on top, can be found under your “Inbox” folder in Outlook 2007. It probably has a plus sign next to it and if you select it you will see an explanation on the right of what RSS is and how it can be of use to you. If you click the plus to the left of the folder you might notice it already has some subscriptions set up for you to some Microsoft Blogs. To see how to set up your own subscriptions check out this video from The Ideal Consultant and in 3 minutes he will get your RSS folder up and running and keeping you up-to-date with the newest content on the web. Now checking your blogs will be as simple as checking your email.

RSS Feeds in Microsoft Outlook (YouTube Video)

Be warned – the drawback to using Outlook is that when you don’t have access to your email you will also not have access to your blog subscriptions so decide what the best tool for you is and get started.

Some blogs we suggest you follow:
The Cool Cat Teacher Blog – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/
The Clever Sheep – http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/
Teachers Love SMART Boards – http://www.teacherslovesmartboards.com/
Weblogg-ed – http://weblogg-ed.com/
Suppl_eMINTS – http://supplemint.edublogs.org/

*for those using Google Reader and are loving it, they offer a Google Reader Help Page just for you with tips on getting started to formatting your reader and everything in between.

We would love to know what blogs you follow so leave a comment 🙂 and let us know.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.

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Videos to Inspiring Inquiry-based Learning

Passing on a GREAT resource to inspire IBL lessons – The Futures Channel is a “must see” site. They offer short movies about real world jobs/topics in the STEM/METS areas all relating to careers students may someday have when they are grown up. It may also introduce kids to careers they didn’t even know existed. The coolest thing is that many of the videos have lesson plans (sometimes multiple plans for different focuses or ages) to go along with them.

Each week, The Futures Channel highlights a handful of movies and makes them available for the public where all of their resources can be viewed at any time with a subscription or purchasing CD’s full of TFC movies.

Many of the lesson plans are for older students (7-12) and they are not inquiry-based, but they are there to do what you want with them and make them fit what you need to teach. Teachers I have worked with in the past have used them as inspiration for Inquiry-based lessons or just used the videos as resources for lessons they were writing. Enjoy…. and if you really like the site, you can sign up to have their weekly newsletter sent directly to your email inbox or add the site to your Google Reader.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.

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Thinkfinity – Funny Word, Awesome Resource

If you haven’t checked out the Thinkfinity site yet, it is a must. Great resources, ideas, and more for teachers that use technology in the classroom. When I was browsing earlier last month, I stumbled across their “Back to School” ideas and they have a section called Building a Classroom Community where they share ideas on how to build your classroom community like this poetry unit with already created teacher lesson plans. Love it when I find resources that align with the eMINTS Instructional Model so well.

Being highly resourceful teachers, if you are interested in getting Thinkfinity’s newsletter with MANY more resources than above, all you have to do is sign up. You can also subscribe to their RSS feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Originally posted on the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.

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Really??? Wordle is an Instructional Tool?

“Brooke,” you say, “how can I use Wordle in my classroom. The pictures are so neat, and my kids really like them, but I really don’t know how I might use it as an instructional tool???” Boy….do I have some resources for you!!!

First off, Wordle is not the only word cloud generator out there. Sometimes sites are blocked 🙁 in some schools and you may not have access to Wordle.net so you may want to try WordSift, VocabGrabber, ABCya!, or Tagul the next time you want your students to create word clouds. What sets them apart are the ease of use and customization options each site offers. Play around with the different word cloud online tools to see which might be the best one for you and your class.

If you need some help on how to use Wordle and other word cloud generators, or need some ideas on how you might use them during lessons, check out Peter Pappas’ blog post “Building Literacy Skills with Wordle” where he not only gives step by step instructions on using the site but also ideas for application such as defining skills, summarizing skills, and comparison skills.

The collaboration Google document which today is called “47 Interesting Ways to Use Wordle” has been created by educators for educators and was started by Tom Barrett. It’s an excellent source of implementation strategies for classroom use of word clouds. The coolest part…if you come up with a different use, you can add it to the Google Doc and share it with tons of teachers that visit that site daily and then you will be part of their PLN.

And for a little fun and learning – check out Guess the Wordle daily (M-F). Students will need to use their deciphering skills to figure out the topic for the Wordle each day. Today’s GTW is a great one for Missouri students.

Not sure what a Wordle word cloud is….take a look at the header and the PLN image in the previous post.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.
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