Tuesday’s Tool: Classroom Architect

As the year winds down, many teachers are already thinking about next year and planning the space their new community will fill. They may be moving to a new classroom, getting an eMINTS classroom, or just looking into creating a new feel in their current classroom. Classroom Architect might be the tool to help create a new classroom environment.

The Classroom Architect tool from 4Teachers.org offers a simple interface to help teachers create an online floor plan of their classroom.  Before beginning, measure the room and take inventory of the items you would like to arrange. Then visit the Classroom Architect site, plug in the dimensions, and start dragging and dropping items on the grid. Additional items and labels can be added using the draw feature.  When it’s finished, print the diagram and start moving furniture.

Get students in on the planning and teach measurement, map scale, grids, along with 21st Century Skills in Learning and Innovation or Life and Career Skills areas, and technology standards such as having students use technology tools to use critical thinking skills to solve problems and make informed decisions.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog. A big “thank you” goes out to Diane McCormack, a PD4ETS Graduate and Instructional Technology Facilitator with the Affton Public Schools, for sharing this great resource.

Tuesday’s Tool: LiveBinder

livebinderLooking for a place to store and share resources with your students? LiveBinder might be the perfect Web 2.0 tool for you. LiveBinder is an online web resource that will help you organize online content, documents, pdf files, videos, images, and more. In 3 easy steps you can collect your resources, categorize and organize them to share them with your learners so that they can easily be used during your lessons. Students could even use LiveBinders to showcase their learning in projects they create.

To make your first LiveBinder create a free account and click the “Start a Binder” button. Begin adding links while you browse the web. LiveBinder makes it even more easy by having a Bookmarklet tool. After adding the button to your favorites toolbar all you have to do is click the “Live Binder It” button to add links to your binder. Learn how to use it by watching the How-To video.

There are a variety of ways to use LiveBinders. You can use it as a teaching tool, a student end product, or a way to share resources with your colleagues. The Evidence of Learning 2.0 LiveBinder by mikefisher821  is a jumping off point to software and web apps that teachers can use to facilitate authentic learning experiences. The Sample 6th Grade Book Report by Guru  was created to show how you might have students use LiveBinder as part of a classroom lesson.

What might be some ways you are thinking about using LiveBinders in your classroom?

Carmen Marty & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists.

Thursday’s Tip: Helping Students Learn Through Reflection

River reflection day

As teachers, we value the time for reflection, but how do we teach our students the value of reflection?   Each day our classroom is filled with learning experiences.  Our students need time to reflect on their work as an individual and as a group.  This reflection will help them transfer life skills beyond the walls of the classroom.

There are many ways we can help students reflect.  One way to promote deep reflection is in the questions we ask.  Here is a list of tips to help create reflective questions:

  • Begin your questions with a positive presupposition-As you reflect, when you planned your project etc.  These stems presume that as a learner is reflective, did plan etc.
  • Use tentative language to open up thinking-How might, What are some things etc.  Tentative language makes the questions less threatening. Tentative language lets students know there is more than one correct answer.
  • Use verbs that access high cognitive process levels-As you compare this experience to a past one,  If you were the audience member, (another perspective) Asking questions from the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy gives students opportunities to process, think, and create deep answer.
  • Ask question with intention to explore thinking or specify thinking

Students love to be published and often times are more motivated when using electronic tools for reflection.  Here is a short list of tools you might use to assist students with reflecting:

Carmen Marty, Terri Brines, & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists and Cognitive Coaching/eMINTS Agency Trainers. For more information about Cognitive Coaching and related seminars visit the eMINTS National Center events page.

Tanakawho (Photographer). (2007). River Reflection Day. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/2112377904/

Tuesday’s Tool: Create Quick and Easy Visual Organizers

Popplet is a Web 2.0 tool for creating graphic/visual organizers with a simple, easy to use platform. Popplet allows users to explore ideas, create galleries, record thoughts, collect inspiration, collaborate together, and present it all to the world.

Popplet creators boast that their tool will allow users to sort, discuss, share, visualize, mash-up, plan, remix, express, create, decide, and so much more. The tool is so simple that you won’t need to teach your students how to use it before you start your lesson; they can jump right in and figure it out as they begin to create their first organizer. Each click gives basic instructions to support users as they work.

In addition to using Popplet on the web, it is available for the iPad in a full version with all the website features for only $4.99 or a free light version with many of the same features. For those of you thinking about how you might use an iPad in your classroom, check out how the full version of Popplet works and see if it might be an app for your students.

As you continue to plan authentic, student centered lessons that will engage your kids as they collaborate and learn from each other, how might you use this Web 2.0 tool to support their thinking?

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

HD_Links: Free Tools

For this weeks list of helpful links, we’ll keep it simple. Here are five links to tools or list of tools that won’t cost you or your district a cent.

Get a head start on creating your Web 2.0 Toolkit this summer with Larry Ferlazzo’s list of “The Best Collections Of Web 2.0 Tools For Education.” Instead of your typical list of tools, this is sort of a list of lists of Web 2.0 tools for your classroom. This link alone will provide you enough work for the summer.

Do you want to have your students blog without going through the process of setting up a blog site and assigning logins? Try Instablogg, a free blogging tool that simply allows users to publish one post at a time without having to set up an entire blog. Each post is given a unique URL for sharing.

Ayushveda Web has provided a nice list of six online diagram tools for creating graphic organizers or your very own infographics.

Issuu is an online magazine publishing service that anyone can use. As far as classroom application, it seems it would be a great tool for a large interdisciplinary project or even a portfolio. Watch the video and see what you think.

Finally, every 21st century classroom needs an image editing program, but software like Photoshop or Fireworks can be expensive. Luckily, there are plenty of great, free alternative out there. Check Web Design Booth‘s list of Photoshop alternatives here.

As you can see, there is no shortage of free and effective tools online. It’s just a matter of hunting them down and spending time learning how to use them. I guess that’s what summers are for. ;)

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

4ALL: Feeling Overwhelmed 2.0

As an eMINTS Instructional Specialist, I spend a lot of time surfing the internet and monitoring social media outlets for the newest and latest Web 2.0 tools tom implement in the classroom. For me, this can become overwhelming and I’m not even in a classroom. It seems there is a new tool created every day with applications that can affect classroom instruction, but how do we choose the most effective ones? How can we find time to master all these tools?

Frank Pileiro over at Tech & Learning suggests steps for developing your own Web 2.0 Toolkit. To vision that overwhelming feeling so many Web 2.0 tools give us, he uses the following metaphor:

When you look at all of these new Web 2.0 technology offerings, making a choice can be like drinking water from a fire hose. I mean before you know it, if you lose your focus, you are signed up for a large number of sites that you find out you don’t have any time to master or really integrate into your curriculum. The best advice that I can give is to take a deep breath and do your homework while developing your own Web 2.0 “Tool Kit.” By doing this you can develop skills and lessons based around your tool kit and then grow them from there. It’s very tempting to want to try all of the new things that you come across, but you need to explore them and make a decision as to whether that will work for you or not. Don’t try to “drink” them all in, take small “sips.”

Check out his complete list of tips here.

Still, even with a process to help you sort out all these Web 2.0 tools, the end of the school year is overwhelming on its own. Maybe it’s okay to put developing your Web 2.0 toolkit off until the summer. Many Web 2.0 tools take time and the summer might be able to provide that time you’ll need for such work.

So, make a point this summer to develop your Web 2.0 toolkit in preparation for another great year next fall.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

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>.