Final Reflections – Thing 10

I have loved this learning experience.  I have investigated and experimented with so manyinternet_research different things.  My feed reader will continue giving me so many new ideas to explore.  Many of the sites I am following are about technology in education.  I used to comb the internet for new ideas now they come to me automatically.  My students are now blogging and I have improved the research section of my web site for my students with new search engines.

I am looking forward to using and  Google for Education with my students.  I realize that to fully utilize the benefits of Google will require more time, training and investigation on my part but I am excited.  I also plan to complete the following things before they disappear from view:

  • thing 8 – screen casting
  • thing 11 – coding
  • thing 16 – digital citizenship
  • thing 28 – emerging tech
  • thing 39 – news literacy

I think of myself as a lifelong learner and this has just been one part of a continuous journey.  Thank you and kudos to Polly Farrington for providing all these wonderful resources!

Student Assessment Tools – Thing 29

child-and-schoolStudent assessment seems to be a hot topic these days.  There are many ways we can do formative and summative assessments so I decided to check out a few of them.  Currently I use a student response system with my Smart Board.  My students love it when we have and Senteo (Smart Technology’s name for their clickers) test.  The part they like best is the quick feedback.  As soon as the students are all finished I click a button and the test is scored telling the students which questions they got right or wrong.  We then go over the test and discuss the answers.  My more cautious students like this because they can raise their hands for to answer questions the clicker tells them they got right.  They participate with confidence.  I love the system because it corrects and scores my assessment, does an item analysis, and records the individual answers for each student.  The system was expensive, though, and a couple of the clickers have a button or 2 that has lost its sensitivity.  I don’t see them replacing the clickers down the road because there are so many other less expensive options out there.

Socrative is a web based assessment tool that has a few different feedback options.  I liked the quiz feature as well as the quick question especially since you have a choice between multiple choice, true/false and short answers.  For the quiz I wish I could import quizes I have already made in Microsoft Word the way I can with my student response clickers, but no such luck.  Therefore, I would have to retype into Socrative all the quizes I have already created. Oh well.  I can definitely see myself using the built in exit ticket.  I think it would be a quick and easy way to gather info.  Tapping into the students love of games can easily be done with the space race game.  I usually set up teams myself for games in class but it is nice to also have the random assignment feature.  The students would certainly get a charge out of playing the game.

Answer Garden is a quick assessment tool.  It was a cross between a tweet and a word cloud.  I could see using it as an exit ticket, for brainstorming, and to take a survey on a topic.  My students love to make word clouds on so I know they’d like how the responses are displayed in a word cloud.

I love and so would my students.  The idea of turning the assessment into a game is something the kids would love.  My students would have to use laptops rather than mobile devices.  I played a short game with a few other teachers the other day and we all got into the competitive spirit of it.  I could see how it would work well with a wide range of ages. Plickers is a similar idea if you do not have access to devices for your students, but it seems rather cumbersome otherwise.

I can’t imagine using Google Forms for an assessment without the add-on Flubaroo.  It seems like it should have been built into Google forms in the beginning!  It seems with Flubaroo it would be similar to using the student response system I mentioned above at least from the teacher’s perspective since it would grade the assessment at the click of a button.





Search Tools – Thing 9

I wanted to explore the search tools because my students will almost always go directly to Google unless I direct them otherwise.  Many of them often end up plagiarizing  because they end up on sites that are too difficult for them to truly understand (or simply because they are looking for the easy way out).  I find that if I give them a preselected list of sites that I have bookmarked they are much more successful with their research.  Giving them the sites means they are not learning to independently find suitable sites.  When I have them use our databases they often need or want to go beyond them to complete a project.

jeune-femme-poste-de-travailI liked the idea of search engines whose sites have been evaluated for student use so I am pretty confident they will view acceptable content.   I liked KidRex a lot because the search results emphasized kid related pages.   I also liked Sweet Search.   Because I teach 5th and 6th grade many of the search results were written above my weaker students’ reading levels.  When I added “for kids” to the end of my search it did help narrow down the results to their level.  I added both search engines to my website research page.

I liked the credibility of the search results from refseek. Students often struggle with determining the credibility of  a source.  Unlike Google the first result was not Wikipedia. Hooray!  The search engine Million Short surprised me.  I found useful sites that had not popped up in Google or Bing.

I was fascinated by InstaGrok.  I could easily see how it would appeal to students.  I played with it for about 2 hours.  Although I liked it, the site was less intuitive then I expected.  For example, I took notes on a source and could find them nowhere afterwards.  It was frustrating to lose my work. I could not figure out how to get an image to paste into the journal.  I tried using both Safari and Firefox with no luck.  I could see the site frustrating students.  Unless I can get a good handle on how the site works I can’t see spending the $45.

Carrot Search had the clustering feature of InstaGrok but it could be orgainzed 3 ways. I like how the clustering would help students sift through their search results.  I preferred the folders rather than the circles myself although I could see students being drawn to the circles.  I did not care for the foam tree at all because I found it overwhelming.  When I used the web tab it worked fine but I got a lot of error messages on the other tabs.

I have recently been learning about meta data and liked the search engine BASE because it included metadata in its search.  It was a great site for me but well above my students.  I could see it being used by high school and college students for research.

I spent many hours exploring this topic and comparing the different search engines.  I’m a research junkie so it was right up my alley.  I will certainly be many of theses search engines in the future.


Making Connections – Bonus!

internet_note_takingI love hearing and seeing what other educators do.  I am constantly reading others blogs and sites and saving ideas or forwarding them, but I never comment.   I’ve looked at many of the blogs that participants have done this winter and it has often inspired me to look further into the topic. This topic is forcing me to to take a more active role within the online community.  I tried commenting on a few sights by signing in with my WordPress account with no luck.  I switched to my Google account and was finally successful.  I still haven’t figured out what the problem was.

I viewed  Library Crazy, and thought she had some good insights.  I liked the entry about Mapping and Geolocation because I had done that topic too.  I like hearing how others use the same tools.    Bri’s Cool Tools Blog was interesting and I especially took note of her curation tools entry.  The Infographics info on Tech For Your Classroom gave me a quick insight into the topic without doing the whole thing.  I did play with but I haven’t decided whether I will pursue  the topic further.  I checked out Teaching and Learning in a High School Library and I think I would like to try Adobe Slate with my students.

I am sure I will continue to scour the internet for new and innovative ideas for my classroom.  I don’t know that I have converted to commenting on everything I see, but maybe by occasionally sharing my thoughts I will develop a more useful and satisfying network.

Reading Levels and TTS – Thing 7 DIY

I often give my students assignments to read for class.  They are grade level appropriate.  The problem is not all of my students read on grade level.  This is nothing new and has always a problem for teachers.  Many times I resort to rewriting the assignment myself but it is a time consuming task.  With all that is a available on the internet I decided to investigate technology that would make assignments accessible to all of my students.

I discovered and liked how I could paste in a text and rewordify would make the text easier to read.  I could then print it out and give it to students as an alternate text.  It would make differentiation easier.  I found I needed to read through and edit the rewordified document, though, since it sometimes created awkward phrasing  in its attempt to make the passage more accessible.  In addition, it had a vocabulary teaching component that could be used directly related to the text.  I also liked how you could put a website in the text pane then it would take you to to the website and reword it.  It continued to each page of the site as well as links to other sites I clicked as I read.  I could certainly see this being helpful to students as they do research.  Too often they end up on sites that are written above their reading level.

One of the sites I already use is Reading A-Z as a source for content area reading.  I can assign a book and if it is above a student’s reading level it has an audio component so the book can be used by all of my students.  It is a subscription service and has a limited number of books so I started searching for text to speech services offered for free.  I found a few online with NaturalReader being the best of the bunch since it would read a variety of different types of documents.  The sample pane and reader worked well and reviews online sounded promising.  I ran into a problem when my Mac’s system wasn’t up to date enough to download the software.  I will try it on my school computer but will need a tech administrator to approve and download it.  If it works like I anticipate I will then need the administrator to download it onto student computers on our laptop carts.  It may take a while before it is up and running.  In the meantime I can at least use to assess the reading level of web pages.  It used a variety of readability formulas to obtain an average grade equivalent.

Because I do end up rewriting assignments and passages I found a helpful tool built right into Microsoft word in my search.  After writing a document one can use the spelling and grammar check tool to also analyze the document and give a Flesch readability score and a Flesch-Kincaid grade level equivalent.  I had no idea that was built into Word!  To set it up click options when in the spelling and grammar check then click show readability statistics (make sure it also has grammar with spelling checked).  The statistics will show after the spelling and grammar check is complete. The document can also be pasted into Online Utility to be analyzed.  In addition to giving readability scores, it also gives suggestions on what to change in a document to improve the readability.

None of these tools by itself is the answer but each one can be used to make differentiation and accessibility easier in the classroom.

Collaboration & Sharing – Thing 12

school_it_trioI was excited to start this topic.  With all of the shifts towards project based learning, inquiry projects, and collaboration between students this topic is great.  I did run into a problem because my school does not use Google Docs and my students do not have email.  It has been limiting my options and continued to do so as I checked out the ideas on the topic.  I did find a few things I am excited to use.

I loved TitanPad!  I can’t wait to use it with my students this week.  I think they will love it.  I like that they do not have to have an email to log on to it.  I think it would work great for responding to a reading when doing differentiated levels in class.  Each group could have a different pad to be sharing responses.  I think students that don’t participate as much will be lured in by the multi-colored response pad.  Technology always seems to excite even the most reluctant learner.

I found Popplet to be very engaging for elementary students.  I plan to use it on the SmartBoard to collaborate together to make popplets.  They can be used for a reading response, to categorize information and to reflect after a lesson.  I am hoping to get accounts for my students next year so they can make their own popplets.

I was intrigued by Stormboard.  I thought it would be great for students to respond to a topic or reading, especially if they needed to categorize their answers or thoughts.  After investigating and playing with it I established an educator account.  I then discovered that for my students to participate in my storm they had to establish an account using – you guessed it – an email address! How frustrating! Oh well.

Mapping Tools – Thing 21

landforms_2When going through the Google Maps links I had that aha moment when I went “duh… I can’t believe I never thought of that.”  I could use street view as a virtual field trip in my classroom!  We used street view the next day in my 5th grade social studies class to explore Chichen Itza as we wrapped up our Mayan unit.  The students loved exploring on their own and were excitedly showing each other things they saw and relating it to what we had learned.  As we do other units I plan to have the students explore historical sites with street view.  They can also see how things have changed over time by looking at street views of modern cities where ancient cultures were located.

I loved the site Infinity of Nations.  I want my students to explore as we end our Aztec unit.  It will be a great review of that Native American cultures we’ve studies as well as an intro to the Incas.  I loved the map component that was part of the site.

I love the site.  I plan to use some of the timelines that have already been created to share information in a different way with my students.  The combination of narratives, timelines and maps is wonderful.  Eventually I would like to use it for students to do digital storytelling about a culture.  Since the students need to be 13 and have an email to have an account I can’t use it directly.  My students would have to use the Edmodo plugin.  I do not currently use Edmodo with my classes so we will have to learn that platform first.   I am excited to get started.  Collaborating with my librarian for this type of project would work really well.  I think the students might also benefit from working with partners or in groups to begin with.  The possibilities are exciting.