Friday, March 16, 2018

Digital Reading Websites for Accessibility and Engagement

Common Sense Education is a nonprofit organization with a focus on providing educators, parents, and students with trustworthy information and reliable resources.  Each month, they send out a newsletter to educators highlighting valuable resources (you can use the link above to sign up if you are interested).  This month's newsletter featured a list called the Best Digital Reading Apps and Websites.  Here are my three favorites (and they are all free):

NowComment is a website that allows for engaging discussions of online documents.  Discussion can be tied to specific parts of the document, giving the teacher insight on what students are understanding and where confusion still exists.  Discussion window appears next to the text.  Teachers can sort comments in a variety of ways making it easy to gauge participation.

Rewordify is a text-leveling tool.  Simply paste your text or web address in the box provided and Rewordify will create an easier version making the text accessible to students of various reading levels.

CommonLit offers a collection of short stories, poems, and historical documents at various reading levels.  Teachers have access to lessons plans complete with reading passages and comprehension question sets that can be assigned to students either digitally or through printed text.  Struggling students can use support tools such as the ability to translate words into other languages, hearing text read aloud, and using a Guided Reading Mode with leveled questions.  Already using Google Classroom?  You can import your class for easy setup.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Multimedia Text Sets - Explore, Explain, Apply & Reflect

Conferences always get me excited about new ideas and technology that is being used to engage and help students grow their minds.  Attending several sessions led by Lisa Highfill (co-author of The HyperDoc Handbook) did just that!   I attended a HyperDoc sessions using Google Maps and another one on Multimedia Text Sets.  Both sessions focused on helping students not only to explore and create but Multimedia Text Sets are being used to help students synthesize information, develop an opinion and back it up with evidence.  I was also able to take with me with some great resources to create my own.

As with any hyperdoc or multimedia text set, you will need to make your own copy and then create some of the links so they go to your Google Document, Answer Garden, Seesaw, Padlet, or whatever you have created to gather ideas, questions, answers, etc.  You will also need to change the sharing on them to make them available for students.  All the resources also need to be viewable by students so talk to your friendly ITRT  to see how the youtube videos are viewable by students at school.  All other links were viewable by students at the time of their creation but of course that can always change so check them frequently.

Below are links to help you create your own and one that I have created for the End of the Year Fun focusing on Amusement Parks and Being Kind.

Resource from Lisa Highfill on HyperDoc your Maps with Placed-Based Storytelling
Resource from Lisa Highfill on Multimedia Text Sets
(there are notes and comments, which are very helpful)

End of Year Fun Gr K-3
End of Year Fun Gr 4-6
End of Year Fun Gr 7-12

If you have any questions, please ask your friendly ITRT for help.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Breakout EDU Follow-up

In January, Stacey showcased Breakout EDU.

I have enjoyed facilitating breakouts in all the classrooms at Smithland. Our students have enjoyed solving the secret codes. One student mentioned it would be fun to do Morse code and have lights, all of you Stranger Things fans know what he was talking about!

While none of us have the time to do anything that elaborate, I have set up the Symbaloo pictured above with links to some resources you can use to create your own or modify the activities from Breakout EDU. You can always start small by creating a code for your students related to a current unit of study and use the invisible ink pen on their code sheet to supply the information needed to get them into a box with one lock. Your ITRT can help you gather the items you would need.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Science of the Winter Olympics

Does anybody know if there are any local amateur Curling teams or clubs?  I just can't get enough of watching Curling during the Olympics, and I feel like it might just be the sport I've been waiting for my whole life!  To be honest, I can't get enough of the Winter Olympics in general.  The speed involved in ski jumping, the artistry and athleticism involved in figure skating, the sheer courage involved in Skeleton!  I just love it all!

Before you give up because you think this is just a post about my personal obsession with the olympics, stay close, because there is a ton of science involved in these games!  In fact, NBC along with the NSF has an entire series about the Science of the Winter Olympics.  There are cool educational videos about things like the speed of the Bobsled, the physics of Alpine Skiing, and of course my personal favorite, friction and Curling!

And it's not just videos, there are instructional activities that go along each video.  Check out the tab on the right side of the video to see the activities.

Check out all the videos, (especially the Curling) here:


Monday, February 12, 2018

Exploring Extensions

Our play of the week this week is all about extensions. Extensions modify the way that you use google chrome and can help personalize your browsing experience. There are thousands and thousands of chrome extensions that can be found in the Chrome Web Store. Below are a few that other teachers have highlighted that you might want to check out.

Mercury Reader simplifies webpages for both reading and printing. Extra photos and ads are removed so there is just clean text on a page. This extension also allows you to adjust the contrast as well as font size of the page.
Before Mercury Reader
After Mercury Reader

If you use Pocket, Evernote or Google Keep there are extensions for each of them to help save web pages and articles that you want to use later on. Both Evernote and Google Keep were featured in previous plays of the week. Click the links to learn more about both of these great tools.

This extension works exactly as advertised. Save photos and articles from the web directly to your google drive when this extension is enabled.

Using QR codes in your classroom? When you find a website you want to make a qr code for, you could copy and paste the link into a qr code generator...or you could use this extension. While viewing a page you can click the QR Code Extension and a qr code will appear on your screen. You can edit the qr code, another device could scan the code or you could screen grab the image to insert it into a document to be printed.

If you’ve ever shown a YouTube video in class you know that sometimes the ads and other videos can be distracting or inappropriate. When the ad blocker for YouTube extension is enabled you only see the video.

If you find yourself with lots and lots of tabs open all the time this extension might become your favorite. It condenses all your tabs into a nice list on one tab. You can open the tabs individually as you need them or open them all back up at once.

Multiple tabs across the top of your browser.

Now all the tabs are in one place!

As you find yourself downloading and using extensions you might notice that your toolbar is getting a little crowded. It is also possible that your browsing experience could slow down from having too many extensions running. Extensity allows you to quickly enable and disable your extensions.

Now that you have your extensions where do you find them?

Your extensions can be found and managed in the chrome menu found by clicking on the three dots to the right of the address bar, then more tools, then extensions. From there you can see all the extensions that you currently have installed and manage them. You can also click “get more extensions” at the bottom of the page to continue to customize your chrome experience. Be aware that teachers can add extensions but students cannot. It is also a good idea to read the reviews and permissions for an extension before adding one.

What extensions are you using? Do you think any would be worth highlighting in a future play of the week? Let us know!

If you need help utilizing any of the extensions mentioned here just ask your ITRT for assistance!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Nearpod: a Powerhouse of Teacher Tools!

Nearpod = All-in-One Platform

  • an interactive presentation tool
  • a collaboration tool 
  • an assessment tool 

Want to deliver content, sprinkle some collaborative activities and quick comprehension checks throughout and maybe even finish with a formal assessment WITHOUT having to run 3 or 4 different tools simultaneously?  Nearpod can do it.  

Teachers love the instant engagement of all students and the control it provides. When the teacher launches a lesson on Nearpod, students connect using a code. At that point, the teacher is in control of what is displayed on the students’ screens and the pace of the lesson. There are ready-made lessons (some free, some not) that span a wide range of grade levels and subjects, including some lessons that are more focused on soft skills like creative thinking and communication. Here are a few examples of free offerings:       

You can create your own Nearpod lessons as well, adding content and/or activities that will suit the needs of your students. In terms of content you can add slides (maybe from a powerpoint or Google Slide presentation you already have), cool 3D images, PHET simulations, SWAYs (interactive canvases that scrolls like a webpage) and slideshows.  

For activities, there are open-ended questions, polls, quizzes, drawing boards and collaboration screens that allow students to put post-it notes of their ideas on a collective bulletin board. All of this is free! Of course, there are several other features available if you upgrade and become a paying subscriber.

Head over to Nearpod to check out this powerhouse platform!  And remember, anything new can seem overwhelming at first. Just ask your ITRT for help!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Add a Little SPARK to Ideas and Stories

Have you seen Adobe Spark? It's a free website where you and your students can create some beautiful visual stories. You can make a graphic, a page ( doesn't have to be made public), or a video story.  It's very simple for students to use and create some amazing products. 

Spark Page

HERE is an example of Spark Page ( webpage but does not need to be published). Spark Page has amazing photos to choose from or you can add your own. It has something called Glidepage that moves the text, photos, and videos as you navigate the page. It has beautiful, but simple to use layouts. This would be a wonderful way for students to create something about a topic they have researched. 

Spark Post

HERE is an example of Spark Post (graphics). Spark Post is a simple way to add an image with text. Students can easily make beautifully designed images. This would be a great tool for students to make digital citizenship posters. 

Spark Video

HERE is an example of Spark Video ( video stories). Spark video is a wonderful way for students to make professional looking videos. They add their own video clips and Spark Video had free songs and themes to make the video look amazing. Students can create a video portfolio or make a how to video to show off a recipe, STEAM project, or something they have learned how to do. 

In order to use this site with a student under 13 years of age, a teacher does need to create an Adobe account with their own email and the students need to use that account to log in and be working under the supervision of the teacher.

Attached is Adobe Spark EDU guide. HERE is the link to a page specifically for educators. If you'd like to brainstorm some ideas for using this in the classroom or would like some support in using this with your students, see your friendly ITRT.