Oh the Possibilities!

Be intentional about making time to learn

~George Couros, Innovate Inside the Box
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I am regularly blown away by the sheer volume of information, resources, and opportunities for learning (our own and our students) there are out there. I am continually learning about new resources and tools each week and while it takes time to read, watch, listen, comb through them all, it is time I find worthwhile and purposeful. This week I will share a few with you.

Earlier this week one of my colleagues, a Pre-K teacher, and I took time outside of our learning day (we are empty nesters so we can do this) to participate in an edweb webinar, “Creating Fun AND Instructive Learning Centers”. The big takeaways for me were the importance of making the learning accessible and equitable for all students, the learning centers need to align with the topic, they need to be intentionally created, teachers need to help guide the conversations with the students at the centers, and follow-up activities to do or discuss at home is a way to bridge the home-school connection.

The biggest takeaways, though were the additional resources for continued learning. First, is the edweb community of educators and the calendar of FREE webinars and resources. Three of the things that makes edweb such a great resource are the different professional learning communities for educators (there are close to 100) to join and learn with and from (for free), the webinars that happen everyday at varying times throughout the school day (and just after), and the continuing education certificates you can get for your participation. Second is the PBS teacherline professional development opportunities. PBS teacherline offers online, facilitated courses for graduate credits searchable by grade level, subject, and hours; and self-paced courses searchable by subject that are 1 1/2 – 3 hour commitments in total and are available to you for one year from the time of purchase ($49/course).

Curiosity drives the acquisition of knowledge

~Amanda Lang

If the above quote is true, how do we promote inquiry and curiosity in our classrooms? When Couros posed a similar same question in the Innovate Inside the Box Facebook group, among the many responses was one from a teacher who shared that she uses the QFT technique with her students. Since I had never heard of the QFT technique, I went to find out. I will leave you with a bit of curiosity and let you follow up on the questions you must have. If you want to go even further than that, then this may be what you are looking for.

Speak Up!

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Want to listen to this as a podcast? Click here. Want to listen to Part 1 and Part 2? Click here.

This is Part 2 in my podcast series. Part 1, Listen Up! is all about finding podcasts to listen to with your students, your own children, yourself. This post is about creating your own podcast and how you can easily do this with your class. As I said in my last post, this all came about because a few of my colleagues were curious about and interested in finding and then potentially creating podcasts with their students. I remembered reading this from Richard Byrne, Practical EdTech. In his post, he shared some tools for creating podcasts and included Synth and Anchor along with short tutorials for getting started with each. This post focuses on using Synth.

Being the curious person I am, as well as one who likes to be helpful (part of the high quality connections I like to forge), I continued to look around. Here are some other things I found (please note that the articles are in Medium. You may need to use your Google/Twitter/email account to read them if you read a lot from Medium):

First is Seven Ways to Use Synth (a podcasting app) with K12 Students including Setting up a Class Podcast and Student Accounts

This links to the Synth for Educators portion of their website and has information for students, and teachers including how to use Synth on a session-only basis without using an email to log in so that even your youngest users can become broadcast journalists.

This is the “explore” page from Synth. It has numerous podcasts you can listen to with your students as well as some things that might inspire you to do in your own classroom.

You can use Synth both as an app on your smart phone or tablet as well as through the web-based option. I used the web-based option and it was really easy to do. Each is 256 seconds and you can link them together into one.

For more reading about how educators are using Synth in their classrooms, you can check out the Synth Educator Blog Series where teachers share how they got started with creating podcasts in their middle school classroom.

Part 1

Part 2: Podcasting through Pictures with Creative Writing

Part 3: “We Sources”: Collaborative Research Threading . . .

Part 4 is mainly how teachers can share amongst each other but I am including the link because this may be a great way to highlight the great things the people you work with everyday are doing.

Listen Up!

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If you would like to listen to this as a podcast, click here.

I love when people ask me about something and then I am able to do targeted searches for resources. I was recently asked by two different colleagues about podcasts- those their students can listen to and those they can create themselves. In no time was I off and running to find them helpful resources.

For listening

In one of my recent posts, Much Ado About Everything, I had shared Six-Minute Stories from KidsListen, a platform for podcasts for children. When my colleague asked me to find podcasts for her middle school students, I found this list of 18 Best Podcasts for Kids in Elementary, Middle, and High School from We Are Teachers. This list is broken down by school division and includes podcasts relating to the English language, Science, History, stories, debates, and more. Freakonomics Radio, The Allusionist, and Stuff You Missed in History Class are just three on the list for middle school; Brains On, Tumble, and Short and Curly for elementary school; and Serial, This American Life, and Youth Radio for high school students (plus 9 morel).

Common Sense Education put out their list of 16 Great Learning Podcasts for the Classroom from your youngest Pre-K students through your 12th grade seniors in high school. While there is some overlap between this list and the one above, Common Sense includes on their list Story Corps (oral histories and lesson plans), Smash Boom, Best (debates), and Circle Round (folktales from around the world), and others.

My colleague Mark shared 15-Minute History, a podcast for students, teachers, and history buffs brought to us by the University of Texas at Austin. Each podcast includes the transcript, great for those who need to see the words while they are listening, or those who just want to read and not listen- something for different learners. You can filter podcasts by US History by Time Period, Texas History, World History by Region, or World History by Time Period (and then continue to filter from there). After a quick look through the 18th Century/American Revolution time period, I found this one, “The Royal Proclamation of 1763” (which if you don’t know what that is, take a peek at one of the Revolutionary War Adobe Spark videos our fourth grade students made last year and see).

Speaking of the American Revolution, I found this one, American Revolution Podcast: A Chronological Journey Through the Revolutionary War by chance. This is like finding a $20 bill in your pocket when you didn’t know it was there. Along with the podcasts are a whole host of links for more information, a list of free books, and of course, a link to additional podcasts.

For the adults in the room, I came across Teachers on Fire, a one-year old, 100-episode strong podcast that features educators who are leading and transforming K-12 education in the way that Entrepreneurs on Fire features entrepreneurs who are setting the world on fire with their ideas.

There are so many more, this is not even the tip of the iceberg. But, it is a good start to adding some podcast listening to your classroom repertoire.

Much Ado About Everything and Then Some

Last week I shared my post, Much Ado About Everything that included information about all the new features of Flipgrid. As I was going through some flagged emails, I came across this video tutorial by Richard Byrne (aka Free Tech 4 Teachers/Practical Edtech) where Byrne reviews the whiteboard and drawing features from teacher and student views as well as how to create a grid and download student response QR codes (which would make your walls come alive). As if that were not enough, Matt Miller posted 20 Activities to Bloom (think Taxonomy) with Flipgrid’s new features where he shares different ways you and your students can use these features. Of course the Flipgrid blog has their amazing resources including their Innovation Station with their age and subject-specific integration docs.

So, whether you are someone who is new to Flipgrid, or someone who has already drank the Kool-Aid, there is something here for everyone.

This Week’s Possibilities

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“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”
Ann Landers

It always amazes me how many tabs I find myself with each week full of things to read, share, or try. I know I have said it before, but I am not a hoarder of things- my house is very organized- (though my children would say I have emotional attachments to some things)– I do tend to hoard my tabs until I am able to share them. And while I do use my One Tab extension when I am sharing a group of links on a particular topic with my students or colleagues, I keep the ones for my weekly share open as a visual reminder.

Many teachers at one point or another have their students participate in a group project. I use the term participate loosely as you will see in this post by John Spencer, The Four Biggest Pitfalls of Collaborative Groupings (and How to Avoid Them) that there are various forms of participation depending on the group’s individual members and their personalities. His post (which also has the podcast version included if you are more of an auditory learner) is full of great examples, strategies, and helpful videos like Collaboration vs. Cooperation, and The Seven Keys to Creative Collaboration (or more affectionately titled, Why Group Work Doesn’t Have to Suck). If you are one who either participated in group work as part of your PLC, your department, your grade level, or graduate class; or if you do any sort of group work with your students, this is one post you may want to take time to read/listen to/watch.

Who doesn’t love a good smackdown! Matt Miller posed variations had a tech smackdown during his #DITCHBook Twitter chat (every Thursday at 10PM Eastern) on this question, What are your best tips for using (GSuite tools, Flipgrid, Quizlet Live, Quizizz, Kahoot; , in your classroom and got countless responses. He culled them and put this post together, sorted by the three questions and I am sharing them here with you ICYMI. No need for FOMO here. So if you have been thinking about incorporating some new ideas into your repertoire, or have been thinking about trying a new tool, take some time to learn from fellow educators.

Continuing on the learning path, MCIU (Montgomery County Intermediate Unit) has some excellent offerings this fall that you might be interested in taking advantage of. You can filter through 12 different categories like Social Emotional, Equity and Diversity, Literacy, or you can just scroll to your heart’s content and see what catches your eye. If you really want to dive deep, there is this Universal Design for Learning Professional Learning Community (PLC) that will be run from mid-September through May.

Last is a fun extension to your Flipgrid, Padlet, and Epic books experiences. #EpicPals is now in it’s 5th year running and is brought to you by Sara Malchow. Each month there will be a new collection of primary and intermediate books available in Epic (you can use the app or the browser version) that you can search for using EpicPals. There is also an accompanying Google Doc for each month that has the books as well as both a link to the Padlet that goes with the particular book. You can read about getting started with EpicPals here then you will want to join in the fun with your students and the hundreds of others who are also participating.

For more great tips, tools, and articles like this one from Eric Sheninger, “Why It’s So Important for Teachers to Cultivate Their Own Resilience” check out this week’s Shipley PLN Lower and Middle School Edition.

Happy learning!

Much Ado About Everything

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I love the start of the school year because it gives me a chance to think about what I want to do with the year ahead. I am not saying that the days leading to the beginning of school are not fraught with thoughts of wishing I had more time to stay home and relax (I work out of town most of the summer break), but, once I am back, I am all in! It’s kind of like when I wake up in the morning and calculate the number of hours until I can go back to bed, once I put my feet on the floor, I am up and there is no turning back.

One of the things I like to do is find tools, articles, websites for my colleagues and students that will enhance their teaching and learning, will reinforce initiatives, are helpful, or are just plain fun. This week’s share has all of the above!

First, a great tool that keeps getting better: Flipgrid (what is Flipgrid you ask? You can check out my previous posts that include it) has some exciting updates and improvements which you can find here in their blog, one of which is Shorts. Shorts is the ability to use the camera to make videos for your students, colleagues, parents, and community that includes a whiteboard mode, picture overlays, cool filters, and unlimited clips. You can see an example here.

Next are some tools I learned about from a recent post on Twitter asking people to share their favorite tools.

Genial.ly is a free tool for making and taking your images and presentations to the next level. You can begin a genial.ly in just a few clicks choosing first what you want to create. The options are many going from blank slate or template to learning experience, presentation, interactive image, vertical infographic to name just a few. You can work on your own or invite a collaborator. I made this one in about five minutes and it was not only easy to do, it was really fun looking at all the optional elements to include. Be sure to hover over the overlaid images and click on the button.

If you are a teacher, parent, librarian, someone who enjoys reading aloud to others, then this app is for you. Novel Effect amps up your read-alouds- no pun intended- by adding sound effects to the stories as you read bringing them to life like never before. Using your phone or tablet, find the book in their ever-growing library (currently over 200 favorite story and poetry books), plug in to a speaker (if reading for a class), then just start reading (note: you need to have a copy of the book, they have the music and sounds that correspond to the book). Novel effect adds the soundscapes, music, and sound effects as you read in the spots where the sounds go. If you stop reading, the sounds stop, if you slow down, the sounds will wait for you. You can check out their FAQs here and read how teachers are using it here. Adding this to your app collection is really a “no brainer.”

Speaking of stories, who does not love listening to a good one!?! Six-Minute Stories is a podcast I literally just heard of. When I say, “literally,” I am not being dramatic. I took a Facebook break and checked out the recent post from George Couros on the Innovate Inside the Box study group page and while reading the comments, I learned that one of the teachers uses Six-Minute Stories as a transition to class with her students. Of course I had to check it out (Curiosity is not in my top 5 signature strengths but is gaining ground with all its use). But I digress . . Six-Minute stories follows one storyline all year long, six-minutes at a time. It will definitely keep your students coming back for more. But wait, there’s more! The options do not stop at Six Minutes. Kids Listen has a whole host of podcasts (like Girl Tales and Tumble Science Podcasts for Kids) and story podcasts (like Sparkle Stories) for children on a whole range of topics! This one is definitely click-worthy.

While we are on the topic of kids, this next site will quickly become a favorite resource for your students of most ages (I try not to overgeneralize, hence “most” and not “all”). The Kids Should See This is a growing library of educational videos curated by its founder (with help from her two children) for kids of all ages. You can search from the more than four thousand videos in the Science, Technology, Art, Music, DIY, Space, Animals, Nature, Food, or Random categories, or get the list of new ones delivered to your inbox each week. I did a quick search for “sustainability” and got quite a list — 130 to be exact.

Last up is strictly for middle school science teachers; everyone else is free to go check out the other items :). In yesterday’s EdWeek email I clicked on an article about Next Gen Science Standards open educational resources called Open SciEd. Open Sci Ed is a fully free set of high-quality, full course, instructional materials for middle school teachers and student, along with accompanying professional development resources for science teachers. Currently there is one 6th, 7th, and 8th grade unit available for your use on the following topics: Thermal Energy (6th), Metabolic Reactions (7th), and Sound Waves (8th). By 2022 the full middle school science course that aligns to the NGSS will be rolled out and available but until then, there will be one unit available every six months. Their goal is to expand the resources from Elementary through High School.


What’s On Tap

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Lovely thing to learn from water. “Adjust yourself in every situation and in any shape. But most importantly, find your own way to flow.”

~Buddha Teaching & Science

There are a plethora of opportunities on tap to take your teaching to the next level by participating in webinars. Here are just a few to get your mind percolating and start the year off energized. . .

Thursday, August 29 gives you two different webinar options:

 “Building Teacher Confidence and Camaraderie Through Math Coaching.” from EdWeek


EdCurrent and Newsela are offering this, “Ed Current: The Case for Differentiated Instruction on the First Day of School” at 7PM Eastern Time. You can register here.

Coming soon and On-Demand:

Facing History and Ourselves (which I have written about before) is offering this in early September, Current Events in Your Classroom, and also offers these On-Demand learning options.

I have enjoyed participating in webinars (click to read!) as they are both reminders of good teaching practices, and that there are many like-minded educators who are always looking to improve their teaching and therefore student learning, achievement, and engagement.

So whether you are interested in one, all, or some, all it takes is a click to get started!