Much Ado About Everything

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“LEARNING IS NOT ATTAINED BY CHANCE, IT MUST BE SOUGHT FOR WITH ARDOR AND ATTENDED TO WITH DILIGENCE.” ―ABIGAIL ADAMS

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.

Enjoy!

Handpicked Just for You

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I love when I have great things to share and today is one of those days. I have collection of items that include student voice, collaboration, exploration, and more than one that I think you will want to start using immediately.

First off is a favorite of mine for feedback, sharing, and reflection– Flipgrid. Here are some great ways to share your love of literacy from the Flipgrid blog. It’s titled, “Loving Literacy 365 Days a Year!” and it offers numerous ways you and your students can use Flipgrid to share a love of reading, discuss characters, learn from an author, and collaborate with other classes. For example, this teacher shared her 5th grade classes Flipgrid on book talks and opened it up to other classes to listen, comment, and add their own book talks. This authentic sharing of a love of books is just one of the amazing ways you can utilize this great tool. It’s not just for kids though, doing a search in their Disco (short for discovery) library will find that colleagues can participate as well through book chats, PD sharing, and more like this one on using tech in PE. Flipgrid is constantly upping their game and making it even better than it already is and it’s free for educators so why not get started and sign up?!

Next is a virtual book club paired with “a unit in a box” and it’s called #thebookchat. The creators of #Thebookchat choose books that introduce students to underrepresented voices and authors. Every six weeks or so educators from around the country are participating in an online discussion via Twitter using #thebookchat to discuss the selected book. Their next chat discussing James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time will be on March 10 at 9PM. What is fantastic about it is the list of diverse books and the accompanying resources for each. Everything you would need to share with your students as they read this book is included in the HyperDocs for each selected book. If you are looking for a way to add more diversity and inclusion to your curriculum (which we all should be doing), this is for you. While these books are mainly for high school students, this list from Edutopia offers books for all grade levels.

Sutori is a great tool for creating interactive timelines, but did you know you could do much more than that? This post offers 50 ways to use Sutori in all subjects and each level of school that you may not have considered. Think study guides, book reports, biographies, interactive discussions, assessments, lab reports, and 44 more.

Last and certainly not least is Classroom Screen. I learned about this yesterday from a tweet from my friend Loren and have been obsessed with it ever since. It is a multifunctional classroom management tool that you can begin using immediately. It combines timers, noise-level monitoring, stop light, a random name selector, white board, backgrounds, video, text, and more into one neat package. Just click the link, select the tool, and go. It’s that easy, that fun to use, and that good.