Technology Evaluation: KidsDinos

This week I will be evaluating an online resource. Normally I have evaluated different applications, but I stumbled across this site while designing a unit on dinosaurs and fossils.

I was so impressed by this website because of its detailed dinosaur information that is presented in a kid friendly format. There are many videos and activities to supplement the dinosaur information and to help teachers differentiate.

I used this website in my class when we did dinosaur reports. I wanted to find one kid friendly website for kids to gather their information since I had been working with my class about properly citing information. My students were able to find quick facts about each dinosaur, and explore dino content on their own. Here is a sample dinosaur information page.

 

 

I hope you find this helpful, it is a site to bookmark for the next time your class studies these “terrible lizards.”

Technology Evaluation: Cite This For Me

Cite This For Me

(Click the image below for more information)

Cite This For Me is an amazing Chrome Extension that automatically cites whatever website you are on! I have found this tool to be very helpful in the classroom and for my own studies.

Once you have installed the extension, you’ll notice icon on the top right with the other extensions. Here is how it looks on my computer.

 

Now for how it works. When you want to cite a page just click the icon.  You can see it finds all the pertinent information and adds it in. You can choose between different citation styles, and of course edit the citation yourself in case of error.

 

I use this extension with my class as we have been learning how to cite sources properly. My students love it. You can also add in the specific quote to pull which help students organize. This is a great productivity and tool, I hope it is as helpful to you as it was in my class.

Technology Evaluation: Adobe Animate

Adobe Animate

 

Adobe Animate is animation software used by professionals AND can be a wonderful tool in the classroom. It is a little tricky getting started, but I’ve published a Canvas course for beginners. Click here to enroll!

Adobe uses keyframes to animate. I explain this to students like pages on a flip book.  You can see the keyframes along the top, the are the little rectangles with black circles inside. The black circles mean there is an image on that frame. This is from a quick animation I made to explain how to use Arc’s in animation. You can find more details in the Canvas Course.

Students love to learn how to animate because it unlocks a whole world of creation. I’ve had students use Animate to create explanations for Science Fair Projects, make interesting background clips for green-screen and make their own animated shorts.

I feel strongly that we should expose students to as many mediums of expression as possible. That way they have the tools and ability to express themselves.

Technology Evaluation: Canva

Canva (not to be confused with Canvas) is a free online graphic design tool. I like Canva because it is easy to use, and provides a huge library of templates.

Once students select a template type they are offered many more customization options with many different colors, fonts, and icons.

 

How to Use in a Classroom

I’ve used Canva while teaching Graphic Design and made up different “clients” and requests for design work. For example my students had to design a business card for a plumber.

Canva has many uses in the classroom outside of design. Students can make infographics, design posters, presentations, or brochures. I often use it to design my own worksheets.

Canva also has a collaborative aspect, you can share a project with others to work on it synonymously – similar to google docs.

Costs

Canva is free to use, there are just some graphics that do cost money (Usually a dollar a graphic). You can still use these graphics for free, they will just have a watermark on them.

Technology Evaluation – Classcraft

 

Classcraft is a gamified classroom tool. Similar to class Dojo, students earn experience points based on positive classroom behavior, and can lose health if they are acting inappropriately. It is tailored for older students, probably 6-12th. I am very tempted to try it out in my class.

Here is an informational video if you are interested.

I decided to try setting my class up to see how I liked it. I was very happy to see that Classcraft syncs with Google Classroom. 

Once you login there are tons of resources to learn how to play. I was most excited to see that I can make formative assessments as Boss battles for my class. I would have loved being in a classroom that plays this.

The next part to set up is choosing what your classroom rewards and sentences are. I love how customizable it is for every different teaching style.

I am not very familiar with class Dojo, but I was impressed with Classcrafts team options. My classroom could use some community building.

 

Conclusion:

I was planning on just testing Classcraft by setting it up, but I was so impressed I am going to try using it for the final quarter of my school year.

 

Technology Evaluation – Typing Agent

Typing Agent is a gamified typing programs for students. I have had great success using it with middle schoolers, and elementary. It has basic gamification elements such as; customization options, leaderboards, point rewards and highscores.

They have a cool video you can watch that has all their features here:

http://typingagent.com/content/intro.php

I use Typing Agent in my classroom as an alternative Tech option alongside Spelling City. In my language arts rotations, students have 25 mins for each task. If they finish their Spelling City they move on to typing practice. There are many multiplayer typing games that students love. A popular one is battleship with typing.

 

You can completely turn off games, or you can have students earn tokens by completing the typing lessons. As the teacher there are tons of great reports and charts about student progress. I can set different goals for each student. Below is one of my favorite charts that quickly shows how well each student is doing thought the curriculum. My students have become confident typers. They have noticed a speed improvement and are all confident using a computer to write.

Technology Evaluation: Accelerated Reader

This week I am going to discuss AR – Accelerated Reader. This is a pretty popular reading program, it may even be at your school. In my evaluation I am going to focus on how I use it in my own room, since there are so many things you can do with this resource.

Accelerated reader is a reading program that evaluates students reading skills, provides reading goals that students can read by earning points. Students earn points by reading books and taking online quizzes. There are so many tools within AR such as diagnostic tests, tons of reading reports, goal tracking, quiz creations and more.

When you log in as a teacher you have options on your dashboard above. I have my students take the Star Reading test about once a month. This test finds the students Zone of Proximal Development which we can use to find books at their reading level. Notice that you can create and add your own content if your book does not already have a quiz in the database. You can check what books are already apart of AR here: http://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx. This is also a great resource to find interest books for students.

 

Below are some of my students reading goals. You can see how many points they’ve earned this quarter. My school has a prize store where students can use their points to buy toys, books, and school supplies. I have my daily reading time set to 25 mins since that is how long they have for independent reading in their Language Arts Rotations. You can see how their goals are calculated based off their ZPD, reading time, and goal % correct. My class needs to score an 85% or higher on their quiz to receive points for that book.

I let my class chose their own independent reading novels, but I noticed most of my class was struggling to meet their goals. So I started picking one picture book a week that was a 4th grade level and correlated with something we were learning. I made these weekly books required, and use their quiz scores as part of their reading grades. I’ve noticed my class earning more points, and many really enjoy the chance to read a good picture book. You can see my classes latest quiz results below – it is really easy to add them to my gradebook since they are all in order.

I had mixed feelings about AR when I first started using it. I was not a fan, until I started assigning picture books and could immediately see the change in my class. I highly recommend AR, there are hundreds of other features I didn’t mention – but that is the best part. Since it is such a customizable tool once you figure it out it fits very well into the classroom.

Technology Evaluation – Spelling City

This week I decided to share Spelling City. This is an older site, but an amazing tool for your classroom. Personally my life is much easier since I started using it. I am a horrible speller, so it would take me hours to grade my students spelling tests. I have had a lot of success with Spelling City.

Spelling City has a Premium Membership Cost, I find it completely worth the cost, you can see the different feature available below. 

 

I use Spelling City as part of my Language Arts rotations. Each week I create a list aligned with our studies, and assign different activities with the test on Friday. I have found that taking spelling tests on the computer is much more successful for students. You get your results instantly since it is automatically graded, and students can test at their own pace. I also allow my students to go back and retake old tests to earn higher scores.

 

There are tons of activities and games available. Students can practice vocabulary as well. It makes spelling practice more engaging and it is very easy to differentiate lists of various skill level. Students can even create their own lists!

I cropped off my students names, but you can see an example of some of their scores from today. Our list was based on Fractions since that is our current math topic. I chose to sort this data by test results, but you can also see their data for games and activities. I have my account set to email me a spreadsheet of their test scores on Monday morning so it is easy to put in their grades. I have saved many hours of work by switching to Spelling City, and my class spelling grades have gone up!

Technology Evaluation – Prodigy

 

 

Prodigy is an educational math game for students. I use it daily, and my students love it. From a student’s perspective it is a adventure game where you explore a world with your friends, collect cool items, and do math. It is similar to Pokemon, but instead of pet battles you answer math problems. As the teacher I am able to assign math practice aligned to our daily lessons and receive all the data about student progress.

It is free, and very easy to get your class set-up. Here is a link if you would like to try it in your class. You can have students login with Google, so it is great even for youngsters.

One of the things I love most about Prodigy is the teacher dashboard. I like to pull this up while students are working and share their leaderboard rankings. I use Prodigy as additional practice, and motivation for math. After our math lesson and practice work I have my students take a concept quiz on our daily topic, and then get on Prodigy. I like having more than one data source on their math progress, and Prodigy is great at reteaching missed topics if I see that anyone needs remediation.

The Prodigy planner is great. You can chose to align the math problems in three different ways. I like aligning the standard, you can see the choices in the image below. 

The data on each student is incredible. Prodigy scales to students ability levels. I have one very exceptional 4th grader who learned slope-intercept form on his own! You can see how he started the year with review in 3rd grade math, and worked his way up to 8th grade math. I can go in an see every question he answered, sort them by standard, or just use the mastery reports given. It is very helpful data to share with parents. 

Speaking of parents, Prodigy connects students accounts to their parents email and sends customizable reports! I really enjoy Prodigy, I’ve found it to be the perfect gamified math practice for my class.

Technology Evaluation – Google Sites

Introduction

I love the new Google Sites, this week I am going to share how I use them in my classroom as Student Blogs.

I teach 4th grade, and I set up my Language Arts instruction as four rotating stations; Novel Study, Blog (writing/research), Tech (Spelling/Vocab/Typing), and Choice Reading (Accelerated Reader). In the beginning of the year my students were using notebooks for their daily journal entries. As I taught my class how to type and use more technology – they requested more and more to type their journal entries. I decided to do one better, and teach my class how to make their own Blogs.

 

How Google Sites Works

Making your own Google Site is easy, if you haven’t tried it already I highly recommend it. I have one where I keep links and my homeworks/handouts.

The first step is going to your Google Drive. Click the big blue New button, then select More -> Google Sites.

You will be taken to your new blank site. Here you can easily personalize your page with the help of a quick tutorial. Google sites is so self explanatory that is is easily used with elementary students. They can add anything from their Drives quickly into their sites.

My school district has google accounts for all our students, which keeps students sites hidden as you need a k12northstar email, or be specifically invited to view them. Make sure you have parent permission if you chose to do your own class blogs!

 

How I use Google Sites

We do a blog post every day which is basically an online journal. Each day my students have to write a minimum of 6 sentences about the current topic. I also like to include a bonus challenge that requires students to research or includes a tech integration skill. For example one topic was:

  • Where would you take the class on a field trip? What will we learn there?
  • How much does your activity cost?
  • Bonus: Include a map that measures the distance of your field tip to our school.