Monday, July 30, 2012

Learnist as a learning tool

Our last blog was about teachers using Pintrest, but now we’ve found another option.  Learnist is an up and coming site that is remarkably similar to Pintrest in the sense that they are both virtual bulletin boards.  And like Pintrest, Learnist also has an education section; but it also has sub categories.   For example, if we go to the education section we can then click Common Core English Standards: Language: Conventions of Standard English Grade 6 there are a variety of articles to scroll through, making it easy to find just what you were looking for.  The education section has articles ranging from teaching strategies to the algorithm to solving a Rubik’s cube and everything in between.
One of our favorites is Virtual Summer Camp for Teachers - 2012 where “you will find multiple opportunities for Professional Development over the summer: learn new web tools, investigate the Common Core, explore essential applications and more!” 
We found Learnist through and article “How Educators are Using Learnist” by Mindshift.   They make many good points; one being that “Students can also use Learnist to share resources for group projects, to prepare notes to study for tests and write papers. The Facebook integration ensures that they can keep each other up-to-date when they make changes to shared study boards.”
It sounds like a great site for both teachers and students, but we want your opinion.  Explore the site and let us know; which do you like better, Pintrest or Learnist?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teaching with Pintrest - Continued

          Yesterday we posted about how teachers can use Pintrest in the education field.  Today we found an article that backs up what we said as well as gives some ideas we didn't think of.  So for some more great ideas for using Pintrest take a look at "3 Ways To Use Pinterest In The Classroom" posted by Terry Heick. 
          Happy Pinning!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Need Ideas for New Lesson Plans? Pintrest Can Help!

                Pintrest is a website that’s popularity has exploded in the last year and now, you can find almost anything on there.   Created for the “do it yourself” or crafty crowd it has evolved into a great resource for teachers.  The idea is that the site is like a giant corkboard where people “pin” pictures of the things that interest them.  Simply click on the picture and it will take you to the original website.  To make it even easier there is a list of categories at the top you can choose to narrow your search.   This is where we found the education section that we just had to share with you teachers!
You can find lesson plans, fun ways to engage kids, craft ideas for students and for decorating your classroom, facts about today’s education system, and much more.  For example, activities for a kindergarten classroom can be found here.  And to show teachers how much they really are appreciated, look at this.  Scroll through or create your own account to swap strategies with other teachers and see how your classroom can be enhanced!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Second Life helping Professional Development

             We are always looking for ways to improve and expand the teaching of Professional Development.  Recently we found an article on zite that does just that by introducing the use of the website Second Life.

Second Life is an online, virtual world where players can create a representation of themselves called an avatar.  The site allows you to live through this alternate version of you, earning money (called L$ in the game), buying virtual products, socializing with others, exploring the world and more.   

Since its creation in 2003 many educational institutions have built buildings in the virtual world and used it as a learning tool for students.  Project DIRECT did this to create a place for teachers to meet and converse.  According to the article “The mission of Project DIRECT (Distance Innovations for Rural Educators using Communication Technologies) is to support rural schoolteachers with the integration of technology into their content areas of reading, writing and studying, and to be in a safe community full of teacher collegiality.”  The program is conducted almost entirely on Second Life. 

Because the project was created for rural teachers, the participants are not centrally located which makes an online program ideal.  The avatars explore the campus Project DIRECT has lain out where there are instructions on how to use different features on the site and therefore expanding familiarity with technology.  Once teachers get the feel of navigating the simulated world, they can go on learning safaris.  Each safari teaches a new aspect of Professional Development.  It also creates a space for teachers to meet each other and share ideas or questions. 

Project DIRECT was just one application of how Second Life can be used for Professional Development but the possibilities are endless.   

If you would like to read the article for yourselves or watch the video that accompanies it, you can find it here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Moodle in the Classroom

                Moodle is “a free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites” as defined by  It works effectively for traditional classrooms, online classes and hybrid sessions.  Hybrid learning is a mix between online classes and face-to-face classes.
                We learned from a YouTube video by Molly Tipton, an 8th grade social studies teacher, that Moodle is beneficial for both teachers and students.
                Moodle is a great way to keep everyone up to date on important news and announcements.  Plus there is a calendar which can show events or lessons that are yet to come or remind students what homework is due and when.
Another great aspect is that it allows students to take their tests online.  This is good news for the students because they have instant feedback on their score.  In the same respect, teachers save a lot of time on grading.  Moodle collects these results and can give an up to date grade for each student, keeping both the child and parent well informed.  Moodle can also be set to allow the tests to be taken more than once, in which case kids can learn from their mistakes and perform better the next time. 
                The site also creates a quick and easy way to share links, videos, and other online content.  Then students can be asked to study the content before coming to class or they can refer back to what they learned during the class period.
                One option Ms. Tipton mentioned was the online chat room Moodle can offer at the teacher’s discretion.  In Ms. Tipton’s classroom she allows this with the rule that students must behave on there the same as they would if they were in the classroom.  She says she allows this because it brings her class closer together and keeps them safe.  No one without a classroom login can join the chat session.
                Overall, Moodle seems like a great addition to the classroom and an excellent way to expand learning beyond face-to-face time.

                To watch the video for yourself, you can find it here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Subtracting the Negativity

All too often we hear students say “I hate math!” or “why do we have to learn this stuff, I’ll never use it!” when in reality everyone uses math every day.  So why does math have such a bad stigma around it and how can we, as teachers, change this?  Kids need to be shown that math can be fun, it is used in the real world and that with a positive attitude it may not be as hard as they thought. 

It is obvious that math topics build of each other, you can’t add unless you are able to count, you can’t find area without being able to multiply.  Therefore, kids need build a strong foundation early on to succeed in the future.  Unfortunately the whole school day can’t be spent on one subject, but luckily for math it can be incorporated almost everywhere.  For example, for kids learning to count, count to ten jumping jacks in gym class. 
There are plenty of kid friendly sites that can show examples of real world math problems;  Math Playground has problems for grades 1-6 of varying difficulty.   To make things more fun the same website also has games that don’t seem like math but stimulate the logical part of the brain, the same part that helps us build math skills.  Factory Balls asks players to recreate the design on the ball using different color pants and tools.  To succeed one must paint the ball in a specific order, much like an equation must be completed by order of operations. 
There are many creative ways to make math exciting and with the right activities we can work to erase the negativity surrounding math!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Morning Meetings In The Classroom

Morning meetings are important to incorporate into your teaching practice because they increase social skills and academic engagement, establish a positive classroom climate, increase learner investment and independence and decrease disruptive behaviors. 

A morning meeting has four components: Greeting, sharing, group activity, news and announcements.

The purpose of a greeting is to get to know one another on a personal level. It should ultimately set the tone for a positive day, provide a sense of recognition and belonging and give students an opportunity to practice hospitality.

The purpose of sharing is to share new interests, respond to one another, and articulate thoughts, feelings and questions in a positive manner. Morning meetings should give students an opportunity to practice caring communication, get to know each other better and give opportunities to practice speaking to a group in a strong and individual voice.

The whole class can do a short activity together to build cohesion through active participation. It should build community, foster active and engaged participation, heighten the class’s sense of a shared group identity and help students have fun together. The “human knot “for example is a good community building activity.
Students practice listening skills and build a sense of community by discussing news and announcements. This should help students be aware of happenings, develop and reinforce personal and academic goals and reinforce social skills. Some examples include information on a change in schedule, homecoming events and personal news students wish to share.

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