In today's tech age, teachers across the country are always looking for new and better ways to engage their students with math and technology. Even more importantly, teachers need to engage their children with Common Core math.
As many districts begin to prepare their students for the upcoming "Big Testing Season", it's important to look at the resources available for students and how those resources can help.
One such resource is Khan Academy. This resource got its humble beginnings when its founder, Sal Khan, began remotely tutoring his cousin to help her with math. He posted videos on YouTube to help her learn and more and more people began to watch. Today, Khan Academy has over 100,000 exercises and about 4,000 mini-lectures (videos) posted to its website. Anyone can use it at any time and it's free. (Who doesn't love free?)
Khan Academy is a great resource for helping to prepare and review math concepts since the information is accessible to anyone with a computer and provides data and statistics for the user. Better yet, Khan Academy has begun to make sure their content is Common Core aligned so you can be assured that your students are reviewing and practicing items that will likely be seen on any Common Core aligned test.
Not sure if Khan Academy will work for you? Check out this informational video.
In legislatures across the country, elected officials make decisions and cast votes that directly impact the everyday lives of people. Move beyond how a bill becomes a law by using these resources to help your students research and track legislation, develop and defend opinions, and become more informed, involved citizens.
All of these resources are geared toward federal legislation, but most state legislatures make similar information available on their websites.
THOMAS, named for Thomas Jefferson, is the legislation search function at the Library of Congress website. With this search engine you can find legislation by topic, by bill number, or by sponsor. Then you can read the text of the bill and track its progress through Congress. This site isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s a great resource but the legal language can be difficult for a layperson to follow. There’s also a great resource page for teachers, including lesson plans and links to sites for younger students.
For similar information in a more user-friendly format, use GovTrak. You can get full text of a bill and legislation status at this site as well, but there are a bunch of other bells and whistles, too. You can also get a summary of the bill written by the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress--still in legal language, but somewhat clearer than the bill itself. The site also gives each bill a prognosis for being enacted into law, based on a complex methodology. You can browse the site without creating an account, but if you do create an account you can choose to get updates on selected legislation.
With this app for iOs, your students can track legislation on the go. You can follow a bill through the legislative process, check to see how your representatives voted and participate in polls. iCitizen tracks state legislation from many--not all--states as well as federal, and while it provides less information about the content of the legislation than some of the other resources, it is a quick and easy way to check in on bills you’re following. In an odd twist, it identifies members of the Washington, DC City Council as senators, but that doesn’t seem to be repeated in other major cities. This issue is probably a quirk of DC’s status as a federal district, not a state--it has no voting representation in Congress and no state legislature--but to be safe I’d recommend checking its accuracy for your area before using it with your students.
Now that your students are tracking a piece of legislation, do they come down for or against it? ProCon.org is a nonpartisan site dedicated to giving both sides of controversial issues, from abortion to vegetarianism. Students can use the site to research the issues, then develop and support their own opinion. Use that information to give a speech, hold a debate, or contact elected officials to weigh in before the legislation goes to a vote.
This week’s tech tip is a vast educational resource site called OpenEd. This website claims the largest K-12 education database, with over a million lessons and assessments on virtually any topic educators may wish to use in their classrooms. One of the best features of OpenEd is that it is simple to create a “flipped classroom” or a new way students can learn new material online by watching video clips, usually at home and assigned problems now done in class with teachers providing instant feedback. OpenEd also is one of the few sites placing an emphasis on offering Common Core resources such as math, science, history and language arts, as well as quizzes, tests and lessons from providers of educational content.
OpenEd is a free service and users can sign up using their Facebook credentials or an email account with a user created password. Users can do a keyword search by subject directory or by standard. Also, OpenEd allows registered users to create playlists that educators can share with students and other K-12 teachers. The most powerful feature of this site is that teachers can create courses that students can use in the “flipped classroom” approach to learning.
Finally, OpenEd offers an iPad app and Android app so that students can learn from teacher led or public classes. Students can easily watch video lectures, play games on the site with the click of a button. In my classes, I am fortunate to be able to use this application and website so that students can have easy access to the amazing quantity of Common Core videos and activities.
In the past few days, there have been many headlines about the announcement that the college entrance exam, the SAT, would be changed to better align with the Common Core State Standards.
One article, published by the Cato Institute, breaks down the information. Critics claim that this realignment (slated for rollout in 2016) is "dumbing down" the test because the obscure words in the vocabulary section that the SAT is known for will be replaced with words like "synthesis", which comes directly from the Common Core.
Even more interesting is the fact that the realignment of the SAT is being spear-headed by David Coleman. He happens to be the so-called "architect" of the Common Core (in other words, he was one of the main writers of the Core). Coleman also happens to be the President of the College Board. The College Board owns the SAT and has the sole right to change or alter the test contents.
Supporters of the Core Aren't Supporting the SAT Change
Many long-held supporters of the Core are against these changes. The Washington Post featured not only an editorial but also a column about the changes. The Washington Post has been known to feature positive articles about the Core until this realignment was announced.
Additionally, Andy Smarick, a well known supporter of the Core also voiced concern over the changes to the SAT. He points out that words are what help us to explain. They provide a pathway for us to be clear and precise.
What Prompted the Change?
Interestingly, this realignment announcement comes on top of news that the ACT, the other college entrance test, has taken over the market, with 54% of college students taking this exam over the SAT.
The administrators of the ACT recognized the need for alignment with the Common Core ahead of time and took the initative to realign their testingproducts with the Common Core. They also announced they will be creating a testing program for grades 3-8 which align to the Core. It would be interesting to see if these tests ended up replacing state-based standardized testing which the Smarter Balanced/PAARC initiatives are supposed to fill beginning in the spring of 2015.
Here to Stay
Regardless of whether or not people are on board with the Common Core standards, the shifting of the two largest college entrance tests suggests that the Core is here to stay. How will these changes impact the future of testing for all students? Will the SAT design a test for grades 3-8 in order to try to regain some of the market share? Only time will tell.
Here in Washington, DC we’ve just had what seems like our hundredth snow storm of the school year. Many other places around the country have been experiencing extreme weather this winter as well. That made me think: what resources are available for teaching students about weather? As it happens, there are many.
General Weather Resources
WeatherWizKids is a site developed by a meteorologist to explain weather to children. The site has pages describing everything from rain to volcanoes, with straightforward explanations and helpful graphics. Kids can also play games and learn about weather-related careers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a really comprehensive site of resources for educators. Resources range from lesson plans to short videos and graphics to share with students, including one fascinating section dedicated to how global weather patterns affect local weather events.
WeatherBug is a service that many educators are already familiar with. Sensors and cameras are placed throughout the area--many on school buildings--and the data from these devices are used to give a comprehensive look at the weather conditions outside. The site isn’t specifically designed for children, but the layout is simple and easy to read, making it a good choice if you’re having students track weather trends.
Whether or not you’re located in an area prone to severe weather, tornadoes, lightning and other weather events are of interest to many kids. National Geographic has a collection of videos dedicated to Forces of Nature, including clips of tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning strikes. Discovery Kids has a site dedicated to Extreme Weather, with detailed information on floods, tsunamis, tornadoes and the like. Sky Diary, the website of photographer and filmmaker Chris Kridler, also has some great information about extreme weather events.
Many places across the country are experiencing it right now, but what is snow? Where does it come from? The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research has a great kids site about blizzards and snow that gives an explanation of how snow is formed and what happens when we get too much of it. Michigan State University Extension has a short list of science experiments that can be done in the snow, as does How Stuff Works. Number 3 on the How Stuff Works page seems fairly dangerous--you might want to skip that one.
And for the parents, who are nervously dreading another snow day: 10 Terrific Things You Can Do in the Snow with Kids.