Typing is a skill that tends to fall between the cracks. It’s so important in later schooling--imagine writing a 60 page research paper using hunt and peck--but it can be hard to justify taking time away from another subject to teach it. With the PARCC assessments on the horizon in many states, typing may move up your school’s priority list. Luckily there are some great online typing programs that will have your students typing like a pro in no time.
TypingWeb is a pretty standard typing program. There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles in the lessons, but the games are fun and kids will really enjoy them. The big benefit to TypingWeb is that it allows you to sign up for a teacher account. As a teacher, you create accounts for each of your students and can monitor their progress through the lessons. The program generates a lot of data that you can use to target problem areas. This is the program I use with kids as young as third grade, and it will work great for older students up to adults as well. Paid accounts are available, and allow you to scrub the site of ads, but I find that the free version works just fine.
This awesome site from the BBC is hosted by a goat with a Scottish accent. If that’s not enough to sell you on it, the lessons are really engaging and get the kids typing real words almost immediately. The instructions for typing are really easy for even young kids to follow, and are far superior to those in TypingWeb. The downside is a big one, though. You don’t sign up for an account, and you can’t save your progress. That makes this somewhat more useful for use at home, but it could also serve as an introduction to typing for young kids in the classroom.
Like Dance Mat Typing, this course does a great job of explaining how to type in kid-friendly language with great graphics that will keep students following along. Unfortunately, there’s no account creation here either. The initial lessons move more slowly than Dance Mat Typing, giving students more time to get comfortable with the keys before moving on. On the other hand, the slower pace might be frustrating to students who are picking the skills up quickly.
Each of these programs has strong pros and cons. My recommendation? Mix and match. Use the instruction segments from either Dance Mat Typing or e-Learning for Kids, then have your students use the TypingWeb lessons and games for practice. That gives you the best of both worlds and gives you strong data you can use to assess your students’ progress.
With the availability of so many resources and information on the internet how can people manage everything and not lose more time trying to remember where they put their information or what flashdrive it is stored on? This week's tech tip, is a cloud-based information management tool service called Diigo. Pronounced as Dee'go, it is an abbreviation for "Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff." Diigo simplifies the way information flows and increases efficiency and productivity for students and teachers. Anyone who works with a lot of online information, either individually or as a team will benefit from this service.
Diigo allows its users to digitally highlight documents from the web, build a personal library of links, pages, notes and pictures as well as allow users to work from mobile devices to personal computers without losing any information. This research tool helps teachers and students to easily and effectively collaborate on projects, and decide how much information, if any, would be shared with others on the web.
Diigo is a great for reading, for assessments and helps with collaboration on project-based learning. Below are some suggestions of how Diigo can be used in the classroom:
- Students and teachers can research, acquire and organize information;
- Students can engage in critical reading and thinking on the internet;
- Teachers and students can work collaboratively;
- Students can work effectively as a team, in project-based learning.
As districts across the country are pushing to align curriculum and academic tasks with the Common Core standards, there have been shifts in how teachers present content to students. Additionally, there have been shifts in how students are expected to present their knowledge to their teachers.
One thing my district has done this fall is "unspiral" the Everyday Math curriculum so that we are teaching all similiar concepts together (ie. all of the Number and Operations lessons will be taught in sequence from start to finish, even if that means jumping to lessons in different units). When this "unspiraling" happened, the math powers-that-be also decided to create CCMTs. CCMTs are Common Core Math Tasks. These are tasks that are very much aligned to the rigor that Common Core dictates. Used as a formative classroom tool, these tasks allow teachers to peek into their students' brains and see how they are attempting problems, making sense of problems and finally persevering in solving the problem.
Our first unit in 4th grade is about Patterns and Relationships in Multiplication and Division. This includes adding and subtracting as well since you need to be relatively fluent in the former to be successful in the latter. Our first CCMT of the year was called "Factor Findings". We have been learning about how factors work and how they help us to solve math problems.
Each pair of students were given a large piece of chart paper with a number on the top. The students were given the charge to use the colored tiles they had to make as many factor arrays as they could to represent their given number. This allowed me to see how they were making meaning with their numbers but also how they worked together to construct their factor arrays.
Here are some samples:
These students are working with the prime number 17. A few students got prime numbers to see if they could make sense of WHY there were only two factors and two sets of arrays for their number.
This student is working with number 28. You can see her colored tiles off to the side that she used to help her to create a manipulative model of her array before she used her crayons to create the arrays on her chart.
These kinds of tasks allow the teacher to assess where the students are and what other instructional intervention the students might need.
No matter how many teaching strategies you employ in your classroom, there comes a time when old-fashioned memorization is called for. Luckily, there are some really amazing flashcard programs that will help your students learn.
My criterion for a great flashcard program is pretty simple. It has to have both web-based and mobile interfaces. I find it so much easier to enter flashcard information on a computer, but need the portability of an app. Here are some programs that you’ll love.
I first found Quizlet when I was looking for a flashcard app for personal use. Five minutes after signing up for an account, I was hooked. The interface on the website is easy to use, even when you’re using characters that are not standard in English. You choose your language--including things like Chemistry or Math--and a keypad with the characters you might need pops up on the screen. For foreign languages, you can even have the website translate terms to and from English for you. There’s also an audio function that will read your flashcards to you. You can download the free app to take Quizlet on the go. Both the app and the website offer matching games to help you learn.
To use Quizlet in the classroom, you can create sets of flashcards and share them with your students. All of its basic functions are free, but for $25 you can upgrade to a teacher account, which gives you a few nice options. Overall, however, the free version is fairly robust.
Cramberry’s web interface is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Creating sets of cards to study takes just a few minutes, and with a Cramberry Pro membership ($9 per year) you can upload a .csv file of data to create sets. While the website offers only a simple flip tool that allows the student to test him or herself, the mobile app also offers a matching game. The graphics on the app are nice, and the game offers a different approach to learning, but the app tended to stack the two sides of the card on top of each other or directly next to each other, giving the answer away. The biggest downside to the free version of Cramberry is that it limits you to studying 30 cards a day. In order to get unlimited studying, you have to sign up for the Pro membership. Cramberry is a fairly decent basic option, but other programs have more features.
Brainscape is a pretty simple program, but its graphics will appeal to students. As the person studying the cards flips through them, he or she rates how well they knew that card. A color-coded graph tracks the student’s progress through the stack of cards, revisiting cards that were rated less than perfect the first time. The student can create their own cards, or buy one of the pre-made sets from Brainscape. The sets range in price from about $4.99 to $19.99 and can be purchased for various foreign languages, AP exams, and even the GRE or MCAT.
The app is also fairly simple, with an interface that mimics the look of the website. Users will be able to transition back and forth between the two relatively easily.
In this welcome back to school post of Tech Tips, I wanted to pass along a helpful website that educators can use for royalty-free images or for public domain use. It is important that students understand the responsibilities of using copyrighted materials from the web and the legal repercussions that can occur if copyright is violated.
Some of the photos found on everystockphoto may not be appropriate for all ages. Safe Search is on by default when you use the search bar, but not when browsing categories or top lists.
The website for pictures that is very useful is called everystockphoto, which is a search engine for freely licensed photos. The company’s goal is to become the leading public gateway for stock photography. Everystockphoto handles copyright law by utilizing an algorithm that searches photos under a number of free licenses. Licenses include a variety of Creative Commons, GNU, public domain, and custom free licenses. Everystockphoto also lists royalty-free photos from Fotolia and any images that are for sale have a dollar sign as a license icon.
Everystockphoto is very easy to use; it has over 19,663,881 free photos and quickly produces results for just about any search users can think of. After an image appears in the search result window, it shows the title, resolution, license, photographer, date taken, and the number of views. Finally, if you click on the license tab, it will clearly indicate if you are free to share the photo, remix the photo and under what conditions you can use the photo.
Everystockphoto’s system set up ensures that its users feel confident that when they use an image, they are following and respecting the legal rights of the artists and photographers. I use this service often and my students love the content that is readily available and at the same time they learn about the copyright protections artists have that should be respected. Students and teachers alike also appreciate the fact that this service allows them to share the photos on Twitter, Google Plus and even embed the picture into a blog or webpage. I highly encourage you to give everystockphoto a try!