This week's tech tip features a website that has many possibilities for use in the classroom. Capzles, is a social storytelling solution that allows students and teachers alike to create multimedia presentations. The presentations can include videos, music, photos, blogs and documents combined all into one presentation. Capzles is a free service and also is available on the Apple App Store for free and allows you to use many of the same great features of the website version. An iPad version is coming soon to the store.
On the left, you see the editing box where users can take a photo or a video, record audio or add text right from within the Capzles web or iPhone app. It is immediately uploaded available on your iPhone, on Capzles.com, and in your Capzles Facebook Wall app. This multimedia presentation solution allows for many possiblities for presenting content. The Web version also allows for the addition of other documents, such as: PDF, Excel, Word, and Powerpoint.
In my Mac Advanced class, students are using iPhoto to prepare their photos for their "Day in the Life" project and Capzles allows them to easily rearrange their content in anyway they would like. Students in my Mac class simply drag and drop the various elements they would like to see in their presentations. Students can even create "stacks" of content by dragging and dropping individual items onto each other, or onto another stack. Check out a Capzle on the history of Apple Inc. below. I know you will enjoy using this presentation solution as much as I do!
Most of my content on this blog has centered around the elementary grades since that is what I teach. I'm always curious about where my students will go once they leave me and that pushes me toward finding new information that I can use as I design my lessons. One of the biggest challenges I perceive with the Common Core implementation is outdated textbooks and scopes and sequences that are aligned to state level standards rather than the national one. This can be confusing, daunting and downright overwhelming to sift through.
Common Core Math Frameworks
I am an internet fiend. I could (and probably have) lose weeks of my life browsing the internet for teaching ideas, suggestions, toolkits and more that will make my job easier, more rewarding and provide the best possible learning experiences for the young friends I spent my days with.
Google is a verb for a reason, right? It wouldn't shock me to know that there are probably preschoolers out there who know what Google is and how to use it (probably better than some of their caregivers!).
In researching for this week's post, I simply Google'd the words "Common Core Math". That's it. Nothing more advanced than that. Of course the standards came up and a few articles but just three little words allowed me to hit the so-called jackpot.
I stumbled upon the Common Core Toolbox. Please indulge me for just a moment while you imagine me giggling with glee. (Yes, I am that big of a nerd for this Common Core stuff!) There is a whole slew of documents that suggest frameworks for when to teach each standard. Why is this a big deal to me? They have samples for K-12 curriculum!
Due to the way the site is set up, I can't link you directly to the documents and I apologize for that. You can easily find them by going to website, selecting Resources for Implementation and then choosing the link on the left that says "Sample Curriculum Framework Documents".
I would love to know if these sample frameworks help you as you and your colleagues design instruction for the upcoming year. Is there something like this already in place where you are? I'd love to hear about it!
YouTube can be a really frustrating resource for teachers to use. First of all, the sheer volume of content can make finding the video you need difficult. Once you find the video, however, the real frustration begins. Many districts block access to YouTube using filtering software.
If you can access it, however, it can’t be beat as a resource for short videos about almost any topic. Here are some great videos and channels to use in the classroom.
This YouTube channel doesn’t teach the fundamentals of math. Instead, it focuses on ways to make math easier and faster. In a series of videos called Fast Math Tricks, students can learn how to multiply large numbers quickly, and more. The narrator has a real passion for his subject, and he explains the steps clearly.
A funny and informative video about the difference between Holland and the Netherlands has made the rounds on Facebook, and the creator of that video didn’t stop there. C.G.P. Grey’s YouTube channel offers short, humorous videos on topics as diverse as the debt limit to how one becomes Pope. The videos do a great job of explaining fairly complex topics concisely, and the humor will keep students engaged. Some of the videos are a bit irreverent, but many would make a great lesson starter or refresher.
If you’re teaching about animals, you need the Nat Geo Wild channel. From meerkats to anglerfish, this channel has videos to give your students a glimpse into the lives of many different wild animals. Most are fairly short and can serve as a springboard to discussion or other activities.
Even if you’re not close enough to New York City to visit the Museum of Modern Art, your students can still experience what it has to offer. From studies of an artist’s work to explanations of art terms, MoMA offers great resources for visual arts teachers or for classroom teachers integrating the arts into their curriculum.
What if it’s blocked?
If your district has filtering software that blocks access to YouTube, you may still be able to use some of these great resources. If your district’s regulations don’t prohibit it, you can hook an iPad or other tablet with a data plan up to a projector. There are also great opportunities if you’re using a flipped classroom model. It may also be worthwhile to advocate for increased access with your district’s technology department.
What are your favorite YouTube videos to use in the classroom? Share links in the comments.
This week I just started using an incredible tool Edcanvas. This website tool provides a new approach for students and teachers alike to compile and learn from multimedia content.
Edcanvas allows many possibilities for the classroom, such as project-based learning, scavenger hunts, student presentations and much more. When the user creates their canvas, it is very easy to find, add and share content; whether it is videos, images, PDFs or even Google or Dropbox documents. Recently, I have had my students complete a webquest on the U.S. Constitution and students are already more engaged and willing to demonstrate their 21st century skills.
To begin using this service, you go to http://edcanvas.com, then sign up as a teacher or a student. Once you login, you can create a new canvas, discover other canvases, search canvases created by others in the edcanvas community or create a class to invite students to.
There is a simple five-step process to create a canvas. First, you pick a content source (YouTube, Google, Google Docs, Dropbox, a local file). Second, you search for resources on the web or on your own computer. Third, you drag your content to your canvas. Fourth, you drop your content and arrange it in the order you would like on your canvas. Finally, you double-click to add any text you would like. When presenting your canvas, you can change its appearance, add notes, play the canvas and then share it online.
Edcanvas is the easy place and way to create and present lessons digitally. I highly encourage every educator to sign up for this great resource today! Be sure to check out the lesson tracker video below to see how students are reacting to your lessons.
We all know that the Common Core has initiated a shift in how we are teaching literacy and writing to students from kindergarten all the way through high school (and arguably in college as, in theory, when students go to college after several years of being accountable for Common Core standards, college professors will be able to spend less time "catching students up" and more time on rigorous, college-level instruction).
As mentioned in this blog column previously, there are some basic attributes that the writers of the Common Core assert that students who are college and career ready will demonstrate: independence; building strong content knowledge; response to varying demands of audience, task, purpose and discipline; comprehend as well as critique; value evidence; use technology and digital media strategically; understand other perspectives and cultures (Common Core ELA document page 7).
For the purpose of today's blog, I'd like to focus on two of these areas: independence and valuing evidence.
Why Independence Matters
I have mentioned previously that I teach in an inner city school. I did my student teaching there and have taught there ever since. Aside from a bit of subbing in other districts (some very similar to mine and some very wealthy by comparision), this is what I know. It is where my frame of reference is.
What I have learned over the years is how little independence many of these children have. It is actually quite scary. Why? Because in a year or two, my students will be in middle school. They will not have one class, they will have six. Every year that I have taught 5th grade, I have worried tremendously about their ability to be successful the following year when they don't have just one teacher but have multiple subjects with multiple teachers and have to juggle those classes with little support.
Thus, independence is something I strive to build in my students that I didn't always do when I first started teaching. The Common Core really pushes this and I am grateful. According to the Common Core documents, students must be able to comprehend and evaluate text with little to no scaffolding.
Wait, huh?? I can't help them?? No, you can't. At least not forever. Sometimes I feel like my students can't do anything unless it is spoon-fed to them. This isn't because their previous teachers just did everything for them--it is more because they have never been taught how to be independent. The time couldn't come sooner than kindergarten. (I know middle school and high school teachers are probably cheering as I say that.)
Why Valuing Evidence Matters
It is all about the evidence, isn't it? "Prove it" and "How do you know?" are two things I must say at least twelve times per day in my 4th/5th grade classroom. I am also teaching my student teacher to say that to her groups. I literally want the children to understand that if they can't find proof for their claim, it is just an unsubstantiated opinion. In other words, it lacks power. It doesn't hold any credence if you can't prove it.
This is true in literacy but definitely also holds true with math! How do you know? How do you know? How do you know? (And imagine 29 10-11 year olds rolling their eyes and wishing my broken record would give it a rest already.) Yet, they have learned that it means nothing if you can't tell me how you figured it out. Context clues, a key word, a definition, whatever it is, that evidence matters more to me than the right answer. Why? Because with their evidence, I can easily follow their thinking and see where they may have gotten mixed up (not hard to do with some of the texts my young friends read). I can better help them sort out and make meaning if I can follow their thought pattern.
Alright, so how do I accomplish this? There isn't any time!
Believe me, I feel your time crunch, I do! Especially this year teaching a split classroom. My solution most recently has been Task Cards for Partner Reading. This hits both skills at once--it allows my students to be independent readers and thinkers (with a tad bit of scaffolding since they have a partner) and pushes them to find that evidence. It is the best of both worlds!
Below is a sample of a 4th grade strategic level task card (this accompanies a Reading Street leveled reader). There is a focus question and then students take turns reading. They do one story over two days so if you were Partner A first, the next day you will be Partner B. The most important part of this process to me is the discussion. Some of the questions are lower level but some of them really require my students to go back and find that evidence. They LOVE doing these cards and since we have started using them, their comprehension has gone up pretty significantly.