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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Primary Sources

Authentic instruction is key to any real learning.  The students have to be involved and engaged, and for that to happen, they have to see the learning as relevant to their lives (right now, not sometime in the unforeseen future).  My fifth-grader asked me a couple of weeks ago why she had to learn how to divide decimals.  She said she’d never use this skill.  I laughed, and explained to her why that particular skill actually is quite useful.  Now, when she asks me the same thing while reading Julius Caesar in high school, I might not have such a good answer.  But that is for another post…

Today’s blog is going to center on primary source documents.  These can help make historical people, places and events relevant to today’s learner by connecting the past to the present.

Links to relevant websites:

  • World Digital Library The World Digital LIbrary hosts over 9,000 primary documents and images from collections around the world. It is sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The WDL can be searched by place, time, institution, topic, and type of resource.  WDL includes a large amount of historical maps and images. 
  • The National Archives This website is easy to navigate and includes a variety of teacher resources. They feature a daily historical document relating to an event from that day in history. The online catalog can be searched using keywords, and 100 “milestone” documents are identified as significant to American history.  It also includes research tips and strategies that could be helpful to both teachers and students.
  • Docs Teach Docs Teach is run by The National Archives, and has links to a variety of instructional activities and documents.  It’s easy to use and provides audio, video, charts, graphs, maps and more.
  •  Spartacus Educational This would be a great site to use to begin research on historical figures.  Each biographical article links to other biographies and primary source documents.
  • The Avalon Project This is a Yale University site and has documents broken into time periods, and then listed alphabetically.  It is very easy to find globally historic sources here.
  • Life Magazine photo documents contains millions of images.  You can search by keywords, decade (1860s through 1970s), or significant people, places, events or sports topics.

Links to relevant apps:

Referenced from

Science, and music, and health…Oh My! (and some other subjects, too)

I had recently downloaded a variety of apps that I wanted to play with, so today’s app review has no evident theme.  There is a little of something for everyone.  My personal favorites were Solve the Outbreak, and Constitution for iPad (and I am, most definitely, not a history buff).  Check them out, and give some serious thought about getting Apps Gone Free (last link on the page).  Enjoy your shopping!

VideoScience – Short videos that you could use to show the entire class, or assign to individuals as a reteaching method, or if they are absent.

SkyOrb – Awesome app if you teach anything about space.

Solve the Outbreak – This would be fun for any class, but really applies to health, science, and/or sociology.  The app was developed by the Center for Disease Control and takes kids through problem-solving activities where they have to utilize multiple resources to solve the outbreak.

Constitution for iPad – An extremely thorough digital resource for anything to do with the Constitution including the famous photograph and biographical information on all of the signers.

SitUps – This app plans your daily ab workout for you.  It tracks and motivates the user.  There are apps by the same developer for running (5K, 10K, and 21 K versions), squats, push ups, pull ups, and a combo app.

GoodEar Melodies – This app is free for a limited time.  It randomly generates a melody, and you must correctly play it back to earn points.  You can customize it to any level, so is good for all musicians.

AppsGoneFree – You can access a variety of free apps on here that are not normally free.  You have to check it often, though, as most are only free for a short time.

Connecting with Parents

We all know that involved parents=better students.  The term “better” is relative to the situation, of course, but I don’t think anyone can argue against communicating with parents regarding their child’s education.  Technology makes it quicker and easier to keep parents up to date on classroom happenings.  Here are some ways to connect with parents digitally:

  • Class Website – These are as individual as the teachers who design them.  This site could be a one-stop shop for parents to access assignments, due dates, project examples, teacher contact info, and curricular resources for additional help in the class.  Teachers in my district use a variety of tools to host their websites, from Website Baker, to Blogger, to Google Sites.  I have linked some examples to give you an idea of what each format looks like.
  • Class Blog – This can be teacher-run and look more like the class websites mentioned above, or it can be a place where students can post and parents can view completed projects and/or classroom reflections.  I am linking one using Weebly (it’s new, so check back later for more student posts), and one using Blogger.  Here is a great article on the merits of blogging in the classroom.
  • Email – Okay, this one doesn’t need any explanation, but I wanted to make sure it made the list.  Make sure to send more positive emails to parents than negative.
  • Facebook – This one is a bit controversial, but Facebook pages have their purpose and place.  Teachers can establish a class page that parents and students can “Like” in order to receive information in this forum.
  • Twitter – Let parents “follow” what you (and their children) are up to in the classroom.  Twitter is an easy communication avenue because it only consists of short (140 characters, to be exact) bits of information.  Some teachers have even had their students set up classroom Twitter accounts to tweet about their learning.
  • TextingRemind 101 is a safe (and free!) way to send mass text messages out to students/parents.  The message is generated on your computer and not linked to your personal cell number in any way.  No one can reply to these messages.
  • Apps – Two to check out are BuzzMob and Collaborize Classroom.  Both are FREE and create a closed network used to communicate with your students’ parents.

Please leave me a comment telling me your favorite ways to stay connected with parents, or to give me your opinion on those mentioned above.  Thanks!

Educational Video Resources #edchat #edtech #onlinelearning

We know that today’s youth learn in segments.  Short, concise, and engaging bits of information appeal to them more than the old lecture style of delivering information.  The media specialist in our district is a good friend of mine and I’m amazed at some of the VHS tapes that teachers are asking her to convert to DVD (most are 20+ years old!).  I would venture to say that there are more relevant videos (divided into shorter clips) available online to fit these educational needs.  I have looked into several to cut the list down to a manageable group.

  1. Learn 360 – Great site that includes K-12 multimedia educational resources.  This site also offers for a lot of personalization to meet your individual needs, and a place to curate resources you want to find in the future.
  2. neo K12  – A collection of free online puzzles, videos, games, lessons and quizzes.  This site is heavy in science, but does contain topics in other subject areas, as well.
  3. TED-ED – These videos are specifically designed to act as highly engaging and fun lessons.  You can sort by content and duration.
  4. Khan Academy – Great, reliable source for educational videos.  Mostly science and math, but covers some humanities, as well.
  5. YouTube EDU – This might be the most versatile.  I quickly found videos with poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, others regarding drawing, and another comparing Great Britain, England, and the United Kingdom.  This is a YouTube channel created just for education.

These are just a few, main, sites to check first when looking for a multimedia resource to use with your instruction.  There are many more listed here if you can’t find what you are looking for.