Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Web Tool Wednesday: Zunal WebQuest Maker

It's Wednesday again! This week's tool is Zunal WebQuest Maker. It takes the traditional format of a WebQuest (Introduction, Task, Process, Evaluation, Conclusion) and provides an easy to use tool for creating your own. You can also easily browse Web Quests made by others. 

I had trouble finding how to search at first, but finally located the search feature when I clicked on Browse. On the Browse page, you get a grid at the top that is organized by subject area along one axis and grade level along the other. The table shows how many Web Quests are in each category. For instance, there are 18 Web Quests for Foreign Language for grades K-2. Clicking on any of the numbers narrows the results below to that section. The Search feature is located under the grid.

  • Web Quests can include links and file attachments. 
  • There is a rubric creator integrated into the tool
  • There are lots of Web Quests you can browse to find a ready-made one that works for your class.
  • The professional (paid) account allows you to adapt others' Web Quests for your own use.
  • The professional (paid) account is not very expensive.
  • Some of the Web Quests I found were of excellent quality--higher-order thinking skills, well-organized, and all materials ready to use.
  • Users can review Web Quests for quality.
  •  The free account limits you to creating just one Web Quest.
  • The professional (paid) account is only available in a 3-year subscription.
  • The Web Quests I visited had a large range of quality. Some seemed to really just provide a list of links and a simple task. Some referenced links or files that were not included.
  • None of the Web Quests I visited had any reviews, making the review feature useless.
Here are some sample Web Quests that I liked:
Do you use Web Quests in your classroom? Did you find any Zunal lessons that looked like they might work in your classroom? Would you be willing to pay for this service? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, August 27, 2012

This Week in the Preschool Computer Lab: Picture Cards

Someone will be making a video of my teaching in the lab this week. Nerve-wracking! In trying to think how to spice things up a bit, I came up with a quick idea that may be useful in a variety of classrooms. As a regular part of my lessons, I quiz my preschool students orally about the parts of the computer. Once we've learned all of the parts, we practice with questions like, "Which part can I use for writing on the computer?" [keyboard] "Which part is kind of like a T.V.?" [display] "Which part is the place where the games come from?" [system unit]

I have also on occasion incorporated other types of prompts, such as playing recordings of the hard drive, the clicking mouse button, or someone typing, to see if students can identify which part they are hearing. This year I may do one of those macro photo super-close-ups too and see if students can recognize a part from a small detail.

Now for my idea. It has always bothered me that I have my preschoolers sitting on the carpet for so long while we do our introductory mini lesson. I've always wanted to incorporate some more movement. This weekend, I sat down and made some cards showing the various computer parts and captioned with the matching words. I printed them on cardstock and will distribute them to my students before we begin the computer parts portion of the lesson tomorrow. I thought I would call out the clues and have students stand up if they think my clues are for the part on their cards. You could easily use this same strategy for lots of different lessons, and it was easy to prepare. It only took me 10 minutes or so to create the cards.

Maybe I'll post the cards on TpT another night. I'd love to share them with you, but I'm tired! Time to relax with my sweetie!

How do you keep your students engaged and moving when the lessons get long?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Web Tool Wednesday: Wix

It's Wednesday, and you know what that means! I am highlighting a new web tool for teachers. As you can see, I've decided to change the name of this feature from Web 2.0 Wednesday to Web Tool Wednesday. Why? I noticed that some of the sites I've featured aren't so much Web 2.0 as they are useful tools that can be found on the Web. I know it's semantics, but I'm a stickler.

This week's tool is called Wix. It's a simple tool for building gorgeous HTML 5.0 and Flash websites. They even have a feature to create a mobile site. For my test run, I used Wix to create a simple resume site. I found it relatively easy to use but with lots of powerful tools like the ability to align elements, create social networking buttons and "bars," and change the site design with a click.

Teachers from 4th grade on up would find this tool useful for creating web pages with students--or even just for yourself! Just be aware that users must enter an email address to sign up for an account. This tool is not specifically education-oriented, so I didn't see tools for teachers to moderate sites, either. You could maybe sign up for one teacher account and then have the students create sites under that one account. That would make it easier for the teacher to manage. The user account page would then have all of the sites in a list, with the ability to view, edit, or delete a site with just a click.

Back when I taught 4th grade, we made web pages featuring student poetry. I also always admired the Oakview Elementary American Timeline website (now available only through the Wayback Engine) and thought it would be cool to do something similar. 

What would you do with Wix in the classroom?

Friday, August 10, 2012

This Week in the Preschool Computer Lab: Orientation (Revisited)

It's back to school time! Our kiddos went back to school a week ago, and Monday marks the first day of specials for our little ones. Most of my students this year will be four-year-olds, as opposed to the previous mix of three and four, almost all of my group are students returning from last year, and I'll have more self-contained special education classes than before. I'm eager to dive in and see what my year will look like with these changes.

As always I'll begin my computer lab year with an orientation lesson. We'll talk about what a computer is, how many have used computers at home, different kinds of computers, and the parts of the computer. We'll also review the lab rules. Now for that cornerstone of teaching: reflection. What would I like to change this year? Below are a few thoughts.

  • In order to make the hardware discussion more interactive and age-appropriate, I've gathered some materials to make this part of my lesson hands-on. I raided my attic for some "antique" computers and parts. This is easy when you have a tinkerer for a husband! I was able to gather (in separate pieces) a case with a removable side, an internal hard drive, an old-fashioned keyboard and mouse, and an old Macintosh Classic (pictured above). I plan to pull these out, show them to the kids, and pass around the items that are okay to touch.

  • I used a site called Growing With Technology: Katie's Room to talk about timelines and the history of computers at the end of the year. I'm toying with the idea of using it during orientation this year to show some of the old computers, or I may look up actual photos of the corresponding machines.

  • I might have students use sticky notes or something similar to respond to some sort of charted prompt at the beginning or end of class. For instance, put your sticky note on your favorite part of the computer, or next to the face that shows how you feel about computers. This is still formulating in my mind! Maybe we'll turn it into a bar graph or something.

  • I'd like to find a way to make the carpet time portion of my lesson shorter and more interactive without sacrificing all of the information I want students to hear. I've used the interactive whiteboard (IWB) in the past, but I'd love to make it a bit more fun. I'm still contemplating that one!
Now it's your turn! Tell us how your student group is different this year, what you'll do differently, and what you're doing to introduce the computer lab to your students! Let us hear from you in the comments!

Picture credit for Macintosh Classic:
Photo by Alexander Schaelss
Downloaded from WikiMedia Commons 
Further licensing information can be found there. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Big Back to School Sale Coming!

Can you smell the freshly sharpened pencils?! It's that time of year again, time for a huge Teachers Pay Teachers SALE! As usual, hundreds of sellers will be holding sales of up to 20% off, and TpT will be throwing in an extra 10% off of the already reduced prices when you use the coupon code BTS12. That comes out to about 28% off total!

My entire store will be on sale. See below for some sample sale prices!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Web 2.0 Wednesday: Triptico

I'm usually not a big fan of downloading programs to install for school use. Here's why: in my school district, you have to submit programs for review and have them tested and approved by information management before you can use them. It can be a long process and they don't always say yes. Even so, I have a great tool to recommend for you and your tech team to examine and see if it will work for you!

Triptico is a set of interactive whiteboard tools developed by a teacher named David Riley. The quick download through Adobe Air gets you a little program that contains 22 customizable widgets for use on your interactive whiteboard or just projected and manipulated with a mouse. Apps include timers, random name chooser, memory, custom spinners, word magnets, score keepers, student grouping tool, random task generator, voting utility, and some customizable academic games. Games include a critical thinking quiz where teams guess the questions to go with answers around a certain topic, a drag-and-drop ordering activity, and a game called Find Ten where students look at a set of cards and choose the 10 that fit into a given category. It appears from my examination that data entered, such as student names, is stored only on your own computer. You will need an Internet connection to play, however.

What I like best about these tools is that they are flexible. They can be used at any level and with any subject area. Most of the pre-made demo questions centered around Shakespeare, clearly for high school or college students, but I could easily customize the widgets to use with my preschoolers as well. Below are a couple of ideas that I had while reviewing the tools. Please list your ideas in the comments section!

  • Use the random task generator for students to choose a reading response task or a classroom job.
  • The ordering widget could be used to sequence a student's own writing, to check comprehension by ordering story events, or to rank the importance of factors leading to World War II.
  • The picture spinner could be used to allow preschool and kindergarten students to choose a center. You can even configure it to give results in a random sequence rather than completely randomly so that you don't overload your centers with too many kiddos.
  • It would be fun to use the What's in the Box? game, similar to Let's Make a Deal, to review for a test and to actually reward the prizes listed (examples include everything from "tidy the room" and "broken pencil" to "chocolate bar" and "new pen").
  • You can use the voting app to vote for class rewards, but you can also have students vote on content-area questions such as, "Whose side would you take in the Boston Massacre?"
  • Use the word magnets to sort words into categories, and incorporate higher-order thinking skills. For instance, sort these items into groups showing what you'd need on a trip to Mars, the Moon, or Pluto. Give a rationalization for where you place each item.
  • Perhaps I can have my preschoolers play the matching game in the lab to match pictures and words for the parts of the computer!
What could you use Triptico tools for?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August Currently

I'm hoping to keep up with Farley's Currently link-up every month (even though I'm a bit late), because it's fun, lets me share a bit of my personal side, and gives me the opportunity to check out some great blogs from fellow teachers! My entry is below. I hope you'll check out her original post and join in, or at least read from a few of the contributors on her link-up! The links for my B2S (Back to School) Must Haves are below the image.

B2S Must Haves:

Don't forget to check out Farley's original post and link up!

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