Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Web 2.0 Wednesday: Time Toast

This week's tool is Time Toast, a quick and easy way to create timelines and visualize events in a linear fashion. Simply enter events or time spans using a simple form, and the tool will build a timeline for you. You can also view the information in a table format. Each event can include an image, a title, and a description, as well as, of course, a date. Time spans include dates, title, and description, but no image. The timeline itself can also include a main image and a title.

You have the option of publishing timelines publicly or not, and tools are provided to easily share or embed a timeline if you choose to publish. Timelines can be tagged for easy searching as well, by the author and by viewers. There is a commenting feature for public timelines, but I could not tell from my test run whether comments can be deleted by the creator. I did not see any options to turn off or moderate comments.

Besides the obvious possibilities for historical timelines, timelines are great for other objectives and themes...
How do you use timelines in your classroom? What do you think are the most important pointers for teaching and using timelines? What other ideas do you have for using Time Toast? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Web 2.0 Wednesday: Study Ladder

Today's Web 2.0 tool, Study Ladder, has interactive games, worksheets, books, and activities in every subject, with resources labeled for use with preschool through 7th grade. As a teacher, you sign up for a free account and enter a class name and a list of students. You can create unlimited classes and students. Then, take a look at the resources for your grade level and assign them either to the whole class or to individuals. You set how you'd like your students to login--either by entering their username and password, entering just the password, or for very young students, just clicking the GO button next to the correct avatar. The site provides you with a class login page as a start page, showing all of the students in the class.

Once your students login and play, your dashboard shows results individually for each student, including which activities students attempted, which were completed, and which were mastered. You can also generate certificates in PDF form to print for your students when they achieve certain levels. Students have your assigned activities highlighted at the top, but they have access to all of the activities if they navigate further.

Students have unlimited access during school hours (which the site has designated as 9:00-3:00 for your own time zone), and after hours they can play a certain amount per day at home. For unlimited home play either the school or the parents need to purchase an upgrade.

I had my daughter test drive the activities and she found them fun and engaging. There were several on her level (4th grade) that she found challenging, and I was able to check her progress when she was finished. I also took a look at the preschool and kindergarten activities and found many of them useful, although there were not as many activities for preschool as for the other grades. Subjects include math, literacy, science, music, art, language & culture, numeracy, health/safety/citizenship, and financial literacy. See below for a sampling of the types of resources available and some of the ways you can search for activities. This page is the main math resources page.

Could you see yourself using Study Ladder in your classroom? Are you using it already? Do you use something else that is similar? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Web 2.0 Wednesday: Custom Google Maps

Did you know your students can create custom, annotated maps in Google Maps? Just go to Google Maps, click on My Places in the lefthand pane, and click on Create Map. There's even an interactive tutorial to guide you through the features. For any location you mark on your map, you can:
  • change the icon
  • move the marker
  • add a photo
  • add comments
  • add links
You can also draw on the map: freeform shapes, lines, and routes along roads. These too can be annotated with text, photos, and links. Maps can be set to public (searchable through Google Maps) or unlisted (you must have the URL to see the map). Even with the unlisted setting, custom maps aren't private per se, so it would be wise to avoid using students' personal information such as last names, workplaces, or home addresses.

What can you do with custom maps in the classroom?
  • Map historical events such as battles in the Civil War, including annotations and graphics for each location
  • Show a field trip route
  • Calculate distances and gas mileage using the routes tool
  • Have students research local areas of interest, such as museums and historical sites, and mark the map to show locations, admission prices, hours, and brief descriptions
  • French students can study the many famous landmarks of Paris and map them, annotating the map in French
  • Create a map of your life showing important places and use this as a jumping off point for writing a memoir, autobiography, or personal narrative
  • Show the route that settlers took along the Oregon Trail and annotate with primary source material. 
  • Map the habitats of animals around the world in an animal study
What are your ideas for using custom maps in the classroom? Have you used them in your classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Check out the video below for a taste of what's to come for Google Maps!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quick Tip: Managing Thumb Drives and SD Cards

Today's post is a quickie tip about keeping up with thumb drives, SD cards, and other portable media. If you've ever tried to write your name and phone number in tiny letters on an SD card, or put an address label on a tiny USB drive, you know it can be challenging to label these small tools with your information in case of a loss. Instead, try this: take a photo of your business card or another document with your contact information, and put that photo onto your media. Make sure to leave the business card on the drive or card when you are moving or deleting other files. This ensures that all of your pertinent contact information is available to anyone who may find the card and need to contact you. Of course, you should take care not to include enough information to help an identity thief take advantage, and as always, frequent backups will keep a lost thumb drive from being a catastrophe. :o)

You might also consider using some form of cloud storage and giving up your portable media altogether. Services like Dropbox, iCloud, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive, and Google Docs may serve your needs well enough to give up that SD card or USB drive.More on that in a later post!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Top 10 Websites I Use in the Lab

I was inspired by Teaching My 3's linky party on top 10's. What an interesting idea for a linky party! I hope she gets lots more responses, because I really enjoy reading these types of lists. Here's my entry: top 10 websites I use in the preschool computer lab, not necessarily in order.
  1. : Great for preschool and kindergarten skill-building
  2. Kerpoof!: Even the youngest students can publish work with these easy-to-use tools
  3. Starfall / More Starfall: Go-to site for topical and literacy activities
  4. Highlights Kids: This is the first place I look for seasonal and holiday-themed activities
  5. TVO Kids:Lots of easy-to-use games that focus on literacy and other skills. Paired with a Braille overlay, Letterella game works well for blind preschoolers.
  6. ABCYa!: Fun, colorful, skill-based activities organized by grade level and theme
  7. Knee Bouncers: Variety of activities for very young children or for children learning to use an accessibility switch for cause-and-effect.
  8. Help Kidz Learn: Activities for a range of abilities, many switch-accessible.
  9. All Abilities Playground: Games specifically designed for use by students with a variety of needs. Memory and Ibis Buster can be played by blind students using a traditional keyboard with tactile markers.
  10. Sheppard Software Preschool: Activities for colors, numbers, shapes, and a wonderful variety of animal games, all fully accessible for non-readers.
Be sure to make your own Top 10 and link up on Teaching My 3's blog! Click the button!

Teaching My 3

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Web 2.0 Wednesday: Warning Sign Generator

Warning! Web 2.0 tools can be addictive!

With the Warning Sign Generator, students can quickly customize warning signs with a variety of options. There are 11 sign styles and 45 symbols, and you can customize up to 6 lines of text underneath. What could you use this for in the classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Ideas for using Warning Signs in the Classroom
  • Create classroom signs warning against use of cell phones and smoking. Warning: Smoking Makes You Look Old!
  • Designate center areas in the classroom with humorous warning signs. Warning: These Books Are Addictive!
  • After studying problem/solution in stories, have students generate warning signs that address the specific problems in the stories they are reading. Warning: Pilot May Have Heart Attack at 30,000 Feet!
  • Students on the yearbook committee can create signs warning of the regret of failing to purchase a yearbook. Caution! Failure to Purchase Yearbook May Result in Crippling Regret!
  • Brainstorm a list in class, then have students make signs warning against common errors in math calculations. Caution! When the top number is smaller, you must regroup before subtracting.
  • Design warning signs that would've helped historical figures you are studying. Notice! Silk Worms Will Not Thrive in Georgia!
  • Generate humorous signs as a part of animal reports. Warning: Bunnies Display Uncontrollable Cuteness!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July Currently

I happened upon the Oh' Boy 4th Grade blog and the Currently monthly feature. Here's my take! This was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed Farley's sense of humor and overall style. If we lived in the same state, we'd probably be buds. :o)

For the reads, I picked Because of Winn-Dixie because I always loved to read it with really over-the-top Southern accents. I'm not sure why I always heard the voices with Southern accents in my head; maybe it was the trailer they lived in reminding me of growing up in rural Georgia. For the professional go-to book, I had a few books I would really return to over and over when I taught 4th grade, but the one I pretty much wore out was Skill Building Morning Jumpstarts by Deborah Poston. It was a reproducible book, not a methodology book, but I used it constantly. Now that I'm in Ed Tech, I haven't really found any books I can go back to over and over. Technology changes so quickly that it's hard for print material to keep up. I use the ISTE NETS a lot, and the learning standards for my level (preschool), and other than that, I go to Twitter when I need help.

Click the button below to read Farley's post and link up!

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