How to Improve Essay Writing Skills with 10 EdTech Online Tools

By Curriki Guest Blogger Julie Petersen JuliePetersen2

Who thought that your education wouldn’t be based solely upon studying and exams? When you decided to pursue a degree, you didn’t expect to spend much of your time on essays, research papers, case studies, and other types of academic papers. Nevertheless, every student is expected to improve his writing skills throughout the educational journey.

Why do professors consider these projects to be so important? Believe it or not, they don’t assign several tasks with the mere intention to torture you. The academic writing practice develops your ability to express your mind, analyze academic and scientific materials, and provide your own arguments supported by facts. These skills are essential for any career you are focused on.

However, you are hardly relieved by the realization that essays are important. You need practical advice that will help you move forward and complete the assignments with success. In the continuation, you will find EdTech tools that will help you do that!

  1. Writing.com

When you need someone to support you throughout the writing process with the right tips and constructive feedback, then this is the website you should turn to. Writing.com is a community for writers, but you don’t have to be a professional author to create your online writing portfolio and become part of the platform. In addition to the numerous writing tools, you will get access to great contests that will inspire you to discover your creative voice.

  1. NovelGuide.com

Are you stuck with a project for your literature class? You’ll probably find the needed resources at this website. NovelGuide offers plot summaries on most novels that are part of the curriculum in high schools and colleges. You will also benefit from the Discussion & Question section available for each book featured at the website.

  1. TeenInk.com

What could be more motivational than an actual paper written by a student? Inspiration can come from anywhere: life occurrences, books, websites, school environment, famous personalities, and much more. The essays featured at this website can serve as an example of creative writing in its best light.

  1. Essaymama.com

This is the online tool that will get you out of the most difficult situations. When you have a close deadline to meet, but you are nowhere near a finished paper, you can rely on the assistance by the writers and tutors at this website. You can get help with virtually any type of paper, regardless of its topic. The team of writers includes experts from several areas of study. Thus, EssayMama can provide you with a piece of advice that will help to complete any academic project, but you’ll also get a valuable lesson on essay writing along the way. The blog section of the website is worthy of attention; check for regular updates with news, infographics and tips regarding academic writing.

  1. Essay Map

When you have a successful plan, even the most complex project will be simple to complete. This online tool will help you stay on track throughout the development of the content. You can use the online version of the tool to create the map, but you can also print the blank map and fill in the blanks if that works for you.

  1. Persuasive Essay Thesis Builder & Online Outliner

Let’s simplify the name of this tool; we’ll call it Thesis Builder because that’s its main function. If you don’t have a solid thesis statement for your essay, you cannot proceed with the process until you develop one. This automated tool instructs you to provide the topic of the paper, your main opinions and supporting arguments. Then, it will produce a thesis statement that you can edit or simply paste in your document.

  1. EasyPunch.com

You have troubles organizing your ideas and expressing them in clear academic writing style? Essay Punch will take you through each step of the writing process. You can use pre-set prompts for descriptive, persuasive, and informative essays. Then, you can proceed with online interactive exercises that will help you become a better writer through regular practice.

  1. TheEasyEssay.com

This is an instant organization program that brings the writing process down to its foundation. The system works for students at any age. It enables you to organize a basic 5-paragraph paper, but you can also expand that structure to a more complex essay of 17 paragraphs. Once you start using this tool, you will boost your communication skills without even noticing.

  1. HemingwayApp.com

When you present a paper with complex structure and lengthy arguments, you expect to impress your professor. That strategy backfires in most cases. Street language is not acceptable in an academic paper, but that doesn’t mean you should write unreadable content that wouldn’t convey a clear message. Hemingway App is a tool that will help you make your paper bold and clear by simplifying the words and sentences. In addition to dense and complicated sentences, the tool will also highlight adverbs, passive voice, and words or phrases that could use some editing.

  1. Read-Able.com

This tool offers a quick and easy way to test how readable your paper is. You don’t want to confuse your teacher with a paper that would consume a lot of his time. With this flexible readability software, you will make sure that the essay you are about to submit is appropriate for your grade level.

Academic writing is not as scary as it seems. Even the most intriguing assignments can be made simpler when you have the right educational tools on your side. Start exploring the above-listed tools and you’ll notice how your writing skills are improving by the day.

Julie Petersen is a tutor and a blogger, who features the latest career and educational trends in her articles. At present time she is working on her first ebook dedicated to online learning. You may see Julie’s latest publications and contact her via Linkedin or Google+ page.

Have you checked out the new Curriki? Ch

Have you checked out the new Curriki? Check out this short webinar to get a sneak preview! http://ow.ly/P0P7z http://ow.ly/i/bzWj6

Math People

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

What makes a “math person”? What is it that causes people to pursue majors and careers in math and other STEM disciplines where mathematics is crucial to success?

The National Science Foundation has recently supported a study by Professor Zahra Hazari at Florida International University’s STEM Transformation Institute. Professor Hazari worked with colleagues at Harvard University and Western Kentucky University to interview over 9000 college students taking calculus.

Love_math_1What they found was that it’s not simply about math competence and confidence. Students reported that they developed interest and positive attitudes toward math, and had received recognition from family, teachers and other students. So they responded positively when asked if they saw themselves as a “math person”.

According to Professor Haazari, “We really have to engage students in more meaningful ways through their own interests and help them overcome challenges and recognize them for doing so. If we want to empower students and provide access to STEM careers, it can’t just be about confidence and performance. Attitudes and personal motivation matters immensely.”

Some recommendations for teachers:

  • Have high standards
  • Be generous with praise
  • Look for ways to connect math to the real world

These are good recommendations for all students in math courses, not just those who end up as “math people”. The point here is that both weaker students and the stronger students benefit from encouragement and engagement.

A blog about the study, including a link to the full report “Establishing an Explanatory Model for Mathematics Identity”, can be found at the NEA Today web site:

http://neatoday.org/2015/06/23/in-praise-of-the-math-person

Curriki has developed courses in Algebra, Geometry and Calculus for high school students with support from AT&T for the first two and Huawei, for the Calculus course. These adhere to standards, and are project-based, to help make the subjects more relevant to the outside world. You can find those courses here:

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> Algebra 

> Geometry 

> Calculus 

Check them out!

Creative Teaching

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By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

A recent blog at the National Education Association website reported on a study concerning how K12 teachers can be creative in the classroom, in the face of standardized curricula and testing.

The authors of the study assert that the current high-stakes testing model in American education can impede the development of creativity in students. Yet as they point out, “creativity has always been and will continue to be a driving force in moving society forward”.

Drs. Danaah Henriksen and Punya Mishra co-authored the study. They are both professors of educational psychology and educational technology at Michigan State University. Their methodology involved lengthy interviews with eight recent winners or finalists for National Teacher of the Year awards.

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Several  themes were common across the group:

  • An inter-disciplinary approach to subject matter
  • The use of multiple learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic)
  • Learning that relates to the real worldSeveral  themes were common across the group:
  • Having confidence to try new ideas in the classroom
  • Creative teachers draw on their own creative abilities and interests (e.g. musical, artistic)

The study authors “recommend that teacher education programs devote more resources into interdisciplinary thinking and training.” And they add that introducing creativity does not need to involve “sweeping change”, that “more realistically it’s about an ongoing willingness to find the places to make small or interesting changes and watch these add up over time.”

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Creative teaching is important for multiple reasons. One is that it provides more channels through which students can learn. Another is that it introduces children to the creative process, and helps them to become more creative themselves. And it allows teachers to remain more engaged with their students and the joy of teaching. Creative teaching is more rewarding for teachers.

Curriki applauds creativity in the classroom. We suggest you share ideas around enhancing classroom creativity with other educators by joining one or more Curriki groups. And we encourage you to look for ways to add cross-disciplinary and cross-learning content by taking advantage of some of the more than 62,000 free resource materials found at curriki.org.

The full study report can be found at: “We Teach Who  We Are: Creativity in the Lives and Practices of Accomplished Teachers”.

Top 10 Non-STEM Resources

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki 

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With all the emphasis on STEM education many people have begun to wonder if there are any major or minor repercussions in focusing on STEM education. Thankfully that’s not as serious a problem for us here at Curriki because we provide tons of resources that are STEM related AND non-STEM related. If you didn’t know that, take a look at this list of our Top 10 Non-STEM resources. As always, these high quality resources are free to use, share and customize, so you definitely should take a look at them!

10) Unit 10: Turbulent Decades

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Noir at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This collection contains resources specific to the post war era, covering topics such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and cultural movements of the 1960s.

Find it here

9) Differentiating Between Different Types of Conflict Collection

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This lesson is part of a larger unit on the Great Depression. In this unit, students will be focusing on determining importance; summarizing; making predictions; recognizing plot structure; and identifying flashbacks, foreshadowing and setting. Wherever possible, mini-lesson texts relate to American life in the 1930s, and all students will be reading literature circle novels set during this time period in American history.

Find it here

8) The Crisis of Credit VISUALIZED

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Jonathan Jarvis created a video that clearly and simply details how the credit crisis of 2008 came about, what mistakes were made, how it was all interconnected, and how everyone was affected. The video is very concise, while also being thorough and easy to understand.

Find it here

7) Rob Lucas Grammar Collection

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Always in our top 10 resources, this grammar collection is an extremely rich resource offering a complete unit on teaching grammar in a fun way. The content is correct, thorough and appropriate. Inclusion of a version of Mad Libs and a collaborative group project/presentation offers as much creativity for teaching grammar as possible. A humorous poem in worksheet form makes the lesson engaging and interesting. A scoring guide for the presentation makes the unit meaningful and understandable to students. The unit uses many various strategies to enhance the content.

Find it here

6) AfricaQuest

“Great Zimbabwe Closeup” by Macvivo at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup.jpg#/media/File:Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup.jpg

This WebQuest guides student teams to research and answer questions about their assigned African nation. It includes research about the economic growth of modern China to gain understanding of how developing countries might further expand economically.

Find it here

5) Tuck Everlasting Novel Study

“Tuck Everlasting25″ by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tuck_Everlasting25.png#/media/File:Tuck_Everlasting25.png

This resource provides an excellent 25 day unit on the novel Tuck Everlasting. With an emphasis on questioning, particularly question-answer relationships, the novel study materials guide students to develop critical thinking skills. All materials like question cards, game instructions, graphic organizers, rubrics, templates for character development, vocabulary development, etc., are included in this thorough, comprehensive, highly usable resource.

Find it here

4) Traveling West in a Covered Wagon

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The unit explores the reasons that led early Americans from their homes in the east to the west via the Oregon Trail. The students will discover that the emigrants headed west for various reasons, such as cheap land, jobs, and a better life. The unit simulates life on the Oregon Trail through a series of hands-on activities and inquiry. The students will travel back in time to the 1840s to travel west on the Oregon trail in a covered wagon. The students will return to 2009, with artifacts they collected on their journey. The artifacts will be created by the students throughout the unit. The students will display their artifacts at the end of the unit in an Oregon Trail Museum.

Find it here

3) The Kite Runner Unit

“Kite runner” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kite_runner.jpg#/media/File:Kite_runner.jpg

A unit of materials to support the teaching and reading of the novel The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The unit includes a suggested reading schedule and unit plan. pre-reading assignments and worksheets, during reading questions, graphic organizers and lesson plans, and after reading assessments and writing extensions.

Find it here

2) Civic Duty vs Uninformed Voters

“Election MG 3455″ by Rama – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 fr via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Election_MG_3455.JPG#/media/File:Election_MG_3455.JPG

A lesson and Powerpoint in which students will evaluate the role the media and celebrities play into our ideas of civic engagement and voting while asking the question if duty outweighs the uninformed vote.

Find it here

1) Analyzing Media Perception of Congressional Power

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A lesson that looks at the powers of Congress, as defined by the constitution, and how the media perceives what powers Congress has. This will be done through viewing media, such as online articles, videos, and political cartoons. We will compare and contrast the perception and what the constitution says. It also includes alternative suggestions to the “official” lesson.

Find it here

If you have a favorite Curriki resource about Humanities, Language, Arts, or other Non-STEM Resources, please let us know by leaving a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Inspiring Learning: Inspire Self-Inspiration

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

We recently ran a survey of our members asking them “How do you inspire learning?”. We appreciate all of the interesting responses we received.

One of our members, Vincent Churchill, provided a very interesting multi-page response, which I would like to summarize here. His response is actually rather profound. Instead of thinking about you as a teacher inspiring learning, think about it one level higher.

That is, quoting Mr. Churchill: “Lead students to inspire themselves”. Think about it – the best inspiration and motivation comes from within as a continuous process, once the student can get to that place. So help them to get to that place where they don’t just draw occasional inspiration from without, but fuel it more regularly from within. And help them get to the place where they will also seek additional external sources of inspiration for themselves.

Here’s some of what Mr. Churchill wrote in his response:

“And the answer is…

My answer is twofold and in starting the first part of my answer, I would have to qualify that it is about leading students to inspiring themselves, with their own motivations and reasons, not aimed at a’result’, reward or specific goal in mind. In short, that they be inspired at a very personal level and for various different reasons… their own reasons! My thoughts on the matter are geared towards a quite few things;

1. … to want to know more about the subject/issue at hand

2. … to be willing to share his/her thoughts about the subject/issue

3. … to find authentic and original examples for illustrating a particular example

4. … to examine, investigate, question and put forward opinions (sometimes of a personal nature)

5. … to be willing to ‘risk being wrong’ by giving an answer

6. … to debate and discuss (even argue) with their peers

7. … to take the classroom experience/material out into the ‘real world’. “

So help students find their own reasons for motivation and inspiration. It’s not enough to be inspired to just get through an exam, but to love the learning process, and the personal growth associated with that.

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The second part of Mr. Churchill’s answer is about individualized learning. He notes that there is no “silver bullet” solution.

“In concluding, my answer takes cognisance of the fact that students can NEVER be seen as ‘just a class’ and that any motivation, inspiration, action or expectation should be based on careful (yes, sometimes erroneous) observations, assumptions and expected outcomes of INDIVIDUALS in the class. The motivation for learning then follows, from the student’s side, because they have a genuine interest and also a reason for wanting to learn.”

So to get to this place one has to look at who the students are as individuals, what are their likes and dislikes and passion? What skills and experiences do they have, what are their strengths and weaknesses? What is their personality, is it shy, is it aggressive, etc.?

As we said in our last blog, about AltSchool, an experimental school in San Francisco – “Not all children are alike.  Not all children learn the same way. AltSchool’s philosophy is very similar to Curriki’s in that we’re both driving transformation from the ‘assembly line factory model’ of education into a new model where the emphasis is on personalization, understanding and critical thinking skills.”

There are over 62,000 resources at Curriki to help support individualized learning and to help students inspire themselves! Please take advantage of these free, open source resources to inspire self-inspiration.

5 Great STEM Websites

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Here are 5 excellent sites for free STEM resources.

1. NASA’s TeachStation

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The site TeachStation has resources about the International Space Station and STEM activities on the ISS. Included are student projects and a series of videos demonstrating STEM concepts for students in the middle grades and high school. Concepts covered include Newton’s laws, microgravity, and surface tension. TeachStation is at this link:

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/expeditions/index.html#.VVRd0XBXerU

2. National Repository of Open Educational Resources, India

nroerlogoIndia’s Ministry of Human Resource Development has established a National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER). It has a range of resources across grade levels and subjects, and available in multiple languages.

You can access the site at http://nroer.in/home/ and it includes videos, audio, images, documents and interactive modules. It has a useful concept map to facilitate browsing.

The NROER site has this to say about their resources: “Categorised and made into collections, the resources are mapped to concepts that will span the entire school and teacher education curricula of the country.”

3. MIT Highlights for High School

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MIT OpenCourseWare provides resources primarily at the university level, but they also have a significant number of STEM resources for high school students. They have specifically curated resources, including selections from college-level courses, for use by high school teachers andd students. You can learn more at:  http://ocw.mit.edu/high-school/index.htm

4. Karen Fasimpaur’s Collection

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This collection from  Karen Fasimpaur is at http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/117659#anchor

Quoting from the site:

“This is a collection of some of the best open-licensed educational resources that can be used in K-12, as well as other useful related information.”

5. Curriki – Free Learning Resources for the World

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We save the best for last, naturally. Curriki now has over 62,000 open source resources in total, and the majority of these are STEM-related. For example a search on mathematics results in over 13,000 resource listings. You will likely find many materials that you can put to use in the classroom, up to including full courses such as Curriki Algebra and Curriki Geometry. Try our search function today.

http://www.curriki.org/welcome/resources-curricula/