Category Archives: Ed Tech

10 Tips to Equip Your Classroom on a Budget

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Almost a year ago, we did a post that was very popular about tips and tricks to help teachers equip their classrooms. We’ve brought several of those tips back in this updated list and broadened the scope beyond just free resources. All to give you several options for supplying your classroom on a tight budget!deskchild

Teachers, here are a few ideas to help you out:

  • First of all, don’t be afraid to ask. Create a wish list and ask the parents of your students for supplies. But don’t forget to also ask local bookstores, or craft and office supply stores for discounts or freebies. Many companies can write donations off as a tax break. Tell them a little about your school and your students and how you plan to use the resource. You may get a donation or at least a discount. A nice gesture would be to send a thank you note to the business with a picture of the item in use. Or post to your social media page and thank the business publicly.
  • Check out eBay and your local Craigslist. There’s a lot of great stuff listed on eBay. On eBay, try to bid on “lot” offers for children’s books, teaching supplies, and craft supplies, instead of bidding on individual items. On Craigslist, look under the For Sale section using the keywords “teacher” and/or “classroom.”
  • Find your local Freecycle group. Freecycle is a network with millions of members that are all about reusing each other’s items. Put up a “Wanted” post explaining that you are a teacher and listing what you need.
  • Use Book Clubs! Clubs like Scholastic Book Club offer free books after you’ve accumulated bonus points.
  • Shop around for Back-to-School discounts at the Office Depot and Target in your area. Sometimes managers will allow you to go over the sale limit for coupons because you are a teacher. Other stores frequently put school supplies on clearance when the supplies reach a certain level.
  • Register your classroom at Adopt a Classroom. Individuals can go to this site and search for a teacher they know, a school they have a connection with, or a subject they’re passionate about and fund it. 100% of their tax-deductible donation goes to the classroom. A similar site is DonorsChoose, where public school teachers can post classroom project requests online. When a project reaches its funding goal, they ship the materials to your school.
  • If you’re at a low-income school, you may qualify for free school supplies from Kids in Need Foundation, which maintains a national network of Resource Centers where teachers can get free supplies for their students who are in need.
  • Love shopping? Here is a list of 80 stores(from Office Depot and the Apple Store, to museums and clothing stores) from Gift Card Granny that offer discounts to teachers.  And you can find other teacher discounts on the Teacher Discounts Pinterest board.
  • NEA publishes a monthly list of 10 FREE Things, which includes “the best websites to find printables, your favorite books, instructional videos for you and your students, lesson plans, and other FREE stuff for your classroom.”
  • And finally, if you’re looking for free, high-quality teaching resources, make sure to check Curriki often as we’re continually adding new resources.

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If you know of other free resources, would you please share?

11 Excel Tricks to Teach Your Students Today!

By Guest Blogger Minnia Feng, Microsoft minnia feng

Excel is one of the most useful tools out there, but some find it complex. Here are some simple tricks to help students excel at using this handy spreadsheet tool. If you don’t have Excel, find out if you and your students are eligible to download it free as part of the Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit— click here to see if you are eligible.

 

1. Never lose sight of row headers by freezing panes

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Freezing Panes is one of the most useful tricks in Excel—with this you can always view your labels for different rows and columns, no matter how much you scroll.

  • If the pane you wish to freeze is the first row, simply go to View → Freeze Panes → select ‘Freeze Top Row.”
  • If it is not the top row, simply click on the cell below the pane you wish to freeze (if you want to freeze row 3 and up, select a cell in row 4), go to View → Freeze Panes → Freeze Panes.

 

2. Give your students the ability to keep track of their assessment through Self-Grade Computation

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Simply click New, then search for “GPA Tracker” in templates —the GPA Tracker template allows students to input their own grades for different types of assignments in each class to get an idea of how they are doing. If your students are on tablets, here’s a tutorial on how to track GPA in Excel for iPad.

 

3. Move back and forth between spreadsheets quickly without clicking anything.

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If you are working with multiple spreadsheets and need to move between them, press Ctrl+Tab to move back and forth between two spreadsheets, and Ctrl+Shift+Tab to move to the previous spreadsheet.

 

4. Use Flash Fill to make formatting tasks a breeze

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Let’s say you have a row of numbers, for example “5554443333”, and you want to change the format to a phone number such as “(555) 444-3333.” Instead of manually typing it out, Flash Fill can do this for you automatically by detecting patterns in your formatting, and works best when your data has some consistency. Works as well with formatting names, dates, and postal codes.

 

5. Use Excel Survey to collect information directly into an organized spreadsheet

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Need to collect data from others and not have it be scattered when you receive it? Excel Survey (found in Excel Online) allows you to create a survey quickly and easily, then compiles the information in real time as it comes in. Great for group projects and surveys.

 

6. Move entire columns of data easily and quickly

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Simply highlight the column you want to move and put your cursor over the border—it will change into a crossed arrow icon, allowing you to drag to move the column freely.

 

7. Select all with one click

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Ever wonder what that little triangle is at the top left corner of your spreadsheet? You can click on it and quickly select all the cells with open simple click.

 

8. Ctrl + Arrow to move to different corners of the spreadsheet

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Working with a particularly long and extensive set of data? No need to scroll—simply press “ctrl” + the arrow key in the direction you want to go. For example, “Ctrl+ →” will take you to the rightmost point of your data, and “ctrl+ ↓” will take you to the bottom line of the data.

 

9. Transpose Data in Rows to Data in Columns, and Vice Versa, with two clicks

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Sometimes you realize the data you had displayed horizontally would make more sense displayed vertically. Instead of copying and pasting everything one by one, copy and paste all the data you’d like copied, then click Home→Paste→Transpose Icon, and the data will display in the new format.

 

10. Find out the average, count, and sum without any formulas or clicks

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Did you know that if you select a set of numbers, the average, count, and sum automatically display without you doing anything? Excellent.

 

11. Combine two chart types by creating a combo chart and adding a second axis

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What happens when you have two different types of data you want to show in a single chart? Excel makes it easy. Simply select the data you’d like for your chart, press the insert tab and click recommended charts, then click all charts tab and select the combo category. If the two sets of data have different scales, simply check the “secondary axis” box for the scale you’d like to add and click ok. Find out more in this in-depth tutorial.

8 Ways OneNote Makes Lesson-Planning a Breeze

By Guest Blogger Minnia Feng, Microsoft minnia feng

OneNote, which you can download for free, is a teacher’s best friend. Find out how OneNote can help make digital lesson-planning easier, faster, and more effective!

  1. Use any type of content – text, pictures, audio, video, ink, embedded files, printed digital paper.

blog1There’s no limit to the mediums you can use to plan your lesson as OneNote supports learning and planning across multiple modalities, allowing you to add a fun, interactive multimedia dimension and create a more dynamic, effective lesson.

  1. Arrange any content type on the page any way you want, just like paper

blog2Drag and drop with ease—no more formatting hassles. OneNote is a digital version of paper, except it saves everything in one place, allows for more types of content, and no pencils or erasers required!

  1. Use Tags to highlight important points, questions, or create your own custom tag

blog3Instead of rifling through pages, whether paper or digital, find exactly what you need right away and remember what needs to be followed up on with tags.

  1. Collaborate with other teachers in a shared notebook as you build your lesson plans.

blog4Collaboration is a key priority nowadays and the sharing of ideas and experiences results in even better lesson plans– work with other teachers to improve and innovate easily!

  1. Use OneNote to record and embed audio to guide the lesson.

blog5Students learn in different ways — the option of adding audio can help increase focus and add an important personal element to the lesson so students have access to your audio instruction at any time.

  1. Use OneNote drawing tools to add visual elements to your lesson plan.

blog6Draw with touch or pen in OneNote to add your own sketches and diagrams — very helpful for science and math teachers who need to make annotations that may go beyond typing.

  1. Use digital ink to enhance, annotate and be creative with your lesson plans.

blog7Effortlessly make important aspects of your lesson plans stand out with digital ink, giving you the flexibility to write/draw anywhere on your notes or pictures.

  1. Change the digital paper type of OneNote to college-ruled, graph, or a custom page template background.

blog8Different subjects require different backdrops—we’ve got you covered so you can switch easily between and even customize the color and width of the lines/grids.

Want to see OneNote in action for more inspiration? Here are some awesome examples of lesson plans utilizing these tips from our Microsoft Innovative Educators:

  • Food For Life, by Ruby Huang (New Zealand), Science Teacher, Howick College
  • Count of Monte Cristo Mock Trial, by Kelli Etheredge (USA), Director of Teaching & Learning Resources, St. Paul’s Episcopal School
  • Walk in My Shoes, by Lynette Barker (Australia), Teacher Librarian, St. Therese’s Primary School

And for more in-depth interactive guides on how to make the most of OneNote in the classroom, be sure to check out http://www.onenoteforteachers.com.

10 Most Popular Curriki Learning Resources

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki janetpic_preferred_cropped

We’re already a quarter into the new calendar year, so we’d like to kick it off with a collection of our most popular learning resources this school year. As always, these high quality resources are free to use, share and customize, so you definitely should take a look at! Counting down from number 10…

10) Tuck Everlasting Novel Study

This resource provides an excellent 25 day unit on the tucknovel 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.

Tuck Everlasting Novel Study

9) Curriki Geometry Teacher View

mathA Collection of various lesson plans including: Selling Geometry, Designing a Winner, What is your angle, Pythagoras?, TED Talk: House of the Future, The Art of Triangles, How random is my life?

All of the lesson plans provide detailed instructions on how to run the lesson making it a great resource for teachers and instructors.

Curriki Geometry Teacher View

8) Differentiating Between Different Types of Conflict Collection

Lange-MigrantMother02This 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.

In today’s lesson, students will practice differentiating between different kinds of conflict.

Inside, you will find a detailed lesson plan, a student worksheet, two overhead transparencies for use with the lesson, and exit slips to asses student mastery of today’s objective.

This resource is part of the Great Depression Unit collection.

Differentiating Between Different Types of Conflict Collection

7) Word Search Games & Other Fun English Language Activities

This web site is for people studying English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL). There are grammar2quizzes, word games, word puzzles, proverbs, slang expressions, anagrams, a random-sentence generator and other computer assisted language learning activities.

Word Search Games & Other Fun English Language Activities

6) Oracle Academy Java Using Alice

This workshop engages students with little or no aliceprogramming experience to learn basic Java programming concepts. Participants use Carnegie Mellon’s Alice* platform to do something fun – create animated stories, movies and games.

Getting Started with Java Using Alice

5) Teaching Fractions Collection

fractionsThis highly-rated collection of resources includes videos and lessons for teaching fractions.

Teaching Fractions Collection

4) Free High School Science Texts Collection

This 154-page document contains Earth Science course curriculum for grades 9 – 10. The collection has been prepared from resources contributed by teachers and partner educational organizations on Curriki, an online community for creating and sharing open source curricula.

Free High School Science Texts Collection

3) Rob Lucas Developing Biology

biologyThis collection contains a wide variety of activities, labs, slide shows and worksheets on the topics of Cells, Cellular Transport, DNA, Photosynthesis & Respiration, Mitosis & Meiosis, Genetics, Evolution, and Classification. Much of the material is suitable for both middle school and high school students, although some of the pieces (such as the Photosynthesis PowerPoint presentation) have complex material better suited for more advanced biology classes.

Rob Lucas Developing Biology

2) Khan Academy Science – Physics

This collection contains about 100 videos, physicscovering all topics in a complete high school or college course in Physics. Many of the videos demonstrate solutions to sample problems. This is excellent primary material for long distance learning, or rich supplementary material for any physics course.

Khan Academy Science – Physics

1) Rob Lucas Grammar Collection

grammarAlways 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.

Rob Lucas Grammar Collection

If you have a favorite Curriki resouce, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you

 

 

 

 

 

10 Time-Saving (and Free) Math Worksheets for Grades 6-8

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

As teachers, we never have enough time for everything we need to accomplish in janetpic_preferred_croppeda day, whether it be lesson planning or grading. Here’s a secret you can share with other teachers: Curriki offers more than 59,000 free, high quality resources that you can download, customize and share.

Why not take a short cut and try out a few of these classroom-tested math worksheets? Here are just a few of the many worksheets available for middle school math students.

(Similarly, you can use the Curriki Advanced Search feature to find games, videos, webquests, lesson plans and much more on any subject and any grade level.)

If you know a math teacher (or interested parent or student), please share this with them!

  1. Solve the questions about Probability Problems in this worksheet.
  2. Math worksheet on Supplementary Angles.
  3. Exponents Worksheet Generator – customizable and printable! math
  4. Multiplying Decimals Worksheet – customizable and printable!
  5. Pythagorean Theorem discovery worksheet.
  6. Worksheet on Factoring Quadratic equations and difference of squares.
  7. Use this worksheet for practice with Volume Formulas.
  8. This Characteristics of Quadratics worksheet gives practice problems for finding the vertex and the y-intercept of a quadratic function.
  9. Worksheet: Converting Fractions to Decimals to Percents help students remember how to convert a fraction into a decimal and then into a percent.
  10. Calculator Lesson Homework Worksheet. math-80x80

Increasing Student Engagement in the History Classroom

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By Curriki Guest Blogger Amy Scheuer

Amy Scheuer, Social Studies Content Curator, Curriki

Amy Scheuer, Social Studies Content Curator, Curriki

Teachers are often faced with the challenge of making teaching and learning history more engaging. Here are some techniques to increase engagement in the history classroom, paired with resource suggestions from a newly curated American History collection on Curriki that is comprised of materials spanning from colonial America to the modern era!

1. Treat history as the opportunity to tell a greater story and convey a narrative, rather than the relaying of disjointed names, dates, and events. The use of media can be a great mechanism for accomplishing this goal, and the CrashCourse video collection provides an entertaining and educational method of exploring major topics in history. The videos sequentially focus on issues, events, or developments, considering causes, effects, and key players in relation to the greater American History narrative.

2. Allow students to become a part of the historical narrative by carrying out simulations, role-playing activities, and enacting historically accurate discussions or debates. The EDSITEment collection includes extremely detailed American History lessons, ranging from the colonial period to modern America.   Every lesson has a unique makeup, possibly including activities, primary source analysis, simulations, and discussion/debate topics, providing endless opportunities for students to jump into an historical time period for in depth exploration.

3. Utilize art and imagery to appeal to visual learners in your classroom and provide students with a snapshot of the past. The National Archives provides an excellent place for teachers to search for primary sources. Teachers can access thousands of images, photos, speeches, letters, and other primary sources, and can then build interactive activities while learning how to best utilize historical documents in the classroom!

4. Incorporate music to help students understand the cultural context of a certain time period. Throughout history, many musicians have composed songs that reflect conflicts, changing attitudes, or cultural developments around the world, and students can engage in historical analysis by listening to these songs and interpreting the lyrics. This comprehensive list of songs at Curriki can be used as a great guide for incorporating music into the classroom.

5. Differentiate instruction between teacher-facing, student-facing, group, and individual activities. The Digital History collection is a gold mine for teachers, as it allows one to search by era, topic, resource, or reference, with the ability to make use of the full textbook, online exhibitions, learning modules, and primary sources. Digital History is a great tool to aid teachers in planning creative lessons such as jigsaws, problem-based learning projects, webquests, visual or audio activities, or engaging lectures.

6. Leave ample time in the curriculum to delve into modern topics, allowing students to contemplate the varying and continually changing perspectives surrounding political, economic, religious, and cultural trends and occurrences of the era. This content is often particularly relevant and interesting to students, and can be a great opportunity for oral history or experiential projects, as students are able to ask parents, grandparents, and community members about their experiences living through a particular event or time period. The United States History: 1945 – Present curriculum guide provides a great outline of important topics of the last half-century in American History, and is segmented into units by decade, each with sample lessons.

For more lessons and supplemental materials be sure to visit Curriki and explore an entire collection of 11 American History units here!

Amy is a graduate of Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education and taught History and Psychology at the high school level before joining up with Curriki to promote educational access at the global level.

 

Computers or Cursive? – What would You do?

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

In 2012 I wrote this:janetpic_preferred_cropped

“Cursive versus typing?  

Is cursive writing part of a 21st century skill set? With touch screens, cell phones and tablets, the future of cursive writing seems uncertain. So we used the polling game Wayin to ask our community:  “Should schools still teach cursive writing?” The votes were overwhelmingly in favor of continuing cursive, yet the opponents were much more vocal. While not a statistically valid poll, 83 percent said “Yes,” we should continue with cursive, while 17 percent answered “No.” “

Yes, cursive writing is “warm”, yet, many of those of us who are a bit older know that we can’t even ourselves read much of our own cursive writing. Pity the person we write to! To communicate warmth we now have other technology, like this :-) .

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And in 2013, I wrote this:

“An article in Mashable asks the question: Has technology killed cursive writing? Is penmanship still important in an age where we can efficeintly tap everything out on a keyboard? According to the article, the nation’s Common Core State Standards took out the requirement for cursive instruction in K through 12 schools. However, it’s up to each individual state to decide whether cursive is important enough to teach its own students. Recently, North Carolina legislators approved a bill to require its students to learn cursive in elementary school, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. North Carolina joins states like California, Massachusetts and Georgia, which have already added a cursive writing requirement.”

But what if we reframe the question. Life, and school days, require tradeoffs. Suppose we pose it as:

Should the time that would otherwise be spent on learning cursive handwriting, be spent instead on an introduction to the underlying technology of computers and how to program them?

Cursive handwriting was originally in the curriculum to prepare students for a world that had no typewriters, and later, had typewriters, but no computers, or mobile devices. Today, the vast majority of students in the world have access to these. The value of touch typing on a computer is  much greater than the value of good cursive handwriting today.

We may bemoan the loss of horses and buggies as a dominant form of transportation, but the world changes around us whether we are ready or not. Most of the people at the time of that transition were glad to be free of the horse’s waste products on city streets.

IH_Img26.png6Image from code.org

There is so much practical value in learning how to use computers and mobile devices – and in using computers and mobile devices for learning – that a modern life is almost unthinkable for most people without these tools. Learning to program a computer or device is a skill in very high demand, and should continue to be, into the foreseeable future.

According to this article at Business2community, jobs in Information Technology (IT) are growing at twice the national average rate of job growth. But very few students study computer science, even at the college and university level. Only 2% of STEM (Science, TEchnology and Mathematics) students get degrees in computer science.

But a full  60% of the available STEM jobs are in the IT field! By 2020 the gap will have grown to over 3 jobs per graduating computer science nerd (we use the nerd word with a positive connotation). These are well paid jobs with higher than average salaries.

So it would be very valuable for students, and for society, to provide them with exposure to the inner workings of computers, including programming, during the K-12 years.

That’s the tradeoff. Don’t say both, you have to choose. If posed as handwriting or computer technology/programming, which one should be more prominent in K-12 education?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment.