Category Archives: Featured Content

3 Steps to Effective EdTech Implementation

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By Guest Blogger Jessica Sanders, Director of Social Outreach, Learn2Earn

EdTech implementation: the phrase alone makes the process of bringing technology into your classroom sound daunting and stressful. Luckily, what you see isn’t always what you get, and this process can be smooth and stress-free if you look at the big picture, take your time, and remember to be flexible.

Use these three simple tips to take the nerves out of making your classroom future ready.

  1. Look at the Bigger Picture

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” – Bill Gates

 It’s important to remember that technology will merely facilitate to your big-picture plan in a way that engages your students and gets them excited about learning. Tools need to supplement your lessons, not the other way around.

Before choosing any tools, answer these questions:

  • What aspects of your curriculum would benefit most from the addition of technology?
  • What are your year-long goals for these students? How does technology fit with those goals?
  • What are Common Core implementation issues that could be solved with technology for you?

Other technical questions to ask yourself:

  • What equipment do I have access to? A computer lab, iPads for all the students?
  • Is there Wi-Fi access in the school? Is it reliable?
  • Will my students be able to access these tools at home or just in the classroom?
  1. Take Your Time

After answering the previous questions you can start your research. Begin browsing apps by genre (Math, Reading), pricing (free, fee-based) or style (gamified, image-focused). You can also browse lists. A few good ones are:

10 Teacher Tools to Techify Your Classroom

Interactive Web Tools for Educators

10 Tech Tools to Engage Students

Once you’ve chosen a few tools to pursue, it’s time to experiment. Spend time learning how it works, and consider how your students will use it in the classroom.

Ask yourself:

  • Will it take them a long time to learn?
  • Will I have to spend a lot of extra time managing it?
  • Will it make me more efficient?

You may love every tool you test—but that doesn’t mean you need to bring them into the classroom all at once. In fact, this may be stressful for you and your students. Choose just one to start with, and once you and your students have mastered that tool, consider adding a new one to your roster.

  1. Be Flexible

 The first few days, even weeks, of using a new tool can be trying. You and your students are getting to know how it works, deciding where it fits in the context of everything else you’re trying to accomplish, and more. During this period, you need to be flexible with time, patience and students. Remember:

Something will go wrong: Sometimes, even the smallest mishap can throw you off. Prepare for this by considering all the things that might not work—students aren’t interested, some students aren’t successful with the tool, it stops working, your Wi-Fi is down—and have a backup plan.

Students might know better than you: Your students have been raised with technology, and know the ins and outs of many programs. Accept their advice if you’re unsure about something; this may be a time when you can learn from them—a moment that empowers them to be leaders.

Bringing new tools into the classroom doesn’t need to be an arduous or stressful task. These tools can make your students more engaged and you more efficient, if you take your time considering what works and what doesn’t.

Look at the bigger picture, test the tools you like, and don’t forget to be patient: anything new takes time to understand and manage, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll see the time was worth the outcome.

Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, an online fundraising platform that allows students to raise money by reading books. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

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.

MIT Collection: OpenCourseWare

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

The MIT Collection on Curriki (available here) contains 49 relevant topics in Calculus, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Most of the material is selected to support the College Board Advanced Placement Program offering college-level examinations to high school students.

The content has been selected from freshman-level courses at MIT specifically to support the needs of high school students interested in the Advanced Placement exams for Calculus, Physics and Biology. There are 21 calculus topics, 18 physics subject areas, 9 areas of biology and 1 chemistry lab section.

Examples of topics included are:

  • Calculus – Computation of Derivatives
  • Physics – Waves
  • Biology – Heredity

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“The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.”
Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering

MIT OpenCourseWare has been offered since 2002, and covers an extensive range of topics, primarily in science and engineering. These are free and open materials that span across the complete MIT curriculum. As of 2014, according to the MIT OpenCourseWare web site:

“2250 courses published

1 billion page views and 170 million visits.

100 courses have complete video lectures.

900 older versions of courses have been updated.”

Check out the MIT Collection at Curriki, particularly for your more advanced students. And for yourself and for your really advanced students, browse the MIT OpenCourseWare content!

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Art of Reading for Pleasure

Guest blog for National Reading Day (March 2nd)

IMG_1677Brenda St John Brown, Author

For me, very few things are better than getting lost in a good book – although a day on the beach and really good guacamole are definitely high on my list. A day at the beach with snacks AND a really good book? Heaven.

So, when I had a child, fostering a love of reading was super important to me. My husband and I worked hard to make sure our son (aka The Boy) had not only support to learn to read, but also access to different types of reading material. Because, honestly, you never know what’s going to click and when.

For The Boy, it was The Beano, a British comic book that comes out weekly and features a kid and his friends who like to play pranks and tell cringe-worthy jokes. (E.g., Why didn’t the strawberry save his friends? He got stuck in a jam.) We started buying it occasionally when we stopped at the local convenience store and then got him a subscription for his birthday.

Beano stamp (United Kingdom)

Beano stamp (United Kingdom)

It was a HUGE hit. The magazine would come through the mail slot on a Saturday morning and sometimes The Boy wouldn’t even make it out of the hallway. He’d just lie down on the floor right there and tear into it, never to be heard from again until he’d read every word. For two working parents, that hour of Saturday morning quiet was a gift.

But, the bigger gift was hearing him giggle and seeing him so completely absorbed that the sky could have fallen and he wouldn’t have noticed. Reading The Beano was pure pleasure. There was no thought about reading levels or curriculum standards, critical thinking or comprehension. It was all about the book – or, the comic book, as the case may be.

In our achievement-focused society, it’s easy to overlook the importance of encouraging kids to read for pleasure, but if we make reading goal-oriented only, it becomes another thing they HAVE to do, another box to tick on their way to doing what they’d rather do. It never becomes a journey in and of itself and, oh what a journey it can be!

Do you remember the first time you read a book that kept you up half the night? The first time words on a page made you cry? Do you remember the last time? Do you remember the last book you read that made you feel like maybe you’d never read anything that perfect again?

Don’t you want the same thing for your child?

The Boy is still young and, to my complete amazement, he hasn’t figured out the flashlight under the covers trick yet to keep reading. But he begs to finish his chapter almost every night and we have The Beano all over the house. Still. He reads what’s required for school, but that’s not what keeps him reading. What keeps him turning the pages are those books and comic books he chooses – regardless of what they actually teach him. Or don’t.