Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thank You!

Thank you to all of the wonderful bloggers who shared resources in our 2014 Digital Learning Month blog. Hopefully you all found at least one resource that you've been able to try in your classroom. If you would like an easy way to see all of the resources shared this year, check out this Symbaloo webmix. Continue to visit the blog and comment about how you are using these different resources in your classroom. And be sure to connect with us through our website and social media.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Oh, the Places You'll Go...With Google Connected Classroom!

Today's blogger is Katie Hutchinson, eLearning Coach with Greater Clark County Schools.

As teachers, especially in certain areas, we struggle to build background knowledge for students who have not had many experiences outside their own neighborhoods. But field trips? They are expensive, time-consuming to plan, and take hours away from instructional time. Now, with Google Connected Classrooms, connecting outside the classroom and building an arsenal of experiences is easy, free and fun!

Google presents Google Connected Classrooms which allows students to experience field trips from the comfort, safety and convenience of their own classrooms.

Here's Google's launch video. Warning: The soundtrack is intensely heart-warming.

There are three ways to enjoy Google's field trips:

1. Sign up to watch live 
like these kindergarten students from Parkwood Elementary in Clarksville, Indiana did.  They visited Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan to watch a weather forecast for Christmas Eve and learn about maps, predictions and inferences.

Or these students from Charlestown Middle School in Charlestown, IN who went to the Minnesota Zoo and learned about animals from their Close Encounters program.
2. Sign up, watch live and participate

like these students form Jeffersonville, IN who visited Stanford's Particle Acceleration Lab to learn about... particles accelerating.

3. Browse the archives!
Want in on the action?  

1. Go to Google Connected Classroom and browse by clicking on the "See Past and Upcoming Field Trips" button (you have to scroll down a little).

2. Sign up for a Google Gmail account and activate your Google+ account. You can watch the directions here or read the directions here.

3. Join the community by Clicking Here.

If Google doesn't quite have what you are looking for, check out these other sites.  They aren't as interactive, but are still fun and educational:

10 of the Best Virtual Field Trips

20 Wonderful Online Museums and Sites for Virtual Field Trips to Use in Class

Want more? Check out Mystery Skype where students connect with other classrooms to learn about geography through inquiry.

Also check out Project Explorer.  It sorts by elementary, middle and high school and is a lot like online scavenger hunts.

With Google Hangouts (which is free to use and easy to add), you could connect with almost anyone.  Don't be afraid to ask and make connections!

Where do you think your students would like to "go"? Comment and share your ideas or how you're using virtual field trips.

"The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see" -Alexandra Trenfor

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Students Can Explore Data Literacy with TuvaLabs

Our blogger today is Theresa Shafer, Online Community Manager for New Tech Network.

If any of you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know it is my go-to place when I am working on a project with colleagues or facilitating a school finding the resources they need.  This is exactly how I found Tuva Labs.

So now, you get to meet Tuva Labs, too!

We were tweeting about a fantastic project that EVERYONE is invited to check out, The Global Happiness Project , @TuvaLabs sent us a tweet saying they thought they had some resources that could be helpful and they weren't kidding!

As soon as we began communicating, we knew this would be successful collaboration, they are as passionate about student learning, critical thinking, and real relevant experiences as we are.

Here are just a few of the many data sets they have available for you to dive deeply into with your students.

Check out some of the work of students exploring global happiness to get an idea of how you can incorporate data literacy into your classroom.

On March 4th at 8pm EST,  we will be co-chatting during #PBLChat with TuvaLabs and taking a deeper look at why data literacy is important for our students.  Join us for the chat and bring your questions! 

Want to see how to get started incorporating data literacy into your projects? Visit their You Tube Channel to check out how easy it is. Share in the Comments section how you might use TuvaLabs in your classroom.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not Just a Class Webpage: A Virtual Community

Our blogger today is Alissa Smith, a virtual kindergarten teacher with Hoosier Academy.

Using Weebly to its full potential:

Today many teachers have a class webpage; my personal site host is Weebly. I have blogged numerous times promoting its benefits and basic webpage building skills. Of course, what I love about the site the most is that it is free and simple to use.

But how do we take our class webpages to the next level? I have always told myself if I put time into a project, I am going to make it worth my while. It is not enough to just have a class webpage sitting out there for families, you have to own your class webpage. Make it a quality virtual community for your students and their families. In fact, after making this shift, I frequent my own webpage for information!

Think about it: what makes you revisit a website? Make a quick list.

My list was:
  • Frequently updated 
  • Quality information 
  • Easy to navigate 
  • Links, links, links 
There it was -- a paradigm shift in my class webpage. I changed my newsletters to a blog format so I always post new information there and I started posting a bulletin board with student work and projects. Also, I have shared student pictures as a class yearbook (with permission of course), parent tutorials, and I linked it up to every site I could think of -- the school site, the kindergarten team page (which linked families to each teacher on my team’s site), the school website, and resources, resources, resources. No matter where people wandered off to on my site, I wanted them to be able to get back to where they started, be it my home page, the K Team Page or the school’s website.

I also strive to make my webpage interactive. I have created a blog for my dog: Cappie’s Corner (the inspiration for my teaching blog). My students write Cappie letters, get letters from him to teach little life lessons, and he always responds. For older students, I suggest posting writing prompts and asking them to reply in the comments or create message boards. However, my favorite accomplishment of the year, my parent tutorial, had my families sharing tips and advice with each other. I switched my bulletin board page to a blog format, so that families could leave comments and praise and I always browse my co-workers' sites. I find wonderful ideas and inspiration from others in the virtual community, just as I would in a school building.

I may not be an expert web designer, but I did not realize how proud I was of my class website until I accidentally deleted it making the tutorials (below). Thankfully, I went through all the stages of grief and Weebly was able to restore it for me. I am always looking for new ideas, so be certain to share yours in the comments. Lastly, when all else fails, post a poll on your Weebly asking families for feedback and what they would like to see -- my best ideas for improvement came from my families!


Using Weebly for your Class Webpage:

Virtual Newsletters:

Creating Team Webpages:

The Challenge:

Start your class webpage and/or apply one new improvement each week. Don’t forget to share your best practices with others--you owe it to your past self when you were new to everything!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Heart Blendspace

Today's blogger is Callie Hoppes, an eLearning Coach/Mentor with MSD of Warren Township.

As a teacher and learner,


This year, MSD Warren Township launched a one-to-one program with Google Chromebooks. One of the first websites I explored with my students was Blendspace. Many websites have crossed our educational paths since those warm, sunny August days; but Blendspace remains one of our favs!

Blendspace is a free web tool for teachers and students. It helps to collect resources all in one place to form a bundled, interactive lesson. You can easily pull educational resources from different web based tools such as EduCreations, Flickr, YouTube, Google Drive, etc. This is done with just a quick drag and drop.

You can use these resources to create quick, useful, interactive lessons that you can share with students, or colleagues. This is done with one easy click on the share button. Need to insert a Google doc? No problem. Need a quick check for understanding, or an exit ticket? No problem, make a quiz and insert it in minutes.
I feel that Blendspace is the perfect tool to organize the overwhelming amount of digital content that is available to us as educators, and to our students.

Below are two links to Blendspaces. The first link is a Blendspace created by me in less than 20 minutes. It is based on finding the main idea. The second link is a Blendspace students collaborated on as we raised Monarch Caterpillars this past fall.

*I have one student that has 63 Blendspaces she has created(mostly at home in her free time)! 

Are you ready to get started? 

Below is an informative 7-minute video to walk you through account set up and the nut and bolts of Blendspace. 

I think you will be quickly impressed at how easy Blendspace is to use.

 The possibilities in the classroom are endless! Good luck and happy blending! :)

How will you use Blendspace with your students?

Monday, February 24, 2014

10 Reasons to Try iBooks Author

Today's blogger is Lindsay Hudak, PBL and Technology Integration Specialist at Tri Creek School District.

Technology integration brings with it many new ideas that are explored by districts, individual teachers and/or students. One of many ideas that has been explored are electronic books, most commonly known as eBooks or ePubs. While there are a variety of uses in education for eBooks, most often we hear the term eBooks being tossed around as a replacement for traditional textbooks when they can really be much more! eBooks have the ability to be a transformative tool that both teachers and students can use in the classroom. One of my favorite eBook creation tools is iBooks Author. Here are 10 reasons why I think iBooks Author has the ability to transform the way teachers teach and students learn.

1. Easy to Use: 

iBooks author is one of the easiest platforms to use. If you are already a Mac user you will notice that the format of the program looks similar to that of Pages and Keynote. You don’t have to be a professor or a coder to develop an interactive textbook. iBooks author offers the use of ease through templates, drag and drop features for various sources such as video, text, music, and other media, widgets, and the ability to import keynote presentations. Which leads to reason # 2.

2. Interactive: 

Creating a book using iBooks Author allows for you and students to have an interactive experience. iBooks Author offers a variety of pre-loaded widgets that help you easily create interactive items for your book. Some of these widgets include:
    • A gallery of photos where readers can swipe through multiple photos
    • Graphics with callouts that can be zoomed in to see more detailed information
    • Popovers, which are overlays that open when taped or clicked 
    • Media sources such as video
    • Interactive multiple choice questions 
    • Keynote presentations that can be imported into your eBook

3. Customizable: 

Each book that you create is customizable. You can create a book that matches your classroom and curriculum needs. Better yet, your students could also help create that book for you. Having students create review videos or quizzes that they can put in the book helps reinforce the content for themselves and could be a resource for future students. Perhaps, you might even have students create resource books that can be used by other students for a variety of reasons. Examples might include: strategies to write an essay, interview skills, SAT prep, etc. 

4. Can be Differentiated

iBooks can be differentiated to fit the level of need of your students. While you can customize your book to fit the needs of your curriculum and class you can also do the same to fit the needs of your students. You might think of creating an eBook that has leveled texts, videos, assessment questions, etc. Your own students could play an active role in developing their own differentiated textbook. eBooks also host a variety of tools that can help assist students such as text to talk features or using the audio features. I’ve seen foreign language students develop textbooks that they would translate and voice over as an audio book as well as ELA students using a Spanish textbook to translate with an English voiceover. 

5. Reinforces 21st Century Skills: 

Student created eBooks can reinforce many of the 21st century skills we are already teaching students. eBooks allow students to take large amounts of research and resources and compile it into an easy to understand resource book to help them become an active learner. Doing so, reinforces their comprehension and understanding of the discipline they are studying. They can collaborate with each other or with teachers to create interactive eBooks for themselves or for others all while focusing on digital literacy. Imagine what a student could do in college if they know how to create an interactive resource book that organizes their notes, readings, presentations, etc. digitally. 

6. Provides Evidence of Learning: 

Creating an eBook with iBooks author can be a great way for students to gather what they have learned throughout the year in their classes. Imagine a digital version of a binder. Previous students might have collected artifacts and resources from classes to use for studying, future resources or hold onto for the duration of the class in traditional 3 ring binder. With eBooks, and specifically iBooks author, students can take with them a digital version of all the resources and artifacts they gathered from class to class. Remember that lesson on how to effectively write an essay? Now you have it in digital format accompanied with handouts, videos, presentations, and example writing. Need to give a speech but don’t remember what to do? Perhaps you had an English eBook that created interactive material that you can view to help you prepare for that next speech. 

7. Authentic Audiences: 

Creating eBooks and using iBooks Author gives students a chance to produce work for an authentic audience. Our district libraries currently offer many resources for students through an outside provider. How great would it be to start producing student made material for other students to look at. There are a variety of ways that iBooks Author can create an authentic audience for students. Students might publish their book and share it with others inside or even outside of the school. Giving students an authentic writing task helps motivate them to become stronger writers and avid learners. 

8. Accessible: 

Once you download an eBook created in iBooks Author you are not required to have an internet connection to continue to use it. Develop your book on a Mac, download it and continue to use it without an internet connection! eBooks can be a great way for students that don’t have the Internet or have to be out of class for an extended period of time to stay caught up with class in a digital world. 

9. Creates Empowerment: 

Anyone can be a writer. Many students are intimidated by the formal writing process or the 5 paragraph essay. eBooks allow for anyone to be a writer and makes writing fun. Teach and develop writing skills by adding a layer of empowerment and control into what students are creating. eBooks don’t always have to be used to create an interactive textbook. iBooks Author's easy to use templates offer you a variety of ways you can use their program. Perhaps you use iBooks author as a way to incorporate digital storytelling into your classroom.

10. FREE: 

Yes, you read it right, iBooks Author is FREE to use. Download it from the app store and try it out!


Have you used iBooks author in your classes before? If so please share how you have used it. If you haven’t used it how might you use it?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Student Blogging with Kidblog

Our blogger today is Jamie Guillaume, eLearning Coach for Perry Central Community Schools.
When I initially began studying blogging for students, the intention was to find a tool that could be used for what our district refers to as a Reader’s Response Journal. Research shows that talking and writing about what is read improves comprehension and for that matter, the same can be said for all subject matters. Then I learned about Kidblog (, which is a fantastic and free web tool that gives students an authentic audience in a safe blogging environment.