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Encouraging Kids to be Content Creators Instead of Content Consumers

Encouraging Kids to be Content Creators Instead of Content Consumers


Kids are constantly consuming digital content. They are reading blogs, watching Youtube videos, and helping social media content go viral. But what if they were the ones creating this content? Teachers can encourage their students to be the ones creating valuable content.

Kids are constantly consuming digital content. They are reading blogs, watching Youtube videos, and helping social media content go viral. But what if they were the ones creating this content? Teachers can encourage their students to be the ones creating valuable content. 


Classroom blogs are a great and versatile way to get your kids creating content. You can have students post their writing (stories, paragraphs, poetry, etc.), pictures of class projects, or even audio projects (read aloud practice, speech class ventures, etc.).  As a bonus, they are also a great way to showcase student work to parents and keep them in the loop.  Many blogging platforms are designed to be very easy to use, like Blogger and Live JournalEdublogs was even made just for classroom and school library blogs.  


Instructables is an online community of people writing how-tos that your students can contribute to.  Walk your students through signing up and creating accounts, including making sure to verify their emails so they can both make instructables and comment on others.  The website provides a video tutorial if you’d like some guidance in helping your students create their first how-to.  Not only is this a great way to have your students create content, it’s also a great opportunity to teach procedural writing with a little extra buy-in. Since their writing will be published publicly to the web, you can speak to your students about how this is a situation in which they want to do their very best.


There are also several creative platforms out there for contributing to online communities that create storybooks and illustrations, such as My Storybook and Storyboard That.   Storybird is a subscription service, but it can really get inspiration flowing and it is unique in that it lets students put words to already created (wordless) picture books from various professional illustrators.


When guiding your students towards being content creators, it is imperative to also teach them internet safety.  First, when signing up for things, impress upon your students that they are not to share personal identifying information on the internet.  Another major point you’ll want to go over is how to behave respectfully and responsibly in online communities. Go over the word respectful and what treating other people with respect looks like online.  As a general rule of thumb, I like to have students wait until after they have contributed some of their own work before allowing them to comment.  I find this helps to impress upon your students the hard work that someone put into each project they look at, to encourage them to treat others' work with respect.  Talk about what appropriate actions your child can take if they see they don’t have something good to say about, such as simply moving on to find work that they do like.  If you are specifically asking your students to provide constructive feedback to one another, practice this skill several times in person before having them try it online.


Getting your students to be content creators can help your students be responsible online citizens, as well encourage them to develop pride in their work.


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Kids are constantly consuming digital content. They are reading blogs, watching Youtube videos, and helping social media content go viral. But what if they were the ones creating this content? Teachers can encourage their students to be the ones creating valuable content.


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Brittany Washburn
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Back to School Technology Activities to Jumpstart the School Year

Back to School Technology Activities to Jumpstart the School Year


Here are a few ideas that technology teachers can use during the first month of school to get students excited for a year of tech learning.  Tech needs and interests differ as students grow, so there’s a little something for every age level.  Each level also includes an unplugged activity in case you are still smoothing out your tech at the beginning of the year!

Here are a few ideas that technology teachers can use during the first month of school to get students excited for a year of tech learning.  Tech needs and interests differ as students grow, so there’s a little something for every age level.  Each level also includes an unplugged activity in case you are still smoothing out your tech at the beginning of the year!


Primary

Unplugged: 

Build Your Own Computer (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Students assemble and color a paper computer, learning the name and function of each part as they go.


Coding: 

ScratchJr

  • Coding for pre-readers, with symbols instead of written words on snap-together code blocks.


Something Fun:

Mouse Control Games

  • A small collection of games from Funbrain to help your young learners master control of their mouse and/or trackpad.


Middle Elementary

Unplugged:

Powerful Passwords

  • This lesson has students explore why people use passwords, learn the benefits of using passwords, and discover strategies for creating and keeping strong, secure passwords


Coding:

LightBot

  • A puzzle game based on coding; it secretly teaches you programming logic as you play.


Something Fun: 

Make an Avatar Digital Glyph Activity (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Students will be asked to work across slides in either Google Slides or PowerPoint, copy and paste between slides, resize pieces, layer pieces, group pieces, and save their finished work as an image file. All while completing an engaging get-to-know-you activity.




Upper Elementary

Unplugged:

You Can Say That Again! - Text Compression

  • This collection of twenty activities is designed to aid the teaching and learning about data compression through engaging games and puzzles using cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.


Coding:

Minecraft: AI for Good

  • Program the Minecraft Agent to collect data about forest fires. 


Something Fun:

Digital Breakout Challenges (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Using technology and problem solving skills, students decipher codes to help save Max from cyberspace. This is a great activity to introduce students to the escape the classroom challenges, and it is fully digital!  This breakout activity can be done in Google Slides or PowerPoint.




Middle School

Unplugged:

Digital Citizenship Discussion Prompts (Brittany’s Own!)

  • All Digital Citizenship Standards are addressed with these 42 task card style discussion prompts.




Coding:

Dance Party

  • Code a Dance Party and share it with friends. Featuring Katy Perry, Shawn Mendes, Lil Nas X, Panic! At The Disco, Jonas Brothers, and many more.


Something Fun:

Kahoot!

  • Let students make their own quizzes.


Early High School

Unplugged:

Crack the Code Puzzles (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Binary Code, Hexadecimal, and Morse Code Encoded Messages with silly phrases as well as technology facts. These are still Tech lessons but on paper!




Coding:

NASA Moon 2 Mars

  • Students can design their own animated mission patch, imagine their life as an Artemis astronaut on the Lunar Gateway, and more. 


Something Fun:

Lyrics Training

  • Improve and practise listening skills with the best music videos. Students fill in the gaps to the lyrics as they listen to their favourite songs.


Late High School

Unplugged 

Peruvian Coin Flip

  • This activity teaches Cryptographic protocols by showing how to accomplish a simple, but nevertheless seemingly impossible task—making a fair random choice by flipping a coin, between two people who don’t necessarily trust each other.


Coding: 

Python + Biology 

  • Students develop programming skills and build their own animal classifier. 

Let's Build a Drone!

  • Build a drone frame in ten steps with NCLab's 3D Modeling app.


Something Fun:

Science Lab Safety Mannequin Challenge (Brittany’s Own!)

  • Join the mannequin challenge craze while practicing science lab safety! This resource walks your students through planning, rehearsing, filming, and reflecting on a mannequin challenge.


Pin this blog post to get back to later:
Here are a few ideas that technology teachers can use during the first month of school to get students excited for a year of tech learning.  Tech needs and interests differ as students grow, so there’s a little something for every age level.  Each level also includes an unplugged activity in case you are still smoothing out your tech at the beginning of the year!



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Brittany Washburn
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25 Virtual Teaching Tips from Teachers

25 Virtual Teaching Tips from Teachers


When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice.

When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice. 

  1. Test your activities ahead of class. And test them again on every device type you have access to.
  2. Give yourself a break as things will not always go as planned.
  3. Always have an alternative option for students to complete independently if they cannot see or hear your live lesson. 
  4. Have a backup plan and a second back up plan because you'll need both.
  5. Blue light glasses, a good chair, and 2 monitors.
  6. Self care! Make time for yourself every day.
  7. Quality microphone or headset.
  8. Be patient and slow down. You're learning a lot of new things!
  9. Good teaching is good teaching. Trust your teacher gut.
  10. Commercial breaks during video lessons - ask random silly questions to break it up.
  11. Relationships over rigor.
  12. Music while waiting for kids to join.
  13. Make friends with your tech contact via candy, flowers, etc. 
  14. Take attendance as students enter the video meeting.
  15. Keep it simple with a few apps and websites you use all the time. 
  16. Get comfortable with making screencasts.
  17. Lower your own expectations.
  18. Record your lessons ahead of time and play the video during your lessons. 
  19. Take a deep breath!
  20. Use unplugged activities just like you would in the classroom. Whiteboards and notebook paper activities are just as effective as digital and can save a lot of effort. 
  21. Cut your activities in HALF. 
  22. Turn off your computer when the school day is over.
  23. Spend at least 2 weeks on procedures before trying to teach anything new. 
  24. Get stronger WiFi if you can.
  25. Accept that it is different than teaching in person.
Would you add anything to this list? Leave it in the comments! 

Pin this blog post to get back to later:
When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice.


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Brittany Washburn
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12 Tech Tools for Keeping Parents in the Loop and Boosting Teacher-Parent Communication

12 Tech Tools for Keeping Parents in the Loop and Boosting Teacher-Parent Communication


As teachers, part of our job is making sure that parents are kept in the loop about their child's progress and behavior.  Luckily, there are lots of tech tools out there to help you do this!

As teachers, part of our job is making sure that parents are kept in the loop about their child's progress and behavior.  Luckily, there are lots of tech tools out there to help you do this!


If you want to keep things simple, class blogs as a way to keep your parents up to date have been around for quite a while.  Many platforms are designed to be very easy to use, like Blogger and Live JournalEdublogs was even made just for classroom and school library blogs.  


You can also utilize familiar video calling technology such as Skype, etc. for more convenient parent teacher conferences.


There are several apps created specifically as a platform for parent-teacher communication, such as Bloomz, SimplyCircle, and Remind.  

  • Bloomz has class updates, photo & video sharing, student portfolios, behavior tracking, two way messaging, a class calendar, manages parent-teacher conference scheduling and also has volunteer and item sign-ups.  

  • SimplyCircle lets you share messages, pictures & files, as well as add tasks, organize events & assign roles. You create Circles by adding email addresses so members of your circle do not need to be a member of Simply Circle to view the emails.  

  • Remind styles itself as a simple but effective engagement system that’s like text messaging for school communities.


Some learning management systems like Seesaw, ThinkWave and Schoology have integrated parent communication features.  

  • Seesaw’s communication features include two way messaging, class announcements, a journal students can add video reflections and group projects for their own families to see, and can translate your messages into over 55 languages with the press of a button.  

  • ThinkWave lets parents view messages, download handouts & files, see upcoming tests, assignments & activities, and view day-to-day results, attendance, & final grades.  

  • Schoology advertises the ability to communicate with students, faculty, parents, and other shareholders all at once with mass updates, in­-platform messages, and mobile notifications, and additionally lets you create parent groups so parents can collaborate with one another.  It also features an assignment calendar to help keep everyone up to date.


Popular with teachers who love gamification are avatar-based behavioral management systems like ClassDojo, or for older students Classcraft.  These systems let you award student-created avatars with points for desirable behavior and take away points for undesirable behavior.  Both of the aforementioned systems also let you connect parent accounts so they can see exactly how their students are acting when in school and allow for private messaging between the teacher and individual parents.  You can also use class-wide parent announcements to keep parents in the loop and upload attachments with your messages, such as handouts, worksheets, or permission slips.


You know what will work best in your classroom.  If you try one thing and find it isn't working as well for you as you'd hoped, then try something else next year (or next semester). Whenever you are considering a new teacher-parent communication system, here are the things you should look for:

  • free

  • easy to install and use

  • capable of two-way communication

  • can share files such as pics, videos, and documents

  • accessible on multiple devices

  • can send individual and mass messages can create or notify parents about events, etc. 


Pin this blog post to get back to later:
As teachers, part of our job is making sure that parents are kept in the loop about their child's progress and behavior.  Luckily, there are lots of tech tools out there to help you do this!

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Brittany Washburn
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17 Free Educational Websites for High School

17 Free Educational Websites for High School


These are some of the top free educational sites for high school.  I’ve focused here on websites you can let your students roam free on because the entire site is filled with educational tools to equip your students for academic success.

These are some of the top free educational sites for high school.  I’ve focused here on websites you can let your students roam free on because the entire site is filled with educational tools to equip your students for academic success. 


All subjects:

https://hippocampus.org/  

Free educational videos and resources for middle school through college iIn math, natural science, social science and humanities.  Your students can study independently, you can use content for your lessons or you can create playlists for your students to review.


https://khanacademy.org

Incredibly helpful, straightforward, standards-aligned videos, practice exercises and articles.  Topics for 7-12 include math, reading & language arts, science, economics, arts & humanities, computing, life skills and test prep.  Teachers can also assign work and track student progress with a teacher account.


https://www.bibme.org/ 

This website will help your students get their citations correct in APA, MLA and Chicago Style.


https://quizlet.com/

Students can equip themselves with learning tools and flashcards to help them study for almost any topic your school offers a class in.


English:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ 

This site offers tens of thousands of free ebooks.


http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks 

Features free audio books.


https://www.grammarly.com/

Advanced spelling and grammar checker with browser plugins.


Math:

https://www.purplemath.com/

Struggling students can use lessons to help with algebra and beginning trigonometry courses, as well as test prep.


Social Studies:

https://www.oerproject.com/

A free introductory history course that establishes an interdisciplinary foundation of historical thinking practices, and a free standards-based world history course that builds upon those foundational skills in preparation for AP, college, and beyond.


https://www.digitalcivicstoolkit.org/

A collection of resources for educators to help high school youth explore a range of civic opportunities and dilemmas with modules focused on: Exploring Community Issues, Investigation, Dialogue, Voice, and Action.


Sciences:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

An online portal to NOVA, which claims to be the most-watched prime time science series on American television now in its fifth decade of production.


https://nclab.com/

NCLab provides data analyst and Python developer career training programs that deliver the knowledge, practical experience, competency, and confidence needed to give their students an early competitive edge in STEM skills. 


https://www.experimonkey.com/

Let students explore science experiment ideas, facts, brain games, quizzes and videos.


Arts:

https://www.si.edu/openaccess 

Students can view art, history, culture and science pieces as well as participate in themed activities and games.  They also provide educator resources and digital tools through the Smithsonian Learning Lab and  Smithsonian's History Explorer.


https://artsandculture.google.com/

Your high schoolers can explore and interact with art and architecture around the world, with new picks featured every day.


https://spark.adobe.com/ 

Let students create impactful social graphics, web pages, and short videos in minutes. Graphics can be used to make science fair posters, social studies infographics, math flashcards, etc.  They can turn field trip journals, language arts essays, lab reports, and more into dynamic web pages.  Book reports, physics explainers, poetry analyses, and more can be shown as video presentations.


Organization:

https://habitica.com 

A gamified to-do list to help students keep themselves organized and motivated.


Pin this blog post to get back to later:

These are some of the top free educational sites for high school.  I’ve focused here on websites you can let your students roam free on because the entire site is filled with educational tools to equip your students for academic success.


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Brittany Washburn
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10 Free Educational Websites for Elementary Students

10 Free Educational Websites for Elementary Students


Here are some of the top free educational sites for elementary.  There are so many great resources out there, and so many websites have that one amazing resource that just hits that one standard perfectly.  I’ve focused here on websites you can let your students roam free on because the entire site is filled with educational gems!

Here are some of the top free educational sites for elementary.  There are so many great resources out there, and so many websites have that one amazing resource that just hits that one standard perfectly.  I’ve focused here on websites you can let your students roam free on because the entire site is filled with educational gems!


https://www.khanacademy.org/

Incredibly helpful, straightforward, standards-aligned videos, practice exercises and articles.  Topics for K-6 include math along with reading & language arts.  You can even assign work and track student progress with a teacher account.


https://code.org/learn 

Your students will learn to code with challenges and games conveniently leveled for pre-readers, grades 2-5 and grades 6-8.  Clicking on an activity will show you what standards it supports, whether it can be completed by students independently, what technology is needed, languages it is offered in and how long it will generally take to complete.


https://www.arcademics.com/  

This is a hub for educational games, and every single game here is truly educational.   Language arts skills such as grammar, spelling and typing and a wide variety of math topics.  If you want your students engaged while building fact fluency, this is where you send them.


https://www.sheppardsoftware.com/ 

Another place where educational games dominate.  In addition to math and language arts, this website also includes a variety of science and social studies games.


https://www.typing.com/

With an ever-increasing focus on technology in our world, typing is a crucial skill.  Younger students will develop their fine motor skills and familiarity with the keyboard, while older students can improve their typing speed.


https://wonderopolis.org/

This website is dedicated to answering all those wonderings kids have.  It’s a great place to stoke your student’s curiosity and let them see that there are answers out there.


https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/

There are great educational videos, photographs, quizzes and even suggestions for fun science experiments.  This is also a great place for your young readers to do their own research when writing about nonfiction topics.  Disclaimer: there are also some silly games and loosely educational personality quizzes.


https://www.storylineonline.net/ 

Your students can watch stories read aloud by various actors.  The stories are from a variety of genres and have suggested grade levels K-4th.  They are also starting to add some titles read in Spanish, and even have one read with an ASL interpreter.


https://www.prodigygame.com/ 

An adaptive, standards aligned math skills game, built into an immersive video game world kids love.  Students battle monsters with spells cast by correctly answering math questions.  The game will level, assess and continually challenge your students all by itself, or you can create a class and assign your own questions to match what you are studying.  Disclaimer: There is avatar customization and students can "meet" other avatars in-world then run around aimlessly together, so you'll have to enforce that your students should be in battles at all times.


https://www.sketchup.com/

Let your students build their engineering skills by experimenting with 3D modeling software.  They can use the basic free software designed for personal use, or SketchUp for Primary and Secondary program is free with a G Suite or Microsoft education account.


Pin this blog post to get back to later:

Here are some of the top free educational sites for elementary.  There are so many great resources out there, and so many websites have that one amazing resource that just hits that one standard perfectly.  I’ve focused here on websites you can let your students roam free on because the entire site is filled with educational gems!


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Brittany Washburn
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