Integrating Technology This Week: Resources Discovered, Re-Discovered, or Created

One of my hobbies and frankly, passions, is finding free, exciting, and engaging resources to enhance the curriculum at my K-8 school.  Here are my finds for this week:

Language Arts

Got Brainy – Got Brainy features user-generated visual-based vocabulary definitions.   These include Brainypics (photo/image definitions) and Brainyflix (video definitions).  Students can create and submit their own Brainpics/Brainflix for their own vocabulary words.  If there is enough school-wide interest in this project, we can create our own site of student visual definitions.

International Children’s Digital Library has a digital library of outstanding children’s books from around the world.  The search engine for these online books include categories based on age level, genre, types of characters (kids, imaginary, animals), length, and picture-chapter books.

Tools for Educators offers free word search generators, word search makers, worksheets and programs for preschool, kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers and language teachers to make word search puzzles to print, games for lessons, lesson plans and K-6 printable materials for classes.

Zooburst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books.  I tried it and what I liked is that I can upload my own images into the 3D book.  I think the students are going to love it.


PBS Kids: Sid the Science Guy is a science web site appropriate for our K-2 students.  It includes three discovery zones: the Super Fab Lab at Sid’s school, the playground and Sid’s family kitchen.

National Geographic Creature Features allows kids to search through photographs and videos of all kinds of animals. The photographs are stunning.  This was used with 1st and 2nd graders this past week, all easily staying occupied for their 45 minute technology course.

Golems is a 3D recreational physics simulator.  Some of the older students, Junior High, have expressed an interest in 3D rendering.  I plan to offer this as a choice project later in the year as the Junior High students will be asked to identify technology projects they would like to produce.

Production Tools

Google Apps in the Classroom is a Google site I created that contains an aggregate of Google Presentations on Google Docs, Calendars, Sites, and Maps/Earth.  We have Google Apps for Education for our school.  These resources will, hopefully, get more teachers to utilize these resources.

Stupeflix Studio is a video creator similar to Animoto.  Pictures, video, titles, and music are mixed together to create a video.  They are planning a version for educators.  Animoto has become a very popular tool for the teachers and students at our school.  It will be nice to offer them another option for video mash-ups.

Technology Integration for the Students: The First Month

Technology integration continues at the K-8 Charter School.  To refresh your memory, I took a position as a part-time technology instructor at this school starting in September.  The previous technology instructors were volunteer parents whose primary focus was on keyboarding skills and using the Microsoft suite.  Part of my self-imposed role is assisting teachers in integrating technology into their learning activities and supporting classroom learning during the students’ technology time.  A subgoal is to demonstrate how technology integration can be achieved with computers and internet connection and no other costs.

Here is the summary, an overview of technology integration for the different age groups that occurred during September.

Junior High – 7th and 8th Graders

PBWorks for African Learning Expedition

The learning expedition for the Junior High this year is studying Africa, past to present. Students have been assigned a specific African country to research, to become an “expert” about that country.  A PBWorks was set up for students to post their research.  At this point, the students are posting general facts they are finding about their countries.  These facts will be used to create Glogs, Animoto videos, and Dipity Timelines.

Glogs About Their Countries

This past week during their technology class, the students were introduced to Glogster.  They spent most of their time learning how it works.  A few began creating their Glogs about their African countries.

Part of their instruction included how to use Google Image advanced search to find images for their Glogs using strict filtering and usage rights “labeled as reuse with modification”.

Shelfari for Book Discussions

The Junior High language arts teachers asked all of the students to set up Shelfari accounts.  This was initiated by one of the teachers after she saw me demonstrate it during my interview last Spring.  What follows is part of the permission letter she sent home to parents for permission or students to sign up for Shelfari:

As students discover wonderful books, they will share their reviews and recommendations with each other.  Over the summer a few Anser students piloted an online site for discussing books.  Students found to be a fun and interactive way to share their excitement about books.  On Shelfari, students can create a virtual bookshelf, rate the books they have read, write and read book reviews, discuss books with readers from around the planet, create a reading wish list, and much, much more.  Our class will also have a private group where we can safely discuss books we are reading together.  Only group members can see our discussions and reply to our questions.

Participating students will have a profile (bookshelf and friend list) on the site.  In order to create a Shelfari account, students need parental permission.  Shelfari registration requires an email account; however, for the safety of the student, I recommend that you use a parent email to register.

A Group Shelf of books was established for the class.

They are asked to participate in monthly discussions on Shelfari where they post their own questions and respond to questions posted by other students:

Middle and Upper Childhood – 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th Graders

Where I’m From PicLits

One of the beginning of the year projects for the 5th and 6th graders was composing lengthy poems. Where I’m From.  The teachers asked how technology could assist with the expression of these poems in an artistic and visual format.  PicLits was the tool I believed could best support this project.

The students’ PicLits were all posted on a single page:

Word Clouds for the River Expedition

I showed the teachers Wordle at the beginning of the year and it immediately sparked the interest of the teachers for the students in these grades.  They have requested the creation of word clouds during technology time to support classroom activities.  I started with Wordle but wanted a tool that can easily  saved as images to the desktop.  Wordle does not have this characteristic.  After exploring other options, I decided to use ABCya Word Cloud. The Upper Childhood students practiced using it by inserting autobiographical words.  The Middle Childhood students created word clouds based on their river expedition.  They included words that they associate with rivers.  They will create another similar one after they finish their river study.  The two word clouds will serve as a pre-post assessment of terminology gained from their river learning expedition.

Thinkquest for Networking and Posting Work

I learn about many of the technology tools I use through Twitter and blogs.  Thinkquest was demonstrated to me a few years ago at ISTE’s National Education Computing Conference.  I love this site and so do my students.  I used it when I was a gifted teacher a few years ago.  The students at my “new” school are having the same excited reaction.

I don’t understand why I never hear it mentioned in any of my social networks.  It is a safe place where students can create an online identify, communicate with other students from their own school and from schools from around the world, post questions and polls, and participate in online projects (way too many benefits to describe in this blog entry).

Internet Safety with Professor Garfiled

Along with the production tools the students are learning, they have been studying Internet Safety with Professor Garfield. We watch the video together and then the students work through the Try and Apply components at their own computers.

Kindergarten and Early Childhood – 1st & 2nd Graders

Given the variance in the literacy levels of this age group, especially the 1st and 2nd grade group, the challenge has become how to differentiate to meet the needs of all children in the class.  I believe that technology provides a great venue for differentiation and it has proved to be the case for this age group.

ABCya Educational Games

ABCya provides educational games for grades Kindergarten through Fifth with an assortment of games for each grade.  From their website:

ABCya! is the leader in free educational kids computer games and activities for elementary students to learn educational computer games and activities were created or approved by certified teachers. ABCya! educational games are free and are modeled from primary grade lessons and enhanced to provide an interactive way for children to learn. ABCya! games and activities incorporate content areas such as math and reading while introducing basic computer skills. Many of the kindergarten and first grade games are equipped with sound to enhance understanding. on the web.

This site provides options for self-differentiation as students pick their games based on their grade level and interests.

Literacy Development

For the first half of the Early Childhood classes, I focus on literacy development.  Kidblogs were established for those students who have basic writing skills. The kids, at first, weren’t that thrilled about writing the blogs.  But once they realized they could comment on each other’s blogs, their excitement rose dramatically.  One student asked if it was like Facebook for kids.  Even at age 7, they understand and are attracted to social networking.

While the students are writing their blogs, the other students, emerging readers and writers, listen to and interact with online books such as Pinky Dinky Do.

Online Drawing Tools

The kids love to draw and paint with online tools.  Along with the ABCya games, students have been given the opportunity to draw during the second half of their technology classes.  Tux Paint was downloaded on all of the computers in the technology lab. (Note: even the Junior High students like it!).

Up Next – Technology Integration by the Teachers: The First Month

Comic and Animation Technologies in the Classroom

I have several lists of online project-product creators for my K-8 technology students.  I cover a new tool every week or so.  But being kids, they like to explore the other tools from these lists.  The ones that overwhelmingly get noticed and the ones the students get most excited about are the comics and animation creators.  There were several tweets over the weekend that inspired me add to my knowledge, tools, and personal excitement for using comics and animations in the classrooms.  I have aggregated and compiled the following resources for my students.

Here is what covered S. Hendy in her slideshow plus some additions of my own:

Online Comic Creators


The following amazing animation, shared via Twitter, was completely made using the open source 3D software, Blender:

contains minor violence but the story is excellent (and sad)

Animation Creation Tools

Using Comics and Animation in the Classroom

My ultimate goal for using technology in education is having students love learning and creating.  The tools are the means to do so.  As such, they can be connected to a number of content-based assignments:

A Technology-Enhanced Celebration of Learning

As part of my Pedagogy of Learning and Psychology of Learning courses for pre- and in-service educators, I included a final project for the course was a Celebration of Learning.  They were asked to synthesize and reflect on their course learning using their own creativity, passions, and personal interests.  The description of this project was:

To demonstrate overall knowledge and integration of the material studied in class and from the texts, students are to do one of the following and demonstrate/report results to their classmates:

  • write a report
  • do a photo essay
  • compile a scrapbook
  • build a model
  • put on a live demonstration
  • do a statistical chart
  • keep a journal
  • record interviews
  • design a mural
  • develop a simulation
  • set up an experiment
  • do a mind-map
  • engage in a debate
  • produce a videotape
  • develop a musical
  • choreograph a dance
  • create a rap or song
  • one of your own own design

You will present your project to the class on the last day. You have up to 15 minutes for your presentation.  The grading criteria for this project includes:

  • Neatness and Professionalism- clean, professionally presented, easy to view, free of grammatical and spelling errors
  • Integration of Course Theory and Content – demonstrates an integration and understanding of class content and your research findings.
  • Quality of Content – the content demonstrates mastery and insights into the subject matter.
  • Creativity and Insight – Materials demonstrate creativity and insight about self and course material.

When students have multiple choices in ways to demonstrate their knowledge, the evidence of their learning is more accurate. We wanted the students to actually become the experts through the learning process. This assessment isn’t just a fancy term for a presentation at the end of a unit. To actually engage in an authentic celebration is to witness a true display of student understanding. Learning Celebrations are Authentic Assessments of Student Understanding

Multiple Means of Expression Giving students a choice of how they want to demonstrate what they learned supports the Universal Design for Learning Principle II: Provide students with multiple means of expression:

What if a student can best show you what they learned through art form? Does it make sense to eliminate this option all together? As educators, it is essential to be attuned to the fact that there is not one form of expression that is optimal for all students. Catering to the natural diversity of expression when designing a course can serve to broaden the impact of your teaching: some ways to do this are through text, verbal presentations, design, film video, multimedia, 3D Models, music/art, recordings, or graphic organizers. Technology plays a big role in facilitating these implementations. The CAST website has a full definition. (

Technology-Enhanced Celebration of Learning

The concept of celebration of learning, honoring students’ learning preferences, and reinforcing the classroom learning can be enhanced in this age of technology.  Technology provides additional ways and opportunities  to differentiate instruction based on content, interest, and ability.  Choice menus give learners the opportunity to self-select activities that are best suited to their interests and ability.  The result is engaged and motivated learners with resultant products that when shared in the classroom have often made me cry due to the personalized and passionate characteristics of these products.

Options that can be offered that are technology-enhanced include:

Create a Series of Word Clouds

Write and Illustrate an eBook

Draw or Paint a Picture

Make Comic Strip

Do an Animation

Create a Data Visualization

Create an Infographic

Create a  “Media” Presentation (must include at two different types of media – photo, images, audio)

Keep a Blog

Make a Game

Make a Timeline

Make a Google Earth Trip

Make an Online Quiz

Compose a Musical Composition

Make an Audio-Media Message

Make a Book Trailer

Create a Stop Motion Animation

Build a Project in a 3D Virtual Environment

Student Examples This past term, two students in my undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relations selected technology-enhanced projects. TJ loves Minecraft, so his final project included a review of the course concepts using his Minecraft Skills.

Another student, Nicole, created a series of Wordles for each topic covered during the course.

In addition, one student loved the Wordles were created in class so much, she did her own handmade versions for her project.

And the Technology Integration Begins!

This was my first full week at the K-8 Charter School as the new technology instructor.  Technology has been used minimally by the teachers at the school during the ten plus year history of the charter school.  As stated in an earlier blog, Integrating Technology: Technology Tools to Develop a Collaborative, Participatory School Community Learning Space, the principal got excited about the potential of technology integration across the curriculum during and after my interview, wants it, but also knows it needs to be a process driven my the teachers.

I explained to the teachers that I want to support classroom learning expeditions when the learners come to me for their computer class.  I also told them that I am willing to show them technology-based tools they can use to enhance their classroom activities. I know many of the Web 2.0 tools and their potential for instructional applications (as a wear as a badge of honor for my addiction to social networking, online webinars and conferences, and hanging out in places like Second Life).  Based on conversations with the school principal and my own experiences/intuition, I understand that that technology integration needs to made as an offering to the teachers.  They need to decide if and how these tools can be incorporated and integrated into their own classrooms.

So this first week was one of preparation as the students start after Labor Day (first weekend of September for the United States) . . . and to my pleasant surprise, several “incidents” of technology integration occurred.

During this pre-school week, I assisted teachers with technology integration . . .

  • The principal asked to me to use Wordle for a warm-up for a staff training session.  The teachers were instructed to throw out terms that represent how they felt when learning something new. I created a Wordle from their responses.  Several teachers told me later that they plan to use Wordle during the first week of school.
  • T., the Community-Based Curriculum Director, discussed with me the use of Movie Maker to showcase the students’ service projects.  In the past, the parents and kids took photos and then T. used Movie Maker to showcase them.  I showed her Animoto.  She practiced using photos from the pre-school family picnic that occurred this past week.  The next day she excitedly approached me, stating that she now plans to offer students the choice of using Animoto as a means of reflecting on their service learning, that she can then  mash-up the students’ Animoto videos for her end of semester service learning presentation.

  • J., a Junior High teacher, worked with me to set up a PBWorks site for the Junior High Africa Expedition.  Students will work in small groups to study countries and post their findings on the their PBWorks page.

  • I showed Shelfari during my interview.  J. and several of her junior high students set up shelves last spring and actively participated over the summer.  I worked D., another Junior High teacher, to show her Shelfari as she and J. are planning to use it for their JH reading project.

  • M, a middle childhood educator (3rd-4th), and I set up a Weebly page for her classroom and created/inserted a PollDaddy survey to assess her students’ learning style preferences.

  • A., a Kindergarten teacher, asked me to help set up a classroom page for parent information.; and L., the special education coordinator, wants a parent site for homework so she could add IEP-based accommodations.  I wanted to get other opinions about this so I went to my trusted network on Twitter.  The recommendations for this included using Google Calendar for the homework with accommodations and Google Sites for the classroom pages. I asked via Twitter for some example classroom pages using Google Sites and here is a list of what I received:

This was a good first week!  Lesson learned: Technology integration needs to be approached as differentiated instruction for the teachers. They are the users in this case and need to generate their own education.  They should be presented with a choice menu and then given the support to develop the tools and technologies that address their abilities, interests, and teaching styles.

Social Media Revolution Should Be (and is) Creating a New Type of School

I love how the messages of our times are digital.  Folks from the future who look back to study this time will view these digital messages as primary source documents that tell the stories of us.

The following are some of my favorite videos of this past year.  They tell the story of what needs to and should drive education – in this era of social media and educational networking.

These two videos tell the story of what is occurring in the real world -businesses know this,  journalists knows this, the kids on their own time know this  . . .

New Brunswick Department of Education “gets it”:

This video was produced by the New Brunswick Department of Education to stimulate discussion among educators and other stakeholders in public education in the province of New Brunswick. The 21st Century presents unique challenges for education worldwide. In order to keep pace with global change we must focus on 21st Century Skills and public education must adapt to keep students engaged. Rigor and relevance are key,

This principal does not. But note that InnovativeEdu’s editorial re-mix is part of this video:

Yet, it is being implemented within educational projects such as the Flat Classroom Project and Rock Our World:

Hopefully, WHEN (yes – I am hopeful) schools adopt social media as standard operating practice, the results will help lead to enlightenment in the 21st century.

Hello world!

Hi, All,

I am using WordPress as a new blogging platform.  My goal for 2010 is to Blog more often.  I named the Blog User-Generated Education because I believe all of the new technologies are making it ripe for a learner-centric, learner-driven, constructivist education.  I am looking forward to exploring this via this Blog.