Tech tools often seem focused on core classroom subjects like math, science, and history. Many forget the wealth of webtools available for classes many schools call ‘Specials’–those that round out a student’s day and prepare them for college and career. Here are three life-skill classes and online tools that make learning more relevant and fun:
1. Physical Education
Coach’s Eye is a top app I heard about from lots of PE teachers. It is one of the leading video platforms to record an athlete’s performance for playback and review. It records the action and then shows the athlete how to, for example, refine a fastball, analyze a golf swing, break down a volleyball serve, improve soccer skills, or demonstrate proper weightlifting form. Recordings are available instantly, can be zoomed and panned, and can be compared with earlier videos of the student’s action. Users can draw lines, arrows, or any freehand marks right on the video, as well as add audio commentary and slo-mo. The results can be shared via SMS, YT, and FB.
LifeSaver is a free online simulation of a life-threatening occurrence where you (as the viewer) become the only one around who can help. You are asked questions and prompted to take the next step. Your answers play out on the simulation so you can see what happens based on your choices.
The video is powerful, professional, and pulls the viewer in as a critical part of the emergency.
Technology is a natural education fit in everything from math to Spanish to literacy. The one corner of K-12 learning that is not so obvious is PE — Physical Education. In that class, we think of physical stuff — not digital — like running and exercising.
But kids love technology’s apps and software. Is there a way to use these to encourage physical fitness? After all, the tie-in between physical conditioning and learning is well-accepted. Here’s what the NY Times reports:
Better fitness proved to be linked to significantly higher achievement scores — a 2013 study reported in PubMed.org.
But, how can teachers use the technology students love to encourage physical education? Here are my favorite websites and apps:
This is a stunningly visual app that takes students right into the human body via virtual reality. Viewers travel down the gastrointestinal tract, the small intestine, the circulatory system, and three other systems. With 360-degree navigation, it is fully interactive, including even tags for important parts. Students can stop and observe while exploring the hotspots. Watch this video—you really won’t believe it.
For many, study of the human body starts in second grade with an introduction to what’s inside that stretchy, durable skin that coats our bodies. As students progress through school, they dig deeper into concepts of body systems, organs, cells, diseases, and the importance of good health. Whether schools classify these topics as ‘health’ or ‘science’, the importance of understanding the processes that allow us to survive can’t be overstated. Prove this by asking students for personal examples of health problems that upended their lives. For some, it’s as normal as a broken arm, but for many more, it ends in hospitalizations and orphan diseases.
When teaching about the human body, start with a tool students are familiar with: the fill-in-the-blank worksheet. I see you roll your eyes, but bear with me as I drag this tried-and-true stalwart into the 21st Century. There are good reasons why worksheets have been the backbone of assessment for decades:
- Students write or type the information (and get the benefits of note-taking).
- Students read what they type (and get the benefits of reading).
This lesson plan, though, adds a few digital native twists. First, students create their own template in one of several ways:
- draw it using the school’s drawing tool
- take a picture of themselves with the iPad camera (or another digital camera)
- use an avatar that has basically human parts (like a robot). This has the advantage of tying into class discussions on digital citizenship (why use avatars rather than the real picture?).
Next, students digitally label their ‘human body’. To do this, you might need to review the digital drawing tool (like Doodle Buddy or ScreenChomp), image editor (like Canva or PicMonkey), and/or the annotation tool (like iAnnotate or Notability) being used. Besides learning about their bodies, this integrates technology transparently into student learning, as a process rather than a product — as a tool used to complete their project.
Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Cassie Phillips, is a consultant and internet security expert. She is passionate about sharing information on protecting children from cyberattacks making policy to improve school systems on this topic. You’ll enjoy her latest article on how to address cyberbullying with your students:
Cyberbullying refers to a situation in which a teen, preteen or child is embarrassed, humiliated, harassed, threatened, tormented or otherwise targeted by another on interactive technology such as smartphones or social media. If your instincts tell you that cyberbullying is going on, it’s best to investigate the situation no matter what it is. Cyberbullying and aggression in schools can only promote a culture of violence and negatively impact education.
School systems and the government have put in place policies and legislation to deal with cyberbullying in schools. Out of all the students that report being victims of cyberbullying, 23 percent will turn to a teacher as their first contact person. Therefore, the teacher’s role in cyberbullying is imperative as a facilitator of communication between the parent and the school. They play a central role in prevention as they are knowledgeable about what is going on in the classroom. They can give recommendations for online safety that are tailored to a given situation.
Teachers work hard. We start before students arrive at school, spend hours after school tutoring, in faculty meetings, and chatting with parents, and evenings are spent grading papers after kids are put to bed. We juggle computers, calculators, laptops, Chromebooks, Smartscreens, erreaders, and IPads to entice students to learn whatever standards and curriculum requires.
Every once in a while, we need a mental health break. That’s when we pull out a few apps that put the Zen back into life. Here are five of my favorites. They’re great to shake up the day, add a little pizzazz to the routine for an hour or so:
In my school, 2nd grade and 5th grade have units on the human body. To satisfy their different maturities, I’ve developed two lists of websites to complement this inquiry. I put them on the class internet start page so when students have free time, they can visit (check here for updates):
2nd -3rd Grade[caption id="attachment_5364" align="alignright" width="212"] Place organs where they belong[/caption]
- Blood Flow
- Body Systems
- Build a Skeleton
- Can you place these parts in the correct place?
- Choose the systems you want to see.
- Find My Body Parts
- How the Body Works
- Human Body Games
- Human Body websites
- Human Body—by a 2nd grade class—video
- Human Body—videos on how body parts work
- Inside the Human Body: Grades 1-3
- Kids’ Health-My Body
- Matching Senses
- Muscles Game
- Nutrition Music and Games from Dole (more…)