- Book Creator–(iOS/Android) templates to create digital comic books and graphic novels.
- Canva–for templates
- Marvel– Create comic strips and books with Marvel characters.
- PlayComic–English or Spanish
- PowToon–try free, then fee
- Storyboard That!
Click here for updates to this list.
Here are a few of the popular resources teachers are using to reinforce and teach thinking and learning (click here for updates):
- Bubbl.us–simple to use and free, no log-in, a bit quirky (IMHO)
- MindMeister–free trial for education
- Scapple--downloaded tool
- Spicy Nodes
- SpiderScribe–add text, pictures, files, more; free sign-up, fee for more than 3
- The Crossing–attempts to cross a gorge; some fail; all result in success
Last year was a boom year for edtech web tools. There were so many, I couldn’t keep up. I would discover what seemed to be a fantastic tool (most likely discovered in FreeTech4Teachers, Alice Keeler, or one of the other tech ed blogs I follow), give it about five minutes to prove itself, and then, depending upon that quick review, either dig deeper or move on. If it was recommended by a colleague in my professional learning network, I gave the site about twice as long but still, that’s harsh. I certainly couldn’t prove my worth if given only five minutes!
Nevertheless, that’s how it is because there are too many options. Here’s what I wanted to find out in the five minutes:
- Is the creator someone I know and trust (add-ons by Alice Keeler always fit that requirement)?
- Is it easy to access? Meaning, does it open and load quickly without the logins I always forget?
- Is it easy to use? Meaning, are links to the most important functions on the start page? For example, in Canva, I can create a flier for my class in under five minutes because the interface is excellent.
- For more complicated tools, how steep is the learning curve? Does the site offer clear assistance in the form of videos, online training, or a helpline?
- Is the content age-appropriate for the grades I teach?
- Is it free or freemium, and if the latter, can I get a lot out of it without paying a lot? I don’t like sites that give me “a few” uses for free and then charge for more. Plus, free is important to my students who may not be able to use it at home unless there’s no cost attached.
- Is there advertising? Yes, I understand “free” probably infers ads so let me amend that to: Is it non-distracting from the purpose of the webtool?
- How current is it? Does it reflect the latest updates in standards, pedagogy, and hardware?
- Does it fulfill its intended purpose?
- Has it received awards/citations from tech ed groups I admire?
After all that, here are five websites that I discovered last year, loved, and will use to brighten the Spring months:
At the beginning of the 21st century, the definition of digital equity revolved around the provision of a digital device to every student. Usually, that meant desktop computers, iPads, and laptops, either in small groups or 1:1. As digital equity discussions matured and hyperbole became reality, educators found that those loudly-touted digital devices often became paperweights. The reasons were varied (teacher training, infrastructure, and professional support to name a few), but one of the most prominent was money. Good intentions to give all students access to the world’s knowledge were derailed by the cost of the websites and webtools that made that happen. Turns out — and not really a surprise — the cost of the digital devices was minor compared to the cost of the websites and webtools required to meet goals.
There is one bright spot in this story: Online books. Thanks to the efforts of many devoted professionals and the financial support of more, there are a wide variety of free/inexpensive sources for books that students can use for classroom activities as well as pleasure.
Wrapping up your school technology for the summer is as complicated as setting it up in September. There are endless backups, shares, cleanings, changed settings, and vacation messages that — if not done right — can mean big problems when you return from summer vacation. If you have a school device, a lot of the shutdown steps will be done by the IT folks as they backup, clean, reformat, and maybe re-image your device. If you have a personal device assigned by the school but yours to take home, the steps may be more numerous but really, not more complicated.
Here’s a list. Skip those that don’t apply to you and complete the rest. I won’t take time in this article (I’m at about 1000 words right now) for a how-to on each activity so if you don’t know how to complete one, check with your IT folks or Google it:
Make sure your firewall and antivirus programs are working.
Many computers come with a built-in one to keep viruses and malware out that slow your computer. Sometimes, they seem to turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check to be sure yours is active. If you have a Chromebook or an iPad, don’t even worry about this.
Clean out your documents.
Sort through the documents you collected this year and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months –- or years — and is covered with spider webs. If you don’t do this regularly, the computer must finger through these unused files every time you search. If you hate throwing anything away, create an ‘Old’ folder, toss them all in it, and save that to a flash drive or in the cloud.
Whiteboards have long been a de rigeur staple in classrooms, occupying pride-of-place at the front of the room. Despite the popularity of hi-tech Smartscreens, the simple whiteboard remains the favored method of sharing information during class time.
But one change has revolutionized their use: They can now be projected from your iPad. Before introducing three amazing must-have whiteboard apps, let me note that there are dozens of options, all with varied traits and prices. I selected these three because they are intuitive, multi-functional, and work as a classroom tool rather than just another new widget teachers must learn.
Free to try
AirSketch is a basic, uncomplicated whiteboard that lets you do anything you’d normally do on a whiteboard. It’s similar to web-based options like Miro with two dramatic differences: It works through a iPad and can be mirrored to a computer (and from there, the class screen). This untethers teachers from their desk. All that’s needed is an iPad, AirSketch, a class computer, and a class screen.
Free to try
SyncSpace is a sharable, zoomable, collaborative whiteboard for iPads, mobile devices, laptops, and computers. Students work together on a drawing (using a finger or stylus), math problem, how-to, or a mindmap by adding illustrations, text, and/or pictures.
ShowMe is an interactive whiteboard app that allows drawing, handwriting, text, and voice-over. Users construct a series of linked slides, save them as a video, and then share with others either publicly or privately. The learning curve is shallow and intuitive for anyone who has used iPad apps in the past.
Need more options? Check this out (click here for updated list):
- Grammar games–a collection of easy-to-use games that cover grammar, vocabulary, parts of speech, and more
- Vocabulary-Spelling City–the ever-favorite word study program that lets you enter your class word lists and the site will turn them into engaging games.
- Visuwords–a visual tool to see what words and concepts are related to specific words
- Vocabulary Fun–use games to learn affixes, syllables, synonyms, idioms, and more
- Word Central—from Merriam Webster–not only reinforces learning with games but allows students to build their own dictionary; also has a tab for educators.
Click here for more Word Study websites.
Click here for updates to this list.
April 22nd is Earth Day, a day when (historically) more than 1 billion people in 192 countries put the Earth’s health ahead of convenience, habits, and cultural norms. It’s a day when teachers of all kinds encourage an understanding of how mankind’s actions affect the planet we call home. This is a time to learn how the ingrained habits of a throw-away society imperil our future. On Earth Day, we as cohabitants of this great planet evaluate how changes in our actions can improve the environment.
There are a wide variety of websites to help you in this endeavor, from analyzing what you’re doing that threatens the Earth to finding alternatives. Here are some of my favorites:
Online; Grades 5-12
In this Earth Day webquest, student teams vie for $1 million in funding from the fictional nonprofit, Help Our World (HOW) Foundation. Each team builds a case to address the particular environmental concern they consider to be the most critical by researching, building a convincing argument, and then presenting it to their audience. Presentations are voted on my fellow students to determine who will be awarded the grant.
The webquest includes everything you need for this activity including a list of materials required, student assignments, step-by-step and day-to-day instructions, worksheets, lots of Earth Day resources, reflections, and national standards addressed. This is a deep dive into a particular environmental concern encouraging students to investigate, support their opinions with evidence, and then share their passion with classmates.
Struggling with helping students learn math when you can’t be at their side? Try these videos (check here for updates to links):
- Bright Storm math videos
- Khan Academy–online progressive math program; free
- Math Class with Terry V
- Math DrBob
- Math Videos
- Math videos–clean, nice
- MathTV–videos; create playlists of topics; Spanish option
- Origo One — one-minute math videos
- Patrick JMT–math videos for lots of grade levels
- YayMath — videos on math
More on math:
Many Christians celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. To non-Christians (or non-traditional Christians), that event signifies a rebirth of spring that is filled with joy and gifts — and chocolate! Overall, it is America’s most-popular holiday with Christmas a close second. The date depends on the ecclesiastical approximation of the March equinox. This year, it’s April 4, 2020.
Here’s a good mixture of games, lesson plans, stories, and songs that can be blended into many academic subjects (for updates on this Easter-themed list of websites, click here):
This website includes a colorful collection of Easter (and Spring) games and information that is visual and enticing to youngers. Games are Easter Math, Easter Egg Hunt, Easter Egg Dress-up, Easter Word hunt, complete-the-sentence, and more. Also, viewers will find websites about the history of Easter around the world.
Like all of ABCYa’s games and activities, Easter Egg Hunt is a colorful and intuitive educational game for young children. It is easy-to-understand, playful, with favorite Easter symbols and energetic music that will engage children. The five Easter-themed games are easy-to-understand (no directions required) with a countdown clock to motivate activity. Nicely, it also aligns gameplay with the national standards met.