Thursday, November 21, 2013

Using BlendSpace, or "Wow, It's All In One Place!"

When I started teaching a self-contained class, one of my biggest concerns was addressing the diverse needs of my students in order for them to access their grade level curriculum. Some subjects, like Language Arts, lend themselves to more whole group activities, as the skills across the grade levels are similar.

Then, there was Social Studies. Teaching students in 3 grade levels, and knowing some students might eventually make the leap to In-Class Resource, I knew I had to each my students the grade-level curriculum. But how could I teach Ancient Civilzations and American colonies at the same time? 

I tried many different techniques for small group instruction and independent practice. Some worked, some didn't. Then I attended a workshop in October that introduced me to BlendSpace. 

BlendSpace is a website that allows teachers to combine resources such as videos, images, and text, and put it all in ONE PLACE! 

This is an example of a BlendSpace I created on The Fertile Crescent. The red circles indicate a video resource, and the green circle indicates a picture. The last box is a multiple choice quiz designed to monitor comprehension of the material which is automatically graded and gives immediate feedback to the student upon completion. 

So how do I use it in my classroom? While I am providing direct instruction to my American History group, my Ancient Civilzations group would use their Chromebooks to access the blendspace via Edmodo (a BlendSpace app is available in the Edmodo app store, which links the two and makes it easy to share with your class). Although I use it primarily with Social Studies, you can easily adapt it to any subject area. 

How do you make one of your own? It's very simple! Watch my tutorial below. 

Try using a BlendSpace in your classroom! Leave a comment and let me know what topic you chose! Until next time...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Google Research Tool, Or "Kids These Days Have It So Easy!"

Let me preface this entry by saying that here in Belmar, we have the awesome privilege of receiving bi-weekly Google PD from Google Certified Trainer +Rich Kiker, and our Dynamic Tech Duo- +Pamela Lockwood and +Kevin O'Donnell . The opportunity to be exposed to new apps, tools, extensions, features, etc. and to be given the TIME to play with them has been such a great experience. 

Today we were introduced to the Research Tool in Google Docs. My initial (and still current) reaction- A lifesaver! A god-sent! A real game changer for my classroom!

How does it work? In Google Docs, navigate to the Tools tab, and select Research

You will open a side-tab inside your document that will allow you to look for information, photos, quotes, definitions, scholarly articles,  and tables that have to do with your research topic.

Another built-in feature that is going to work really well in my classroom is the ability to automatically cite websites and images. Looking at the Research tab, click the down-arrow to open the Citation preferences.

Here you can change the citation format to fit your assignment. We are just beginning to use MLA format, so this feature is going to be HUGE for our upcoming Biography project unit. 

Below is a sample of some information I found on one of the Biography subjects my students will be researching, Muhhamad Ali. I was able to find information, a quote, a picture, and a table of all of Ali's wins and losses. Notice that next to each piece is a footnote that has the MLA citation. I am so excited to use the Research tools with my students! 

I only wish this had been around when I was in college!

Leave me a comment, and let me know how you plan on using this feature in your classroom! Until next time!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Student Passwords- Or How to Stop "I Forgot My Username again!"

"I can't remember my username for Edmodo!"
"Wait, what was my password for Measuring Up again??"
"Is it my first name then last name, or last name then first name?"

Technology in the classroom is beneficial for all students. However, when students see multiple teachers, who all use multiple different websites, it can be a huge conundrum for any student, but especially for students in Special Education who may have memory issues.

How do we accomodate these students, and all students who get overwhelmed by the never ending list of usernames and passwords?

To aliveate the problem in my own self-contained classroom last year, I immediately went to Pinterest for ideas. I found teachers who had been successful with index cards rings, a different card for each username and password. I tried this with my own class. For the first two weeks, it worked well. Until the first student lost their ring. And another student spilled water on theirs. And another student lost just one card, but it was a rather important card. Clearly, this approach was not the best for students who have organizational issues.

So it was back to the drawing board! Just having changed to a Google Apps for Education school, my students were now experimenting with Google Docs. What a perfect opportunity! So, I shared with each student a Google Doc with their current usernames and passwords for specific sites.  Students have editting privaleges so as they use websites in other classes, they can add them to their lists.

Here is an example of the document I shared with my students. If you want to do the same, just Make a Copy and you're on your way!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The First Post- Or How Google Left Me Speechless

As a connected educator, I follow more blogs, tweets, and circles than I can count. But I never really saw myself creating a blog on my own. With the plethora of information out there, what could I add? What unique perspective could I provide?

And then one day, my life changed forever. After attending a session on Google Teacher Academy at TeachMeet NJ, I knew I had to apply. The chances of being picked might be small, but what an amazing experience it could be! So when the next sessions came up with October deadlines for London and Stockholm, I got right to work. I began with creating my video on Classroom Innovation. I knew I wanted to showcase how my school, which recently went 1:1 with Chromebooks grades 5-8, was using technology in innovative ways, but I wasn't sure where to begin. 

To coincide with beginning my application, my school began providing 2 hours of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) training twice a month for 5-8th grade teachers. The heavens aligned, and I met an amazing educator and innovator named Rich Kiker (@rkiker), a Google Certified Apps Trainer, who was hired by my district to provide our GAFE training. After an amazing first day with Rich, I was able to focus my video to how Google solutions were helping our school master the Common Core Standards. I featured four solutions that Rich introduced to us that day, and paired each solution with a standard that Google could help bring to life. I used Animoto to create my video, finished my application, and held my breath. You can see my video here.

Friday, October 25th, 2013- After checking my e-mail like a compulsive lunatic, I had almost given up hope when it occured to me- I hadn't checked my Spam folder. And there it was. As my fellow GTAUK member put it "my golden ticket" was there, sitting in my Spam folder. I ran out of my classroom (the children were gone of course), yelling and jumping up and down, not even knowing how to articulate my excitement and joy at the prospect of traveling to London to be connected with 49 other innovative educators. 

Well, the count down has officially begun- 39 days until GTAUK!! I could not feel more lucky, blessed, and thankful to be chosen. I plan on blogging as much as I can of the experience, beginning now.

 But that is not what this blog will be about. My hope is to provide resources and inspiration for other connected educators, especially those in the field of Special Education. We in Special Ed have a unique challenge, combining pedagogy and content knowledge, and when you add in the power of technology, the possibilities for closing the achievement gap are endless!  

Thank you for taking a look, and make sure you follow me on Twitter! @murphette316