Holly's Ed Tech Playground

February 2015 Edition

It's Testing Season...

Look familiar? (Image from http://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/how-special-educators-can-handle-testing-season)

If this is not your first year teaching, you know that February marks the beginning of Testing Season in Texas.  (If it is your first year, you've probably figured this out by now.)  It's a generally accepted truth that, with two snow days behind us and a dozen testing days ahead, this is the time of year teachers are feeling the most pressure.  For me, it was always a time of year I felt frustrated with a lack of variety in my classroom.  To counter the monotony of testing season, tutorials, and the not-yet-spring weather, consider how technology tools can help spice up your lessons.  Even test prep can be fun!

Review with Nearpod

If you haven't used Nearpod, you need to try it with your students.  At least once.  It allows you to embed interactive tasks in simple PowerPoint presentations, and the student result is exciting!  It is FREE for you to sign up as a teacher, and students don't need to sign up at all!

Nearpod requires that students have access to mobile devices or computers (either will work).  If you have access to a class set of devices, great!  If not, try partnering students with small groups to leverage the devices you do have.

If you'd like a demo of Nearpod, let me know.  We shared this fantastic tool with 4th and 5th grade teachers at Social Studies Monday earlier this month, and we got some really positive feedback!

Keep Score with Web Tools:
Kahoot! & Class Dojo

One of my favorite ways to invigorate the test review process is to add elements of games to my reviews.  Partnering students in competitive groups is a great way to keep them engaged and excited about what you're doing in the classroom.

Two great tools for simple gamification of your review lessons are Kahoot! and Class Dojo.  Many of you have probably heard of Class Dojo-- you may use it, you may love it.  But the simplicity of this tool for creating impromptu groups and keeping score during competitive review activities makes it an excellent web app for more than just behavioral documentation.

When teaching, I used Class Dojo to keep track of positive and negative behaviors and to motivate my students to improve... but I also created fake "classes" where we would record our group scores during review games.  Creating classes is free, and adding 4-6 students to a class (to represent your student teams) takes no time at all!

In the example above, we were reviewing using an Avatar: The Last Airbender theme, so my class was divided into groups representing the four elements.  Points could be customized to reward students' correct responses, use of resources, teamwork, and willingness to share their thinking.

If you're looking for a way to turn your review into a quiz show, Kahoot! is the way to go.  It comes complete with cheesey quiz-show music!  Students will be engaged and excited to answer questions, not only with speed but with accuracy, so they can be named the Kahoot! champion of your classroom.

Creating a Kahoot! quiz is simple, but does require that you create a teacher account.  Students don't need an account; they join your quiz using a PIN number like the one shown above.

(Image from http://www.securedgenetworks.com/strategy-blog/BYOD-Coming-to-a-School-Near-You-Infographic)

How do you use Kahoot! without a class set of iPads or Android tablets?

While having a 1:1 device ratio in your class would be awesome, working with what you have is a master teacher skill!  Use Kahoot! in tutorials with small groups of students, in a computer lab with the whole class, or divide your students into groups and have them share a device and respond as a team.

Summarize with Discovery Board Builder

Discovery Education's website is full of videos, audio files, images, encyclopedia articles, handouts, and more.  But have you ever used the Board Builder feature?

Board Builder allows students to create digital presentations by collecting resources from Discovery Education.  Located under the "Builder Tools" menu, Board Builder will inspire creative thinking and help your students produce awesome web products... and it's free!

Students have logins for Discovery Education, and can access and create boards on their own, or as part of an assignment you share with them.  They can also turn their boards in to you, so you can grade them and provide feedback.  If you would like more information about Board Builder, I'd be happy to come and demo this very cool (but under-utilized!) feature of Discovery Ed!

Collecting and curating information in this way is a great way to have students summarize their learning (which is a huge part of test review!).  Board Builder requires a trip to the computer lab (or classroom computers), but the resulting products are well-worth the time.

Dramatize with Green Screen

I don't normally promote apps that require payment, but this is an exception.  If you have a teacher iPad, or a small set of iPads for use in your classroom, this app allows your students to create really, really cool videos.  What better way to review then by acting out what you have learned?!

Green Screen, by Do Ink, costs $2.99, but does not require any additional purchases.  One purchase would allow all students to record themselves, provided you used the same device to capture each of their videos.  The app works like this:  students record themselves in front of a solid color wall (think: bulletin board butcher paper, solid color plastic table cloths, solid color paint on a wall) and super-impose their image on other images using green screen technology.

It's really easy, too!  I made this video...

...standing in front of a blue bulletin board like this:

So what could your students use this app to do?

Green Screen could be used to create news reports, weather reports, historical event summaries, music videos, or documentaries, for starters!  If you'd like help using the Green Screen app, let me know-- I can be a technical assistant, a camerawoman, or a director, as needed.  :)

Before you go...

Do you "tweet"?  If you're looking for a quick, easy way to get updates on how to use technology in your classroom, follow me on Twitter!

The ITS team is also developing its social media presence this year-- you can find us on Facebook:

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And soon, we'll have a blog!  Yay!

Time for some feedback!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you!  If you have questions, needs, concerns, celebrations, or curiosities, send me a note!