Category Archives: K-12

Whiteboard.Fi

Whiteboard.Fi is a free tool that you can use to generate a room of individual whiteboards for your students that you can monitor in a grid view. If you don’t have the pro version of PearDeck, which allows students to draw on slides, this is an alternative you may want to consider. There is no registration required for the teacher or students, so it is quick to create a room and equally easy for students to join by using the room link or a QR code.

Because there is no registration, and no tie to any credentials, students will need to type in a name when joining, so be prepared for some hijinks with nicknames if your students are prone to be silly. You can enable a waiting room where you decide whether or not to admit students, so that may help.

Once students have joined, or at any time, the teacher can “push out” images as backgrounds for whiteboards, which can be great for labeling diagrams. Or, as you can see in the picture below, this might be another way for to conduct the “Peel the Fruit” Visible Thinking Routine, where students can give individual comments for each layer on their own whiteboards.

Students can also toggle back and forth between what is displayed on the teacher whiteboard, such as a math problem, and what they are doing on their own board.

There are many tools on the menu for students -including a grid background, music background, and math symbols – that you wouldn’t find on most whiteboards. Students can also scroll down and add pages, similar to Google Jamboard.

When you are finished with your session, the teacher can download all of the whiteboard responses as a PDF, in case it is needed as a formative assessment. If the teacher has enabled it, students can also save their whiteboards as PDF’s.

I have seen some teacher comments on social media that they sometimes had technical difficulties with Whiteboard.Fi, but according to their website they have just updated their servers (9/29/2020). As with any tech tool, you should definitely try to practice it on your network ahead of time to make sure it isn’t blocked by your district and have a backup plan in case there are connectivity issues.

The creator of Whiteboard.Fi, Sebastian Laxell, offers this service and all of its features free. However, if you want to contribute to the upkeep of the site, you can subscribe on his Patreon site here.

Doing More with Screencastify

UPDATE 10/16/2020: If you want to add a Screencastify video to Google Slides, be sure to look at this post from Eric Curts for tips on how to use the Add-On!

Many teachers have become familiar with with screen recording tools, such as Screencastify, in the last 6 months. Of course, the main way Screencastify is being used is to, in essence, flip the classroom – allowing the teacher to record lessons that can be archived for students to view asynchronously. But there are a couple of other neat features of Screencastify that you might want to check out.

First of all, as Jake Miller points out in the embedded Tweet below, Screencastify can be used to make GIFs:

And if you have no idea on why you would need to use GIFs in an educational context, Jake has 19 suggestions for you here.

A relatively new feature of Screencastify is called, “Submit.” To me, this is Screencastify’s answer to Flipgrid. With Submit, you can create an assignment for students to make a video, either with their webcam or by sharing the screen, and submit it with a click to a Google Drive folder that has been automatically created for you. You can decide if you want students to view other videos, just their own, or none of them. For more information on how this free tool works, you can watch this video. (Thanks to @Robert_Kalman for sharing this on Twitter!)

Still have no ideas for using Screencastify outside of flipping lessons? Matt Miller, as always, has you covered. See more ways this versatile tool can support learning here.

Image by janjf93 from Pixabay

Name Picker Tools

Whether you are teaching virtually or face to face, chances are that you will need to call on students. Even after decades of teaching, I often had to make a conscious effort not to fall into the bad habit of choosing students eager to raise their hands first more often than anyone else. The best way to combat this was to employ a few “Name Picker Tools” over time. Some are online, some are apps/extensions, and some are part of other software (like Class Dojo). I’m going to stick to the free ones that allow you to save your lists. However, as always, be wary of privacy and the permissions you give when you use these tools. There are also ads on some of the pages that can be distracting to students, so definitely test them out before using them with a class.

  • Wheel of Names – Web-based, allows text and/or photos, and you can customize and save. (You will need to sign in with a Google or Twitter account to save. See more about this tool on Richard Byrne’s site, including a short video demonstrating its features.
  • Classroom Screen – Web-based. The random name chooser and group maker widgets are two of the many ways you can use this versatile tool. The free version allows you to save three class lists.
  • Flippity – Got a spreadsheet of names? Flippity can turn it into a Random Name Picker (or a bunch of other interactives).
  • Google Classroom Mobile App – Obviously only helpful if your students are enrolled in Google Classroom! Here’s a quick video to show you how to use it.
  • Random Name Picker from Class Tools – Once you create a list here, you are given a unique web address where it is saved. You can generate a link, QR code, and even an embed code to add it to a website.
  • Popsicle Sticks App – I haven’t tried this one yet, but there are free and paid versions. Only available for iOS.

If you have any other name pickers that are free, reliable, and allow you to save them, please let me know in the comments!

Top EdTech Tools for Digital Differentiation

My latest post for the Neo Blog is, “Top EdTech Tools for Digital Differentiation.” You may recognize some of the tools I recommend, such as Newsela and the one I blogged about yesterday, Immersive Reader. But you might be surprised by some other gems that are less ubiquitous right now.

One of the messages I hope that gets across with my Neo post (and everything I include on my own blog) is that differentiation should be happening for all students, not just the ones who are struggling. With technology, we can help all students to learn more, and teachers can have more time to give children the personal attention they need.

My previous NEO articles have been: From Normal to Better: Using What We’ve Learned to Improve Education, Applying Universal Design for Learning in Remote Classrooms, How Distance Learning Fosters Global CollaborationHow to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom, and How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning.

Next month’s post for Neo will be, “How to Facilitate Meaningful Discussions in the Hybrid or Virtual Classroom.” If you have any advice, I would love to hear it!

Students at Sutton Middle School use online research to answer questions during a lesson in history class. Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Wizer

Today I am posting about a product that technically would never had made it on this blog if I didn’t break some rules sometimes.  First of all, it’s a tool for making worksheets.  Yuck.  I know worksheets are a necessary evil sometimes, but they are way, way overused to give students busy work.  Secondly, to get the most out of this tool, you will need to pay for a subscription.  I try to recommend free tools because I know teachers pay for too much already out of their pockets.

However…

This subscription ($35.99 for a year) is a great deal for all of the features you will get – the features that also make this the most powerful digital “worksheet creator” I’ve seen.  If you don’t believe me, try the 14 day trial.

In many ways, Wizer is comparable to a Google Form on steroids.  In both of these, the teacher can create questions, push it out to students, and receive grades and reports on their responses.  But here are the ways that it’s different:

  • It currently interfaces with Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Microsoft, so you have two more option than you do with a Google Form.
  • You can design the worksheet to look much more visually appealing.
  • You can use any of the teacher-created Wizer worksheets to tweak to use as your own. Or, if you like inventing the wheel, make your own from scratch.
  • There are over 10 different question types you can use, including: Drawing, Fill in the Blanks, Label an Image, Sorting, Open Questions.
  • You can record (audio or video) instructions as well as text.
  • Students can respond using audio or text.
  • Students can design their own worksheets.

Here is an example of a worksheet for Tuck Everlasting that I found in the Wizer Community.  You can see what the Teacher Dashboard looks like below.

wizerdashboard
Wizer Teacher Dashboard

Now I think you’ll admit that those are pretty good options.  But the one that’s the game-changer, the one that made me decide to blog about Wizer, the one that is an incredible deal for $35.99/year is the option to differentiate within your worksheet.

With “The Awesome Plan,” teachers can create Learner Profiles for each of their students based on ability, interest, preferred learning mode, whatever you want.  You can create rules based on those categories.  Then, when you create a worksheet, you can use alternate questions for different Differentiated Instruction groups.  For example, do you want to have Fill-In-the Blank questions?  Some students may need a word bank, and others may not.   If you have all of your Learner Profiles done, you can just select with a couple of clicks who gets the word bank and who doesn’t.  Do you have some students who can answer open-ended questions, and others who need multiple choice?  Assign alternate questions!  You can see a quick video example embedded below.

Initially, you will have to do some work to get your Learner Profiles in order.  But imagine the simplicity of creating assessments once you’ve got your information loaded.  If you’ve got students who have their own devices, this tool could make your life much easier – without sacrificing the engagement of your learners.

If you are someone who has used Wizer, please share your feedback!

Anti-Racist Resource Guide

I apologize that I have been “off-the-grid” for the last couple of weeks, but I am resuming my schedule of publishing at least one blog post each week committed to anti-racism.  Today’s awesome website, the Anti-Racist Resource Guide, is brought to you by Victoria Lynn Alexander, who is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland.   As Alexander explains on the home page, “Within this guide, please find a variety of resources to explore practical ways to understand, explain, and solve seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity, white supremacy, police violence, and injustice.”

The site is well-organized into categories, as you can see from the screen-shot below.

antiracistresourceguide
Topics to be found on the Anti-Racist Resource Guide website

Each button will lead you to a concise document that offers numerous links and suggestions for that particular sub-topic.  The documents are concise and thoughtfully designed with meaningful information and examples.  Alexander plans to continue updating the site as new resources become available.  There is a lot to unpack here, but Alexander does a great job at keeping it from becoming overwhelming.

Just in case you missed my other posts specifically targeting racism, here is the list so far:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.