Category Archives: Teaching Tools

Support for Diverse Readers and Speakers

There are many tools out there for students who struggle with reading.  There were several I gathered at TCEA 2019 this year, and I have been meaning to share a curated list.  Here is a quick rundown (a big thanks to Leslie Fisher, who demonstrated these in her multiple sessions):

  • Immersive Reader – Microsoft offers this free suite of reading aids through OneNote or directly through it’s Microsoft Edge browser.  If you install the extension on your browser, you can change the background, break words into syllables, search for certain parts of speech, focus on a line, access a picture dictionary, translate, and read text out loud.  Thanks to Leslie Fisher for demonstrating all of these features!
  • Rewordify – You can change complex text to simpler language by pasting it into the box on this page.  Even better, there are several free learning activities that you can customize and print that offer matching, quizzes, etc…
  • SMMRY – Get a summary of the text you paste into the box.
  • Google Docs Voice Typing – Just go to the Tools in Google Docs to access this feature and make sure you give access to the microphone.
  • Closed Captioning in Google Slides – Did you know that you can offer closed captioning as you present a Slides presentation?  Click here to get the instructions.
  • Microsoft Translator – Download this app to your phone or just use it in your browser to start a conversation with anyone anywhere.  Among its other features, you can use multiple microphones for a conversation, which can be translated into multiple languages at the same time!  You can also use the app to take pictures of text (typed, not handwritten) and translate it.

I hope at least one or two of these tools is new and helpful to you!

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#TCEA2019 – Flippity

Looking back on my blog posts, I see that I’ve never devoted one to Flippity even though I’ve used it for various reasons the last couple of years.  If you haven’t tried Flippity and you like user-friendly tech tools, you should definitely visit the site.  When I first started using it, it was basically an easy way to turn a Google Spreadsheet into flashcards.  Since then, it has added many more features – all for free.

Leslie Fisher reminded me to take another look at Flippity when she mentioned a few of the newer additions to the site.  There is a now a Timeline and a Typing Test.  You can also make a Scavenger Hunt (which is similar to a Digital Breakout, but much easier to create!).  I am eager to try the Badge Tracker for our Maker Space.  I also noticed that there is a Flippity Add-On for Chrome if you are interested.

Each activity offers you a template that you can copy to your Drive.  Follow the instructions on the template and/or the website by typing information into the correct cells.  Publish your spreadsheet, get the link, and the magic happens.

Don’t forget that your students can also create with Flippity.  Though most of the templates are not going to promote deep learning, they are great opportunities for students to practice skills in novel ways.

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screenshot from Flippity.net

 

#TCEA2019 – Machine Learning for Kids

I learned quite a bit about Artificial Intelligence at a TCEA session this year presented by Anita Johnson of Austin ISD.  She explained the difference between Expert Systems (where explicit rules are programmed – think “If…Then” statements) and Machine Learning (where the computer identifies and learns from patterns).    Johnson teaches middle school, and introduced us to a site called, “Machine Learning for Kids,”  which she uses with her students. In the “Worksheets” section, you can find many lessons, categorized by difficulty level, that can be done using Scratch, such as creating a character that smiles if you say nice things and cries if you are mean.

I haven’t had a chance to try this with my students, yet.  It looks like you have an option to create a managed class account or “Try it Now”, but check out this page for details on the pros and cons of each choice.

You can also read this blog post to get more information on how to introduce Machine Learning to kids, and why we should even want to educate them about this technology.artificial-neural-network-3501528_1920.png

#TCEA2019 – Gimkit

It’s always fun to return to the classroom after attending TCEA with something new to use with the students right out of the gate.  Of course, as with all things technological, it’s a bit of a risk to try something for the first time without testing how it’s affected by random things like network firewalls.  Fortunately, my gamble worked with Gimkit.

Gimkit is an online student response system similar to Kahoot.  It was developed by a high school student, who added in an interesting twist – monetization.  Students win virtual money as they answer questions correctly.  The money can be used to shop for different upgrades such as making each answer worth more money or “icing” your opponents.

Teachers can make Gimkits from scratch, a spreadsheet, or a Quizlet.  The questions are multiple choice.  Unlike Kahoot, the questions appear on the student devices while the teacher device streams a live leaderboard.  The board shows each student’s earnings, who is ahead, and the collective amount earned by the class.  I ended up setting my two different engineering classes up as opponents in a “season” so they could compete to see which class earned the most.  (Hint: this keeps students from “icing” each other during the game because they will lose out on collective earnings.)

Teachers can also set a time limit, which means that questions will repeat.  To be honest, I thought the students would get bored once questions started coming back around, but they begged for more time after ten minutes.

The game was such a success with my 8th-11th graders on Thursday that I decided to use it for another class I was teaching in rotation to 8th graders on Friday.  Again, full engagement.

Until…

The students in my 4th rotation started getting messages that the site had just upgraded and they were suddenly bounced out of the game.  I almost had a complete mutiny on my hands as they realized they would be out of the running for the class competition.

Fortunately a similar situation happened while Leslie Fisher was presenting Gimkit at TCEA.  She tweeted Gimkit, and they immediately rolled the site back to the working version.  I decided to try the same thing.

My students were dubious.

“What do you mean you’re going to tweet him, Miss?  How is that gonna help?”

“This ain’t fair.  We’re never gonna win now, Miss!”

Withing a couple of minutes, Gimkit tweeted back their apologies and fixed the issue.  My students were astounded.

That class won the competition, by the way.  (Free outdoor time next period.)

So, if you have secondary students, I would definitely recommend you check out Gimkit the next time you want to do something a little different for a formative assessment.  It will be interesting to watch as this site expands its offerings, but hopefully it will always keep the current features for free.

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image from Gimkit.com

TCEA 2019

If you happen to be attending TCEA 2019 in San Antonio, TX, next week, I hope you will swing by to say, “Hi!” or even attend one of my sessions.

You can thank my partner-in-crime for the name of my first session about using green screens:

02/04/19 12:00 PM – 12:50 PM 191115 Fifty Shades of Green

Despite the title, it will be a G-Rated session.

My other session will actually be co-presented with the aforementioned partner-in-crime, Angelique Lackey.

2/05/19 01:15 PM – 02:05 PM 190802 Step Away from the Slideshow

The title is not quite as provocative as my green screen session, but considering my colleague’s direct involvement there will probably be more of a chance we will end up being banned from ever presenting at TCEA again 😉

Hope to see you there!

Agamographs

My students have done agamographs in the past, but I always called them “pictures that show two perspectives.”  It’s nice to learn there is an official name for these that has fewer syllables.  There are many ways to integrate this art form into other subjects – showing cause and effect in science or literature, or different historical perspectives, for example.  To see great directions for making agamographs, check out this set from Babble Dabble Do.  You can see some beautiful examples made by middle school students here.  If you are ready to hop on trying this out, you might want to consider making agamograph Valentines.

Of course, if you Google “agamograph” you will find many more examples.  Apparently everyone on the internet knew what they were called except me 😉

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CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

How Learning Happens

The “How Learning Happens” series on Edutopia has a set of videos that show teachers in action as they model simple – but powerful – strategies for learners of all ages.  One of the more recent posts is, “Inviting Participation with Thumbs-Up Responses.”  This no-tech strategy where students show their thumbs-up/down answers at their belly instead of high up in the air helps learners to feel safe while giving the teacher instant formative feedback on their understanding of the lesson.  Having gone from teaching where my students practically fought each other to speak to me to an environment where I hear crickets after every question, I loved watching this caring teacher show us how to encourage students to engage without fear.  Student response apps are great, but sometimes we just need a quick way to gauge what our students are thinking.

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