Category Archives: Teaching Tools

Google Jamboard Templates and Ideas

I’ve recently seen a large uptick in visits to my Google Jamboard post, as well as people sharing Jamboard templates and ideas on social media. One person who is particularly creative and prolific in creating Jamboards is @GiftedTawk, and I’ve been curating as many as I can from her Twitter feed. Whether you are looking for graphic organizers to use with Jamboard (or Padlet, or even Slides) like these from @ergoEDU or mindbending creativity and logic challenges like this pentomino Jamboard from @GiftedTawk, you are sure to find something ready-made for your class in this list. There are also some tips on the list, such as how to embed a Jamboard in Seesaw, and how to “freeze” your background on Jamboard so it doesn’t get moved accidentally. A few Halloween Jamboards are in there, just in case you are looking for some last-minute activities for this week. (I’ve also put them in my “Halloween During a Pandemic” Wakelet.)

For a “live” updated list of Google Jamboard Templates and Ideas, click here. If you have any others that I should add to the list, let me know!

Evaluating Online Information

I recently curated an entire list of sites to help teachers use in the classroom for lessons on evaluation online information – and most of the links on the list came from Facebook. I am not ignorant of the irony in that statement, but I will say that the particular Facebook group that this came from is my favorite and most educational – the Distance Learning Educators group. If you are looking for help or ideas in anything related to distance learning, this group is extremely knowledgeable and supportive. When a teacher recently asked for advice for lessons to use with her 12th graders about fake news, a stream of educators responded, and most of the answers were new to me.

My recent post on Factitious and Spot the Troll was beginning to get a bit unwieldy as I kept updating it, so I decided to move on over to a shareable list on Wakelet. (Here is my post about Wakelet in case you are new to it.)

This is a live document, so I will continue adding resources as I find them. I hope you find at least one useful link for your own classroom in this list!

Image by Sophie Janotta from Pixabay

Use Jigsaw Explorer for a Virtual Escape Room Clue!

First of all, I need to give a HUGE shoutout to Bob Flora at Jigsaw Explorer. When I was writing my post about doing collaborative jigsaw puzzles online, I e-mailed Jigsaw Explorer to see if there was any way to disable the “preview” button so people would not be able to see what the completed puzzle looked like until they solved it. (If you read my original post, you saw my story about trying to use a jigsaw puzzle as a clue in a digital breakout (escape) room, thinking my high schoolers would need to solve the puzzle to get the clue, when one of the clever kids figured out all they had to do was hit the preview button.)

Bob Flora responded that they did not have such a feature at the time, but might add something some time next year. I thought that was the end of the story – but Mr. Flora did not. In an e-mail that has secured my customer loyalty for life, he informed me today that they have added a simple checkbox to the creation page so you can now hide the preview in your puzzles! This feature also disables the ability of players to change the number of puzzle pieces – so they can’t cheat by lowering the number of pieces to make it easier to solve.

Here was my procedure to check out this new feature: I created a simple question on a Google slide and downloaded it as a JPG. Then I uploaded it to IMGUR, and right-clicked to get the image address. That’s what you see in the top line. I left the number of puzzle pieces at the default, and put a checkmark in “Mystery Puzzle.” (Click on any of the question marks if you need help.) Then I clicked on the Create button, and got both short and long links to the puzzle, as well as the embed code if I wanted to add it to a website. And – don’t forget – you can then visit the link, click on the 3 lines on the top left, and choose, “Modify this puzzle.” This allows you to create a game link so multiple people can work on the puzzle at the same time online!

So, for all of you who want to add a bit of fun to your class, or want to design a full digital escape challenge for your students, add Jigsaw Explorer to your resources for creating fun clues. Here is my post with other clue creation ideas. This video shows you how to make a simple Digital Breakout using Google Forms. Here are some digital breakouts I’ve created in the past.

Of course, if you really want some student buy-in, have them create the puzzles!

Thank you, Mr. Flora, for not only adding this great feature, but taking the time to communicate with me!

Facilitating Meaningful Discussions in The Virtual or Hybrid Classroom

My latest blog post for NEO is all about encouraging students to participate in purposeful conversations about their learning – a challenging task even in a traditional classroom. As many teachers are currently working with students remotely or in a combination of face-to-face and remote, new complications have arisen when it comes to meaningful peer-to-peer discussions. In my NEO post, there are many resources for teachers that range from building a safe community to concrete methods to encourage all students to take an interest and offer their voices. I hope you will find it helpful.

My previous NEO articles have been:  Top Ed Tech Tools for Differentiation, From Normal to Better: Using What We’ve Learned to Improve EducationApplying Universal Design for Learning in Remote ClassroomsHow 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 is, “How to Do More with Less Screen Time,” and I really would love any ideas you can give me for that article in the next two weeks.

A ninth-grade student explains a new algebraic concept to his classmate.
Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Halloween During a Pandemic

I went through some of my old Halloween posts, and then scoured the web for some new resources to add. The result is my Wakelet, “Halloween During a Pandemic.” It includes some new treats, such as a free Harry Potter virtual escape room, some fun Halloween Zoom backgrounds, and a podcast episode for kids from Smash, Boom, Best. There are some “tricks” in there, too, such as Halloween STEM activities and really bad Halloween jokes. I also collected a couple of ideas I’ve seen on social media for safely delivering goodies to kids in socially distanced Rube Goldberg kind of way. I hope you can find at least one or two ideas from this list!

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Step Inside with Monster Box

As I’ve been going through some of my “Halloween-ish” posts from previous years, I’ve recognized some updating that needs to be done. (Hard to believe I’ve been doing this for nine years now, and wow, have things changed!) For example, I used to do “Misunderstood Monsters” with my younger students, and many of the resources I mentioned in that post from 2012 are no longer available. Fortunately, the adorable short video, Monster Box, (also on YouTube) is still free and easy to access. When I pondered the changes I might make in a current lesson using this, my mind immediately went to the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero. One routine that I think would be powerful to use with Monster Box would be the “Step Inside” routine. There are three questions students can consider from the perspective of different characters in the video:

What can the person or thing perceive?

What might the person or thing know about or believe?

What might the person or thing care about?

I would have each student choose a character from the video (shopkeeper, young girl, one of the monsters…), and answer those questions with evidence from the story. Another facet that could deepen the discussion would be if the answers to these questions change throughout the story.

You can see some examples of how to use “Step Inside”, and access some templates, from Alice Vigors here.

My previous post included some templates to use if you were discussing Ethics (from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity), and those are still available. I also went ahead and made this new Google Slides activity for the “Step Inside” Thinking Routine with a template from SlidesMania that is free to copy and use. There’s even a slide with monster parts, so students can build their own monster!

Of course, you can extend this activity by creating your own monster paper circuits.

For other posts on Visible Thinking Routines, with links to more templates, check out this Peel the Fruit activity for Google Slides.