Category Archives: Websites

Barclays Coding Playground

It’s been awhile since I stepped foot in my bank. With online resources and apps, I don’t even have to go there to deposit my checks.  But I didn’t realize banks had increased their lobby services to teaching kids how to code…

Okay, not all banks do this.  But Barclays, a bank in the UK, has made it a mission to “demystify” coding, and has even trained some of its staff (Barclays Digital Eagles) to provide tw0-hour coding sessions for ages 7-17 in branches across the UK.

Well, that’s great, you think to yourself, but I’m not in the UK.  No worries, Barclays has you covered, too.  Head on over to Barclays Coding Playground, and you too can practice the basics of coding.  Select any of the objects roaming around the screen and you will be directed to change some of its features using lines of code.  For example, see the giraffe below?  I know.  It doesn’t look like a giraffe.  That’s because I coded it to have a particularly short neck.  Because I could.  And because when I made the neck its maximum size the head went off my browser page which made the image a bit more difficult to capture…

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The Playground isn’t going to make your child into a coding rockstar, but it is fun and would probably entice anyone who hasn’t programmed before to take a few more steps toward learning more.

If you want more resources for coding, here is my Pinterest page.  Also, I will be doing a presentation at TCEA in Austin, Texas, called, “Code Dread,” for those of you who find all of this talk of teaching kids to code slightly disturbing because Barclays wasn’t kind enough to demystify it for you when you were a child 😉

 

Greg Tang Math Resources

Don’t tell anyone, but Greg Tang Math penetrated my incredible resistance to e-mail spam and persuaded me to visit the site out of curiosity.  I’m not really sure why the persistent e-mails that I kept trashing finally grabbed my attention, but I obviously wouldn’t be writing this post if they hadn’t eventually been successful.  (If you happen to be a spammer, please don’t think I am encouraging you to try the same strategy;  I can promise you that it was a one-time-thing…)

The good news is that I actually found some unique math materials on the site.  There are plenty of free resources that you can download, and even some interesting online math games.  For gifted students, the Kakooma and Expresso pages are great challenges. (There is also an online version of Kakooma on this page.) In addition, there are some printable math games on the resources page.

Of course, there are plenty of things you can purchase on the site.  Otherwise, what would be the purpose of the e-mail barrage?  But I think that you will agree that there is a generous dose of free materials, which makes some advertising bearable 🙂

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The Pulitzer Center

In yesterday’s blog post, I mentioned how our class has connected with experts through Skype in the Classroom.  One of the experts was a science reporter named Erik Vance, who helped my 3rd graders really understand the impact overfishing has had on ocean ecosystems. (The students are working on a Genius Hour project about protecting the coral reefs.)  Mr. Vance was matched with us after we scheduled a request for an interview on the topic on Skype in the Classroom.  Our request went to the Pulitzer Center, and a member of their staff, Fareed Mostoufi, arranged for Mr. Vance to speak with the children at our requested date and time.  You can read about the interview here.

The Pulitzer Center in its own words, “promotes in-depth engagement with global affairs through its support for quality international journalism across all media platforms and an innovative program of outreach and education.”  In addition to virtual class visits and curricular resources for all grade levels, the Pulitzer Center has a “Lesson Builder” for educators, which is free to use.  You can use the lesson plans already available in the Community, such as “Visualizing the Drone Debate,” or, “Interpreting Global Issues Through Picasso’s Guernica,” or build your own lessons with the online tool.  You will need to register and log in (free) in order to build your own lessons and save them.

If you are trying to “flatten” your classroom, and to educate your students as global citizens, The Pulitzer Center is an excellent resource to help you get started.

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Screen Shot of Some of the Model Lessons Available from The Pulitzer Center

 

Skype in the Classroom

We have been using Skype for a few years in my classroom.  Sometimes we have chatted with experts for genius hour projects and other times we have talked with classmates who have moved away.  A couple of times we have used it to talk with app developers about products the students were beta testing.

As many educators know, inviting other adults into your classroom, whether virtually or physically, can be extremely unpredictable.  While these adults may be experts, that does not guarantee they are able to impart their knowledge effectively to young people.  They may have great intentions, but might have a hard time keeping your students interested.

This is what is great about using the resources from Skype in the Classroom.  On this site, you can look for guest speakers, virtual field trips, and other classrooms to collaborate with.  The people who have volunteered to have information posted on the site are experienced working with students.  Your chances of having a great Skype lesson are increased when choosing a contact who is prepared to speak to a young audience.

Right before the Winter Break, students in a couple of my gifted and talented classes had successful Skype conversations.  My second graders benefited from a virtual field trip  to Buffalo Bill Center of the West near Yellowstone Park as they learned about animal adaptations, while my 3rd graders spoke with a reporter about protecting the oceans from overfishing.  Both sessions were scheduled through the Skype in the Classroom site after I did some filtered searching based on topics and grade level.  Once they were scheduled, I received e-mails with further details to prepare for the Skypes, and reminders the day before each session.

After each Skype, my students and I felt very gratified that the hosts were willing to volunteer 45 minutes out of their days to help the students understand their topics better. The experts were able to offer perspectives and ideas that were new to all of us, and we agreed we definitely learned quite a bit.  I must admit, also, that I was relieved that the presenters were not only very knowledgeable about their subjects, but excellent at communicating with children.

If you want to use the Skype in the Classroom site, you will need to have a free Skype contact already created, and to register with the Skype in the Classroom site.  If you are a beginner, don’t worry.  There are tons of resources on the site to get you started.  In addition, you will find the people who respond to your interview requests are very happy to help as well.

Take your students to places and people they might not otherwise ever encounter with Skype in the Classroom.  It will deepen everyone’s learning, including your own.

UPDATE 1/8/17: I just found this fantastic blog post that gives suggestions for Skype Virtual Field Trips from Skype Master Teachers!

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A student shares her animal adaptation research with a docent from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Literature Quote Bingo

The New York Times has many lesson plans and other resources for educators that can help with the integration of current events. One portion of the site that you may not know about is the page that offers, “Over 50 Reusable Activity Sheets to Teach any Day’s Times.” With downloadable PDF’s of graphic organizers, games, discussion starters, and other lesson ideas, this page should be bookmarked on the computer of any upper elementary – secondary educator.  One of my recent discoveries was the, “Literature Quote Bingo” PDF, (which just happens to include one of my most favorite Harry Potter quotes of all time).  The students must match famous quotes to news stories, which is a great way to demonstrate understanding of the quotes and make connections to real world events. This is an open-ended activity that could be used with any selection of quotes.  If your students enjoy quotes as much as mine do, then they will find it engaging and you will get some valuable insight into their perspectives.

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A Blocky Christmas

I’ll be adding the “Blocky Christmas Puzzle” to my list of “Logical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break.”  It’s a fun ABCya page that challenges you to move some blocks around the screen.  I know that doesn’t sound very fun or challenging, but trust me, my description doesn’t really do it justice.  As you move through the levels, new obstacles are added and your own block becomes magnetic – which can be helpful and irritating at the same time.  I love using puzzles like these on the Interactive White Board to talk about Growth Mindset with my students.  They cheer each other on and everyone celebrates when someone solves a particularly difficult level.

I learned about the “Blocky Christmas Puzzle” from Technology Rocks. Seriously.  You can find more holiday interactive by visiting this post by Shannon.  She also has a billion other awesome resources, so you should definitely visit her blog if you haven’t yet.

Blocky Christmas Puzzle
Blocky Christmas Puzzle

Tarr’s Toolbox

I’ve been a huge fan of Russel Tarr’s ClassTools site for a long time.  I particularly like to use the different graphic organizers he offers and the hexagon generator. (Click here to see how the latter can be used.)  I also follow Russel on Twitter (@RusselTarr).  This weekend, I noticed a neat activity he tweeted about called, “Wheel of Life,” which is an excellent way to analyze characters (both fiction and non-fiction).  When I asked Russel where I could find details, he directed me to Tarr’s Toolbox, a treasure that I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t seen yet.

Tarr’s Toolbox is Russel’s blog, and gives wonderful ideas for how to engage students in history class – though you can certainly use most of them in other subject areas.  At the top of the home page, there is this nice breakdown of different categories under which you can find key posts.

Categories on Tarr's Toolbox
Categories on Tarr’s Toolbox

Reading the posts makes me want to be in Russel’s class (why didn’t I ever have a history teacher like him?).  Failing that, I at least want to aspire to be as creative and engaging as he must be for his students.

I haven’t read it yet, but Russel just published a book called, A History Teaching Toolboxwhich I imagine is probably another dynamic resource that teachers in any department would find useful.