Classroom Tech Blog

We welcome teachers to participate in the ongoing discussion and sharing of strategies to enhance learning in every social studies classroom. The following blog posts are from teacher practitioners from each region across the state. 

  • 02/08/2014 2:53 PM | Elizabeth Ramos
                                              
    Too often our students go through the school day without speaking in class. Communication and Speaking are elements of the classroom addressed in CCSS. Often as teachers we find it difficult to keep track of student participation and randomizing our student selection for participation. Class Cards is an android and iPhone app that makes tracking student participation easier. Utilize Class Cards to randomly generate a list to call on students, select a student of your choosing to respond, rate the quality of the student response instantly in your hand, view student response scores individually or as an entire class, email yourself student scores, and archive scores to view, print grade sheets, or download the data into an Excel spreadsheet. I love the idea of being able to quickly note the quality of student responses', especially for Socratic Seminars. Also, many students sit passively in a class because it has no "worth" to speak. Class Cards makes it easier for teachers to give purpose to
  • 01/25/2014 6:23 PM | Elizabeth Ramos

                                      

    Google keeps turning out tools for students to practice the Creativity in the CCSS 4Cs. Their newest tool is Google Story Builder. It is as simple as typing in the characters, type in the script, and select music....REALLY! Making a "movie" couldn't be easier. You can add up to 10 characters. Next you type in the script for each character and select music, and then play the film. It is a great tool to also work on literacy because the students will need to read it. You, the teacher, can make brief films to intro a topic or pose a dilemma in history for students to consider. Another possible use would be for students to create a brief historical dialogue.

  • 01/11/2014 11:05 AM | Elizabeth Ramos

                        

    If you have a projector hooked up to you computer or laptop, you can easily use it to mirror your iPad! Have you ever found an app that you want to use in your classroom? Use Reflector to wirelessly mirror your iPad through your MAC or PC. Relector is a cheap $12.99 download that opens your classroom to the app world. If you are like me, you find great apps for content and classroom management that are only on an iOS device. Problem is now solved. If your school is like mine, you may need to have a school administrator or computer tech download the program onto your work computer. Another work around is to download Reflector onto your laptop and connect that to your classroom projector and enjoy!

  • 12/03/2013 3:38 PM | Elizabeth Ramos
     


    Setting the hook is an important part of a unit and lesson. One of the ways teachers may think of doing this is through comics. Comics are a great way to peak students curiosity. Pixton allows teachers to create comics to introduce topics and convey information in an engaging manner. Teachers can sign up for a free trial and pay to extend beyond that. Students can also create their own comics to demonstrate their understanding of concepts, meeting the multimedia component of the Common Core. Pixton is easy to use. Users can select settings, characters, move and position characters, select from a variety of text boxes, and create their own dialogue. Multiple comics can be created together to form a book as well- great for the sections of a unit or chapter. In a few hours one can create multiple comics to use in the classroom!

  • 11/02/2013 4:07 PM | Elizabeth Ramos
     

          I came across a tweet from Sean Ziebarth (@MrZiebarth) on Twitter about his students using Thinglink. I was curious...What is it? WOW...is is a great tool to annotate an image with uses for the teacher and students. Thinglink is a website that lets you add 'tags to an uploaded image to annotate. You may type in info, link to an image, link to a video, link a Google Document, or hyperlink to an additional website. This is a great presentation tool for teachers and students alike to utilize. Additionally, it meets the criteria for students presenting their findings in a multimedia format for the Common Core.

    Here's how to use it:













  • 10/12/2013 10:22 AM | Elizabeth Ramos

           Google Docs, housed on Google Drive, have a limitless possibility in the ways teachers can utilize them to meet the 4C's of the Common Core (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication). Additionally, using Google Docs eliminates the need for costly Microsoft software and formatting issues. How many times has a student told you their computer crashed, they lost their flash drive, student x is absent with the PPT/doc, they forgot to save the file, or the computer will not open the file? Google Drive eliminates all of this! It automatically saves the document, students can share the document and work on it at the SAME time ( I have had a whole class of 37 students working on 1 CST PPT for review at the SAME time), it is stored in the cloud, and eliminates the cannot open file issue with different formats. As long as you are connected to the internet, you can access the file. It is also available as an app on android and ios devices.

           To begin, have students create a Google Drive account. When in Drive, you can create a document (similar to a doc), presentation (similar to a PPT), spreadsheet (similar to excel), form, drawing, or folders. Once students get used to the sharing and privacy settings, Google Documents are transformational and students generally will gravitate to them. They also allow you to see the revision history so you can see exactly when and who was active on the document. Students can create a Doc and you can have them share it with you and/or another student enabled to comment. This can be used as an exercise to write , collaborate for revision, and then have the student revise the Doc for final submission. If you are completing a group project in class or for National History Day, multiple students may edit a document. Teachers may also have students create a folder with their writings/inquiry throughout the year to serve as an electronic portfolio.

         Here are the steps to creating a Google Document and sharing it:












  • 09/23/2013 3:42 PM | Elizabeth Ramos
    With teachers having multiple devices and students using tech tools in class and a different device at home, note taking platforms are in demand. Two options, which many teachers are using themselves and with students for portfolios, are Evernote and Notability.

    Evernote works on a variety of platforms and syncs on multiple devices (android and ios). You can take notes on Evernote, insert images, and record audio with text notes. It is great for students who begin research in class at school and continue it later on. They can resume where they left off and retain links they saved earlier with Evernote's webclipper tool. Teachers and students can even save tweets too. Evernote provides a variety of tutorial videos to support its product.

    Another product for note-taking is Notability. This is an ios app compatible with the ipod, iphone, and ipad. It is a $2.99 download from the Apple Store. While taking notes in Notability you can type, use touch screen with your finger or stylus, add images, capture a webpage, and record audio. Users may export their files in PDF or email and may back them up to Google Drive or Drop Box. Cnet has provided a guide for getting started with Notability.


  • 09/14/2013 4:29 PM | Elizabeth Ramos

           Examining primary sources and evaluating data is an important skill in history. This skill is also explicitly addressed in the Common Core State Standards across the grade levels. Teachers are called upon to engage students in historical inquiry. Often times students are weary of speaking in class. Additionally, more schools are gaining access to technology and looking for ways to leverage their devices in meaningful ways. Voice Thread is a collaborative conversation tool to foster inquiry with text and visuals.

           Voice Thread is easy to use and provides versatility. They have included a vast number of images one may select from their media options. Teachers can also upload images, insert a video, or convert a PPT for students to engage with. A teacher may insert part of a primary source text, image, or chart into a PPT and type a question(s) for student analysis/reflection. If using a PPT, the teacher/user must first convert the file into a JPEG. Students have found the tool engaging. There are a variety of response options available. A student may type a response, circle part of the image of text with the writing tool, use the writing tool to focus on part of the image and type a response, text a response, or record a video response. Students must create an account for free using an email address before they can post. Once a teacher has created a Voice Thread, they may share with with the students via email, sharing a link in class, or they may embed the voice thread on a website. It is also available as an app.

           The following instructions walk you through creating a Voice Thread, including how to convert a PPT to use it in the program.











  • 08/28/2013 3:58 PM | Elizabeth Ramos
     

    Many people think of Twitter as something the Hollywood types use. Twitter is actually a powerful tool for educators. Teachers across the US and other countries are leveraging Twitter to collaborate and provide the best PD for free! There are Twitter chats for every topic imaginable. Looking for some useful information, just follow a hash tag (#). Cybraryman.com is a website full of educational resources. Among this pot of gold are multiple pages dedicated to Twitter. Check out the Twitter page for beginners, learn educational hashtags, find a chat to participate in, and then participate in a chat.

    You may be leary like me. However, Twitter has become such a powerful tool in my teaching arsenal. It is not just about having a PLC anymore. As educators, we are talking about the Common Core and 21st Century skills. These include collaboration and integration of technology. It is important that we model for our students and be life long learners. Today it is about developing you PLN- Professional Learning Network. Educators on Twitter are collaborators looking to learn, share, and build up each other. Initally, I was what is referred to as a "lurker." I followed people and would watch the stream on my computer for chats. Then I was brave one day and participated. Seriously, I look back and what was I thinking. Don't be afraid to just jump in. The people on Twitter are very supportive and embrace newbies. Even better, find someone on Twitter and meet up to watch how they participate in a chat. Don't worry if the chat goes too fast. You can always go back through the archives of the chat.

    There are a few things you will want to know as you begin. Change the egghead profile picture and write a profile. Some people are leary to follow people without an image, it does not have to be you, or some biographical information on their profile. When you find people you like, check out who they follow as possible people to build your PLN. Fridays have become Follow Friday's (#FF). People will recommend people to follow using #FF, use these to build your PLN too. Branch out outside of your subject matter. I have learned immensely by following other teachers outside of Social Studies. When you tweet about a topic, include the hash tag for that topic. For example, include #sschat for Social Studies, #wrldchat for World History, #edtech for educational technology, #ccss for Common Core, and #HSGovChat for Government Tweets. Find a chat or two to get started. Some particular helpful ones for history are #HSGovChat Sundays at 6pm, #sschat Mondays at 4pm, and #wrldchat Tuesdays at 5pm. Other chats of interest may be #ccsschat Sundays at 6pm, #tlap Mondays at 5pm,  #flipclass Mondays at 5pm, and #caedchat Sundays at 8pm. Lastly, utilizing a Twitter client such as Tweet Deck will make following hash tags and chats MUCH easier.

    That's a brief overview. Still not convinced? Google Twitter for professional development. Over 200 MILLION results come up. Read an article or blog post and come on board!
  • 06/14/2013 4:28 PM | Elizabeth Ramos
    Many students are reluctant writers. As educators, we sometimes need to hook or "gamify" tasks to engage our students. Blogging has done just that for many educators. Students start to become more engaged when they know their writing is public, even more so when collaborating with students outside of their own school site. Blogging provides a powerful medium for students to reflect on their learning, re-purpose gained knowledge to demonstrate mastery, and engage in historical conversation with their peers. All of this is supported in the CCSS Writing standards which call upon students to produce and distribute, utilize technology, write routinely, and write to inform and argue.

    Last weekend I met with some educators for a Coffee Cue in Pasadena. Among the topics we discussed was blogging. Alice Chen, a middle school teacher, shared her experiences in having her students blog. She noted the power in her students writing and the connections they were making by being compelled to reflect. Also, she noted that it was a great medium for the shy students to use their voice and that her students were excited to converse with other classes including international ones. She mentioned a young writer in particular and the introspective examination she wrote about. She also shared a management tool for the blogs. Students are required to blog a number of times in the semester. To help manage this, students complete a Google form where they list the dates they blogged and copy their blog entry and this is done for extra blog posts for additional points as well.

    There are a number of blog hosting websites for teachers to utilize. Many offer teachers the opportunity to keep the blogs private, select classes to collaborate with, moderate comment before publishing, and eliminate ads. EdublogsKidblog, and Class Press may be particularly more suited for the needs and concerns of the lower grades. When it comes to high school students, the ability of students to modify and personalize the template, integrate media, and share on their social media networks becomes of more importance. In these cases, Blogger andWeebly offer students more customization. These are just a few options for educators to utilize in their classroom
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