Sep 10, 2017

5 Free New Technologies to Try in Your Classroom Right Now


5 Free New Technologies to Try In Your Classroom Right Now

With all the technology available, it can be overwhelming. Here are 5 (and a bonus) new technology options that I suggest you try in your classroom this year, in bite-size pieces. They are easy ways to liven up some of your instruction and find new ways to engage with and connect with your students.

Screencasts in the Classroom

It can be intimidating to think of doing a video, but don’t be intimated. First of all, you don’t need to have your face on camera! This is key! You can do a screencast of your computer screen, of a file or PowerPoint, or a series of photographs or images, so you are really just doing a voice over.

There are several easy ways to do a screencast. If what you are doing is short, there is a Google Chrome extension called screencastify that will allow you to record camera, your desktop, a browser tab, audio only, or other combinations of that. It will save to YouTube and/or Google Drive, making the sharing of your video very easy.

If you are making a screencast based on images or slides, my favorite way to do it is in PowerPoint. It is pretty easy to “Insert Audio” and then have it play with the slides (you can set timing as well). Then export the whole thing as a movie when you are happy with it.

Why make a screencast? I have seen people screencast instructions or a mini-lesson for a sub, although I haven’t done that myself. I have used it to allow me to be in two places at once time. For example, I have used it to give directions at a station, while I’m free to circulate. I can show a lab demo, and kids who were absent can replay it. I can give instructions or introductory information, and, again, students who were absent can catch up easily. I have even used a video at one station, while I work with students at another stations.

Flipgrid

Flipgrid allows you to have short online video discussions with students. You post a prompt, and student can response via video. It's like FaceTime or Skype, with classroom applications! Here is a great write-up of some ways to use Flipgrid in class. Here is a really awesome example of a class using it to connect with a researcher in Antarctica

Plickers

We already have a lot of formative assessment tools available. What’s different about Plickers? Students don’t need devices! It's a technology tool because it uses technology to improve speeds, data collection and to make your life easier, but if you don’t have a lot of student tech, this is a great one to try.

To use Plickers you get free printable cards. They have a symbol on that that will not be recognizable to other students (so students won’t know what choice their peers are making). Also on the card, in small, lighter print, are choices (A, 1, B, etc). These cards can be assigned 1 per student, so you can collect data on each student’s individual answers.

When you ask a question, students hold up their card with the answer choice that they are selecting facing up. You take a picture, with the app on your phone, and your data is collected. Here is a video that shows in more detail.

Edpuzzle

If you want to use videos in your instruction, whether they are your own videos, or those from another source, consider EdPuzzle. You can make questions that go with a video, on a worksheet, or you can build in questions and quizzes into the video itself with EdPuzzle. This also gives you the option to enforce that students watch the entire video.

Lastly, there are many videos that already have questions. You can choose from these videos, and copy and modify the questions yourself. Here an example of an Amoeba Sisters Mitosis Video that I found (I did not make up the questions).



As a teacher, you can have your students sign up for a class, assign videos, and you will be able to see their progress in the video and all their quiz answers. You can also just give students a link to a video directly, if you don’t need as granular data.

Padlet

I have used Padlet only minimally myself, but it is one that I want to try more, and it is growing in popularity. It has a lot of potential uses, so I think it should be included on this list. Again, its very easy to use. It bills itself as “the easiest way to create and collaborate in the world.” The teacher (or someone) makes a prompt, on a ‘board’ and students can respond. Think of it as a big wall with sticky notes. However, those responses can also include links, images, etc, and you can build connections between the responses. Padlet is an extremely easy way to collect a lot of information quickly, and to have collaboration.

Bonus… Nearpod

I have not used Nearpod myself, so I’m not writing a lot about it, but I wanted to at least mention it here, in the bonus section. Nearpod allows you to add interactive elements into a PDF document, or into slides. In other words, it add more interaction into a 1:1 classroom. Here is a video showing it in action.



This is Nearpod: the 21st Century Classroom from Nearpod on Vimeo.

What's on your list of new classroom technologies to try?  Have you used any of these?  Tell use about it in the comments!
5 free new technologies to try in your classroom right now

Aug 27, 2017

What Quick and Easy Lunch Can I Bring?

Quick and Easy Lunch Tips for Teachers

What can you do to bring healthy lunches when you're rushing in the morning.  Maybe you're trying to get kids out the door as well and making lunch is the furthest thing from your mind, but you want to eat healthy.

tips and suggestions for quick and easy lunches for teachers

I very much believe in eating healthy and wanted to share a few tips and strategies to bring healthy lunches to school on a regular basis.  Skipping meals or not eating lunch is just not an option to me, so I have had to work out ways to get a decent lunch while having kids in my room, making copies, and trying to do all the other things teachers do in our 30 minute lunch (go to the bathroom??!)

What are some easy teacher lunches

Some of my favorites are the following

  • Salads in a jar
  • Left overs
  • Little things that I can snack on during the day, for example: crackers and cheese, yogurt, granola bars, pieces of fruit, veggies and dip, hard-boiled egg. 
  • Sandwiches is always a standby, or a wrap
  • Pre-packaged salads are okay but reading ingredients carefully
  • Soup (homemade or prepared)
  • Baked potato (I can microwave it at school if I get desperate, and bring some toppings). 


What are some tips to make this more successful?


These are not new but hopefully they will help:

  • Plan out your menu for the week. For me its it's often too hard or too confining to plan out each day.  I just try to make a list of at least 4 or 5 lunches (4 can be enough since sometimes there are leftovers, or something unexpected). 
  • Prep on the weekend!  Sometimes if I'm feeling ambitious I'll make a few mason jar salads or make a few of something else that I can take for lunch a couple days.   I have also made pasta salad and taken it for several days. 
  • Pack up leftovers after dinner right in lunch containers so I can just grab it in the morning maybe a piece of fruit 
  • Intentionally cook enough leftovers at dinner to be lunch the next day (doesn't always work because my kids have been eating as much lately, but worth a try!)
  • Cook ahead and freeze. This doesn't have to be a giant monthly cooking event, but make a pot of soup and freeze in lunch size portions. It helps SO much! 

For more information here some of my favorite resources for quick and easy lunches
tips and suggestions for quick and easy lunches for teachers

Aug 12, 2017

How to Balance Exercise with your busy teacher life

Tips to fit in exercise quickly and cheaply for a teacher or mom

I wanted to talk to you today about how to fit in exercise when you're a busy teacher.  I don't know about you but for me it's difficult. However I've been doing a lot of goal-setting and working on balance and priorities in my own life this year.  As a result, I really am trying to put my health as a priority, and I think that you should do the same.

It's really important that we all fit in some type of exercise.  It's important that that exercise be whatever you enjoy. If it's Zumba, aerobics, yoga, walking, running, biking, whatever -- just get moving!  How do you do that when you're balancing a full-time job? When you bringing work home? Maybe you have kids, or maybe you're a first year teacher and you're very overwhelmed.  I've been there! And recently I've been working hard on that and I wanted to share some of my suggestions with you.

First of all walking is a great way to fit it in.  I would recommend that as a place to start.  A lot of people have Fitbits.  If you don't want to spend the money or don't have a Fitbit there are free apps on your phone (such as Google Fit) that can track your steps.  I also have an older version of the Xiaomi Mi Band 2, Bluetooth 4.0 Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Wristband Bracelet With OLED Display Water-resistant Smart Heart Rate Fitness Tracker (much cheaper than the Fitbit  affiliate link - more in my price range).  By really shooting for that goal of around 10,000 steps a day can make a big difference in how you feel and how your day goes.  Maybe you get to work 15 minutes early and walk on the track.  Or you could go out during a free period and walk on the track or walk around the block.  All those types of things really do add up and make a difference in you hitting that goal number of steps.

What I've been doing is a combination of a few things.  My kids go to childcare in the morning to get on the bus so sometimes I'll take them just a little bit earlier, especially on the days when I don't teach first period.  I'll go work out and then go to school.  My husband's been going after school but by the time I get to the end of the day I don't want to go!!  So that doesn't work for me!

Another option is workout videos at home there are paid options like Beachbody on demand Les Mills or many others.  There are also free options.  If you are looking for a free place to start, here are a few great YouTube channels that are free:  Fitnessblender, BeFit, PopSugar Fitness, Yoga with Tara Stiles, Yoga with Adrienne, and Doyogawithme.

There are lots of ways that you can workout even in less than 30 minutes.  I play these videos on my tablet in a spot in the basement, but you can do whatever works for you.  You don't need a lot of equipment.  You can do a yoga with a mat and maybe blocks, so we are talking under $20. Some of the other videos you could get a small set of weights or a mat but again under $20.  You can get started now!  Don't put it off. Focus on small steps and you will see a big difference.  This is my workout space. I know its ugly! But its cool when I'm working out, quiet, and was very easy and cheap to put together. The important part is that I make it a habit to keep showing up!


I was having trouble at first because my kids were constantly in my hair and wanting to be underfoot and asking me questions while I was trying to work out so I ended up setting up an area in the basement. We have an unfinished basement but I got some floor mat tiles at Aldi's like this affliliate link (around $25.00).  I had a yoga mat already, and we have an extra chair that we were getting rid of.  I just bring the tablet down there (or you can even use your phone).  The kids can not come down to the basement for those 30 minutes and bother me.  If I really commit and take that 30 minutes a day it makes a huge difference in how I feel, how my day goes, and how much energy I have.  For me, sometimes its easier to workout at home than to go somewhere. While the kids are watching a show, or while dinner is cooking I can get in a quick workout.

There's a lot of research showing that exercise is one of the most effective treatments for people with chronic pain and/or depression.  Take advantage of it! It's free and has no side effects but huge benefits, so do your best to fit it in. Start from where you are try to increase a bit.  If you're not exercising at all and you aim for two or three times a week or if you are exercising and you want to bump it up a little bit more (intensity, frequency, etc).  Make your health a priority! It has made a big difference in my life this year.

Tips to fit in exercise quickly and cheaply for a teacher or mom~

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