To be an effective adult in the workplace, you need to communicate your ideas in a clear and concise manner. To collaborate on group presentations in college, you need to share your ideas and listen to the ideas of others. How do we develop these skills? It all starts in elementary and middle school. 

Collaboration no longer happens solely within the four walls of a classroom. Students connect online with both their classmates and with peers around the world. Here are some tools that facilitate social learning: 

  • Skype: All you need is a webcam to chat with people down the block or on the other side of the world. 

  • ePals: Digital pen pals! Find a classroom or project to connect with. 

  • Edublogs: Create a classroom blog where you can communicate with your students or where students can upload their own posts. 

  • Wikispaces: Create a classroom workspace where students can communicate and work on writing projects. Teachers can assign students into teams and manage the completion of their projects. 

  • Open Study: Just what it sounds like! Students can meet other students, study together, and get live help. 

  • Edmodo: A place for students and teachers to collaborate. Teachers can continue classroom discussions online, give polls to check for student understanding, and award badges to individual students based on performance or behavior.

This marks the end of our technology in the classroom blog series! I hope you've discovered a new resource or two that you're excited to implement this coming year. There's an overwhelming amount of digital tools available and it can be tricky when you want to implement them all at once! The key is to start small- choose just one website or app that will seamlessly integrate into your current teaching style. When you're comfortable with that tool, choose one more. Before you know it, you'll have a tech savvy classroom!

You've finished a unit and it's time for students to demonstrate their understanding with a project or presentation. There was a time when book reports and poster board presentations would suffice. That time has passed. Now there are a myriad of options for creating presentations online, from slideshows to animated comic strips with voiceovers. Not only are these types of projects far more dynamic and fun than a book report, but they help kids practice skills they will need in college and beyond; skills that include navigating various programs and designing multi-layered presentations. 

Here are some tools you can use in the classroom to create and publish kids' projects:

  • Creaza: An app that allows you to create digital stories through cartoons, movies, slide shows, and radio talks.  

  • Wordle: Create a "word cloud" that emphasizes important parts of a text, newly learned vocabulary, themes of a unit, and more. Each Wordle can stand alone or be incorporated into a larger project. 

  • Popplet: Visually capture, sort, and connect ideas. The end result is a visual "semantic map" that represents what the student learned throughout the unit of study. 

  • VoiceThread: Adds audio to a presentation. Seamlessly integrates with various programs, such as Blackboard, Sakai, Angel, Canvas, Desire2Learn, BrainHoney, and Moodle.  

  • KerPoof: Create an interactive story with dinosaurs. In addition to stories, kids can make pictures, movies, cards, and drawings. 

These are just a few of the many tools available to create visual, well-developed presentations that demonstrate what students learned throughout the unit. What are some sites or apps you use? 
We've been discussing the use of technology in the classroom. Last week we took a look at some tools that teachers can use to plan and create visually appealing lessons. Over the next few posts, we'll change gears and look at tools for students to use. These range from online games and activities to ways that students can create projects and presentations. 

  • Funbrain: There are so many different categories and types of games on Funbrain, you'll use them across many content areas. They also have games that complement popular kids books, such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Camp Confidential. 

  • MangaHigh: Play math games with characters that look like they stepped out of a Manga. You can play a free version of each game. 

  • Carrot Sticks: More math games! These are geared towards kids in grades 1 - 5

  • Diigo: This isn't a game site, but a way to make reading into a fun activity and learning experience. Back before apps were cool, I had my students jot notes on post-its as they read. Now they can create digital post-its with Diigo! Way cooler. Highlight, create notes, jot post-its and more to help kids generate ideas and record information as they read. 

  • Socrative: A smart student response system that engages kids through a series of educational exercises and games which can be accessed on both computers and tablet devices.

There are countless websites and apps with games and activities for students. These are just a small sampling. Feel free to post some of your favorite in the comments!