In education, we deal with a ton of data. I can’t begin to count the number of hours I have used excel spreadsheets. When I was in the classroom, my whole gradebook was in excel- everything calculated for each standard that I taught. My first year I spent countless hours editting cells to show first name last name; last name, first name; first name middle intitial…. you get the idea. I wished for an easier way to do that for each and every kid. Now there is one.
Kirk Longhoffer posted on his blog about Magic/ Replace. This tool will let you reformat large amounts of data. See this video to understand. It could literally save to MANY hours of formatting time!
Two times in the last week I have had parents talk to me about nightly homework. Kids aren’t wanting to practice spelling and sight words. I used to have that problem too! In fact, last year my now 4th grader HATED practicing for spelling, and did not do well enough on the test to just practice at school. After months of battle, we found some middle ground- Spelling City. Since I have already recommended it twice this week, I figured I would reccommend it to a “few” more people.
Spelling City allows students (or parents) to input a word list and then it will teach you the words, let you play games with those words and then take a practice test. I have seen this used with kids as young as 1st grade in learning centers, and my 4th grader is still loving it. In fact, it is in her “top three favorite ‘school’ websites”. Out of her mouth, that is saying a lot!!
Why do I like it? I no longer do the “spelling battle” every day of the week. On her own, she will go to the computer and practice. He scores have risen from the 70%’s to the 90%’s.
I am not a huge proponent of weekly spelling words, and really don’t believe homework does much good, but I also stress the responsibility factor and that both will prepare my kids for a better future. That said, I am all about games that make kids learn without them knowing it. These days, teachers and parents alike have to be a little sneaky when it comes to “cramming all that learning” into their little minds!
This morning I read a great post by Vicki Davis AKA Cool Cat Teacher. The post titled Mainstream Media vs. Blogosphere: Mainstream Ed vs. Edublogosphere? In the post, she talks about how the media is dealing with the change that everday people now have the ability to give “breaking news” to the world. The media is scrambling to deal with this. In a similar way, there is a shift going on in education, especially in edtech. One section really hit home for me:
What are we here for?
The way I feel about it is that we should all be here for the students. It is about making sure our classrooms are doing a great job of not only educating students but helping them find their individual talents. It is about helping our country thrive in the years to come.
I would highly encourage you to head to her blog and read the full article.
CoolCatTeacher posted this week about a neat site I hadn’t seen before,called Wordle. It will allow you to take either your delicious tags or any other text that you type or copy-paste in, and it will create a word cloud from the text. With the most frequently used words larger and lesser used words are smaller. I used my delicious tags and was presented with the picture at the right.
Could this be used with students? Actually I think it could have a few educational uses. They could copy-paste a story they had written, or a research paper. Are the words that emerge really the most important words? Does one word such as “and” appear huge while all other words are small? This could be a great visual for those kiddos who repeat the same words throughout their stories. On that research assignment that was supposed to be about Harriet Tubman- was the largest word the most appropriate? Do those words really describe her? The kids would have so much fun with this and I am sure there are many other uses.
Warning, this can become addictive!! Changing the color and having it reformat again and again to see the different shapes, using different text to see what comes out next…. I don’t want to see us have to start a wordles anonymous group!!
There are all sorts of generators around the web. I am going to highlight a few of the ones I find valuable and give some ideas of how to use them.
Coat of Arms
I have done these with students when we studied Don Quixote, medieval times, and other aspects of history or genealogy. There are numerous generators for this, here are a couple.
Make Your Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms
It is not a new concept for students to recreate a book cover or a make up a magazine cover to highlight things they are learning in the classroom. You can have them read a book and create it’s cover, or have them create a magazine cover, complete with tag lines and headlines over what they are studying in science, social studies, literature, or math.
Bring writing alive in the classroom by have students create a newspaper clipping. They could make a clipping instead of writing a report. They use the same skills, but in a different way. This can also be used for persuasive writing, politics, or even writing an obituary of a famous person.
Many of these sites are great for 4th grade and beyond. Some you could use as a class with some of the younger kiddos.
This is a great site for the 5th-8th grade crowd. Math Moves U has a fun and interactive interface that takes users through worlds of music, sports, fashion and more, all using math concepts. The site is geared at the 6-8 crowd, but advanced 5th grade could work most of the problems on the 6th grade level.
The welcome screen allows the user to create a character and even to customize that character- changing hair color, fur color, and accessories. It has a sign-up/log in feature but logging in is not required.
From there, students can choose to go to several screens, where they can work on flash cards, play math games, take a quiz, take a poll, or work on facts.
I was stumbling along and found a blog post titled
I read through the post and could not help but pass along a link to it. There are a ton of reasons why people THINK that schools aren’t what they should be, tons of reasons people KNOW they are bad, and tons of reasons the schools don’t change (at least not very fast). We still educate students as though we were preparing them to go to a factory during the day, and come home at night to a lovely two parent 2.1 child family, complete with picket fence and dog. We all know how far THAT is from reality. Yet we continue to keep teaching in the same way and wonder why the kids don’t know what they need to know, why they are bored, and why many think schools are failing.
All kinds of people are willing to point the fingers and criticize what is wrong with “the system” but solutions are few and far between. NCLB was supposed to change it all and whip schools into shape, that didn’t happen. These problems weren’t created over night, the solution won’t come easy either. It is up to every person in our society to really look at what is best for kids, even when that is not the easy way out. We need to support creativity and innovation in the classroom, we need to stop expecting cookie cutter results, we need to start preparing kids for the future instead of the past. We need to open our own minds to what is new, different, and often uncomfortable. We need to challenge the old ways, and replace them when we see they are no longer effect. We need to look at the big picture. Until every one can embrace this type of thought, we are going to continue to beat the proverbial dead horse. Too often we hide behind the scenes, pointing fingers and waiting for the educational fairy godmother to wave her wand and fix it. Not going to happen!