Monday, April 23, 2012

Interactives - a "UDL-Friendly" Site

Universal Design for Learning is a learning concept that is based on scientifically-based research, stating that students need to learn materials by stimulating different brain networks with different means of perception, action, and engagement. When we represent materials in different ways, our student's brains make a "connection" with material. This is why visual learners find it so effective to watch video clips. They may connect with a video example during or after instruction to make connections with material. 

However, in this same classroom, this may not do anything for the "hands-on" learner. So how do we design a curriculum or lesson that stimulates both? We take these learning differences into consideration from the beginning. 

One way to enhance the way that we represent a concept is through simulations or interactive activities. Many of us are not privileged enough to have a full computer lab, however, the following website may be useful with just a laptop and a projector (check out my No Smart Board? No Problem! website for more ideas). The idea is to stimulate different parts of the brain so that our students make a connection with material. 

A great tool for this could be Interactives, a website that is devoted to provide educators and students with "strategies, content, and activities that can enhance and improve students' skills in a variety of curriculum areas."  I loved checking out the 3D Geometry section, where you could interact with 3D shapes on a website and learn Geometry at the same time! There is even an Amusement Park Physics game for students to practice what they learned in class, in a unique way. I call this the "back door" approach, having students learn in a not-so-obvious way. This site provides a variety of activities that could provide different ways of representing material, which in turn, would stimulate the learning process. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Keeping Polling Simple!

"I'm tired of creating user names and passwords. I just want something to create a quick poll and be done with it!" said one of my overwhelmed with technology colleagues. "I just want to get quick feedback without a lot of hoops to go through."

I have to admit, I am the same way. I don't want to add anymore user names and passwords to my digital footprint, when it comes to creating a poll. I want to get feedback from my students in order to create a flexible curriculum, which impacts all learning styles.

In order to help this colleague of mine, I decided to do a good search on "Polling Sites." I was bombarded with Survey Monkey and Google Forms, which are both great tools, but require a username and password.

I came across a great site called Poll Code, which allows you to create free polls online. No username or password is needed. It is simple and easy to customize. Just type in your question and responses. Customize the appearance with a few clicks and it will generate an html code or weblink that you can share via email or on your website. Not tech saavy? It even allows you to automatically make a "quick post" to your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, and tons more!

Once the poll is created, participants can vote 1 time per day, week, month, or year (depending on how you set it up). If participants try to vote from their computer, it will not let them (because of your computers unique IP address). It also allows participants to see results after they have voted!

Need help using this technology?  Check out the Learn-Lead-Grow website.  or my What to Do in Just a Few video below:


Not into Poll Code? Check out more Polling Ideas http://www.javascriptbank.com/top-10-excellent-free-online-poll-makers.html

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stitching the Internet Together with Stich.It

Social Bookmarking Explained

Social Bookmarking sites like Delicious and Diigo have changed the way that we are able to share information. The emergence of Pinterest has changed things even more! What is Social Bookmarking? It's a way to share web links over the Internet through the use of websites. You no longer have to worry about bookmarking your favorite links to your computer. Wherever you are, you can access all of your links by simply visiting your Social Bookmarking website. Yet many teachers and schools are skeptical about using Social Bookmarking because some say its too difficult. Others say there is no place for it in the classroom. Others say that they don't want another username and password. Others say that they don't have the time.

Stich.It

I want to share with you a quick and easy way to share web links by stitching together websites through Stich.It (yes I spelled it right!). This site allows you to pair up related web sites, photos, videos, etc. and then it generates a unique URL, so that you can share your links for the rest of the world!

How would I use this for my situation?

I can see this being used as a way to "stich" a chapter together by sharing links, pictures, and video clips all related to the topic of your choice. Another thing that I like about this site, is the fact that it is a very visual way of interacting with bookmarks. Most sites just contain thumbnails and descriptions of the text. Stich.It allows you to view a full-screen picture of your link. It is also very easy to interact with. The hyperlink is your picture.

If you are using UDL in your classrooms, it is very "UDL-friendly" because it provides another way of representing material for your hands-on and visual learners. Because of its easy to use platform and interface, students of all abilities are able to navigate through it very easily.

How do I use this technology? 

You are in luck! I have a brief tutorial on how to create your very own Stich.It on my website Learn-Lead-Grow.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Creating Google (Collaborative) Presentations

Many people have asked me, how can you use Google Presentations in the classroom. I use them very often. In fact, I often have my students collaborate on Google Presentations as another alternative to notes. Students are assigned a slide to prepare and then they must present the material later on. 

I always get the question: what if the students make a mistake? Or they don't have enough information? The beauty of a Google Presentation is that it is an example of cloud computing...meaning...many students can work on it at the same time and it is saved on a server somewhere in the world. So if I make changes, everyone will have the same changes. Google presentations are great study tools as well! Now you don't have to have your students copy down notes from another classmate. They just have to have a link instead. Check out this latest installment of "What to Do in Just a Few" to see how to set this up. 
 If you are interested in learning more about using different types of technology, visit my Learn - Lead - Grow website at http://learn-lead-grow.weebly.com/

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Duh. Pinning.

I have to admit, I am really getting excited about Pinterest. In fact, it's downright addicting! If you have been paying attention to the news lately, Pinterest (a new social media site) has just secured the number 3 most popular social media platform behind Facebook and Twitter. With over 100 million people who have joined, you can definitely understand why.

So what exactly is Pinterest anyways? Well, I like to think of it as an electronic cork board (called a pin board) that is a cross between Twitter and Facebook, where you can share links to things that interest you. As many of you know by now, I am extremely passionate about educational technology. In fact, I have developed several pin boards on just that (check me out on Pinterest).

 So what's so addicting about pin boards? I can share information that I find cool with other people and then they can "re-pin" my links to their pin boards. If I am really passionate about a topic (educational technology!!!), then I can search for people with similar pin boards and see what they have been checking out.

As an educator, you are bombarded with information from all over the place. It can be downright overwhelming. This is why I often use Twitter as a professional development tool because I can pick and choose, which tweets to look at and which ones to ignore. I am starting to see value in Pinterest as a professional development tool and a tool for your classroom. Since it is so new, we will all have to figure out how it fits into our situations. You may want to check it out for yourself!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Learn Lead Grow!

Over the past couple of months, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the way that we deliver technology resources to teachers. Much like myself, we just share links and don't really focus on how to use the technology. Sure, any "Joe Schmo" can write a blog these days, but very few actually show you how to use the technologies that our students are using. I found myself becoming a "Joe Schmo." :)

So with this in mind, I am unveiling a new project of mine called "Learn Lead Grow." I am developing a website to go into more depth on how to use certain sites and technologies. The site will include lessons on hwo to use the technology as well as YouTube clips. Along with my UDL Resources page, this blog, Pintrest, and Twitter,

Although still in the beginning stages,  I hope to reach more educators and help them reach kids.  How? By Learning, Leading, and Growing!

Click HERE to see more!  Leave comments below to let me know what you think.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Best Ideas Come From Others!

I really enjoy working with other teachers at different grade levels, because they have the best ideas! For instance, this past weekend, I was teaching a graduate course in Reading, PA! (Shout out to my UDL class in Reading!) It was a great opportunity to learn from others, who like myself are in the trenches each day! Here are some of the great ideas that we came across this past weekend:


  • TimeMe (online stopwatch) - I really liked using a free online stopwatch download, but I may stop using it and switch to TimeMe. This online stopwatch allows you to customize your timer and make it work for your situation. Instead of an annoying bell that rings, you could have a computerized voice yell "Ta da" or  you could have a horn blow. I really like the feature, where you can have music playing while the timer is going and then it stops as soon as time is up! 
  • One of my students shared with me a site for Spanish teachers called Zambombazo, which gives you all sorts of activities that you can use to make Spanish relevant to your students! How does teaching Spanish and Hunger Games relate? You may want to check this out and see! 
  • I love the BuiLD YouR WiLD SeLF site by the New York Zoos and Aquarium. This would be a great site to help elementary students with learning different parts of the body and learning different animal parts! You just have to see it! It's funny! 
  • Interactives Geometry 3D Shapes is a great way of looking at Geometry in the world around us! Check out this interactive site and how you can learn more about the shapes that encircle us each day! 

Thanks again to everyone!

Matt