Top 5 FREE educational websites every teacher should be using in their classroom

It amazes me how time has flown so quickly in my career as an educator, but what I find most fascinating is the leap technology has taken in the past 8 years. Eight years ago, I thought the most innovative tech in the classroom was Accelerated Math published by Renaissance Place. Back then, you needed a lot of hardware and scantrons to use the software. Reams of paper were used to print out practice problems (poor trees!).

But as we enter 2019, the amount of technology students have access to both at home and school is quite remarkable. From Chromebooks, Ipads, Ipods, Iphones, tablets with Android software to Android devices, students and families do have access to a lot of technology. The graduating senior class of 2019 was born in 2000. The kindergarten class that just entered the 2018 school year was born in 2013. We as educators have to shift our mindset to teach and train our kids around technology in becoming positive, proactive “digital citizens.”

The purpose of this blog is to encourage teachers to use technology not only as a reward for good behavior during free time to play games. We as educators have to start seeing Chromebooks and tablets in our classrooms as equitable tools to help advance our students educational abilities and see computer applications as a means of “customizing” our students’ education so they can maximize their full potential.

The top 5 FREE educational websites that I am recommending are engaging and will promote a love of learning in your classroom through the use of technology.


5: Nitro Type

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Nitro Type is a typing practice website that allows students to strengthen their typing skills by competing with one another. As students press the correct keys typing, students cars increase in speed. Student feedback from previous classes and my current class love to compete against each other and it is quite engaging. This is valuable for teachers to promote a love for typing, but practicing typing in the correct way. It forces students to practice correctly to increase their speed.  With Nitro Type, students practice typing about passages that are educational and can learn interesting facts. Students have an option to purchase a membership to customize cars, buy options for their cars, and alter the appearance of their car. This could create a great classroom activity for all students to better themselves and to practice true 21st century skills.


4: Prodigy

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This is a great way for students to practice math problems and to target content specific skills that are also engaging at the same time. Prodigy also keeps track of student success and tracks areas where students struggle, which is relevant data for you to pull small groups to do mini math lessons for students who all struggle with the same concepts. Great website for student engagement and data collection to drive your math lessons!


3: Khan Academy

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Khan Academy is not only a great resource for teachers but a great spiral/on grade level support for students as well. With a little time, teachers can sync their google classroom accounts to Khan Academy and assign assignments to students based off of academic needs and MAP scores. If teachers are using Eureka Math/Engage New York, Khan Academy has a section devoted to on grade level support that pairs well with the lessons along with practice problems that students can earn badges and points to advance and change their avatar. Great website to foster a love of math and much-needed math support.

2: Epic

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Epic is probably one of the more engaging websites I have come across that students really love. Students have access to an online library at school with countless books, read-to-me books, audiobooks and educational videos that students will gravitate and spend hours on. I have used this in 3 different classrooms and all kids love the ability to read books and choose different types of books. The only drawback to this program is they can only access it for free at school, but parents can pay $8 a month for their students to enjoy access at home. This is a huge selling point at conferences to encourage reading. On the educator side, you can assign books and make quizzes on books online for your students to take and track the data of how well they are doing.

1: Google Classroom

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By far the most game-changing application personally for me in my classrooms I have taught in the last 3 years. Google Classroom is essential for the 21st-century teacher and for students to be exposed to technology that will be seen in high school and in the college classroom. Classroom allows teachers numerous ways to optimize lesson planning and create class work for students without always running to the copier and duplicating worksheets throughout the year. It also allows teachers to build in the perfect scaffolds to optimize instruction for the most advanced students to students who need the most support. Classroom, in my opinion, is the ultimate game changer in a 21st-century classroom, especially because it is able to be downloaded as an app on all devices and makes it easier even for parents to track student work and build a strong school to home relationship.

I hope this encourages teachers to incorporate more technology into the classroom. It is crucial in the times we live in that we optimize technology to prepare students for the 21st-century world that is around us and that is truly evolving every day.

GSS–> Getting Savvy with Sheets

By Mychau Sou

An image of a spreadsheet utilizing check boxesIn Gsuite (formerly known as Google Apps for Education), Sheets are spreadsheets that many feel intimidated by, but once you learn the benefits of Sheets, you may not want to go back. I create spreadsheets to help me keep a digital record of what my students turn in. For instances, I would copy and paste my students’ name list from illuminate and insert a checkbox column to check off which students turned in what. At the bottom of Sheet, I add tabs to the same Google Sheet to use it as my track log. The first-day packets, GAFE permission slips, and signed report card envelopes are all examples of what you can quickly check off. I use it to create my small groups and highlight which groups I’ve touched bases with for the week.

A Google Sheet can be converted into tools that help the flow of your classroom. Flippity.net is a site that will provide 10+ templates of ways in which you can convert your spreadsheet into something spectacular. One I frequently use is Flippity Random Name Picker where you insert your class list, publish the Google Sheet and instantly get access to digital equity sticks with your phone or laptop. What I love about this tool is that the Random name picker helps me form groups, pairs, and teams with a push of a button.  I know with the constant movement of students it’s hard to keep up with real popsicle sticks. What if I told you can add and delete students on the spreadsheet as you please and still use the same link?

Convert a spreadsheet into …

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A flippity random name pickerAn image of a flippity game wheel

My students love the quiz shows that I make with Flippity Game Show. I insert the categories of my math units as the topics such as Ratios, Unit Rate, Unit Conversion, etc. and type in my questions and answers using the template provided. The Flippity template allows me to publish and get a link to the game show for a math review. The kids are split into teams where you can have them name their group. Points can be added or deducted to keep track which team is doing well. Once we’re finished playing, I provide the link to my students so they can always study these questions at home the day before the test. This is both easy and effective for teacher and student alike.

An image of a spreadsheet/study guide.Take the spreadsheet and convert it into…An image of a Jeopardy style game boardA Jeopardy style quiz show board!

Whether or not you will be using Sheets as a system to track your students’ paper permission slips and work, or use free flippity templates, you can learn how to create a sheet with the click of a button! Trust me, it’s fairly simple. Come to my PD next week on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. John Adams Elementary Rm. 28 to learn more about Google Sheets. If you can’t make it, please sign up for the other PDs I’m offering in February.

(This is part 2 in a series. Part one was  Getting Savvy with Slides.)


About the Author:

Mychau Sou is an Intermediate Teacher at Adams Elementary in Stockton, Ca. She is also a Certified Google Trainer.

 

Cloud Computing & Collaboration Services

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By Austin Cushman

There are many cloud computing and real-time collaboration services to choose from. Here at Stockton Unified, we primarily use G Suite or Office 365. These two are probably the more well known, however, there are a few other options to choose from. Most of my adult students have never used any real-time collaboration services which have become more and more popular in the education and business world. These platforms are a requirement for any competitive company or agency. Companies have seen a 15% – 20% increase in their revenue using one of these services. Companies that use them see an advantage over their competition simply because they can get more done. So, in no particular order, here are some well known and lesser known cloud computing and collaboration services.

431075-zoho-logoZoho offers a suite of apps to create online documents, spreadsheets, presentations and databases, with great sharing features. You can invite others to view or edit documents and also create groups. Similar to Google Docs, you can publish any doc to your blog or website and make any document public. Zoho creates a URL and RSS feed for every public document that is updated when a change is made. You can also chat live with others making it easy to communicate while editing a document together in real time. Also, you can check older versions of the document.

g-suiteG Suite has apps for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations. They also share features allowing you to effectively collaborate in real-time. You can also post the document to a blog or website and have any changes updated. G Suite is also being used more and more in the private sector. Verizon Communications Inc, Nielsen Holdings Plc and Colgate-Palmolive Co. have brought about 250,000 workers to G Suite during the last year and a half, along with many school districts.

etherpad-logo                                                                                          Etherpad is an open source online editing program that allows collaboration in real-time of plain text documents. It includes a chat room and shows color coded edits. Users are also able to save older versions of the same document. Etherpad is good for group brainstorming sessions in real-time. It also lets you import and export Word, PDF, Plain Text and web documents. Students at Stanford Law School use it  and programmers like to customize Etherpad to suit their needs.

office_365_logoOffice 365 is a subscription based Microsoft Office suite available online. It has cloud-based software for businesses, such as hosted Exchange Server, Skype for Business Server, and SharePoint. Subscribers can collaborate with other users by using their Microsoft Office Online account. “70% of Fortune 500 companies have purchased Office 365 within the last year.” Companies such as Shell Oil, Air France, and Lilly Pharmaceuticals use Office 365. Stockton Unified has Office 365 available to district employees via the “staff” section of the homepage.

ce75b1a100012e9db79597098cf6785bThinkFree is a suite of online apps like Zoho and Google Docs. You can use the web version or install it to work offline. Thinkfree allows you to do everything just like the Microsoft Office suite with great sharing tools. Each document works with Microsoft Office and if the person you’re working with doesn’t have it, they can view documents with the ThinkFree viewer. Also, you get 1 GB of storage online for your documents.

Other Services:

So, there are a few. Here at Stockton Unified, we have been trained in and primarily use the G Suite apps and work in the Google Drive environment. Being aware of other services is valuable for our students and staff. We should be knowledgeable in the uses of real-time collaboration suites to prepare our students for careers in the 21st century.

Future Engineers

Project Lead the Way logo.

By Peter Gallegos and Veronica Torres

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth grade students at Harrison School in Stockton, CA  are off to a running start for their engineering future. Students in Mrs. Merriam’s PLTW Design and Modeling class learn by quickly understanding the importance of an engineering notebook to document and capture their ideas.

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Students working early in the design process.

Students are introduced to the design process in order to help solve problems and understand how their ideas can influence the creativity process of their group and others.

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Students work in groups and follow the design process from idea to prototype.

One important aspect of this class is students’ discovery of engineering and how the items that are invented within this process can help the populace as a whole. For example, the creation of a prosthetic device and a toy that will help a student with cerebral palsy gives students a greater appreciation of what a special needs student endures on a daily basis.

The academic language that students use during this process would seem unbelievable for students this age.  One can see groups working hard together to solve their design process challenges and coming up with solutions to attain a final product.  This process forces the students to “think outside of the box.” Higher order thinking abounds in this class.

Image of student working.

Students use industry standard 3D modeling software, such as Sketchup Pro and Geogebra

Merriam’s students use industry standard 3D modeling software, such as Sketchup Pro and Geogebra, to create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their creative solutions.

When students show proficiency in the modeling software, and are able to complete the design process from paper to virtual image, they will have the opportunity to print their final product using the school’s 3D printer.

Coding for Kindergarteners? Absolutely!

By Maridee Stanley

America is short on computer programmers. Currently, tech companies are recruiting programmers from India, not by choice but by necessity. Don’t we want our own SUSD students to get these high paying tech jobs so we can finally break generational poverty? This can happen if we start our students coding early. How early? High school? Middle school? Intermediate grades? Kindergarten is not too soon. For the past 5 years, my kinders at Kennedy Elementary have successfully learned the basics of block programming and began to think of themselves as the programmers and tech entrepreneurs of the future. Students have fun and the parents love it! “But,” you ask, “ I’m not a programmer. How can I teach coding?” Don’t worry. Coding isn’t as hard as you think. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Trust me on this.code1

All the instructional work is done for us by Code.org, Tynker, PLTW, or Google, and the beginning lessons are designed for pre-readers. Why wouldn’t any teacher want to do this? You have several options to get your students started on coding. The best known is Code.org, developer of Hour of Code. If your school has Project Lead the Way you have the PLTW computer science module. Tynker has some free content here  or you can sign up for free teacher account for an easy K lesson here. Google will send teachers a free kit to be used with their online material, click here. Even if you supplement with other programs, Code.org is indispensable as it has the most resources and an easy-to-navigate website. From there you can watch videos (Course A for age 4-7 ), visit the educator section and create your account, peruse lesson plans, or print out offline material .

If you and your colleagues want an enjoyable Saturday, attend a Code.org Computer Science Fundamentals PD, learn some tricks and pick up some swag. Or, take the online PD .

Students working with robots.

Students work with blue-bots, robots that the kids can program!

If you don’t have time for all this, simply take your class straight to an Hour of Code classic, Angry Birds, and start coding! I recommend starting offline. I use Code.org’s “Move It” for PE and PLTW as a center activity. Ozobots are a popular way to teach the concept of programming. But my students’ favorite offline activity is the Bee-Bot, a small robot that is programmed with directional arrows on its back. Kinders doing Code.org offline coding for P.E. Tip: Don’t try this on a windy day. Using the directional cards that come with BeeBots and Blue-Bots, kindergarteners write a line of code. Using direction keys, students program BeeBots and Blue-Bots to spell CVC words or order numbers. Bee-Bot and BlueBot programming was a big hit at STEAM Night and Literacy Night at Kennedy. Even some parents got hooked!

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“Look, Ma, I’m programming!”

After the offline warm-ups, students should do Code.org’s Course A followed by Angry Birds and Minecraft on Hour of Code. Some may progress on to Star Wars or Moana, although you may have to tell students the objective …get scrap metal in Star Was and fish in Moana. I don’t recommend Frozen for kinders as this requires knowledge of angles. Many kinders begin to have difficulty when they get to loops, but with patience, persistence and careful counting they can overcome difficulties. Remind students that “fail” means first attempt in learning something awesome.

Coding a Minecraft game is a good incentive to finish ST Math and is an alternative for students who have completed work early. If you have never coded, try some super simple kindergarten block coding on the following Google Doodle celebrating 50 years of children’s coding. https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-50-years-of-kids-coding And please, get your students coding. You might inspire the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Google Slides

Google Slides may be great for presentations, but it is also a great teaching tool when parent-teacher conference time comes around. I took it upon myself to conduct student-led conferences with the help of….. Drum roll, please… Google Slides.

I created this template with possible measures in the speaker notes for students to follow along. I also provided a student led conference sample for students to refer to, in case they need some ideas.

I provide my students 10-15 minutes to fill in each slide according to the criteria on the  template. By doing so, students are taking the responsibility to input their scores, strengths, weakness, and setting goals. Aren’t we all working on reflecting and goal setting?  Students were able to be creative by adding a personal photo and style when designing their Google Slide. Students took responsibility for their conference, and I saw a large turnout of parents who showed up. Don’t get me wrong, there were those few parents that didn’t come, but no problem. The slide presentation format made it easy for those students to conduct phone conferences or the presentation can be easily printed out to be sent home, it is up to your discretion.

Image of a student and parent at a conference

Using Google Slides, students are able to lead parent-teacher conferences.

As with anything, when you invest your time during the beginning stages it goes smoothly when it’s ready to be executed. Here were some of my observation from the first parent-teacher conference:

  1. Parents were attentive
  2. Students were excited to share
  3. Students encouraged parents to come to see their Slides presentation
  4. I was a facilitator of learning rather than being the guardian of knowledge
  5. Parent, teachers, and students walked away feeling positive

Note: I did not go over any behavior during the conference, all conferences were data-driven.  

We are moving toward 1-to-1 devices district-wide. Let’s move forward with making the technology and home connection.

If you feel you need some more clarification and help with Google Slides, no problem. Come to my December 19th PD at Adams, and I can support you.  Email me at mtsou@stocktonusd.net, and I would be happy to provide a screencast video instructions based on your needs.