The Friday Five, Episode 1: 5 Spiffy Sites

Who doesn’t like to take a break and do something fun (or at least different) on Fridays? Beginning today, I am going to post a weekly feature entitled, “The Friday Five.” Sometimes this will be 5 websites that are useful (or hopefully interesting) to classroom teachers, sometimes it will be a link and an introduction to an article that would take less than 5 minutes to read (and then this blog would facilitate a discussion on the article if people were interested in that form of discussion), and sometimes it will be a 5 minute introduction of a tool, program or topic which would be helpful for classroom teachers and potentially administrators to use or know about.

I hope you enjoy the Friday Five!

Update: The Splashcast player automatically plays the most recent show. To see past shows, click the “Play” arrow, then in the upper left corner in the channel guide, click and select the episode you wish to see.

[splashcast BFTU1502MA]

Site #1: Class Timer

Site #2: PBS Teacher Resources
Site #3: Media Quiz
Site #4: Bingo Generator 1 or Bingo Generator 2
Site #5: Simquarium

“Share-ability”

So my students are viewing each other’s shows on Ancient Greece which they created using Zoho Show and google.docs presentation tool. They are wonderful from a share-ability perspective. Everyone can easily publish their work to our class wiki, and then can view the work of their friends and classmates.

I think, in time, as Google works out some glitches in their new presentation program, I will shift from Zoho to Google, it seems to be easier for students to work with at home.

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Reflecting on Toondoo

Have you tired Toondoo yet? A super user-friendly cartoon making site combined with my squirly seniors inspired me to set them loose with Toondoo. They each made a series of political or government-based cartoons, some about the Legislative Branch, some the Executive, and some about the government in general. They really enjoyed Toondoo and found it extremely easy to use. I even had two students who are more on the fringe than some, and they said a couple of times, “If school was always like this, I would like school.” So I thought that was pretty cool, and so did they. Turning the cartoons in was an interesting process, I chose to have them post them on our class wiki (I admit, I chickened out on having them post to a blog this time, but I think next year I will). Those who read directions did fine.

Once the cartoons were published, it was interesting to see that two of my students cartoons were selected as the “Editor’s Picks” for the day. My students noticed the first cartoon but said nothing until I mentioned the second. The student who authored the second cartoon was extremely proud that his work was on the front page of Toondoo, and his classmates were excited for him too. That was exciting to see.

I was disappointed to see that the comments left for the first editor’s pick student cartoon used a misspelling to leave a variation of swearing in their comments. I am sure I will write about that type of netiquette in a later post, but for now, I will just say that I am going to think differently now about how to best use these tools as I don’t want my students hurt, and we are part of a private religious school. I know the students did not say anything, but it bothers me.

Overall, I know I am a Toondoo fan. Check it out but know, as another blogger wrote a couple of weeks ago, it can be addicting…

The Guys Liked Gliffy

Every year as my 11th grade World Cultures class approaches the Israel/Palestine unit, I ponder how best to introduce the historical aspect of the region and this year was no exception. I determined long ago that lecturing about the early history does not capture the interest of my juniors; I cannot really say I blame them – I don’t think I really paid much attention to those types of lectures in high school either. So this year I decided to put together a computer-based activity where for the first part, students visited the BBC’s website about the Middle East and the history of Israel; it has a timeline with a written explanation of Israel’s history and another section with the history shown via maps and captions. Students were asked to explore one (or both if they so chose) and design their own timeline that helped them understand the background information of Israel/Palestine. First, it was interesting to see who selects the written timelines and who selects the maps, but it was not as interesting as my next observation: the use of Gliffy.

I cannot remember where I read about Gliffy, but whatever I read intrigued and inspired me to try it with my students so, earlier in the semester, I introduced them to Gliffy. It was still in beta and we had free access to a very user-friendly webbased diagram creator. At that point, all of my students were required to use Gliffy to create an illustrated timeline of events in Rwanda and Burundi. At the quarter break, I took a survey and several of my students said their Gliffy creation was the thing they were most proud of from that quarter.

Today I gave the option to my students to either create their timeline notes in their notebooks or use Gliffy. As I scanned the room, I could not help but to notice, the guys were the ones using Gliffy while the girls ( all but one) were writing in their notebooks. Interesting as in the survey, an equal number of girls stated they were proud of their Gliffy creations. Even so, today, the guys liked Gliffy.