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Visualizing Math with Thinking Blocks

20110928-075722.jpgWhen it comes to word problems students often have a hard time figuring out what information is important. Since they have to write the equation rather than being given an equation, it is a more challenging skill to master. Well, with Thinking Blocks students can visually represent the information in a word problem helping them to better understand what is being asked and what operations are needed.

20110928-075602.jpgThe site provides students with a series of word problems that can be done in Tracking Mode or Practice Mode. In Tracking Mode students earn starts for each correct problem. All problems begin with a problem and some blocks. Students read the problem and position the blocks where they belong. After position the blocks, students label what each block represents, checking as each step of the way. Next, students place the correct number labels on the blocks as seen in the image to the right. If the numbers are in the correct location, students get the Resize Blocks button which show a representation of the actual numbers. Lastly, students are asked to solve the math problem with the optional built in calculator.

The Thinking Blocks include addition, multiplication, fractions, ratios, and a modeling tool that lets students and teachers model their own problems using the Thinking Blocks tools.

In addition, there is a Math Playground with videos demonstrating the use of Thinking Blocks for solving different types of problems, making for a great introduction or review for a lesson. There are also Math games, logic problems, word problems and other videos.

This is a great tool for whole group instruction and is a lot of fun to interact with on the Promethean board, especially the touch boards! It is also a great resource for students to practice solving word problems.


Never Too Young for Project-based learning

Edutopia featured this video on their Facebook page today about an Early Childhood center that uses project-based learning and the students’ input to guide their curriculum. Pretty cool! This is how learning SHOULD be!

Flubaroo for You!

Do you use (or want to!) Google Forms to give your students assessments? If not, you should be! Environmentally friendly, easy on the back and organized, Google Forms are a great way to assess students whether it be a short quiz or essay test.

But what about grading? And giving students feedback? Their scores? I hear you, but that’s where Flubaroo comes in! It’s a free add-on service available to Google Apps users that will grade all of those tests for you! Whoo hoo! Don’t you just love less work!

So, how does it work, you may ask. You begin by creating a Google Form and creating your questions. After the form is created, you take the quiz, creating the answer key. Next, assign the quiz to your students. Once everyone is done, grade the quiz with Flubaroo and review the grades. Lastly, you can email the grades to students. (This assumes you asked them for their email as part of the quiz.) That’s it! Pretty easy, huh!

You can learn more and get the Flubaroo Script here. Here is a step-by-step overview as well. Have fun giving quizzes! I’m sure your students will LOVE it! 😉

Facebook for Rocks?

While searching for a “fake” profile page to help teach Internet Safety I came across the Tomorrow’s Tech in Today’s Schools blog by David. The post I came across, Facebook project & template,  is about Facebook templates for the classroom! David has done all of the work for you by creating a Facebook template in PowerPoint. It’s not just the Wall or Info page, he hyperlinked the Wall, Info and Photos pages to make a more realistic Facebook page.

His example is a Facebook page for John F. Kennedy. It’s a great way to get kids to think about a person, what they did, what they may have thought and how they impacted history. Not only can students use this as a way to report on a person’s life, they can also use it for writing about any object, invention, theme, or process. Just imaging a Facebook page for Schist!

Schist Boy, it’s getting hot around here!

Sandstone I’ve got ya beat! Not only is it hot around here, but man am I ever getting the squeeze!

Schist Hot! There! You’re not the one being subducted by these tectonic plates!

Basalt Will you both quit you’re whining! I’m wastin’ away in the wind and nobody cares! 🙁

Just think about Schist’s Info page and Photo page. All of Schist’s characteristics and pictures of “family” like Quartzite or Gneiss and “friends” like Shale and Limestone. What a creative and fun way for students to think about and present information.

BrainPop & ActiVotes/ActivExpressions

So, this isn’t new, but it may be for some. BrainPop, that wonderful animated video site, is integrated with Promethean’s ActiVotes and ActivExpressions. What does this mean for you? Well, the next time you show your class a video and get to the quiz, you can plug in your ActivHub, fire up the votes or expressions and have your class take the quiz using a familiar tool!

To set up the connection between BrainPop and the ActiVotes or ActivExpressions, you will need to download and install the Flash Bridge. It can be found here.

Once the Flash Bridge is installed you will be able to see the ActiVote or ActivExpression icon seen at the bottom or the image.

To see the ActiVotes and ActivExpression in action visit BrainPop’s web site to view a webinar. Or, stop by and see me for a demonstration!


What kind of scientist will you be?

Portrait of Robert William Holley (1922-1993), Biochemist

White lab coats and glasses…is that what comes to mind when you think about scientists?

Well, at the Smithsonian there are many scientists with unique and interesting jobs, all minus the white lab coat! How about being a Coral Whisperer or an Amphibian Ace? Kids (and adults) often don’t know much about what scientists do, where they work or just how fun their jobs can be. Being a scientist doesn’t mean always being stuck in a lab!

Whether your learning about different scientific areas or talking about jobs people have, don’t forget to share the awesome jobs on the Scientists @ the Smithsonian site! Students can see the scientists in action, read their profiles and explore resources related to the scientist’s job.

Photo from the Smithsonian Institution’s photostream on The Commons

Wikipedia…is it an educational resource?

Every year this comes up, so here’s a reminder of how and why.

Over the years educators have debated the value and reliability of Wikipedia as a source for educational projects. I have always been FOR students using Wikipedia! But, I always make sure my students know how and when to use it.

The guidelines include using Wikipedia for…

  • background/overview information
  • technical and unfamiliar terms
  • pop culture
  • quick facts or trivia
  • and…most importantly, its bibliography!

I always teach my students to go to the source of information and well written Wikipedia articles give you that. If a Wikipedia article doesn’t have a bibliography with sources you can go to, then it’s not a good choice for school research.

20110912-082906.jpgLibrarians are often against Wikipedia for academic work, but The Daring Librarian (aka. Anne Bronwynne Jones, one of Library Journal’s 2011 movers and shakers!) has a wonderful, albeit older, blog post on why she is FOR using Wikipedia. It’s worth the 10 minutes.

So, as we embark on another school year, remember to teach your students to use resources appropriately and responsibly, rather than sticking your head in the sand and pretending they won’t use Wikipedia just because you said so!

Place Value with Woody and Buzz!

Are you teaching place value soon? To the hundred millions place? Do your kids like Toy Story…Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang? Well, then this flipchart is for you! The Toy Story Place Value flipchart is filled with a variety of activities to teach, reinforce and assess students’ understanding of place value.

Bloom’s in the 21st Century

As educators we all know about Bloom’s taxonomy and how it can help us scaffold learning by building a base of knowledge while supporting and challenging our students to apply what they know in other situations. Bloom’s taxonomy, now over 50 years old, was updated in 2000 by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl. Krathwohl, who worked with Bloom on the original taxonomy, worked with Anderson and a group of experts to transform Bloom’s taxonomy into an active and modern reflection of what we know about cognitive psychology, learning, and metacognition. Dr. Leslie Owen Wilson gives a wonderful overview of the change and compares the revised taxonomy to Bloom’s original.

Based on the revised Bloom’s, Andrew Churches created Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. His wiki, educational origami, details all of his work, presentations and resources for integrating the digital taxonomy into the classroom. Below is a summary map of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Click on the image to see a larger version.

You will notice that the Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy references actions associated with digital tools, many of which you may not be familiar with. It also includes some actions which some educators may find unethical or inappropriate (like hacking), but you cannot take these term as they are, rather you need to read Churches’ descriptions of each activity. (He’s not advocating for students to hack the school computers!)

As schools focus more on 21st Century Skills and look at the tools that will help them achieve these goals, we need to look at what we have and how best to use our resources. For this, we can turn to Kathy Schrock, who created an interactive Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy using only Google Apps tools! Here it is…

As always, Kathy offers some great tools and ideas for using Google Apps to reach all levels of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. You can see some of them here.

I hope some ideas are sparked by Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. I look forward to sharing these wonderful tools with you!

Scientific Micro-origami

Here’s another WOW! This video is a series of micro-origami creations that expand when in contact with water.

So, how does this work? Here are some resources to help your students understand what’s happening.

Color changing celery

Escaping Water

Celery Rocks!