Education website I love!

For an assignment we had to review a few educational apps/websites. I reviewed the website ABCya.com. It’s a FREE website full of educational kids games! I used it in the Autism K-2 self-contained classroom that worked in this past school year. The kids LOVED it, especially when we hooked a computer up to the interactive white board…big screen!!!

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Featured in The New York Times App Smart Column, in Disney Family Fun Magazine, and on NCS-Tech.org, this teacher-created website provides a fun and educational space for elementary students. With free online Flash capabilities, students grades K to 5 are invited to play educational and kid-friendly games. Easy to navigate, children can meander through the site, engaging in age-appropriate virtual games and activities. This site is divided by grade levels as well as into categories, Letters, Numbers, More (shapes, Social Studies, Art) and Holidays. Children can play independently on the computer, or join together playing the game on an interactive white board. This is a safe website, does not require a login to play, and can be used even with young students (Kindergarten). Additionally, this website has developed games for the iPad that can be downloaded at a minimal cost.

I would recommend this website for teachers, parents and their kiddos. Teachers can model and enhance lessons, and students can play virtual educational games. Mom or Dad will be happy to know their babies are involved in learning games with age-appropriate content. It is a safe website that you can trust, and feel good knowing your children are learning at the same time.

The only real downside I see is that it does have banner adds which may distract or even lead kids to other websites. Also, you can’t save data or student progress, but it will provide you with a raw score and percentage correct at the end of most games on the screen.

PS….for lower grades, you don’t have to be able to read the directions as many of the games tell you what to do! It’s a nice feature for your students who are young, struggle with reading, or who are even English Language Learners.

I hope you all try it out. Let me know what you think and feel free to share more engaging educational games that you use in your home or classroom.

Let’s make learning fun!

A Lego school?

Today is a day off from work, but that doesn’t mean it’s a day off from school work. I started my day off with a quick trip to Starbucks and hunkered down on my iPad to read my RSS feed. (I’m using the “Pulse” RSS app from the Apple App Store…it’s free and very user friendly!) One of my semester long assignments is to create and maintain and RSS feed. I already spend too much time on my computer or iPad so this assignment is actually a great way for me to be more productive…more “bang for my buck”, so to speak, when it comes to the time I spend browsing websites vs using an RSS feed. This app allows me to get all my news, headlines, social networking updates, and even my pop culture fix, in one spot. I also feel like I’m more in tune to the world, because it is so easy to get the news! There is no excuse for not knowing what is going on in our world with an easy to use app such as Pulse.

So one of the stories that caught my eye was this one: Lego school in Denmark

It’s a quick read about a new school Lego is opening in Denmark…no, it’s not to become a Lego builder, but they do claim to be engaging and promote learning through a creative lens. The article says, “The school will emphasize fun, creativity, and “playful engagement” to help make learning more enjoyable, but it will still follow a standard curriculum.” Sounds pretty good to me! I think it’s always beneficial to students when they are engaged and motivated to learn…if the Lego company can promote this idea through a school, even better!

I wonder how they will use creativity and fun to engage the students however. I also wonder if they will incorporate technology with their learning too. I think I’m going to investigate a bit more to see. Have any of you heard of this school? What are your thoughts on playful learning? Do you know of any schools like this that also use learning technology?

Technology: How and why should we use it?

“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.” _Nancy Kassebaum

Power Tools for Educators.  This is the name of the class for which I am creating this blog.  So what does it mean?  What are “power tools”?  How can these “power tools” be used in the classroom?  How can technology be a teaching and/or learning resource?  And, why should we as pre-service teachers learn about technology and use it in our classrooms?  These are the questions that I have been wondering about since I signed up for this class.

It has now been two weeks since class has begun, and as I muddle through the readings and online assignments, I have discovered a few answers to my questions. I am starting to understand the term “Power Tools” and all that it entails….techy gadgets and devices, apps, widgets,  RSS feeds, blogs, online portals, digital books, wikispaces, etc.  These are all resources that can enrich the learning experience and bring meaning to content that may otherwise remain matte.  Technology is being used in our graduate course more and more, so I am seeing through example how to incorporate these ideas into my own classroom in the future.  I am exploring, experimenting, discovering, and making mistakes left and right.  Yet, through this class I am learning more about the power tools I can use in my own classroom, how to use them, and the impact that technology’s presence has in the classroom.  I’m trying to keep my head above water learning the content but also about the new language and vocabulary that exists within the technology world.  Although I do not claim to be extremely tech-savvy before this class, I did feel that I was fairly ‘up-to-date’ with technology.  I had a Facebook, a twitter, a Pinterest page, a LinkedIn page, and several gmail addresses…but this is only scratching the surface when it comes to ways I can use technology.

There is so much more to discover:

  • Currently, I am still working on understanding the RSS feed and the things I want to follow.  What do I want to read? Who should I follow?  What can I follow?  There seems to be an infinite number of options, how do I select only a handful?
  • I am learning how to customize this blog.  I’ve had blogs before, but have never had one for academic purposes.  I wonder what should I share?  How much do I share?  What direction do I want my blog to go?  Should I be writing in academic language, or can I express myself with a relaxed style of writing?  Who is my audience?  And even down to the little things….what color font do I want?  Can I remember the CSS and coding I did back in undergrad for my web design class?

Obviously I have more I want to work on, but those are two of my priorities.  I find the internet to be an excellent resource with endless possibilities, but at the same time, it has endless possibilities!

Technology can be extremely inspiring, motivating, and enriching, while at the same time be overwhelming and extremely distracting.  

Through my journey in Power Tools, I hope to find the answers to all of my questions either in class or in my own explorations… More importantly though, I also must try to figure out where the line is between finding the proper resources and learning how to use all their features, and being completely distracted and lost in the deep sea of the World Wide Web and 2.0 Technologies.   Learning how to use it and why to use it, as pre-service teachers, is vital.

Curt Bonk, is the world that open?

Our first reading assignment was to read parts of Curtis J. Bonk’s book The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education.  This book was published in 2009, but he has since updated it with additional text.  As I read through the Postscripts,  I can only wonder if the world is truly as open as Bonk claims.

First, I would like to commend Bonk for his enthusiasm for learning and education.  Passion for learning is something that is vital to our existence as a human race.  How can we grow and develop if we do not learn more?  I appreciate his optimistic attitude for global learning in society.  However, I can’t help wonder if and how it this technology based learning has truly actualized in the way that he describes.  How many people are really using technology for the purposes that he claims?  Do people know to use technology properly in order to gain substantial and valuable knowledge?  There seems to be an infinite number of sources online, but how many of them are valid, informed, and innately helpful?

In an ideal world, I agree with Bonk’s Learner Rights and Responsibilities.  Yet, I do not see these rights always “crystallizing before my eyes” (Bonk, 2011, p. 4).  I would like to think that these rights are “inalienable rights for learners” (p. 4), but a large part of me realizes that we live in a world where ideal is not always real, that opportunities are hard to come by, and not everyone has rights, or even access, to education or technology.  I think of young women in places where female oppression is the norm, where women are struggling to even survive, where teen girls are married off to older men without a thought to education, and where being an educated woman is a threat to the society.  Bonk, where are these women’s “Learner’s Rights”?  How do these people fit into the “Learning Century” (p. 2) and the plethora of materials from which one may learn?

I think it is easy for our privileged, educated, “free” American culture to state claims on technology being a catalyst for learning, but when we consider it from a global perspective, is it the same?  Do all people truly have the same access to learning as Bonk writes?

 

Quotations from Bonk’s writing, “An Open Letter to Learners of This Planet”, A Postscript to the Summer 2011 Paperback Edition of The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.