Currently viewing the category: "From the Vault"

Nothing says “joyful” like stormtroopers doing silly things.

It’s been awhile since I dug into the vault to share some resources with our faithful readers. In my new position as instructional coach, I’ve been trying my best to provide teachers with a helpful weekly newsletter that contains a collection of useful (in my opinion) links, among other things.

This week’s newsletter focuses on “The Joy Factor,” one of the elements on our teacher evaluation rubric. In short, this involves asking the questions “How joyful is the classroom? How much are students enjoying this class?”

I dug up some resources (I tagged them “fun” in Diigo, naturally) that I wanted to share with you all, too. The first group is a set of videos that could serve as great writing prompts or similar inspiration:

(Hat tip to Larry Ferlazzo’s blog for pointing these out to me.)

I also shared some sites that are pretty fun:

And finally, I wanted to share an example of a teacher who really is bringing it when it comes to the Joy Factor, (Michigan’s own) Mr. Colby Sharp, who posted this awesome video on YouTube.

As I mentioned, it’s been a long time since we posted in the “From the Vault” series. Hope you find some value here today. And if you do, or even if you didn’t but you enjoy the engaging writing style, please consider subscribing to our blog and following us on twitter and facebook.
photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

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Museum Box is a unique tool that has tremendous educational value, in my opinion. However, it’s something I learned about a few years ago, but never got around to using. I think it’s time to change that.

Museum Box is a website that allows you or your students to build a collection of “items” in a virtual “box” as a way of creating a persuasive argument or description of a person, place or historical time period. Whether it’s text, images, or videos, Museum Box allows you to gather and store content that can serve as supporting evidence or a multi-media description.

Here’s the way their “About” page describes it:

“What do you think would be included if you were a Victorian Servant or Queen Elizabeth I. If you lived during the English Civil War, what items would you include to make a case for, or against, the parliamentarians? And what if you were an abolitionist and wanted to show that slavery was wrong and unnecessary, how would you create your evidence?”

I think Museum Box could be a great way to enhance history and social studies lessons. It could also serve as a terrific alternative to a book report. Museum Boxes are shared in public galleries, so you can get lots of inspiration by exploring their site. Here’s what one looks like:

Click image to view full size.

I think Museum Box is a useful site to have in your toolkit. It’s easy to use, engaging and serves a valuable educational purpose–assisting students in crafting an argument or description using solid evidence.

Are you using Museum Box already? We’d love to hear your ideas and experiences, so please share them in the comments. And if you found this post useful, please consider subscribing to our blog via email or RSS.

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Every so often, I go through my massive amount of bookmarks, looking for sites I’d saved long ago but never got around to using. The results are shared in the awesome From the Vault series.

There are collaborative web 2.0 tools for just about everything: writing, brainstorming, mind-mapping, diagramming, etc. But good sites for collaborative drawing are hard to come by, it seems. FlockDraw, however, solves this quandary. It’s a site that allows for free online, collaborative real-time drawing.

I’d be very interested to see what students come up with when called upon to draw together. I think you could get some pretty outstanding results. I also think that using FlockDraw could be an easy way to have students get their feet wet with the concept of collaboration. Asking them to do something low-stakes and fun like create a drawing together would be good practice for more intense collaboration on projects in the future.

How would you use FlockDraw? We’d love to hear your ideas, leave us a comment. And if you want to be sure never to miss another From the Vault post, or any other post for that matter, subscribe to our blog today!

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Welcome to the From the Vault series, where we dust off sites we haven’t used in awhile, but that are still extremely useful…

Zamzar is a site that offers free online file conversion and video downloads. I found out it a few years ago, not so much for conversion purposes, but as a way to get around YouTube filters. Just type in the URL of a YouTube video and Zamzar will download it for you within 24 hours. All for free and all without registering.

When it comes to file conversion, Zamzar can be helpful, too. From images to documents to e-Books to videos…Zamzar can convert between a ton of file types.

Why might you need this? Well here’s an example…I helped my daughter create a digital movie for a school project. When I exported it from iMovie, it’s saved as an mp4 file. Her school and her teachers use PCs, which don’t always support that file type. So, I uploaded the video to Zamzar, supplied them with my email address and within 30 minutes I got an email saying my video was ready to download (files are made available for 24 hours unless you sign up for an account…with an account you can maintain and manage your files). Pretty simple.

Zamzar‘s not something I’d use every day, but I’m glad I have it in my toolkit. Hopefully you’ll find it useful, too.

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If you’re new to our From the Vault series, let me quickly sum up the premise for you: we dig through our cavernous archive of bookmarks to find one that a). is awesome and b). we haven’t used in ages. Then we share it with you here on our lovely blog and voila! Everyone wins.  (View other posts from this series here.)

Today we dust off Writing Fix, an amazing site that never should have been allowed to gather dust in the first place. Writing Fix is a product of the Northern Nevada Writing Project.  Its mission is to serve as a resource for teachers who want to get their students hooked on all that’s exciting about writing. They’re also intent on “fixing” that which ails reluctant teachers of writing, too.

The site is overflowing with resources, from lesson plans to interactive prompts and other materials and resources. It’s wide ranging, too–their offerings cover grades K through 12.

I definitely encourage you to take a gander at the Writing Fix homepage. I’m going to try to make up for the fact that I bookmarked it 3 years ago and never explored it by diving in today and putting it to good use in my classroom ASAP.

Let us know if you find this post or this series helpful by leaving a comment. And please ponder subscribing to our blog so that all our posts are delivered directly to you.

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We’ve recently formed a group on Diigo that can provide you with access to all of our bookmarks. We are constantly finding great resources on the web and bookmarking them using one of our all-time favorite sites, Diigo. Now you can explore the EngagingEd group on Diigo and gain easy access to all of those bookmarks. Click HERE to view our bookmarks and HERE to view our ever-expanding word cloud.

Diigo is such an amazing tool that I also have to take this opportunity to show you how to join one of the biggest Educators Diigo groups out there called, simply, “Educators.” Here’s how:

1. Sign up for a free Diigo account (if you’re an educator, be sure to grab one of their awesome Educator Accounts).

2. From your Diigo homepage ( click “My Groups”

3. If you haven’t joined any groups yet, use the Explore Diigo Groups search field to search for Educators.

If you already are a member of one or more groups (or even if you aren’t), another easy way to find us is to use the search field in the upper right hand corner to “find groups interested in Educators.”

4. The Educators group will show up in the search results. Click its name and then click “Join This Group.”


5. From there, you can leave us a message to say hello and choose your subscription option. This allows you to receive an email immediately every time a new bookmark is added, or a daily or weekly digest email of all bookmarks added that day or week. (Or you don’t have to have a subscription at all if you so choose.)

Once you complete these five simple steps, you’ll not only have access to a huge collection of bookmarks (just click that handy “My Groups” link at the top of any page), but you’ll also be able to share bookmarks with the Educators group. When you save any bookmark, choose
Educators from the “Share to a group” drop-down menu.

Not sure how to use Diigo, one of the best social bookmarking sites on the web? Register for our upcoming webinar: Personalized Professional Development with Google Reader and Diigo. It’s completely free! Click this handy button to register…did I mention it’s free?

Register for Personalized PD with Google Reader and Diigo in ONLINE!  on Eventbrite

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Whenever I dip into the Engaging Educators vault of sites we’ve bookmarked, I always come up with a gem. But, I’m sure this happens to you–you find something that looks useful but time or other commitments or the universe prevent you from being able to use it. That’s the premise behind our From the Vault series, where we dust off resources we found long ago, but never put into use.

What we often find when we do this is that the sites are even better now than they were when we found them. That’s certainly true of today’s featured site, Ideas to Inspire. Ideas to Inspire is a collection of slideshows that provide great ideas on over 70 topics, from QR Codes to Geography to Books for Boys. Best of all, these ideas were contributed by real teachers from all over the globe. It’s amazing to me that I didn’t use this site when I first discovered it over 3 years ago.

Ideas to Inspire is well named, for sure. And it’s a site you should definitely check out today.

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From the Vault is our series dedicated to “unearthing” forgotten about sites from our massive collection of bookmarks. These are sites we haven’t explored in awhile, but that deserve another look. Check out our other From the Vault posts here, and if you like what you see, please consider subscribing to our blog.

Today, from the vault, we bring you Smithsonian Education, a site we bookmarked about two-and-a-half years ago because it looked like an awesome resource for teaching science, social studies, and language arts. We never really got around to making use of it, but we’re dusting it off today because it’s definitely still awesome.

Consider all that Smithsonian Education has to offer for educators:

  • Lesson plans! For arts & design, language arts, history & culture, and science & technology
  • More than 2,000 amazing resources that only the Smithsonian could provide
  • A means of searching resources by state content standard!
  • Workshops, seminars, and events for educators
  • Online events such as conferences and webinars
We don’t call something a “treasure trove” very often, but Smithsonian Education definitely earns that label. Check it out and put it to use, don’t leave it alone in the vault like we did!

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At some point last week, I passed the 3,000 mark. The 3,000 bookmark mark, that is. My diigo account is a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness, in my personal opinion. However, when you have that many bookmarks, it’s easy for things to get lost and forgotten about. Enter From the Vault, our regular series dedicated to digging into our vast assortment of bookmarks and dusting off ones that are useful but that we had, to be honest, forgotten about.

Today’s featured site is Education World’s technology page. I first bookmarked it in 2007. It’s still around. And it’s still valuable.

Education World is a free (ad-supported) online resource that features lesson plans, columns, reviews, and other helpful items for educators. Their technology page contains information about iOS apps, IT issues, site reviews, tips on tools, integration ideas, a regular newsletter, and a lot more. Their sidebar is practically overflowing with helpful links. Another great thing about this site is that it’s well-designed–it’s easy to navigate and easy to locate everything they have to offer.

The Education World technology page definitely deserves exploration. You’ll find it time well spent. You also might want to consider subscribing to their technology integration RSS feed, or one of their many other feeds. All of these are easily accessible on their RSS page.

I think you’ll really enjoy Education World’s technology offerings. Let us know what you think and what resources you find.

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From the Vault…our regular series featuring sites we bookmarked long ago. We dust them off for you in the hopes that you’ll discover something new and valuable.

Luckily, environmental education is a topic that’s getting more coverage in our nation’s secondary schools. It’s not just a fad anymore to talk about carbon footprints and the “theory” of global warming. Furthermore, there are an increasing number of resources available to educators looking to integrate environmental studies into their teaching of science and social studies. One of the best ones I found and bookmarked a while back was Classroom Earth.

Classroom Earth offers resources, professional development, summaries of available grants, and more. It’s geared more toward secondary teachers than elementary, but I really think everything they offer is adaptable and useful.

If you’re interested in teaching your students about environmental issues, please check out Classroom Earth. And let us know what you think!

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