Sites We Like

Sketchcast

Sketchcast allows you to record a sketch–be it a fun doodle, a work of art, or a tutorial. You can even record with audio. Sketchcast will record everything you write and say and create an recording that can be embedded in your blog. Here’s an example: Sketchcast Test

It’s really very easy. You do have to register for an account. Also, I think it would be easier to create recordings with a mouse or tablet PC (neither of which I had). But it is still quite a useful tool.

Students could create tutorials for their math lessons. What better way of demonstrating their learning than showing and explaining exactly how to do a problem. And then for added motivation, these sketchcast tutorials can be posted to a class blog or wiki for other classmates to view and use to help them with their own work.

There are probably many other uses of Sketchcast, too. If you are using it or if you think of any, let us know.


SnagLearning

If you’re of a certain age, you can still remember watching movies in school that were played on a projector. I can still see my teacher struggling to feed the film into that contraption and I can still hear that distinctive whirring sound. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

The kids in our classrooms now, though, will never know. This is probably for the best. Instead of a shaky screen (with those mysterious black threads that would appear sporadically), they get a site like SnagLearning.

SnagLearning features educational documentary films from the SnagFilms library. These digital films are appropriate for ages middle school and up, although there are a growing number of films that could probably work in grades K-5. In addition, most of the documentaries are accompanied by learning questions that would be great for stimulating discussion or as writing prompts.

The films themselves are absolutely fabulous–every single one you find is enriching and engaging. And the folks at SnagLearning are adding to their library every week. On top of that, finding videos to suit your teaching needs is incredibly easy. You can browse by title, channel, subject, or grade level.

So take a look at SnagLearning. You’ll be glad you did. I’m sure you’ll find something thought provoking and engaging that will fit into your current or future teaching.

Popplet

Popplet is sort of like Prezi meets Glogster meets Wallwisher meets bubbl.us. And it can be used collaboratively, too.

You start with a blank “wall” and to this wall you add “popplets,” little bubbles that can contain text, images, video, or drawings.

Here’s one we made today to try it out:

Click Here

It was pretty easy to get the hang of. And it’s very high in terms of visual appeal. Popplet could easily be used in the classroom for note-taking, brainstorming, mind-mapping, or even as a presentation tool (although you don’t really create a path like Prezi, you can zoom in and out on your popplets). And the collaborative feature really could make this a very useful tool. On top of all that, it’s available as an iPad app, too!

Want to see more? Watch this quick tutorial.

So check it out, give it a try, and let us know what you think. We’ll be making a quick tutorial for Popplet soon, as well.


Edmodo

Edmodo bills itself as a "social learning network for teachers, students, and schools" and, I suppose, that does describe what Edmodo is in a nutshell. But there's just so much more to it than that.

Boasting over 1.5 million  users worldwide, Edmodo is a discussion board, an assignment dropbox, a gradebook, a communication tool, a digital library, a message board, a learning network, a way of involving parents in their children's schooling, a collaborative tool, and much, much more. Most importantly, though, it's a tool that supports learning and engages students in meaningful ways. It's definitely something  you should consider using.

Edmodo is super simple to get started. You just create a teacher account, create a group for your students to join, provide them with the group access code, and then direct them to edmodo.com to create their account and join your group (they can't sign up without an access code). I actually got a little more hands on than that and created the accounts and joined the group for my fourth grade students. This gave me some hands on control over usernames and made sure that their first time logging in would be seemless.

Another tip--I started with only one group, the "Friends" group. It was for testing the waters and getting used to posting messages. We spent about a week just posting to this group. Almost every student was logging on from home to post to the group during this time. They thought it was the greatest thing ever.

Once they were hooked, I started adding groups. One for each subject pretty much. And some more specific ones for special projects. We even used Edmodo to collaborate with other classes and schools from different parts of the country and world. Once you create a group, all you have to do is share that group code with any class's teacher and they can join. We're currently working on a project with a class in Kuwait and using Edmodo to communicate!

Seriously, I could go on and on about Edmodo, but I'm going to boil it down to 5 reasons I think it's a terrific educational tool. Here you go:

  1. It's simple to use. From the layout to the  interface to every little detail...it's so easy. This makes it great for kids because so little time needs to be spent teaching it. They take to it like fish to water. This also makes it a great tool to introduce to teachers who maybe are hesitant to take the "tech plunge."
  2. It's safe. Kids can't sent direct messages to each other (only to the teacher) and I'm notified by email every time anything is posted to any group. Also, in a fairly recent development, you can also grant parents access to your Edmodo groups so they can keep their fingers on the pulse of their child's learning and provide a little extra "supervision."
  3. It's jam-packed with features. Stuff I don't even use yet. I can upload files and links to a library. I can use it as a gradebook. And so on. The Edmodo folks are constantly trying to make their site better for teachers and (more importantly) better for kids. Chances are, by the time you're done reading this sentence, they'll have added 3 more features. I'm pretty sure they never sleep.
  4. It's engaging. Kids love it. What more can I say? When kids love something that supports their learning, you'll probably find that achievement is on the rise.
  5. The Edmodo folks are helpful and friendly. They seem intent on stopping at nothing to help when you need it. And they have an awesome blog, too. And webinars. Seriously, get some sleep, people. (And I'm not just saying this because they sent me a t-shirt. Oh, and they also give away swag from time to time).

So there you have it. Run, don't walk to the Edmodo homepage and get yourself signed up. It's definitely a site we like love, and we think you will, too.

Need help or ideas on how to get started running Edmodo in your classroom? Have a Edmodo success story to tell? Please leave a comment!

Toonlet

Inspiring and motivating students to think of themselves as writers and to dedicate themselves to improving their writing is a very challenging task for a teacher. Getting a kid that doesn’t want to write to throw themselves into a writing project is a daunting task.

Enter technology. I think digital storytelling can do more to motivate reluctant writers than any program that’s out there. If you can build a toolkit of digital storytelling resources that you can use, you can go a long way towards motivating students to create high quality work.

Toonlet is a comic creation site that I think kids would really enjoy. Toonlet allows you to create comic characters and then add those characters (or you can use pre-created characters) to a comic strip. Give them something to say and…voila! You’ve told a story. And you’ll have been engaged in serious learning while you make it, and the people reading it will find it fascinating, too.

Toonlet gives you lots of options when it comes to character creation, and lots of options is something that’s going to appeal to kids. Here’s one I made:

Toonlet Example Click cartoon to enlarge