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  • School is out for summer! Is there anything better than the first days of summer break? I always have a ton of plans for the productive things I will do with my time off—after taking a few days for myself, of course.
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    Do-It-Yourself Professional Development

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Jun 04, 2014
    Do-It-Yourself Professional Development
    photo credit: CollegeDegrees360
    via photopin cc

    School is out for summer! Is there anything better than the first days of summer break? I always have a ton of plans for the productive things I will do with my time off—after taking a few days for myself, of course.

    Summer break provides teachers with a much-needed chance to relax and regroup after a stressful school year, but it also presents us with an opportunity to continue our own education without having to be absent from our classrooms.

    My favorite way to engage in professional development activities during the summer months is by finding sources of online content that is geared towards my needs and interests. By engaging in online learning, I can remain in the comfort of my own home and even follow my own schedule. As an added bonus, many of the opportunities offered online are free, and some even provide Continuing Education (CE) credits. (And don’t think I forgot about apps—there’s one of those, too!)

    TeachersFirst is a website that offers tons of teacher resources, including both live and archived professional development sessions on topics that range from blogging in the classroom to working with parents. The sessions are short and easy to manage on a tight schedule. Certificates of completion are available for live session participants, which allows teachers to get CE credits.

    Coursera is available both online and through a mobile app, which adds an element of flexibility to the resources that are offered. Coursera's content includes a variety of college-level topics, including teacher education in subjects such as student assessment, using 21st century skills in the classroom, and educational philosophy. Some content is even available for non-English speakers. The courses are free and typically last around six weeks, with a statement of accomplishment being awarded upon completion. Many courses offer a Signature Track option; for a small fee, you’ll receive a verified certificate issued by Coursera and the partnering university.

    Concept to Classroom is a website that offers free, self-paced workshops for professional educators. The range of topics is somewhat smaller on this site, but the workshops are intended to cover "hot topics" in the educational field. Some of the current offerings include “Cooperative and Collaborative Learning” and “Teaching to Academic Standards.” Participants can print completion certificates to be used for professional development credits.

    EdWeb is another web-based professional development resource that conducts both live sessions and houses a library of archived sessions to aid teachers in completing professional development. Live session participants will receive CE credits, but in the event that you are unable to participate in the live session, you can view the archived material and complete a quiz in order to earn credit. Upcoming topics include digital citizenship, early literacy instruction for students on the autism spectrum, and integrating stretch texts. The topics are timely and highly relevant for practicing teachers.

    The Teaching Channel takes a little different approach than the rest of the resources listed here. The professional development is informal, and all the resources are created by teachers to be shared with their colleagues. The website houses a massive collection of videos that range from subject area lesson plans to models of best practices and new teaching methods. The variety is incredible, and the videos are an excellent source of inspiration for a teacher who is looking to bring something new to the classroom.

    Engaging in continuing education is essential to staying up-to-date in a profession that changes at such a rapid pace. Online sources such as these allow teachers to work from home while taking advantage of the extra time that summer break provides. If hiring a babysitter and spending warm, beautiful days in a conference room doesn't appeal to you, take the time to explore these options. Kick back, relax, and learn at your own pace!

     

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

     
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  • Spring is finally making an appearance, and with it many teachers are enjoying a spring break—or beginning to make plans for summer break. For many of us, time off means an opportunity to invest in professional development.
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    Technology for Travelers: Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | May 07, 2014

    Spring is finally making an appearance, and with it many teachers are enjoying a spring break—or beginning to make plans for summer break. For many of us, time off means an opportunity to invest in professional development. The IRA 59th Annual Conference is just around the corner, and many other organizations take advantage of the traditional school schedule to hold conferences during the summer months. 

    Technology has become an ever-present facet of our lives, and few of us are without our means of staying connected regardless of where we are. Phones, tablets, and laptops have allowed us to freely utilize the benefits of technology when we are away from home. When it comes time to attend a conference, these apps and websites have many advantages to offer the tech-savvy traveler.

    KAYAK
    Available as both a mobile app and a website, this service not only has the functionality to allow travelers to book flights, hotels, and car rentals, but will also help you manage on a budget. It is an efficient search engine with a reputation for finding the best deals available. Even better, you can set push notifications to let you know if a price drop occurs that might change your plans.

     

    TripAdvisor
    Similar to KAYAK, TripAdvisor offers the ability to make arrangements for flights and lodgings. Users can also find restaurants and attractions, with the ability to search from the user's current location. The biggest advantage of this service is the user reviews and photos, which are essential for visiting an unfamiliar location. Another great feature is a discussion forum, which allows travelers to interact with other users and glean useful information.

     

    HootSuite
    Conferences offer incredible opportunities to learn, but it is impossible to be everywhere at once.  HootSuite can help by allowing you to monitor all of your social media accounts—as well as specific hashtags, such as #IRA14—all from one app. Attendees want to get the most out of their limited time, and sometimes the choice of which session to attend is excruciating.  Maximize your learning experience by keeping in touch with other attendees through social media—find out the important points from sessions you couldn't attend, learn where the action is if you find yourself in a session that isn't what you hoped, and interact with others to reflect on what you have learned.

     

    TripIt
    This travel organizer imports reservation information from confirmation emails and sets up an itinerary to keep you organized and running on schedule. You can also add your own events, check weather conditions, see time zone changes, and more. Even better, it integrates with Apple, Outlook, and Google calendars to keep all of your events and notifications in one place.  From travel details to conference session locations to dinner plans, every part of your travel experience can be brought together to maximize your enjoyment of your time away.

     

    Concur
    If you are traveling on someone else's dime or are able to deduct your expenses, it is vital to keep excellent records in order to be properly reimbursed. This service allows you to keep track of all of your expenses, photograph receipts so they won't be lost, and itemize costs. The entire process of organizing and submitting travel expenses can be paperless and worry-free. As an added bonus, Concur integrates with TripIt to give travelers an even more streamlined experience.

     

    Evernote
    When attending conference sessions, taking notes is a must. Simplify things and go the paperless route—no more searching for a pen or losing loose pages. Evernote is one of those apps that does just about everything you could want—import slides and pictures, type notes, make lists, record audio, and more. When you are finished, email the final product to yourself or your colleagues or share via social media. 

     

    Triposo
    This service offers downloadable travel guides for destinations around the world—including New Orleans, if you are planning on attending IRA 2014. The guides offer general information and photographs for locations. It also suggests points of interest and boasts interactive maps that allow users to zoom in, find a nearby attraction, and tap for details and social media reviews. Users can also find contact information, book tours, and bookmark favorites within searches. If you aren't sure what to do with your downtime, this app has all the information you need!

     

    IRA 2014 App
    Finally, as a tech savvy conference attendee, you should always check to see if there is an app available for the big event. If you are heading to New Orleans this week for the IRA’s 59th Annual Conference, make sure to download the official app. It allows you to plan your itinerary, search for sessions, learn about upcoming events, speakers, and exhibitors, and get the most up-to-date information. You can even download maps of the event site and find sessions based on your current location!

    These apps and services are only the tip of the iceberg—an enormous variety of similar products are available to meet your needs and suit your tastes. The learning opportunities offered by attending a conference aren't confined to the physical location of the event, so take advantage of the chance to put some technology tools to the test while you travel and reap the benefits!

    Lindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom.

     
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  • Recently, I started noticing some of my fellow teacher bloggers talking about using augmented reality in the classroom with an app called Aurasma. With this app, students can...
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    Enhanced Engagement through Augmented Reality

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Mar 05, 2014

    One of my favorite benefits of having a digital classroom is the opportunity to find creative ways to use new technology tools. Recently, I started noticing some of my fellow teacher bloggers talking about using augmented reality in the classroom with an app called Aurasma. With this app, students can create a video, animation, or other interactive material that will be linked with a particular image. When the device camera hovers over the image, the interactive material pops up.

    p: Barrett.Discovery via photopin

    I immediately wanted to know how teachers were using this app in the classroom. When I started digging deeper, I came across a post by Erin Klein, who had used the app to create an interactive word wall with her students. I loved this idea, because I have often found that word walls fall a bit flat with my older students. What a fantastic way to make it truly useful and engaging!

    The interactive word wall was going to take some time and rearranging in my classroom, so I thought it would be best to introduce that particular project next fall. However, my mind was spinning with ideas for how I could use augmented reality in my classroom right now. I was getting ready to start an in-depth study of informational text features, and felt that this app could help my students become more engaged with the content.

    For this particular project, I asked my students to work with a partner. I gave each team a different text feature to focus on. They were to learn what their text feature was, and what purpose it served. Once they had reported to me their findings, the partners found an example to use as their trigger image—most students took a picture of a textbook or other non-fiction text and used an annotation app to draw an arrow pointing out the text feature. Then, they created a short video to define and explain their text feature. The more outgoing students recorded themselves, while those who are more reserved took video of a non-fiction text as they pointed and explained. In this way, everyone could feel comfortable being part of the process.

    Once the images and videos were done, they could be combined in the Aurasma app to create "auras." I printed out the trigger images, and students then went on a treasure hunt, using the iPads at different stations to trigger auras, matching up text features with descriptions on a recording sheet. This allowed all students to become familiar with all of the text features we were studying. I also asked the teams to upload their images and videos to our shared Google Drive account. This way, I could create an Aurasma channel online and post the trigger images on a wall in the classroom, allowing my students to use this as a reference resource as needed.

    Augmented reality could be used in so many creative ways in the classroom, and I am already making a list of new ideas. I have visions of a similar project for learning the different types of figurative language, and the potential uses for creating interactive ELA content are numerous. But perhaps the most intriguing idea for me is how I can use this app to generate more enthusiasm for book clubs and independent reading. Rather than requiring traditional book reports, I love having student-created reviews and book trailers for the titles in my classroom library, and have ambitions of expanding to our school library.

    Aurasma provides an innovative platform for allowing students to share their book-based projects with each other, and having those projects stored for on-demand access. By using technology tools creatively, we can enhance the learning process in such a way that leads to a higher level of student engagement and the creation of not just lifelong learners, but lifelong readers.

    Lindsey Fuller on Reading Today OnlineLindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom
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  • I realized early on in this journey that I had the chance to give my students an incredible educational experience in the year they spent with me—and that even a single year could have far-reaching impacts on their future as learners.
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    Digital Tools for Project Based Learning

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Feb 12, 2014

    One of the greatest impacts of having 1:1 mobile devices in my classroom has been the opportunity to change the way I approached teaching and learning. I realized early on in this journey that I had the chance to give my students an incredible educational experience in the year they spent with me—and that even a single year could have far-reaching impacts on their future as learners.

    p: 21stCenturyEdtech

    As I began to form new ideas about how I wanted to teach, I realized that project-based learning (PBL) was one of the approaches I was interested in bringing into my classroom. Implementing a new technology and a new learning approach at the same time, with little to no training, was a daunting undertaking that required a lot of time spent researching. One of the more time-consuming tasks was figuring out the right tools for allowing the technology to enhance the learning without overshadowing it. A lot of trial and error was involved, but eventually my students and I figured out how our devices could be most useful in facilitating our learning.

    The PBL process begins with a driving, or "essential," question. Whether this question is teacher or student generated, a source for topic ideas can be highly useful. Technology gives both teachers and students immediate access to the happenings of the world at a level never known in years past. Apps such as Problem Based Learning Experience, Zite, and TED provide a deep reserve of real-world news and discussion points that can be developed into PBL experiences. These resources help keep PBL projects real and relevant for students, which is vital to creating an engaging learning experience.

    Once a topic has been decided and students are beginning their projects, organization and workflow are two areas in which technology can provide valuable assistance. Task list apps, such as Wunderlist and WorkFlowy, can provide students with a place to plan their projects, track their own progress, and create reminders for deadlines. As an added benefit, many of these apps provide the tools to share and even collaborate on task lists, making them highly useful for use by student groups. Workflow is an ever-present challenge in any classroom using mobile devices, especially when students are too young for individual email accounts. Showbie, Edmodo, and Google Drive all provide options for sharing documents, assisting the workflow process immensely.

    Another facet of PBL that can be greatly enhanced by technology integration is the research process. Students with internet access have a massive collection of resources at their disposal. General research apps, such as ArticleSearch and WolframAlpha, provide a rich variety of informational sources. For younger students, kid-friendly websites and search engines may prove most useful. Yahoo Kids, Internet Public Library's Kidspace, and Fact Monster are all excellent starting points. Along with finding information, an important aspect of research is citing sources—which can be difficult for any age group. Apps such as EasyBib and sites such as Citation Machine can ease this struggle and aid students in properly crediting their sources.

    Of all the areas in which technology can enhance PBL, creation of a product and presentation to an authentic audience is perhaps where this pair shines the brightest. It is impossible to do justice to all the possibilities opened to students and teachers when technology tools are utilized for creative purposes. Students can create graphs, documents, cartoons, books, movies, podcasts, and interactive presentations—and that is just the beginning. I highly recommend browsing the resources on sites such as The Buck Institute that are devoted to PBL, as these are bursting with articles, videos, and blogs that can provide inspiration.

    The ability to connect to authentic audiences is one of the most important pieces of PBL, and can be greatly enhanced by the use of services such as EduBlogs and Skype in the Classroom. Sites such as these allow both teachers and students the opportunity to connect with the world as they explore their ideas and present their projects.

    The technology tools that can be applied to PBL are endless, as are the creative ways they can be utilized. These are just a starting point. The effective use of technology and PBL in combination with each other enhances both aspects, so it is worth taking the time to try different apps and programs with your students to see for yourself how they work out. The goal is to figure out what is best for your classroom, so you can create a unique environment that will engage students in significant learning and help them develop the skills they will use throughout the rest of their lives.

    Lindsey Fuller on Reading Today OnlineLindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom
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  • January is a time rife with resolutions—to be more organized, to work more efficiently, to spend more time researching new teaching ideas. When I am asked about apps for the classroom, my brain immediately begins cataloging the variety of programs that have been designed for students. But what about the teachers?
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    New Year, New Apps: Discovering Tools for Teachers

    by Lindsey Fuller
     | Jan 15, 2014

    January is a time rife with resolutions—to be more organized, to work more efficiently, to spend more time researching new teaching ideas. When I am asked about apps for the classroom, my brain immediately begins cataloging the variety of programs that have been designed for students. But what about the teachers? We have so many needs—record keeping, parent communication, and lesson planning are just the beginning of a seemingly never-ending list. When apps for education are discussed, students get the bulk of the focus, and rightly so. But a great variety of apps also exist specifically for teachers, and we should be sharing these finds just as enthusiastically. So...just what is out there, exactly? What apps can help you achieve your goals for the New Year?

    p: atmtx via photopin cc

    In light of the tight budgets and lacking resources that many districts are facing, do-it-yourself professional development is a significant need for educators. And of course, there are apps for that!

    TeacherCast Pro is an app that simplifies online learning for teachers. It puts app reviews, instructional videos, podcasts, blogs, chat rooms, and other professional content all in one place, making access quick and easy. The resources offered within the app address many education topics and are especially valuable for anyone who finds it overwhelming to sort through the clutter of internet searches—or for anyone who just doesn't have the time to do so. This app allows teachers to save time and effort while enhancing their own teaching abilities.

    appoLearning is an app with a similar concept—it brings a collection of varied resources to one place, giving teachers an organized and easy to navigate final product. The difference is that appoLearning is focused specifically on apps for the classroom. It offers articles and expert insight on selecting apps, as well as suggestions broken down by grade level and content area. In addition, users can submit app suggestion lists based on specific topics. This is an excellent resource for language arts teachers using mobile technology in the classroom, whether they are looking for something specific or just browsing to get ideas.

    Another area of great need for teachers is classroom organization and management. One of the many benefits of technology in the classroom is the array of available tools to simplify these tasks.

    Status of the Class is an app that allows teachers to make lists and groupings in a digital form, replacing all the paper lists and notes that have an alarming tendency to go missing at critical moments. More than just a list-maker, notes can be added with student names, giving teachers flexibility in how they utilize this app. From creating guided reading groups to keeping track of permission slips to creating homework logs, Status of the Class is simple and easy-to-use, making it a brilliant classroom companion.

    Another incredible selection, iDoceo, just might be a dream come true. This app allows teachers to track attendance, make seating charts, plan lessons, record grades, and store student contact information—for multiple classes! Data can easily be imported or exported, and sensitive information can be password protected. This app may take a little effort to learn, but it streamlines the process of organizing student information. Finally, all the necessary tools to accomplish the many daily tasks of teachers can be found in one neat little package.

    Classroom management has another time-consuming component: data tracking. Whether you are working with IEP goals or RTI data, teachers know that organization is essential to keeping up with how students are progressing. Super Duper Data Tracker is an app designed to track student academic goals. Simply set up a profile for each student, enter goals, and can then record the time spent on each goal and the progress towards mastery. Data can be graphed as well as shared electronically, and students can be added to multiple groups. This app makes data collection a breeze!

    What are you hoping to achieve this year? These selections are only a small sampling of the apps available for teachers, with more being added all the time. If one doesn't quite meet your needs, another offering may suit you perfectly. Whatever your resolutions for the New Year may be, chances are good that an app exists to help you achieve your goals.

    Lindsey Fuller on Reading Today OnlineLindsey Fuller is a sixth grade teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Her interests are classroom technology integration, literacy instruction, and Common Core curriculum development and implementation. You can read more from Lindsey on these topics at her blog, Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom
    © 2014 Lindsey Fuller. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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