Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Web Gem: Newsela

Newsela is a new news site for students, similar to DogoNews. Some differences are immediately visible: Newsela has a cleaner interface, less color, fewer icons, and bigger photos. News stories are grouped into categories: War & Peace, Science, Kids, Money, Law, Health, and Arts. Articles are written specifically for students, with new content added daily. Anchors highlight news stories that have quick quizzes supporting Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading.

What makes Newsela stand out is the ability for both the teacher and student to change the reading level of a news story.  Newsela uses Lexile rankings, generally ranging from 600-1100s. Readers simply click the Lexile level and the text is immediately changed.  While not a perfect correlation, this chart at Reading A-Z can help non-Lexile classrooms choose a good fit level.

Visitors may view up to 5 stories before the site requires login. Accounts are free to both teacher and student. The quickest and easiest way to register is with your GTSD Google Apps account. Click the "Sign in with Google" image and accept the terms to have immediate access to your account. Teachers should enter the required information on the "I'm a Teacher" tab. Once registration is complete, teachers may create classes and assignments. Students may enter the teacher provided class code.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tech Snack: Google Drive

This week's After School Tech Snack topic is my new favorite classroom tool: Google Drive. Drive is a part of Google Apps for Education, and it is essentially cloud based office software and storage location.  All GTSD students and staff have a Google Apps account, regardless of whether or not email has been enabled.

Store: Google Drive allows up to 30gb of cloud storage. Nearly any type of file can be uploaded and shared. This includes Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, video files, images, and of course, Google Docs (which don't count toward the 30gb total). Drive can convert Office documents to Docs format, or they can be viewed, printed and shared as formatted.

Share: If it is in your Google Drive, you can share it with others. The default for all new documents and files is Private. From there you can choose to share with the entire web, those with the link, only GTSD with the link, GTSD groups, or individuals.  There are three types of permissions when sharing: view (read only), comment (post comments), or edit (can add or edit content, post comments, and share with others).

Create: There are 5 basic tools included with each Google Drive account. It is possible to add more through Drive integrated Apps through the Chrome Store.

  • Document: A simple word processor that has the basic features most students will need. As students work independently or collaboratively, you can see each keystroke, comment on writing, provide feedback on research
  • Spreadsheet: A basic spreadsheet program that allows your students to collect and analyze data together.
  • Presentation: A more basic, but still feature rich, version presentation (think PowerPoint) program. Students can truly collaborate on a presentation, or you can publish class notes by embedding the presentation to your wiki page.
  • Forms: Consider this a tool for quick assessments, class surveys, or wiki check-ins.
  • Drawing: A very basic graphic creator, includes the ability to design text boxes, images, word art, lines and shapes.

Tips for Success

  • Be specific about file names, this makes it easier to sort and organize many files at once.
  • Make "turning in" (share) the first step, thus preventing students from forgetting to turn in their work.
  • Share a template with the class, have students save a copy, then share the personalized version with you.
  • Provide feedback promptly, either as a document or in-line comment.
  • Create and use folders to organize your documents and files. Create a folder for each assignment, download the entire folder as a PDF to save for student portfolios.

Visit Google Drive Help for more information or troubleshooting assistance. GTSD staff are invited to contact Mrs. Bond with any questions about Google Drive or Google Apps.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgiving Resources

Thanksgiving is coming soon! Below are just a few of the many resources available within the district or on the web.

For teachers:
  • Discovery Education Thanksgiving content collection: Videos, song, encyclopedia articles, images and writing prompts. (account required)
  • Learn NC Teaching on Thanksgiving: Resources and activities to help you bring historical accuracy, cultural sensitivity, and a broader context to discussions about the quintessentially American holiday.
  • Scholastic's The First Thanksgiving: Many great activities to learn about and explore the first Thanksgiving: Compare and contrast the daily life of the Pilgrims and Native Americans, watch videos and slideshows that recreate the events, and find readers theater scripts.
  • Thanksgiving clipart: One click search of "Thanksgiving" at Google Images

For students and teachers:
  • First Thanksgiving: Page on National Geographic Kids site that shares the history and customs of American Thanksgiving celebrations. Includes links to stories, activities, and games.
  • Factmonster: Thanksgiving: Links to articles and slideshows on the history of Thanksgiving, turkeys, and general holiday fun.
  • Thanksgiving Interactive: You are the Historian: In this fun, award-winning activity, kids take on the role of “history detectives” to investigate what really happened at the famous 1621 celebration. (Hint: It was a lot more than just a feast!) Along the way, they’ll read a letter written by an eyewitness to the event, learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks, and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home. As a final activity, kids can design and print their own Thanksgiving exhibit panel.
  • Thanksgiving Recipes: Add a new dish to the traditional Thanksgiving feast!

Image source

Monday, November 11, 2013

Google Apps: Google Chrome

Google Chrome is unique in that it allows Google and Google Apps account holders to log in to the browser and create a profile that will travel with them from computer to computer. Browser settings are uploaded to Google's servers, syncing with the browser on each computer upon login. As a Google Apps for Education school, GTSD has set default settings to assist students and staff in quickly accessing district sites (see Customizations Specific to GTSD below).

This has great potential for students as they will have access to their personal browser tools as they move from classroom to media lab to home device.

Logging In
  • Open Chrome (Chrome must be installed, GTSD staff may contact Mrs. Morera or Mrs. Bond if it is not.)
  • Click the Settings icon, found in the upper right corner of the browser, just below the "x".
  • Select "Sign in to Chrome"
  • Enter your email and password
  • When the pop up appears, click "Yes link my data"
  • GTSD students and staff will see the Home button appear next to the address bar

What Syncs?
  • Apps: Browser based applications that run within the browser window.
  • Form autofill: Frequently typed information to more quickly complete online forms.
  • Bookmarks: Shortcuts to frequently visited websites.
  • Extensions: Browser based applications run as a part of the browser.
  • History: List of previously visited websites.
  • Passwords: Stored passwords for websites and tools.
  • Settings: Customized profile settings, such as appearance, user icon, and more advanced settings.
  • Themes: Allows users to customize the colors, graphics and general appearance of the browser.

Customizations Specific to GTSD
Through the Google Apps for Education administration portal we have been able to ensure that all GTSD students and staff have an easy to use and safe browsing experience.
  • Home button: allows users to return to a familiar starting point, no matter where they are on the web
  • Bookmarks bar: Visible by default
  • Default page on open:  brings students to their school wiki, staff to the district site
  • Default home page: brings students to their school wiki, staff to the district site
  • Safe Search: set as the default for all users, students may not disable
  • Apps Store: A starting place for those new to Apps, or those looking for free and useful academic tools

Fore more information on this topic please visit the Google help page "Why sign in to Chrome."  GTSD staff are encouraged to contact Mrs. Bond for support or assistance with Chrome or Google Apps.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Video: WhatYouOughtToKnow Tackles Autism

WhatYouOughtToKnow have published many entertaining and informative videos to YouTube. Topics range from Dvorak keyboards to bike helmets to cow tipping. The latest production tackles a very personal topic to the authors: autism.  Like many of the other videos on their channel collection, the content is well researched and the delivery is frank with a sprinkle of humor. While not the most academic approach to the topic, this video may be a great way to help others begin to understand autism.