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Aug 13 14

MindCraft in ED & Other Education MOOCs

by fsanchez

My daughters are HUGE fans of Minecraft and I have learned much from them about it. To me it is a great game that really fosters creativity with my young daughters. That is why I was interested in the post below from THE Journal education technology blog.

Teaching with Minecraft? MOOC Explores Gamification for K-12

Instructure has launched a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for K-12  teachers, students and parents, including two that use Minecraft to help teachers implement gamification best practices in the classroom.

The first Minecraft MOOC, Getting Started with MinecraftEDU, is designed to introduce teachers to using the game as an educational tool and provides help on planning the first two lessons with the game. The course will run October 20-November 17.
Getting Started with MinecraftEDU, is designed to introduce teachers to using the game as an educational tool.

“Even young kids have gotten very adept at Minecraft, so it can be quite intimidating for teachers,” said Jason Schmidt, an instructional technologist forBennington Public Schools who will teach the four-week MinecraftEdu MOOC, in a prepared statement. “If I can help get teachers over that hump, imagine how delighted students will be to have a learning environment tailored to their interests for a change.”

The other, Minecraft for Educators, “is a course for teachers who are wishing to gamify their learning experiences and deliver a unique pedagogy that will engage, enthuse and keep learners coming back for more,” according to information released by the company. Both MOOCs are available through theCanvas Network. Minecraft for Educators will start January 26, 2015 and run through March 9.

The company has also released a Minecraft app to allow students to submit assignments to the Canvas learning management system from within the game. Using the app, students can tag what they’ve made in the game for their teachers to visit, upload books they’ve written in game directly to the speed grader or use the game’s circuitry tool to complete assignments that will be automatically graded. A video demonstration of the app is available at YouTube.

Other MOOCs for teachers in the suite include:

Among the other MOOC offerings in the new suite is a course designed specifically for parents, Parenting in the Digital Age, which aims to help them address issues such as cyberbullying, digital citizenship, exposure to inappropriate content, media literacy and screentime. Taught by Andrew Swickheimer, director of technology at Noblesville Schools, the self-paced course opens September 22.

“Parental involvement in K-12 education has one of the biggest impacts on a child’s commitment to learning,” said Jared Stein, vice president of Research and Education at Instructure, in a prepared statement. “We’re launching the industry’s first-ever MOOC for parents to help them understand education in a digital world.”

Aug 7 14

iPads or Chromebooks?

by fsanchez

After a year of testing both devices in the classroom, New Jersey’s Hillsborough School District has decided to go with Chromebooks over iPads, citing several reasons: the keyboard (especially helpful with upcoming Common Core testing), easier student collaboration through Google’s Apps for Education suite, better tech support, and a focus on work instead of play. As The Atlantic reports, “Students saw the iPad as a ‘fun’ gaming environment, while the Chromebook was perceived as a place to ‘get to work.’”

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Aug 1 14

Calling Out for Moms Who Code

by fsanchez

TECH NEEDS MOMS: Mom and founder/CEO of MotherCoders Tina Lee thinks kids should learn how to code–and moms should too. According to Lee, “most training simply is not designed for women, let alone mothers,” who “must juggle childcare responsibilities against time and financial constraints.” Read her perspective here

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To address the tech industry’s “pipeline problem,” a spate of investments have targeted programs that teach coding to kids, including Google’s “Made With Code,” a new $50 million initiative to inspire girls to become programmers. As a mother of two young daughters, I am delighted with such efforts.

Just one question: What about me? More specifically, what about the millions of moms like me who have the education and work experience but not the coding skills to join the tech industry?

I want in. But as a working mom, it’s almost impossible. For the last few years, I’ve tried learning to code through online classes and weekend workshops. In one class, I built an app typing with one hand, while carrying a squiggly infant on my hip with the other. During lunch, while other workshop participants munched and mingled, I sat in a dirty back office alone, breastfeeding my baby. It was January and the office was unheated. That is how much I want in, and I know I’m not the only one.

In addition to having education and work experience, moms represent a $2.4 trillion market and are quick to adopt technology: 90 percent are online, 81 percent have smart phones, and we dominate social media. Given all this, and that 81 percent of American women become mothers, there ought to be more technologies that are “Made by Moms.” Yet those are far and few between because most training simply is notdesigned for women, let alone mothers.

Going back for that computer science degree, attending weeknight or all-weekend coding workshops, taking online courses after the kids go to bed, completing a full-time training course – these options just aren’t accessible to moms who must juggle child-care responsibilities against time and financial constraints.

These barriers, mind you, stand in addition to the gender-related ones that women must overcome when breaking into the technology field–lack of role models, gender bias and misconceptions about what a career in technology entails.

Yet our status quo leaves too much talent on the sidelines. The tech industry’s lack of diversity is compromising business performance and innovation. There are more than 126,000 job openings that require programming skills. While having a computer science degree may be preferable, the truth is many tech roles don’t require one, and there are many talented and educated moms hungry to work in a high-growth industry offering career advancement and economic security.

With the number of tech jobs expected to balloon by 1.4 million by 2020–70 percent of which will be unfilled–moms would alleviate the talent shortage in the near term while ensuring the integrity of the talent pipeline. After all: there’s no better role model for aspiring tech-maker daughters than tech-making moms, and no better way to build strong communities than providing economic opportunity to women. Plus with 40 percent of households now dependent on moms who are either the sole or primary breadwinner, this kind of investment can lift up families and rebuild the American dream.

As “software eats the world,” we should urge companies, policymakers and the philanthropic community to take a more coordinated and targeted approach to bringing moms to careers in technology.

Mothers are a diverse set and we’re ready to bring our unique perspectives to bear, to help drive the creation of new products and services, to shape the world in which our children will live. Tech needs us, and we want in.

This article was originally published here in the San Francisco Chronicle

Aug 1 14

Coding for Youngsters

by fsanchez

Check out EdSurge’s Teaching Kids to Code Guide! They’ve added new tools (there are more than 50 in there!) and some fresh articles. 

Can coding be taught alongside literacy? Yes, according to researchers at the MIT Media Lab. On July 30, the group released ScratchJr, a free iPad app enabling children ages five to seven to program interactive games and stories, inspired by the Scratch programming language and its first user tool. If “coding is the new literacy,” as the MIT Media Lab’s Mitch Resnick explains, then ScratchJr should certainly help kids get a head start.

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CODING ON A ZERO-DOLLAR BUDGET: Want free tools to teach coding? There are plenty out there. But inexpensive or free personnel who are trained in curriculum and coding instruction? Now that’s a challenge. In comes Google with a program that won’t cost you a cent–yet has South Carolina students hungry for more. Here’s what students and teachers are saying about the CS First club.

Jul 29 14

5 Apps for the Classroom

by fsanchez

This summer you may be interested in exploring some neat apps for your iPad. Common Sense Media’s service Graphite, which offers independent ratings and reviews of learning apps and websites, has compiled this list of indispensable applications for educators. For complete reviews, and for each app’s “Learning Rating,” visit the Graphite website. Thanks THE Journal for the h/t.

NearpodNearpod Grades: K-12   Price: Free; Concepts:  Academic development, self-assessment.

For truly interactive presentations or assessments, Nearpod is a must-have. In the classroom, teachers can view real-time student activity and response to quizzes, polls or open-ended questions. Students in turn can watch videos, take notes and instantly see result to their answers. Great for assessing and creating individualized instruction for homework. Read the full review.

GedditGeddit Grades: 4-12 Price: Free Concepts: Identifying strengths and weaknesses, self-reflection

Geddit gives teachers a window into student understanding and attitudes during a lesson. With Geddit, students can privately check in with teachers and select bars to show their degree of understanding from low to high. Teachers can then address their individual needs one-on-one, helping them gain confidence and progress to a higher level. Read the full review.

ShowbieShowbie  Grades: 5-12  Price: Free to $99.99 Concepts:  Time management, working efficiently

Designed for the tablet classroom, Showbie lets teachers virtually create, collect and review assignments — in a single location. These features reduce time spent organizing, saving and tracking students’ work. Built-in cartoon creation and mind-mapping tools offer students ways to apply creative or critical thinking skills for coursework. Read the full review.

NotabilityNotability   Grades: 6-12   Price: $2.99

Concepts: Brainstorming, group projects
Notability takes the ho-hum out of taking notes. Teachers and students can draw; snap photos; and add audio, graphs, or content from websites, then assemble them by projects and share. The variety caters to individual needs while making group collaboration fun for research or brainstorming ideas. Read the full review.

Explain EverythingExplain Everything  Grades: 7-12  Price: $2.99   Concepts: Presenting with digital tools, digital creation

Explain Everythingis the ultimate presentation/flipped classroom tool. Interactive whiteboard and screencast functionality allows users to draw, animate, annotate, zoom and pan across the screen, producing captivating visuals. Integration with multiple cloud services helps users to import, export and share content. Presentation-savvy teachers who enjoy design and editing may get hooked.Read the full review.



Jun 29 14

Classroom Close-Up NJ Looks at TECH Gadgets

by fsanchez

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Classroom Close-Up NJ is celebrating its 20th year in 2014. The show, produced by the NJEA, airs on NJTV, our state’s PBS station. “The Emmy®-winning show is in its 20th season and airs on NJTV every Sunday at 7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 11:30 p.m.; and Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. The show is sponsored by PSE&G The show is the only half-hour program in the country devoted to featuring the positive things happening in public schools.”

This week I saw a great episode in which there was a clip on technology integration. It is definitely worth your time. Click on the video link, and start at minute 19:00.

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Sign up to receive information on upcoming shows, events and projects from Classroom Close-up, NJ.



Jun 21 14

Next Tech & Learning Trends: Horizon 2014 Report

by fsanchez

001354_23I love this time of year because each June the New Media Consortium releases its annual Horizon Report. So what’s new this year? According to the 2014 NMC Horizon K-12 Horizon report,the evolving role of the teacher as facilitator and hands-on learning experiences that give students agency over their own education are two major trends already taking root in many schools and classrooms. Within three to five years, the authors expect to see increasing focus on open education resources, as well as more experimentation with blended learning models that combine time on the computer with face-to-face instruction. In the longer term, the authors see intuitive technologies that interpret human gestures and motions as increasingly important. And, as educators rethink how to meet students’ needs the way school currently works might have to change — everything from the schedule to the space, as well as models of teaching and learning.

Like last year, the NMC Horizon report authors make predictions about various technology developments and how they will affect educators. This year, the authors expect educators to quickly adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and cloud computing technologies. It will take a little longer for games and gamification to become mainstream, but in three to five years the authors expect more teachers to be using games as teaching tools. Similarly, learning analytics, the data behind each students’ learning is increasingly being used in classrooms. On a longer timeline, the authors find ideas like connecting information from physical objects to online networks through sensors and monitoring devices and wearable technology as potentially important for education.

Watch on YOUTUBE

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Jun 13 14

Maker Spaces at MLHS

by fsanchez

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 10.48.17 AMNext year our Online Academy initiative will expand by establishing a new “Innovation Lab” at MLHS. We hope that this program fosters creativity with our students. To understand what this innovation lab might look like, read more about Maker Spaces since it is that vibe that will fuel this initiative. Probably the best place to start is ASCD’s most recent newsletter that focused on this topic.

Here are the key points from the June 2014 Education Update feature, “If You Build It: Tinkering With the Maker Mind-Set.”

Find Project Ideas

  •, from Maker Media, allows users to search projects by category and assigns a level of difficulty to each.
  • offers step-by-step instructions (and photos) for projects spanning from fish tank dividers, to Swedish pancakes, to wearable message boards. Sign up for contests and participate in the community forum.
  • Students can join to create a portfolio of projects, share ideas with others, and earn patches for completing challenges. Adults are welcome to start a DIY Club orDIY Classroom.
  • Twelve-year-old Sylvia Todd produces the Super Awesome Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show, a popular web show with do-it-yourself craft and science projects for kids.

Get Involved (and Inspired)

  • Follow #makered on Twitter to share projects, ask questions, and chat with other maker-minded educators.
  • Attend a Maker Faire or host your own mini-Maker Faire.
  • Sign up for summer camp! The free online Maker Camp runs from July 7 through August 5 and offers weekly project ideas to ramp up summer learning. Campers can post questions and get answers if they are stuck on a project. To participate, follow MAKE on Google+ and join the Maker Camp Community.
  • Need inspiration? Watch the short film on Caine’s Arcade that inspired the global cardboard challenge.
  • Search for an existing club or start a Young Maker club in your school with resources from the Maker Education Initiative.

Build a Makerspace

KUDOS to Nancy & Jeremy for spearheading this exciting new program. Hopefully we will be able to get a 3D printer for our students! The FULL article is copied in its entirety below: read more…

Jun 5 14

Incredible, FREE Geo-mapping Tools for K-12

by fsanchez

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 8.54.00 PMThe company Esri has  pledged $1 billion in mapping software to all of the nation’s K-12 schools to improve student aptitude in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM knowledge as part of President Obama’s recently announced ConnectED Initiative.

Esri software, called ArcGIS, is used by practically every federal agency, more than 350,000 organizations globally, including the 200 largest cities in the nation, most other countries, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies and more than 7,000 colleges and universities.

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According to its CEO and founder,  Jack Dangermond, “the same mapping software that researchers or governments use to model climate change or predict flooding and crime is the same high school students in Detroit use to map areas of lead contamination in dilapidated housing. In that case, it led to removal of the toxic substance after the students were hired by the city to take care of the problem.”

With ArcGIS Online, students can use maps to explore places in their community or around the world. ArcGIS Online includes content from leading providers like National Geographic, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the US Geological Survey (USGS). Students can also create maps from their own data. Using ArcGIS Online helps students develop problem-solving, data analysis, communication, and technology skills that lead to college and career readiness.

ArcGIS Online Skillbuilder: Make maps, analyze data, learn content, build capacity for community, college, and career.

Esri EdCommunityArcGIS Online can help teachers and students go places. Give students future options with high-value skills in problem solving, data analysis, and technology integration with ArcGIS Online. Learn how others are doing this by accessing EdCommunity!

Esri K–12 GIS Org: ArcGIS Online Org for learning to use online GIS, and start for ConnectED. (See the current map for state and district licenses, plus T3G alums.) See also the Esri Education Org, the Esri EdCommunity Portaland the Esri Education Industry for more on GIS in education.

Request ArcGIS Online Organization Account: Apply for a FREE school organization account.

Online Course–Teaching with ArcGIS Online: Take this 3-hour webinar/module to accomplish the following objectives

  • Find, explore, and create GIS maps using a free, web-based viewer application.
  • Help students visualize local, regional, and global data and make connections to their own environment.
  • Present questions and have students explore GIS maps to find answers.
  • Choose appropriate GIS classroom activities based on your instructional goals and students’ level of knowledge.
  • Guide students through a standard process for investigating a problem using GIS.
  • Prepare a GIS map presentation on a topic of interest.


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May 29 14

NEW World Language Tools

by fsanchez

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 5.56.20 PM Each month the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL) posts some great online tools on their WEB WATCH blog. Here are some of the best reviews from this past month!

Daily Teaching Tools Chad Manis, a language arts and journalism teacher, says he developed the Daily Teaching Tools site to provide resources, materials, and strategies to enhance teachers’ effectiveness with their students. The site is organized into sections that include tools for new teachers, classroom management, strategy and method tools, tools for students, graphic organizer tools, and free software tools.

Games Kids Play Around the World The Games Kids Play website has an international section featuring descriptions of games kids play in other countries around the world. These include an Argentine game, Czech game, Italian game, Filipino game, Japanese game, and Pakistani game.

Hub for Online Educational Resources The website Learn BIG offers thousands of resources collected from websites and apps in a format that the company says will allow an easy way to search and filter content by subject, level, popularity, and platform. There are e-learning resources for pre-K through postsecondary, and the site is community-reviewed by teachers, parents, and students.

New International Student Exchange Website International Student Exchange (ISE) recently announced the launch of its updated website. The new site is designed to serve multiple users and has social media features, new sections that include a resource center for current families, and a revamped “study abroad” section for students looking to go overseas. According to ISE, the new site will eventually support photo galleries and student sections.

Online Language Courses The Top Free Classes site includes a languages section with descriptions of the classes, course duration, class start times, and reviews, along with links to access the courses. In addition to classes in Italian, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish, there is a course on principles and practice of computer-aided translation from Peking University.

Spanish Learning Tools from VeinteMundos VeinteMundos is a free magazine with articles on Spanish language and culture, and includes an audio component that allows readers to hear the correct pronunciation so that they can work on reading and listening skills. It also has a short text summary of the article, and vocabulary and grammar explanations, as well as comprehension tests.

Official Website of the Palace of Versailles This site, which can be searched in multiple languages, has information about the Palace of Versailles in France, the gardens, the Grand Trianon, and Marie Antoinette’s Palace. For those who are planning a visit in person, there is information on events, exhibits, and purchasing tickets, but the online resources include an interactive map and a catalog of the palace’s publications. There also is now an app for taking a walk through the gardens, and the site has information about that as well.

Bitesize Resources from the BBC Bitesize is a free online study-support resource for students in the United Kingdom, and it has reading, listening, speaking, and exam practice resources for students studying French, German, Irish, Spanish, and Welsh as a second language.

Lesson Plans on Culture in the Ancient Americas The Textile Museum of Canada’s exhibition, Cloth & Clay, includes a teacher’s guide with lesson plans, curriculum links, and background information for teaching about the major cultures of the ancient Americas. There is information about the five written languages under the section called Ordering the Universe. Each section also offers ideas for classroom projects. The museum collections section has information about the ancient cultures of Central and South America to accompany the images of the artifacts.

World Languages e-Cards
The 123Greetings website is subtitled “Free Greetings for the Planet,” and the world languages section of the site has e-cards for various holidays and for occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. There are also congratulatory cards, as well as friendship, thank-you, and everyday cards. The languages currently offered on the site are German, Hindi, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish.

Educaplay is a platform that allows teachers to create their own multimedia teaching activities.  Among the activities they can create are quizzes, video quizzes, dialogues, interactive maps, crosswords, riddles, and word search puzzles. In addition, the learning resources section has activities in 14 different languages.

New Resource for ESL Teachers
The information and resources on the Masters in ESL website is designed to help current and future teachers of English as a second language. It includes lesson plans, advice on using Common Core State Standards in ESL teaching, and a blog. Recent blog topics of discussion include instructional technology tools in the classroom, online master’s degree programs, and overseas jobs.

The Cervantes Virtual Center
The Cervantes Virtual Center website was created by the Instituto Cervantes to help spread the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures. To achieve that mission, it provides materials and services for Spanish teachers, students, translators, and others interested in Spanish language and culture. The site is organized by education, literature, language, arts, and science.

Create Websites and More
Weebly for Education is a free service used by teachers to create classroom websites, blogs, and student e-portfolios. It offers a drag-and-drop website builder that can be used to add text, photos, videos, and maps. With the blogging feature, teachers can post class updates and homework assignments for students and parents.

Latin American Culture Site
The Mundo Latino website has videos, animated shorts, articles, humor, and poetry. There is also a section with resources for children, which teachers of younger students may find especially useful.

French Audio and Reading Exercises
The audio and reading exercises on this website include vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and reading and listening comprehension. There are also exercises and games intended to improve language literacy in children and adults.

Science is Fun in Spanish
Spanish teachers who are looking for ways to incorporate teaching about science into their language classes may find this site useful. This Spanish language page has science-related anecdotes, experiments, and quizzes. There are also links to stories and books about
science and scientists.

AP Spanish Language and Culture
Created by Carmen Gwenigle, who teaches AP Spanish at West High School in Iowa City, IA, this AP Spanish Language and Culture website offers resources for teachers and students of AP Spanish. Her class focuses on both grammatical accuracy and communicative fluency to help students build proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The syllabus guideline on the site shares six thematic units on language and culture.

Virtual Museum of New France
The Canadian Museum of Civilization’s Virtual Museum of New France shares information about “the French North American adventure” and what drew the French to North America. It presents the French colonial experience from Acadia through Canada to Louisiana. It does so through five main themes: colonies and empires, population, everyday life, economic activities, and heritage

Latin Poetry Podcast
This website features the translation, reading, and discussion of a series of Latin passages. Christopher Francese, Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Dickinson College, who performs the readings, notes on the site that he is open to suggestions for other poems and passages to be read.


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