30 January 2013

Release Your Inhibitions - Writing Resources

No matter how techie our lives have become, good writing is still a requirement to succeed at school and professionally. Good writing helps see in the world from a different angle, may be cathartic and most of all, good writing may be a pleasure. 

Now - how to get students writing? Yes, there are journals to write, quick notes to pass around, stories with beginnings, middles and endings. Yes, writers need to heed to sentence fluency and word choice, organisation and conventions.

And yet.... how to release students' inhibitions when it comes to actually writing? I have often referred to sites which are inspiring to practice writing. Today I'd like to share some other sites, some of which are inspiring for teachers to choose and reflect on writing assignments. 

100 Word Story is a collection of stories written in 100 words. A photo prompt is posted every month and anyone can submit their story in a 100 words.  One can use the same assignment in class by introducing an image and students then have to write 100 words. This enforces good practice in choosing vocabulary and focusing on context. 

The Write At Home Blog  includes reflections on the many varying aspects of writing, from how words sound to grammar rules. You can also find resources for writing classes or for students. 

 Notable Sentences ... for Imitation and Creation is a resource for educators who " wish to view grammar as something to be explored and not just corrected". Definitely a site to visit, to enjoy Sentences that take your breathe away and other delights related to writing. 

Elements of Language, by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, offers 3 sections in regard to writing: a Model Bank  with step by step writing tips, a Media Zone, exploring digital media and a Language Centre, with other resources for writing. 

As for learners? 

Here are some suggestions: 

NoRedInk - to practice Grammar and Writing Skills

Fraze.It - how to use a particular word in a sentence

One Look Reverse Dictionary - describe a concept to look for a word

Writing Felonies - Videos featuring the worst writing crimes and how to fix them

If all fails....maps are always helpful:

A Persuasion Map , which can be used for writing or debates. 

How do you release writing inhibitions in classrooms?

Further references and suggestions:

8 Must Have Posters on Teaching Writing - Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

13 Simple Strategies for Helping English Language Learners Throughout the Writing Process

One Word - Write about a word in 60 seconds

Rory's Story Cubes - Ideas for Writing

Story Starters - by Scholastic

Teacher Guide To Different Types of Writing

The Story Starter

The Writing Site

Writing with Writers - Scholastic (KG12) 

29 January 2013

How Do You Search? Let Me Count the Ways

If knowledge is the key, where is the information?

And how does one know to seek and evaluate what one finds?

B.G. (Before Google), learners often had to sit in libraries to work together on projects. Today projects can be carried out across continents, with students collaborating and making decisions either in real-time or asynchronously. Learners will often turn to Google and Wikipedia as sources of information, but what if there were other sources which could also provide information?

On the left hand side of this blog, you can see a list of alternative search engines which learners may use. Today I'd like to suggest another set of search engines, some which may help you to get to what you want or need faster. 

Lumi claims to be a personal experience for web users by allowing them to anonymously and securely, record the pages they visit. Additionally, it finds webpages which the user may be interested in. 

I don't particularly like the feature of having to submit one's email address, but as a search engine, it is an option to try out. 

Search Pants  was created for young learners and now even allows learners to custom their very own search page. 

Another search engine designed for younger learners is Kid Rex   with tips for parents on how to keep children safe when they are online. 

Icon Wanted , does exactly what it says - helps you to find the icon you want.

Sweet Search is a search engine particularly aimed at students.  There are also other links suitable for teachers and learners, related to research skills and web page evaluation. There is also a link specifically for bibliographies as well as social studies content. 

Free Learning  is aimed at providing free access to educational resources around the world.  You can search for learning resources, check popular and recent resources, find Open textbooks as well as search other OER sites.

Researching can be a lonely experience for some learners. Search Team comes as yet another alternative for team research. You need to create an account and then invite those who you wish to collaborate with.

 Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus is a well known website that provokes learners to think about how to evaluate sites online. You can find a range of other sites which guide/help learners evaluate webpages here, as well as Kathy Schrock's Five W's of Website Evaluation

What other search engines and web evaluations would you suggest?

Lastly, if this is the first time you happen to stumble across my ramblings and suggestions on this skybox,  let me show what it is about:


Further References:

Boolean Searching on the Internet - a tutorial on the Boolean logic for searching online

How to Smile  - an award winning site by the American Association of School Librarians.

How to #Google Like a Boss  - by Adam Simpson

Search Better - search resources by GCFLearn Free; also includes tips for webpage evaluation

Search Education - by Google, with lesson plans, activities and more

Symbolab - for Science and Math

The Boolean Machine - a tool for visualising the effects of Boolean operators on keyword searches

Web Search Strategies - a video by Common Craft

15 Lesson Plans For Making Students Better Online Researchers

Note: the chart above was made with BlogSummarizer

25 January 2013

Image Editing and Collages

How do you play with images?

One of my hobbies is photography. I am particularly keen on ethnographic photography (e.g.  Namaste Nepal,)  and I enjoy trying out new image editors and collage makers. I often introduce these tools to students, as many enjoy discovering the powerful effects these tools can offer. There is also a wealth of image editing apps to choose from, but today, I'd like to suggest some free online tools which are fun and simple to use. 

Enjoypic (far left) creates fun images by uploading an image (one's portrait, for instance) to the set effect. All it takes is 3 easy steps: upload, crop and create. 

Fotor requires no registration and offers features such as basic editing, HDR, effects, collage, text and frames as well as clip art and photo cards. 

Webinpaint (above right) is another free tool for both Windows and MAC and among other features, restores images.

PosterMyWall has backgrounds to choose from, ranging from music to romance to teams and nature.  It does take time to upload images (in comparison to other tools mentioned here)  but with all the extra features to choose from, (clip art, resizing,  adding text,  creating a calendar), it's definitely worth trying out. 

Online Photo Editor and Pixlr are two other free online editors; Pixlr also has a free  app, Pixlr Express Plus which you can find on iTunes. 

Clip Art ECT has a wide range of themes and is a free educational resource for classroom use.

Pixer.us and ImgOps are two other photo editors worth exploring, though with ImgOps (a meta tool), you will need to enter the URL of the image.

If you would like to try out more image editors, GIF makers, and other tools for images, Digital Delights - Images and Design has a wide selection of apps, photography and charts, among other points of reference related to images and design.

Further Suggestions:

Blow Me Away with Images

Posters, Images and Metafors

Free Images

Sourcing Images

Adding Effects to Images

Popping Editors for Images

Wanted: Apps Apps Apps!

Greetings, De-Motivators and Visual Searches

24 January 2013

A Girl's World - The Fat and the Skinny

What is a girl's world today?

I have been teaching mostly female students for the last couple of years and am regularly taken aback at how much they suffer over body image. Teens and young adults have always had to adjust to peer pressures and current notions of beauty. Yet today, "fat" has become the new "ugly" of the playground, affecting children, teens and even grown ups.  Obesity is indeed a growing concern throughout the world ( The World is Fat) and I am certain that those who travel in developing countries will also notice the effects of fast food on the population. A point to always bear in mind, is that obesity certainly does not reflect healthy nutrition - quite the contrary.

In many curricula, educators discuss health issues; these may range from practical first aid to more localized health issues which are pertinent in learners' environment. No matter how sensitive the topic of body image may be, addressing problems which result from the multitude of mediatic images which are so ingrained in our lives today, seems to me, also part of how health topics may become more relevant and engaging to students. 

500 Years of Women in Western Art is a great place to begin. It includes handouts and perhaps the video may be already a point of reference for learners. 

An interesting follow up, is the TED Talk by Cameron Russel, who is frank about her modelling career and the power of images. It's a great talk to use as a springboard for discussion in class and to link with healthy eating and exercise habits.

 Girl Scouts is another source aimed especially at girls from the age of 9 to 17. You can find topics such as bullying,  to other topics such as healthy living and science and technology. Women in World History offers a wide choice for teachers and learners, with  Modules to use in the classroom, Case-Studies to a bank of Primary Resources. 

Which Literary Heroine are You is a fun quiz to take, with surprising results.

A girl's world. 

My female students today study to become lawyers, engineers, IT technicians. As so many other  young women around the world, some dream of having a family in the future; all dream of participating fully in their society as professionals and equally respected citizens. Feeling despondent and trapped in their bodies should not be part of a girl's  life today.

Should educators address issues of self-esteem in the classroom?

19 January 2013

Digital Celebrations in February 2013

February will be celebrating both Digital Learning Day and Safer Internet Day. Both deserve to be observed and mentioned in classrooms, for it is by raising awareness to learners, by bringing out questions, issues and sensitive topics such as cyberbullying, that students become more confident to raise their voices and become informed digital citizens. Today, it is not only about being a digital citizen - it is about being an informed citizen. 

Both digital learning and digital safety are, in my mind, closely related to digital literacies - a component which should be embedded in any curriculum today, for learners today are the professionals of tomorrow.

 Terry Heick points out 4 main principles in regard to digital literacy: Comprehension, Interdependence, Social Factors, and

These may seem incomplete compared to many others who have tried to establish what in their mind constitutes digital literacy.  However, if once accepts that digital literacies are the ability to make sense of digital media, regardless of how one phrases the principles or areas of understanding, the fact is that digital literacies are intricately related to being a digital citizen.

Throughout this blog you can find more posts and resources regarding digital safety:

 Games for Digital Safety,

You, Me and Social Networks,

Another Dimension of Digital Literacies,  

Celebrating Digital Learning and Digital Safety,

Sharing Change and Digital Responsibility, 

Cyber-bullying and Learning

Be Safe

Be Safe, Be Cool

Internet Safety Day - 2011

Digital decisions differ. Digital decisions remain longer than any others.

A Thin Line is a great site for teens, while Kim Rehagen has an excellent compilation on Internet Safety for younger learners. (K12)

21 Things 4 Students also has resources which are engaging and fun, challenging students to take on different kinds of missions such as identity protection and building a cyber-shield.

Also of interest for young learners is Digital Citizenship k-6 - with games, videos, activities and notes for teachers.

How will you be celebrating these digital days?

Further Resources:

Best Practices for Digital Citizenship - a great poster by Edmodo

Cable in the Classroom

Digital Citizenship: Resource Roundup by Edutopia

Digital Literacy and Citizenship Classroom Curriculum

iKeep Safe

Own Your Space- Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online" Digital Book for Teens by Linda McCarthy

55 Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship  by Jacqui Morray

How to Boost Your Phishing Scam Detection Skills

How Cybersmart Are You?

14 January 2013

Words, Images and Digital Stories

It is in the lull of calm that one remembers. 

Words. Images. Interwoven, ethereal worlds if not spoken, if not shared. I have yet to meet someone who is not captivated by stories, by images and how together they light up memories and desires of life. Stories are for the living. Stories are for living. 

Classrooms are the heart of educational enterprise, so where better to begin,  than classrooms to explore and create stories?

Scared of Words is one of those magical sites for young learners. Stories to be read, stories to engage in and change. One can can choose between 2 stories, and after choosing, then follow instructions and personalize each one. 

In The House of Scary Words, for instance, the young reader may choose to personalize a character, and other elements of the story.

There is also an interactive game, with a special character who will interact with the participant, giving clues and instructions.

Stories are to be read to, stories are to be created. Encouraging curiosity, developing self-esteem, expanding vocabulary and improving attention one's span, what is there not to like about story-telling? 

And as every story teller knows, images add that extra flavour to any story.

FreeDigitalPhotos.Net and Pixabay are 2 great sources for free images. Here,  you can find more images, apps for collages and images as well as a wide source of image editors to use freely. 

Stories transport one. Stories are to be told, heard, dreamt of. 

How do you best tell stories?

Activities for Raising Cross-Cultural Awareness

Winter skies always remind me of how rich our lives are,  with the many cultural  differences we may experience today. In the past, travelling to other continents was unthinkable; trips to near-by villages could take days. Today, one doesn't even need to leave one's personal space to learn about other ways of life. One tap of the keyboard transports us to where ever we wish.

Globalization is often included in learners' curricula; a rich topic with so many different aspects to explore, depending much on the level of the course and learners' age. Cultural differences are usually appealing for learners: How do people eat? What do they wear to school? How do they greet each other?

There are different approaches to explore cultural differences and here are some suggestions.

My Culture Quest is an interactive game during which learners must make travelling decisions and find significant objects in different countries and cultures. A great activity, especially for both history and language classes.

Global Citizenship is another interactive game, which focuses on where food and products come from. At the end, there is further information regarding Free Trade, raising awareness of how people may be treated while making those products which are regularly consumed.

Both these games are found at My Learning, a free resource bank from museums and libraries. 

Other resources include Portraits, Surrealist Art: Objects and Meanings, adventure games and more. My Learning is a quite user-friendly, as  different areas (i.e. interactive games, images, audio etc) are easily found; subjects and age groups are also neatly pointed out.

As some probably know, I curate on different topics, so it is only natural that I'd like to suggest a favourite of mine - The Curator's Collection.

How do you teach globalization, while raising awareness about different cultures?

Further suggestions: