6 of The Best Presentation Creation Tools for Teachers and Educators

January 18, 2018
As a teacher chances are you have already created a presentation of some sort or presented in front of an audience (e.g., in a conference, at school…etc). And as you know, presenting is a skill that requires practice at two levels: the first level is related to the creation process and the second one is related to the delivery of the final product, that is, the actual presenting before an audience. In today's post, we are  concerned  with the first level: how to create effective and professionally looking presentations.

The first step in creating a successful presentation is planning. In the planning process you get to brainstorm ideas, organize your content, and write draft scripts that will make it into your slides. Of course, your scripts will go through several reiterations before you decide on the final content to use on your slides. Next, try to structure your content in such a way  that will make it easy for your audience to follow and understand your message. Decide on what goes first, in the middle and at the end of your presentation. Leave your informationally salient ideas till the end because that’s what  readers and viewers retain the most from your presentation. Once the content of your slides is ready, you will need to use a web tool of your choice to create your presentation. We have curated for you some of the best tools you may want to try out in this regard. See the list below. After selecting your presentation software and picking out the template you like, you start populating your slides.

Given the visual nature of presentations, your slides should not contain condensed lengthy paragraphs. Text should be minimally represented on your slides. Try to summarize the gist of your content in pointers and bullet points. Also make sure you illustrate those ideas with relevant copyright free images. You can find tons of copyright friendly images to use in your presentations from these websites. Now that your slides are ready, go through your presentation once again, edit what you need to edit, or even share it with a colleague of yours and ask them for their feedback. You may also want to leave it for few days and then come back to it with a fresh set of eyes and see whether you are content with the final product or not. Next comes the second level: the actual delivery of your presentation which we might probably cover in a future post. For now, here are some of our favourite tools to help you create visually attractive presentations. The three criteria we used in our selection are: simplicity of the tool, its cost and user-friendliness. Have a look and share with us in our Facebook page if you have other suggestions to add to the list.

1- Keynote

This is definitely one of the best free presentation softwares for Mac users. We have been using it and recommending for our readers for several years now. Keynote embeds all the required features you need to create beautiful presentations. These include free templates, different animation styles, embedding of various content types such as text, images, tables, charts, etc. Your presentation is saved to iCloud so you can access it anywhere you are. Just make sure have access to OS or iOS device where you are to deliver your Keynote-created presentation  or you will have to convert it to another compatible format.

2- Google Slides

Google Slides is the second in our list of favourite presentation tools. It is simple and easy to use. It is also integrated with Google Drive enabling you to cross-use content from other Drive tools. In terms of features, Slides has a basic set of features that are, in our view, enough to create  beautiful presentations. You have a template gallery with good options to choose from, different text fonts and colours, supports insertion of multimedia content into slides, different animation styles and many more.  It also provides different sharing and collaborative features.

3- Prezi

If you are looking for more flashy and dynamic features, Prezi is a good option. Its premium version comes at a low cost and provides a bunch of interesting features. They also provide discounts for students and schools. Some of its features include: fully customizable templates, tracking metrics to help you see who has seen your presentation, advanced zooming options, collaborative group editing, offline presentation mode, remote presenter tool and many more.

4- Haiku Deck

 Haiku Deck is another good presentation software to consider. It has tons of amazing features and works on both the web and iPad. Like Prezi, it offers special pricing discounts for students and educators. Haiku Deck provides some beautiful and simple layouts, a number of stylish fonts, image filters,  access to Creative Commons images and many more.

5- Visme

Visme offers a presentation mode where you get to design your own presentations from scratch or you can use one of the  pre-made templates offered in their gallery. Visme has this good feature that lets you import your PowerPoint presentations and work on them online. You can also download your Visme presentations and present them offline with no Internet connection. It also offers detailed analytics to track user interactions with your slides.

6- Piktochart

This is basically one of our favourite tools for creating infographics and posters but it also has a presentation editor that allows you to create simple and basic presentations. You will not find the features a standard presentation software offers but it does serve the purpose.  You can choose from the pre-made set of templates there, customize them the way you want, add your content and when you are down you can download and share with others.

9 of The Best Apps for Learning Spelling

January 17, 2018
Spelling is a learned activity that requires formal/informal teaching and practice. You may pick up the oral part of a target language relatively easily (depending on your cognitive capacities, linguistic environment, and the level of your motivation and dedication, among other factors).But when it comes to learning how to spell, read and write, things get bit slower and might require much more attention and careful practice. The widespread of web technologies and mobile application has tremendously facilitated language learning. You can now learn a foreign language from the comfort of your couch and for free. However, in today’s post we are focusing on one aspect of language learning: spelling. We have curated for you this collection of carefully vetted apps to use with your kids, students and anyone else keen on learning and improving their spelling skills. The apps provide guided practice, interactive games, lessons, quizzes, puzzles, and several other materials to make learning spelling a fun and engaging task. We invite you to check them out and share with us if you have other suggestions to add to the list.

9 of The Best Apps for Learning Spelling

1- Simplex Spelling Phonics 1
‘Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 teaches a full year of spelling curriculum with over 450 high frequency words divided into 42 lists that are organized by spelling patterns and difficulty levels. Each of the 42 lists comes with a lesson that teaches one of the basic building blocks of spelling in the English language. These basic building blocks include the different phonograms, sounds, and spelling rules.’

2- Montessorium: Intro to Words
‘Intro to Words guides your child so that they can learn to write, read and spell phonetically, and compose their own words and stories with original illustrations! Based on the proven methodology of Montessori.’

3- Spelling Monster
‘This educational app is a great tool that allows kids to practice their spelling words with fun interactive mini games.’

4- Spelling Teacher
‘The Spelling Teacher app includes Julia, your child's private spelling teacher who interacts with your student while playing fun learning activities. Teacher Julia also reads words and sentences during spelling practice and while taking weekly spelling tests.’

5- Word Wizard for Kids
‘Word Wizard offers several unique reading and spelling activities for children ages four to 10’

‘SPELLING MAGIC 3 focuses on words that have multiple syllables in them. Examples of words included in this app are, pretzel, button, camel, and trumpet. This app also has compound words in it, such as bobcat, hotdog, dustpan, and handbag. The words are grouped into themed categories for organization and to create interest in the app.’

7- Spelling Bus
‘Spelling Bus is for learning to spell and practice to spell. Kids see the pictures and listens to the word and then type the spelling.’

8- Spelling Bug
‘Kids learn to spell the most needed words as they play. Application presents each word by displaying a picture and pronounces the word and presents the letters that are needed to make the word. Kids use there hand to arrange the letters in the right order to make the word.’

9- A+ Spelling Bee English Words
‘A fantastic spelling game for kids! Guaranteed improvement to spell English words! Bright, colourful and fun way to learn spelling.’

10 Good Tips to Help You Set up and Manage Your Classes on Google Classroom

January 17, 2018
Google Classroom is an educational platform that allows teachers and students to connect, communicate and facilitate classroom workflow. It provides a collection of productivity tools  that teachers can use to collaborate, create and save instructional materials and organize classes. Teachers can create virtual classes in Classroom and invite students to join using a generated code. You can set up and manage several classes simultaneously. You can easily move materials (e.g., announcements, assignments, questions…etc) from one class to the other. You can also cross posts to different classes and save your archived materials for future uses.

Other interesting features provided by Classroom include the ability to invite co-teachers to join your classes. You can invite up to 20 instructors to help you with classroom activities and projects. You can also create and share customized assignments, draft posts or schedule them so they ll be automatically posted to Classroom in specified times and many more. In today's post we are sharing with some practical tips to help you set up and manage your classes on Google Classroom. These tips are based on guidelines from Classroom Help page.

10  Good Tips to Help You Set up  and Manage Your Classes on Google Classroom

1- Create a class
‘Go to classroom.google.com
Click Add Add and then Create class
Enter the class name
Optional) Enter text, such as grade level or class time.
(Optional) Enter a subject or click one from the list that appears when you enter text.
Click Create.’

2- Invite co-teachers 
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class you want to add co-teachers or groups to.
At the top, click About.
Click Invite Teachers.
You can invite individual teachers or a group. Enter the teacher's or group's email address.
As you enter text, an autocomplete list might appear.
From the Search results, click a teacher or group or click Add recipient.
(Optional) To invite more teachers or groups, repeat steps 5-6.
Click Invite.’

3- Invite students to a class
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class you want to add students or groups to.
At the top, click Students and then Invite Students.
You can invite individual students or a group. Enter the student’s or group’s email address.
As you enter text, an autocomplete list might appear.
From the Search results, click a student or group or click Add recipient.
(Optional) To invite more students or groups, repeat steps 4-5.
Click Invite.’
Alternatively you can give students a code to add themselves:
Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class and then Students. The class code is on the left.

4- Remove a student from class
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class and then Students.
Check the box next to the student, or students, you want to remove.
At the top, click Actions and then Remove.
Click Remove to confirm.’

5- Remove a co-teacher from a class
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class you want to remove a teacher from.
At the top, click About.
Next to the teacher's name, click More and then Remove from class.
Click Remove to confirm.’

6- Archive a class
Go to classroom.google.com.
On the class card, click More and then Archive.
Click Archive to confirm.’

7- View assignments due dates
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
At the top, click Menu
Click Calendar.
Select an assignment or question to open it.
(Optional) To view past or future work, next to the date, click Next Next
(Optional) To see assignments for all your classes, click All classes.
To see assignments for only one class, click All classes and select the class.’

8- Set post and comment permissions for a class
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class you want to set permissions for.
Click Students.
From the post and comment list, choose a permission level: a) students can post and comment, b) students can only comment, c) only teacher can post or comment.’

9- Mute/unmute a student
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class the student is in.
Click Students.
Check the box next to the student you want to mute/unmute.
Click Actions and then Mute/unmute.

10- Transfer a class you won to a co-teacher
‘Go to classroom.google.com.
Click the class you want to transfer to another teacher.
At the top, click About.
On the left, next to the teacher's name, click More and then Make class owner.
Click Invite.’

5 of The Best Rubric Making Tools for Teachers

January 16, 2018
In yesterday’s post we talked about grading and we featured a number of apps to help teachers with their grading.  In today’s post we cover a closely related concept: rubrics. These are scoring  and criterion-referenced guidelines teachers create to help with, among other things, the assessment of students performance. A rubric, according to Deborah Allen and Kimberly Tanner, “denotes a type of matrix that provides scaled levels of achievement or understanding for a set of criteria or dimensions of quality for a given type of performance, for example, a paper, an oral presentation, or use of teamwork skills.”

Two major functions of rubrics are: guiding and assessing. They guide students as to what is expected of them in a given  activity or assignment and they also assist teachers in evaluating students performance along a pre-defined set of values, standards, and objectives. Rubrics can be used by “a teacher to assess a student, a student to assess a peer, or a student to self-assess their own work” (TeachersFirst). Two main types of rubrics are to be distinguished here: Holistic and Analytic rubrics.

1- Holistic rubrics:
 A holistic rubric is general in scope and uses a single scale where all assessment criteria are grouped into a single criteria used to assess the overall performance of students work.”Performance descriptions are written in paragraphs and usually in full sentences”. (Queens University).

2- Analytic rubrics
An analytic rubric addresses specific areas in students performance. It resembles a grid “with the criteria for a student product listed in the leftmost column and with levels of performance listed across the top row often using numbers and/or descriptive tags.” (Depaul).

Reasons why you should use rubrics:
  • They make your grading objective by explicitly stating standards and grading norms to be followed
  • They help students make clear expectations of what a higher performance on particular performance tasks requires.
  • They ‘encourage reflective practice on the part of both students and teachers’ (Allen and Tanner)
  • Holistic rubrics save you time by “by minimizing the number of decisions raters make” (Depaul)
  • Analytic rubrics help you “provide useful feedback on areas of strength and weakness” (Depaul)
The sources list at the bottom of this post contains some useful links and resources to help you learn more about rubrics, how to use them, sample rubrics and many more.

There are several tools you can use to create rubrics. Below is a collection of some of the best of them:

1- Quick Rubric
This is a simple and easy tool to help you make different rubric types. You can build your rubric from scratch and when you are done you can save, print and share with others. Quick Rubric provides you with some handy resources to help you learn more about the pedagogic strength of rubrics.

2- Essay Tagger
Essay Tagger allows you to easily create Common Core-aligned rubrics. You can select the elements you want to include in your custom rubric. All along the way, Essay Tagger provides you with clear instructions on how to proceed in each stage in your rubric creation.

3- Rubric Maker
Rubric Maker is another simple and easy to use tool to create rubrics. It does not require registration and is totally web based. You can create and customize your rubric the way you want and when you are finished you can print and share it with others. It does not offer any option to save your finished product other than printing.

4- RubiStar
This is one of the most popular rubric makers out there. It provides pre-made rubric templates based on different topics (e.g., math, writing, science, music, reading). The tool is free and can be used without registration, however, only registered members are allowed to save and edit their rubrics.

5- Teacher Rubric
Teacher rubric is a Google Docs add-on that lets you create quick rubrics. It “increases the teacher’s grading productivity by eliminating repetitive clicks, presenting the rubric selections in an easy to use format and presenting the final grades in a consistent, professional format.”

5 of The Best Rubric Making Tools for Teachers
1- http://www.teachersfirst.com/lessons/rubrics/what-are-rubrics.cfm
2- http://www.ucdenver.edu/faculty_staff/faculty/center-for-faculty-development/Documents/Tutorials/Rubrics/1_what_is/easy_as_pie.htm
3- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1618692/
4- http://www.schrockguide.net/assessment-and-rubrics.html
5- https://chfasoa.uni.edu/analyticholisticrubrics.pdf
6- https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/assessing-student-work/grading-and-feedback/rubrics-useful-assessment-tools
7- https://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/feedback-grading/rubrics/Pages/types-of-rubrics.aspx
8- http://www.queensu.ca/teachingandlearning/modules/assessments/35_s4_05_types_of_rubrics.html
9- http://www.teachhub.com/technology-classroom-tools-create-rubrics

Tons of Free Virtual Manipulatives for Math Teachers

January 16, 2018
The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is a digital library that provides K-12 teachers and students with a wide variety of math activities and virtual manipulatives. These resources are arranged into five main categories: Number and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis and Probability. You can find manipulatives for all grade levels. Top axis of the chart features grades from Pre-K-2 to grades 9-12. Click on the grade level you are interested in to view and access its resources.

As a teacher you may want to draw on NLVM resources to enrich your math teaching and provide students with challenging activities to fortify their math learning and help them develop conceptual and mathematical skills. Caveats are that the site is a little bit old and is not that user friendly. It might take you some time till you get used to it.  Also, to view and make sure virtual manipulates applications work on your browser, you will have to install Java if your browser is not  Java-enabled. Please refer to this page to learn more about system requirements and other interesting tips to help you make the best of the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives in your teaching. For a detailed review of this website, check out this post.

5 Great Science Websites for Kids and Young Learners

January 15, 2018
A working formula for a successful learning activity with kids involves three main elements: engagement, interactivity, and fun. The more of these elements a learning activity exhibits the better learning experiences it can generate. With the use of digital technologies, any teacher no matter what subject area he/she teaches can easily integrate these elements into their classroom instruction creating thus optimal learning experiences conducive to profound comprehension. Based on this learning philosophy, we have curated for you these educational science-centred websites to use with kids and young learners. The websites provide a wide variety of hands-on activities, interactive games, quizzes, virtual experiments, and several other materials to engage young minds in immersive learning experiences covering various science topics and phenomena. Using a mixture of science knowledge and technology, kids will get to explore the world of science in fun and engaging ways.

1- NASA Kids’ Club
NASA Kids’ Club provides a plethora of space focused games, videos, images and activities to introduce and help kids learn about the world of space.

2- BrianPOP Science
BrainPOP offers educational animated videos and lessons covering different science topics. Each featured science topic comes with illustrative videos, quizzes, and accompanying activities.

3- Discovery Kids
Another excellent source of educational video content to help kids learn about different science topics. The site also provides interactive games and links to mobile science apps for kids.

4- Science Kids
As its name indicates, Science for Kids is a website that features a treasure trove of educational science materials. These include online games, experiments, lesson plans, quizzes, science projects, free activities and many more.

5- National Geographic Kids
Nat Geo Kids enables science lovers to explore the world of science through a collection of apps, games, magazines, toys, videos, and many other materials.
  5 Great Science Websites for Kids and Young Learners