15 Must Have Google Lessons Plans to Teach Students Effective Search Skills

April , 2014
Google is one of the primary search engines students turn to when doing their research. On the face of it, searching Google seems as simple as typing in a search query and waiting for returned results. In fact,  effective Googling is way trickier than that. To be able to tap into the real potential of Google and  to understand how to get accurate search results, students need to learn different search tips and skills that most of them overlook or at best ignore.

Google search tips section here in Educational Technology and Mobile Learning features a wide variety of materials and resources that teachers can use to teach their students about the art of effective Googling. Additionally, Google has also designed a set of 15 wonderful lesson plans ready to be used in class with students. These lesson plans are arranged by level of difficulty and are meant to hone in students search skills and make them better searchers.

Click here to check the entire lesson plan map. Below are the titles of the five lessons Google provides:

  • Lesson 1: How can appropriate search terms and queries guide targeted searches?
  • Lesson 2: How and why do researchers evaluate search results?
  • Lesson 3: How can I narrow my search to get the best results?
  • Lesson 4: How and why do researchers evaluate search results?
  • Lesson 5: How do I evaluate and decide which credible sources to use for a specific task?

Here is a snapshot of how the first lesson plan looks like:

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Here is How to Use Weebly to Create A Website for Your Class

April 24, 2014
Weebly is perfect for creating classroom websites, student e-portfolios, and websites for assigned projects. I have been using this platform for sometime now and find it really interesting. I have also included in the popular " 10 excellent platforms to create your classroom blog or website" post. Weebly is very simple and easy to use and and has a drag & drop website editor which is stunningly simple to utilize, and appropriate for use with students of all ages. Weebly enables your students to express themselves creatively using a variety of multimedia features, all within a protected environment that you control. 

Here are some features that Weebly provides for its users:
  • A Managed, Protected Environment for Your Students. With Weebly, you can password protect all your students' websites with one click.
  • Add pictures, videos, audio players, documents, maps, and photo galleries easily by dragging and dropping.
  • Post class updates, homework assignments, and news for parents using the super slick blogging features.
  • You can completely customize the template of your site, or build your own with HTML & CSS, right in the Weebly editor.
  • It also provides the hosting so you don’t need to pay for a hosting provider. 
  • It has three options when it comes to choosing an address for your site: 1) You can choose to publish your website to a free sub-domain of Weebly.com (http://Weebly.com), 2) you can purchase a domain directly from Weebly which we instantly set up with your site, or 3) you can configure a domain that you already own to work with your Weebly site (we'll show you how to do this).
  • It is completely free to create and publish a website with Weebly.
Watch this video tutorial to learn how to create a free website for your class.

4 Elements of Successful Learning We Can Learn from Online Games

April 24, 2014
In her spectacular TED Talk " Gaming can make a better world" researcher and game developer Dr. Jane McGonigal talked about four important features that make gamers spend a tremendous number of hours playing tirelessly online games. Let me first share with you these interesting statistics Jane mentioned in her talk:

  • We spend 3 billion hours weekly playing online games
  • 500 million people spend at least an hour a day playing games.

The average young person today in a country with a strong gamer culture will have spent 10.000 hours playing games by the age of 21. This is an interesting number for two reasons: first 10 thousand and eighty hours is the exact amount of time students spend from  fifth grade to high school graduation if they have perfect attendance.So there is an entire parallel track of education going on where young people are learning about as much it takes to be a good gamer as they are learning about anything else. Malcom Gladwell  theory of success  states that  if we can master 10.000 hours of effortful study at anything by the age of 21, we will be as good at whatever we do as the greatest people in the world.

According to Jane these are the four elements that give games the power to spend thousands of hours playing games and collaboratively solving challenging problems posed in these games. These same elements, I believe. if applied in a learning context would make us better learners.

1- Urgent optimism
This is extreme self motivation. It is the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success. Gamers always believe that an epic win  is possible and that it is worth trying and trying now.

2-Social Fabric
There is a lot of research that shows that we like people better after we play a game with them even if they beat us badly. The reason is that it takes trust to play a game with someone we trust they will spend time with us, they will play by the same rules, value the same goals, they will stay with the game until it's over. Playing a game together actually build up bonds and trust and cooperation and we  build stronger social relationships as a result.

3- Blissful Productivity
The reason why so many gamers spend several hours  playing games is  because they feel happier working hard than  relaxing or hanging out. It gives them an uplifting sense that they are optimized as human beings to do hard and meaningful work .

4- Epic meaning
Gamers love to be attached to inspiring missions to human planetary scale stories. Here is one bit of trivia that helps put this in perspective: The second biggest wiki in the world after wikipedia is the World of  Warcraft wiki with nearly 80.000 articles and 5 million people use it every month. These people have compiled more information about the World of Warcraft in the internet than any other topic covered in any other wiki in the world. They are building an epic story.They are building an epic knowledge resource about the world of warcraft.

Watch Jane's TED talk to learn more about why gaming can make a better world.

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A Great Student Rubric for Reviewing Apps

April 23, 2014
To help her students understand and be able to analyze the apps they come across online, Mutt Susan from Digital Divide and Conquer has created this wonderful rubric. The Student App Review Rubric,  features five sections ( or criteria) that students can grade when assessing an app. Each of these criteria can be graded with a numerical number from 0 to 4 with 4 as the top grade.

The five criteria included in this rubric are :

  • Looks and sound
  • Engagement and motivation
  • User friendly directions and instructions
  • Performance and ease of use
  • Differentiation in learning.

In this way a great app is one that gets a score ranging between 20-17, a good one between 16-13, an average 12-10, Needs work 9-6, and a bad app get a score of 5-0.

The rubric is available for free as a Google document that you can print and use with your kids. It is also available for free download from Mutt's Teachers Pay Teachers store.

5 Skills to Help You Start Your Online Personal Teaching Network

April 23, 2014
Over the last decade the educational landscape has witnessed some landsliding changes thanks to the massive uptake of digital technology and broadband access. Even those core notions related to the role of the teacher and student in the learning/ teaching equation ,which have been intact for years and years, have been revolutionized. In this context, new opportunities and possibilities have opened up for teachers to take the lead in online teaching. Professor Bernard Bull from Life in Digital World has created this chart featuring the important elements that can help teachers build personal online teaching networks. Bernard's work is new to me and as I went through it  I found it really interesting and worth sharing with you here.

I invite you to have a look and share with us what you think of Bernad chart.

Here are the skills you need to start your online personal teaching network as featured in the chart below.

1- Teach and mentor

  • Create YouTube video tutorials
  • Answer questions in online communities
  • Lead webinars
  • Present at a virtual conference
  • Provide virtual consulting or coaching
  • Teach an online course.

2- Create and Share

  • Create infographics
  • Create and share learning aids
  • Create and share templates and guides
  • Create digital stories
  • Create and share lessons and curricula
  • Create tutorials

3- Collect and curate

  • Tweet resources
  • Blog 'top lists'
  • Share Diigo links
  • Create thematic YouTube playlists
  • Curate sources on Scoopit or Storify
  • Create and share annotated bibliographies
4- Host and help

  • Host a Google Hangout
  • Start or help lead a Google Group
  • Start a LinkedIn group
  • Volunteer for an online conference
  • Host a regular Twitter chat
  • Host a regular podcast.

5- Write and Publish

  • Comment on blogs and online articles
  • Create a blog and write regularly
  • Guest blog
  • Online freelance writing
  • Write an ebook
  • Submit for open journals.

Teachers' Comprehensive Guide to Using ClassDojo for Classroom Management

April 23, 2014
ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers save time, boost classroom engagement, and improve student behavior quickly and easily, with no painful data entry. ClassDojo also lets you communicate
student progress with parents and students. Best of all, it’s completely free.

Here is a list of some excellent features ClassDojo offers to its users. Click here for a downloadable PDF documents of these features.

1- Behavior management finally made positive
  •  Award feedback points for specific behaviors, learning habits, and accomplishments in class.
  •  Everything is logged in realtime and organized for you
2- See full classroom engagement in minutes
  •  All of the avatars, behaviors, and other visuals are  pre-loaded for you so you can hit the ground running
  • Customization takes seconds. ClassDojo works with every teaching style.
3- Get beautiful, hassle-free behavior reports

  • Track behavior and class trends - with just one click! 
  • No more having to interrupt the flow of class
  • Gain valuable insights with ClassDojo TrendSpotter.
4- Let students track their own progress
  • Let students reflect on their in-class performance with their student accounts
  • Build positive learning habits that last a lifetime .
5- Send reports to parents with one click

  • Break down the barriers between the classroom and home
  •  Get parents informed and on your side quickly and easily
6- Track points with any Android or iOS device
  • Award points on the go, wherever you are: in class, in the hallway, on a field trip, or anywhere else!
  •  No more lugging clipboards around or taking time out 
  • of class.

7- Join a community of teachers like you

 Hundreds of thousands of educators like you use  ClassDojo every day. Discover how they use ClassDojo to improve their teaching and save time.

Here is a step by step guide to help you set up you class in ClassDojo and get you started managing it.

1- Head over to ClassDojo and click on " Add a new class"

2- Select an icon for your class, choose the grade and subject you teach, name your class then click on next.

3- Add your students names. You can either type their names with each name in one line or if you have already a saved list  of your students names you can copy and paste it as is shown in the screenshot below.

4-Now we come to the behaviours section where we can customize the behaviours we want to award or take points for. By default ClassDojo has two set of behaviour categories: 'Positive' and 'Need Work, each of these categories is associated with a set of behaviours that define it. You can add or delete behaviours. for instance if you want to reward your student for a specific behaviour you can just add it under positive and the same with Need Work.

5- Class Dojo automatically generates downloadable PDF document with codes that parents and students can use to access your class. Each student is assigned with a code. Parents need to sign in the sheet and send it back to you. Here is an example of how it looks like:

6- Here is how your class looks on ClassDojo, to start using it click on "start class"

7- To add a reward or a negative behaviour to a student, just click on his/her name and choose from the relevant behaviour you want to add.

8- Positive behaviours are marked with a green circle with the number 1 inside. Negative behaviours are indexed by a red circle with the number minus one inside.

9- You can award several students at once  by clicking  on " Award multiple students"

10- You can also record students attendance by clicking on " record attendance"

11- ClassDojo has a timer that  you can use with your students

12- At any time you can change the settings of your class by clicking on "display settings". You can for instance customize the size of avatars, order students names, select whether to show award notifications or not...etc.

13- When you click on" end class" it brings you immediately to a section where you get an overview of how each student performed that day.

14- You can click on any student's name and you will be able to see his or her overall performance. You can also add more comments on his /her profile and print it out.

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For Teachers: The Difference between Fair Use and Copyright

April 22, 2014
Some of you are still probably not sure about the difference between what constitutes a copyright infringement and fair use. Well the post I have for you today might help illuminate the key differences between the two concepts.

This post is based on  a two days work reading a wide variety of resources pertaining to copyright and . Please check the references below to learn more about my sources.

What is Copyright ?
Copyright is an inherent law that protects works of the original creators or what is known in the legal terminology as "original works of authorship". Copyright applies both to published and unpublished work. copyright is not only about protection but is also about permission. Copyright holders can grant others the right to reproduce, display, distribute, and produce derivative works based on the original works.

Anything that you can create goes automatically under your copyright as soon as it is represented in a tangible form. And though you do not have to do anything to claim your copyright, it is often recommended that you indicate  your ownership of the work to others  using phrases like: 'copyright by' or its symbol followed by date and name. Some even go further than that to pay a small fee to register the ownership of their works with Copyright office.

What is Copyright Infringement ?
Copyright infringement is when someone copies the work of somebody else without their permission or consent. This infringement can take many forms including reproducing, distributing, changing, performing, and creating derivatives of the original work without a written or oral consent.

What is fair use?
Fair use is a set of tacit guidelines and conventions that enable users to use part or all of the copyrighted material without formal consent of the original creator. Fair use is limited to a very strict and specific purposes including" criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching ( including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research."

What is the difference between plagiarism and copyright?
Plagiarism is representing someone's work as your own. As such, it is an academic convention rather than a legal concept.

Here is a wonderful document from common sense media that you can use with your students to help them figure out whether or not a creative work is fair use.

You can also watch the video below to see how a teacher used this document to teach her students about fair use.

here are more resources on copyright and fair use from Edutopia: