Technology Teaching Tools: RSS

From Unprofound.comLife often races by like lights on a freeway. As a teacher, it is shocking to wake up one morning and realize it is already the last quarter of the school year. How. Time. Flies. Forgive me then for not posting in so long. I have been learning many new technology tools but, sadly, have not had time to post them.

Many of the tools I use make teachers’ lives easier and save them time. However, RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is a tool created specifically to save time. For many, RSS is not a new term. It has been widely used for years but is not typically considered an educational tool. Allow me to claim it for educators everywhere as an excellent classroom tool with many possible uses.

Here is a video I created  briefly explaining RSS and its uses for the classroom.


A time saving tool with many possible classroom uses, RSS can be a valuable asset personally and professionally. In a rush? A RSS  reader takes minutes to set up and could save you hours. Give it a try.

Technology Teaching Tools: TED-Ed

ImageEach year teachers at my school are asked to set two educator goals. This year I decided to think outside my typical classroom goals and not set yet another learning goal for my students. Aren’t they held to enough goals already? Instead, the learning goal is for me. I have to learn a new educational technology tool each month. This is no easy task for a teacher who has 195 students and is already up to her ears in technology tools. However, I am as excited as a ninth grader on the last day of school to share my first new tech tool find: TED-Ed.

Here is a video about TED-Ed.

TED-Ed is an online educational video classroom. Created by the nonprofit organization TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), TED-Ed is a free video lesson-gathering website that allows teachers to search YouTube videos and create lesson plans around them. Teachers can include lessons, discussions, quizzes and more. Students can simply watch the videos or create their own accounts to answer questions and monitor their progress.

Check out TED-Ed’s video-gathering lesson tool here.

Even without creating an account, teachers can use TED-Ed. TED-Ed works with the best educators and animators to create TED-Ed original video lessons. These lessons are excellently done. I happened across two TED-Ed original videos last year without knowing their origins and used both in my classes with great success. TED-Ed has a library of these original video lessons categorized by content area.

Here are a couple I have already used in my classroom:

Students love learning through videos. Teachers love having easy lesson builders and great content right at their fingertips. TED-Ed does both with their free website. With a new school year, why not give a new type of technology learning a try?

Technology Tools to Start the School Year

ImageIt’s that time of year again. As summer closes, teachers head back to their classrooms to prepare for the fresh faces of a new school year. For me, the new school year always brings with it resolutions of new strategies, ideas, books, and activities to try with my students. Technology tools are no exception. Starting the year with technology I plan to use frequently helps students to establish a routine and become familiar with the tools.

Here are the four I recommend to start the new year:

EDU2.0— EDU2.0 is the free online classroom I use. My students have only been in school five days and already they’ve been on EDU2.0 several times. They have taken two pretests, so I know exactly what I need to teach for the year. I have attached my lessons and resources to EDU2.0; my students can use them to study for their first test this week.

Quizlet—Index cards are no longer necessary with online study tool Quizlet. When asked last week what study tools he used, one of my students jokingly said, “The internet.” I surprised him by replying that the internet is an excellent study tool–when using Quizlet. Starting the year with this site is sure to help students improve their study skills.

Socrative—This site is the simplest student response system I have ever used. It takes five minutes of setup by the teacher and no setup by the student. In that first week of school when everything seems to be a large procedure with a lengthy explanation, Socrative is an easy way to get students answering true/false, multiple choice, and written response questions in minutes.

Evernote—A great organization tool, Evernote is an online folder system. It allows students (and teachers) to save and organize text, pictures, videos, and audio online. Evernote is accessible from computers and smart devices. Students can use their phones to start the year off organized with Evernote.

Try something new this year. Start off the school year with one of these technology tools. Get students using these tools and you will be wondering how your students ever got along without them.

Ten Tips for Using Technology in the Classroom

ImageTechnology in the classroom is meant to enhance learning—not impede it. However, if not used properly, technology can be more of a burden than a benefit. I have sadly seen many classrooms where technology sits idle because it was designated too difficult to incorporate.

I have had technology in my classroom for four years. I use it daily. I love my technology classroom, but I know the troubles of technology too. Through my own trial and error, I have learned some tips for using technology in the classroom. Here are my top ten:

  1. Go over proper procedures for using technology before use and practice early in the year to establish a routine. Students need to understand the responsibilities of using technology. Give clear rules for using the technology and let students know the outcomes of breaking rules. (I always tell of an errant student who had to clean toilets after school for a month for breaking a computer screen. I haven’t had a broken screen since.)
  2. Be patient. Getting students set up on new technologies can be tiresome, and it is frustrating when technology doesn’t work as planned. Take a deep breath, know it will get easier, and have a back up plan if the technology doesn’t work. Those who persevere with technology will be rewarded.
  3. Make students be their own tech experts. Have your school tech person go over basic troubleshooting strategies with the class, so there isn’t a class meltdown when something goes wrong. Make sure you know these tactics too.
  4. Assign each student a numbered device. This promotes students feeling ownership and responsibility for the technology. If the technology isn’t already numbered, label it and give each student a number. This is the device each student will use for the entire year.
  5. Circulate the classroom during use. Remember that technology does not teach for us; it is simply a tool—a tool that needs monitored. I sit at the back of the classroom and circulate frequently to see screens during technology use.
  6. Have students turn screens to face you when asking for full attention. If my dear husband can’t remember a word I say while watching a screen, how can we expect students to pay attention when there is a screen in front of them? Turning the computers on their desks is a simple solution to draw students’ attention and get them back to work quickly.
  7. Instruct students to get out/put away technology by row or group. Chaos quickly ensues and much time is lost if students try to get out/put away technology at the same time. Traffic jams form and students gather with buddies to chat. Let students go by rows or groups to ensure the least amount of downtime in class.
  8. Use the technology transition times to your benefit. Don’t let times when students are waiting to get/put away technology become free time. Go over the plans for the day, review vocabulary words, ask/answer lesson questions. If students are kept thinking they will easily transition into the next task.
  9. Watch the clock. Make sure to allow just the right amount of time to put away technology at the end of class. If you give too much time, students will be hard to get back on track for the remaining minutes. If you give too little time, students will be frantic to get their devices put away and will create a mess.
  10. Keep the technology in your classroom. It is very stressful trying to hunt down missing technology. Eliminate the possibility by keeping technology in the classroom. If students need to use it outside of their class period, have them come to your room and use it there.

Technology gets easier the more you use it. Set up procedures and rules for using it in the beginning and then hold to them. It doesn’t take long for the benefits of using technology to outweigh the frustrations of getting started.

Technology in the Social Studies Classroom: An Example Lesson

Social studies teachers are lucky; they have such a wealth of technology tools at their fingertips. I know many social studies teachers who use YouTube almost daily to enhance their lessons. I was recently asked to put together a social studies lesson based around the Ohio Academic Content Standards incorporating the technology tools I use. It was delightful. Social studies teachers are doing so much with technology; it was hard to limit myself to one lesson. Here it is.

Ohio Academic Content Standards:

Topic: Prosperity, Depression and the New Deal (1919-1941)
The post-World War I period was characterized by economic, social and political turmoil. Post-war prosperity brought about changes to American popular culture. However, economic disruptions growing out the war years led to worldwide depression. The United States attempted to deal with the Great Depression through economic programs created by the federal government.

Content Statement: The Great Depression was caused, in part, by the federal government’s policies, stock market speculation and increasing consumer debt. The role of the federal government expanded as a result of the Great Depression.

Opening Activity: Students will log into the Socrative classroom. The teacher will ask the true or false question: “I know about the Great Depression.” The teacher and students will look at the results on the board. Then the teacher will ask the short answer question: “Explain what you know about the Great Depression.” The teacher and students will look at the results. The teacher will lend clarification and gain knowledge on how much students know.

Depending on knowledge of content, the teacher can continue the lesson in two ways:

1. Reintroduce students to the Great Depression if there is little knowledge of the topic. Teach using a Prezi. Have students take notes using Evernote.

Great Depression Prezi Examples:

2. Students with sufficient knowledge can start a research project on an aspect of the Great Depression. They must write a paper and present a Glog on their research. Papers will be submitted through Turnitin.

Great Depression Glog Examples:

Upcoming Assessment: Students will also study Great Depression vocabulary using Quizlet to prepare for their test on EDU2.0.

Great Depression Quizlet Study Cards Example:

Social studies teachers are using these technology tools widely. This is great for new teachers to these tools because they can create their own materials or use some of the excellent resources others have already made. Technology in the social studies classroom can be more than Youtube, so check out these inspiring tools.

Technology in the Math Classroom: An Example Lesson

ImageOf all the types of teachers I talk to about technology, math teachers are the most hesitant. Technology seems to challenge their paper and pencil methods. I understand solving equations on computers is difficult. However, I believe technology can enhance any classroom, so I have put together an example lesson using technology tools. Be warned: I am not a mathematician. I have simply gathered resources from my favorite tools to show how effectively technology can be used in a math classroom.

Example Technology Lesson: The Pythagorean Theorem

Grade 8 Common Core Standards
Understand and apply the Pythagorean Theorem.

  • CCSS.Math.Content.8.G.B.6 Explain a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem and its converse.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.8.G.B.7 Apply the Pythagorean Theorem to determine unknown side lengths in right triangles in real-world and mathematical problems in two and three dimensions.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.8.G.B.8 Apply the Pythagorean Theorem to find the distance between two points in a coordinate system.

Opening Activity: Have students log onto the classroom Socrative account. Ask students to explain what they know about the Pythagorean Theorem using the short answer tool. Look at the results with the students. Use the results to decide how much time to spend teaching or reviewing the Pythagorean Theorem.

Lesson: Use a Prezi to teach/review the Pythagorean Theorem.
Example Prezi:

Lesson Extension: Have students work in groups to create Glogs that explain the Pythagorean Theorem. Have the groups present to the class.
Example Glogs:

Formative Assessment/Exit Question: Students should already be logged into Socrative. Give them a multiple choice mathematical problem using the Pythagorean Theorem. Have students solve the problem and submit their answers on Socrative. Look at the results to check for understanding.

Homework: Students should study the Pythagorean Theorem vocabulary for an upcoming test using Quizlet flashcards. The test will be given on EDU2.0.
Example flashcards:

One of the most important skills I learned in Algebra II was PowerPoint. Little did my math teacher know that assigning me a PowerPoint on a mathematician would give me a technology skill I could use the rest of my life. Maybe she did know. Teach more than just content skills. Use technology to enhance learning and give students tools to use for the rest of their lives.

Silent Discussion: The Discussion Where Every Student is Involved


As an education student, I dreamed of the day when I would lead amazing discussions in my own classroom. These were the discussions that would shape the future of the world. When former students reminisced about me, they would talk of life-changing discussions. Then I graduated and got my own classroom; the discussions weren’t as I had planned.

Many teachers (hopefully) can relate to the less than invigorating discussion experience. Some students sit in sullen silence the entire discussion; others just can’t stop talking. Conversation often strays from topic, and frustrated teachers end up prodding for answers. As a new teacher, I couldn’t stand to see my discussion dream fall completely to this level without a good fight, so I developed Silent Discussion.

The basic idea of Silent Discussion is to have students respond first to a “yes/no” or “true/false” question. Once students see the class results, they defend their answers. However, most of this is done as silently as possible. This can be achieved several ways, but here are my two favorites.

Silent Discussion Game
This version is very structured and has a game component for added interest.

  • Break the class into two or more teams. Seat students so they can clearly see each other. I seat students in a circle.
  • The aim of the game is to get the most points. Points are given for constructive responses and taken away for any other type of talking. Each person can only score three points. I keep track of points by marking on each student’s desk with a whiteboard marker which easily rubs off after the game.
  • Ask the class a question they can answer with “yes/no” or “true/false.” (Thumbs up for “yes.” Thumbs down for “no.”)
  • Look at the results with the class.
  • Have students defend their answers with examples from real life or class content.  Once a student speaks constructively three times, she cannot speak again (her three points are earned).
  • Repeat.
  • The team with the most points at the end of the discussion wins.

This version makes sure that all students are involved. Talkative students are restricted to speaking three times, and quiet students usually speak up at least once to help their team.

Silent Discussion Using Socrative
Have students log in to your Socrative classroom account to do this discussion.

  • Ask the class a question they can answer with “true/false” using the Socrative “true/false” tool.
  • Look at the results with the class. Socrative will show a graph of the responses.
  • Have students defend their answers with examples from real life or class content by using the Socrative short answer tool. All responses will appear on screen.
  • Read through the answers and have students vote on the best answer.
  • Repeat.

This version is great for students working on their writing and typing skills. Students enjoy seeing the responses projected and voting on the best response.

Some Examples of Questions
From Romeo and Juliet

  • Elizabethan society generally believed that a man too much in love lost his manliness. Do you think this is true today?
  • Is it fair for Mercutio to blame the Montagues and Capulets for his death? (Remember “a plague o’ both your houses!”)
  • Is it right of Romeo to avenge Mercutio’s death?

From Julius Caesar

  • Can someone do something wrong for the right reasons?
  • Is loyalty to country more important than loyalty to friends?
  • Is it right to keep a large personal fear from a significant other?
  • Is Brutus’ fear for his country legitimate or unfounded?

Silent Discussions are a great way to involve all students in classroom conversations. Try your own adaptation of Silent Discussion and hear from all your students.