Category Archives: On the Web

5 Sites to Publish Student Writing Online

by Helen Beyne

websites publish student writing

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The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) require students to “use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing” beginning in Grade 4 and continuing through Grade 12 to publish digital content. Google Docs are a great way to encourage collaboration and to pique students’ interest in publishing their writing online. However, what are the best tools for your students to use to share their work safely with a broader digital audience? Here are 5 great sites to publish student writing online.


Blogger, one of the most commonly used blogging tools, is free and fairly intuitive. It offers a number of basic, colorful templates, and advanced users can customize their blogs even further. In the classroom, students can use Blogger to create their own individual blogs, or teachers can create a class blog and invite students to contribute. This user-friendly site is Google’s blogging tool, so students must create a Google account before they can use Blogger (if your school already uses Google Apps for Education, Blogger is an easy addition to the arsenal).


For young students, Kidblog might be the way to go. Because teachers create accounts for each student user, students do not need email addresses to sign up. Teachers also have the option to assign and reset passwords, so instructors will not need to worry about younger students forgetting this sensitive information. The basic version of Kidblog is free, but its premium features are available for an annual fee.


Edublogs is one of the safest places for students to publish their writing online. The site is equipped with content filters to keep their blogs student-friendly. Teachers also have total control over privacy settings, so they are able to share students’ work safely and responsibly. One drawback to Edublogs, however, is that its free version is rather limited. Users must pay a monthly free to enjoy all that the site has to offer, including embedded videos, mobile blogging, and custom domains.


Penzu is a free online journaling site students can use to reflect privately or share their thoughts with others. If users choose to share their journals, commenting enables viewers to turn a static journal post into a conversation. Penzu Classroom makes it easy for teachers to start a collection of journals for students. Teachers can then use their own Penzu accounts to create assignments for the class, give comments, and grade students’ entries. is the easiest way to post writing online. It is one of the few sites that do not require students to create an account. Instead, they simply create a unique URL, assign a password, and start publishing content. This barebones blogging tool lacks the fancy templates and other customizable content that comes with other blogging tools, but its anonymity is a plus for teachers who don’t want their students to publish their names online or those who require their students to publish their writing only few times a semester.

What do you think? Which online publishing tool is right for your classroom? Do you know any other safe sites for sharing? Add them in the comments!

Helen bioHelen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.

5 Cool Science YouTube Channels

by Hope Morley

science youtube channels

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Last month we shared five YouTube channels that offer great educational videos on a wide variety of topics. This week, we focus on the best YouTube channels for science videos.


LEVEL: Middle school

An offshoot of MinutePhysics, this channel offers “science and stories about our awesome planet!” Animated videos provide information about earth science subjects such as the atmosphere as well as life science topics about organisms. Its most viewed video is “Where Did Earth’s Water Come From?”

National Geographic

LEVEL: Middle to high school

The National Geographic Society, “one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world,” was founded in 1888. Its YouTube channel contains thousands of videos, including scores of fun animal clips that feature the “World’s Deadliest” and “World’s Weirdest.” It also includes glimpses into peoples and traditions from around the world as well as videos about historical and current events. The channel offers information about nature and science, too. One playlist for National Geographic’s Genographic Project shows how the Society is tracking human origins and migration through DNA analysis.

The Periodic Table of Videos

LEVEL: Middle to high school

Video journalist Brady Haran works with University of Nottingham, England, chemists to produce short videos about every element on the periodic table from hydrogen to ununoctium. The channel also includes videos showing experiments at extremely slow rates of speed (it’s more entertaining that it sounds, trust me), such as pouring mercury into liquid nitrogen, which can lead to new discoveries that the scientists then share with their viewers. In “Hydrogen Explosions (slow motion),” Professor Martyn Poliakoff enthuses, “It’s always good for a scientist to be proved wrong.”

The Science Channel

LEVEL: Middle to high school

Developed through the Cassiopeia Project, this channel aims to provide teachers and students with videos that explain difficult concepts in astronomy, biology, and physics simply and clearly. The “From Big Bang to Man” series provides detailed descriptions about the “baby” universe, the universe today, how life evolved on Earth, the first humans, and people today. The Science Channel also includes dozens of videos about the Hubble Telescope.


LEVEL: Middle to high school

When Derek Muller was studying for his doctorate in Physics Education Research, he found that “addressing misconceptions first is often essential to engage the audience and promote conceptual change.” He applies this knowledge on the Veritasium YouTube channel, which gets its name from the Latin word for truthveritas—and the suffix -ium, a common suffix for many elements on the periodic table. Many of the offerings focus on physics. Viewed more than 9 million times, “World’s Roundest Object!” explains the history of the kilogram measurement and how to “eliminate the kilogram’s dependence on a physical object.”

What do you think about these science YouTube channels? Are there other channels that you would add to this list? Leave a comment below, or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

Get Connected: Things to Do for Connected Educator Month

by Helen Beyne

connected educator month

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Happy Connected Educator Month! For the month of October, educators are invited to connect with colleagues online and participate in a wide variety of free education-related events, including webinars, chats, guided tours, podcasts, virtual worlds, and much more!

First established in 2012, Connected Educator Month (CEM) has grown over the past two years and is slated to reach even more education professionals in 2014. This year’s CEM has gone global—the United States; New Zealand; Victoria, Australia; and Norway are all hosting their own CEM events and sharing them via a common calendar. Some key themes of this year’s celebration are blended learning and whole community engagement.

Why the need for CEM? While some educators are currently involved in online learning communities and networks, many are not participating at all or are not making the most of these resources. CEM’s goals are to improve educators’ proficiency with social media, enhance the experience for those who are already connected, help schools better integrate connected learning into professional development, and encourage innovation in the field.

Get Started with CEM

Are you new to CEM or online professional communities/networks in general? Get started here, where you can access the CEM Starter Kit. The kit features 31 days of connected activities to try, showcasing a different activity each day. Participate in each day’s activity, or use the kit as a jumping-off point for your own CEM explorations.

Throughout the kit are useful links and embedded videos that provide more information on an array of timely topics for educators. Video topics include personal learning networks, “Twitter in plain English,” and the importance of being a connected educator.

To stay on top of what’s going on during this special month, sign up for the CEM newsletter. (It’s easy—just enter your email address in the field on the right side of the screen.) After you’re signed up, you’ll get regular email updates about real-time events that you can register for, many of which are led by experts in the fields of education and technology. You’ll also find out about forums on important education-related issues, exhibits, collaborative projects, and special activities such as polls and contests.

Check the CEM Calendar

Make the most of CEM by using the website’s calendar feature. Check out what’s happening each day, or sort the calendar events by their color-coded categories. You can also use the search box and filters to find activities/events that relate to a particular primary audience or topic of interest. Create a profile on the CEM calendar to save the specific events that interest you.

Follow the CEM Blog

The CEM blog is a good way to stay up to date on featured events and activities going on each week during CEM. It also contains first-person posts from connected educators, such as “How Becoming a Connected Educator Saved My Career” from Pennsylvania teacher Brianna Crowley.

This list contains some more great ideas on how to get involved in CEM.

Are you participating in CEM this month? What are your favorite activities and events so far? Leave us a comment, send us a tweet, or find us on Facebook!

Helen bioHelen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.

Best GAFE Resources for Beginners (or Anyone!)

by Erin Dye

Chances are that you are one of the 30 million registered Google Apps for Education (GAFE) users. You might be a super user, or you might never even have logged into your .edu account.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the information out there about Google. I’d like to point out just a few of my favorite of the thousands of GAFE resources.

1. Google 101

This video explains in just 101 seconds what GAFE is and how you can use it immediately in your classroom. You can’t beat that for a quick and thorough introduction.

2. Google Learning Center

This is where you would go if you wanted to pay the $60 to become a Google Certified Educator. And that’s great—I did it, and I learned a lot. Even if you’re not interested in getting certified, however, all of the training resources are free for anyone. If you’re just starting out, I recommend that you read through the Level 1 lessons on all of the basic Tools. You can go on to Level 2 and even take electives in things like Google Play, Chromebooks, and YouTube, if you want.

3. Guide to Going Google

This mini Google site is easy to miss among the resources Google lists on its pages. However, it’s got links, resources, and step-by-step guides for everyone from new network admins to new Google teachers and students. It’s even got a guide on how to get GAFE buy-in from everyone in your school or district, including parents and the community.

I’ll stop there, because there are potentially hours of independent PD time hiding within each of those resources. These are great intros to using Google, and even if you’re not a beginner, you’ll probably find something you didn’t know in at least one of these resources. If you’re already a super Googler, what were your favorite resources when you started out? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAErin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development and a Google Certified Educator. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.

How to Use Maps in Any Classroom

by Jonathan Laxamana

map making tools

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Using maps in the classroom once meant occasionally fussing with a hanging world map or too-small spinning globe (that usually collected dust) just to point out the location of a little-known country or quickly trace the progression of a military campaign in history class. Today, however, there are a number of web-based and desktop map-making tools available to help teachers use maps more creatively as visual tools—and outside of the history classroom.

For All Teachers

Google Maps offers a familiar and relatively easy interface for creating simple maps with markers, information, and routes. There are also features that allow users to import data, upload images and videos, and measure the distance between two points, which makes it a great tool for creating interactive activities about many topics.

For Science and History Teachers

National Geographic MapMaker Interactive allows users to layer maps from their collection. The collection provides data for a number of topics—from giant panda populations to mobile service subscriptions. This tool’s simple interface makes it an excellent tool for comparing, contrasting, and synthesizing information.

For History and English Teachers

History Pin is a tool that combines locations, images, and text to create a historical narrative. Here, users can either learn about the history of a particular location, group, or event—via tours and collections—or create one of their own. This tool is great for project-based learning, as it requires students to use their researching and writing skills.

Mixsee is similar to History Pin. It allows users to craft a narrative about a particular location. Students can attach images, videos, music, and descriptions to a place on a map, and these locations can be grouped together to create a guide. This tool is also great for project-based learning, especially short-term projects.

For Ambitious Math, Science, and History Teachers

CartoDB is a tool that maps data. Users upload data (via Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) or input data that will be depicted on a map. Using the interface is a bit challenging, and even high school students will need some assistance using this tool; however, the software is simple enough for a teacher to create step-by-step instructions for generating a map for a particular project. With this tool, students can create colorful images that help them easily understand or explain the results of a math, science, or history project.

Tableau Public is similar to CartoDB, but the interface is a bit more challenging because it can present imported data in a number of ways—as maps, graphs, charts, tables, etc. Users choose how they want the information to be presented and drag and drop the data they want to use. The software does most of the work, but the user can modify the presentation.

Creating a simple map with this tool is relatively easy with a well-organized spreadsheet; however, there are many options for customizing the presentation that can make using the software challenging. For a simple, clear project, this tool can help your students create stunning data maps.

These are just a few of the many tools available for making maps. Many of them use Google Maps in some way, but their interface, features, and focus vary greatly. When you’re deciding which tool to use, think carefully about which tool’s features are best aligned with the project you want to use it for, and consider how challenging it will be for your students to use the tool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

Banned Books Week 2014

How are you using technology + literature to celebrate the Freedom to Read?

by Helen Beyne

banned books week

image courtesy of ddpavumba |

As you probably know, the last week of September is Banned Books Week, and this year the focus is on graphic novels. It’s possible that your classroom library already includes one or more titles that have been banned or challenged. (Challenging refers to an attempt to remove materials from libraries, or otherwise restrict access, based on objection to content. Banning refers to the actual removal of materials.)

Electronic books and digital or online annotation can be powerful tools. Anyone who has ever lugged an eight-hundred page anthology from home to school and back again can surely appreciate the portability of e-readers, tablets, and laptops. Likewise, no one who flipped through pages and pages of highlighting, marginalia, and sticky notes trying to recall that one particular a-ha moment can deny that searchability is a real time saver.

Project Gutenberg is a great source for free downloadable (or read-online) books. Their catalog includes titles that are in the public domain in the United States. Use Gutenberg texts on e-readers with highlight and note-taking capability, or invite students to mark them up using an annotation program such as Diigo.

Try searching Curriculet for a title you’re teaching; for instance, The Call of the Wild—a favorite among middle school teachers—has been challenged or banned many times since its 1903 publication. Curriculet lessons are correlated to CCSS, and more importantly, you can make or add your own questions and notes. In addition to answering questions, students can add their own notes!

Auditory learners fear not: If you are looking for yet another non-print way to access great books, Librivox to the rescue. Listen online, or download files of audio recordings of books in the public domain.

Is your class participating in the Virtual Read Out? How is your community celebrating the Freedom to Read? Leave us a comment, send us a tweet, or find us on Facebook!

Helen bioHelen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.

7 Chrome Extensions You Shouldn’t Live Without

by Erin Dye

Extensions are mini-applications that extend the functionality of larger applications. There are number of extensions for Google’s Chrome browser. Here are seven Chrome extensions in the education space that you shouldn’t live without.

  1. Hide YouTube Comments: Show YouTube videos with the peace of mind that your students won’t see any inflammatory comments. With this extension, you and your students won’t see comments from other viewers (or be able to leave your own).
  2. Adblock Plus: Make the web a more kid-safe place while de-cluttering websites. This ad blocker removes obtrusive advertising content from pages. You definitely won’t miss the ads once they’re gone!
  3. Block site: Help students stay focused and on-task by limiting access to certain websites. Set days and times so that social media sites are blocked during all but the lunch hour. Or block a certain word, so that any URL that contains (for instance) tumblr is blocked.
  4. Flubaroo: Are you using frequent formative assessment in your classroom? (Okay, yes, that was a pun on Google Forms.) This Google Sheets add-on allows quizzes to grade themselves!
  5. Doctopus: Make sure each of your students gets a copy of the handout for tomorrow, and distribute a view-only copy of your grading rubric. Doctopus is an add-on specifically for Google Sheets, but don’t let that throw you—you can use it to distribute files of any type.
  6. Goobric: Multiply the power of Doctopus by coupling it with this extension. Use Goobric to grade student work and email feedback. Record grades and comments quickly and easily.
  7. If your school is already using the Hapara Teacher Dashboard, this extension might be for you.

Did I miss anything? Leave us a comment, send us a tweet, or find us on Facebook to let us know what Chrome extensions, add-ons, or tweaks are making your life better!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAErin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.

How to Start a Class Blog

by Hope Morley

class blog

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

A class blog is a great way to connect with parents, inspire your students, and meet the Common Core standards. The CCSS Writing standards require students to produce and publish writing on the Internet, as well as adjust writing for different audiences and purposes.

According to a study done last year by the Pew Research Internet Project, 96% of teachers agree that digital technologies benefit students by helping them share writing with wider audiences. Students are writing and reading a lot online, but that language often isn’t appropriate for the classroom. Increasingly, students are using the same general voice whether they’re texting their peers or writing a formal report. Many students are unable to distinguish when to adjust voice and tone for audience; others simply don’t know how. As students prepare for college and the workplace, however, attention to audience may mean the difference between getting a job and offending a boss.

How do you go about preparing your students for college and career while hitting those technology standards? With a class blog of course!

Getting Started 

First and foremost, get permission from your administration and parents before publishing any student work online. Set ground rules, such as no last names for younger students.

Choose a Platform

There are plenty of options out there, but here are a few good options for teachers and students.

  • Blogger: Google’s free blogging platform is user-friendly and easy to set up if you already have a Google account. This platform is best for one class blog. While it is fairly intuitive, save this platform for middle or high school students.
  • Weebly: Weebly is ideal for teachers who want each student to have their own blogs. The teacher creates an umbrella site for the whole class, and then creates individual blogs for each student. Weebly’s drag and drop design is intuitive and easy even for younger students. Weebly has the option to password protect your class blog, which is a great privacy feature.
  • Edublogs: Edublogs are made for teachers and provide plenty of protections for students, though most of the best features require a paid account. Paying teachers can easily monitor comments and blogs from a master account. Edublogs is powered by WordPress, which can be a difficult platform to master.
  • Pen: Do you want students to post their work online only once or twice during the year? Try Pen. This easy website allows anyone to post work online to a unique URL with no log in required.

Set Rules and Expectations 

Before mentioning a blog to your students, figure out what the rules and expectations will be. Are comments allowed? If so, what happens to students who post mean-spirited or offensive comments? How will students be graded? If there’s a rubric, share it with students. How often and when do students need to post? Should students be reading and providing feedback on each other’s posts? Put answers to all these questions in writing (hey, that sounds like a good first blog post!).

Start Posting 

Once you have a blog up and running, set a schedule for posting. Will students post a reflection on the blog every Friday about what they learned? Is the blog a forum for book reviews or short analytical essays? (Be aware that not all students have Internet access at home and should be given time in class or after school to post their work.) What’s the process for corrections?

Have students think about their audience when they post. Who might be interested in reading this work? Who might stumble on it from Google? Bloggers should always have their audience in mind before they start to write.

Do you use a blog in your classroom? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

5 Educational YouTube Channels to Follow

by Hope Morley

Educational youtube channel

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Far from being just for cat videos, YouTube offers an unlimited amount of resources for learners. Many well-known and reliable websites and institutions have channels that focus specifically on one area of interest or study. Other channels present information from both the humanities and the sciences.

Here are five YouTube channels that offer educational videos on a wide variety of topics, including science, literature, social studies, music, and everything in between!

C.G.P. Grey

The C.G.P. Grey channel offers dozens of videos on politics, geography, and economics, as well as a few on science topics. C.G.P. Grey’s most popular video is “The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained” (who doesn’t need a refresher on that?), which had more than 6 million views at the end of August 2014.

LEVEL: Middle to high school

Crash Course

Brothers Hank Green and John Green (yes, the The Fault in Our Stars author) launched this entertaining and informational channel in January 2012 with its first—and still most viewed—video about the agricultural revolution, the first in a 42-episode series on world history. When asked by a “student” if the presented information will be “on the test,” John’s reply is: “The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, make your life yours.” Other subjects covered are U.S. history, biology, ecology, literature, chemistry, and psychology.

LEVEL: High school

Library of Congress

Based in Washington, D.C., the Library of Congress (LOC) considers itself “the steward of millions of recordings dating from the earliest Edison films to the present.” Along with these first films and archival footage of historical and artistic events, the videos on the LOC channel range from music concerts to lectures on dozens of subjects to interviews with authors and other notable figures. The most viewed piece of media is a five-second film from 1894 showing the “Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze.” Another popular video is of boxing cats, which is exactly what it sounds like and proves that people were amused by feline behavior decades before the rise of the Internet.

LEVEL: Middle to high school

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and MIT OCW

One of the top universities in the country, MIT and its news team post videos of science experiments, the latest in technology and medicine, and even how to deflect asteroids with a paintball cloud! The most viewed page is a video that visualizes the speed of light.

In addition to its YouTube channel, MIT also maintains a web-based publication known as MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW). MIT OCW offers thousands of university courses for free. MIT OCW has its own YouTube channel, in which learners can choose between thousands of lectures on subjects such as computer programming, the sciences, architecture, communications, law, and languages.

LEVEL: Middle to high school

Have any thoughts on these educational YouTube channels? Have any others you’d like to share? Leave a comment, or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

How to Build a PLN this Summer

by Hope Morley

Build a PLN this summer

Build a PLN in addition to sandcastles this summer | Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid /

The sun is shining, the days are getting longer, and the end of the school year is fast approaching. In addition to some much-needed R&R, summer is a great time to work on building your personal learning network (PLN). Here are four things to try over the break.

1. Attend an Edcamp or summer workshop

Find a local Edcamp, a self-proclaimed “unconference” organized by local educators. Edcamps are a great place to network and learn from other teachers.

If there isn’t an Edcamp near you, search for education workshops in your area using Google or EventBrite. Local colleges and universities are often a good place to start.

If you can’t find one locally, try a virtual workshop, such as one from Google. Then join one of their communities to discuss what you learned.

2. Spend time exploring Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever social network interests you

Summer is the perfect time to devote ten minutes a day to participating in professional conversations on social media. Start slow, by finding new people to follow. Then try commenting on articles or resources you like. Set a goal, such as one comment per day (and follow through if a conversation ensues!). By the end of the summer, you could have started 50 or more conversations. Even if most of them don’t lead to anything, a few might inspire great connections!

In addition, share the posts you like or what you’re learning. Make your Twitter stream or Pinterest boards worth following.

We have lots of detailed tips about social networking here, here, and here.

3. Find new bloggers to follow

Find some new blogs that interest you. You can start from a directory such as Teach100, or try Googling your subject and grade level. If you find a blog you like, leave a comment or reach out to that person on social media. Or simply start loading those blogs into an RSS feed or reading app such as Flipboard to refer to during the school year.

4. Join a teacher community on Ning or Google+

These communities are specifically set up for conversations and sharing ideas. Join a few and see what your peers have to say. (Try starting with the wonderful and huge Classroom 2.0.) These groups can be easier to jump into than one-on-one forms of social media, especially if you’re creating a new account.


Once you have the foundation built, it’ll be much easier to keep up with your PLN when August rolls around. What are your PLN plans for the summer?

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT