How to Protect Your Data in Google for Education

by Emily Levison

With so many schools using Google Apps these days, it’s worth a refresher course on a few easy things you can do to keep your (and your students’!) data safe.

Two-Step Verification

Although this is the most basic form of protection, two-step verification means someone trying to get into your Google account needs more than just your password to get in. With two-step verification, Google sends a code to your phone after you enter your password. The code can be sent through an app, a text message, or a call. Two devices, two steps; good luck, hackers.

Now that sounds like a lot of work just to log into your Gmail every day. However, you have the choice to remove the two-step verification from specific devices; this keeps your Gmail sign in fast and easy on the computer, laptop or tablet you use regularly.

Boxcryptor

Hackers are not the only fear with Google Drive. One of the major worries of many Google users is the loss of data or files. Boxcryptor is one easy solution. This application secures your files by encrypting them before they are uploaded to Google Drive. There is a free version that allows for storage encryption on two devices.

Share with Care

One of the best features in Google Drive is the ability to have multiple people share and simultaneously edit a file. Despite this incredible capability, the multiple user feature of Google Drive opens the door to more risk. Take the time to explore your options before sharing a file. Here are some tips:

  1. Limit access: Share access only with users you fully trust.
  2. Use your options: Default to the “view only” option. When you share access with this restriction a user can only see the file, not change it. For sensitive content, choose the option to “Disable options to download, print, and copy for commenters and viewers.”
    NOTE: If you give someone editing access, be sure to check the box that says “Prevent editors from changing access and adding new people” to stop others from distributing your content.
  3. Less is more: You can always upgrade a user to have more access if needed.
  4. Remove: If someone no longer needs to see a file, remove his or her access in the Advanced sharing setting.
  5. Remember: Although you can prevent all of these actions, a user can still use a screenshot to steal important information. Share smart and you’ll never have to worry.

5 Great Free Math Websites For Teachers

by Mary Kate Dempsey

free math websites for teachers

Image courtesy of artur84 | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Technology is a great way to introduce variety to your math lessons. Below are some helpful websites that teachers can use as reference materials, for tutoring, as extra practice, or just for fun.

Khan Academy

We have talked about Khan Academy before. Khan Academy has thousands of K-8 educational videos to help students grasp concepts from basic arithmetic to calculus and organic chemistry. As a teacher, you can create a class and track both your students’ progress through skill assessments and how much time they spent working on the site. The site includes non-math subjects, but they aren’t the draw.

A+ Click

A+ Click is a great resource for students who need extra practice. Students choose either a grade level, G1–12, or a topic. Whether the student answers right or wrong, A+ Click will show you why the correct answer is correct (so even the lucky guessers will learn something). The site revised most of the questions in 2015 to align to the Common Core. Bonus: no sign-in required!

Wolfram MathWorld

This offshoot of the popular Wolfram Alpha online calculator has hundreds of free math articles on topics ranging from algebra to topology, including the history and definitions of math terms—fun for the math nerd in all of us! Many articles include helpful visuals such as GIFs and pictures. It is the perfect reference material when needing to go into more detail about a theorem or topic.

AAA Math

This site for students in grades K-8 contains short written lessons followed by practice items on topics from addition to algebra. In the classroom, ask students to answer a specific number of practice questions or set a time limit and have students tell you their score at the end. The site is also available in Spanish.

Math Dude Podcast

More for the audial learner, Math Dude is a weekly podcast most appropriate for high school students. Host Jason Marshall aims to make math fun with facts about the Juno Spaceship and the NCAA Tournament. He shares tips and tricks to help make math easier for kids who are struggling. The podcasts range from 6-10 minutes, making it a great bellringer.

What are some other math websites you love? Let us know in the comments.

Green Light Learning Tools is the Featured Provider on the HMH Marketplace for July!

HMH Marketplace

Exciting news for Green Light Learning Tools: We’ve been named the Featured Provider on the HMH Marketplace for July. Hop on over to browse a selection of our products, from our iPad apps to our ever-popular Toolkit of Reading. (Bonus: The Toolkit lessons are Common Core aligned!)

While you’re there, check out some of the great summer resources available! Check back later in the summer for more great activities for back to school. Find something you love? Tell us about it in the comments or on Twitter.

The Best Special Education Apps for Teachers

by Mary Kate Dempsey

special education apps for teachers

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tablets and phones can be a huge asset for teachers working with students with special needs. Technology allows teachers to work with students at their ability levels. Below are some of our favorite apps for the special education classroom. 

Dragon Dictation (free – iOS only, similar apps are available for Android)

Speech-to-text apps are great for students who struggle with writing or typing. Dragon Dictation is one of the easiest to use and most accurate. All you have to do is open the app and speak into it. Once the app transcribes your words, you can edit it if needed and share through email or paste it into Google Docs.

Pocket Pond 2 (free – iOS and Android)

Have a student who gets overstimulated easily? Try Pocket Pond. Calming music plays while koi fish swim around a virtual pond. Students can play with the fish until they are ready to rejoin the class.

iReward ($2.99 – iOS)

iReward is a useful app that tracks tasks for students to accomplish to earn a set reward. The app supports multiple users, making it perfect for the classroom.

Time Timer ($2.99 – iOS, $0.99 – Android)

An easy to read and highly visual timer that shows how much time is left in the event in red and the time passed in white. This app is great for time management in any setting, classroom or otherwise.

SoundingBoard (free, with in-app purchases – iOS)

SoundingBoard uses symbols to help teachers and students who are nonverbal communicate easily. Crucially for teachers, the app supports multiple boards for use with different people. It comes pre-loaded with 20 symbols, and each in-app purchase after is $0.99.

Nulite Behavior Tracker ($19.99 – iOS)

Yes, this app is expensive, but it has excellent features that make it worth the upfront cost. Nulite is an app made especially for special education teachers that tracks student behaviors with date, duration, and notes for each student. The easily exported generated charts and graphs are great for sharing with parents and administrators.

Do you use apps in the classroom? If so, what apps do you use and would recommend to other special education teachers? Let us know in the comments!

Edtech Podcasts You Should Listen To

by Hope Morley

ID-100322962

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everyone knows professional development and continuing education are important. It’s essential to stay up-to-date on new trends and best practices. There are a thousand great blogs and articles full of new information to use in your classroom… but let’s face facts. Teachers are busy people and it takes a lot of time you don’t have to catch up on all that reading. The solution? Podcasts! Podcasts are great to listen to while you commute, go for a run, or make dinner.

Add the following edtech podcasts to your phone or iPod and start learning!

Cult of Pedagogy

Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast covers more than edtech. Some of her best episodes focus on classroom management and strategies. A former teacher and college instructor, Gonzalez is engaging and conversational. You’ll want to spend an hour with her when a new episode is released.

House of #Edtech

In every episode, educator and host Christopher Nesi interviews an interesting person, gives some tips, and shares resources. One of the best features of the podcast, if you listen on Nesi’s website, is the collection of links mentioned in each podcast listed underneath the audio.

Bedley Brothers

If you listen for this podcast for nothing else, listen to the hilarious theme song. Tim and Scott Bedley bring on great guests, such as Jose Vilson and Alice Keeler. The Bedleys ask useful questions and get their interviewees to share best practices that will help give you ideas to use tomorrow.

Note to Self

Ok, this one is a technology podcast, not an education podcast. It covers technology and how it affects our daily lives. It’s included because many episodes, such as one about the difference between reading on a screen and on paper, can be directly translated to the classroom. The mixture of brain science and trends will be interesting to any teacher using devices in the classroom.

A few additional notable mentions:

Did we miss your favorite education podcast? Tell us what you listen to in the comments or on Twitter.

PS – Need a recommendation for a podcast app? Here are good lists for Android and iPhone.

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

The Best Free Resource You Aren’t Using

by Hope Morley

If you think about the Library of Congress at all, perhaps you imagine a giant library with stacks of books going up to the ceiling, or maybe you think it’s merely dusty old congressional records. While both of those things are true, their website is also a great resource for teachers. And best of all, it’s free!

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-02457

Teahouse at Koishikawa | Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-jpd-02457

Spend a little time exploring the homepage. The Prints & Photographs division has millions of digital images that are easy to search and download. The Civil War photographs and Farm Security Administration collections are particularly worth exploring. Some of the collections may surprise you. Did you know the LOC has an excellent collection of Japanese art prints?

The Film division contains many early motion pictures, including from Thomas Edison’s studio, which make a great study of technology and inventions. Show students this 1894 video of boxing cats to prove that cat videos were popular long before YouTube!

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-fsa-8b29516

Migrant Mother | Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-fsa-8b29516

Though some of the sites are a little old and not very pretty, LOC’s Digital Collections (formerly the American Memory series) is full of curated content ripe for the picking. Looking for documents from the Constitutional Convention? Historical sheet music? Videos of the Spanish-American War, including Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders? A history of the American conservation movement? A web archive of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City? You may find things you didn’t know would be fascinating, like a history of Dolly Parton and early country music.

Some content comes from other sources, such as universities and local historical societies, which extends the reach of the site. They have whole collections of African American history, women’s history, technology, and more. Don’t let the old-fashioned look of some of the pages scare you off!

Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppprs-00626

First Flight | Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppprs-00626

For teacher-focused materials, head over to their teacher page. This site contains lesson plans, presentations, and student activities. Lesson plans include recommended grade levels and many have Common Core correlations. You’ll also find tips for using primary sources in the classroom and some professional development lessons.

What are your favorite resources from LOC? Tell us 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

Resources for Integrating Multimedia into your Classroom

by Erin Dye

Multimedia is a huge part of the Common Core. Two of the standards (RL.7 and RI.7, in most grades) explicitly call for analyzing multimedia, and other standards can be enhanced by the addition of high-quality multimedia. What do we mean when we say multimedia? It doesn’t only mean videos. It can be images, video, music, graphs, and interactives like infographics.

Unfortunately, the Internet is full of mediocre multimedia that isn’t worth analyzing. To find quality multimedia, check out trusted institutions that are known for high-quality content, such as museums or PBS Kids. Or start with our list below!

Literature

  • iBooks: While the best content is paid, keep on eye on the free section. If you are interested in a paid book, try a sample before you buy to make sure it has multimedia.
  • Google Play/Google Books: As with iBooks, most of the best content is paid. But many public domain children’s books include the original illustrations and the content is available without an Apple device.
  • Met Museum: The illustrated story “Marduk, King of the Gods” is great for younger kids. It features audio, sound effects, and pictures.
  • Storyline Online: One of my favorites is this collection of videos of celebrities (Betty White, James Earl Jones, many more) reading famous picture books.
  • Reading Rainbow: This subscription-based app for iPad and Kindle Fire is an extension of the classic TV show. A classroom edition is coming for fall 2015.
  • Library of Congress: A great, free collection of classic public domain books presented in a nice viewer
  • Edsitement Websites: This list of recommended websites from the National Endowment for the Arts includes many great interactives. Filter by subject for best results.

Informational

  • National Archives: Part of the DocsTeach collection, this site is a great resource for videos, plus virtual Google Maps tours on HistoryPin.
  • PBS Learning Media: Great repository for videos (such as a science series with Curious George) and interactive stories (includes some fiction for younger kids too).
  • Met Museum: This interactive Vincent van Gogh bio with images, maps, and more is great for a cross-curricular study of art and history.
  • Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: A fun interactive website about aerodynamics
  • MinuteEarth: Looking for great science videos? Try these short and informational earth science videos
  • FiveThirtyEight: This site applies statistics to everything from politics to sports to movies. Use it for engaging graphs and analysis for older students.
  • Teaching History: Need a site for history or social students? Check out these oh-so-helpful reviews of history sites.
  • Google Cultural Institute: Just explore this one. You’ll love it.

What sites are we missing? Add them in the comments below!

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.

Writing for an Authentic Audience: How to Get and Apply Great Feedback

by Amber Wilson

writing for an authentic audience

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether or not your curriculum is aligned with the Common Core, you know that good writing is well suited to its purpose and its audience. Likewise, you know that giving, receiving, and responding to feedback is an essential skill inside and out of the classroom. How can you incorporate these real-world practices in your pedagogy?

An authentic audience helps your students . . .

Write for a reason: To inform, to persuade, or to entertain. We often focus on teaching readers how to differentiate between text types, but writing assignments are sometimes less specific. Good writers are able to identify the traits of the writing modes, choose the best mode for the occasion, and create texts that are clearly and obviously persuasive, informative, or entertaining.

Get motivated: As discussed here and here, students are truly motivated by writing for real people.

Write to learn: Engaging fully with content (in all subject areas) requires a certain degree of processing. Encourage students to write before, during, and after projects and learning goals. In addition, your students will probably find that during the course of a unit or project, writing in multiple modes and for multiple audiences helps them process and connect information, leading to fuller engagement and deeper understanding.

Publish! One way is to have a class blog. See this previous post to learn more about getting started. You could also check out an alternate way to publish student writing, like pen.io.

Get feedback: Get on Twitter and tell the world that your kids have something to say. Use the #comments4kids hashtag and start the ball rolling. Then take the next step and guide students to read, understand, and respond to comments. For instance, ask students to perform self-assessment, then compare their assessments to feedback they received in comments. Or, encourage students to take feedback from comments into consideration as they revise and draft their writing.

Want to take it to the next level? Post about a book review and tag the book’s author, or post about a science project and tag a scientist!

Give feedback: Have student writers experience both sides of interacting with an authentic audience. Your students are probably already familiar with trading papers and giving feedback in class. You may also have worked with pen pals, or some other form of long distance communication. Get the best of both worlds by having your kids engage in a conversation about someone else’s published writing. Use #comments4kids to find student writing on a topic that your class is also writing, and invite your class to leave comments.

 

Let us know how you’re using online publishing and writing for an authentic audience in your class! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, or leave us a comment below.

 AmberAmber Wilson is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development.

4 Great Vocabulary Apps for ELL Students

by Hope Morley

vocabulary apps for ELL students

Image courtesy Stuart Miles | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most students (and adults!) acquire new vocabulary through reading, writing, and listening. For many English language learners, that isn’t enough. Direct instruction of vocabulary can make students into better readers, writers, and thinkers. Here are four apps you can use to support vocabulary instruction for your ELL students.

Vocabla

Middle, High School | Website, iOS, Android

Vocabla is available as either a website or a free iOS/Android app. The app allows you to create lists of words you want to learn, has you practice with digital flashcards, and then quizzes you. If you don’t want to create your own lists, the library has many lists ready to go. Students can choose a native language or choose “other” for an English-only experience.

StudyBlue

Middle, High School | Website, iOS, Android

Like Vocabla, StudyBlue is primarily an online flashcard creator. Teachers can create flashcards for the class or have students create flashcards from their own reading. There are also collaboration settings for small group work. StudyBlue has public lists of words, but they aren’t as robust as Vocabla’s library. Use StudyBlue if you want the most control over the words your students study. (Bonus: It syncs with Evernote!)

English First High Flyers Vocabulary Game

Elementary, Middle School | iOS

This fun iPad game contains both flashcard levels with audio and testing games. The audio helps students with the pronunciation of new words. The app is easy to navigate, allowing for students to guide themselves through their practice. It unfortunately doesn’t have any user options, which makes it difficult to save progress in a classroom with shared iPads.

My Words American English

Elementary | iOS ($1.99)

This app covers basic vocabulary in categories like body parts, colors, and transportation, which means it’s best for kids just starting out with English. The games and quizzes are fun, and the animations are well done. The design is aimed at younger audiences, so this app is not recommended for beginning ELLs older than fifth grade.

What vocabulary tools do you recommend for ELL students? Tell us 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

Using Technology for Self-Reflection in the Classroom

by Helen Beyne

self-reflection

Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At a time when yoga and meditation are part of the mainstream, terms such as self-reflection and metacognition have emerged as popular buzzwords even outside the field of neuroscience. The significance of these concepts is more than mere hype. Research has linked self-reflection to better emotional intelligence, higher confidence, greater mental flexibility, and even reduced risks of mood and anxiety disorders.

These benefits also apply to children. New research has indicated that teaching children how to self-reflect is a highly effective way to enhance learning. Keeping a journal is not the only way to help children self-reflect, however; the modern digital age offers a multitude of new and fun ways for you to implement self-reflection activities in your classroom.

WRITING

The cognitive benefits of expressive writing cannot be overstated, and there are a wide variety of digital tools you can use to take your students’ writing beyond pencil and paper. This approach also aligns with the Common Core State Standards for Writing, which requires students of all ages to use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing. You might have your class keep a daily digital journal or set up a classroom blog where students can post their entries and discuss them with others. Penzu Classroom offers free online classroom journals that students can join with a class code, and they can easily share their entries with the entire class or with just a few students for discussion. Storybird is another free tool that allows students to publish journal entries, stories, or poems online. For young children or students who struggle with writing, it might be useful to provide a template that asks them to reflect on their day, week, or recent behavior.

DRAWING

Drawing is another activity that can be self-reflective and therapeutic. Having students use illustrations to explain what they did that day or describe how they are feeling can be an effective way to help them express themselves artistically. You can try these drawing apps and have your students post their drawings online. You could even have your students create illustrations for their writing. Little Bird Tales is a great tool that allows students to upload their illustrations online and record themselves analyzing and discussing what they drew.

VIDEOS

Helping students record videos of themselves is another fun and easy way to help them self-reflect. Results of a recent study offered support for a concept known as instant video revisiting, in which children watch their activities immediately after they happen, reflect on them, and discuss them with a teacher. The study found that children are more reflective about what they have done when they explain what they are doing as they revisit video recordings. Apple’s iMovie or these movie-making apps make it easy for students to create, edit, and watch their own videos.

How else have you used technology to help your students self-reflect in the classroom? Let us know 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.