Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Be An Education Innovator - Education Outside the Box...Part 2

The New Year brings with it the need to start fresh, make some resolutions and, in my case, the need to stop eating leftover Christmas cookies and get back to excercising!  January also brings the end of the first semester of school in most districts. This is a great opportunity to step back and reflect on how the year is going so far.  What new lesson ideas have you wanted try?  How are you doing on using formative assessment strategies in your classroom?  What technology skills have you been able to integrate into your teaching? 

In my last post, I took up the challenge being put forward by our State Superintendent, Stan Heffner, to think outside the box.  Part 1 focused on changing the way we think about the use of time in a traditional classroom. Now let's take a look at what "out of the box" classroom materials are available to us.

Part 2 Using Innovative Classroom Materials - finding new ways to think about lessons.


Google Apps   Gone are the days when you need to carry home bags of papers to be graded and commented on.  With Google Docs, teachers and students can now collaborate in real time on documents, presentations and spreadsheets.  Students can use the revision history tool to see their past edits. Teachers can focus on specific areas for improvement by using immediate feedback. No more email, no more jump drives and no more lost papers.  Google apps tools also include a calendar, which can also be shared or published for others to view, video uploads, audio recording, a survey tool, and a blog tool - which is what I use to publish this blog!  Teachers and students in Bay all have access to a Google Apps account. Click HERE for directions on how to use Google Apps.

Ck12.org   Textbooks no longer need to be expensive or one size fits all.  Ck12.org is an open source project that is providing high quality content created by educators to anyone who would like to use it.  The innovative concept is the ability to "customize" the content of the textbook you want to use by re-organizing the chapters, pulling in chapters from other books or creating a unique book using chapters from lots of different books to fit your lessons.  Accounts are free. Students can view the book online, as a pdf or even download it to an e-reader.  Teachers guides are available for many of the books as well.  The majority of the texts are math and science, but there are a few English, Social Studies and SAT prep books as well.  Click HERE to view a custom text I created for a unit on HS Evolutionary Biology

Thinkfinity.org   As more students have access to the internet from school, home and their personal devices, they can take advantage of web based interactive tools, manipulatives and  lessons.  Thinkfinity.org is a k-12 resource site that hosts educational resources from 7 content partners including National Geographic, The Smithsonian, Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the National Councils of Teachers of English and Math.  The site is searchable by topic, grade level and type of resource.  You can find interactive activities for students to do individually or as a group on an interactive board HERE.    Thinkfinity.org homepage is a great place to start if you are looking for new lesson ideas, primary source materials or student resources like maps and charts. Another great place to find standards based lesson ideas is the Ohio Resource Center.

Edutopia.org   This website was designed by the George Lucas Foundation to encourage and support out of the box thinking in k-12 education.  I like to go to this site to read about how other teachers are using technology in unique and effective ways.  The site also contains videos to watch, a series of blogs by outstanding educators, ideas for Project Based teaching and formative assessments.  You can subscribe to their weekly newsletter or follow the site using an RSS feed.


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