Archive | March, 2011

Google Advanced Search with Readability Option!

9 Mar

If any of you are like me, you’re probably frustrated with trying to find websites that are appropriate for your students. In the post, “Google Advanced Search: now with reading levels!” on NCS-Tech! by Kevin Jarrett, I was excited about the new features Google is offering for educators and students!

When you do the search, the websites are broken down into three categories: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. I’m not sure what levels these correlate with, or what the measures they use to determine the category, but it seems like it’s a great leap for student research.

To go along with my last post, I am helping a 5th grade teacher with her class research project on the Women’s Rights Movement. She has a class of 25+ students, all with varying reading abilities. Since it is an inclusion room, there are students with special needs who are reading at a 3rd grade reading level, and there are students in the general education population reading at a 6th grade level. This Google feature will truly  help distinguish age- and level-appropriate websites!

My sample search looks like this:

Google Advanced Search with Readability!

The bar graph at the top is the breakdown of websites within each category. You can then click on the category to only show those results. I clicked on “Below” and looked at the website list, they would definitely be more appropriate for the struggling readers than the “Advanced” website options.

Another great tool is Twurdy. Search results are displayed from easy to hard and ranked visually by color and sequence. See a sample search below!


These search tools may finally solve a few of the research frustrations teachers are facing. Technology is most definitely evolving in a positive way, meeting the diverse needs of classrooms. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future!

Thanks for sharing, NCS-Tech!

Tech Tools for Biography Projects

6 Mar

As a Reading Specialist and Technology Integration Facilitator (TIF) for my building, my colleagues are always asking me for suggestions of tools to use for various research projects or reading/writing projects. One 5th grade teacher is currently looking to do a project on heroes of the Women’s Rights Movement. She is looking into Glogster or having the students create a fake Facebook wall (somehow, and with some tool!) and approached me for advice and help!

Although I’ve dabbled with Glogster, I had to play with it more to give her my true opinion (I love it!). I definitely recommend it as an option (see samples below!), since there are some great features for embedding photos and video; however, this led me into a weekend exploration of other fun tech tools to use for publishing digital biographies, or biographical information. Check out a few of these tools

  • Magnoto – A “magnetic” display where you can post and share text, audio, video, and pictures. (Great post on iLearn Technology on how to do this!)
  • Museum Box Great tool for students to showcase an event or historical person! (Read a post on Kleinspiration for a great post about using this tool!)
  • Simple Booklet — Create simple digital documents (e.g., booklets, brochures, flyers, postcards, etc.) using photos, video, and audio… or even a digital story!

Here are some Glogster historical biography samples I found using a simple Google search:

As for the “fake” Facebook profile, I had a characterbook template that was shared with me via ProTeacher (here’s the discussion thread!), but with so many tech tools out there, I figured there had to be at least one Web 2.0 tool for creating such a profile. I came across MyFakeWall but found that certain district’s block access to it from inside the school’s network. If your district allows it, it seems like a fun way to create a profile for an historical figure!

NOTE: If you’re interested in using MyFakeWall in your classrooms and its blocked, here’s a great post (from iLearn Technology) about creating “‘Facebook’ Profile Pages for Literary Characters.” Blogger, ktenkenly, uploaded a template on Crocodoc and had students create their “Facebook” pages from the different URLs she created! She even included a sample template that you can download from this blog post!

I’m curious (and excited!) about which tool my colleague will decide to explore and use for this project.  There are so many options, and these were just a few! I’m sure I’ll be recruited to help with the process, so be sure to check back for my reflections, as well as student samples!

Engaging Student Writers With Blogging

1 Mar

I love Scholastic Teacher Blogs! When I spend some actual time on my Google Reader to catch up on my favorite blogs I always end up lost in my journey on the Scholastic Blogs. This blog post by Megan Power really inspired me. I have dabbled with classroom blogs using Weebly, but the students are NOT creating their own posts, merely commenting on my blog and my posts. I love that it has options for document uploads and a web page format, and we do virtual book discussions, virtual literature circles, and virtual book talks, but the student access is limited. My first Weebly blog was limited to the students I interacted with: ReadingWithMsJordan. I’ve since created a more generic one for all the teachers to access if they’re equally eager to explore this fun, new world: KaegebeinLiteracyCorner!

Although the students are thrilled with any and all computer lab time, I’ve been looking for ways for the students to have more ownership over their blogging and posts. In Megan’s blog post, she mentioned two very kid-friendly blogging platforms: Landmark’s Class Blogmeister and Kidblog.  Kidblog looks very user-friendly, safe, and is set-up for students to interact within a controlled classroom blogging community. Students do not need their own e-mail addresses and parents are able to access and view their kid’s work! Class Blogmeister looks a little more intimidating at first, but it seems to have many of the same student-friendly features. I’m looking forward to trying these out (reflections to follow!).

One of my goals as  Reading Specialist and TIF (Technology Integration Facilitator) for this year is to get more teachers on board with blogging! I’ve set up an Enrichment Blog for our school, but again it’s through my account and the teachers have little control of the content. I’ve shared my log-in with teachers so they can publish posts, but the management is under my domain. Ideally, I would love to run an after-school Blogging study group, since our school days are typically full to the brim and teachers have very little embedded time for meeting with me and learning about new tools. Perhaps this will be a summer endeavor if I can’t pull it off this year? This will be my year to explore and pull together resources to share with my colleagues. I’m sure the world of educational blogs is endless and I’ve only explored a minuscule portion of what this virtual world has to offer! I’m looking forward to my own personal journey of blogging “aha’s” and discoveries!

21st Century Learning… I am intrigued by you more and more everyday.

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