* Still loving Classkick

Apart from its name, I love Classkick! It’s a really cool app for creating awesome and individualized assignments, monitoring student progress, and communicating effectively while students work. Whoever put this together had a marvelous time anticipating what teachers would need to be effective. Here are some screenshots and explanations of Classkick’s usefulness:

The activity below is uniquely suited for a student with adequate typing skills, poor handwriting, and a need for hands-on activities. You can make any image movable, which allows for flexibility in responses. Text boxes do not edit spelling, so you can easily spot patterns of errors.

You can quickly adapt worksheets or create your own for use on Classkick. I often use PDFs from Education.com for math assignments.

For evaluation purposes and feedback on assignments, you can create tailor-made ‘puzzles’ of interest by hiding responses under any sections of an image (this one is from Roblox). Students search for the hidden phrases and decide which ones will describe their experience.

Classkick also allows simple creation of links. I can direct students to a specific activity, like this one at Math Playground, with required information for logging in. I will also preview skills (in this case, using a number line to depict negative integers).

Evaluating a session is so easy! Students click and drag.

I am still learning new tricks and techniques for improving my Classkick activities. Let me know if you want me to share some of these with you! I do wish the app had a different name….

* ESL Kids Download review

A reader asked me to check out his company’s website, so here is my review of ESL Kids Download. This site is aimed at ESL learners, most likely Asian but applicable to young kids learning English with British spelling, offering four main products: books on phonics and grammar, flashcards, and puzzles.

The ESL Kids Download phonics series is of particular interest to me because phonics opens the door to early reading in an effective manner. These materials, all of which have free samples, are systematically organized to teach phonics effectively. Or at least as effectively as a pdf can do. Obviously, these books should be paired with live instruction of some sort. The illustrations are simple and colorful.

The grammar books are likewise well-sequenced and have content that is kindergarten through early elementary-based. They are heavily reliant upon fine motor skills, which is in fact a related skill being taught through these materials. For youngsters who have the dexterity and can manage to sit through so much writing (which many kids with special needs would find problematic), these would be effective in learning the basics of conversations, pronoun usage, verb tenses, and other skills.

ESL Kids Download offers an excellent set of flashcards paired with clear and colorful images. Their puzzles also support a wide range of skills.

This website includes links to its sister sites, including MANY games which look very appealing to me. (I think the links should open in a new page, but maybe I’m picky.) The bigger problem with the games is that they run on Flash Player, which has been abandoned by Adobe and is more easily hacked than the HTML5 code. Too bad! I mean you could allow Flash Player, but I wouldn’t.

If you are interested in downloadable phonics materials, if you use British spelling, and if you have students who are really into writing and drawing, this would be a good option. I do wish I could play their games!

* Picture this!

Cee has posted terrific photos on the hunt for joy challenge: start a garden. Don’t miss her amazing collection of flowers and plants (indoors and out). I recently downloaded the Picture This app for identifying the delightful flowers I’ve enjoyed on my walks through the neighborhood.

I’ve taken scads of photos on my wanderings, secretively discretely snapping photos of folk’s yards and stopping to capture images of gorgeous wild flowers on the trails. So many outdoor gardens, so little time.

If you’re curious about plants, looking for something to do, or have kids who enjoy scavenger hunts/collections, this app is a handy dandy tool!

* Gone phishing

With folks under stay-at-home orders, here’s been a huge increase worldwide in online activity and shopping. Parents are trying out online grocery shopping for the first time- and they like it! Kids are trying out remote learning- meh for some!

It’s not a cliche: Many students have long outdistanced their parents and teachers in the Tech Savvy department. Regardless of skills, though, more internet use does mean more opportunities for bad actors. Here are a few potential scenarios. Netflix informs you that your account has been hacked. Instagram contacts your teen to confirm account activity. Your bank alerts you to suspicious withdrawals. Do you know if these are legit? How good are you or your kids at avoiding phishing scams?

If you aren’t confident at identifying malicious activity or if you simply want to challenge your youngster to an online duel, Google has the quiz for you!

Click here to test your skills!

One of my favorite tools, perfect for distance learning. — The road to learning

One of my favorite tools for a long time is Classkick. This is a tool that will work with any device! It works in a web browser or has an app. And it is one of the wonderful Ed-tech tools that is providing their premium features for free right now in this time of school […]

One of my favorite tools, perfect for distance learning. — The road to learning

* COVID-19 remote learning (#2)

I recently attended a fantastic webinar on remote learning, presented by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (this link goes to their COVID-19 page). It was the first in a series to support teachers in providing the BEST online learning we can. One of the terrific presenters was Joanna Schimizzi (@Mrs._Schimizzi), a teacher in North Carolina’s public virtual schools!

I’ve found helpful reviews of online teaching resources at Common Sense.org, including Kaizena, an add-on to Google docs which allows teachers to include videos, recorded comments, and other cool features. Of course, Google Hangouts is a free, easy-to-use app for connecting, especially in small groups. Zoom is a terrific video and online classroom resource, with abundant support available for those new to remote learning.

In the midst of current fears and uncertainty about the coronavirus, we did have a fun time a couple of weeks ago with our movie small group. One friend had a mask purchased during the H1N1 scare. We can’t meet right now but look forward to more fun times ahead!

Stay safe!

* Patti + Ricky

Wow. If you are a parent or teacher of a child with special needs, this website is for you! Patti + Ricky is an online shop for folks with ‘disAbilities,’ stocked with over 2000 items and created in partnership with 65 designers! From items in braille to footwear for prosthetics, you can find an incredible array of adapted clothing and accessories for men, women, and children.

Remember how we had to create a chewie necklace for Christopher? Patti + Ricky have the coolest “chewelry” ever! I have never seen a site like this with so many compression, weighted, and modified products. It’s simply fabulous.

Pattie + Ricky grew out of Alexandra Connell’s love for her mom (Patti) and Ricky (cousin) who inspired her to provide options for folks with special challenges. Her story was captured by the Today Show on NBC. It’s well worth the watch. You can follow her on Facebook, too!

I could have used the wheelchair and crutch accessories for years….

* SoundingBoard

SoundingBoard byAbleNet is a free IOs app designed to augment communication when paired with a switch. AbleNet provides a wide range of assistive technology devices to support communication, including speech generating devices, switches, and accessible toys. The image below shows the main menu of SoundingBoard, significantly enlarged.

It took me a while to figure out how to create a usable board, but I’m not a rocket scientist. I did not use their symbols library, although it is quite extensive. You may also select from your own photos, which is a nice option. If you want to make this switch-friendly, all text must be recorded. The font size is miniature on an iPad and non-readers would have to memorize tiny icons.

I ended up deleting all the preloaded boards, which are definitely suitable for a wide age range. My students would not create shopping lists, but the workplace board (shown below) could be used for students in a work training program if they used switches to communicate quite minimally.

The tech support is great but the boards available for purchase are similar in quality to the free boards. SIgn language symbols are included for some topics. Boards can also be linked to one another, but using a switch means that the related boards are all scanned as ‘primary sources.’

If you have students who rely on switches for communication, this app has a lot of potential, but I would suggest individualizing it with meaningful icons and photos. I am recruiting a young man to record a ‘natural’ voice for a 13-year-old user.

* Earthbox Junior

OK, I was going to write a series on excellent Christmas gifts but hey, everyone will have a birthday this year, right?  If you are looking for a terrific science-themed gift, an Earthbox Junior is THE perfect tool for indoor/classroom gardening and plant study.  Earthbox does come in larger sizes, but the Junior fits nicely on a window ledge and for a class, offers a perfect small group container.  It is featured below at Rosa Parks Elementary school in San Francisco.

 

With Earthbox Junior, you can grow herbs and other plants year-round.  Watering is simple and the planter is easily lifted for more careful investigation.  Given my poor track record with plants, I’d say this is a winner!

planter 1

I used this one to experiment with plant reproduction.  In the photo above, a student is exploring moss with a digital microscope.  More on the dangers of reproduction in the next post!

 

*Thanks, Scholastic!

Scholastic’s ScienceWorld is a terrific, teacher-friendly resource for hands-on and digital resources.  Sure, there’s a paper magazine version with your subscription, but the online goodies make the magazine even better!  And ScienceWorld is already amazing.  The magazine covers a wide range of middle school science topics from around the world, saving teachers much-needed time for collecting lesson plans, materials, and inspiration.

Scholastic makes a strong appeal to kids who are traditionally low in STEM careers: blacks and girls.  For instance, this month’s edition for middle schoolers features D-J Comeaux and his Black Panther app called AfroBot Boyz.  The main article in the magazine focuses on a student who participated in the Hidden Genius Project in Oakland, California, which supports black high school dropouts.

I also love this magazine because it keeps on giving, especially to special needs kiddos.  The online teacher resources provide multiple cool projects and experiments, available by intelligent searches, including archived versions of the past three years of your subscription.  A subscription to ScienceWorld supports struggling students by linking some of them to their narrow range of interests, providing multiple means of access, supporting hands-on activities, and opportunities for partner or small group learning.

Here’s a photo of extracted strands of strawberry DNA from a recent experiment in ScienceWorld.  Very cool!  Couldn’t do it without you, Scholastic!

dna strawberry