Browse Month: April 2015

Differentiation Resources Available through Mid-Continent Public Library

Mid-Continent Public Library is making an intentional effort to collaborate with teachers by providing quality classroom-appropriate content and educating teachers in the use of this content.  The first step in this process was creating teacher accounts for any educator who expressed interest in using Mid-Continent resources.  These teacher accounts allow educators to display and use any digital content provided by Mid-Continent within the classroom (OTMS teacher accounts do not allow for the checkout of printed materials).  If you do not have a Mid-Continent teacher account, contact Felicia Akins at for assistance in applying.  Students were also given the opportunity to create accounts.  Just because many students took advantage of this offer does not necessarily mean that they remember their library number or even know the location of their library card. The easiest remedy for lost cards (or for students who never applied for a card) is displaying your teacher account number in a permanent place in your room.  Students can login to Mid-Continent using your teacher account number and access the content during your class without wasting time associated with locating their own account number.  If students have access to their account number and wifi at home, they can access all off the resources available through Mid-Continent while off campus.

I will list a few resources available through Mid-Continent, but all of their online resources are accessible through their website.  There is also printed material containing summaries of their online resources available in the OTMS library. (Descriptions are taken directly from the Mid-Continent website.)

Live Homework Help connects students with expert tutors for live, one-on-one help with homework assignments. Use Live Homework Help from your home computer or inside the Library to complete your homework assignments and improve your grades. Available seven days a week for English and Spanish-speaking students in grades K-12 from noon to midnight. In addition, the Skills Center is open 24/7 and offers thousands of worksheets, tutorials, study guides, practice tests, and more.

The WriteTutor Writing Center’s Live Tutor service is open from noon to midnight, seven days a week, and offers one-on-one online assistance in English and en Español. Students can get real-time help on reports, essays, and papers. Adults get real-time help with writing resumes and cover letters, polishing business letters and proposals, and proofreading papers and essays. Tutors explain the writing and proofreading process.

Access Video provides instant access to world-class documentaries, award-winning educational films, and helpful instructional videos covering a wide range of subjects, such as business, career planning, health, history, travel, and more. Access Video videos can be viewed on PCs, Macs, iPads, and other Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Encyclopedia Britannica: Search or browse the encyclopedia alphabetically or by subject to find in-depth articles, related websites, video clips, and more. Check out the world atlas, timelines, year in review, and the spotlight archive with exhibits on dinosaurs, thunderstorms, the Titanic, and more.

Sustainable Web Resources

A current trend I see in instructional technology is the disappearance or limitation of free web tools for education.  For the last few years we have benefited from the availability of many free services.  Even paid sites offered a fremium model with limited features available to educators.  As schools buy fewer textbooks and print materials in the future, a few things will likely happen.

  • Textbook companies will have to make their money without printing anything (similar to record companies when MP3 players and peer-to-peer file sharing appeared on the scene).
  • Textbooks companies will have to redefine the textbook and update their content regularly to compete with existing web content.  The concept of using the same textbook for six to ten years is unrealistic.
  • Companies offering web-based tools and content will continue to compete for the money that was once spent on textbooks.
  • As educational start-ups run out of initial investor money, they are going to have start charging to stay in business (and the investors are going to expect a profit).
  • Traditional textbook companies may buy sites offering free content and services.  At that point, they may either start charging for those services or shut down the site completely to eliminate the competition posed by the site.
  • Any website offering free content or services may be bought out, shut down, re-purposed, or redesigned at any time with little to no notice.

Although we can not do anything to reverse this trend, we can plan ahead for a time when free will be the exception rather than the expectation.  If you have been following the recently passed legislation on Net Neutrality, you understand there is an intentional effort to monetize digital services, access, and content across the entire Internet–not just in education.  As old business models become defunct, companies are struggling to make a profit and compete in a digital economy.  When you add a generation of consumers who have grown accustomed to “sharing” all kinds of digital content (without payment) to the equation, companies are put in the predicament of trying to make a profit without alienating the public by daring to charge for their services.

When this trend collides with the trend of shrinking education funding, we feel the crunch.  It is not enough to expect the gap to be entirely filled with free content available through the Internet (or content supported through distracting or inappropriate advertisements).  Even newspapers are beginning to charge for their articles as print distributions decline.  The Internet is no longer an alternative publishing platform where companies can provide content as an additional access point.  Soon it will be the main access point, where the majority of profit will be made.

In the meantime, utilize as many free resources as you can, and use them for as long as possible while exploring for content and services that will not require payment from the OTMS budget. Realizing that nothing is truly free, the challenge is finding quality content and services that have been funded through other means than the school budget.  The best sources have sustainable funding that will ensure access into the foreseeable future.  Organizations such as public television, public libraries, universities, and consortiums may be the best sources of quality content.  Next week I will discuss some resources available through Mid-Continent Public Library that provide quality content with no cost to the school.

Recommendations from other Faculty Members

Aileen recommends that students use Grammarly to check for grammar errors in their writing. After creating an account, students can copy and paste text into the Grammarly website and see suggested corrections.  There is also a Grammarly Chrome Extension in the Chrome Store that works in Gmail and other websites.

Neil recommends using Sporacle as a review activity.  There are several quizzes available on the site, but anyone can create their own Sporacle Quiz.  The website was not created for classroom use, so there is no way to create classes, assign quizzes, or track scores.  Quizzes can be shared with students through the URL of the quiz.

Matt is currently exploring EdPuzzle as way to assign YouTube and other videos to his students.  Edpuzzle allows teachers to crop and narrate existing YouTube videos as well as add quiz questions at any point in the video.  Students can not continue watching the video until they answer the questions.  Student can not jump ahead or skip through portions of the video either.  Edpuzzle allows teachers to set up classes, and students can join those classes through a class code.  Annotated videos can be assigned to classes, and student progress can be tracked through the website.  Edpuzzle was recently updated to allow YouTube videos assigned through its website to go through school Internet filters.

Seventh grade science students introduced Mrs. Winningham to SkyView Free, a mobile app that locates planets, stars, constellations, and satellites.  Students are using the app as a virtual telescope that labels what they are seeing in the sky based on where the mobile device is pointing.  As you move the phone, the star map changes.

Reflections on the Iowa 1:1 Conference

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Iowa 1:1 Leadership Day and Conference last week.  Although it is possible to learn through Twitter, blogs, other online resources, and local colleagues,  I always enjoy the opportunity to listen to other people share their experiences and to hear them think out loud.  When I gain insight into the thinking process of others, I not only hear their problems, but gain understanding in what brought them to the solutions.  I also hear the questions that guided their thinking and probem-solving process.

The big question I brought back from the Iowa 1:1 conference is “What things are preventing us from innovating?”  These things can be processes, procedures, traditions, physical spaces, equipment, technologies or anything that maintains or facilitates old practices.  I find the question interesting because it forces us to look at things and ask “Why are they here? Why are we keeping them?  Are they here for a purpose, for convenience, for security, or through the momentum of familiarity?”  Do we even realize when something we see or use every day is holding us back from transforming the learning in our classrooms?

Think of a process, procedure, or physical item you regularly use in instruction.  If that was suddenly taken away, how would your practice change?  Would it’s absence force you to innovate, or restrict your ability to innovate?  When we put everything on the table in light of these questions, we may start seeing familiar things in a new light.  Weeding the hindrances from our environment may not always be easy or comfortable, but it is very difficult to change or innovate with old equipment, processes, or routines that hinder us from transforming teaching and learning.

There were many great presentations that occurred during the conference, and rather than talk about specific workshops, I will share the page of presentation resources links so that you can explore them on your own.

Mark Your Calendars:  Edcamp KC is set for November 7, 2015.  Registration dates have not been set.

Don’t forget that we will hold another Student-Led PD session this Thursday during Early-Out.