Can’t Afford New Classroom Computers? Try This

You’ve trimmed your technology budget again. Meanwhile, some of your schools still put up with computers from the Stone Age, and something has to give. You just hope that ‘something’ isn’t another aging computer.

Cartoon version of computer with Imagine Learning on screenMeanwhile, each school’s computer lab serves an increasing number of special-needs and English language learners every day. And therein lies the problem.

Where can a busy administrator find affordable–maybe even free–computers for classrooms? Read more »


6 ways to teach with technology

Our post on post-literacy got me thinking about some ways to use technology as a tool in the classroom. Here are some ideas on using technology with your middle/high school students. These suggestions could both engage your students as well as introduce tech-savvy skills they don’t have yet.

1. Google it. If students have a question, join them in researching it online. Show them the best way to phrase their search with keywords. Google has a search engine specifically for research called “Google Scholar.” Direct your students to this for googling scholarly articles online. SweetSearch is another search engine created especially for teachers and students to use in research. It only searches on credible websites that have been reviewed by the experts of SweetSearch.

2. Analyze sources. Teach students how to recognize which websites/authors/publications are more reliable sources than others. Many teachers find that when assigning research to students, their bibliographies tend to be full of mostly Internet sources that aren’t always accurate. Students are going to use the Internet, so show them where to go. Have them look at publishing companies, the author’s credentials, and the date of the information. This article shows some great questions to ask as you are analyzing the reliability of a source. A good example of showing how irreliable sources can look reliable would be to show your students The Onion. While the site looks very legitimate, it is completely satirical in content and would not be a reliable source for any research paper.

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A post-literate age?

Have you ever heard the phrase “post-literate age?” I personally had never heard the concept before reading Christopher Doyle’s article in Education Week. The idea in general, however, is not foreign to me. The discussion regarding society moving away from literacy to more simplified technological mediums is a very prevalent and controversial topic.

In the article, Doyle focuses on how his students turn to books less and less. He says, “Books, long idealized as foundational shapers of intellect, no longer mold young people’s minds. While continuing to tout their merits, educators marginalize books and have not come to grips with the book’s declining role in society. Over the last few years, my high school students’ facility for print culture has atrophied markedly.” To the older generation, this is a concern. We learned our skills and knowledge from textbooks. It was the focal point of our learning. Because it is how we are used to education, we are concerned when our younger generation seems to disregard those important tools.

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Working together in West, Texas

When the community of West, Texas was rocked by a devastating fertilizer plant explosion, the school closest to the blast was severely damaged. Teachers were unable to salvage supplies and curriculum that had taken years to develop. But because the people from West and the surrounding communities pulled together to offer help, students were back in school receiving instruction within three days.

Shortly after the blast, Imagine Learning heard about the loss of West’s English learner and literacy programs, and arranged for West Elementary to receive a site license—which means that every English language learner is able to use the Imagine Learning program at no cost. Denae Buzbee, the District ESL director, says that since the implementation of Imagine Learning, she has seen students gaining confidence and improving their reading levels.

“It’s brought us together as a community. It could have been a lot worse—we know that. We’ve had this horrible event, but we’re going to stick together and we’re going to be okay,” said West Elementary Principal Michelle Scott


10 fun ways to use video creation in the classroom

Why not celebrate Digital Learning Day by instigating a video creation project in your classroom? Students enjoy working on video projects—they inspire creativity, allow for teamwork, and produce a final product the students can be proud of. Incorporating video projects in the classroom is one way to provide a rich blended learning experience for students.

  1. Divide students into groups to make a movie of a book they have read, retelling the elements of a plot. Or, ask students to create a video project about their favorite character or chapter instead of writing a book report.
  2. Create a song or rap video to help students remember math strategies, spelling words, or grammar rules.
  3. Turn student-written poems into artistically visual videos.
  4. Play charades by asking students to create a 30-second video. They can act out vocabulary words and have the rest of the class guess which word they represent.
  5. Design a movie about the history of your school or community. Have the children act it out.
  6. Produce a news segment of a special event, such as a guest speaker, a school 5K fun run, a beautification project, or a fund raiser.
  7. Ask students to highlight themselves in a one-minute get-to-know-you video.
  8. Invent a music video, using a song the students are learning in music class.
  9. Build a short documentary to explain a science project. Video is great to show time-lapse changes for experiments.
  10. Allow students to re-teach a unit using video. Students can create props and visuals to summarize what they learned about a given topic.


Useful Video Apps

Many students now have access to iPods, phones, and tablets which are equipped with great, portable cameras for taking video. The following movie-making apps are useful, inexpensive (most are under $2), and can take your student-created videos to the next level: ScriptWrite, iMovie, Game Your Video, Action Movie FX, Time Lapse Camera HD, Movie Looks HD, Avid Studio, SloPro, FiLMiC Pro, TiltShift Video, and Scrolling Credits.

Helpful Online Tools

Masher is a fun, free, tool for creating video mash-ups. Masher offers large collection of video clips, music, and effects from their gallery. You can also add your own images, video clips, and music clips through the Masher uploader. Masher allows you to insert text throughout your video. Using Masher is simple: just drag elements from the media gallery into the timeline editor. From there, you can arrange the sequence of elements, and when you are ready, you can publish and share your production.

Animoto is great for quickly making simple videos by using still images, music, and text. If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using Animoto. Animoto’s free service limits you to 30-second videos. By applying for an educational account, you can create longer videos.

Stupeflix is a service that allows users to create video montages using their favorite images and audio clips. Stupeflix allows users to drag and drop their images into a desired sequence. You will want to upload your own audio clips as Stupeflix offers only one default soundtrack. But an advantage of Stupeflix is that it allows you to use more than one audio clip within the same video.

Photo Peach is a new service that allows you to easily create an audio slideshow, with captions, from images in your Flickr, Picassa, or Facebook account. You can also use images saved on your local hard drive to create a slideshow. Adding captions is easy: simply type the text into the caption box. Also, changing the order of images is a simple drag and drop procedure.

Xtra Normal is a unique service that enables students to create animated, narrated movies just by typing the dialogue then dragging and dropping characters and set elements into the movies. There are free and paid plans for using Xtra Normal, but the standard plan should be more than adequate for most academic uses.

If your class uses these ideas or resources for making video, we would love to hear about it. What ideas do you have about incorporating video in the classroom?