5 EASY Techie Tools for Social Studies Projects

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Are you looking to spice up your Social Studies lessons this school year? No iPads? Then here are 5 EASY technology tools you could use with your students using laptops/desktops.

#1 Scribble Maps
When I think of Social Studies, the first visual I see in my mind is a MAP. I think I can thank my 6th grade Geography teacher for that. My entire 6th grade binder was filled with about 1,000 paper maps...uhhhh! With the help of technology in this day and age, teachers can provide a real world geography experience for their students and "fly" virtually from place to place. There are a ton of really cool map techie tools out there such as Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Tour Builder, etc. that you can use in your classroom. However, today were are talking really EASY tools. Therefore, check out Scribble Maps.
There is an option to sign in but you don't have to. Simply go to the site, click "Create Your Map Now", zoom in or out on the world map, and start scribbling. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this website for the 3rd grade Virginia Social Studies standard on European Explorers. Students have to know the exact path each explorer took to the New World. Have your students pull up this website and draw out explorer paths by using the line tool. They can even use stamps to tell a story. Here is an example of Ponce de Leon's path (my stamp in Florida represents The Fountain of Youth):

You could even use the pencil tool to draw out different geographical regions you are studying:

There are a lot of other really cool features to this site but let's continue keeping it EASY today :)

#2 Powerpoint/Keynote
These programs have A LOT more power than creating slideshows. You can make really fun animations in both Powerpoint and Keynote and then turn it into a movie. For instance, I did a lesson last year (yes, another Explorer lesson) in which students made a Scribble Map (above) and saved it to their desktop. They uploaded their map as a background in a PowerPoint template that I had placed in Google Classroom (I also did a lesson in which the template was accessed from our student server) for the students to easily access. This template just had a small sailboat png image...that's it. After the map was turned into a slide background, I showed them the animation feature that would start their boat where the explorer was from and they would "sail" across the path he took to get to the New World. Students placed their boat at the sponsoring country. Then they had to make sure they clicked on the boat to add the animation. We went to Animations>Motion Paths>Draw a Line:
The students clicked on the middle of the boat and dragged their cursor (that displays a line) to their final destination. Afterwards, we went to Slideshow>Record Slideshow which launched the slide into presentation mode and they could record their voice talking about the explorer's journey. Here is a quick example that one student did involving ALL of the explorers (DISCLAIMER: All went well until Newport sailed to Richmond instead of Jamestown! hahaha):

#3 Newspaper Generator
Literally SO easy! Have your students head to The Newspaper Clipping Generator website and SUMMARIZE the MAIN IDEA of an event from history. This is a great way to integrate social students and language arts. All you have to do is enter a title for your paper, date, heading and story. Click on "Generate" and BOOM, you have this cute little creation:

#4 Timeline Maker
There are many really awesome Timeline makers out in cyberspace but here is a super EASY one that you could use in your classroom without any tech support :) Timeline Maker has a simple input screen that allows students to change the number of events, font and size for their timeline.

Here is a FREE planning sheet that contains the website address at the top if you would like for your students to pre-plan before getting the computers out. I know so many teachers who have a limited amount of time when it comes to using technology in their classrooms so this will help speed things along :)

ReadWriteThink also has an EASY Timeline Maker that you can add images to!

#5 Fakebook for Historical Figures
Many of you are probably familiar with this website but it is always a HIT. With Fakebook you can make "fake" Facebook pages for historical figures. Students first search for images that they can then upload to this site. Word of caution: This website advertises to "Search Google for images" but I would advise to have a little conversation about copyright. I wouldn't let students do a straight up Google image search to complete an activity like this and instead would use it as an opportunity to touch upon digital citizenship :)

To complete a Fakebook page, students simply enter the missing information and upload pictures:

I could keep going with technology tools for Social Studies projects! Hopefully these 5 ways will help you start off your year with something new to try out :)

If you haven't done so, be sure to check my 5 EASY Back to School Projects blog post by clicking the image below:

5 EASY Back to School Technology Projects

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Are you looking for some FUN, innovative yet E-A-S-Y technology projects you could implement with your students the first month back at school? Do you only have access to laptops or desktops...no iPads? Then check out some of these ideas:

#1: QR Code Kids:
Last year I posted on my FB page this picture of business cards that I came across on Pinterest:

I thought it would be cool to make these with some kiddos and link the QR code to their voice reading a piece of writing aloud. A teacher at one of my schools contacted me and said she wanted to do something with these figures for Back to School Night. She wanted her students to write a little paragraph about their goals for the year that they could read aloud and make into a QR code. Parents who visited her room could scan the codes with a cell phone and listen to their little child's sweet voice. She took their pictures, had them printed and I went into her classroom to help out with the "techie stuff". Really, it is EASY and YOU could totally pull this off on your own. If you haven't heard of the website Vocaroo, go check it out right now. Just don't forget to come back!! The simple interface makes this tool a breeze to use, even for kindergartners! All students have to do is click the red record button, read their paragraph and press stop. They press "Click here to save" when finished:
Then click QR Code:

BOOM! Their QR Code appears on their screen for them to print. Here is an example of their final product:

#2: Classroom Architect:
I have blogged about this site before but I remember my own students really enjoyed this activity. Classroom Architect will allow your students to create their "ideal classroom". When they first load the site they see a blank background:

They use the tools at the top to design and label a layout they think would be most effective:
The only way to save is to save it to a cookie on your computer so I suggest having your students print straight from the site or take a screenshot of their creation. I usually have the students paste a screenshot into a word processing document and type a description of how and why they designed their classroom the way they did. You could even have them write in the voice of a teacher and pretend they are arranging their classroom for their future students. Who knows, you might get some good ideas for your classroom set up! If you are interested in grading this activity, here is a simple rubric I have for FREE in my TpT store. Click the image to take you to the print out :)
#3: All about ME Selfie:
Cameroid is a FUN website students can use to take selfies (if your computers have webcams). Frames include the following:

Scenes include:
These are also good to use as writing prompts! For a Back to School activity I would have your students take a selfie using one of the frames or scenes and save it to their desktop. Then they could add their picture to the top of a word processing document and type a paragraph telling about who they are as a student. If you are a Google apps school, then it could be cute to create one Google Slideshow to share with your entire class. Each child could have one slide to decorate with their selfie and a few facts about themselves. 
The slideshow your class creates could then be embedded on your class website/blog for parents to see! 

#4: Setting Goals:
Speechable is another EASY, yet fun website I have blogged about before. Students can upload a picture of themselves or take a selfie with the webcam or Cameroid (the site I mentioned above) and upload it to Speechable. They can create a speech bubble that states their goal and then add their own drawings. These would be super cute to hang up in your classroom as a reminder for your students to keep working towards their goals.

#5: 3 Facts and a Fib:
I loved playing this game with just a paper and pencil that students would use to write down three facts about themselves and one fib. We would read the sentences aloud and the class would guess which of the four statements was the fib. Well, this activity could easily go digital using the website CheckThis. Students can upload a selfie and write 3 facts and one fib as the answer choices to a "poll". CheckThis basically turns student work into a website. Other students can visit the website and make their guess. The "poll" feature will not show the correct answer but will show the students how many votes each statement has received. After everyone has voted on each website, each child can reveal the correct answer.

If I were to do this activity, I would have the students submit their website url to me via a Google Form OR paste their link to an editable Google Doc. Your students do NOT have to have a google account to access and add (only text) to a Google Doc if you change the settings to "Anyone with a link can edit". This would be a great way to create a running list of the student websites so others can visit later on. Word of advice: Once students paste their link to a doc, change the setting to "Anyone with the link can VIEW". When the students start clicking on each others' links, this will ensure that nothing accidentally gets deleted :)

Good luck as you head back to school!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Last Friday a group of 30 fabulous Virginia teacher bloggers {including myself!} descended upon the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club for an afternoon of networking, laughs, food, drinks, and some incredible swag and prizes! It was an incredible time, and well worth all of the planning and logistics that went into it. I want to share some of the experience with you!

First of all, I have to tell you how absolutely AMAZING all of our sponsors were to work with for this event. If you are making any back-to-school purchases this year, I really urge you to consider purchasing from these businesses and individuals -- they truly value teachers and aren't afraid to show it!

A HUGE thank you goes especially to Educents (one of THE best companies around!) for helping with the costs of the meetup and providing some FANTASTIC swag! Make sure you check out their new Educents Wallet feature to get all of those resources for your classroom at a steep discount! If you sign-up for a new teacher wallet account you'll receive $10 to spend on your classroom -- who couldn't use $10?!

We had over $4,000 in prizes thanks to these fantastic folks! Sarah from There's No Place Like Second did an incredible job getting all of these fabulous donations for us!

Nikki from Teaching in Progress and Rachel from Mrs. O Knows were terrific hosts!

Check our our FANTASTIC sponsors:

And some AMAZING TpT sellers that contributed raffle prizes or digital swag:

1. Hands down my favorite moments(s) were getting to meet and talk to all of the fabulous Virginia bloggers. These women (men, where are you at?????) are absolutely incredible! Get ready for the VA is for Teachers collaborative blog that we are about to launch this month. It will be Ahhhh-mazing :)

2. This was the first time this Techie Teacher used a selfie stick! My husband and I constantly make fun of them when we see them out on our traveling adventures but I have to say, it is pretty cool tool. Alissa, from Fun in Fifth, just happened to order a selfie stick for her classroom (LOVE...the kids will be so excited to use that thing!) that happened to be in her car. Little did we know that one of the selfies would be represented on the TpT Facebook page. Holla!

3. I WON a door prize. It wasn't just any old door prize. It was AWESOME. Jessica over at The Teaching Oasis sells Thirty-One bags and donated a personalized utility tote. I CAN'T WAIT for it to come in! Also, Teacher Created Resources donated a $25 gift card that was in my prize bag. Wooooo hoooo! Thank you!!


You can see more fun meetup photos by looking at the hashtag #VATeacherBloggersMeet on Instagram, or by looking at the photo album!

Some of the fantastic Virginia teacher bloggers from the meetup are linking up with Sarah from There's No Place Like Second Grade to share their favorite moments and photo memories from the meetup, as well as share their swag and prizes! Be sure and check-out their posts!

You are next... Click here to enter
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Epic!: The "Netflix" of Kids Books

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Do you use Epic in your classroom? I haven't tested it out with students (yet..) but I think this digital tool looks WONDERFUL. This is an app that you can access on iOS, Android or any web browser. It gives teachers and students (12 and under) unlimited access to an ever growing library of high quality children's books. With over 10,000 titles of both fiction and non-fiction text from leading publishers such as HarperCollins, Macmillan and National Geographic, this tool truly stands out. Teachers and librarians in the US and Canada get FREE access. It looks like they are supported through parents who have to pay $4.99 a month for this service. Epic even provides a letter you can send home if parents are interested in purchasing it for their kids to use at home. LOVE!!!

I love all of the educational books that are available for cross-curricular activities. There are SO many popular titles and they keep adding more titles each week! Epic states that they have:
"Well-known books and series include Fancy Nancy, Flat Stanley, The Berenstain Bears, Charlie Brown, The Chronicles of Narnia, Ramona, Batman, Roscoe Riley Rules, Warriors, A Series of Unfortunate Events, National Geographic Kids, Scaredy Squirrel, Big Nate, Pete the Cat, and many more."


Some key features include:

• Over 10,000 great titles with many more added weekly
Audio-enabled “read-to-me” books
• Individual customized child profiles at no additional cost
• Personalized book recommendations for each child
• Online and offline reading (take Epic! in the car, on a plane, or camping)
• A detailed reading log to track reading progress available in the app, and emailed weekly to parents
• Access your Epic! account and Epic!’s full library on iOS, Android or any Web browser

If I were starting the year as a classroom teacher I would definitely utilize this FREE service. It is still in Beta testing but worth checking out :)

Static vs. Dynamic QR Codes

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It has been a few years since I was a classroom teacher but I know for a fact that teachers and students STILL love QR Codes. I remember the very first time I ever introduced the concept of QR codes to my 2nd graders. They were absolutely mesmorized by the "magic" behind scanning a funky looking black square to receive answers, websites, recordings, videos, etc. right on their screen. Christmas came early when I taught them how to make their own QR codes. Within weeks I had students creating their own task cards for our class to use as extra practice.  I saw reluctant readers recording themselves reading because they just wanted to turn their recording into a QR code to help a younger child with THEIR reading. There are so many powerful things you can do with QR codes and I have blogged about many right here on The Techie Teacher.

Today I wanted to share the difference between two types of QR Codes. Most teachers are just familiar with Static QR Codes. Students scan the code to take them to a specific destination (URL, text, an images, etc.) When this QR code is printed, that's it. It can't be changed. If the URL that was entered no longer works, then you have to throw that QR code away.


Dynamic QR Codes! A Dynamic QR code allows you to place a short URL into the QR code and then EDIT/CHANGE it to something different at a later time! For instance, if I had a big QR code hanging on my classroom wall that would take my students to a specific website all about the Water Cycle, I could keep the SAME QR code taped to my wall throughout the year and just change the URL that is linked to that code. So the next day when my students scan the QR code, it could take them to a different website. Save the earth people! Save your ink! Dynamic QR codes can change your world :P

Most QR generator websites charge to create and track Dynamic QR Codes or have a limited number of scans. However, I have had great success with UQR.me. You only get one free dynamic QR code but that is all you really need for your classroom. All you need to do is register for a free account! There are other sites out there, you just have to really look for them :)

Here are a few ideas for Dynamic QR Codes:

1. Website of the Day
2. Video of the Day (view the video and write a response)
3. Riddle of the Day (Have a riddle or problem printed in your room. Use the QR code to reveal the answer. I would use a Google Doc and just change the answer via Google Drive)
4. Directions of the Day
5. Mystery Reader recording
6. Classroom Reward of the Day (reveal "Lunch with the Teacher", "Pick any seat for the day", etc)
7. Check work (provide an answer key to independent practice)
8. Google Form for a quiz or survey
9. Student Writer of the Week: Link a child's typed paper to this QR code for their peers to read on their devices
10. PDF reading of the day

Here is an example of a Dynamic QR Code that I used on my "Brain Busters" Bulletin Board. Students would scan the code to reveal a "Pondering Puzzle" or riddle of some sort. I would just login to the site and change the problem each morning before the kids arrived.

As you start back to school and begin decorating for the new year, think about having a dynamic QR code somewhere in your display. Trust me, your kids will love it and I think you will too :)

Do you use Dynamic QR codes in your classroom? If so, how do you like to use them? Which QR Code Generator do you use to create your Dynamic QR Codes?

Guest Blogger #5: Cyberbullying

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Today's guest blogger is Emily Levine who is a 3rd grade teacher. She just wrote a dissertation on Cyberbullying.

As a teacher the list of to-do is constantly growing and changing.  One thing that has not changed in the last several decades, however, is the issue of bullying.  Now, bullying is prevalent not only on the playground, but also on the technological devices that all children have access to.  Many adults believe that if their child does not have his/her own cell phone they are safe from being cyberbullied.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  If your students, sons, or daughters play video games that have the capability of chatting with others, they are susceptible to being bullied, or bullying others.  

Cyberbullying can occur when students share their passwords with others, and those "friends" use the passwords to alter information in an account.  When playing video games, if children exclude someone from the game, or kick them out of a game that is also considered cyberbullying. 

Previously, children would pass mean notes around the classroom, now they just post mean messages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets for all to see.  A popular reference to this phenomenon can be seen in the new movie DUFF.  The movie Mean Girls (slightly dated) also shows how a written slam book is used.  Students are now creating online slam books to put down others publicly. 

Cyberbullying and proper netiquette need to be discussed from an early age because access to technology is ubiquitous.  Children need to know how to respond if they are bystanders, oppressors, or those being bullied.  

Teachers can help address these situations by doing role plays, showing students how to responsibly use technology, educating students on how to report cyberbullying, and educating parents on how to respond to cyberbullying situations.  

For those students who are younger, there are books available that can be shared.  One of my particular favorites is Cell Phoney by Julia Cook.  

I would also suggest The Bully by Patricia Pollacco as a read aloud for 4-7th grade students.  For those students who are older, I would suggest reading Words Wound by Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja.  

I would love to serve as a resource for anyone needing additional information on the topic.  My dissertation was on the parent's perspective of cyberbullying and how they would respond if they became aware of their children's participation in cyberbullying.  

Write About: Digital Writing for the Classroom

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Do you use Write About in your classroom? This FREE online service truly motivates students to write and respond to writing. Any teacher can set up a free account and plug in their students' names and passwords. To login the student simply visits the website and clicks "Student":

 Then they enter their teacher's code, their username and password:

There is also an option to sign in with a Google account.

This website truly encourages reluctant writers by providing visual cues and an authentic audience. Students can choose from writing prompts with visuals like this:

They write a response, can record audio reading their piece (Extra proofreading? YES, please!) and post for a specific audience to read. If I were the teacher then I would require the child to record themselves reading their post since often times they don't catch their mistakes when reading in their head. Heck, I can't even catch all of MY mistakes when proofreading!

Write About has a ton of INTERESTING leveled writing prompts students can choose from. 

Students also have the option to create their own piece from scratch. They can even add their own image or photo! I REALLY like how the site makes the kids give credit to images that they do not own.

Students can receive annotated feedback on their drafts from their teacher. The posts can be viewed publicly, privately or by a specific group. Other readers can comment on the student's posts. The kids absolutely LOVE when they receive a new "message". 

Write About could also serve as a Read to Self center. Students can filter posts by grade level and topic.

Here is an example of a final post:

Of course, like most online tools, there is also a paid version. However, the FREE version will give you 40 student accounts that will allow for 5 posts each. You maybe thinking that five posts doesn't seem like a lot but we know that an upper elementary child needs to change things up so they don't get "bored". That's why teachers are constantly having to change up their writing center...KEEP THE INTEREST and MOTIVATION going. Try this out for a few weeks then head over to Google Drive. It NEVER hurts to dabble in different programs to see what works best for your kiddos.

Here are the different plans and pricing:

Have you used this with your students? I would love to hear what you think!