Thursday, January 29, 2015

Easily Share Links with Students: Tech Thursday {1/28/15}

Technology Thursday is a weekly linky dedicated to all things technology related. Check out our Linky Parties page for details on how to link up!

Today, I'm excited to share with you how I manage the links for all of the websites we use in my classroom. I don't know about you, but I use a TON of different websites in my class. More often than not, my students need to go to our specific login page, which can be tough to relay to students, since it's usually a pretty long URL.

A few years ago, I learned about a site called PortaPortal, and I was so excited to have a place to save all of the classroom links we use so that my students could just find the right one and click. There was one downside though... I didn't love that the links were text only, when so many of my students are visual learners. 

Enter Symbaloo...

Symbaloo is a totally free site that allows you to save your favorites as icons - much like the smartphone and tablet icons our students are so used to using. 

Symbaloo is easy to set up and add links. Just click an empty tile, paste in your link, and click save. It will even try to automatically pull an image for the website's icon! If you want, you can also edit the title of the link, select an image for the icon, and choose a background color. 

If you need more room that what's shown, you can add more boards or add extra rows and columns to the board. 

The only downside to Symbaloo is actually the fact that it is so easy to move, edit, or delete tiles. This is a great feature for my boards, but it can be a problem in the classroom with students who *occasionally* make mistakes on the computer. Don't worry though, I have the solution for that too!


Weebly allows you to create a totally free website with zero ads and an easy to remember URL. It's super easy to set up a page using their templates, and then embed your Symbaloo page onto it. This way, you can easily update in Symbaloo, and also give students access to links in a format that they can't accidentally delete! 

If you're thinking that you can't make a website, think again! I'm going to walk you right through how to create your site and embed the Symbaloo boards onto it. It's easier than you think!

First, you'll need to select a type of site... 

Next, choose a theme. You will be able to change this later. I recommend looking for a simple layout with wide text areas to allow room for your Symbaloo boards. You can change colors on many of the themes, and can even add your own backgrounds to some. 

Now, it's time to choose your domain. Make it something simple for your students to remember. (Mine is There's no need to purchase a domain unless you just want to. 

From here, it's all click, drag, and type! Edit text and images by just clicking on them. Add features by dragging from the left sidebar into the page.  If you have a photo heading like the one shown, and don't like it, you can remove it easily by clicking Pages at the top and changing the page layout to one with a smaller picture or no picture. This is also where you can also add or delete pages.

Embedding your Symbaloo board:
First, on Weebly, drag the "Embed Code" button onto your page wherever you would like it to appear. 

Next, head back to Symbaloo. Click the Share button at the top of the window, and you will see a popup like this: 
Decide if you want it shared publicly or privately (I choose private). Click Share my Webmix, and click Embeded Code. You will see a small popup with a box full of html code. Don't get nervous... they've already done all the work for you. Just select all and click copy. 

Back to Weebly. Click in the box that says "click here to edit custom HTML" and paste in the code you just copied. Click outside the box and watch your Symbaloo board appear! Done! 

I actually keep several different Symbaloo boards going on my site at one time. Feel free to head over and see how it works! My favorite part is that students have easy access to the sites we use at school no matter where they are, as long as they remember the URL. (Which I have printed on labels inside the front cover of their agendas... no excuses, kiddos!)

Students and parents have loved that they can access things so easily and only have to remember one website instead of dozens. I even use it at home to access our classroom sites! (And you might notice that my old PortaPortal site is still there... it has oodles of links that I haven't moved to the Weebly site.)

You can use your Weebly site just as a homepage for your students to jump to other websites, or you can make it a full-fledged classroom website easily with their click & drag interface. I can't say enough about how easy it is, and how much you can do with it! (I am in no way affiliated with Symbaloo or Weebly, I just love their sites!)

So... what technology have you been excited about recently? Link up below and share with us!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Culturing Bacteria in your Classroom

Do your students LOVE science? This activity is the perfect thing to teach students why we wash our hands and clean our desks! Plus, it is actually super easy to do. It does take some prep on your part before you start though. You will need a box of gelatin, water and sugar. The growing process takes about a week or so, but you can speed it up by adding a cube of beef bouillon. You will also need q-tips and small containers with lids (or plastic wrap).
{Please Note: I doubled the following recipe to have enough agar for all of my students to grow their own bacteria. You can have your students complete this in groups or individually.}

Agar Directions:
1. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil.
2. Mix in 2 teaspoons of gelatin and 2 teaspoons of sugar.
3. Stir until it is well dissolved {add a cube of beef bouillon if you want your results sooner}.
4. Carefully pour a small amount of the agar into your containers. You will want your containers to have a lid. You can use small dixie cups and just cover with plastic wrap if you don't want to buy the little mini cups with lids.
5. Chill the containers overnight.

Lab Directions:
1. Label container with initials and test location.
2. Swab the test location with one end of the q-tip.
3. Open container and carefully swab {with the same end} on the agar.
4. Close container and place in a cool dark space.
5. Let the bacteria culture for 3-5 days.

You can make observations as the bacteria is growing. After about a week, you will see definite results. When we first start the lab, I always make sure that my students understand that not everyone's sample is going to look the same. That is my favorite part! All of the samples will grow different colored bacteria and mold at different speeds. Here are some examples of our containers before culturing.

The day before our lab, I sent out a quick e-mail to all of our staff to let them know what we would be doing. My students went anywhere in the school to take their sample. You can see in their labeled containers above, some of them went to their previous teachers, the lunchroom, the superintendent's office and one even swabbed their mouth. I told my students no one could swab the same place as someone else. Other places my students swabbed: keyboard, younger sibling's desk, nurse's office counter, principal's desk, and a toilet. The whole school was up for "swabs"! Then, we placed the samples in my back closet for 2 days before making our first observations. Only a few of my students saw results. A few days later, all of my students had some results!! Here are some after photos.
 As you can see, they are all different. If you look closely you can see little yellow dots on 3 of the samples. This is bacteria. You can also see three different variations of mold! So Cool!

It is so important for students to realize that mold/bacteria could grow anywhere however it needs the right environment to grow. That is why we put it in a cool, dark space. The agar that you poured in the bottom of the containers acts as the nutrition source for the bacteria.

Lastly, my students typed up their Lab Reports! They had to handwrite their drafts and then type them up on the iPads using the Pages app.
My students loved culturing bacteria. They couldn't wait to tell their parents all about it and bring home their lab reports {no... I didn't let them take home their bacteria}. I also e-mailed the few teachers/staff members where my students took samples from at the end of our project. All of the them let my students come into their classroom to read their lab report to their class! It was a great opportunity for all of my students to step out of their comfort zone and read in front of a group. It was low stress because they used their reports and they were "pros" on their own bacteria!

Just so you know, I created this product {STEM Challenge: Culturing Bacteria} to help guide my students through the lab. You could totally do it without though!! Let me know if you try out the lab with your students! I would love to see your results!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Scoop {1/25/15}

The Sunday Scoop is based on the popular 3-2-1 graphic organizers so many of us use with our students. Tell us three things you HAVE to do, two things you HOPE to do, and one thing you're HAPPY to do. If this is your first time linking up, check out our Linky Parties page for details!

Here is my scoop for the week!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tech Thursday: Using ViewPure and QR Codes

Technology Thursday is a weekly linky dedicated to all things technology related. Check out our Linky Parties page for details on how to link up!

I am going to share a website that I just learned about a few months ago. It is now something I use on a weekly basis in my classroom. Let me just start by saying, I love showing videos throughout my lessons. I find that they are engaging for students and it allows them to "see the world" in new ways. That being said... have you ever had that sinking feeling when something appears on YouTube that, let's just say... is not okay for kids to be seeing? Well now there is a solution for that problem! {Make sure you read all the way to the bottom... there *might* be a surprise waiting for you!}
First, you will need to find a video on YouTube that you want to show to your class. Then, open up a new tab and search go to ViewPure. This website will remove the advertising, comments and additional video pop-ups on the video you wish to show. Simply copy and paste the URL from YouTube into the text bar on ViewPure and hit "purify". It will instantly place your video into a new window which has no ads or any links.

I think it is super easy! This can be done right before you decide to watch a video or ahead of time. You can easily bookmark the "purified" version of the video to use in the future. On ViewPure you can also just type in specific search terms to find purified videos such as; multiplication, germs, or metaphors.

I take my videos one step farther in my classroom. I use ViewPure to host the videos so that they are safe for my students to watch and then QR Stuff to create a QR code for the video. Then, I print the QR codes out for my students to use during a center. We call these sheets our "Video Pads". Basically,  I put 6-8 videos on a printable and laminate it. During center time or quiet time, my students will watch the videos that I have linked to and purified. They can watch them in any order and I have them respond by writing their favorite part of the video or something they learned from the video. My students absolutely love when I make Video Pads. They are always engaged during the videos and I love that it stretches my lessons just a little bit farther.

In our classroom, we have 3 iPods and 1 iPad. By doing the video pads, my students can take turn using our devices. The videos are usually less than 5 minutes. My students might watch one or two one day and then give someone else a turn. If your school is not 1:1, video pads a are great way to engage students with technology, while keeping it "short and sweet" so all of your students have an opportunity to use the devices.

Wondering what a video pad looks like? While we are learning about Matter in Science, {click here to check out my matter unit on TpT} we use this video pad. There are 6 videos on a range of topics including the water cycle, a science experiment for density, mixture and solution, Oobleck and facts about matter in general.
Want to try out a video pad in your own classroom? You can try my Matter Video Pad in your classroom by clicking the picture below to download it for free. I hope your students love watching the video as much as mine do!

Grab the Tech Thursday button above and link up below with your own Website or App recommendations, Tech Tips, Tutorials, or anything else tech-related. We can't wait to learn from you!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Scoop {1/18/15}

The Sunday Scoop is based on the popular 3-2-1 graphic organizers so many of us use with our students. Tell us three things you HAVE to do, two things you HOPE to do, and one thing you're HAPPY to do. If this is your first time linking up, check out our Linky Parties page for details!

Here's the Scoop on my week...

Link up to share your scoops! Don't forget to be a good blog reader, and leave some love for the two posts before yours!


    An InLinkz Link-up

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tech Thursday: The Digital Natives are Restless

Technology Thursday is a weekly linky dedicated to all things technology related. Check out our Linky Parties page for details on how to link up!

The Natives are Restless...
The Digital Natives that is.

As we are moving further into the 21st century- yes, we are already here folks- there is a distinct and ongoing pressure for teachers to embrace technology.  We are to modify our lessons, our teaching, and, hence, our skill set.  We are encouraged to incorporate technology into our classrooms to aid in motivating our students.  And yet a lot of teachers have trouble with this movement into all things digital. Some can't seem to assimilate the new digital language, new programs, or the new skills that are needed in this digital world.

What does this mean for our classrooms and students?

We have teachers that are digital foreigners trying to teach digital natives- our students.

Digital Foreigners 

These folks are resistant to change.  The old way is fine...why change it? They are unwilling or unable to adapt to the digital age in a consistent manner.  Maybe it is just beyond their scope of experiences or maybe they just don't want to.  Either way, the digital way of life is foreign to them. They may know the new digital world exists, but they do not want to "move" there. Paper and pencil are just fine thank you very much.

Digital Immigrants 

Digital immigrants have migrated over into the digital world.  They are getting their toes wet. They are beginning to develop a digital skill set but may not have mastered much yet. Maybe they have a Facebook account and a tablet.  They probably even have a smart phone.  Someone who falls into this category probably sees the benefits of the digital world but doesn't quite know how to embrace it yet. They are living in the new digital world but are hanging on to some of their old ways too.

Example: My mom  called me the other day with a computer emergency.  I had signed into my Google account on their laptop and forgot to sign out. The emergency? How to sign out of my email account and sign into hers. My mom has email, a smart phone, a Nook, and a tablet.  She has Facebook and Pinterest.  She is even the most faithful reader of this blog. But she still is technologically challenged.  (Sorry MOM! Love you! And that's why you have me ;))

Teachers as Digital Foreigners or Immigrants

Teachers who fall into the categories of digital foreigners or immigrants think and speak differently than our students. Think of it as having a heavy foreign accent.  Like someone learning a new language, you might get some of the nuances of the language wrong and you would speak with the accent of your first language. Students who are digital natives will find it hard to understand these teachers.  Communicating with, connecting to, and catching the interest of their students will become an increasing challenge due to the digital language and technology skill gap that exists.

Digital Settlers 

Digital settlers weren't born into technology, but they are surfing the digital wave in high fashion. They have integrated and "settled" into the digital landscape. These folks know current digital terms and can keep abreast of the fast paced changes in technology.  A digital settler has a mad set of technology skills but wasn't born in the digital age.  They have "settled" into the new digital world and are prepared to integrate with the natives.

Digital Natives

What is a digital native? The term was first used by Marc Prensky in his book On The Horizon (see video below).

Digital natives are born into technology. They are born surrounded by the world of technology and all things digital.  They can adapt to the changes in this digital world with ease. These students are not "mini me's" of us. They learn in a non-linear fashion.  These are the kids that are sending 6 billion texts a day and downloading 2 billion songs a month.  These natives can blog, YouTube, instant message, spend hours playing XBox with a friend in another state, and text with one thumb.

Example: I was at a birthday party with friends who have a son that is not even 2 yet.  The parents gave the baby their smart phone since we were at a restaurant.  The baby boy then proceeded to swipe, touch, and open his favorite Youtube video.  He then got tired of the video; closed it out; searched for a game; opened it and played.  He was amazing! I sat and watched him in absolute wonder.  This baby boy was completely comfortable and adept at using a smart phone but couldn't even use the toilet yet! That is a digital native my friends.

Technology is not a tool to a digital is their foundation!

Check out this video of Marc Prensky talking about our students as digital natives.

Which are You?

Take a moment to reflect on your digital prowess.  What category do you fall in? You may find that you fall completely in one category or that you fall somewhere between two.  I see it more as a flow from one group to another- moving along the spectrum so to speak toward becoming a digital native. Or at least trying to connect with the natives as a digital settler.


Okay. Back to teaching.  Should teachers be moving toward becoming a digital native?  Should teachers be aspiring to integrate more into the digital world that is developing around them?  Is the push toward technology justified?  Should it even matter inside the walls of our classrooms?

My answer is this...Absolutely! If we teachers want to speak the language of our students, we are going to have to migrate into the digital world and embrace the technology of the future for the sake of our students. If we don't, we will never connect with them and never be able to actually impart anything of importance to them.  We might as well be speaking Latin. No communication, no connection, no learning! The digital natives are becoming restless!

The basic fact is that I would much rather adapt to the digital future than have my students try to adapt to the past!

Wouldn't you?

Link up below with your own Website or App recommendations, Tech Tips, Tutorials, or anything else tech-related! We can't wait to learn from you!