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5 Fun Internet Activities for the Classroom
Fun and games on the internet can also be a learning experience that enhances curriculum.
If you want to spice up your lessons and get your students motivated, using the internet is a great way to get started. There are many free sites that offer fun and games for students that teachers can use as educational tools. Some applications focus on reading and science, while other offer tools that you can apply to just about any subject. Don’t be intimidated- try using technology in your classroom.
What it is:
Tumble Books is an incredible site that reads popular stories with kids in an interactive book. The Tumble Books site also has fun quizzes, puzzles, and games that correlate with the different books. Students can have the story read to them, read it on their own, and have individual words sounded out for them. When students are finished with the story they can take a quiz on the book to check for comprehension or write a book review.
How to integrate Tumble Books into the classroom:
Tumble Books is wonderful for emergent readers, remedial reading students, and independent readers. Because the level of support is adjustable, the same Tumble Book can be used in your classroom with every student regardless of reading level. Set up a reading center in the one computer classroom or each student can work at their level in a computer lab setting. These interactive books are popular with students and increase student phonics, reading comprehension, and reading strategies. Encourage students to read with Tumble Books at home as well…a great way to extend the learning day! Students can take a quiz on the book when they are finished or write a book review for other students to read. Everything about this site is amazing! Instead of popping in a video on those indoor recess days, use a projector and have the kids read along with a Tumble Book. Split the class into teams to play the games, they can take turns coming to the computer during their turn.
I have linked to Tumble Books through the Toronto Library. Schools and libraries can subscribe to Tumble Books for a very reasonable yearly subscription. Tumble Books also has a free 30 day trial that you can sign up for before committing to a subscription.
Learn about blogging with your class as an educational tool. Read now.
Connect with sites that offer interactive curriculum enhancement. Read now.
- h4. Geography
Geography lessons can be made more fun with these free sites. Read now.
- h4. Phonics
Make phonics more fun with active internet activities. Read now.
- h4. Math
Website for math can help students practice and perfect skills. Read now.
- h4. Web 2.0
If you don’t know what Web 2.0 is or how to use it, this article is a must read. Read now.
What it is:
Ad Decoder is a web game created by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. The game teaches students how to decode advertisements to learn the difference between real and ideal as well as some of the tactics that advertisers use to get them to buy a product. Students flip through a virtual magazine full of advertisements and try to decode the messages the ad sends off. When students scroll over the message the true message pops up.
How to integrate Ad Decoder into the classroom:
Ad Decoder is a great tool to use with students to promote a positive self image and character development. It helps them recognize advertisements and the true messages they send. It can also be used to teach students how to spot ads both on the web and in magazines. (Those advertisers are getting so sneaky…ads are starting to get really good at blending in with the good stuff!) Use the online Ad Decoder tool and as an extension activity, have the students go through other magazines and “decode” the messages in the advertisements. This should spark some very interesting discussion!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has some other quality student activities including food and nutrition, physical activity, safety, and more. Check out the other quality activities and games on the site!
What it is:
Kerpoof is a free online creativity center where students can create their own pictures, stories, and movies. The Kerpoof studio provides students with scenes, characters, and props. Students use these tools to create stories that can be printed out or movies that they write and direct. These can be saved right on the website so students can revisit their picture, story, or movie.
How to integrate Kerpoof into the classroom:
Kerpoof is the creativity tool that can bring your students stories to life. Use Kerpoof as part of your publishing center. Students can use Kerpoof to illustrate their stories, or to create a real movie out of their own writing. Kerpoof would also make a fun writing prompt center in the classroom. This site also provides students with basic movie making skills and would make a nice precursor to an iMovie lesson. Students could plan out their movies on Kerpoof before they begin filming and editing with iMovie. Kerpoof can also be used to teach character education, have students create stories or movies that show emotion and solve problems. Teach the life cycle of a butterfly during science using Kerpoof’s butterfly pavilion scene. User Kerpoof to create life cycle scenes. Students will create a unique login so that they can revisit their stories and movies. Allow students to visit each other’s work during reading time. The site would be best utilized in a computer lab one to one setting. The stories and movies will take too long to just set up as a center in your classroom. If you don’t have access to a computer lab for this activity but have a projector, create an ongoing story or movie as a whole class.
Be sure to visit the teacher area of Kerpoof for some outstanding lessons and ideas for using Kerpoof in the classroom. You can also print out coloring sheets from the teacher area.
What it is:
Childtopia is like 10 websites in one…they have so many cool things going on that I am going to break it down into sections so stay tuned… Childtopia Games is the biggest section with games that are psychologist recommended. Games include: memory games, language, math, skill, creativity, and observation. Each game is broken down by age group making it appropriate for three to nine year olds to play. Games are fun and interactive and reinforce skills that children are learning at school and at home. There are 1400+ games on this site and can be played in 5 languages! The site is completely free but they also offer a CD version available for purchase.
How to integrate Childtopia Games into the classroom:
Childtopia Games are fun and interactive. With 1400 games to choose from you are bound to find one that fits the skill you are working on in any subject area. The games are truly great played individually, as a center, or at home for reinforcement. Childtopia Games are perfect for students who need remedial work. This site is easy for students to navigate and very user friendly.
This is one that you will want to bookmark for easy access!
What it is:
Be Funky is a web 2.0 application that lets students take any picture and transform it into a cartoon or a sketch.
How to integrate Be Funky into the classroom:
Use Be Funky in conjunction with other tools such a Bubblr (see post from the 16th) or software like Comic Life (check out iLearn Technology store for Comic Life). Since Be Funky changes a regular photograph into a cartoon, you can create cartoon comic strips in class. Transform field trip pictures into cartoons and invite students to create a comic strip retell about the field trip. Students can be the star of their own comic strips where they create a comic autobiography. Take pictures during a science experiment and create a comic strip with the scientific process of the experiment.
Be Funky requires you to have an account (this is free but asks for an email address). If you plan on having your students transform the pictures into cartoons you may think about creating one class account for students to use. I wanted to download the cartoon picture to my computer so that I could use them in Comic Life. This is not an option that Be Funky offers so I created my cartoon and then took a screen capture of the cartoon to save it as an image to my computer.
What it is:
Bubblr! is a tool to create comic strips using photos from flickr.com. You can use others public images or images from your own flickr.com account.
How to integrate Bubblr! into the classroom:
Bubblr! would be a wonderful site to use after a class field trip. Have a parent (or yourself) take pictures during the field trip. Create a flickr (www.flickr.com) account for your class. Upload the photos to the flickr account for use in the Bubblr! project. Students can create comic strips with the field trip pictures documenting the learning experience in a fun way. Bubblr! would also be fun to use for character education. Take picture of different scenarios (for example, a student taking a toy away from another student). Upload these pictures to Flickr and have students use Bubblr! to show what the different characters might be thinking and possible solutions to the problem. Bubblr! could also be used to help create a word wall…find pictures that represent words and add the word to the comic. Print out and create a Bubblr! word wall. Pictures can be found by keyword (tags) or by user. When students are finished with their comic strips they have the option of sending them via email, printing, or posting on a blog.
Since Flickr and Bubblr! are online applications, be sure that you have permission to post student pictures on either site.
*iLearn Technology column is dedicated to giving teachers practical tips for integrating technology into the classroom. All of the resources are free to use and simple to implement. This column is a weekly Friday feature, don’t miss it!
Read more about utilizing technology in the classroom.
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Kelly Tenkely graduated from Colorado Christian University with a Liberal Arts degree in Elementary Education. She started teaching in 2003 as a second grade teacher in a public school. In 2004 she made the switch to private school and took the only available opening as the technology teacher. Educational technology has since become her passion. She started a web site for her classroom and soon discovered that other teachers were using the site to aid technology in their classrooms.
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Kelly also trains teaching staff on integrating and implementing technology into the classroom. Training teachers on the use of technology in the classroom led to her blog, ilearntechnology.com, where she blogs daily about integrating technology into the classroom simply and effectively. When she is not blogging, searching for and playing with new technology, or on teaching.monster.com Kelly enjoys scrapbooking, cooking, and spending time with her husband and dog (Aya).
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Your Guide to Easily Build New Computer Curriculum
In working with thousands of computer applications and technology teachers, we have started to see a trend of teachers who are pushed into these courses from different subject areas. These teachers could have been teaching business education, math, or even language arts! Many of these “new” computer teachers struggle due to a lack of available resources to build their computer curriculum.
To help you and your fellow teachers get into the swing of things with teaching computer applications, we put together this guide! Here you will learn:
- What should be included in a computer curriculum
- Where to find computer lessons, resources, and ideas
- How to implement a great computer curriculum
What to Include in Your Computer Curriculum
Most often when you hear “computer applications” you immediately think of the Microsoft Office suite. While Office is an integral part of any computer curriculum, your lessons should include more than Word and Excel. So how do you know what to include?
To start, look at some standards. What does your district or state require to be taught in your course? Though there are some cases where you may be teaching a course that doesn’t have standards fully created yet, this is an important place to start.
After reviewing your standards, it’s a good idea to decide which certification exams (if any) you want your students to take after completing the course. Some common ones are the Microsoft Office Specialist certification and the IC3 certification. If you want your students to take a certification exam, you should review what topics are on the exam and make sure to include them in your curriculum plan.
If you are stuck with not much in terms of standards, and aren’t sure about certifications, don’t worry! Here are some important topics every computer teacher should include in their lessons, and some tips on where you can find resources to teach them:
Microsoft Office Lesson Plans
For any middle school technology curriculum, having Microsoft Office lesson plans is a must. At some point your students will find themselves needing to use one of the Office applications for school, personal, or professional use. If you aren’t sure where to start with teaching one or more of the applications, don’t worry… there are many resources out there to help you! Here’s a few places you can get started:
Google Apps Curriculum
Right along with Microsoft Office, Google Applications is becoming more and more important to teach. While some teachers opt to cover one or the other, we find that your students will get the most out of learning about both Google Apps and Microsoft Office. Including Google Apps lesson plans in your curriculum will give them an edge when compared to those who didn’t learn to use Google Apps.
For some help finding lessons to teach your students how to use Google Docs, check out this article: Google Docs Lesson Plans - Missing in Action?
Coding and Programming
Teaching middle school computer science can seem overwhelming, especially for a teaching with no experience at coding or programming. However, these skills are becoming more and more important each day, so introducing them to your students can have a big impact. A great way to incorporate coding into your curriculum is to use one of the resources listed here: 8 Places to Find Free Middle School Computer Science Resources
Depending on what grade level you are teaching, your students could be in dire need of learning how to type properly. While many schools have decided to kick keyboarding classes to the curb, for your students to have real success in anything involving computers, they need to know how to type! Spending time on keyboarding will make a big difference as your students start using applications in your classes.
You can learn about some great options by reading this article: A Review of 3 Popular Middle School Typing Curriculum Options
Why include Digital Citizenship in your computer lessons? Here’s an excerpt from Common Sense Media on the importance of teaching digital citizenship:
“Being a good digital citizen is more than knowing your way around the web. It’s about connecting and collaborating in ways you didn’t even know were possible. When you teach digital citizenship to your students, you help create a positive school culture that supports safe and responsible technology use.”
For some tips on where you can find lessons to teach digital citizenship, check out this article: Where to Find Digital Citizenship Lesson Plans
Though many teachers include cyberbullying as part of their digital citizenship lessons, it’s important enough to warrant some extra attention in your classroom. Middle school is often where bullying takes a life of it’s own, so it’s a great time to begin these conversations. For some ideas on how to talk about cyberbullying with your students, read this article: Tips for Middle School Cyberbullying Lesson Plans
How To Choose Instructional Materials for Middle School Technology Courses
While we’ve listed some articles to get you off on the right foot with teaching each of these topics, we do have a few more ideas on where you can find lessons, activities, and ideas for your curriculum. There are a number of different paths you can take when choosing instructional materials for your computer applications class:
- Free Resources from the Internet
- Textbooks and Supplements
- Test Prep Materials
- Interactive eLearning Curriculum
Depending on your situation, you will be interested in using different types of materials. Each one has a place and purpose in the classroom, but it can be tough to decide what will work best for you and your students. As you review each type of material, this article can serve as a guide to make sure you pick what you need: 5 Questions to Ask When Researching New Middle School Computer Lessons
Free Computer Applications Resources
Many computer teachers want to make sure their lessons and activities are relevant and engaging to their students. This often leads a teacher to compile a large collection of free resources from the internet. This option is a great way to pick and choose exactly what your students will be learning, down to each specific activity sheet. Here are some of the many websites you could use to find free computer lessons:
Finding lesson ideas can be pretty quick and easy, however it can be challenging to verify that the resources are appropriate, have the correct depth of coverage, and have factual accuracy. With free resources, you may not know who created them or how effective they are. Not only will you spend time finding these lessons and activities, but you will spend even more time vetting them and finding out how to put them all together in a comprehensive computer curriculum.
Computer Applications Textbooks
A common choice is to go with a traditional textbook as the base for your computer curriculum. It’s a comfortable option since teachers and students are used to textbooks for many classes. With a computer applications textbook, there are often supplements included in order to provide more activities for your students.
Assigning homework from a book is easy, since your students don’t need to have access to technology in order to read. Not to mention, you can’t have any technical glitches with a physical book! Another great reason many teachers go with a textbook is that you buy it once and can keep using it for a few years.
However, using the same textbook in a technology class for five years is also a big downside. With a textbook, what you see is what you get. If your school upgrades to the newest Microsoft Office suite, your textbooks will be instantly outdated.
If you think a textbook could be the right option for your classroom, these articles can help you decide what to use:
Test Prep Materials for Certifications
Teachers who want their students to take certification exams are interested in using test prep and study materials as a main piece of their curriculum. If you are focused on getting students to achieve certification, you need to spend time figuring out which materials will work best.
For many teachers, preparing students to pass a certification exam can be a challenge. How do you know exactly what to teach? What if you miss an important skill in one of your middle school technology lessons? These articles will help you get off on the right foot when it comes to some common certifications:
As you search for lesson and activity ideas that align with these certifications, keep in mind that your students need more knowledge than what is required to pass the exam. Ensuring they have a good foundational knowledge and ability to do more with computers is an invaluable skill they will need down the road. If you choose to get test prep materials, make sure you supplement your curriculum with other things!
Interactive eLearning Curriculum
Many teacher find it difficult to choose between using a traditional textbook and digital curriculum for teaching computer classes. A big reason many teachers end up going with eLearning curriculum for computer applications is that digital curriculum is better kept up to date than a physical textbook. As Ken Richard, our Product Team Manager, has said:
“People that use digital curriculum will get updated content - most often for free, depending on whose services you acquire. There’s no installation or downloading required by the teacher… it’s ready to go when you sign on. There is no wait for the next edition of the textbook in order to get the newest material.”
To learn more about why eLearning curriculum could be the right fit for you, read this article: 4 Big Benefits of eLearning for Computer Applications
How To Implement a Great Computer Curriculum
Now that you know what topics to include in your technology lesson plans, and what type of instructional materials you want to use… how do you implement your curriculum? It can be overwhelming to figure out how you should compile all of your lessons and activities into a comprehensive curriculum that will carry your class from day 1 until your class is done.
Many computer teachers implement a variety of materials and teaching strategies in order to provide the best education possible for their students. A great blended learning teaching style can help to keep your students engaged while also ensure you meet the needs of varying student skill levels.
“One of the keys to student engagement is variety. If you do the same thing every day, no matter how good of a lecturer you are, how great of a worksheet you have, or how good of a video you have to present… it doesn’t matter because what students need in order to be engaged is variety.” - Ken Richard
Blended learning is not only a great way to keep students engaged. There are a number of other benefits that you and your students would experience if you used a blended teaching style. If you’re not sure what those benefits are, or how you can easily start implementing your computer curriculum in a blended style, this article is a great starting point: A Beginner’s Guide to the Benefits of Blended Learning