Monday, February 7, 2011

Start your Next Lesson with a Qwiki!

The first few minutes of a lesson can really define how the rest lesson is going to go. It's your "sales pitch" moment; a time to "hook" your students and show them that what you're teaching them is important and interesting. Qwiki might help you do that...

What is it?

Qwiki is an "information experience" that pulls images, maps, movies, and animations together to create a short, narrated movie. It's a quick and engaging way to build background knowledge when you introduce a new topic. Check this one out about the Great Barrier Reef.

How does it work?

  • Qwiki aggregates its information and images from a number of different sources--Flickr, WikiMedia Commons, YouTube, and Wikipedia to name a few. In only a few seconds, it combines key elements from these sites and turns it into a short, narrated presentation.
  • When you're at the Qwiki website, search for a topic (they have over 3 million at this point), and press enter. Qwiki does the rest.
  • When the Qwiki has finished playing, you can click on the "Content" tab at the top of the screen to see an outline of the media and information that was used. This would be useful if you were interested in revisiting some of the pictures or movies.
  • Clicking on any of the elements in the Qwiki will show you more detail about it (where it came from, names, etc.).

Anything else I should know?
  • Qwiki is currently in "Alpha" release, basically meaning that it's brand-new to the web. Features are still being developed and Qwiki is sure to improve as time goes on.
  • It's easy to contribute to any of the Qwikis (in fact--they encourage it!). If you're watching one and realize that you have a relevant picture or video to add, click on "Improve this Qwiki" at the top of the page.
Want to know more? Visit the Qwiki FAQ page for detailed descriptions of what Qwiki can do!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Get Your Students Blogging with Kidblog!

I first learned about what blogs were about 7 years ago at a district professional development class and I immediately started thinking about all of the ways I could start using a it with my 5th graders. We could have conversations about literature...I could post essential questions...they could reflect on things that went on in our classroom that day. The ideas seemed endless.

We did eventually do a lot of those things (and more) on our classroom blog, but as time went on I began to realize that there was a pretty big piece missing from our blogging experience. Most of the conversations on our blog were initiated by me; I would ask a question and my students would respond. There was really no way for them to post anything on their own. It was really "MY blog that they commented on" and I wanted it to be "OUR blog that we all can post to and comment on." I began to think about how great it would be if each of my students could have his own blog to post his thoughts or his writing or his projects and to have the rest of the class comment. I scoured the web for any blogging websites that could do what I wanted...but found nothing.

Fast forward 7 is THE answer!

What is it?
Kidblog is a website that is designed for teachers who want to provide each of their students with his or her own unique blog...for free! It is VERY simple, user-friendly, safe, fast, and secure! In short, this website does EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my 5th graders!

How does it work?
  1. The teacher creates a "class" by selecting a username, password, and a name for the class.
  2. Once your account is created, you (the teacher) will be taken to the control panel where you can add blogs for each of your students.
  3. You can (and probably should) change the privacy settings to determine who can see the posts and comments. There are also moderation settings that can be set so that the teacher has to approve of any new posts and comments before they appear on the blog (a good idea).
  4. Finally, show your students how to write a post and that's it! You're all blogging!
Anything else I should know?
  • When students login, they'll be taken to a dashboard where they will see all of the other blogs as well as the most recent posts from your classroom.
  • Students can add text, pictures, movies, files, web links, and HTML code to their blog posts. What a great way for them to share ideas, information, and projects with each other!
  • Kidblog is a WYSIWYG website. You can't change the colors, theme, or layout.
Give Kidblog a try! You'll be glad that you did!

Good Luck!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shelfari: Like Facebook...for Literature

What do you do with your students once they have finished reading a book? How do help them get excited about picking their next great thriller, romance, or mystery novel? Are there any tools that will help students recommend books to each other? These are probably all questions you've asked yourself at one time. Shelfari is a very useful and user friendly site that attempts to answer them!

What is it?
Shelfari is a website that is set up as a social network…just for books. Similar to Facebook, Shelfari users create a profile and add books that they have read to a virtual bookshelf. Other members can view their shelf, read their reviews, and ask them for recommendations. It’s an interesting way to keep students reading.

Recently, I introduced Mrs. Maria Custer's 10th and 11th grade English classes to Shelfari. They quickly caught on to the idea and built their bookshelves with books they have read in and out of school. Mrs. Custer created discussion groups and showed her students how to friend each other so that they could network. I'm excited to see what they do with the site for the remainder of the school year.

Anything else I should know?
  • An email address is required to create a Shelfari account. At this point, Amazon (who owns the site) does not offer any type of educational or classroom account for teachers and students.
  • Shelfari bookshelves are embeddable. Students and teachers can embed their Shelfari shelf on their classroom webpages quickly and easily. It will look something like this:
  • This is a very thorough website with vast amounts of information about books--far more than just a summary.
  • From what I can tell, Shelfari is not policed that well for inappropriate content. I came across a few comments from other members as I was looking around. Be aware of that if you use this site with your students.
Please let me know if your students would like help setting up a Shelfari account and bookshelf!

Good Luck!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

B the coolest tchr @ school: Txt ur HW!

No, the title doesn't have a bunch of typos. It's my attempt at text lingo. If you haven't figured it out yet, it says "Be the coolest teacher at school: Text your homework!"

What is it?
Contxts is a website that is actually designed for business people to create and share business cards via SMS (text) messaging. Basically, people can fill out the "card" with whatever contact and business information they want and Contxts will text message it to whomever requests it.

How can I use it in school?
Since you are not technically filling out a "business card" on the website (you're just filling in a text box with information), you can type whatever information you want. So, instead of entering contact information, enter information about homework assignments. If you don't want to enter homework assignments, then use it to post a "question of the week".

How does it work?
  1. Create an account at
  2. Add your information to your "business card". You don't have to fill out all of the contact information--your name is enough. The most important part is the "Your Txt Card" box. That's where you'll type your the information you want people to see in the text message. The Txt Card box is limited to 140 characters, so you'll have to be brief. Here's what I was able to fit in mine:
  3. Once you've entered your information, press "Sumbit" and you'll be given directions to give to your students so that they can receive your text messages. The directions will say something like "Tell your friends to txt (username) to (a number)". That's how they'll get your homework assignments. Give that username and number to your students and they're all set.

Try it!

Text cclancy (my name) to 50500 (the phone #). You should get a text message back with my homework information within a few seconds. This is what it looks like on my phone:

This is a really easy site to use! Give Contxts a try!

Good Luck!


Monday, January 4, 2010

Stop emailing files to yourself! Try!

How many times a week do you work on a file on your home computer and then email it to yourself at school? Or maybe you use a flash drive to migrate your files from one computer to another--definitely more convenient than email, but not really a great place to permanently store your stuff. And I don't know about you, but whenever I use email or flash drives to move files, I usually end up with 2 or 3 different versions all saved in different places...even though I do think I'm an organized person! Isn't there an easier way?

What is it?

Dropbox is FREE software that syncs your files online and across your computers. So, you can work on a file on your home computer, put it in your dropbox, and then open it on your school computer the next day (and vice versa)! No emailing! No flash drives!

How does it work?
  1. Sign up for a Dropbox account at their website.
  2. Download Dropbox onto your home and school computers.

Once installed, you'll see a "My Dropbox" folder on your computer's desktop. Anything you place in that folder will be instantly synced to your online account AND to any of your other computers with Dropbox.

Anything else I should know?

  • Dropbox's free account provides 2GB of storage--more than enough for your documents and presentations.
  • There are other free filesharing/file storage sites out there. Dropbox is unique (and, in my opinion--better) because of the downloadable desktop folder that works like any other folder on your computer. With Dropbox, there is no uploading or downloading to a website. It's fast and easy.
  • If you're ever at a computer that is not yours and doesn't have Dropbox installed, just go to their website and login to your account. All of your files will be available.
  • If you open a file from your Dropbox, modify it, and save the changes, it will automatically sync those changes to your other dropboxes (online and on other computers). No more having multiple versions of the same file!
  • Your Dropbox will come with a "public" folder. Any files that you place in it will be assigned a URL that can be emailed for sharing.
  • Have an iPhone? Download the Dropbox App and sync your files to your iPhone!

Give Dropbox a try! You'll love it!

Good Luck!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Are you using Twitter yet? Why not?

I'll be the first to admit that I was a little skeptical about using Twitter. What's it going to do for me? Who cares about what I have to say? Why do I care about what people are doing? At first glance, it does seem like Twitter is just one more way for people to "lifecast" (broadcast their life). However, throughout the last few months I've learned that Twitter is so much more than just a way to talk about yourself--it's a way to build your own PLN (Personal Learning Network).

What is it?

Twitter is a free online service that lets you broadcast (very) short messages to your "followers". Sometimes, it's promoted as a microblogging platform (regular blog = long, descriptive; microblog = short and sweet). It also lets you "follow" people so that you can see their updates.

Anything else I should know?

  • Twitter updates are limited to 140 characters, so you don't have room to say a lot. That's actually one of the greatest features of Twitter. It's easy to glance through your "updates" to get a snapshot of what's going on. You can usually click on links within the updates to learn more about the topics. It's kind of like perusing the newspaper--you can look at the headlines and 0nly read the stories you're interested in.
  • Once you have an account, you'll have your own Twitter username (e.g. @cclancy) and your own Twitter page (e.g.
  • You can have Twitter updates sent to your cell phone. Login to Twitter and click "settings" to set it up.
  • I think that Twitter is all about who you follow: the better your network, the better your updates, the better it will work for you. Your best bet is to find someone worth following, and then look at his or her list of followers.

How can Twitter help me in school?

Twitter has been an amazing tool to help build my PLN. Your current learning network might be limited to your grade level or department. Need a new idea? Ask the Twitterverse for help! Or, search for keywords, like "socialstudies" or "geometry" at

You can also use Twitter to follow world they are happening. Search for keywords like "H1N1", "balloonboy", or "northwest" and you'll see realtime updates from people around the world as they tweet about Swine Flu, Balloon Boy, or the status of the crew from the Northwest flight that extended their trip...

How can I get started?

  1. Go to
  2. Register for a free Twitter account.
  3. Find people to follow using Twitter's search button.
  4. Start tweeting!

Twitterers you might want to follow

(Click on their name to go to their page. click "follow" underneath their name to follow them):

Still want more? Check out my Twitter links or this Twitter Help for Educators!

Good Luck!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

MuseumBox: Virtual Learning Boxes

What items would you put in a box to describe your life? What about the life of a Civil War soldier? An ancient Egyptian?

What is it?
Based on a real box that was created by Thomas Clarkson, a British abolitionist from the 19th century, MuseumBox is a website that lets you build an argument or describe an event by placing items into a virtual box.

Each box can have between one and 24 compartments for users to place "objects". Each compartment has a virtual "cube" that holds the objects. A wide range of objects can be added to the cube faces, including images, video, sound, text, web links, and PowerPoint, Word, and PDF files!

High School social studies teacher Mrs. Mary Tully contacted me recently about doing a MuseumBox project with her 9th grade Global Studies classes. She was looking for a different way for them to demonstrate their understanding of the 5 Themes of Geography. Working in groups of 2 or 3, they used Google's Advance Search features to research, Image Search for pictures, and cited everything with Citation Machine!

Click here to see one group's MuseumBox! Make sure you click on each of the cubes!

How does it work?
  • Teachers need to register their school with the MuseumBox website. When students create their accounts, they will select their school and be identified by it on the site.
  • Students open the Creator, build their box and cubes, and save it at the MuseumBox website. Objects can come from the MuseumBox gallery, or they can be uploaded.
  • When students are finished with their boxes, they "submit" them virtually through the website. At that point, teachers can log in, view, and evaluate their class' boxes. If the box is approved by the teachers, it becomes part of the school's gallery of MuseumBoxes. UPDATE (1/5/10): Once boxes are submitted, teachers need to review and approve or reject them within 2 weeks. After that time, any boxes that have not been reviewed will be forwarded to the e2bn (MuseumBox) administrators. You'll have to email the company to get them back.

Anything else I should know?

  • MuseumBox is a UK site, so many of the images in their gallery were UK-based.
  • If students are collaborating on one box, it's important that only one student is modifying it at a time. If more than one person opens the box, it's possible that work could get accidentally deleted.
  • The entire project (with Mrs. Tully's students) took about 2 block periods, or about three 45 minute sessions.
  • MuseumBox is not just for social studies teachers! It has lots of applications for other classes as well!

I found MuseumBox to be VERY user-friendly, reliable, and engaging for the students. I was impressed with how much they were able to do in such a short amount of time.

Please let me know if you're interested in doing a MuseumBox project with your class!

Good Luck!