Month: October 2014

Some Places to Find Useful Content Online

scoopitby Kristie Burk

As the year progresses, you are probably looking for new online content to add to your lessons.  This content could be websites, games, tutorials, videos, simulations, etc.

Do not reinvent the wheel!  There is so much content online for you to share with your students; don’t try to create it all yourself.

To help, I’ve curated some websites in ScoopIt where you can find useful material.  ScoopIt is a free tool that helps you to curate online material in one place.  Just click on the picture above to get started…

Take some time to explore and please let me know if there are any sites you’d like to add to this list!


Food for Thought Friday: PA Dept of Ed Announces Snow Day Pilot Program

Snowing! by thisreidwrites, on FlickrCreative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicensePhoto by thisreidwrites

by Kristie Burk

Just a few days ago, Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq announced a new pilot program that will give Pennsylvania Schools the ability to use “non-traditional educational delivery methods” on regularly scheduled school days instead of snow days.

As you know, the Public School Code requires schools to offer 990 hours of instruction for grades 7-12 and 900 hours to grades 1-6.  The new “Flexible Instructional Day” will count as a school day as long as the school has submitted to the Department of Education a summary of the program that “demonstrates the school has addressed the overall management of the program, curriculum and instruction, and student and teacher access to technology and supports.”

Schools can choose to develop online or offline work; however, there must be alternatives for online programs if students and teachers don’t have access to technology.

In the new pilot, schools can use up to five (!) Flexible Instructional Days before requiring approval from the DOE. More information about the pilot program can be found here.

If you’re an educator in Pennsylvania, what do you think of this pilot program? Do you think that we should allow kids to work at home during bad weather or should we make up the day? Let us know by posting a comment below or tweeting it about using #foodforthoughtfri.

Students Can Create Free Timelines on

Timeline2by Kristie Burk

Last week I was talking with Alyssa Read who teaches a blended honors African-Asian course at DHSE. She showed me how her students are making digital timelines as a class assignment using Timeline from The projects she was holding looked very cool.

In addition to being free, Timeline is also easy to use. Students start by typing their name and their project title. A timeline appears and students can begin adding events by clicking anywhere on the line. A window will pop up that asks for a label, a short description, and a long description.  Students can also add images.

Once an event is created, students can drag and drop the event anywhere on the timeline. When they’re finished, students can save the timeline as a rwt file that can be reopened by the teacher later or they can print it out.  There are so many great ways that teachers can use timelines from elementary school through senior year.  Check it out and let us know what you think!

Website Wednesday: Finding Images in Google That Are Safe to Reuse

by Kristie Burk

googleimage2_001A few weeks ago, I posted a useful chart on fair use and copyright issues for teachers.  Today, we’re going to talk about a newly redesigned feature in the Google search engine that allows users to find images by usage rights. In other words, you can find images that you’re legally allowed to reuse.  (You could find this information prior to 2014, but you had to do an advanced search.)

Start by doing your image search in Google as you would normally. (Go to Google Images or type in your keyword in a Google Search and click on “images.”)  Click on “search tools” and then “usage rights.” You now have 5 options to sort your images:

  1. not filtered by license
  2. labeled for reuse – Google will display only those images with a license that allows you to copy or modify the image.
  3. labeled for commercial use – Google will display images with a license that allows you to copy the image for commercial purposes
  4. labeled for reuse with modification – Google will display images with a license that allows you to change the image in some ways.
  5. labeled for commercial reuse with modification – Google will display images with a license that allows you to change the image for commercial use.

Two very important caveats: You still need to follow the licensing requirements of any image that you use. Most licenses specify that you give credit to the author and link back to the image.

You also should go to the website to verify that the website owns the image.  For example, if I stole the above image from another website, but this website says all the images are reusable, then it would show up in Google search as “labeled for reuse.”  (The above photo is my own.)

Tech Tip Tuesday: Use PowerPoint to Make a Jeopardy Game

by Kristie Burk

Did you know that you can create fun games like Jeopardy in PowerPoint?  Students love to play games and Jeopardy games in particular are a fun way to review material with students.  Watch this YouTube tutorial for instructions on how to make your own:

If you don’t want to create your own games from scratch, don’t worry.  Amy Johns, a Technology Resource Teacher, created some awesome game templates for teachers. If you don’t like what you see, you can search for PowerPoint Jeopardy templates and find plenty.  Have fun!

“My Head Just Exploded”: A Social Commentary on Creativity in the Science Classroom

This article was written by guest blogger Ben Mountz, a physics teacher at Downingtown High School East.

This school year I am teaching a class built entirely from scratch: the content, curriculum, and even the class structure were not even in existence four months ago.

It’s called Natural Disasters, and it is the brainchild of one of my esteemed Earth Science colleagues, Chaz Nelson, here at Downingtown East. But since it is an elective class for upperclassmen, I knew I had to create a course that was unlike anything that I’d ever done before; a class where students would actually want to come to class, instead of politely (or not) tolerating me.

I love when students are creative. I love creativity in general. But I especially love when people make creative things out of things that aren’t generally thought to be creative (did you follow that?).

Science is a great example of that. Many people view science as calculating and technical, and it is especially exciting when something creative and inspiring originates from a source you didn’t expect. So I created the concept of “Project Blocks”. This is where students take 3, 4, or 5 class days to propose, create, and share their learning about some concept from the chapter, in whatever way they wish. Our new course management program, Schoology, has features that allow me to assign projects individually to students, and no two students’ experiences are exactly alike in my classroom.
After all, everyone learns differently. Recognizing and accommodating this reality in the classroom is what we refer to in education jargon as “differentiation”. But regardless of what it is called, my students are more engaged on a day-to-day basis than any classes I’ve ever had.

I’ve developed a “project proposal” form where students frame out all critical aspects of their project of choice: what topic they want to cover, what the final product should look like, what the objective is, and how they will spend the following several days working on it in class. I broke down Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy into 3 sections, and listed action verbs that would be appropriate for 3-day projects (define, describe, explain), 4-day projects (collect, analyze, organize) and 5-day projects (evaluate, create, construct), so that the students would have a ballpark idea of how long their project should take.

Then I simply said, “Okay, go.“

The following photo is a submission I just received from one of my students for the current chapter. After getting my her permission to post this on a popular social networking site, it drew rave reviews and elicited the following quote from my friend and fellow educator, Jim Harmon (now currently with Apple):

“My head just exploded.”


Cake created by Rebecca Hall

Yes, that is cake. And for anyone who has never learned about tectonics, these are the main layers of the earth, roughly to scale. True to theory, the core is even solid [white chocolate]. I didn’t even know hemispherical concentric cake molds existed, much less that one of my students would be so motivated as to use one for a project. I was floored. And then we all ate it.

And not to lessen the true uniqueness of this project, but this is the kind of thing that many of my students have been doing lately. All I had to do was create an environment which elicited their inner creativity, and in which they felt safe to experiment in innovative ways with sharing their own learning. The only reason I don’t have more photos up here is because I am behind on obtaining permission to use them.

I know project-based classes are nothing new, but they are for me. When I was developing this, I asked for a lot of feedback from trusted friends and colleagues, because I was frankly scared stiff of doing something that was, for me, so revolutionary. And now, I couldn’t imagine my class without it. More student-generated awesomeness to come.

Food for Thought Friday: 5 Steps to Improving Discoverosity

In a previous post, I talked about the concept of discoverosity. I received several positive comments on the article; mostly, people wanted to know what they could do to foster discoverosity in themselves or in their students. Here are 5 steps to improving your discoverosity:

  1. Do not expect to be an expert in technology. Ever. Technology is changing too quickly for any one person to know everything. Do not be afraid to admit that there is an app, website, software or tool that you do not know. (You don’t have to worry about this one with kids.)
  2. Start with an app. In general, apps are easier to learn than entire software programs. Start by downloading a few free ones to your phone or to your tablet. Ask other people about their favorite apps for ideas. With your students, ask them to share any apps that they use at home for learning or have all the students look at a new app together in a group to see what they can learn.
  3. Give yourself plenty of time. When you’ve been presented with a new technology, don’t be afraid to invest a little bit of time “playing” with it. Expect that you’ll be looking through the help videos and/or visiting the support pages.  If your students ask how something works, don’t give them the answer right away…encourage them to spend some time problem-solving and testing.
  4. Look for tutorials. When I was first learning Schoology, our learning management system, I found many useful videos made by regular teachers on YouTube. In several instances, I found these videos to be more helpful than Schoology’s own videos.  See if  your students want to learn a tool and then create their own tutorials for their classmates!
  5. Abandon tools that don’t have good discoverability. Discoverability  (nope, I didn’t make up this one) is a term that means that the software’s functionality has been designed to be easily found out. After some time (see #2), if you think the tool is just too difficult to figure out, go find a better one. Sometimes you have to go through one or two competitors before you find a tool that works for you.

As always, let us know your thoughts @KristieLBurk #foodforthoughtfri or by commenting on the article!