Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Vocabulary.com October 17, 2014Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Gone are the days of old-fashioned vocabulary flash cards! Vocabulary.com, one of AASL’s 2014 Best Websites, combines proprietary technology and an advanced digital dictionary in this game-like learning resource. One of the factors that makes this website stand out from other digital vocabulary sites is its technology – Adaptive Vocabulary Instruction (AVI). AVI’s algorithm monitors students’ responses to provide words and exercises on a student’s learning level, thus avoiding spending time on words too easy or too hard. This adaptive technology supports differentiated instruction in the classroom allowing all students to learn.
Signing up to create an account is easy and free.
Vocabulary.com is comprised of three sections – The Challenge, Dictionary, and Vocabulary Lists. After creating an account, students can immediately begin playing the Challenge’s interactive game to build knowledge and create a learning environment on their level. The Dictionary offers basic and advanced searches going beyond just definitions. Explanations and usage examples taken from current publications and classic literature provide a fuller context that helps fortify students’ understanding. Thousands of word lists are available in the Vocabulary Lists section which also lets teachers and students create their own word lists based on assignments and personal interests.
Here is a short video that shows an overview of the site and is a good tool for acquainting students with the site’s features.
The site’s gaming environment enables students to earn points as they respond with correct answers and master words. As points are accumulated, students earn achievement badges representing their levels. Also, overall achievement for each student can be seen by clicking on the My Progress tab to see various progress charts.
Show students this video to motivate them to set personal learning goals, earn achievement badges, and see how they rank with other students on the site’s leaderboards–
School pride and competing with other schools can be great motivators for students! Be sure to have students include their school’s name on their profile pages. This way your school can compete for a cool banner awarded to the school that masters the most words each month. Also, your school can enter the site’s Vocabulary Bowl that recognizes the school that masters the most words for the year, along with the top achieving students.
There are lots of ways teachers can use Vocabulary.com in the classroom..
- Teachers can create word lists from a designated text for a pre-reading activity using the copy and paste feature in the Vocabulary Lists section.
- Students can curate personalized word lists based on their individual reading and interests. These words can be used in journal assignments, creative writing exercises, and class discussions.
- The site’s use of contextualized word items can help ESL students strengthen their understanding of words, better relate to words and actively use them.
Vocabulary.com recommends the site for grades 5 through college and adults. Through my experience I would highly recommend it for middle and high school students. The site also offers a subscription-based Education Edition.
Elizabeth P. Dumas
AASL Best Websites Committee member
AASL Best Websites: Coming Soon to ALA Annual! June 10, 2014Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in ALA Annual Conference, Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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As you may know the American Association of School Librarian Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee produces a list of recognized websites every year. What you may not know is that this the committee’s sixth year and we will be presenting our 150th site this month at ALA Annual in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 28th. Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #aaslbestlist.
Everyone on the Best Websites Committee has been working hard throughout the year and is really excited to share this year’s list. We feel that we have a great list for you here in 2014 full of strong online tools in the categories of Media Sharing, Digital Storytelling, Social Networking and Communication, and more.
This is the committee’s last blog post until September. In the fall we will be bringing you more blog postings on how to use the AASL Best Websites in your schools, libraries, and classrooms as we have in the past. We will have a whole new list to share and will be super excited to offer up new ideas and sites. As always if there is ever a Best Websites online tool that you would like for us to write about, just comment below.
The Best Websites Committee hopes to see you at ALA. If you can’t make it follow us on Twitter or check out our website: http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/best-websites on June 28th to see all of the new sites, resources, presentations, and freebies.
Heather Moorefield-Lang: AASL Best Websites Committee Chair
Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Blendspace April 10, 2014Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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Blendspace, one of AASL’s 2013 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning in the Manage and Organize category, offers both teachers and librarians a very intuitive, option-rich environment for sharing content online with students and other teachers. With Blendspace, you can:
build a simple “playlist” of websites, videos, images, and text you can share in a presentation or live lesson
embed a playlist in a website or blog to share resources online
create flipped or blended lessons that have students watch videos, visit websites, and respond to short quizzes to monitor participation and comprehension
Blendspace first came to life in 2012 as Edcanvas, offering an easy way for educators to blend “materials together from all over the web into beautiful lessons,” as described in the Blendspace blog.
My first exposure to this tool was at the 2013 CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference where Brian Bridges from California Learning Resources Network (CLRN) used it to share “50 free online ready reference works and web 2.0 tools for lifelong learners” (bit.ly/clrnfun). Edcanvas served both as part of his presentation platform and as a way of providing links to the 50 tools participants could access afterwards.
In a similar way, the AASL Best Websites Committee used Edcanvas for the session announcing and showcasing the 25 best sites for 2013 at the June 2013 ALA Conference.
It allowed the committee to include links to each of the 25 sites, as well as to images of the sites, examples, video interviews with the site creators, and more. And, once the session was over, both the live participants and others who weren’t able to attend could visit the Edcanvas playlist to easily access this series of site links and related materials.
Thanks to its attractive interface, ease of assembling through drop and drag, and embedding option, it has recently become one of my own tools of choice for curating online content for my teachers and students. For example, when I needed to provide one of my classes with a selection of sites for creating online vocabulary games and quizzes, I used it to quickly assemble site links and examples I shared during class and also embedded in a webpage for later reference:
I also used it to share digital storytelling tools, creative writing tools, and Twitter resources.
The Blendspace blog posting last August 24 explained that the creators wanted to provide more than just “a space where you put digital content.” This led to the transition from Edcanvas to Blendspace, with the goal of making the site “into a suite of tools where you can measure your students’ understanding of material and track their progress.” In addition to finding and including weblinks, it now allows teachers to set up classes and assign lessons to students in those classes, embed short quizzes in with the other digital content, and track student participation. It allows students to create lessons as well, and users can search the gallery for lessons and playlists created by others. Check the site Resources page for lots of ideas and tips on how to use Blendspace.
As with many free sites, there is also now a paid account you can upgrade to for more options. The upgraded accounts allow for real-time collaboration on lessons and voice annotations. The team is also planning a new Blendspace for Schools option, which will become available this Fall.
Do add Blendspace to your toolkit for flipped or blended lessons, curation, and more.
Submitted by Jane Lofton: AASL Best Websites Committee Member
Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Animoto and Wordle March 2, 2014Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Have you ever wanted to breathe new life into boring, traditional assignments? Animoto and Wordle, both 2009 recipients of the BWTL, are favorite go-to ideas when I’m brainstorming with teachers for new projects. Often they are unaware of the programs, or worse, aware but don’t see the tie-in to their curriculum content. As teacher librarians we are always on the look out for activities, ideas, or projects that allow students an interesting way to demonstrate concept mastery. Tried and true paper-writing becomes mundane and boring, both for the student and the teacher. Providing teachers a tool for their teacher toolbox and giving students a unique avenue to show they have researched, read, or learned a required standard can be a catalyst for re-engaging students in the learning process.
One of my teachers each semester assigns one written book report. Often times the type of required book changes by either genre or type. In a collaborative session with her, I introduced her to Wordle and Animoto. The library has a digital frame on the circulation desk, and often we create visuals to promote ongoing initiatives, including things like contests, upcoming events, new books, what’s popular, really almost anything. Having the digital frame made me realize it was the perfect avenue to showcase student work as well. I approached my collaborating teacher with an idea that her students books reports could be improved by adding a visual route, and a digital project was born. Over the years it has taken many twists and turns, and in its current state, it has grown to students creating a book review for our Destiny Quest, a digital product for the digital frame, and that same digital product added to the Destiny Record. Because our Destiny program is open to the public via the world wide web, anyone who looks for books through our catalog may come across Animoto videos, book posters that have included wordles, and student reviews. My collaborating teacher has maintained a written portion to the project, requiring the students to write the review and citations. Citations are for pictures used in their projects and for their print book reviewed in a strict MLA format, and this is a part of the rubric we use, where students are assessed. The rubric assesses the following: MLA Review, MLA Citations, minimum of five pictures related to the story or the books content in a visual, minimum of five uses of text in visual, and an oral presentation to class using the student created visual.
The students are much more engaged in all facets of the project knowing their end product potentially has a global audience. They are also excited at the prospect of our using their work in our digital frame for promoting a print resource they used from the library. My collaborating teacher frequently tells her students the skill set they develop from these projects can be used in other classes. I know our students have done this, particularly with our Animoto Accounts because the Educator accounts we use with the students have many works finished and/or in progress in there. I used to download them and then delete them until recently a student came in the library hysterical because her project (one from some time ago) was missing. I had deleted it thinking it was so old we didn’t need to keep it. This student had actually used the embed feature, and my deleting it caused her work to be missing in another digital avenue. Lesson learned–leave the students previous or other work in my accounts.
Here are a few samples of students past projects from the class I described above. They are embedded in our Destiny catalog and used to advertise or highlight books in the library as well.
Sample Student Visual Book Reports using a mashup of pictures and an overlay of a Wordle.
Sample Animoto Student Projects
Blog Cross Post from Cathy Jo Nelson: AASL Best Websites Committee Member
Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: LitPick February 20, 2014Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Empower Your Students with LitPick.com
Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Codecademy January 21, 2014Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Hot Topics, Technology.
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Codecademy Wants to Teach the World to Code
2013 might be called “The Year of Code.” The popularity of events such as the Hour of Code campaign, part of Computer Science Education Week, encouraged school librarians and K-12 students all over the United States to explore computer programming, discovering how much fun and rewarding it is in the process. Did you know that according to Code.org, over 1 million jobs in coding, engineering and data mining are projected to be available in the United States by 2020? Did you know that according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salaries for 2013 computer science majors averaged $65,000 and are projected to increase at a rate of 5% per year? And finally, did you know that MIT researchers identified coding as an “aspect of fluency in the 21st century” that teaches problem-solving, collaboration and communication
As an instructional technology and school library media professor, I have been able to introduce coding and basic computer programming to my students, most of whom are classroom teachers and future school librarians. At first, the idea of coding seems mysterious and overwhelming, but once they begin, many of these teachers find that coding is engaging and much easier than they expected. They also share with me that they enjoy integrating coding exercises into their classrooms and library programs. Much of the positive experience we have with coding I attribute to Codecademy, part of AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2013 list under the “Content Resources” section.
The website offers a free After-School Programming Kit to any K-12 educator who would like to start a coding club because “by learning to program, kids can have a say in how software shapes their world.” What a wonderful philosophy! I encourage you to explore Codecademy’s wealth of resources. Integrate coding into your school library program and help your students develop into 21st century digital citizens who shape their own future. For the latest updates and information on this resource, follow the Codecademy Blog, “like” Codecademy on Facebook and/ or follow them on Twitter.
Dr. Lucy Santos Green
2013-14 AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee
Ideas for AASL Best Websites: BiblioNasium December 30, 2013Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Technology.
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BiblioNasium….A Fun Social Network For Our Young Readers To Flex Their Reading Muscles
Being a teacher librarian and part of the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee, I spend a lot of time trying out all of wonderful websites on these lists each year. I was especially excited to see BiblioNasium as part of the 2013 list under the “Manage & Organize” section. My students, teachers, and families have been using BiblioNasium for over a year now and we all love what this free, safe, and secure social networking reading website has brought to the young readers within our school community.
We love how it connects young readers to their reading interests and friends; gives librarians, teachers, and parents a place to explore; lets them share book reviews and recommendations; and how students use BiblioNasium to “flex their reading muscles” as they connect to a large variety of good books to read.
“Marjan and her kids realized they needed a digital solution to organize the information, keep track of their own favorite books, and connected a new generation of digital kids. Part kids social network, part parent’s guide, part teachers’s tool, BiblioNasium blends technology with personal connection to create a supportive, engaging space for reading success.”
What a great idea! I couldn’t wait to get our students using BiblioNasium and even more excited about reading!
I started using it with our 3rd through 5th grade last year by introducing it as their own “virtual reading” space. We talk a lot about social networking and digital citizneship throughout the year and by using BiblioNasium it has given us a chance to have great conversations about being resonsible and respectful online with others in these types of networks. This fall our students in grades 2nd through 6th grade are using BiblioNasium, while our younger and older ones will too second semester.
Once in BiblioNasium, students can search for books, including titles that are just the “right fit” by getting the reading level information for any title; mark, favorite, and review books; place books on their very own shelves; create reading challenges; log their reading minutes; and recommend books to others within their class. Teachers enjoy it for many reasons, especially how they can track students reading through the logs and recommendations. And as a parent, I really love looking at what my 8-year-old Hagan enjoys reading and what he looks forward to read too.
As part of sharing BiblioNasium , I also asked Marjan to share a few thoughts.
Marjan stated in an email to me,
“Within BiblioNasium, there are over half a million books that are shelved by our students on their virtual bookshelves and we are growing at the rate of about 1000 new students a week.
Second, I think its so important to mention over and over that we support “independent reading” which is the best predictor of a child’s reading comprehension and reading fluency achievement. (Independent reading in our definition means reading that is usually done outside of the classroom setting, at home, on the weekends, breaks, summers …) We are also agnostic to the format or content that they read. We want them to track, record and get credit for reading print books as well as ebooks, fiction books as well as comic books, what ever excites them to read.
Third, we are strong believers that when educators and parents collaborate, the kids can get the most gains. Therefore we support and encourage the connection between the school and the home.
Fourth , we have been very responsive to the feedback from our librarian community and they have helped shape and directed the many new features that are now on the platform.
Finally, we want to make reading fun!!!!! :))”
As you can see BiblioNasium is a place for students to fall in love with reading and books over and over. It is a social network that we can encourage our little ones to connect and collaborate with others through reading and writing. I just know you and your students will love it as much as we do within my school community and home.
You can connect with BiblioNasium on Facebook and on Twitter at @BiblioNasium.
Shannon McClintock Miller @shannonmmiller
2013-14 AASL Best Websites For Teaching and Learning Committee
Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: ScienceNetLinks November 14, 2013Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.
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ScienceNetLinks is one of the many great sites on the 2013 AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning list under the Content Resources category. Produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a member of the Thinkfinity/Verizon Foundation family, this dynamic site is a treasure trove of standards-aligned STEM resources for K-12 educators, students, and parents.
The website is comprised of five major sections:
- Lessons – searchable by topic, grade level, theme, and format
- Tools – quality online resources including websites, downloadable apps, and interactives with suggestions for classroom integration
- Collections – groups of lessons, tools, Science Updates, and other resources centered on a specific topic
- Afterschool - informal hands-on activities with printable pages for students and tips for facilitators
- Science News – up-to-date science news on the “Today in Science” and “Science Update” page.
This well-organized website provides a multitude of resources supporting many of the cross-curricular goals of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The site’s up-to-date information reflecting current national and international events supports the Common Core’s intent to prepare students for real world problems. The Collections section even offers resources for applying the CCSS into STEM classrooms under the topic “STEM and the Common Core.”
While ScienceNetLinks obviously targets science educators, other busy content-area teachers can also benefit from this website.
- In support of November’s Native American Heritage Month celebration, multi-level resources are available that include the science of linguistics through endangered languages and how the relationships of technology, culture, and environment can help us understand the progression of communities, such as the Chumash people.
- “Poetry Across the Sciences” is a compilation of K-12 teaching strategies and materials utilizing poetry to enhance science instruction.
- The site’s Science Updates section offers numerous podcasts about current science research involving music, such as “Browsing Music,” “Driving Music,” “Music and IQ,” “Stone Age Tunes,” “Perfect Pitch,” and others. These short, student-friendly podcasts are good resources for flipped classrooms.
- Lessons about studying giant trees and how the world’s weather is connected, as well as other materials, are available to educators in support of Geography Awareness Week 2013 held November 17-23.
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science annually recognizes the best in science writing and illustration for children and young adults. Previous year’s winning books and the 2014 finalists are available on the site, along with lessons, podcasts, and videos developed for use in STEM classrooms. These books for students K-12 are excellent resources for introducing and building STEM concepts and vocabulary while reading complex texts – another Common Core goal.
Be sure to check out ScienceNetLinks for wonderful resources for your school’s teachers and students. With new content added regularly, this vibrant website can benefit K-12 classrooms across the curriculum.
Elizabeth P. Dumas
AASL Best Website for Teaching and Learning
Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Socrative October 11, 2013Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.
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AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee members continue this month with ideas in how to use Best Website winners in libraries and classrooms. This month we will be featuring the student response system site Socrative.
Socrative is an online tool where librarians and their peer educators create a “room” within which multiple choice, true/false, quick answer, polls, and other questions can be created ahead of time or on the fly. Students then sign into the room and can interact in live time with the questions that have been created and posted by the teacher. Rooms are easy to create, questions are simple to make, student log-in is as effortless as a click of a button, and assessment is another useful feature as well.
Another perk of this site is from the student side, sign in is completely device agnostic. Whether they are using laptops in class, desktops in a lab, or hand-held devices, students can interact with the queries created by their instructors from any type of internet/wi fi based technology. If you can get on the internet, you can interact with Socrative.
The possibilities for Socrative in our libraries, classrooms, and schools are vast. Any situation where immediate response is needed with full class interaction, this is a great online tool. For instance, a librarian wants to ask students a short answer question about their favorite fantasy book. From the answers given, he or she can turn around and create an immediate poll and have students vote for their favorite or top five books. Using the multiple choice option is would be so easy to create questions about parts of a reliable website, sections of the library, or the correct and incorrect ways to take care of library technology. What can’t be asked when there so many options? Socrative also has a Space Race feature where students can work as teams and race against each other as they answer questions.
As of October 7th, Socrative 2.0 was introduced. It’s is in beta at the moment but well worth a view. 2.0 has a new, shiny look, offers students the opportunity to work at their own pace and in the order of their choosing. Socrative 2.0 will also have Common Core Standards tags to all assessments created in the program.
Socrative is a free, online student response program that keeps growing and offering more to those in education. The people who work at Socrative want to know how their product is used in educational settings and they are always looking to learn and grow. There are wonderful possibilities for classroom use with this site. We on the Best Websites committee are excited by this site and we hope that you will be too.
Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee 2014
Ideas for Using AASL Best Websites: Wonderopolis September 11, 2013Posted by Heather Moorefield-Lang in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.
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AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee is back with new blog posts for 2013-14. This year we will be featuring new sites and how they can be used in your libraries and classrooms with students and educators. We are excited to share new ideas and hope you will enjoy exploring. Our first site for this year is Wonderopolis.
Have you ever wondered about…well just about anything? Do you find yourself thinking why do people believe that picking up a penny on the sidewalk will bring them luck (#1019), why do we blow out birthday candles (#366), or why do zebras have stripes (#852)? Well, look no further than Wonderopolis, an informational yet whimsical Website which sparks curiosity and motivates students to delve further into topics that interest them.
With each new Wonder of the Day, students are able to explore topics through pictures, informational text with a listen/play button and related videos. Every Wonder of the Day includes: introductory questions to introduce content and spark discussion and further exploration, a Wonder Gallery to post pictures or videos, Wonder Words, a vocabulary list with words grouped by level with definitions and a word match challenge, Try it Out, activities used to extend learning at home, Still Wondering, a link to lessons for more in depth study, Test your Knowledge, a 3 question quiz, Wonder Categories and Tags and Wonder What’s Next, the clue for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day.
Newly redesigned in May, 2013, Wonderopolis content is aligned to Blooms Digital Taxonomy, the STEM Educational Quality Framework and the Common Core State Standards. Beside the daily Wonder of the Day, Wonders can be searched from more than 90 Wonder Categories by subject matter and grade level. Users can also suggest Wonders, as well as vote for their favorite Wonder. Teachers and parents can visit the Educator Sandbox to find additional resources and link up with others in the “Wonderopolis Community.”
The National Center for Family Literacy has created Wonderopolis “as a place where parents nurture a brighter world for their children through discovery, creativity, learning and imagination.” The Website is supported by a grant from Verizon Foundation and is part of Thinkfinity, an educational platform where educators can access free researched-based educational resources.
On the day The AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee 2013 announced its list of the Best 25 Websites, Wonderopolis published its 1000th Wonder, “When Is Something Worth Celebrating?” Emily Kirkpatrick, Vice President of the National Center for Family Literacy, certainly had something to celebrate. Wonderopolis(r) she said, “supports reading and wondering as a way to help students think critically and to ask new questions. From introducing informational text to unlocking imaginations through the practice of ‘I Wonder…’ we are honored to be a favorite among librarians and school children alike.”
Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee 2014