Free Mystery Skype Curriculum for Schools

mystery skype curriculum

Do you use Mystery Skype in your classroom? If so, you are probably familiar with how it works, but if you are looking for some extra tips, or want to get some other teachers involved, you should check out the new Mystery Skype Curriculum that Microsoft has put together for teachers who are connecting their classrooms all around the world.

The curriculum is free for anyone who wants to use it, but you do need a Microsoft account in order to sign in and view the latest version. Microsoft accounts are free, and you may already have one if you have a Hotmail or Outlook.com email address. If you are on Office 365 school, there is also a OneNote Class Notebook set up and good to go. You can find that here.

The curriculum is in the form of a OneNote notebook. OneNote, if you don’t already know, is a free, cross-platform, note-taking tool that is part of the Microsoft Office suite. You can download your own copy of OneNote for free on almost any device you can think of by visiting onenote.com. You can also read more about OneNote on this blog.

skype globe

The notebook is divided up into five sections. Each one tells you more about the best ways that teachers can use Mystery Skype in the Classroom.

  1. Welcome: How to play, why you should play, how to get started, etc.
  2. Documenting Your Adventures: A section where you can record your questions, the questions of the other class, and job assignments for students.
  3. Teacher Resources: Assessment rubrics, a time zone converter, tips for a successful call, and more.
  4. Student Resources: Self-reflection rubrics, success criteria and a debrief sample.
  5. More About Skype: Additional resources about Skype.

I would absolutely encourage you to download OneNote and get your own editable version of the Mystery Skype curriculum, but if you want to check it out without logging in or downloading anything, you can access a view-only copy on the web right here.

Overall, the OneNote Mystery Skype Curriculum is a great resource for teachers that will save you time and make your Mystery Skype games more engaging and more authentic for your students. It is a great activity to do in the classroom and the new Skype for Web means you might not even need to download Skype for desktop. It also means you can even use Skype on Chromebooks or any other device you happen to be using that doesn’t have Skype for desktop installed! The web version is still in beta, but you can check it out here.

Flipboard Launches a Brand New Version for the Web

Flipboard for the web

Flipboard has long been a staple on mobile devices, but last week it expanded its reach even further to add a web version. So, if you don’t have access to your favorite mobile device, or you want a break from a small screen, you can quickly and easily access all your favorite articles online via a laptop or desktop computer.

To get started, simply head over to https://flipboard.com and log in with the same account you use on your mobile device. In the top left-hand corner you can choose from a navigation menu that includes Cover Stories, Following and Explore. In the top right-hand corner you will find a search menu, a notifications bell, and your profile icon.

flipboard on the web

The flip animation that takes you from article to article on a mobile device has been dropped for the web version, but otherwise it looks very familiar if you are used to using the iOS or Android apps. Some articles will open in a reader view, while others will open in a new tab and load the source website directly.

Hovering over an article with your cursor will reveal additional options like the ability to share the article via email, Facebook or Twitter. You can also flag articles as inappropriate, click the heart to “like on Flipboard”, and flip any article into one of your curated Flipboard magazines.

share flipboard from the web

Not all the features from the mobile apps make it to the web version of Flipboard, but the important ones are here and additional functionality will surely follow as the web platform matures. The important thing is that it is here, and that it makes Flipboard a truly multi-platform service. This is sure to broaden its overall appeal in homes, schools and businesses.

If you are a Zite user who has recently converted to Flipboard, or are looking for reasons why you should, make sure you read How To Switch from Zite to Flipboard for helpful hints and tips!

A Digital Worksheet is Still Just a Worksheet

digital worksheets

Recently, there have been a number of tech tools that have been created to help enhance teacher productivity and improve assignment workflows in the classroom. Take, for example, the excellent OneNote Class Notebook Creator. It is an ideal app for Office 365 schools who want to quickly distribute materials to a whole class, have students work in a paperless environment, while also providing a collaboration space for the whole class to work in.

Google Apps schools are flocking to Google Classroom – a management tool for teachers who are looking to consolidate and simplify the flow of electronic files. It lets you make a copy of an individual document and distribute it to students with permissions configured automatically so that only the student and the teacher can see the document. There is also a discussion feed for students to communicate inside your Google Classroom.

iPad classrooms are using workflow apps like Showbie as a way for students to turn in assignments created on the iPad so teachers can grade them and give feedback. Similar apps like Skaffl, Handouts, and Turnitin do much the same thing, while others are turning to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive to meet the same need.

Then there are the many learning management systems that were created to take your classroom to the cloud. Canvas, Moodle, Schoology, Blackboard, Haiku, BrainHoney and many many more exist because teachers are looking for simple ways to unify the experience of delivering content and working online with students.

However, there’s a problem with all of these systems. The problem is, that they make it too easy for teachers to do what they always used to do – assign worksheets that don’t challenge, engage and empower students in their learning. A digital version of a paper worksheet is still just a worksheet, and it is not taking advantage of the powerful technologies that students have at their fingertips today.

It doesn’t matter whether you are using Chromebooks, Macbooks, iPads or Surface tablets. A low-level worksheet is a low-level worksheet whether it is in paper form, a PDF, a Word Doc or a Google Doc. Whether they type on it, or write over it with digital ink, it makes no difference. I know it is quick, easy, and convenient to assign. I know because I did it myself when I was in the classroom. It doesn’t make you a bad teacher, but your students deserve better.

None of these tools are inherently flawed. In fact the majority of them are fantastic because they  offer multiple solutions to a very real digital problem. However, I would encourage you to use them in a way that is most befitting a modern digital classroom. Use them to collect authentic assignments that demand creativity. Use them as part of project based or inquiry driven learning projects. Use them to showcase learning in a way that can only be captured with an electronic device.

Consider collaborative projects in Office Online or Google Drive. Have your students write a blog post or create a website to showcase their learning. Have them create a screencast or an Office Mix presentation. Assign them a video project that combines other multimedia content or take advantage of stop motion and green screen effects to communicate their learning. Have them create a Thinglink, an interactive timeline, or a custom Google Map. Challenge them to some App Smashing (it’s not just for iPads by the way), tell some digital stories, create some Kahoot quizzes, or reach out for new ideas like augmented reality, QR codes, and makerspaces.

I know there is a lot out there, and I know it gets overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and help is at hand. The chances are high that someone in your building is already doing this, and if they aren’t, there are thousands of educators on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ that will be more than happy to help you out and share their ideas.

Start small. Begin by replacing just one worksheet with an idea like the ones above and see how it goes. Watch the reaction you get from your students. As time goes by, continue to look for more ways to leverage the power of your digital devices and integrate meaningful digital experiences to demonstrate learning in new and innovative ways. Trust me. It will challenge your students, motivate them, and engage them in something deeper, and more meaningful, than any worksheet you can lay your hands on.

ABCya! Animation for Kids: Creative Stop Motion Movies for the Classroom

abcya animate

If you are looking for a new way to inject some creativity into your digital storytelling, stop motion is a great way to do just that. ABCya! Animate is a website I learned about from Elizabeth McCarthy on Google+. It’s a free, and engaging web tool that lets students create an animated GIF from up to 100 frames of digitally drawn images, with no logins or accounts required.

The editor has a simple layout and is easy to use. You can draw with pens, brushes or the shape tool. You can also add text and clipart images from the library. When you have the first frame ready, click the “copy frame” button to duplicate it to slide two so that you can add a little more to your animation. Continue this process for up to 100 slides until you have the animation that you need.

abycya animate editor

There are three frame rates for your finished animation – slow, medium and fast – so you do have some control over the final effect. Clicking Export will walk you through the steps of how to save your animation as a GIF file. Wondering how to open a GIF? Almost all modern web browsers will open a GIF file so the student’s final project will be easy to share with others or add to a website.

ABCya! Animate is a Flash based tool. So, although it is great for Mac, PCs and Chromebooks, it will not work on a mobile device like an iPad. However, if you try this on a laptop and decide you would like to use this on an iPad you can check out the ABCya! Animate iPad app. It is available from the App Store for $1.99 and includes the same functionality that you get in the free web version.

I am a fan of Stop Motion movies for the classroom because they are an endlessly creative way to tell a story. Whether you do it as a PowerPoint presentation, a claymation movie, or an iPad animation combined with green screen effects, it is always a great medium that requires students to plan and think ahead to create an effective product. It is also ideal for group work and collaboration skills.

Plickers 2.0: Classroom Clickers Reinvented

plickers

Back in March of this year I did a short write-up on Plickers: Classroom Clickers Without the Clicking. Plickers is an innovative assessment tool for the classroom that lets teachers ask questions and poll their class with the aid of one device and a collection of visual code cards. It is perfect for the one iPad classroom, or just about any classroom where the teacher owns a smartphone. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should, not least because they just launched version 2.0 of their popular service, and it has never been better!

So, what’s new in version 2.0? Quite a lot actually. Here’s a look at what else to expect:

  • Create full questions and answer choices – take advantage of your keyboard to write questions on the web and add them to your Library
  • Plan questions for multiple classes – easily manage and reuse questions across classes from your Library
  • Teach with Live View – Display questions and answer choices and share real-time results while scanning student responses
  • Keep things organized – Edit, archive, and delete; search and filter – we’ve got more options for you to manage your stuff
  • Work offline (or online!)Plickers will keep your data in-sync across the mobile app and website

Plickers in the Classroom

The Best Free Interactive Presentation Tools

There are lots of great presentation tools for the classroom and these days they are being used by both students and teachers. So, in this post I have decided to round up a few of my favorites from the last few months in the hope that you find something new to use in your classroom the next time you want to engage your students with something a little different.

1. Nearpod – iPad teachers know that Nearpod is synonymous with engaging, interactive presentations. In fact, some would say they wrote the book on it. However, it is no longer just for the iPad because you can use it on Android, Nooks, Chromebooks and Macs or PCs via the web. Top features include the ability to add quiz tools, videos, photo slideshows, drawing tools, a PDF viewer and even a live Twitter stream.

nearpod

2. EverySlide – Building on the success of apps like Nearpod, EverySlide has some other unique features that make it a great tool for the classroom. As the presenter moves through the slides on their device, the audience slides move at the same time. However, you can build in interactive elements like polls. You can also create quizzes based on interactive hotspots that you add to your slides. Everytime the audience clicks (or taps) on an area of your slide it is recorded for you to view later. Oh, and its web-based and works on any device!

everyslide

3. Movenote – With an eye on the flipped classroom fans, Movenote lets you add interactivity to your presentations via a webcam video of yourself! You upload your presentation to movenote.com, authorize your webcam, and flip through your slides like a screencast as you record a live video feed of yourself at the same time. If you prefer you can record your video ahead of time, then use movenote to sync the slides to the video. Still not convinced? It integrates with Google Drive, so you can pull over your favorite Google Presentations and use those too.

movenote

4. Swipe.to – It may officially be in beta, but Swipe is still a polished performer. Simply upload your presentation as a PDF and/or add some image files are you are good to go. There are no limits on the number of files you upload, or the size of the files you add. YouTube and Vimeo videos can be added with just a URL, and all your decks are private until you are ready to share them. When you are ready to present, share the presentation URL so your audience can follow along on their devices in real time. There are no limits on the number of people you can present to at one time, so if you happen to get called to give an ISTE keynote, this might be a tool worth considering! 🙂 You can even give your students a coding challenge and get them to write their slides in Markup.

swipe

 

5. ClassFlow – Promethean made their name with interactive whiteboards, but when they launched ClassFlow you can see that they are now starting to look beyond the board. The teacher creates interactive lessons like they would for a SMART or Promethean whiteboard, except students interact with it via a mobile app or the web. Videos, websites, documents and more can be added and they are all stored in your cloud account so they are accessible on any device you want to use. Polling tools give teachers instant feedback and the data is stored for future planning.

classflow

6. Slideidea – I have blogged about Slideidea before, but it remains a great presentation tool for iPad teachers. It lets you create and present your slideshow and includes a variety of interesting features to make your presentation stand out. There is a digital whiteboard for drawing up some ideas, an interactive polling tool, and even the ability to record your presentation as a screencast. So, if you you are looking for a change from Keynote or Haiku Deck, give it a try. You won’t regret it! Read more about Slideidea here.

SlideIdea iPad Presentation Templates

Which is your favorite interactive presentation tool for the classroom? Is it listed above? If not, feel free to add it to the comments below to share with others!

Plickers: Classroom Clickers without the Clicking

If you taught for a while, you have probably at least seen a classroom set of clickers somewhere on your travels. These student response systems were all the rage for a while. They looked like TV remote controls and were designed as a way that students could respond to a quiz or oral question by pressing a button to indicate the answer that they chose. Each clicker was unique to that student so that the teacher could see who answered what and when.

plickers

Fast forward a few years and today you can experience the future of classroom clickers – a free tool called Plickers. Now, if you are imagining a high-tech handset with an HD touchscreen, WiFi and a built-in camera, you would be wrong. Plickers uses paper. Yes, you heard that right, paper! Oh, and your students don’t need any electronic devices to take part in your assessment.

plicker code

So, how does it work? Each student is given a card with a unique visual code. The code has 4 sides, each lettered A, B, C, and D. The student holds the card so that the letter they choose to answer the question with is at the top of their card. The teacher uses the iOS or Android app on their smartphone to slowly scan the room. The app recognizes the cards, records who the teacher assigned them to, and captures the answer that the student chose. The app will only record each student’s answer once, so you need not worry about a second scan skewing your data.

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