“Declutter” webpages for cheaper, cleaner printing

Posted on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 @ 15:06 PM

How much paper and ink do you think you and your students waste every day printing out needless advertisements and sidebar images instead of the web copy you actually intended to print? A couple of wasted pages might not seem like a big deal, but when you factor in the number of print jobs happening at your school on a given day, it’s going to add up.  

Print What You Like is a nifty little web application that helps you print clean pages without all the pictures and sidebar clutter that eats up paper and ink.  

Instead of looking like this:

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...Print What You Like will make your webpage look like this:

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A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

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Internet4Classrooms: An Excellent Resource for K-6 Math Teachers

Posted on Wed, Jun 04, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

Internet 4 Classrooms is the brainchild of veteran educators Susan Brooks and Bill Byles. For almost 15 years, this ambitious duo has been gathering free, high-quality math resources and posting them to their website. Below, you’ll find links to each section of their resource library:

  • Common Core State Standards
    Drill down to the individual standard elements to find thousands of online activities mapped to standard elements
  • Links for PreK-12
    Several large collections of links for PreK-12 teachers, students and parents
  • Technology Skills
    Step-by-step technology tutorials for learning applications commonly used in K-12 classrooms
  • Assessment & Testing
    Help your students prepare for annual assessments, standardized tests, and end of course exams

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5 More of the Best Interactives for Beginning Readers

Posted on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

Like we said in our blog last week, learning to read is a lot of work, but “work” is the last thing we want our students to associate with reading! In our experience, interactives and reading animation games are some of the best tools for engaging beginning readers and turning “work” into a fun and effective activity.

If you’re looking for a few ways to engage your beginning readers, check out the five websites below. 

Bitesize Literacy is a BBC resource jam-packed with interactive literacy, math andbeginning readers science games for Key Stage 1 students (KS1 is a phase of primary education students between the ages of five and seven in England, or six to eight in Northern Ireland). Since literacy is our business, we’re particularly fond of the phonics, rhyming, alphabet, spelling and punctuation games—and so are our students!

beginning readersLeading to Reading is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. In addition to the interactive games, LTR provides free reading resources including booklists, articles for parents and teachers, easy-to-read guides offering tips for reading with preschoolers and multi-cultural literacy resources.

beginning readersABC Fast Phonics is a free tutorial that uses cartoons and sounds with audio narration and clickable words to teach, you guessed it, phonics!

beginning readersPBS Kids is a site funded by a Ready to Learn grant from the United States Department of Education. Here’s their mission: to develop television programs, exciting games, playful Web sites, and easy-to-use learning resources for kids, parents, caregivers, and teachers—all with the goal of helping children ages two to eight get ready to read.

beginning readersInteractive Sites for Education is home to a wide variety of literacy games that cover ABC’s, capitalization, grammar, poetry, vocabulary, spelling and much more!

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Operation War Diary Needs Your Help to Tag WWI Diary Entries

Posted on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 @ 10:01 AM

teaching world war IYesterday, to mark the centenary of the First World War, the National Archives announced the official launch of Operation War Diary, a digital collection containing around 1.5 million pages of war diaries from France and Flanders.

Right now 300,000 pages are available for browsing, but the National Archives is soliciting the help of online users to classify and tag page types and key data.

Using these tags, the curators at Operation War Diary will be able to create a detailed index about the author of the diary, the places, people, dates, weather and activities documented in each entry.

teaching World War I 2

If tagging sounds like a big responsibility, don’t worry: There is a short tutorial that will walk you through the classification and tagging process! In addition to this, several users will be tagging each entry, so if you miss something, chances are that someone else will catch it.


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Convert PDF Files to Word Documents With These 2 Free Apps

Posted on Wed, Dec 04, 2013 @ 18:12 PM

Over the weekend, a former student asked me to write letters of recommendation for three separate university applications. Two of the recommendation forms were editable PDF files, meaning all I had to do was click on each field and type in the requested information. The third form was also a PDF, but it was not set up so that I could fill it out electronically. After several botched attempts at copying, pasting and reformatting in Microsoft Word, I gave up, printed out the form and handwrote my responses.

If you knew what my handwriting looks like, you’d understand why I couldn’t bring myself to submit such an important document covered in my chicken scratch. So I started looking for free PDF converters.

PDF converterWhile there are plenty of file converters out there, most charge a monthly fee. One exception is called, of all things, PDF Converter. This allowed me to upload the PDF form and convert it to a downloadable Word document for free.

There are two caveats: One, you can only convert two pages for free. Two, as far as I can tell, you can only convert one file every 24 hours. It’s not a cure-all solution, but it certainly came in handy when I was in a pinch.

If you need tPDF converter 2o convert more than two pages, or have several PDFs to convert, head over to Nitro Cloud. Like the PDF converter above, Nitro Cloud will convert your document for free, but you are limited to five conversions a month—or you can pay five dollars a month for unlimited conversions.

I can think of several instances where both of these applications would have come in handy. Often I would find articles online or a colleague would share a lesson plan or assignment sheet that was only available in PDF format. If I didn’t want to use the entire article, or if I needed to make changes to the lesson plans, I’d have to copy and paste the text into a word document and spend time reformatting all of the unnecessary spaces and strange formatting issues. As you probably know, this can be irritating and time consuming!

Social Media Strategies for Teachers

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5 resources to help you commemorate the September 11 anniversary

Posted on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 @ 10:09 AM

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. You and your students may have your own way of commemorating the 9/11 attacks, but if you’re stuck, check out the following resources we’ve used throughout the years.

September 11 anniversaryUnderstanding 9/11
This is one of the most comprehensive collections of 9/11 news footage out there. Video segments are all arranged on a timeline, making it simple to select videos by date, time and country of origin. The database contains over 3,000 hours of international TV News from 20 channels over 7 days, and all of it has been hand selected by scholars.

September 11 anniversary 29/11 Attacks - 102 Minutes That Changed America
102 Minutes That Changed America is an interactive video experience that incorporates video footage from 10 different locations around Manhattan. Users are not only able to see videos, but they can also read each filmmaker’s story and access interview footage with him/her.

September 11 anniversary39/11: The Reckoning  
To commemorate 9/11, The New York Times asked readers the following question: “Where were you on September 11, 2001?” The result of this question is The Reckoning, an interactive map that contains over 38,000 comments from readers all over the world. Users can browse comments by category or location and see the number of times words and phrases appear.

September 11 anniversary4September 11 Attack Timeline
This interactive timeline begins at 5:45 am—the time that the hijackers passed through security at the Portland International Jetport in Maine—and ends when President Bush addressed the nation at 8:30 pm on September 11.

September 11 anniversary5From Plaza to Bedrock
The From Plaza to Bedrock infographic allows users to interact with interesting facts and figures about the 9/11 Memorial and explore details about the vast artifact collection of the Museum.

If you’re looking for more resources to help you commemorate 9/11, stop by Scholastic where you’ll find a variety of articles, videos and interactive maps for teachers.


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3 Apps to Help You Teach Typing

Posted on Tue, Sep 03, 2013 @ 06:09 AM

teach typingGrowing up, my parents had a WWII-era typewriter that I’d peck out two-finger stories on; then in middle school there was the sweat-inducing typing tests we were issued on the Apple IIe. There was no typing software, only a teacher armed with a yard stick. On one end of the ruler, she’d attach a sheet of black construction paper. Then she’d stand back with a stop watch, cover our hands with her crude contraption and command us to type out Dick-and-Jane-style passages from the sheet she rigged to the side of the monitor. I’m probably making it sound more traumatic than it really was, but needless to say, I would have taken any of the following three typing apps over the yardstick any day!

3 Apps to Help You Teach Typing

teach typing 2TypingWeb
In no specific order, here’s everything you need to know about Typing Web:

  • It’s free
  • It aligns with Common Core Standards Preparation
  • There’s no limit to how many students can use it
  • Teachers can create, track, group, and manage their students’ progress from the web
  • You can monitor your students in real time
  • You can access and export detailed reporting data
  • Students learn to type by playing fun and interactive typing games and daily news headlines exercises
  • When students complete a lesson, they earn a trophy for their personal trophy case
  • Free (and unlimited) certificates are available for both General typists and 10 key certifications.
  • As each student progresses, TypingWeb learns which keys cause them the most difficulty and creates custom lessons focusing on their top five most troublesome letters
  • Students can repeat the typing test to track their progress over time

teach typing 3Dance Mat Typing

Although Dance Mat won’t keep a detailed record of your students’ typing progress, it’s a worthy mention for the simple fact that it takes a potentially tedious activity and transforms it into a game.

The game itself doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I’m a 32-year-old man and I’m amused by it. So why wouldn’t your elementary students be? It’s the typist’s mission to help baby chicks hatch; whenever you successfully complete a typing sequence, a chick is liberated from an egg. Don’t mistype though, or you’ll be scolded by your coach, a Southern-drawlin’ Rooster.

teach typing 4Nitro Type
We saved the best for last. Students can improve their typing skills while competing in fast-paced races with typists from around the world. The more races you win, the more digital cash you receive. Spend your rewards at the dealership where you can purchase new cars and nitros so you can skip words while racing.


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3 Places to Connect Technology Projects to the Common Core

Posted on Tue, Aug 06, 2013 @ 13:08 PM

We love technology as much as the next guy; our insatiable quest for cool new apps that we can bring into the classroom is proof of that. But we also know that technology is not a panacea: More technology does not necessarily mean more learning. While there’s no doubt that it can enhance our curriculum, technology—like any tool—must be harnessed by a teacher that is armed with clearly-defined learning objectives.

So instead of sharing more technology with you, we’d like to direct teachers to a few of our favorite websites that offer teachers real-world technology projects tied to core subjects and standards.

3 Places to Connect Technology Projects to the Common Core

common coreThe Technology Integration Matrix
’s (TIM) interactive chart makes it simple to align each of the five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments to the level most appropriate for your students. Each learning objective has a clickable subject icon—math, science, social studies, or language arts—that will take you to a video that clearly explains the objectives, procedures and materials needed for the activity.  

common coreMicrosoft Partners in Learning (MPL)
MPL is not only a resource library, but a great place for educators to post to discussion boards and connect with other educators around the world. Since the site is hosted by Microsoft, it’s no surprise that they only offer tutorials and lesson plan ideas for Microsoft products. Browse their resource library, click on an application, and watch the video tutorial to learn how real teachers are using the application to enhance their own curriculum.

common coreIf you use Adobe products, the Adobe Education Exchange is another great place to find the instructional resources, professional development, and peer-to-peer collaboration you’re looking for. Resources cover a wide variety of subjects from digital media, arts, business and English to mathematics, science and social science.

If you’re looking for more ways to connect your classroom technology to the Common Core, we highly recommend this Slideshare presentation by one of our favorite bloggers, Richard Byrn.


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Exciting student travel opportunity with National Geographic

Posted on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 @ 09:06 AM

student travel opportunityWe’re always looking for ways to challenge our students and give them a rich, multi-cultural experience—one that helps them grapple with new ideas, cultures and experiences. While students can certainly do this in the classroom, there is no substitute for seeing the world first hand. So we were pleased to stumble upon a student travel opportunity: National Geographic’s student exhibition offerings.

Through one of their four programs, students can get first-hand field experience on a National Geographic Expedition, Field Workshop, Photo Workshop, or Community Service trip to one of dozens of destinations that suit their interests.

All of the trips range from eleven days to three weeks and if students hurry, they can still meet summer 2013 deadlines. Here’s a brief rundown of each program:

Expeditions are two to three weeks long and are geared for those interested in an in-depth exploration of a specific region. Depending on the location, students may do anything from work with biologists and track wildlife in the Amazon to snorkel and scuba dive off the reefs of Belize.

Field workshops are 11-12 days long. Students should expect to spend most of their time in one or two home bases where they will take part in hands-on activities, participate in workshops with National Geographic experts, and explore the surrounding area on active excursions.

Photo workshops are 11-12 days long and include assignments in the field, classes, and critiques, which culminates with a final gallery opening that is led by a National Geographic photographer.

Community Service assignments allow students to truly delve into the culture of small villages throughout the world. Here students will work alongside members of the community on collaborative service projects focusing on infrastructure, education, and conservation.

Cost and eligibility for each program varies, so we suggest that parents/students call National Geographic directly for more specific information.

What we can tell you is that there is a $700 application deposit which goes towards tuition costs. Flights are not included in the tuition costs, but all meals, lodging, activities, excursions, ground transportation, taxes, gratuities, and pre-trip materials are.

Here are only a few of the destinations students can choose from:

  • Alaska field workshop (12 days)

  • Australia expedition (20 days)

  • Barcelona field workshop (12 days)

  • Belize expedition (12 days)

  • Brazil’s Amazon and Pantanal (19 days)

  • China expedition (21 days)

  • Paris photography workshop (12 days)

  • and lots more

Teachers, if you’d like to request a travel catalog to pass along to your students, click here for an online request form.

Teachers, if you are interested in cost-effective ways to see the world and receive professional development at the same time, check out two of our recent blogs, “5 ways to see the world: summer professional development for teachers” and “Become a cosmopolitan educator: 3 more ways to see the world for free.”



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10 Ways New Principals Can Prepare for Opening Day

Posted on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 @ 11:06 AM

new principalsSay “summer vacation” to a veteran principal and don’t be surprised when s/he responds with, “Never heard of it.” Sure, the academic year technically ends somewhere in the middle of June, but the job of a principal is ongoing and often just as busy during the summer. If you’re a new principal, you have even more ground to cover. To ensure that you don’t forget anything, we’ve put together a checklist of 10 things new principals can do this summer to prepare for opening day. Many of these come courtesy of Evan Robb’s book, The Principal's Leadership Sourcebook: Practices, Tools, and Strategies for Building a Thriving School Community.

10 Ways New Principals Can Prepare for Opening Day

1: Work closely with your predecessor
If you can make it happen, collaborate with the previous principal on a transitional plan. If school is still in session, see if you can schedule some time to visit classrooms or simply eat lunch with students and teachers.

2: Meet with your secretary right off the bat

There are dozens of perfunctory tasks you’ll need to take care of on the day you turn that door handle and enter your new office. The boxes and clutter can wait. One of the most important things you can do is meet with your secretary and get your hands on a copy of last year’s year book.

3: Start learning the names of faculty and staff members
Take the year book home with you and study it. Once you learn the names of your team, you’re ready to start meeting them.

4: Write welcome letters/emails to parents
It’s no secret that parental involvement is crucial to our students’ success. Start off on the right foot by sending out letters/emails to the parents. Invite them to drop by and spend time with you this summer. This will send the message that you are available and looking forward to meeting and working with them.

5: Repeat number four; this time address letters/emails to teachers and staff

6: Organize "Meet the Principal" sessions
Mid-July is a good time to start meeting the parents and getting to know those you have met better. Try organizing several "Meet the Principal" sessions. These should be informal gatherings where parents get to ask you questions and you get to do the same.

7: Manage your school budget.
Getting a handle on your school budget can be complex. Here are a few common finance pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t think you can meet all requests. There is a limit to how much money is available.
  • Clear procedures are essential in order for the principal to review all purchase requests so that all the needs of your school are met.
  • Allow teams or departments to decide what they need.
  • Be careful about spending. The amount of money in a school's operational budget is set for the year. Effectively managing this money is critical.

8: Prepare for School-Fee Week and Back to School Night in August
Many schools cover the costs of consumable items (workbooks, art and science supplies, for example) through registration fees that are taken care of during “Fee Week.” Use this week as an opportunity to continue meeting parents—and  be sure to remind them about Back to School Night or encourage them to join a parent advisory committee or volunteer at the school.

9: Meet every student in your school
Give yourself until mid-September to reach this goal, but make it a priority. There are innumerable ways to interact with students: try greeting students in the mornings as they step off the bus; attend sporting events and sit with a different group of students each time; visit classrooms; sit in on a ceramics class and spin some clay…whatever it takes to interact with students.

10: Prepare to be a public figure
Many new principals are surprised by how the job seems to follow them wherever they go. You may intend to interact with students during a football game; you may intend to be anonymous when you go to the grocery store or get dinner with your family, but you won’t always be successful. No matter where you are—in your office, in the bathroom, vacationing in Fiji—parents and students (both past and present) are going to spot you. Prepare yourself for this kind of visibility.  

Photo credit: Daniel*1977 / / CC BY-NC-SA


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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Becoming an effective principal, aspiring school administrator, New Principals, first day of school

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