Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bloom's Taxonomy Part 3: Applying

This is the third in a series of six posts dedicated to Bloom’s Taxonomy: Teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills with Interactive Online Content. Two previous posts on remembering and understanding can be viewed here and here.

Level Three: Apply

This level includes the skills of solving, illustrating, showing, classifying and completing. These activities require students to use their knowledge in a new situation. Students move beyond basic identification or comprehension and apply their knowledge of one or more concepts to answer more complex questions.

Here are two examples of online activities for applying:

K-2 Foam Phonemes

Students select foam letters and letter combinations to shoot into the air where they can join their selections to create words.

3-6 Paving Slabs Problem

Students use their knowledge of perimeter and area to figure out the number of paving slabs needed to enclose a rectangular garden area.

To learn about more activities for applying and to discover resources for remembering, understanding, analyzing, evaluating, and creating, sign up for StarrMatica’s free Webinars: Bloom’s Taxonomy for K-2 and Bloom’s Taxonomy for 3-6: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bloom's Taxonomy Part 2: Understanding

This is the second in a series of six posts dedicated to Bloom’s Taxonomy: Teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills with Interactive Online Content. The first post on remembering can be viewed here.

Level Two: Understand

This level includes the skills of explaining, predicting, restating, discussing, outlining and comparing. These activities go one step beyond basic skill building by requiring students to demonstrate comprehension of a concept.

Here are two examples of online activities for understanding:

K-2 Give the Dog a Bone

Students demonstrate their understanding of the number line and skip counting by identifying the correct square hiding the given number.

3-6 Complete the Pattern

Students use their knowledge of patterns to complete a given pattern. They can choose from three levels of difficulty.

To learn about more activities for understanding and to discover resources for remembering, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating, sign up for StarrMatica’s free Webinars: Bloom’s Taxonomy for K-2 and Bloom’s Taxonomy for 3-6: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bloom's Taxonomy with Interactive Online Content

I have had the privilege over the past five years of observing interactive whiteboards being used in hundreds of classrooms through the United States. Through my observations, by reading blog posts, by viewing interactive lessons shared on manufacturers’ sites, and by talking with teachers across the country, a shared question has emerged that needs to be addressed: How do I use this technology to encourage higher order thinking skills?  

Most of the interactive lessons I have observed and see on lesson sharing sites are basic skill building activities using matching, drag and drop, or multiple choice questions. Those activities do have a place in the classroom--particularly during center time when students are completing an activity that has been designed for independent practice or during guided practice when you are conducting a formative assessment to see which students require additional assistance.

I encounter interactive lessons that are built to encouraging higher order thinking skills much less frequently than their skill building counterparts. Part of the reason may be that at first glance, it seems more difficult and time consuming to plan an interactive lesson that encourages higher order thinking skills. But, it doesn’t have to be!

At StarrMatica, our mission is to provide teachers with a library of standards-aligned interactive content so they can spend less time searching for content or creating original lessons and more time planning how to integrate interactive content effectively into their daily classroom instruction. To that end, this is the first in a series of six posts that will be dedicated to Bloom’s Taxonomy: Teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills with Interactive Online Content.

Level One: Remember

This level includes the skills of listing, writing, telling, naming, describing, matching and labeling. These are the basic skill building types of activities that many teachers utilize on their interactive whiteboards. There are several benefits to using interactive online content at the remembering level.
  • It saves time. As a teacher, you don’t have to spend time creating an activity in your interactive whiteboard software.
  • An online activity can add colorful graphics, sound effects, and animations that will get the attention of your students and motivate them to participate.
  • Some online activities keep a score record so you can review results.
  • Some online activities provide several levels of difficulty, two player modes or competition versus students in other locations.
Here are two examples of online activities for remembering: 

K-2-- Bubble Burst
This activity encourages students to name odd numbers by quickly bursting bubbles labeled with the correct answers in a game environment.

3-6-- 2-D Shapes Evil Robots
This activity encourages students to identify 2-D shapes by placing them in the containers labeled with the correct names before being caught by the evil robots.

To learn about more activities for remembering and to discover resources for understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating, sign up for StarrMatica’s free Webinars: Bloom’s Taxonomy for K-2 and Bloom’s Taxonomy for 3-6: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why I Left Teaching: A Personal Example for the Ed Reform Movement

This post is part of the REBEL Education Reform Blogs Movement.  Posts from my fellow bloggers can be found here: http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/REBELSbloggers

Ed Reform Focus: The Teaching Profession

So much has been written about Education Reform in the last few months that when it came time to write this post for Ed Reform, I struggled with what I could possibly have to say that someone before me hasn’t already contributed.

I eventually came to the conclusion that I can only share what I know best—my story--my unique experience as an elementary teacher who left the classroom to start a business in the field of education. There aren’t many of us out there, and I certainly never imagined I would be running a company for my long term career. When I began teaching in the fall of 2001, I planned on being in the classroom for the next 35-45 years. So why did I leave teaching, and how can my experience shed light on needed changes in our profession?

This week I read several blog posts referencing the McKinsey report: http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/Social_Sector/our_practices/Education/Knowledge_Highlights/Closing_the_talent_gap.aspx

The report shares that only 23% of US teachers are top college graduates and that teacher attrition is an issue in the United States. The report was applicable to my personal journey as an educator because I graduated at the very top of my class, and after five years of teaching, I left.

So what would have kept me in the classroom?

Money always seems to be the first factor examined when discussing how to attract and retain top talent to the teaching profession. Here in Eastern Iowa, I started at $22,000. I lived in a room in my parent’s house for the first two years of teaching until I got married and was able to combine my salary with my physical therapist husband to purchase our own home. One of my colleagues who was also a first year teacher had her own apartment, but by the time she paid for rent, utilities, gas and groceries, the last week of the month she spent eating bread and butter sandwiches because that was all she could afford until the next paycheck came. So yes, for beginning teachers in particular who are less likely to have a two income household, salary is a factor.

However, there are several other factors that would have played a more important role in keeping me in the profession and may be instrumental in helping all teachers perform at their highest levels for the benefit of students.

#1 Respect for the profession

Maybe this is simply a matter of teachers having the opportunity to educate the public about our profession. It is important for parents and the community to better understand what happens in the classroom on a daily basis from a teacher’s perspective.

#2 A focus on teaching

Maybe this is more of an elementary teacher issue, but have you ever noticed all of the non-academic demands placed on teachers? In my school they included: Creating bulletin boards, recess duty, lunch duty, weekly fluoride, business partner activities, and to some extent, classroom management and correcting papers--add to that district curriculum mapping, state career development plans, technology tracking, and enormous mounds of bureaucratic paperwork—and the end result is a teacher looking for time to plan learning experiences and deliver instruction. Maybe we should take a page from universities with teaching assistants where professors are the subject matter experts who only design and deliver lessons. I have always felt if I were able to focus my efforts on teaching I would have had increased time to individualize instruction for my students rather than feeling like I was teaching to the masses.

#3 Small Class Size

I was fortunate in this area . My largest class was 24 and my smallest 19. Fewer students = more individual attention, more personalized learning, and more time to respond to individual needs.

#4 Time To Prepare

Confession: I am a perfectionist. I wanted every lesson in my classroom to be exciting, interesting and effective. As a result, I worked every night and at least one full day every weekend on lesson planning. Yes, in subsequent years I could reuse materials, but they always required modification from my experience the previous year and for this year’s specific group of students. As a result, by the end of five years of teaching, I was burnt out. I didn’t have enough opportunity to relax and engage in my personal life so I could re-energize for my work with my students. I believe this factor would be remedied along with a solution to #2.

#5 Flexible Schedule

After leaving classroom, this is one fringe benefit of the traditional business world that I have truly enjoyed. I have the ability to schedule travel anytime not just around the school calendar. While this may seem like a petty request and may be impractical to apply to school reform, I believe it speaks to a quality of life issue regarding the life experiences that teachers are asked to sacrifice.

#6 Support

Administrative and parental support for academic and behavioral issues in the classroom is essential. Children will not respect teachers who are undermined by other adults. Without that mutual respect, classroom management is more difficult leading to reduced instructional effectiveness. (Note: I worked with an incredibly supportive principal and my students’ parents were fantastic. I know how important those two factors were to my success as an educator.)

#7 Equal accountability

I am accountable for the learning of the students in my classroom, and my students and their parents should be equally accountable. I can give 100% and do everything in my power to make learning relevant, to be entertaining and engaging, and to motivate my students to learn, but I can’t do it for them. They must also give 100% and work with their parents at home who are 100% participating in their child’s education. And for those students where parent participation it isn’t possible because of jobs or other family circumstances, we need to create a support system so those students can experience support for their education from adults other than their teacher.

I realize these examples are drawn from my personal experience in my small microcosm in Eastern Iowa. However, there are common human emotions, motivations, and experiences, so perhaps my journey can inform the efforts of reformers in other parts of the country. I realize it is easier to express what needs to be fixed than it is to offer solutions, but this is where I will defer to those more qualified to design scalable reforms that will impact large numbers of students more effectively than I could offer based on my single classroom experience.

I left the classroom because of a combination of these factors as well as the desire to make a difference in education in ways I could not within the walls of my classroom. Since founding StarrMatica five years ago, I have had the opportunity to impact thousands of students by making teaching with interactive content easier and less time consuming for their teachers. As teachers, we need to find the space in which we can uniquely contribute to ed reform and use our time and talents to improve our profession in small ways for the benefit of educators everywhere.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What is StarrMatica?

Maybe you have benefitted from our resource sharing on Twitter, become our Facebook fan, or had a conversation with me on #edchat or #elemchat—you may have interacted with our company in many ways but there is still a chance you may not know who we are or what we do. Well, this blog post is for you! If you use interactive technologies, a projector or computers in your classroom, StarrMatica was designed to help you.

If you are looking for the short answer: StarrMatica is a Prometheus award winning educational publishing company founded, owned and operated entirely by teachers on a mission to help fellow educators transform their classrooms with technology.

StarrMatica provides member teachers with an online library of over 3,800 K-6 reading and math simulations, animations, activities, games and assessments along with an easy to use search engine to find content by grade, topic, state standard, national core curriculum, and textbook curriculums.

StarrMatica is the only comprehensive interactive content library currently available that combines Flash animations and activities written by current classrooms teachers with a database of hand selected interactive content from the web.

All of our standards-aligned content is used by teachers for whole class instruction with interactive technologies and by students on computers at school and at home.

StarrMatica is used on every brand of interactive technology by thousands of teachers and students every day.

If you are looking for a more detailed answer, please read on for a visual walk through!

After logging into StarrMatica, teachers may choose from 43 3rd-6th grade reading and math curriculum topics in our index. Once a topic is chosen, the four gears along the top of the screen allow teachers to access different categories of resources that align to their chosen topic.

The LEARN category contains animations with voiceovers and sound effects that can be used to introduce or review specific concepts. Teachers may use controls in the bottom right corner to fast forward, rewind, pause and play the animation.

The PRACTICE category contains activities and games designed to provide practice opportunities for all concepts included in the LEARN section. Some activities are basic skill-based practice while others promote problem solving and higher order thinking skills

Grade levels are indicated by a series of stars.  Red S = 3rd Yellow T = 4th Green A = 5th Blue R = 6th

The TEST, which can be utilized as both a pre- and post-test, is directly aligned to the instructional and practice sections. It is an open response assessment that teachers can use whole class, or individual students can record their answers in text fields and print the test for teachers to review.

The RESOURCES category contains links to additional interactive resources related to the lesson topic that can be used to enhance or extend the lesson. All links are ad free and have been described, grade leveled, categorized, and checked for safety. 3,200 links are included in our database. They are grouped into three categories: Virtual Manipulatives, Practice Activities, and Games.

Teachers also have the ability to search our library of content by State Standards and the National Core Curriculum. A textbook curriculum search will be launched soon.

Teachers can also search our K-6 content library to find specific resources narrowed by subject, topic group and topic. For example, a first grade teacher can find reading resources that focus specifically on beginning sounds. A fourth grade teacher can find math resources that focus on measuring angles.  Star and circle symbols are used to indicate grade levels in this view as well. All teachers have access to the full library of content to meet the needs of every child in their classrooms.

Teachers have the option to use our classroom management system to assign students individual logins. With this feature, scores are recorded when students complete practice and test activities. A student’s first attempt and best attempt are recorded. Students and their parents can also view student progress scores by logging in at home.

Teachers can also use the management system to provide individualized basic facts practice for every student.

If you are interested in StarrMatica, give us a test drive. We are offering six half an hour webinar classes that come with a free four month membership just for attending! Webinars include: Manipulative Mania for K-2 Educators, Manipulative Mania for 3-6 Educators, Blooms Taxonomy With Online Resources for 3-6 Educators, Blooms Taxonomy With Online Resources for K-2 Educators, and Interactive Integration Ideas for K-6 Educators.

Click here to register, or click here to send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Big Announcement Revealed!

In a national survey last summer, 88% of teachers shared that they would use their interactive technologies more often if they were provided with more content. This was no surprise to us at StarrMatica. As a company of teachers, we know that planning time is limited, so it has been our goal since StarrMatica began to provide our fellow colleagues with a library of interactive content that would save them time and effort while still retaining choice in the resources they use. We believe that instead of spending hours surfing the Internet for interactive content, teachers should be able to quickly find quality resources so they can spend their planning time designing lessons that encourage problem solving and higher order thinking skills utilizing those resources.

We have been sharing our philosophy with like-minded technology companies, and as a result, big news has been brewing over here at StarrMatica all summer. I am elated to finally be able to share it! Drum roll please……………………………

We have partnered with eInstruction to provide free interactive content to classrooms nationwide!

What does this mean for you?

1. eInstruction customers will receive a six month membership to StarrMatica’s online library of interactive content with all new purchases of mobile interactive whiteboards, interactive dualboards, and student response systems. Customers can visit http://www.starrmatica.com/einstruction to redeem their six month membership.

2. eInstruction customers using previously purchased technology, may receive a four month membership to the online library by attending a StarrMatica webinar highlighting strategies for integrating interactive content into classroom instruction. Current interactive technology users can sign up for the free webinar plus four month subscription here: http://www.starrmatica.com/professionaldevelopment

But wait, there’s more!  Educators using other brands of interactive technologies, teachers using projectors, teachers using computers—yes, all teachers—can sign up for a free webinar that includes a four month membership to StarrMatica!

So, head on over to StarrMatica and grab a seat at the webinar that piques your interest—or attend them all! www.starrmatica.com/professionaldevelopment

Full press release: http://news.yahoo.com/s/prweb/20100927/bs_prweb/prweb4495734

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Follow #ISTEfreebie for Exhibit Hall Giveaway Updates

I may not be teaching in a fourth grade classroom anymore, but I am still a teacher. And as a teacher, I love the word “free”, which makes the exhibit hall at ISTE10 an exciting place to be! So here’s how I will be helping my colleagues take advantage of all that is free in the ISTE10 exhibit hall.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I will be scouring the exhibit hall and tweeting out the best vendor giveaways. (I still use my INTEL insulated mug. Unfortunately, the dozen golf balls from Daktech are resting peacefully at the bottom of a pond, relaxing in overgrown rough or hiding in the hollow of a tree.—They didn’t stand a chance.)

So I don’t muck up the #ISTE10 stream, I will be tweeting freebies and booth numbers via the hashtag #ISTE10freebie Follow @starrmatica or the #ISTE10freebie hashtag to receive updates, and when you come across an amazing find, share it with the rest of us by adding to the stream!

Speaking of giveaways, StarrMatica will be giving away 9 classroom memberships to our library of K-6 interactive reading, math and science content throughout the conference. And it couldn’t be easier to win:

1. I will give away three memberships in the exhibit hall. Be the first to stop by AVI-SPL booth #1675 on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and mention this blog post to win that day’s membership.

2. I will give away one membership at my ISTE Unplugged presentation "3 hours or 3 clicks? The Easy Way to Create Fun, Interactive Lessons" on Monday at 1:00 pm to the first person that mentions this blog post. http://www.isteunplugged.com/

3. I will give away one membership at the Compass Learning Tweet Up on Monday night http://ow.ly/20v1K and one at the Simplek12/Promethean Tweet Up on Tuesday night http://ht.ly/1Te7t to the first person who finds me at each party and mentions this blog post.

4. Not attending ISTE? Not to worry! We will be tweeting away 3 classroom memberships, one each day: Mon., Tues., Wed. at 10 am Mountain Time. Win by being the first to correctly tweet the answer to a question about this article: http://interactivewhiteboardinsights.blogspot.com/2010/04/ten-questions-you-should-ask-before.html

And if you would like a membership for your entire school, we are giving away 50 of those this fall! Visit AVI-SPL booth #1675 to learn how to get one for your building!

Looking forward to meeting everyone at the conference, and travel safely!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chapter Four: Just For Fun


The gophers are here to help you relieve some stress.--Great indoor recess activity!


A Walk On The Beach

Need a vacation? Take a walk on this virtual beach!



Fill a canvas with color simply by clicking and dragging your mouse. Change the speed at which you move the mouse pointer to add variety to your work.

Magic Gopher

Think of a number and let the magic gopher read your mind.


Magical Lanterns

Compose an original tune or just enjoy playing a random melody with these magical musical lanterns.


Monkey Music

Move the monkey around the screen to experiment with various sounds. Disclaimer: This one can get annoying if students are experimenting for an extended period of time. :)


Rodent Choir

An octave of rat voices is at your disposal to create a new song or play an old favorite--might I suggest “Happy Birthday”? I smell a new classroom birthday tradition brewing!


Reindeer Orchestra

The Reindeer Orchestra—it’s not just for holidays anymore! Compose a song or play a seasonal favorite.


Screen Clean

Make sure to clean the inside of your interactive whiteboard. This is sure to make your students smile!


Thanks @tomwhitby for making me laugh by sharing this resource.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chapter Three: Creativity

Think Draw
Combine splashes of paint with flower images to create your own unique collage. Materials can be resized and rotated before being placed on the canvas.


Ink Blobs

Create a masterpiece by filling the canvas with colorful ink blobs.


This Is Sand

Click and move your mouse around the screen to create layered sand art.


Cloud Dreamer

Create your own cloud formation. Then, see it float through the sky.


Monkey Machine and Virtual Keyboard

Bring out your inner rocker by creating a unique song with this online drum kit and virtual keyboard.



Thanks @vanessascassie for sharing the Virtual Keyboard with me!

Compose Your Own Music

Place notes on the staff to compose your own music. Play back your creation and send it to a friend!


Music Box

Add pegs to this virtual music box to compose your own song. Add pegs across from one another to create chords and harmonies.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sponge Interactive Whiteboard Activities: Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Logic Games

Inch Worm, Inch Worm II, and Frog Jumpin’

Find your way though challenging mazes of increasing difficulty in Inch Worm and Inch Worm II. Use logic to reduce the number of frogs on screen through a series of jumps in the Frog Jumpin’ activity.


Chat Noir

Use logic to corral the cat with dark green dots and prevent it from escaping.


Below are links to three versions of the same challenging activity. Guess a computer selected pattern in a certain number of tries based on logical feedback from previous attempts.





Pattern Quest


Use the weight relationship between objects on either side of a scale to determine the value of each individual object.

Seesaw Logic


Valuable Jewels


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Sponge" Interactive Whiteboard Activities: Chapter One

There are times in your classroom when you need to have interactive whiteboard activities up your sleeve that weren’t planned learning opportunities but that still engage students in thinking--maybe your lesson finished 10 minutes sooner than you had planned, maybe your students are burned out from standardized testing, maybe it is hot in your classroom and attention is waning, or maybe your kids just need a break. I was taught to call these “sponge” activities --I suppose because they “soak up” time.  But, it is important to have interactive whiteboard activities ready that are thought provoking and creative, so you aren’t just “filling time” with meaningless tasks.

This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to sharing “sponge” interactive whiteboard activities that fall outside of your regular academic curriculum. All of the resources make great center activities and can also be used on computers. While some of the interactive whiteboard activities can be related back to a specific curricular area, these sites are perfect for just letting your students explore, get creative, and have fun!

Chapter One: Build and Construct

Ball Droppings


Experiment with this application by drawing lines to affect the direction of the balls, by changing the rate the balls drop and by modifying the effect of gravity on the balls. Notes: While the tones the dropping balls produce are fun for awhile, you may want the students to use headphones if in the computer lab or to mute the sound on the IWB. Also, I had difficulty getting this site to work correctly in Internet Explorer but had no issues in Firefox.



Knock down some popular formations or create your own. You can even save your creation at a url to send to your friends!

Tinker Ball

Use the given array of objects to build a path that will guide the ball into the cup. How many different paths can you build? Can you build a path that uses all of the objects? What is the fewest number of objects you can use and still be successful?

Thank you to @sharnon007 for guiding me to this resource!

Launch Ball


Place blocks in the correct locations to guide the ball into the goal. Different blocks have unique properties which makes each level challenging. You can save your work and go back later to continue at the level where you left off. The site also offers an open ended application where you can build challenges for your friends to complete.

Thank you to @ktenkely for guiding me to this resource!

Creative Builder


Build an online lego structure according to a set of plans or build a structure as quickly as you can while being timed. You can even choose a blank template to build your own unique and creative formation.

Thank you to @vanessascassie for guiding me to this resource!