Saturday, November 19, 2011

Virtual Manipulatives: Inquiry Learning

This is the fourth in a series of seven posts sharing reasons virtual manipulatives should be the cornerstone of interactive content in the classroom including specific practical examples.  (The previous posts can be viewed here:  Part 1-Visualizing, Part 2-Explore Difficult Concepts, Part 3-Access Materials/Added Value)

Virtual manipulatives help students learn through inquiry by providing teachers with easily adjustable visual tools.  Students can test their ideas, explore the effects of changing variables and formulate theories based on results.

Below are three manipulatives that help students learn through inquiry.
 Area and Perimeter Relationship

Students investigate and form theories about the relationship between area and perimeter by changing one variable and observing the resulting change in the other.

Kids and Cookies

Students explore the concept of fractions by sharing cookies equally between different numbers of students.  Both “fraction of a group” and “fraction of a whole” concepts can be explored.

The Pumpkin Patch

Students group and sort pumpkins into their own self-created categories.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Virtual Manipulatives: Access Materials/Added Value

This is the third in a series of seven posts sharing reasons virtual manipulatives should be the cornerstone of interactive content in the classroom including specific practical examples.  (The previous posts can be viewed here:  Part 1-Visualizing, Part 2-Explore DifficultConcepts)

Unlike hands-on math manipulatives, virtual manipulatives are found online.  While this means students are unable to touch the manipulatives, online versions of common manipulatives can be beneficial in other ways.  Classroom budgets don’t always allow us to purchase all the tool and resources we need.  Online manipulatives are an inexpensive (and usually free) way to supplement your manipulative supplies.  So, if you can’t afford a classroom set of fraction tiles or if a fellow teacher is using the school’s set when you need them, an online version can be used in its place.

Online manipulatives, when paired with an interactive whiteboard or projector, help all students in the classroom have an equal opportunity to see the manipulative without huddling around a table.

Online manipulatives also provide added value.  They often have features that can be turned on and off and have added learning opportunities that are not possible with traditional hands-on manipulatives.  The virtual clocks shared below include the ability show both digital and analog time as well as sunrise and sunset to assist in a discussion of AM and PM.

Below are four manipulatives that help students by adding value or providing access to materials.

Telling Time:  Virtual Clock

Advance the hands on the analog clock to watch the sun and moon rise and set.  Reveal and hide the digital time.
Advance the hands on the analog clock.  Reveal and hide the time in word form and the digital time.

Place Value Cards

Create three digit numbers, separate them into values, and display their representative base ten blocks.

Platonic Solids

Rotate and count the faces, edges, and vertices of the five Platonic Solids.  Watch each solid fold and unfold from its net

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Virtual Manipulatives: Explore Difficult Concepts

This is the second in a series of seven posts sharing reasons virtual manipulatives should be the cornerstone of interactive content in the classroom including specific practical examples.  (The previous post can be viewed here:  Part 1-Visualizing)

Virtual manipulatives help students to explore difficult concepts in depth.  They help to make abstract concepts concepts more easily understandable with visual tools.  A classic example is using base ten blocks to illustrate “regrouping” in a multi-digit addition or subtraction algorithm.  

Below are three manipulatives that help students explore difficult concepts.

Hopping Number Line

Explore basic addition, subtraction or skip counting by hopping an animal along a number line.

Bounded Fraction Pointer

Practice comparing and ordering fractions, simplifying fractions, or finding equivalent fractions on a number line that adjusts instantly.  Create fractions visually and then watch them plotted on the number line.

Multiplication Arrays

Explore multiplication by viewing arrays paired with the traditional algorithm and with the lattice method.

Friday, June 24, 2011

See You in Philadelphia!

Like many of my fellow educators, I will be traveling to ISTE in Philadelphia next week.  Here is my schedule of events so we can connect if you are in the area and would like to talk about digital content in your classroom.

At these live demonstrations, I will be sharing StarrMatica's interactive content and giving away school memberships!

Monday the 27th, Numonics Booth #3037, 3 pm

Tuesday the 28th, Numonics Booth #3037,
10 am and 3 pm

eInstruction Booth, #803, 1:30 pm

Wednesday the 29th, Numonics Booth #3037,
10 am
Hope to meet you in person!  Travel safely!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Interactive Content Cornerstone: Virtual Manipulatives

Every time I use the term virtual manipulatives outside the education community, my gaze is met with blank stares and funny looks. Being a teacher, “education speech” comes naturally to me, and I often forget that not everyone is a member of the club. Virtual manipulatives is a term that I always stop to explain to whomever I am speaking because virtual manipulatives are an integral part of using interactive content in the classroom effectively. I refer to manipulatives as online objects that can be moved and explored to help students understand concepts. A few examples would be base ten blocks, fraction bars and multiplication arrays.

As teachers begin to use interactive content in the classroom, I encourage them to use content that has already been created as a starting point for designing interactive lessons rather than starting from scratch to create their own content. I suggest this for three reasons:

1. It helps both tech-savvy and non-tech savvy-teachers begin to use interactive technologies right out of the box without having to spend time learning to use new content-creation software.

2. It increases teacher planning time by allowing them to focus on designing an effective lesson around the content rather than spending time with design elements of the content. ie: Teachers should be figuring out what questions to ask their students to guide their exploration of a manipulative rather than worrying about text size and finding appropriate graphics.

3. Teachers cannot create manipulatives with the same graphics and interactivity programmers can.  They simply don't have the same tools and skill set.  And, manipulatives with those elements are an essential part of using interactive technologies effectively. (These points will be well evidenced throughout this series of posts.)

This is the first in a series of seven posts sharing specific practical examples of reasons virtual manipulatives should be the cornerstone of interactive content in the classroom.
Virtual Manipulatives Help Students Visualize Concepts

Virtual manipulatives help students visualize abstract concepts. Using manipulatives for this purpose allows students to learn through inquiry and to explore a concept in a way that is not possible without the manipulative.

An obvious math example is base-ten blocks. These virtual manipulatives allow students to visualize the “sizes” of numbers indicated by their places in our number system. Below are three additional manipulatives that help students visualize concepts.

Mega Penny Project

Students explore images in this manipulative to help them visualize the size of large numbers using groups of pennies in relation to other objects.

Visualizing Percentages 

Students visualize the size of percentages by viewing different objects.

Alphabet Symmetry

Students explore line symmetry by folding letters and symbols vertically and horizontally.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fifteen Google Earth Integration Ideas

Google Earth is an amazing tool released by Google in 2005 after an acquisition. It has been updated and upgraded over the past six years and has become a favorite classroom tool. Google Earth has been around for so many years that I feel behind the times with this post, but it wasn’t until recently that I took the time necessary to really dig in and explore all that Google Earth has to offer.

If you are a new to Google Earth, I hope this post gives you a starting point from which to grow. If you are a veteran user, perhaps this post will allow you to see the tool again through the eyes of someone who has just discovered its magic and will provide you with some new classroom applications.

Fifteen Google Earth Lesson Integration Ideas

1. Zoom in to areas around the globe and have students describe the characteristics of those habitats.

2. Zoom in to landforms and have students create definitions based on their characteristics.

3. Zoom in to cities throughout the world (Las Vegas, Venice, Key West, Los Angeles, Chicago) and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a city based on its geographic location.

4. Take virtual field trips to national parks and wonders of the world.

5. Explore sunrise and sunset in different locations around the globe at different times of the year and discuss why the number of daylight hours differs from place to place and date to date.

6. Explore the setting of a novel by visiting locations where events important to the plot occurred.

7. Bring the real world into your math classroom by searching for angles, shapes, and other math related figures in city landscapes.

8. Create a real-life problem solving situation for a long-term math project. Ask students to plan a vacation they will travel to in a vehicle and then determine the amount it will cost them including food, hotel, souvenirs, and gas (by investigating the distance, mpg of their vehicle, and average gas prices along the journey). Then take the trip by searching for directions, clicking “Play tour” (the button with three circles below the directions) and clicking the forward button to increase your speed.

9. Design a virtual field trip overseas and fly there using the flight simulator.

The following are my favorite ideas shared by colleagues in this collaborative document:

10. Zoom in to a location and have students determine if it is rural, urban, or suburban based on characteristics you have developed as a class.

11. Preview a field trip location before making the journey with your class.

12. Estimate distances and then measure to check your estimates using the line and path feature.

13. Create a daily mystery. Begin class by zooming in to a location and asking “Where are we today?” Students are allowed to ask Yes/No questions to help them figure out the location.

14. Create a virtual biography by taking a virtual field trip to locations that were important in the life of the subject.

15. Create a virtual autobiography by zooming in to important locations in the life of a student (where he/she was born, memorable trips, family member locations, etc.).

If you are new to Google Earth, this tip sheet is a helpful reference when exploring the tool’s features:

Tip Sheet

These Google Earth in the Classroom Summary and Idea Sheets are also helpful for beginners:

Summary and Idea Sheet #1

Summary and Idea Sheet #2

How do you creatively use Google Earth in your classroom?  Share your tips with us in the comments below!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bloom's Taxonomy Part 6: Creating

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

Level Six: Creating

This level includes the skills of constructing, designing, developing, and formulating, Students are asked to create, invent, and produce new products from original ideas.

Here are three examples of online activities for creating:

K-2 Writer’s Corner

Young students can create an online printable story background with dynamic settings, characters and items as the foundation for their own unique and original tales. Have students create and print several backgrounds in a series to demonstrate sequencing or summarizing stories with a beginning, middle, and end.

3-6 Flip Book

Students become authors online as they create an original printable flip book. Use this resource to guide the creation of structured stories such as cause and effect; compare and contrast; or fact and opinion.

K-6 Museum Box

Have students create an online Museum Box as an interesting way to represent a person, historical period, novel, character, or their own life. Students can display text, images, video, sound, and links to web pages which they feel best represent their chosen topic. (Thanks Simple K12 for guiding me to this resource!)

To learn about more activities for creating and to discover resources for remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, and evaluating 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, March 1, 2011

And The Winner Is....

The winner of StarrMatica's Valentine's Day Giveaway is.....drum roll, please.....Kathy Schlack!  Kathy has won a one year classroom membership to StarrMatica's library of 3,800 K-6 interactive resources with her inspired version of "If You're Happy and You Know It".  You can check out her creative comment here:

Congratulations, Kathy!

Thank you for all of your fantastic comments, and if you didn't win, don't worry, check out this entry over at the amazing iLearnTechnology blog for another chance to win!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bloom's Taxonomy Part 5: Evaluating

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

Level Five: Evaluating

This level includes the skills of assessing, recommending, choosing, justifying and rating. Students are asked to critique, to judge, to make recommendations and to justify those recommendations.

Here are two examples of online activities for evaluating:

K-2 Bar Graph Creator

Ask your students to create a bar graph to represent data they have gathered and then draw conclusions from that data.

3-6 Perp Walk

Students listen to suspect interviews and evaluate their answers before choosing the true criminal.

To learn about more activities for evaluating 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

Monday, February 14, 2011

A StarrMatica Valentine's Day Giveaway!

Read below to learn how you could have a chance to win a 1-year StarrMatica Classroom Membership valued at $300!

• Do you spend too much time getting your interactive lessons ready?

• Is your interactive whiteboard used less often than it could be because you don’t have time to create content?

• Do you wish you had lessons already prepared to be used on your interactive whiteboard?

StarrMatica is in the business of making your life easier. If you’re a teacher, busy, and have interactive whiteboards, StarrMatica’s got your back with a solution made by a teacher for teachers.

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’s main focus is an online library of over 3,800 K-6 reading, math, and science simulations, animations, activities, games and assessments searchable by grade, topic, National Core Curriculum, state standards and textbook curriculums. StarrMatica is used on every brand of interactive technology by thousands of teachers and students every day.

Visit the StarrMatica Kids page to check out a sample of StarrMatica’s activities or sign up for a one week free trial to get a taste of what StarrMatica offers and how useful this membership could be for your classroom.

Contest Rules

1. Leave a comment on this post stating how you would use a StarrMatica Classroom Membership to enhance instruction or students’ learning.

2. To receive TWO additional entries, leave a comment (a copy is fine) on the Giveaway Posts on StarrMatica Learning Systems Facebook Page and on Interactive Content Corner Blog.

3. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced here on Monday, February 28th.

(Leave only one comment. Duplicate comments will be deleted. All comments are moderated so they may not show up right away. Please make sure you fill out the applicable comment fields so that you may be reached if you win.)

Good luck!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bloom's Taxonomy Part 4: Analyzing

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

Level Four: Analyzing

This level includes the skills of examining, investigating, and comparing. Students are asked to explain patterns and meaning and to examine information for details and main ideas.

Here are two examples of online activities for analyzing:

K-2 CVC Maker

Students create CVC words, compare them for similarities and differences, and group them according to common characteristics.

3-6 Probability Experimental Results

Students conduct a probability experiment by drawing colored balls from a tub. Students compare the theoretical results to the experimental results and determine how the number of trials in an experiment affects that relationship.  (NOTE:  You must register for a StarrMatica Free Trial to view this resource.  Once logged in, choose Probability from the Index and select the Experimental Results link.)

To learn about more activities for analyzing 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