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Tech Tools to Teach Community Awareness

When I was studying for my teaching credential, a professor asked us to define the purpose of education. After working in small groups, we presented our ideas to the entire class, and found that we all had very similar thoughts, including the notion that education should prepare students to be engaged members of society. Community service is a traditional tenet of U.S. education, but it often gets short shrift in actual classrooms. Although our social studies curriculum includes civic engagement, research shows that community engagement among young people has not improved in decades. We need to find innovative ways to teach civics that will resonate more deeply with students and carry on with them into adulthood. Technology provides u....read more


12 Games and Sites for Writing with a Purpose

Now that the back-to-school buzz has calmed and the school year is in full swing, you may be looking for some extra oomph to keep the classroom energy humming. One of the best ways -- in any subject area -- is to turn students’ attention to real world scenarios. No matter which way you slice it, it’s clear that students are more engaged when the "real world" is the focus of their work. And one of the best mediums to make this connection is writing. One problem: Students' writing is often only read by a teacher or peers, so the passion and creativity tend to take a back seat. How can you up the stakes, and, thus, up the amount of enthusiasm? Two words: authentic audience. Websites like Youth V....read more


Want to Pilot Free, Vetted Literacy Courseware?

Two Common Sense Graphite-reviewed products – LearnZillion and LightSail – made the finalist list for the Gates Foundation's Literacy Courseware Challenge! The challenge started in response to teachers who wanted recommendations of a narrow set of high-quality digital courseware to meet Common Core writing standards. It was a condition that products meet Common Core writing standards while providing an engaging student experience and feedback to teachers. Affordability and quality were also priorities. Therefore, products were evaluated by the best tech-forward teachers, literacy experts, and product designers in the field, and evaluated based on consistent criteria like student impact and feasibility of use. Want to Pilo....read more


SAMR and Bloom's Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle

Note: If you aren't familiar with SAMR, check out our video Introduction to the SAMR Model. For teachers just starting out with educational technology, the task at hand can sometimes seem daunting. Even though tools such as the SAMR model can help, the plethora of choices available can prove paralyzing, frequently resulting in ongoing substitutive uses of the technology that block, rather than enable, more ambitious transformative goals. The approach below is designed to help overcome this barrier, and is inspired in its form by Alexander’s notion of Design Patterns -- a clearly structured solution to a recurring design problem -- which has been applied to education scenarios by Bergin et a....read more


Build Community: Teach Digital Citizenship in Edmodo

Did you know that we offer digital literacy and citizenship activities on Edmodo? In 2012 we partnered with the popular social network for teachers and students to create the Digital Citizenship Starter Kit, based on our free K-12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum. This set of activities for the Edmodo platform makes it easy for teachers to introduce digital citizenship concepts like Internet safety, identity, privacy, and cyberbullying using Edmodo’s secure platform and communication and sharing tools. To access the activities, Edmodo members first need to "follow" the Digital Citizenship Community on the site. Then, visit the Community Collection to download the Starter Kit or add it to your ....read more


15 Best Apps and Games for Counting and Cardinality

Many would argue that number sense is the foundation for each and every area of mathematics. For the youngest learners, counting, cardinality, and comparing numbers and quantities are essential skills for developing number sense and early math problem-solving skills. However, learning what numbers symbolize and how they relate to each other can be tricky concepts to grasp.  To help you guide kids' learning, we've compiled a list of 15 apps and games with two goals in mind: to identify tools that are 1) rich in quality content and 2) mapped to the Common Core State Standards for Counting and Cardinality. Apps like Love to Count by Pirate Trio and Park Math help kids learn why math is relevant to ....read more


Spark the Discussion on Digital Life at Your School

At Common Sense, we often hear from parents who want to get their school or community involved in a discussion of how media, tech, and the digital world are impacting kids. But many parents don't know where to begin. Well, now you can help parents get started! Connecting Families is a new three-part program that offers everything you need to get families in your school or community involved in raising great digital citizens. Today’s media and technology present many challenges as well as opportunities -- from text messaging and using social media to online gaming -- and call for new ways to raise conscientious digital citizens. Connecting Families offers everything you need to facilitate meaningful community d....read more


6 Tips for Helping Frustrated Writers Learn Dictation

Does handwriting still matter in the digital world? A recent New York Times article describes the importance of handwriting as a tool for learning and memory, and argues it should be taught to kids on a regular basis. This, the authors claim, is because handwriting activates a neural circuit in the brain that involves the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the posterior parietal cortex, facilitating the capacity to generate ideas and recall information. While, no doubt, some students can improve their memory through writing by hand, there's also a large group of kids for whom the process of handwriting is so laborious that they can't adequately or effectively express their thoughts on paper. Many of th....read more


Informational Texts -- Just a Click Away

With the switch to Common Core and its increased emphasis on informational texts, many elementary school teachers have found themselves having to seek out more nonfiction resources. Common Core reading standards require that students use a variety of skills to analyze, discuss, and write about informational texts, such as using text features and search tools to locate information, using details and examples from a text in answering questions, and comparing two texts on the same topic. This reading and analysis should be practiced in both print and electronic environments. In fact, hyperlinks, digital sources, and Web pages are specifically mentioned. Luckily, a quick search of the Web will reveal that many sites featu....read more


Teach and Learn the Web with Maker Party

Since its inauguration in 2012, Mozilla's annual Maker Party has become a global celebration of making and learning on the Web. Through thousands of community-run events around the world, Maker Party unites educators, organizations, and enthusiastic Internet users of all ages and skill levels to teach the Web. From getting the hang of HTML to building robots to learning about remix culture using paper and scissors, people have come together to joyfully explore the culture, mechanics, and citizenship of the Web. All this takes place across various types of spaces. Individuals are teaching and learning the Web in hundreds of classrooms and cafes, libraries and living rooms, parks and community spaces. Throughout this two-mont....read more


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