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Engage Teens in Project-Based Learning with Digital Bytes

Discover, analyze, and explore what it means to be a digital citizen in today's tech- and media-rich landscape.

"Show what you know!" is a common battle cry in classrooms. And an exciting way for kids to demonstrate their learning is through project-based learning. PBL, sometimes referred to as "problem-based learning," speaks to kids in so many ways. This active learning process gives kids the responsibility for their own learning, approaches problem solving through collaboration and creativity, and applies their learning to the real world. But as teachers know, this type of authentic assessment can be a bit daunting as it's a shift in our pedagogical approach/instructional practices. To help ease students and teachers over this threshold, we've created Digital Bytes, a new site that teaches teens digital citizenship thro....read more


10 Terrific Apps and Websites for Making and DIY

Check out our list of the best tools to get kids thinking and tinkering.

Even with so much technology at our fingertips, the instinct to build stuff with our hands hasn't disappeared. Instead, it's taken on a new form. Enter the "Maker" movement. Blending old-school physical building with modern digital creation, making and DIY have made a splash in the 21st-century classroom. This week, we're highlighting the best apps and websites that harness the power of technology to get kids learning through making. For project ideas, tutorials, and peer feedback, head to Make: Online and DIY websites to get inspired. STEM- and STEAM-focused makers should check out Science Buddies, especially for science fair ideas, and use MoMA Art Lab to....read more


Make Learning Transparent with Badges

Students find value and motivation in mastering the steps toward a goal.

Let be honest: We all -- students, parents, and teachers -- know that grades and report card comments don’t tell the full story of a student's achievements and hard work. Digital badging is a new practice worth examining that can make students' discrete learning goals and accomplishments more transparent and concrete. Badges can be a helpful way to motivate and assess students. It's also a valuable tool for keeping parents informed about what kids are learning. Instead of focusing solely on the final product or assessment, badging encourages kids to find value and motivation in mastering the steps toward a goal. Badging values the learning process, not just the final produ....read more


Teacher's Top Five: Rachelle Wooten's Versatile Tools for BYOD and the 4 Cs

Great multi-platform tools that will drive communication and creation.

I spoke with Rachelle Wooten, a Graphite certified educator and digital learning specialist at Fort Settlement Middle School in Texas. She's an expert in connecting teachers to the best technology for their needs, and has tons of practical experience locating easy-to-implement and versatile tools great for teachers and students. See her tips and favorites below! What's your teaching philosophy? As a digital learning specialist, I am passionate about helping teachers find just the right tool to help them reach and teach each of their students. Sometimes that involves technology, and other times it doesn't. My focus is on finding the best tool to meet the needs of the task. What questions do you ask yo....read more


Webinar Spotlight: Getting Started with Game-Based Learning

Matthew Farber suggests clear steps you can take to integrate games into your teaching.

Are you curious about game-based learning but don’t know where to begin? In our April 27, 2015, Digital Classroom webinar, Matthew Farber, classroom teacher and author of Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning, suggested clear steps you can take today to integrate games into your teaching. He discussed what to look for in a game, where to get good games for learning, and strategies to integrate games into the classroom. Farber also showcased terrific games that can be used to support a variety of classroom content, including The Land of Venn, Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy, and Minecraft. Matthew Farber teaches social studies at Valleyview Middle School in Denville, N.J., and is a doctoral candidate in ed....read more


Top 12 Tools for Teaching Elementary Kids How to Code

Coding teaches kids to be problem-solvers and critical thinkers. It's an invaluable 21st-century skill. This week, we're highlighting tools that help kids learn to code -- tools that encourage them to become creators, not just consumers, of the technology they use.  The youngest budding programmers will benefit most from iPad apps like ScratchJr, Kodable Class, and My Robot Friend. These apps take advantage of the iPad's tactile qualities by using drag-and-drop mechanisms to teach sequencing as well as simple loops and functions. Older kids can dig deeper with websites like Code.org and CodeMonkey. Both blend puzzles and gameplay into th....read more


When My Kindergarten Class Got a 3-D Printer

How one teacher creates real-world learning opportunities through "making."

By now, most people have heard of 3-D printing. Whether it’s a story about animal prosthetics, demonstration homes constructed in China and Denmark, or printed pizza at a tech conference, tales of this technology are in steady supply. But it's not just engineers and programmers using 3-D printers for science fiction-esque purposes. With some models costing less that an iPad, desktop fabrication is becoming more common in peoples’ homes -- and in classrooms. When my printer arrived, I was giddy with excitement -- and a bit unsure of what to do with it. Last spring, I was one of several thousand teachers across the nation to benefit from an effort by MakerBot to provide a 3-D printer to as many schools as possible. ....read more


5 Reasons You Don't Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media

Discover the ways social media can be a force for good in the lives of kids and teens, and help them maximize the benefits.

It seems like every day there's another story about kids sexting, cyberbullying, or suffering from acute FOMO (fear of missing out). Yes, the risks of social media are real. But there's a lot about the way kids use and think about apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Kik Messenger and even YouTube that we don't understand. With millions of kids using these programs and only a fraction misusing them, they can't be all bad, right? New research is shedding light on the good things that can happen when kids connect, share, and learn online. As a parent, you can help nurture the positive aspects simply by accepting how important social media is for kid....read more


Steer Students in the Right Direction with Digital Compass

One student's perspective on kids' digital lives and our new interactive game.

We reached out to eighth-grade student Megan C. for a young person's perspective on kids' digital lives and our new interactive game, Digital Compass. It’s a whole new world for kids growing up today. Technology is available 24/7. Texting, gaming, searching, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine -- the possibilities are growing every day. We have the whole world at our fingertips with just the push of a button. This is all great, until it’s not anymore. … Digital Highway Trust me, the digital highway is nowhere near as easy to navigate as the freeway during rush hour. The digital road is constantly changing. There isn't one road map to follow. To make it even more compli....read more


Teens Tackle Real-World Dilemmas with Digital Bytes

Short, relevant activities teach critical thinking about media consumption and creation.

You see it all too often in the news: another instance of cyberbullying or the classic case of a teen divulging too much information on social media. With over 92 percent of teens going online daily, the need for fostering responsible behavior online is crucial in helping teens create a positive digital presence. Parents are sometimes unsure of how to talk about online safety with their teens, so teachers often step in to initiate these conversations. But the conversations can be challenging when teens are heavily influenced by their peers and feel constant pressure to conform to current trends and behaviors. In a 24/7 digital world, how do we teach our teens to use the Internet safely and responsibly while bec....read more


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