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From Legos to Maker Labs: Fun and Learning After School

After-school clubs offer both students and teachers the freedom to explore alternative approaches to learning.

For more than six hours each day, we aim to seize every teachable moment. Our schedules, carefully crafted and refined, often resemble a flight schedule at a busy airport: whole-class math lessons here, reading groups there, and one-on-one conferencing/counseling/cheerleading sessions squeezed in everywhere else. But we all know learning isn't confined to the school day. Extracurricular activities, from soccer to chess club, have been around as long as school itself. When I was young, few after-school activities appealed to me, so hosting an after-school club as a teacher didn't occur to me until a few years ago when I began to look at after-school learning through a new lens. Having started two after-school clubs in the past three ....read more


Is Your School "Future Ready"?

Join a growing network of school leaders committed to implementing personalized, digital learning.

This is the first in a series of posts that examine how schools and districts are planning for and implementing digital learning efforts. We are also hosting monthly webinars to dig deeper. The first two webinars are archived and available here. In November of 2014, President Obama challenged district superintendents to sign the Future Ready Pledge. By signing, school leaders committed to working with teachers, families, and community members to transition their districts to "personalized, digital learning." Since then, close to 2000 superintendents representing roughly three out of every 10 students in the United States have signed the pledge. A coalition, led by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the U.S. Departmen....read more


Apps, Games, and Websites for a Summer of Science

Check out these resources for mixing screen time with tree climbs.

Where can you make a cloud in a jar, engineer a robotic arm, plant your own terrarium, and build a pin-hole camera? Answer: science camp! At today's science camps, computers and technology undoubtedly play a huge role in the projects and adventures campers will experience. At the same time, no one wants kids sitting in front of a screen all summer -- losing their sense of wonder and discovery. Thankfully, there's a bunch of great tech out there that balances learning in front of a screen with hands-on activities outside in nature. So whether it's practicing music to learn physics or baking a cake to understand chemistry, you'll find a plethora of ideas ....read more


Getting Fit Made Me a Better Teacher

Training bodies -- and brains -- requires sustained effort.

I thought my legs might fall off. It was October 31, 2010, and I was 22 miles into the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, D.C. Turns out, you can’t just wake up one day and decide to go run a marathon. Who knew? In all seriousness, I trained for my 26.2 mile run. My legs and lungs were well-prepared, but my head … not so much. Until that moment, I never fully understood the amount of mental toughness that is required to power through when your body wants to quit.   There were 22,000 other runners that day, and I think we all learned a valuable lesson about the art of developing a sustained effort. Students today are used to instant gratification: movies on demand, instant messages, answers and information just a Googl....read more


Learning from Conflict: Discussing Controversial Issues in the Classroom

Help students have constructive discussions that represent differing perspectives.

When highly charged events happen in the world, it’s not always easy for classroom teachers to help their students make sense of things. But whether it’s raw emotions that surface during civil unrest or the human suffering associated with natural disasters, students benefit from constructive discussions about sensitive issues. In fact, research shows that discussing conflicts is good for students both cognitively and developmentally. This research holds that learning takes place under these conditions: Teachers give all students ample opportunity to explain various views through perspective-taking approaches, we make sure different points of view are listened to and then confronted, and we encourage controversy while str....read more


Webinar Spotlight: What's in Your Digital Citizenship Survival Kit?

Learn how one teacher uses household items as metaphors to illustrate key digital citizenship skills.

Looking for a new hook to start conversations about digital citizenship with your students? In this month's Digital Citizenship community webinar on edWeb, "What's in Your Digital Citizenship Survival Kit?," we welcomed presenter Craig Badura, K-12 integration specialist for Aurora Public Schools in Nebraska. Craig shared a "survival kit" he uses with students to kick off important conversations about safe and appropriate behavior online. Craig's digital citizenship survival kit is filled with inexpensive household items that can serve as metaphors for key aspects of digital citizenship. For example, a padlock represents password strength and online security, and a permanent marker....read more


Awesome Apps, Games, and Websites for Summer Arts Camps

Forget the popsicle sticks and glitter glue. Art camps have now expanded to meet the needs of the 21st century -- and for good reason. Today, there are tons of great digital creation apps and websites to teach kids the same creativity skills, but with more critical thinking, collaboration, and communication mixed in. Kids now dig into digital photography, mobile game development, films and animation, music composing and mixing, and other hands-on projects designed to spark curiosity, build confidence, and foster teamwork. This week, we're highlighting five Top Picks lists for arts summer camps. These lists are full of excellent tools to pair with these hands-on projects, whether you're digging into photography, video, p....read more


3 Secrets to Making Your School Library the Place to Be

Libraries can be the cutting-edge tech center of a school.

I love libraries! Everything about them -- the books, the atmosphere, the people, the organization, the great resources -- all the components of a vibrant school library. Sadly, libraries have a reputation for being old-fashioned, with outdated images of quiet places housing traditional print books. In reality, the library is an amazing place to test out new technology. A school library should be a hub that encourages students to read, research, explore, connect, and create. At our school, we have worked hard to get rid of that outdated idea that “libraries are only for books.” Amazing libraries and librarians are making a difference and changing attitudes, proving that libraries are places for exploration....read more


EdTech Quick Take: Book Creator vs. Shadow Puppet Edu

A brief comparison of two great creation apps for elementary students.

We’ve reviewed a lot of digital creation tools on Graphite, but it can be hard to know which ones are best for younger students. In this EdTech Quick Take, we compare two standouts -- Book Creator and Shadow Puppet Edu -- to help you decide which one is best for your classroom.  Both Book Creator and Shadow Puppet Edu are easy-to-use creation tools designed with a young audience in mind. Their kid-friendly features make it easy for primary students to jump right in and start creating. Both apps allow kids to combine text, images, video, and sounds into engaging projects that they can show to their peers. Both tools make sharing a breeze, with lots of options for saving and expor....read more


Webinar Spotlight: From Policy to Practice

Is your leadership moving your school forward or backward?

What can apps teach you about leadership? It may not be what you expect! In our recent Essential Elements for Digital Learning community webinar, "From Policy to Practice: Is Your Leadership Moving Your School Forward or Backward," Senior Director of Learning Solutions Jeff Mao explored leadership at multiple levels and from multiple perspectives. How does technology create new leadership challenges for administrators? Can you use technology to help you solve previously difficult issues? Additionally, he examined policies (AUP, take-home, insurance/fees, filtering, and more) in a 1-to-1 environment. Does a ubiquitous computing environment require you to change how you create and implement your policies? When school-owned devi....read more


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