Archive for December, 2013


10 Reasons Why Every Student Should Have a New Year’s Resolution

It’s just about 2014. And that means it’s time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished in 2013 and what you’d like to tackle in the new year.

Resolutions help us create and stick to goals throughout the year. While sometimes cliché, they truly do help many people accomplish great things.

And that’s exactly why your students should create them, too.

Students don’t normally set goals until much later in their school careers. But, they should be setting goals from the second the step into their first day in kindergarten. Here’s why:

1. Start goal planning early

There are some adults who simply don’t goal plan. And it’s because they never did it when they were a kid. What you do and learn at an early age is imprinted in who you become as an adult. No goal planning as a child means no goal planning as an adult. If you start early, when students are in elementary school, they’ll be goal setters for life.

2. Work on being focused

When students come home from school, there are one thousand things they could be doing. Maybe they eat a snack, read 10 pages in their social studies text book, or toss the football around with their older brother. This is is great, but it doesn’t create an overall focus for the year. One large goal can be broken down into smaller daily goals that require focus to complete. For example, if your students want to read 100 books this year, how does that break down into books/month and pages/day. Focus helps goals become attainable.

3. See a project to completion

“I never seem to get anything done.” It’s the classic line you’ve likely heard from adults and students a like. There simply isn’t enough time, they never complete anything, etc. By setting a goal, and giving your students a year to complete it, they’ll finally see a project to completion. Once completed, they’ll likely be motivated to set another goal. Completing one project is great. Completing three is better.

4. Show them anything is possible

If you put your mind to it. While dry and motivational, it’s true. Having been part of trying to motivate students to get things done in businesses classes throughout Vermont, I’ve seen first hand how discouraged some students get. They simply don’t attempt what they want to accomplish. Get them to set smaller goals. As these goals are met, they’ll see that anything is possible if they put their mind to it. And when things start going their way, not only will they set more goals, but their entire outlook on life changes. And that’s where the real magic happens.

5. Support each other

It’s a lot more challenging to make something happen by yourself. With a team, you’re able to strive towards a common goal and work through challenges together. Let your students create team goals. Partner with a couple other students – or even the whole class. Pick a goal that everyone is excited about. Watch how each student works together, motivating each other through the time times and celebrating the high points.

6. More experience working in teams

Teamwork is the crux of any organization – whether you work at a small business on main street or a large corporation downtown – a horse farm or an airplane – everyone works as a team. And school is one of the best environments to reinforce teamwork. As mentioned in the last list item, setting class-wide goals is the perfect alternative to individual resolutions. For example, if every students gets above a B for the semester, you’ll have an ice-cream social. While it may not be the best motivator, you’ll get to see how students work in teams to make each other successful. When one student is down, another is there to pick them up.

7. Failing is a learning experience

With New Year’s resolutions set in stone, there’s one thing left to tell your students: They may fail. They may not accomplish what they wanted to. In essence, they failed. However, this is one of my favorite learning opportunities. When students fail, they get discouraged. But, it’s what they do next that is their shining moment. Take the opportunity to show them who else has failed in history and let them know one of my favorite quotes. Those who have succeeded have fallen seven times, but have gotten up eight.

8. There’s no “coulda, woulda, shoulda”

I should have done this. I could have done that. These regrets plague successful goal setting. Don’t let your students fall in a sea of regret. Let them venture out into the un-known. Let them find out what it’s like to experience something different. If they don’t, they’ll simply be stuck saying “I coulda, shoulda, woulda…”

9. Show them the value of taking action

Don’t let your students slouch over in their desks, painfully waiting for the bell to ring. Motivate them to take action. It’s the true difference between winners and losers. Those who take action are successful. And if they fail, like in reason #7, at least they learn from their experience and take action again. It’s one thing to plan. It’s another to execute. Show them how to execute.

10. It’s fun

Goal setting, while often written off as boring and useless, is actually quite fun. For students who are just getting their first taste of goal setting, it can be daunting. But, let your students create any goal they’d like. And the set them free. Watch them work with themselves, other students, and maybe even you to show them how much fun it is.

There are many people who view New Year’s resolutions as something that’s ripe for failure. Sure, a lot of New Year’s goals fall through the cracks, but what about the successes? The people who have changed their lives for the better, done something they never thought was possible. This is why people set goals – to crush the barriers between them and success.

Get your students on the path to success by setting a New Year’s resolution that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely – because, well, that’s the smart thing to do to.

Have your students made New Year’s resolutions? How have you turned it into a fun and engaging lesson plan?

 


The Best Funny (and Inspirational) Teacher Videos of 2013

The holiday break has started for many of you. With much of higher-ed closing down the dorms and heading home, you should be all cozy and comfortable on the couch by now. It’s time to relax, sip your cocoa, and put on fuzzy slippers.

That’s also why we’re making this week’s blog post a little light-hearted. We know you can’t get completely away from your classroom over break, so rather than write about how you can engage your students or games you can play at recess, I thought I’d list a couple teacher videos I found funny this year (and a few inspirational ones, too). Here’s a look:

1. Said no teacher ever

2. Make Science fun (not funny, but entertaining)

3. An Elementary School Teacher tries his hand at stand-up comedy (at least some of it’s funny!)

4. KidSnippets (Art Class)

5. Hip Hop Algebra Teacher (More Stand-up from a former teacher)

6. Sometimes Children Inspire Teachers

7. Every Kid Needs a Champion

8. The Lollipop Story (not 2013, but I just watched it and I love it)

9. “Don’t Stop Good Teaching”

10. (MY FAVORITE) Kid President’s Message to Teachers and Students

Do you have any videos to share with us? Let us know in the comments below. Plus. since it is two days away from Christmas, have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year! See you in 2014, teacher-friends!


What to look for in an online quiz maker

There are tons of ways to create a free quiz online. From complex learning management systems to free quiz makers for teachers, it’s tough to figure out what’s going to work best for your classroom.

Below, you’ll find a list of features we think you should have in every quiz maker you use. If you’ve got something to add to the list, let us know in the comments below.

Here goes!

1. Easy to use

This doesn’t really have to be said, but the quiz maker has to be easy to use. You don’t have a lot of time to fuss with software because there’s tons of other stuff you have to do. Quick and easy is the name of the game.

2. No email required for students

Children under 13 technically can’t use/have an email in a school setting. That means you want your quiz maker to be able to handle students who don’t have an email address. Some quiz makers accomplish this with codes and others make special usernames. Either way, make sure this is a feature of your quiz maker of choice.

3. Instant grading

Remember when your students had to wait a week to get quiz results back. Not anymore! Instant grading is perfect for students and teachers. For students, they get their score at the end of the quiz (and each question). For teachers, you get your student’s grades sent to your dashboard in just seconds saving you tons of time hand-grading with that pesky red pen.

4. Question explanations

Just letting your quiz-taker know they’re wrong isn’t going to cut it. Let them know more about the correct answer with images and text – and even a hyper-link to more information. This way, the correct answer gets reinforced even though they did get the question wrong.

5. Simple sharing

When you create a quiz, don’t you want other people to take it? That means your chosen quiz maker should make it easy to share your quiz — via email, social media, and more. And after your quiz is shared you want to know the stats, too. That leads to #6.

6. Stats!

Everyone loves stats. How many people have taken your quiz? What’s the average score? Are students tripping up on a certain question? With a robust stats and analytics package, your quiz maker should do a lot of the number crunching for you.


QuizBean is an online quiz maker for K-12 teachers to help them instantly assess their students. Plus, it’s quick and easy to use. Get started for free at QuizBean.com.


5 EdTech Startups We Think are Pretty Cool

When you live in Vermont, there’s a lot of allure of big city like Boston. There are more people, more companies, awesome eats (shout-out to Union Square Donuts) and well, an enormous public transportation system. Boston is the closest tech-hub to Vermont. It’s fun for all of us to head down once-in-a-while to meet other edtech entrepreneurs, go to a conference, or just spend the weekend.

Last weekend, I headed to Boston for the day with my family. I was down there simply to eat. But, ended up coming across a terrific company, Sprout, looking to blend the environment with a writing utensil used by K-12 students across the country — the pencil.

When I returned, I thought I’d write up some of the other edtech (and some not-so-tech) companies I’ve seen over the past few months. Here we go:

1. Sprout

Sprout - a pencil with a seed

Sprout is a company producing pencils with seed capsules on the end of them. Just plant, water, and watch it grow.

You know when you’d try to erase your pencil marks and the eraser would make a nasty gray-meets-graphite smear on your notebook paper? Yeah – it was the worst.  Well, forget about that pesky eraser and add a capsule. What? Yes – that’s right. A capsule. The team at Sprout has attached a biodegradable capsule that, when planted, results in a beautiful plant. So, when you’re finished using the pencil, simply plant the capsule end in a pot, water it, and wait. Yep – awesome. Pencil to plant can’t be any easier.

Find out more at http://www.democratech.us/sprout/

2. Codecademy

CodeAcademy - learn to code for free

Learn to code for free at CodeAcademy

We’re a bunch of tech-obsessed programmers, marketers, and product managers. Some of us code in our sleep, others have a basic knowledge of HTML & CSS, and we’re still trying to convince the rest of the team to get on board. How do you get the basics down pat? Use Codecademy! In a full-day, I had basic HTML & CSS under my belt (Granted it was last Christmas so I devoted my full attention). If you’re looking to learn, Codecademy has much more than just front-end tutorials. You can explore JS, Python, Ruby, and even work with a couple APIs.

Learn to code at http://www.codecademy.com

3. Listen Edition

Listen Edition

Listen Edition helps teachers incorporate public radio into common-core aligned lesson plans.

I always wrote off NPR until it was used by a lot of professors as a multimedia tool where I went to college. I learned a ton – just from listening. And now Listen Edition wants to bring public radio to classrooms across the nation to help build listening skills – and then some. From their website: Listen Edition curates public radio stories and builds custom lesson plans around them that are written to the Common Core and aligned with state standards. Talk about increased engagement!

Help your students listen and learn at http://www.listenedition.com/

4. Year E-Book (pronounced year-y book)

This company hasn’t launched yet, but I’m excited to see it exists. They’re hoping to take antiquated hard-bound year books and turn them into digital versions for the ipad. And they’ll help students connect with each other, write messages, sign names, and post videos that can be approved by the student. The best part? The take the same file you send to the printer and convert it to be useable on an ipad. No extra work for you.

Make your year book different this year with Year E-Book at https://angel.co/year-ebook

5. DropIn

DropIn - the real college experience

DropIn connects prospective college students with current college students to immerse them in the real college experience

Remember going on a college tour and getting the “pre-packaged” chatter from the tour guide? DropIn is attempting to eliminate the college tour in exchange for being hosted by a real student — it’s basically the AirBnB of college tours. Drop In connects those students interested in a college visit with current students who want to host them. I believe this fundamentally changes the college research process. No more scripted tour guide. It’s the real college experience.

Find out more about DropIn at http://thedropin.co/

Have you found any cool education start-ups? Let us know about them in the comments.


10 of the Best Gift Ideas for Teachers

You only have a couple weeks left to get everyone crossed off your Christmas list. And one of those people is probably your son or daughter’s school teacher.

What are you going to get them? Another candle? Or maybe some markers? No way! Here’s 10 ideas any school teacher would love to receive for the holidays.

1. Fresh-baked goodies

I’m pretty sure all of America loves chocolate chip cookies. How could they not? If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to say thank you, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes, go straight to the front of the line. And if you burn the house down whenever you turn the oven on, feel free to purchase goodies from a local bakery.

2. A gift card to Staples

Classroom supplies from pens to pads of paper and even binder ring supporters – they’re in low supply when many teachers are footing the bill for supplies. Give them a gift card to Staples or Office Depot so they can get what they need for their spring class.

3. A gift card to the grocery store

People either love or hate grocery shopping – just like cooking. But, everyone has to eat. Make it easier on your kid’s teacher by giving them a gift card to the grocery store. Then, they’ll be able to get that filet mignon they’ve always wanted!

4. A couple months of a useful K-12 web application

Technology is making a positive impact throughout the entire classroom. Encourage the use of it by purchasing a couple months of a popular web app. How about giving QuizBean a shot? I hear it’s pretty stellar at quickly assessing students. Start at QuizBean.com

5. One big gift from the whole class

Have all the students put a hand-print on a poster or sign a platter. One gift from the whole class means a lot to teachers because it serves as a memory for that year. Get a couple parents together and start brainstorming ideas!

6. A 90-minute massage

Love massages? Teachers do! When they work 60-80 hour work weeks, there’s no time for relaxation. Give them the gift of massage and you’ll be their favorite parent for years to come. And yes, it works for both male and female teachers!

7. Gas card

Everyone has to make it to work. And that means gas money. Get your son’s teacher a gas card for a week’s worth of gas. If they don’t want to use it on gas for commuting, there’s always an end-of-the-year road trip!

8. Bouquet of flowers (for the ladies)

Flowers simply brighten your day (when they’re not plastic). Find a local florist or drop by your neighborhood grocery store to find the perfect bouquet. Get them delivered, too — it’ll be a great surprise on a dreary winter day.

9. A gift card to AC Moore or Michael’s

If you head into any craft store from the end of July into August, you’ll find it packed with teachers who are buying supplies (likely out of their own pocket) to decorate their classroom before their students come. And they’ll do it several times before the year is over. GIve them financial relief and pay for decorating their classroom. After all, your kid is there 180 days a year, right?

10. A nice restaurant in your town

Teachers don’t often spoil themselves when it comes to food. The teachers I know mak a lot of meals at home, bring their lunch to school, and don’t enjoy the fine restaurants in town. Help them out. Give them a gift certificate to the finest place in town. That way, they can take their best friend, partner, or spouse on a night on the town.

What ideas do you have to give teachers for the holidays?

 


QuizBean no longer requires a student email address

When our team launched QuizBean to the K-12 crowd a few weeks ago, we received a flood of new sign-ups, tons of feedback from teachers across the country, and super-creative ideas about how to improve QuizBean. We listened to you and started making changes.

Here’s what’s new at QuizBean:

 

Send Quizzes to Students who don’t have an email address

This is big. You can now send your quiz to any student in your class – no email address required. We simply create a username for them that’s @quizbean.com — but it’s not an email address. When students log-in with their @quizbean username, they’ll be presented with the quiz in their dashboard. It’s pretty awesome.

QuizBean accepts accents and characters

You asked for accents and characters to be accepted in text fields. And since QuizBean has users from over 130 countries, we thought that should get fixed asap. We’re happy to announce QuizBean has been updated to accept characters and accents.

Quickly duplicate quizzes for other classes

You may have the perfect quiz for 1st period biology, but maybe not 7th period. Quickly duplicate the quiz, swap some questions, randomize on the send, and you’re good to go. That means you eliminate cheating AND save time without having to build the quiz over again. Wahoo!

There’s more coming! If you haven’t checked QuizBean out in a while, give it a spin. I’d love to hear any feedback – positive or negative – you have.