I asked our teachers to share 3 of their favorite educational tools. Some of these you might enjoy using in your own homeschool environment. And it will give you some idea of what to expect in our classes.
Suzette teaches our Spanish classes.
A website where teacher or student can enter lists of vocabulary or anything else that needs to be memorized and the website will turn the list into various games. Students and teachers may share these lists with the general public or only with the class (password protected) or you can use someone else’s lists. Students can practice vocabulary in fun ways: first they can use the flashcards to listen to all the vocabulary pronounced in English AND Spanish (or any other language you choose), there is a matching game, a spelling game, it generates a test and there is even a video game where you have to type the word before it gets blasted or disappears from the screen.
A visual collection that you or another has created – I like to use it to increase my students’ cultural awareness while practicing the language use. For example – I have made a collection of arts and crafts from Spanish speaking countries. We can use it in several ways – the students can look through my collection and describe in Spanish what they are seeing. They will be practicing vocabulary and sentence structures using authentic material instead of boring worksheets. The students can also make their own collections and write a short descriptive sentence under each picture to describe it.
This is a website with Spanish grammar lessons. This one is not necessarily the students’ favorite website but it is mine. The grammar lessons are well worded and then the students have quizzes and test they can take and they get graded. There is also a vocabulary section and a cultural section. They can even get a daily generated idiom to practice. There are links to newspapers in Spanish and radio stations and podcasts in Spanish. There is a paid option but there is plenty do in the free version.
Dana teaches our Biology classes.
This is great for quick vocab checks or reviews and converts to PDFs so you can save them from year to year
These days, you can find live action videos of things that they used to learn about from drawings. I did work with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) back when the idea of glowing proteins was new, so I always explain how recently it was that we were able to see mitosis happen like this:
Play doh and other physical “tools”
I also do modeling with simple physical tools on a fairly regular basis – at least a couple of times each semester. I keep a big multi-pack of play doh in the class. We simulate mitosis/meiosis (sometimes we use pipe cleaners instead), the lac operon, etc. I use felt boards to model transcription/translation. For the online students, I either give detailed typed directions or I model it in a video so that they can see it.
I love the fact that you can make assignments and send them to students in a virtual folder. Organizing learning material is easy to do with Trello and has made my life easier.
Great review for all ages and learning levels. Khan allows kids to earn points after completing certain videos, practices, or quizzes.
are a great resource for a variety of subjects. The books are very well organized and have interactive videos and pictures to emphasize the written text.
Rachel teaches our Visual Literacy class.
I frequently use podcasts in my classroom to supplement whatever topic or material we are covering, usually assigning a specific episode or two. My preferred podcast player is the app Overcast. The podcast shows I most frequently assign include:
– Note to Self
– Science Vs.
– Reply All
– Planet Money
Note to Self’s “Bored and Brilliant Project” and “Infomagical Project” are two week-long interactive series that I frequently recommend to students to help them think about their daily interaction with technology. (Editor’s note: Infomagical project is actually used in the Computer Applications class)
I actually owe credit to my brother for introducing me to Anki. Anki is a “smart” flash card service that provides a platform for creating custom flash cards (complete with images/formulas/etc). What makes Anki flash cards “smart” is the ability for the learner, after flipping each card, to report on how well their memory performed. Depending on the learner’s response (e.g. got it wrong; got it partially right; got it right quickly; got it right slowly), each card will return to your deck at the optimal time for the learner to revisit that particular card.
In my classes, I often assign movies or other video material. As such, I am always checking to see where I can stream that material online. (A great place to begin is the website: wheretowatch.com) Besides the usual suspects, like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon, many local and university libraries also offer their patrons access to a movie database called Kanopy. While you won’t find the most recent movie releases on Kanopy, the site does host quite a range of classic films and documentaries, which are particularly helpful for teachers.
Another similar service that I have recently discovered is the Internet Archive, which houses thousands of free movies, television clips and episode, e-books, and audiobooks.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to see what other digital services and resources your local library offers. With my library, I have access to Mango Language Learning software, Hoopla and Overdrive (ebooks/audiobooks services), and much more.
Josh teaches our Adobe Photoshop class.
Great for organizing, archiving and searching everything. Use for note taking and marking up PDFs. You can even make flash cards!
A great and in depth way to experience photography. A good one to start with is Walker Evans’ “American Photographs.”
A fun way to learn skills and history. Many games are historically based and find creative ways to abstract thematic concepts. Twilight Struggle (a game based on the Cold War) is a fantastic game in its own right and wonderfully simulates the historical events of the era (Ed: Josh wrote a post about board games here.
Cambridge’s Elevate platform enhances the Latin student’s learning experience through interactive activities that give instant feedback in the moment when it is most beneficial. Its tools allow the student to identify some deficiencies without their teacher’s help so that they can most efficiently use their study time.
While Google Docs has many uses, I have found it particularly useful for extracting text from PDF quizzes and tests for use in online quizzes and tests. This can be a great timesaver when migrating large quantities of text to online formats.
Even when I am not teaching from this textbook, the Summary of Forms in the back is a clear and useful reference for Latin students.
Meryl van der Merwe
Padlet is an electronic pin board that allows students to pin the work for their classmates to view. It is essentially the virtual equivalent of putting work up on the classroom wall. I usually get them to decide whose is best and that one gets extra credit. This encourages them to work harder as they know everyone will see what they did, and it gets them all to learn from each other.
This is a very fun and easy way to create animated videos. I love seeing what the students come up with! We just use the free version in class.
Canva makes it easy to create graphics of any kind. It is a free website or you can use their app. I suggest students use it if I want them to make digital posters but you can use it for cards, newsletters, social media graphics and much more.
Have you used any of these tools? What do your children think of them? Let us know in the comments.
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