Best of the Best: Lists for the End of 2014

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‘Tis the season for “Best of” lists, so I thought I’d pull together a few of the very best.

Best Books

School Library Journal has a great slideshow of their Best Books 2014, separated into useful categories. I use SLJ all year round to help me select the very best books to add to the library, and this list is truly the cream of the crop. The slideshow format is great, since you get to see the cover of each book, which (despite the famous aphorism) really helps to give you an idea of the book. Continue reading


14 Toys That Will Make Your Kids Smarter

I know it’s not quite Thanksgiving yet, but the holiday train has left the station in terms of media content. I stumbled across this great article and just HAD to share it with you all before we get sucked into Black Friday and holiday shopping and all that other madness. It’s a list, compiled by Time magazine, of 14 toys that encourage problem solving, imagination, and creativity in kids.

One of the toys on the list, Goldie Blox, is behind the awesome viral video that somehow successfully mashes Rube Goldberg with the Beastie Boys:

I have to admit- I may want some of these toys for myself!

Update: Apparently, the Beastie Boys didn’t care for Goldie Blox’s (perfectly legal– satire and parody fall under Fair Use) satire of their song, and have asked for this video to be taken down. There’s a new version available, featuring instrumental music, but it just doesn’t have the same charm. Oh well.

What Tech Am I Using Today: Padlet

I thought it might be fun for me to share with you what I’m using today in my classes, and how. That way, you can not only learn about a cool website, but you can see how it can be used to enhance your lessons.

In a recent #EdTechChat on Twitter, teachers were asked what their favorite Web 2.0 sites were. Listed in the top 30 or so was Padlet, a site that functions a bit like an online whiteboard/bulletin board. A teacher can create a wall, and students can sign in and add postings to it. It could not be easier to use, and allows for a fun way to collaborate and comment. Even better, the comments show up as boxes on the wall, and can be moved and organized. Posts can also be Tweeted, Pinned, Tumbled, and posted on several other forms of social media.

How can a teacher use it? Well, a teacher could post a discussion question and ask students to leave comments for homework. Or, a teacher could create their own “magnetic poetry” and students could rearrange words into poems. It could be a very simple project guide site, with each box containing a photo, file, or link to a helpful website.

I decided to use it today on a whim. My second graders have been learning all about alphabetical order, and as we approach Thanksgiving, we’re reading the book I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie by Allison Jackson. In order to tie the two together, I thought it would be fun to have the kids work together to put in alphabetical order all the food the old lady swallowed!

For older kids (3rd or 4th grade), this would be a center where they work independently or in pairs, but for 2nd grade, it seemed like a good idea to work together as a class. That means that I needed a way to move words around on a screen, and Padlet fit the bill perfectly. Its flexibility means that, once all the words from the book have been put in order, we can add our own favorite foods to the list, and alphabetize those as well. The possibilities really are endless.

Want to play with my Padlet wall and put the food in alphabetical order? Give it a try here.

Happy International Internet Day!

International Internet Day

On this day in 1969, a message was sent from one computer to another, thus marking the birth of the Internet.

Computer programmers Robert Taylor and Larry Roberts established a connection between two computers, one at UCLA and another Stanford Research Institute. Says one witness of the event:

“‘We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI …’, Kleinrock … said in an interview: ‘We typed the L and we asked on the phone,

‘Do you see the L?’
‘Yes, we see the L,’ came the response.
We typed the O, and we asked, ‘Do you see the O.’
‘Yes, we see the O.’
Then we typed the G, and the system crashed …

Yet a revolution had begun…” (Wikipedia)

It didn’t go perfectly, but it made history!

Go Here: Christmas Games by Technology Rocks

Sometimes, I just can’t top what another librarian or ed tech blogger has done. This is one of those times. The fantastic blog Technology Rocks. Seriously. puts together the most comprehensive lists of holiday-themed games and activities for kids. Her post on Christmas games is here. She’s also found enough gingerbread-themed games to create a whole other post here. Enjoy!

The First Thanksgiving by Scholastic

First of all, this is Applewild Technology’s 100th post! Woohoo!

OK, now that that’s out of the way…

One of my favorite go-to places for high quality educational resources and activities is Scholastic. Their feature on the first Thanksgiving includes a virtual field trip on the Mayflower, a look into the daily lives of both Pilgrims and Indians, and a Web Quest. There is so much here, and much of it was produced in association with Plimouth Plantation. This is a really great way to get your students thinking about what the world was like back then.

Thanksgiving Symbaloo

This post is actually two rolled into one. First, it’s a post about a site that has collected Thanksgiving-themed games and activities and put them all in one easy-to-access place. The Symbaloo Thanksgiving Mix features word searches, flash games, trivia, and even coloring. If you’re looking for a fun activity during these last few days before Thanksgiving, this is pretty much one-stop shopping.

As if that’s not exciting enough, this post is also about the Web 2.0 tool Symbaloo. Symbaloo allows you to take your favorite bookmarks and links and turn them into a single page of tiles. You can also use Symbaloo to find other people’s “web mixes” and enjoy the sites they have collected curated. It’s a simple and fun way to bring together the sites you want your students to use, and display them in a graphical way.