Hour of Code & Thinglink

Hour of code  hourofcode

Next week is Computer Science Education Week so It’s time for “Hour of Code” again. If you have time next week and you want to give your students a sampling of what it is like to program, then this is for you. We have done this for the last couple of years and the kids seem to enjoy it. Here is a link to this year’s tutorials.

Star Wars and Minecraft are the two new themes. The Frozen themed activity from last year is also still available. If you are interested in hosting an hour, let Mike know.


The week prior to Thanksgiving all lower school students spent some time in library talking about being thankful for books and/or literacy. The highpoint of the week was definitely the Thinglink created with the thoughts, stories and memories you shared about books for which you are thankful.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 6.38.12 PM

Click the image to see a Thinglink in action

We spend so much time telling kids how important it is to read; instead of “telling”, this activity let our personal history as readers show them the power of books and reading. The strength of this lesson was definitely the stories, but Thinglink provided a great way to display all of the information in a format that gave direction of the class to the students.

Thinglink is easy to use, and a basic account is free for you. An educator account is $35 and that subscription allows you to have students create their own Thinglink projects. To create a Thinglink, you upload a photo you want to use and then add tags which appear as colored circles on the image. What  you link to your “Thing” is up to you. This project just uses images and text, but a great addition would have been to use recordings of each teachers’ voice telling their own story.

For more information you can watch their video introduction or talk to Molly or Mike.



A Tool: Kahoot!

Hour of Code

This one comes from Mike and Lynda.

“Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better”
– Bill Gates

Next week is “Computer Science Education Week”. is putting on an “Hour of Code” to inspire K-12 students to learn about computer programming.

According to their site, “It’s a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator.”

There are a number of online games/tutorials for various ages, some as young as 4 years. If you can spare an hour to expose kids to the foundations of all the technology that they love so much, check out some of the following links and let me know if you want to discuss them.

Computer Science Education Week


Find out more on the Hour of Code project and how you can use it in your classroom here.

– Mike

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.

A New Look for Encyclopaedia Britannica

Hopefully, you’re all already aware of the amazing resource we have at our fingertips: Encyclopaedia Britannica School Edition. Britannica is the gold standard for encyclopedias, and its online content (available through the Applewild library website) is the perfect starting point for any and all research projects. The site has recently undergone quite the facelift, though, so I thought I’d point out a few things.

The Home Page

Home Page

It’s pretty easy to spot this change: the home page has been refined and simplified. It’s now so easy to choose a level and search from the home page. Hovering over each level reveals a search box, so you don’t even need to click through to start searching! The middle level replaces what used to be Compton’s Encyclopedia.


Tabbed Search

Search results and articles are now tabbed, so even if you selected the elementary level (level 1), you can still see what comes up for middle (level 2) and high (level 3). This is really handy, because if you’re reading the middle level entry on Halloween and finding that it doesn’t quite cover what you need, one click will take you to the more detailed Halloween entry in the high level.

Content Types

Content types

There is now a sidebar that allows you to sort your results by content type. If you’re specifically looking for images, this is where you can easily narrow your search. This new sidebar also highlights a feature that was always there, but got little attention: the “Web’s Best Sites” feature. In addition to having its own content, Britannica has curated several outside websites that have good-quality content. Selecting this content type will give you a list of non-Britannica websites with content related to whatever you’re searching.



Britannica always had a built-in dictionary, but now it’s even easier to use. Simply double-click on a word, and a definition (from Merriam-Webster dictionary) pops up.

Table of Contents button

Table of Contents

To help with navigation, each heading within the article is accompanied by a button that will display the entire article’s contents, so students can easily skip to another section.

In general, the new layout has much less “noise,” so students should have a much easier time finding what they’re looking for. All the content in each article displays on one page, so students no longer have to click through several pages to find what they’re looking for (or neglect to see the multiple pages and miss out on lots of content). The interface is cleaner and more modern, and the content really shines through.

A great improvement! Go check it out!

National Park Service for Teachers





Update: Shortly after I posted this, the NPS did, in fact, shut down all its web content, as well. Sad! So bookmark this one for another time. Thanks to Anne D. for discovering this.


National Parks Service

So you can’t visit National Parks in person due to the government shutdown. Thankfully, there is still lots of great content available online via the National Parks Service to take you on a virtual field trip!

The NPS website for teachers offers distance learning, videos, and materials lists. Their lesson plans are searchable by grade level and subject, so you can easily find standards-aligned lessons on everything from wild horses to Ben Franklin.

There’s lots of content here, and I love the idea of learning about history, biology, and ethics through the lens of our nation’s landmarks.


If you bookmark one site I recommend all year, let this be the one. Seriously.


You all know by now how much I rely on CommonSense Media. I use their reviews to help me purchase books, I use their curriculum to teach digital citizenship, and now, I use Graphite. Created in collaboration with the Bill Gates Foundation, CommonSense Media created Graphite to be a resource for teachers who are trying to find the best websites and apps to use in the classroom. It’s visually attractive, and easy to search by subject, grade, price, or platform (app, PC Game, website). The site is like mine, only way, way better! There’s tons of content to explore, including a blog with great ed tech ideas. You can also create “boards,” or collections of apps you use or want to use, and add your own “field notes” based on your experiences.