Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Link Checking in the time of COVID 19

Since my retirement, I have not been using my website, Teach the Children Well, as I did in the past with my students. I made the decision to keep it up so that others would have this resource available to them.

I had been using Link Checker software until it stopped working with one of the system upgrades. I have tried various other software solutions, but so far, I have not found one that just gives me a list of the broken links.

Anyway, when the COVID 19 outbreak began, in March of this year, I realized that the website was a good resource for parents who were now at home and trying to provide educational materials for their children as well as for teachers who were now faced with creating Distance Learning.

In order for the website to be useful, the links needed to work. I realized that the best way to be sure that all of the links were valid, was to click on each one of the over 14,000 links on the site! I began in late March, and worked almost every day until finally completing checking the last link this morning!

During this process, I fondly revisited some of the sites I had used with my students since I started teaching elementary technology in 1997. I also decided to mark the sites and activities that I had created myself.

Some of the sites have disappeared, some have been purchased by other companies and had their names and URLs changed. Other changes were more disturbing. A few sites had been taken over by pharmaceuticals and were advertising "enhancements". A few formerly math sites have now been taken over by pornographic or phishing sites. Some have become Chinese game sites or Arabic sites or casino sites.

Many of the Flash-based activities have been removed from the web. While I recognize that Flash is considered to be a security risk, it also provided good hands-on learning for children. HTML5 is supposed to replace the need for Flash, but many of the developers have not bothered to convert their activities to this platform. Some of the Flash sites have now been converted to YouTube videos, but the passive experience of watching a video does not provide the same educational benefit of the interactive Flash experience.

I am happy to have finally finished this undertaking. It was a good project during the quarantine. I am glad that I did it and hope that others will find it helpful.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Coding for Kids

My personal experience with coding has been limited to using HTML and taking a course on a CD to learn Basic, which I never used afterwards. I used HTML to create Teach the Children Well as well as Cape Cod Photo Album and European Photo Album. I first learned HTML back in 1999 and other webpage editors didn't really make sense to me. Since then, I have learned to use Blogger (Thank You Teacher, Plymouth KidsTeach the Children Well Blog, and Massachusetts Field Trip) Google sites (iPads for Elementary Classrooms , Tech Curriculum Map, and American Revolution People) and Apple's iWeb, with which I created Vacation Photo Albums. Even when I use editors, I sometimes am able to tweak the sites by using HTML, for example to add an email link to a Google site.

I used to teach fifth graders some basic HTML by copying a page that I created about the Original Colonies. I also gave them a sheet that explained the purpose of the various tags. The webpage included a graphic of a map of the Original Colonies, a few basic facts about one of the colonies, and links back to a source for the information. My purposes for this task included typing accurately and proofreading, basic research, citing sources, and of course, an introduction to coding.

Just as there are editors so that using HTML is not the only way to create websites, there are visual coding programs. I used MIT's Scratch with fourth and fifth graders. I introduced it to them by showing them a few very basic moves and how to put together the blocks and change backgrounds. I printed the Scratch Cards and encouraged, but did not require, them to use them to get started. One especially nice thing that happened was that a particularly shy boy had had some prior experience using Scratch at the Y and was able to take a leadership role helping others with it. The students were free to explore Scratch and create with it and really seemed to enjoy using it.

I also played around a bit with Alice, which was created by Carnegie Mellon. There are some nice tutorials built into Alice, but after I completed them and tried to use it on my own, I found it frustrating so I never used it with kids.

In a class I took, I learned about BeeBots programmable robots which can be used even in Kindergarten. There is a free Bee-Bots app for the iPad. They use Logo, a programming language that I'd pretty much forgotten about. Logo is also the basis for MicroWorlds. NetLogo and StarLogo also use this language.

Hour of Code has become a popular way to introduce students to coding, particularly during Computer Science Education Week, December 8-14, 2014. There are ready-made lessons with Angry Birds, Tynker, JavaScript, Lightbot, Python, and even some unplugged lessons.

Google has also created a coding site, Made with Code, particularly with girls in mind.

Hopscotch is a coding program  for the iPad similar to Scratch. Kodable is another visual programming iPad app for children as young as five.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Math is my favorite subject so I would often use math websites with the kids.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Batter's Up Baseball is a great site to practice addition and multiplication. It's especially good to use with third or fourth graders around the season opener or near World Series time. There are several features I like about this game. Students choose from attempting a single which means a basic single digit fact, a double which is a two digit number times a single digit, or a home run, which is a double digit times a doubleIn the third level digit. They choose their answer from a grid of nine choices. There is also a timer. It gives them three strikes to get it correct and score. Actually, they don't score until a run is made so it takes four singles to score a point. I had students figure out that if they did three singles and then went for a home run, they would get a grand slam. Cheering crowd sound effects add to the fun. Some of the kids wanted to stay in from recess in order to play this game. Now that's a hit!

Multiflyer is a solar system themed multiplication site that was also very popular with third graders. Students must solve multiplication facts up to 12X12 in order to progress to the next planet. Students can select a difficulty level which determines the time allowed. There is also a grid which they can use to find the answer if they are stuck. If they make too many errors the game ends and they are given a report of how well they did in each times table. They can also use the practice mode for tables they find challenging.

Polygon Playground is a place where students explore polygons by using six different polygons in various sizes and colors to create patterns and pictures. Here there are no right or wrong answers, just creativity.

Fantastic Fractions is a grid of twenty five fraction activities that I put together for a class I was taking in differentiated instruction. I chose activities at different levels from basic to challenging as well as themes and types of activities. A few favorites were Fraction Flags, Fraction Monkeys, and Musical Fractions.

Star Gazing is one of the games from PBS Cyberchase, an excellent collection of challenging activities. In this game, students estimate angles in order to aim a telescope at a planet.

Play Your Cards Right is a card game for learning probability. A card is shown and you must predict whether the next card is higher or lower. At the third level, you must determine whether the odds are no chance, poor, even, good, or certain.

Possible Outcomes is another I liked for probability. It creates different combinations of hamburgers and toppings.

Chances is a dice game to illustrate probability. Once you set a number of rolls, it shows the outcome on a bar graph.

Base Block Subtraction is an activity I used with first graders near the end of the year. I visited a first grade classroom an saw them using actual base blocks to learn about regrouping so I used this site with virtual base blocks. You can vary the number of possible columns from 2 to 4 and thus change the range of problems given. When you move a ten stick to the ones column, it breaks into cubes. Subtraction is shown using both the manipulatives and the algorithm.

Fact Family Village is another activity that I created as part of a Math and Technology course. I made it to use early in second grade but it could also be beneficial in late first grade. The village is made up of streets from Zero Place to Tenth Street. Each street has houses with the fact families for that number. Clicking on the houses shows children wearing teeshirts with the various facts on them. The facts are also read aloud. I was also very aware of creating multicultural faces on the children.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Google Earth

I mentioned in my previous post that I was taking a Google Mapping Course and was just about to start with the Google Earth portion. Well, it has been a long and bumpy road since then, but I think I finally accomplished what I set out to do. I decided that I should start out with a brand, spanking new copy of the Google Earth software version (beta).

For my final project, I decided to create a narrated tour of lighthouses on Cape Cod and the Islands. I also wanted to include my own photos in this tour. In order to put the photos into the tour, they first needed to be uploaded and have a URL, so the first step was to find the ones I wanted and then edit them in Photoshop and upload them to my site. I could finally add them to my tour bubbles.

Next I wanted to write a script to record so I did a little research for background details and began writing in Pages. When I finished writing, I wanted to print it, but alas Pages and several other applications had frozen and I had to force quit them. Naturally, I hadn't saved yet, so I had to reboot and start all over. (I found out that someone else at the Elementary Tech Teachers' Ning had a similar issue).

At last I got a relatively smooth recording (It's tricky to read and click buttons and come back and find your place). When it played back, however, the bubbles with the photos did not show up in the tour. I discovered in the forum that others were having the same problem and it seemed to be an issue with the latest version of Google Earth. I tried to find the 7.0 version of Google Earth but was unsuccessful. I even downloaded a file that was labelled 7.0.3 but turned out to be 5.? (Today I found that someone posted a link to 7.0.2 and other older versions that is a real Google link). Finally, I decided that I would just upload my project as is with a note to click the markers to see the missing pictures.

Someone posted that they liked my ideas but they didn't hear any narration or see any markers. I re-watched the tutorial and discovered that I hadn't uploaded the correct file so I fixed my error. I asked my husband to check the new file on his computer. We discovered that he actually had 7.0.3 on his computer. Once again (okay, three more tries), I recorded the tour on his computer and lo and behold, all of the bubbles showed up in the tour with photos just the way they were supposed to! So now, I uploaded this successful file to the project uploads.

Well, now that my project was working the way I wanted it to, I decided to embed it in my website. I had earlier found the embed code for a Google Gadget to accomplish this and saved it. The only problem was that I didn't know where my own file went in the code, so I had to find the instructions again. I followed the instructions and my project appeared but there was no play button so I went looking again.  It turns out there is a separate player for a narrated tour so I got the embed code for that and loaded it onto my website. The pictures get cut off, so I uploaded the file and added a download link so people can open it in Google Earth on their own computers. You can see it for yourself on Cape Cod Photo Album.

As I said, this has been a long and winding road, but I'm pretty happy with the final project and I learned a lot along the way.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Google Maps and Google Earth Course

I learned about a self-paced course from Google called Mapping with Google. Certificates are available for both Google Maps and Google Earth but projects must be completed by June 24 to earn a certificate.

The maps course uses a preview version of a new Google Maps as well as Maps Engine Lite which is used to create customized maps which can then be embedded into your own website, as I have here on European Photo Album. I also created a map of things to do and see in Sandwich, MA. I think this would be a great product to use with kids.

I have not started the Google Earth portion of the course yet, but I am looking forward to working with this product.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Digital Citizenship

Jacqui Murray, whose wonderful blog, Ask a Teacher is a fabulous resource, asked us to share our thoughts on teaching Digital Citizenship on the Elementary Tech Teachers' ning. I am reposting my own response here.

With Kindergarten, I used Faux Paw and Hector's World.
For First Grade I used Router's Birthday Surprise at Netsmartz.
In Second Grade, I used Internet Safety, which is one of Brain Pop Jr.'s free videos.
Third Grade used Surf Swell Island (I like the fact that it includes Netiquette as well as Internet Safety), PBS Kids' Web License, and Garfield CyberbullyingI also introduced the concept of plagiarism when we did research. One of my kids told me about an episode of Arthur they had watched called Francine's Pilfered Paper. This is available for $1.99 on iTunes.
For Fourth Grade, I like Cyber Cafe because it covers some social networking.
We also made sure to site sources when we  did research for our state PowerPoints. As part of that project, we downloaded music from Soundzabound and discussed the fact that we were free to use this royalty free music because we had a subscription to the site.
I began my Fifth Grade lesson with the Talent Show video on Cyberbullying. I gave no introduction before the video but we had a long discussion afterwards. We watched the Brain Pop Cyberbullying video. They have a number of other Digital Citizenship videos, some of which are free. I had students take turns reading the ABC's of Cyberbullying.I also used The Way Back Machine and showed the Fifth Graders a 2001 version (It was all on one page back then!) of my website to illustrate that things on the Internet never really go away. I told them the (true) story of the young woman who posted a picture of herself as a drunken pirate on My Space and consequently was unable to graduate with a teaching degree as a result. Several students in the class generally had parents who used Facebook when doing background checks for prospective employees, so this was a good discussion about using discretion when posting. 
Again, they were required to cite their sources when they found information for our 13 Colonies HTML project. I felt very proud of my students one day that I did an online dictionary project copying and pasting definitions for a crossword puzzle and one of them reminded me that we needed to cite our source!
All grades used the Netsmartz games when they finished.

Monday, May 21, 2012

State Projects

Our fourth grade students learn about the regions of the U.S. I have several different projects to do with them on this topic.

First, we take a tour of the country using Postcards From. This site was created by a couple of teachers who took a tour of all 50 states and created postcards and stamps for each state.

We use three sites to complete research on a particular state then create a PowerPoint. They can find all of the required information from 50 States, Enchanted Learning, and Stately Knowledge.

The final project is to make a table of states and capitals (here is a complete list for reference) in Microsoft Office Word (or Pages) and then to copy and paste the list into Tagxedo. Using the ~ symbol between words allows two-word states as well as states and their capitals to stick together. Tagxedo is similar to Wordle, but you can make interesting shapes from your word cloud. The one I would choose for this project is the map of the United States.

Mrs. Jones offers a song, sung to the tune of Turkey in the Straw, to help memorize the states and capitals, a task which many can find daunting. There is a video of the Animaniacs' states and capitals song on YouTube.

There are also some good states and capitals games. At Vector Kids, students select a state from a map then the capital from multiple choice answers. Puzzled States from Scholastic is basically a jigsaw puzzle of the 50 states that names the state and gives its nickname as the puzzle piece is placed. Here are some more map puzzles from Your Child Learns.