Kid Blog vs Easy Blog Jr.

Why Blog?

There was a heavy focus on incorporating blogging into our weekly school routine at my international school last year.  We had a class set of laptops in a cart for each floor, and a moderately difficult to access class set of iPads in the faraway library.

Here is a detailed Prezi that might answer some of your questions about how blogging can enrich the learning in your classroom.

My school purchased a Kid Blog account for grades 2-5. I was teaching Grade 2 (aka Year 3). The students had never blogged before but they were pretty excited to start! It took a lot of teaching.  I had to teach tech skills.  The KidBlog interface is pretty good, but there are some negative points – like it’s difficult for parents to log in originally because they actually have to create a profile before being able to comment. I went to an EdTech half day conference at another local international school and learned that they were using Easy Blog Jr.  I was jealous.  It seemed so much easier than what I was doing! I like that with Easy Blog Jr. it’s just a link they click.

Here is a table that lists the ease of use of many different blogs for education.

Easy Blog Jr

Easy Blog Jr  is an amazing iPad or tablet application for lower primary students to share their work through pictures with audio captions, video, typing or audio recognition text posts. This application is not available for computers, and is easy enough for a 2 or three year old to use. The most interesting part, though, is that it can be used by much older children for simple video blogs too!  The school I saw it in use at used it from Kindergarten until Grade 6.  It was amazing because the platform was a little less strict than Kidblog, and families from all over the world were getting instant notifications when their granddaughters or nephews were making video post reflections about their learning. I saw a post of a kindergarten student counting to 20 in both Chinese and English with the proudest face ever, and a grade 6 student reading a poem he had written that day at school.

Easy Blog Jr seems like it is a bit more instant. It’s more focused on getting ideas out there, than the writing aspect.

Easy Blog Jr – for EduBlog or WordPress (Easy Blogger Jr – for Blogger blogs/ Google)

Easy Blog Jr can be used with only one iPad in the classroom because the classroom interface is completely integrated.

KidBlog

KidBlog is an amazing online tool that is both an application for a tablet or iPad as well as a fully operational website for computer access.  The iPad application needs to have some updates as our videos took too long to upload and some of the functions were difficult to find or poorly placed.

Kidblog on the computer was great for our class but took a lot of work to set up. Once running, the kids REALLY enjoyed reflecting on their work, or special events in our classroom.  We used Skype in the Classroom quite a bit, so they liked reflecting on what they learned through guest speakers.

In our classroom, we used KidBlog exclusively on the laptops and exclusively for writing reflections about previous learning experiences.  I had a table sticker chart on the wall with names of students on the left side and blank boxes along the top.  After we did something noteworthy in our class, one member of the class (or me) would write down the topic along the top.  When it was time to blog students would check to see the list of things we had accomplished in our class since the last time we blogged in the class, and would independently choose their own topic to write about.  They understood where to find the photos I took of that event on the school server and they had the tech sense to be able to locate the photo, upload it, reflect on it, tag it, categorise it, and comment on other student’s work.

Kidblog was used as a PYP portfolio at the end of the year and students went through all of their blog posts with their parents in a student-led conference.

The only real problem with a platform that is so safe and closed to the outside world is that after the year of blogging, my students had SO many articles and reflections that just disappeared when the new year started and the class blog was archived.  There’s a way to bring forward blogs each year, but you really need a ‘tech guy’ for that.

In all, my experience blogging was extremely provocative and gave the quiet students a real chance to shine.  Because all comments are teacher-censored, it was tedious until I opened it up and stopped checking after a while.

Some videos:

An introduction to different Blogging Apps:

How to use Easy Blog Jr:

An introduction to Kidblog:

Creating your first post in Kidblog:

 

 

 

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Plickers – QR code Classroom Evaluation!

Plickers is an amazing tool that allows clicker tools in a classroom without the clickers. All you need is one specialised laminated paper card for each student, and the app loaded on any portable teacher device like an iPhone, tablet, android phone, or iPad.

This really is the kind of tech I love to see in the classroom: the kind that takes seconds to use and actually reinforces simple teaching tools for the better, without necessarily making every student use a new program, or log in to an app.  I have used QR codes in the classroom before, but this is really taking the concept to a new level, in a very good way.

Plickers, to me, screams formative feedback.  Teachers are always struggling to get real time results and this seems like the best answer. It keeps results anonymous while simultaneously forcing everyone to participate.

Emerging Ed Tech has some awesome ideas about how to use Plickers in the classroom.

Plickers was reviewed on Free Tech 4 Teachers in 2014.

It got great reviews on Graphite.

And the Minds in Bloom blog called it transformative for teaching.

I can’t wait to use it in my own classroom and hear about it in yours!

Quick Video:

Instructional Video:

 

Learning A-Z, a reasource

Learning A-Z is a spectacular, multifunctional cross-curricular language learning tool that is intended for use in Elementary classrooms. Each part is available for a 14 day trial period that I took advantage of for some – they all have different price points depending on your needs.  I purchased Raz-Kids myself for my class because my school couldn’t pay.  It was definitely worth the money.  The best part about Learning A-Z is that it’s current, and constantly being updated.   There are new and relevant books and lessons that come out that are applicable – like pluto changing it’s status and new presidential elections.

https://www.learninga-z.com/index.html 

Reading A-Z

Reading A-Z is a magnificently large database of levelled, applicable, printable books that comes with integrated lesson plans for a variety of different uses. It’s robust library boasts developmentally appropriate printable pdf material in an easy-to-access and easy-to-use format. It has more than 1,500 fiction and non-fiction books across a wide range of levels – 29 to be exact.

My related blog post.  https://www.readinga-z.com/

Raz-Kids

Raz-Kids is an amazing database of levelled books in an easy-to-navigate online platform. It’s ideal for independent learning and differentiated education.

My related blog post.   https://www.raz-kids.com/

Headsprout

Headsprout is for very young learners with a focus on phonics and early literacy. It then moves on to comprehension and other valuable, targeted reading skills. I haven’t tried this resource but it looks like an amazing tool for kindergarten and grade one.

https://www.headsprout.com/

Science A-Z

Science A-Z is great – I used the trial version for a while in my class a few years ago. It had many very applicable lessons that used cross-curricular tools to make teaching science in an already packed schedule easier.  It is very american curriculum based but some topics overlap with others, of course. I thought that the resources needed to be more plentiful – but that was in 2013, I think they have beefed it up significantly since then.  Try it out to see if it fits your needs! You get several free downloads for your choice of material.

https://www.sciencea-z.com/

Writing A-Z

Writing A-Z is a fully functional and completely differentiated resource for all writing styles whether it be persuasive 5 paragraph essay, biography or personal recount etc, all students can learn the same topic with a small one page. It’s so great.  It has a comprehensive lesson plan with so many additions for each type of writing.  I downloaded them all and love it!

https://www.writinga-z.com/

Vocabulary A-Z

This is a very large database of applicable words for elementary school. It has lesson plans for how to teach vocabulary well and customisable word lists based on word function or topic. I haven’t used it but it looks great if vocabulary is part of your teaching goals.

https://www.vocabularya-z.com/vocabweb/home.do

Ready Test A-Z

This is for American testing.  I haven’t looked into it, but it’s fully integrated into several State curriculums as well as the common core curriculum.

https://www.readytesta-z.com/

 

 

Reading A-Z, resource

Reading A-Z is a magnificently large database of levelled, applicable, printable books that comes with integrated lesson plans for a variety of different uses. It’s robust library boasts developmentally appropriate material in an easy-to-access and easy-to-use format. It has more than 1,500 fiction and non-fiction books across a wide range of levels – 29 to be exact.

Each printable pdf book comes with a lesson plan, discussion cards, worksheets and many more.  Teachers benefit from this amazing resource on many other levels too, because the entire database is searchable and categorised in so many other ways.  Topic or keyword searches are just as simple as a click away – and so are curriculum references, ESL resources and more.

There are many different options when you find a book you like. You can print in colour, one sided, double sided, black and white, and you can also save a pdf that is for shared reading on the projector (page numbers are in order).  This versatility really allows for the teacher to meet individual needs in her classroom.  There are many books that re specifically related to common curriculum topics that are levelled in three different difficulties – so the teacher can teach the same lesson to all students but some students get a level K difficulty, while others get an H or F with a little less information and word count.  This was so amazing in my class because everyone would have similar knowledge and was included in the same discussion.

https://www.readinga-z.com/

How to print a book:

Raz-Kids , A Learning A-Z Resource

When I worked at my international school in China I taught in a classroom that was 95% students with English as their second, third or fourth language. Most of them  were quite proficient, but about 15% were just learning to express themselves clearly or had just arrived to the school with little to no English language.

Raz-Kids is an amazing tool that I cannot recommend enough to teachers of all ages – but primarily elementary school children. It is a teacher-built extremely comprehensive multi-functional website that is linked to the bigger umbrella of Learning A-Z.

Non-fiction and fiction books are levelled on an alphabetical grading system with AA being the easiest with just one or two words on a page, and Z being at about a grade 6 level with 30 or more pages of dense but interesting factual information or clever engaging stories that are age-appropriate.  All books come with key vocabulary and can be linked to curriculum standards (American), also they can be sorted by topic or keyword.

I used Raz-Kids primarily as an English language boosting tool.  I pushed the ESL students and parents to engage in it fully at home and at school.  The rest of the kids in my Grade 2 class really liked using Raz-Kids in class (on laptops with personal headphones) because after I let them read, I allowed them to view each other’s reward pages and it helped to foster motivation and healthy competition.  Students earn stars as points towards purchasing items for a robot and a rocketship.

Students should listen to the book, read the book and take the quiz.  They can read the books as many times as possible. The teacher has many controls that can be on or off for each student – for example most students in my class were ‘stuck’ at their level and couldn’t view other books, but I had the option to allow self-motivated students to view the whole ‘bookroom’ if I wanted.

I also created a whole open student profile that didn’t have a password so student could read for ‘fun’ at another level because the entire bookroom library was open to that account.  Students would read lower books to their brothers and sisters from that account, or a parent could choose a higher book to extend the learning to a guided reading session.

Students can also record their voice when reading, parents can get level updates and log in to see progress, and teachers can bump kids up early. There seems to be a solution to anything I felt like I wanted to do. It is such a well layed out program that also completely integrates to so many books on Reading A-Z.  It’s great for homework, and to promote independent, self-regulated student learning.

Main Page https://www.raz-kids.com/

Kid’s Login https://www.kidsa-z.com/main/Login 

Spiral: NEW Apps for Collaboration (GDPI 811)

I found a seemingly brand new set of collaborative apps!  It appears that the company launched their platform in late 2015.

Spiral is very attractive to me, a classroom teacher because it looks so easy to use that even young students can use it – and it’s FREE.  I have had difficulty finding something that is PYP aligned and truly supports collaborative learning. I found it while searching for interactive apps to use with a class set of laptops of iPads.  This application can be used on any device with an internet connection.

An introduction to the concept is found here.

Another introduction can be viewed here.

 

It has three different uses:

  1. Quickfire – enhances real time question and answer sessions.  I see this as a great tool for introducing a topic and probing for prior knowledge, as well as follow up after a topic has been taught in open ended quiz form.
  2. Discuss – encourages students to share ideas with each other.
  3. Team up – provides a collaborative learning platform for students to jointly make a simple presentation with a variety of different media tools, directly from one ‘team iPad’ that acts as a remote control for the team project as it is projected for the class to see on a large communal screen.

Quickfire Youtube Video:

 

I think these apps are great.  I have been searching for something exactly like this for a long time: a simple platform that will allow for a multitude of levels and uses.

I like that in Quickfire the teacher can review student work before posting them, and that when posted, they’re anonymous responses unless the teacher hovers a cursor over the work.

Team up seems like a really great quick and easy tool for use in a double block period or a short time presentation tool.  I can see that this tool could be really useful for things like giving each small group an individual but related topic: separate seasons for research, separate global events, separate animals, separate climates etc.  These could then be compared and used as starting points for future discussions.  I think that a Team up presentation could end with a question, where every student could use Discuss to try to answer, or a pop quiz in Quickfire to check for understanding.

A review by the Educational App Store gives it 4 stars and ranks it highly!

I can’t wait to have a classroom of my own, and some devices, to try these out!

 

App Tested: Pear Deck vs. Nearpod

An amazing comparison between Nearpod and Peardeck!

Mr. Kamrowski

Description

With the popularity of one-to-one classrooms, and the ensuing demonizing of the lecture as a pedagogical method, software to make lectures/direct instruction more interactive have developed.  Pear Deck and Nearpod are the two software companies that have become popular in this field (You can watch their promotional/informational advertisements here and here).  Both of these apps allow a teacher to embed formative assessments, engaging activities, and teacher analytics into a slide deck.  The days of using just powerpoint, keynote, or google slides are over.

In the last few months of the 2014-15 school year, I tested the paid version of Pear Deck in my one-to-one iPad classes.   I used the premium version as a free trial.  This summer, I played with Nearpod to compare the two.  In the fall, I would like to select one of the free versions of the two as my go to software…

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