Can your students search the internet effectively and safely?

chromebook-kids2One of the most important skills we can teach our students – and ourselves – is effective Web searching. For almost any project  a Web search is an integral piece, yet how skilled are students at finding accurate and relevant information quickly? The volume of information – Web ‘hits’ – is overwhelming and most searches don’t go past the first page of results.

When we teach students to search, it takes more than a single lesson. It’s a learning process where skills are developed through trail and error and the searcher paying attention to how they approach the search.  Using appropriate keywords and phrases is a skill to be developed, along with learning how to vet search results – are they accurate, authoritative, and credible, and how would you know that?  It’s not always easy!

UntitledGoogle has a very useful web site for educators in helping student learn these skills.  Their Search Education site offers you and your student many resources, such as lesson plans, short online courses, Google a Day Challenges, and recorded webinars.  Using these resources to help your students learn the art of effective Web searches will help them save time and improve the quality of their research results.

iPads – It’s all about the Activity!

We all know that the key in using technology in the classroom is to use it to enhance student learning and provide opportunities for students to creatively express what they have learned.  Since the value of an app is in it’s application to learning, how can we find apps that match our learning objectives?  Here are two sites that may help you. has a  list of activities – and the apps you can use – to get you started in the right direction.



edtechteacherThe site has a page where you can search by the kind of activity – and even device – not limiting you to the iPad.

Use Ted-Ed to create your own interactive lessons using a Youtube video




Would you like to create a lesson based on a great YouTube video?  TED-Ed is a free educational website for teachers and learners.  You will find carefully curated educational videos created by other educators on just about any topic.   This platform also allows you to take any useful educational video, not just TED’s, and easily create a customized lesson around the video. You can distribute the lessons, publicly or privately, and track their impact a class, or an individual student.  Creating an account is free and no account is required for students to view your lessons.

STEM and UAV’s

UAV-legoAn exciting way to provide STEM and project-based learning opportunities in your classrom is to include a unit on UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).  Using ready to assemble kits you can introduce core STEM topics such as math, programming and engineering fundamentals through building and flying UAV’s (often referred to as  drones).  High Schools can also include  fundamental engineering and prototyping skills such as wood working, carbon fiber mold making, laser cutters, and 3D printers.  Kits are easy enough for elementary students to build while more complex units with GPS capabilities can be constructed by middle or high schools classes.

Step beyond passive learning and encourage your students to actively invent and build solutions to challenging problems, test hypotheses through hands-on experimentation, and to develop critical inquiry, analysis, technical, and motor skills.

There are many sources of information and UAV kits available online:

  • For kits, check out Hoverlabs, an Oregon company with a focus on education.
  • For general information on UAV’s you can go to DIY Drones




iPad Resources for Teachers – from Apple

Apple has a new area on their web site for teachers. In addition to info on using apps you can find resources on using iTunes U and iBooks with your students. iTunes also has an area with a curated collection of apps, books, and media from the App Store, iBooks, iTunes U, and iTunes with engaging learning resources in core subjects. Check this iTunes collection if you are looking for primary sources (oral histories, official documents, archival film, and artifacts)  to help make history more engaging and authentic.

Capture a YouTube video on your computer for use in class

YouTube has some great content for the classroom (check out the Education channel here) yet we often need to have the video on our computer for showing later or even need to capture just a portion of the video – to illustrate an idea or concept perhaps.

ClipConverter is a great tool for doing this, allowing you to save the video in MP4, AVI, or MOV formats, in various resolutions, and even clip just a portion of the video as needed. This is probably the best tool I’ve seen for this purpose.  The YouTube Education channel is a great resource, and clipconverter helps in using that content when you need it.

Engage your students with interactive web sites

Whether we are using a Smartboard, iPad, or computer, we can
address multiple learning modalities (visual, auditory, tactile/kinesthetic), along with multiple intelligence’s and learning styles by using interactive web sites. Here is a wonderful list organized by subject, where you can find “all of the best K-5 online, interactive, educational games and simulations in one place!” Check some of these out – students love them.

6 iPad Apps for Creative Writing

A post on has a list of 6 ipad apps that you can use with your class for Creative Writing.  A few of them could be used as classroom activities (by showing your iPad screen via your digital projector) to show steps in the writing process as well as modeling it.  All the apps listed cost a modest amount, yet for kids who have trouble putting pen to paper, just might inspire them to get started on a great story.

Internet Search Tips for Students

End of year projects can be challenging for the kids as they look for information on the web – and are overwhelmed by the volume of information and difficulty in finding useful sites.Teaching them how to narrow their searches will help save time, reduce frustration and distraction, and empower them to find relevant information.
Here are some resources that may help you help them:

Here is a pdf file on Tips&Tricks for Web Searches  that you could print for students and/or discuss as a class activity to help them learn searching shortcuts.

Another printable pdf fille called Google Search Ninja is another good handout for students.

Here is a short movie explaining in simple terms how to focus a search.

sweetsearchHave you heard of ?  It’s a search engine for students that filters out a lot of useless sites – it’s worth a try rather than using Google all the time.

How about ?  Students enter the url of the web page where they found info and the citation is created to copy and paste into their document.

I hope you will spend a little time with your class on some of these tips. Having student web searches be more productive is worth it!

Resources for teaching the Academic Word List

la_vocabularyLanguage Arts teachers know that the Academic Word List (AWL) is a list of words which appear with high frequency in English-language academic texts – and state assessments! The list was compiled by Averil Coxhead at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and contains 570 word families divided into 10 sublists.  Many of these words are frequently encountered in newspapers and magazines and can be heard on television, radio, and movies or in everyday conversation. There are many resources on the web to help us teach our students this essential vocabulary:

This website from Nottingham University will allow you to take any electronic text (cut and paste from Word or a web page for example) , and automatically highlight AWL words. You can then create an activity using this highlighted text –  teaching the content and standard originally planned, but embed the direct teaching of vocabulary.  Instructions are here.  The site has other AWL resources too! has vocabulary exercises for the Academic Word List (numerous exercises that could be done as a class activity, along with a link to a dictionary definition for each and an audio of the pronunciation) . Each Exercise could be done in just 3-5 minutes, and there are dozens of exercises.

This site, RMIT University, uses the Coxhead list as well, with pre and post assessments, printable word/definition lists, and a variety of activity types.

This site ( may be useful for student practice. It has 56 exercise – each has a long reading passage on a topic with the vocab words highlighted (offers good contextual application of the words).  The exercise then shows the passage with the vocab words left out and the student places the correct word in the sentence.