I’m going to share with you some of the tools I’ve been having success with recently in my classroom and beyond.
1) Class Dojo – Free
An excellent tool for motivating and for classroom management. I’ve been using it off and on since it’s inception three years ago, and they’ve finally managed to make it work for me, so I’ll likely be using it all year. Paired with the smartboard, students come in and ‘check in.’ Over the course of the day I encourage positive behaviours by giving the students ‘dojo points,’ which pop up on the main screen beside the child’s chosen monster avatar. I can do this through my computer, or more easily, with the app on my iphone. Kids recognize the chime that sounds, so even if the dojo screen isn’t up, the chime reminds them they are on the right track. You can customize your positive/negative points as well, leading to a good way to start the year on building these expectations with the students.
At the end of the day/week/month you can look at individual/class performance in an easy to read pie chart, something my class likes looking at every Friday,and comparing their (hopeful) improvement over last week.
The most recent update is the excellent connection between home and school. Parents can track their child’s progress, along with the ability to receive messages from the teacher and vice-versa. The iphone app (also available on android) also allows the teacher to take snaps of the kids’ projects/work/group activity, and send it directly to the parent(s).
2. Build with Chrome – Free (requires use of Google Chrome, and fair warning, in devt., so may be buggy)
We’re studying patterns right now in class, and what better way to work with patterns, than by using LEGO. Oh, don’t have a budget to buy anything for your classroom? Here’s the answer! Virtual LEGO! Super great site with a wonderful tutorial, with a ton of other potential curriculum tie-ins.
3. Bitstrips for Schools – First month free, $10 per month/40 user licenses.
Bitstrips is a great addition to any ELA program you already have running in your classroom. Available at home/school, students can create a comic of any length, as well as create any characters to fit within the panels of their strip. Students can post these comics in a class forum where other students can look and comment. They also have the option of ‘remixing’ the comic, whereby they can alter the original creation in whatever way they want, to create an entirely new comic.
Teachers moderate the publishing of comics, as well as comments before they are posted. My students love this, and it can really inspire a lot of creativity and motivation in those students less confident in their own drawing abilities.