Content Tech: Google Advanced Search

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

We all use Google to search for information to help us teach. Have you tried an advanced search to get more of what you are looking for? For example, do you want to find PowerPoint files related to an upcoming unit? What about flash video clips to use in a notebook file?

If you want to look for PowerPoint files, then try this…

  1. Go to Google, and click on the link for Advanced Search (its to the right of the search box)
  2. On the advanced search page, type in your search terms in the top box
  3. In the middle of the page, click on the File Type drop down and select Microsoft Powerpoint (.ppt)
  4. Click on Advanced Search, and the results you get should be PowerPoint files related to your search.

If you want to find flash video files to use with your curriculum, do an advanced search as above, but for the file type, choose Shockwave Flash (.swf) as the file type.

As you browse around the Advanced Search page, you will notice many options for fine-tuning your search.

Happy Googling!


P.S. I’m attending a BOCES workshop about Google in the Classroom – many new ideas, tips and tricks to share!

Content Tech: Google Lit Trips

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

Mrs. Calandra’s English 9R class is about to embark on a journey in Google Earth as they read The Odyssey by Homer. Google Lit Trips are very interesting and a new way to teach literature, incorporating the geography of the book. We’re planning to have students create their own placemarks in Google Earth along the way, to demonstrate their understanding of the book.

Check out Google Lit Trips for other titles to see how they look (there is a small but growing list of popular titles). The Google Earth files (.kmz files) download to your computer, and open up in Google Earth (which is on all school computers).

Google Earth is becoming an incredible resource, and applications such as these Google Lit Trips are presenting new and unique ways to teach and learn in many different content areas!


Image citation:
“Mediterranean Odyssey.” Map. Google Lit Trips. Ed. Jerome Burg. 11 Apr. 2009. 22 Apr. 2009 <>

Content Tech: Summary of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works

107025b“Using technology for technology’s sake isn’t a good application of instructional time or funding, and it is unlikely to improve student achievement.” (p.217)

Over the past few months we’ve taken a look at how technology can support research-proven instructional strategies. Let’s take a few minutes to summarize the ideas presented by Pitler et al in the book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works.

The quote above, which leads off the Appendix, pretty much sums it up. There are many cool, slick technology tools available, but if the use of technology is not tied to a learning goal, then it’s more than likely not a good use of technology.

We have been working with learning goals and data teams as part of the district initiative on improved learning. This book is a great tie to how technology can support instruction in meaningful ways.

As a quick recap, the planning questions for instruction which should frame any instruction, and links back to the individual posts with the related strategies and technology applications are:

I hope that this book review has helped you to think about ways you can use technology to support your teaching. The array of tools available is great, and gets bigger every day. The challenge is to find the ways in which technology provides meaningful experiences to improve learning.

As always, your thoughts, comments or questions are always welcome!

Image citation:

“Book Cover.” Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 5 Nov. 2008 <>.

Content Tech: Riding the Digital Wave Conference 2009

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

Erie 1 BOCES hosted the 5th Annual Riding the Digital Wave Conference at the Harlem Rd. Education Campus. Below is my under-5-minute wrap up of my experience. Click to play, and mouse over the lower right corner of the video to find the full-screen button.

Here are links to the sites highlighted:

Ben Higgins Technology Integrator Page
Lancaster Central Schools Digital Citizenship
Digital Dossier

Content Tech: Generating and Testing Hypotheses

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

In an ongoing look at the book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the next strategy is generating and testing hypotheses. Technology advances including probeware, interactive simulations, and spreadsheets, allow classroom time to be devote classroom time to interpreting data, rather than collecting data.

In the science classroom, digital microscopes and digital sensors allow students to easily capture information and focus on analysis. Even without having such resources, the authors make the point that the Internet itself is a huge data collection tool for any curriculum. For example, a social studies class could collect data from the U.S. Census Bureau and import it into Excel to create charts regarding population shifts. Math students could use the NASA FlyByMath site to work on distance-rate-time problems. ELA students who paste their writing into Wordle get a unique visual representation of their work. Online simulations at Explore Learning allow science and math students to test many different concepts.

The array of tools available through software, hardware and the Internet provide great opportunites for generating and testing hypotheses. Just for fun – here is a Wordle using the words in this post – enjoy!


click to enlarge

Content Tech: Homework and Practice

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

In an ongoing look at the book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the next strategy is homework and practice. Marzano’s research indicates that typically, students need approximately 24 repetitions of a skill in order to achieve 80 percent competency.

There are many web resources that can help students practice skills. Some sites are subscription services and some are free. Below is a short list of some of the sites that we use to help students practice skills, and also some sites recommended in the book that may be unfamiliar.

Everyday Math Games – 5th graders use this for math skills
MasterGuru – an online game to practice ELA, Social Studies, Math and Science skills
BrainPOP – many movies include a quiz at the end to test knowledge
Explore Learning Gizmos – Science and Math teachers use these interactive tools for teaching and reinforcing
BBC Skillswise – factsheets, worksheets, quizzes and games to practice words and numbers
National Library of Virutal Manipulatives – interactive manipulatives for Math
I Know That – learning activities for grades K-6 in ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies and the Arts

If you use another website for homework and practice, please share it here in the comments!

Content Tech: Identifying Similarities and Differences

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

In an ongoing look at the book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the next strategy is identifying similaritities and differences. Graphic organizers, including venn diagrams, are once again are great tools to use for this strategy. However, I’m going to focus on how spreadsheet software can also be a very useful tool to support identifying similarities and differences.

Spreadsheets (such as Excel) allow very easy input of data into columns and rows. With a few clicks, charts can be created that show the trends in the data in a much more readable fashion.

An example is the 6th grade weather skinny book done each year. As part of the book, students have to track weather patterns between two cities for 10 days, and analyze the trends. Using Excel, students enter the dates, high, and low temperatures for both cities. The data in text form is difficult to visualize, but by using the Chart Wizard in Excel, the students quickly create graphs that allow for easier comparison of weather trends between the chosen cities.

The charting features of Excel can be useful in many areas to help students identify similiarties and differences.

Content Tech: Reinforcing Effort

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

In an ongoing look at the book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, the next strategy is reinforcing effort. Probably the single biggest factor affecting student performance is the ability to “stick with it” until successful.

Technology can be a tough one to incorporate into reinforcing effort, as it is a mode of working as opposed to a skill or concept to be learned. Pitler et al discuss an interesting scenario in which spreadsheets can be used to help reinforce effort. First, students are provided with a rubric that reinforces effort. The categories include class notes, attention, participation, homework and studying. During the course of a unit of instruction, students rate their daily effort according to the rubric in a spreadsheet. At the end of the unit, the students reflect on the chart of their effort ranking compared to their achievement. The teacher can also create an aggregated chart showing class averages.

While there is a good amount of work in doing something like this, it targets exactly the goal that, “…reinforcing effort enhances students’ understanding of the relationship between effort and achievement by addressing their attitudes and beliefs about learning.”

Image courtesy of Capt Kodak on Flickr

Content Tech: Cooperative Learning

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

In an ongoing look at the book,
Using Technology with Classroomcooperative Instruction that Works, the next strategy is cooperative learning. The research indicates that when technology is used collaboratively, there is a modest increase in effect size (learning).

Multimeda, and specifically creating a video, is a perfect way to structure student learning cooperatively. When students work in teams to create a video, it forces them to construct meaning and perform it as well. One big caveat about using video projects is best said by the authors:

“Creating a video is a complex task that requires many roles and responsibilities. By nature, both multimedia projects and cooperative learning groups require attention to detail in the planning process.”

Students have no problem working with video technology – they are surrounded by it, and really enjoy it. When they get the opportunity to do a video, it is very motivating. Two items that help to foster quality video projects are rubrics and storyboards.

As with any work, having a rubric to frame a video assignment is very helpful. The website Rubistar has many different examples of multimedia rubrics that can easily be refined and revised. I’ve used them many times as a resource, and then altered them to include content-specific criteria in addition to technical criteria.

Storyboarding is just like pre-writing. Having a plan for a video is especially important because it makes students think about what resources they will need for the video (location/equipment/materials, etc.). Experience has shown that students do not necessarliy like the storyboarding process, but it definitley helps the product.

Video projects are possible in any class – we’ve done videos in ELA, Social Studies, Science, LOTE, and more. They provide a valuable way to engage students in cooperative learning.

Photo courtesy of Mulsanne on Flickr

Content Tech: Summarizing and Note Taking

Content Tech
Ideas for Technology Use in the Classroom

In an ongoing look at the book, Using Technology With Classroom Instruction That Works, the next strategy for improving instruction is summarizing and note taking. As adults and educators, these techniques have become second nature to what we do. Students who are not used to pulling important information from reading and instruction need help in order to succeed.

Of the technology tools discussed in this chapter (word processing applications, organizing and brainstorming software, multimedia, web resources and communication software), I’m going to focus on organizing and brainstorming software. More specifically, we’ll look at how Inspiration can be used as a tool to help with summarizing and taking notes.

Marzano’s research on summarizing recomments using summary frames as a key way to help students summarize. Inspiration includes many templates that can help in this task, whether in a group (with a projector) or individually (in a computer lab). For example, if you want to use a problem/solution summary frame to analyze a topic, you can use the Problem Solution template in Inspiration to begin (found by choosing File | Open Template | Thinking Skills | Problem

In the book, Pitler et al recommend that students learn and use a variety of note taking formats, including combination notes. Inspiration can be used to create a combination note template, where facts/notes are on the upper left side of the page, graphics (from the library or other source) are on the upper right side of the page, and summary sentences are located at the bottom of the page. Addtionally, there are many templates available in Inspiraiton that are excellent to support note taking as well (choose File | Open Template to explore).

Summarizing and note taking can be a challenge for students. Organizing and brainstorming software like Inspiration can be a very useful tool.


Image from Inspiration