Friday, 31 January 2014

January 31st, 2014 - Snow Fun Anymore

Happy snowy Friday everyone!! In light of the crazy weather conditions we have had this week; I have taken this opportunity to explore technological options for snow days. 

Recently, a school in Illinois has decided to forgo their snow days in lieu of e-learning days.  When the snow begins to fly and it is unsafe for students to travel to school, they are expected to log onto a pre-determined online social learning network where they will find the day’s assignment and readings.  They are able to virtually chat with their classmates, view videos based on course content and complete lessons created by the instructor.  For the full article on the Waterloo IL school you can find it here (

Three online tools which can be utilized to facilitate this type of learning in your classroom are: Edmodo, My Big Campus and Questgarden.

This platform is much like Facebook for educators and students.  It is accessible from a desktop computer as well as through an app for smartphones.  Students do not need to create an account or have an email address to log-in.  The teacher simply gives them a group code which allows them access and connects them to their classmates. Instructors can post assignments, create polls for students to respond to, attach video clips, post a quiz for students and create a calendar of events and assignments.   Students can upload assignments as well as message one another or the teacher. There is also an option to invite parents into the group so that they can be aware of their child’s progress and upcoming assignments.

Very similar to Edmodo, My Big Campus has a clear and organized home-base and allows parents to be included in the entire online learning process.  It has a pre-embedded library of materials including documents, websites and videos which you can use with your students or add your own. Based out of the United States, MBC is a little more difficult to create an account because it doesn’t have our schools pre-loaded and they need to be added which can take more time.

Webquests with Questgarden (
A webquest is an online inquiry-based learning project which emphasizes the use of higher order thinking skills.  The teacher preselects web resources so that students are using reliable and safe research materials.  Webquests can be created using various programs including a website on UGCloud; however I have found that creating the first quest (or two) can be easier with an online template or step-by-step program such as Questgarden.   They have hundreds of searchable quests already prepared and available for you to use free on the Questgarden website.  You are also able to create one of your own with a trial version or subscription.  A 30-day trial version is available free or teachers, and although their costs for a subscription are minimal ($20US for two years); I find that I can prepare a quest and students can complete it within the allocated trial period.
Webquests have six basic parts: Introduction, Task, Process, Resources, Evaluation, and Conclusion.  Tasks are often authentic in design and offer real-world challenges for students to solve.  The process includes the steps you wish students to take to accomplish their task. On the resources page live links and information which you would like your students to use to complete their assignment are posted.  This places all of the required information is in one location so that they do not need to research the internet for reliable sources (or possibly get side tracked) allowing them to focus on processing the information. Evaluation allows you to explain to your students how they will be marked on their project, frequently in the form of a rubric.  Finally the conclusion page is a place to discuss what they have learned, and possibly extend it into areas of further learning.   Here is a link to an example which has students examine the impact that the mega quarry would have had on the surrounding businesses, farms and general public. Mega Quarry Webquest 

I hope that we will be able to get back to a regular routine in the schools and that these types of online learning opportunities will not be necessary, but until then, fingers crossed that the Groundhog will not be seeing any shadows this week so we can begin making plans for an early spring.  

Stay safe and warm everyone,

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