Back On Site with a New Tool for Your Delight

I know it’s been awhile since my last posting.  Unfortunately there was a family illness that I needed to attend too and then I had to catch up on regular life.  Now I’m back – bigger and better than before :).

For my first posting this scholastic year, I thought it would be nice to share a feature that can be used for the classroom, your personal and your professional life.   Today, I will be discussing how you can create your own blog on a site that is not blocked by most servers.  It can even be viewed in NYC DOE schools.  It is

This option is offered by Google in their suite of tools.  It is free; just sign into your Google account.  If you don’t have one, just go to Google and click on the “sign up” tab in the upper right hand corner.  This also gives you access to a free e-mail account. Once you have your Google account and have an active e-mail address (it does not have to be Google’s), you can set up your blog.  You can even set up multiple blogs.  You can create one for your students, one for your personal life, one for your travel posts, etc.  You get to decide who views each blog.

“Is blogging still relevant?” you ask.   Yes it is.  While there is plethora of different types of social media available, there are many benefits to having a blog that can benefit you and your students.  Blogging allows you freedom in how you present your material and how long your post is.  Many of the social media sites control how the information is presented and limits you on the number of words you can use.   On a blog, you can get into the meat of your topic and provide many more details for discussion.  In addition, while social media sites are blocked in most schools – they are also frowned upon for you to use to connect with students outside of the classroom.  If you are using your blog for educational purposes, most principals will give permission for your students to respond to your postings.

Once you create your blog account you can set up your profile.  You may wish to provide a picture of yourself or perhaps one someone else made that you feel represents your character (following copyright law of course). Choose backgrounds that you like and feel are beneficial.  Then you can post topics, pictures, videos, etc.  The blog will not be posted for viewing until you say it is ready.  This will enable you to start a project and come back to it later if another issue pops up.

“If is so wonderful, why are you on Word Press?” you ask.  The simple fact is that I found WordPress before I knew about Google’s offering.  They both are free and offer similar features.  I’ve been very happy on WordPress, so I don’t feel it is necessary for me to start fresh.  Both are great sites.  Why not try each one and see which fits your needs the best?


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Did they plagiarize or didn’t they, that is the question.

I have had teachers and parents approach me many times to inquire if their child plagiarized a part, or even all, of a paper or project.  While most students (and sadly many adults) do not see plagiarism as a real issue, it is a serious topic. 
The generally accepted definition of plagiarism is – “The use of someone’s words, thoughts or ideas without giving them credit.”  This means even if your child’s friend gives them permission to use their book report, it is still plagiarized if your child does not list their friend’s name as the creator of the book report.
Below are some free Web sites you can use to learn what plagiarism is, check students work for errors and to see if indeed there are any sections that have been plagiarized.
Google Alerts –
This is a good way to make sure students aren’t using work another teacher or student has written and placed on the web.  Go to the link and type in the words or phrase that concern you.  You will be notified by e-mail when the content you specified appears online.  It might not find all versions of the work, but it will find new instances if students are sharing them online.  This is also a nice site for you to monitor news events and other items you wish to stay updated about to share with your students.  You can type in phrases like “free technology for teachers” and be updated as items appear on the web.
Paper  Rater –
This site helps high school and college students to improve their writing.  The site performs basic spelling and grammar checks and also checks the students’ work for plagiarism.  After scanning the text, it estimates the likelihood the work was plagiarized.  Another site that can be used by students and teachers.
Plagiarism Checker –
Type or paste the text into the search box.  The site will then tell you if the work has been copied.  It also has handouts you can use to help students not to accidentally plagiarize and explanations of fair use.
Plagiarismdotorg –
This is the educational arm of iParadigm, the creator of commercial plagiarism detection software Turnitin.  This site can be used by students and teachers.  It has information on how to avoid plagiarism and when and how someone should cite a reference.  The site also has Webinars to help teachers instruct their students about plagiarism. 
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) –
A place to learn about preventing plagiarism as well as having guides and exercises for lessons on: general writing, research and citation, subject specific writing, job search writing and English as a Second Language writing.   There is information for both students and teachers.

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Looking to create an interest spark? Why not try the site myBrainShark?

MyBrainShark is a wonderful, free site that works very well for e-learning situations and sharing of information.  It is a useful tool whether you are using it for work or personal projects.   You can create, share and track the number of views for a PowerPoint, document, video, photo album, Podcast that you have created PLUS you have the ability to create a voice over for each application.

Have you created a PowerPoint lesson you would like for your students to review when not in class, but also want them to have access to the audio parts of your lesson?  How about helping them analyze documents.  Did you want to create a Podcast?  Was there a video you created that you would like for the students to watch and respond to specific sections?  Did you want to show a series of Primary Sources and point out features for someone to investigate?  This page gives you the ability to add an audio voice over to any of the projects above as well as multiple other usages.  It allows you to combine multiple applications to create a multimedia presentation that will get the interest of your students or whomever you are trying to reach.  You can even use your cell phone to create the voice over.  No computer is necessary.

After you have finished your creation it can be shared by e-mail, posted on a Networking site or published on a specific Webpage.  This creates an ease of access for you to share information with people from different areas of your life.  

The first time you use it, there is a simple registration page that asks for a username and password creation.  Then you are ready to start uploading material you wish to present or create an audio soundtrack to accompany.  

If you are worried that certain animations in your PowerPoint won’t occur at the correct time, it’s no problem.  MyBrainShark recognizes the PowerPoint designation of the file and will allow you to choose when the animations take place.  

You can use the site to track how many views your posting has had.  You can even add a poll for your users to take to get personalized feedback on your presentation.

As with any new program, it may take a few tries of playing around on the site to become fully familiar with all the features.  Many of the features are similar to other programs you may already be using, which will make it easier to pick up quickly.

So whether you are looking to continue a classroom lesson, present information to students who may have been absent, share ideas and information with colleagues or just create a fun presentation with pictures and an accompanying stories from your vacation, give MyBrainShark a try.  It might be just the item you were looking for.


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Yes Virginia, credible sources DO count.

Whether young or old, frequent or intermittent user of the Web, there is a skill that is missing among many users of the Internet.  The ability to evaluate online resources for credibility.

The problem was so rampant with freshman and sophomore students that Acadia University created an interactive online program to help Web users learn some of the skills necessary to check the reliability of their online resources.  The Website is called Credible Sources Count. 

What I like about this Website is that not only are the activities interactive, but you are able to see the results for all possible choices.  This way, whether you chose right or wrong, you can see what the result would have been if you made a different choice.

While the site does not go in-depth into the topic, it is an excellent introduction on how to evaluate Web resources.  Even though it was written for college students to use, it is accessible enough for students 9th grade and up to use as well.

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Your student/child has no knowledge of Civics? Never fear, iCivics is here!

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor noticed children’s declining knowledge regarding citizenship, the branches of government and the role that media plays in affecting our civic life.   She realized the next generation needs to understand how our government works and the roles it plays in order to secure our democracy in the years to come.  She created a Website titled iCivics.  This is a Website that can be utilized by kids, parents and teachers.

In addition to the board and staff, iCivics is made up of a team of state supreme court justices, secretaries of state, educational leaders, as well as other committed volunteers.  They work together to provide information about our legacy of democracy, how it began and how it works today.

Lesson plans are aligned to state standards and are listed as the following units of study: Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Budgeting; Citizenship & Participation; Civil Rights; County Solutions; Foundations of Government; International Affairs; Media & Influence; Persuasive Writing; Politics & Public Policy; State and Local Government; The Constitution; The Executive Branch; The Judicial Branch; The Legislative Branch and The Three Branches.

Games and activities are available on the following topics: Citizenship & Participation; Separation of Powers; The Constitution and Bill of Rights; The Judicial Branch; The Executive Branch; The Legislative Branch and Budgeting.

Whether you are looking for an educational game for your child to play or a lesson plan to bring our history home in the classroom, iCivics may be just the Website you are looking for.

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Common Core Standards, Lesson Plan Ideas and Videos All in One Place

A library peer of mine just shared a wonderful Website that you can use for multiple purposes in your classroom.  It is The Teaching Channel and it is free for you to use.  All you have to do is register an e-mail address.

The mission of this site is to provide reliable video resources that teachers can use for lesson planning, Common Core connections and to find ideas.  You can also tap into your professional peers for methods that have provided successful results in their classroom.

Have you ever heard of a fantastic lesson, but can’t remember exactly how it went?  Odds are you can find information about it at  The Teaching Channel.  Did you see something that would be great for a lesson you are doing four months from now, but are afraid you will forget about it?  You can have the site send you an e-mail reminder at exactly the time you need it.  Just fill out the quick boxes and put it out of your head.  When the time comes, you will get that reminder with the notes you created when you had the idea.

Say you see specific moments in a video you wish to share with your grade or subject team.  You know they are busy and do not have time to watch the whole video.  You are given the tools to highlight the exact moments you wish to share so everyone can collaborate on the ideas as soon as possible.

Does your school have a program that the teachers use to post assignments and links for student work?  You can post the videos you find right on that page for your students to use as well.  Teaching Channel provides embedding codes for each video.  Just click on the “Embed Video” link and a code will be provided for you to copy and paste on any Website you wish.

So whether you are looking for a great lesson plan idea, information about the Common Core Standards or a video you can share with your students, The Teaching Channel may be just the page for you.

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Filed under Common Core, lesson planning, Videos, Websites for sharing

Educational Videos and YouTube Videos

Many teachers have been there.  You’ve seen a great video you want to share with your class, but the DOE blocks the showing of YouTube as well as other video sharing sites.  Just when we find a workaround site, it is taken down or blocked in turn and you are unable to incorporate the video into your lesson. is a free Website available in both English and Spanish and can be an excellent resource to use in your classroom and for your children at home.  It is a non-profit organization that wants to make educational videos available to students, teachers, librarians and parents at home and in an educational setting.  The videos are chosen for children from ages 3 – 18.  There are literally tens of thousands of videos available for watching.

There are videos available on ALL school subjects, including the Common Core Curriculum.  A directory is provided to create better ease of accessibility in finding just what you want.  Videos are provided from: TeacherTube; YouTube; graspr; School Tube; Internet Archive; slideboor; hulu; slideshare and brightstorm. also partners with Citizendium and Curriki.

If you are worried about who is “behind the scenes” deciding what videos get posted, you are provided with a list of the Advisory Committee along with their backgrounds and affiliations.  A number of the members are teachers or have connections to an educational institution.

While the site may not have the exact video you were looking for, it is still a nice back up to check for something that will help inspire your students or make a connection to their personal lives.

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Filed under Common Core, lesson planning, Videos, Websites for sharing