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Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is a tradition that millions of Americans share. This year will be the 92nd edition of the parade. What started out as a relatively simple affair has grown into an hours-long production. You and your students can see how the parade has evolved through the decades by exploring the interactive timeline on Macy's Parade History. You can select any decade on the timeline to view 360 interactive images of the parade. Each decade on the timeline also includes some video clips. Scroll through the decades and you'll see that the parade reflects the popular culture of each decade.



History offers the following short video about the history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.






The Next News Network also offers a nice, concise summary of the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.



This morning I was browsing through Canva's gallery of free design templates looking for one to use for an upcoming course that I'm teaching. That's when I stumbled into a this Fiction vs. Non-Fiction infographic template. As you can see below, the template could be printed as used as is. Better yet, you could have students modify the template to include some of their own examples of fiction vs. non-fiction.




Applications for Education

You can get a copy of this template (in higher resolution than what I've posted) in the infographics section on Canva. I would use this template by having students make a copy to modify. In their modified copies I'd have students include examples from books to explain the differences between fiction and non-fiction books.

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. If you're an elementary school teacher who has school this week, Storyboard That has five free Thanksgiving lesson plans that you can use.



As you might expect, all of the Thanksgiving lesson plans that Storyboard That offers are centered around the use of storyboards and artwork. The five lesson plans are The Story of Thanksgiving, Symbols of Thanksgiving, What Thanksgiving Means to Me, Thanksgiving Cards, and I Am Thankful for... 


The activities in the lesson plans can be completed even if you don't use Storyboard That. But if you do choose to use Storyboard That, watch my video on how to make Thanksgiving Cards that your students can print. 





Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

This coming Monday evening (7pm ET) I am hosting Teaching History With Technology on PracticalEdTech.com. This course meets five times (once per week). There are seventeen concepts that are covered in the course. Each concept can be applied to the creation of technology-infused history lessons. The concepts covered in the course are listed below.



  • Using technology to help students analyze historical/ primary source documents.

  • Making artifacts interactive.

  • Hosting online history discussions

  • The importance of structure and expectations.

  • Using audio in history lessons

  • Recording history with students

  • Hearing history

  • Creating multimedia timelines with students.

  • Simple to complex options for every grade level.

  • Creating multimedia maps

  • Search Strategies for History Students

  • Saving and sharing search results.

  • Google Maps and Earth are not your only options.

  • Creating videos and teaching with video.

  • Making and using virtual tours.

  • Virtual Reality tours.

  • Augmented Reality tours.
Click here to register for Teaching History With Technology. 

Good morning from Maine where we've had two small snowstorms this week. They haven't been big snowfalls, but they have produced enough snow that all the leaves I didn't rake won't be discovered again until spring. On the upside, ski season is here and I'm looking forward to getting my oldest daughter on skis this winter.



This week I hosted a dozen guest bloggers. I hope you enjoyed their posts as much as I did.



These were the week's most popular posts:

1. Edji - A Great Tool for Literacy and Critical Thinking

2. Is Your Feedback Really Effective? - This Google Docs Add-on Will Tell You

3. CoRubrics - An Add-on to Facilitate Assessment Among Students

4. Build a Body - An Interactive Biology Lesson

5. 7 Tips for Moving from Decorating to Designing Classrooms

6. A Digital Differentiation Model

7. Apps Day - A Great Way to Learn About Apps




Teaching History With Technology

Teaching History With Technology is a Practical Ed Tech online course starting on Monday evening. This course meets for five Mondays in a row. Some of the things you'll learn in the course include using virtual reality and augmented reality in your classroom, multimedia storytelling, and search strategies for history students. Click here to register.




Book Me for Your Conference

I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.



Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.

Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.

TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.

Book Creator is a great tool for creating multimedia books.

Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Just a few minutes ago I answered an email from a reader named Chris who wanted a recommendation on how to have students create voice recordings that play back when a QR code is scanned. My recommendation was to try Vocaroo. Vocaroo lets you record for free (no registration required) then have a QR code automatically generated for your recording. In the following video I demonstrate how to record with Vocaroo then generate a QR code.




The only drawback to this method is that Vocaroo won't host recordings indefinitely. See the following note from their FAQ page.




Last week at the EdTech Teacher Summit in Boston I gave a presentation about formative assessment (you can see the slides here). GoFormative.com was one of the tools that I featured in my presentation. One of the key features of GoFormative is the "show your work" question type that allows students to draw responses to questions. In the following video I demonstrate how to create "show your work" questions on GoFormative.

Google's My Maps is a great tool for designing custom maps. The problem with it is that students can only save their work if they have Google accounts. If your school uses G Suite for Education that's probably not a problem, but it is a problem for students who don't have G Suite accounts. If that's the case for your students, then try one of the following tools for making custom digital maps.



GmapGIS is a free digital mapping tool that lets you draw and type on top of base layer maps. You can select satellite, street, relief, or a hybrid map as your base layer. Once you've made that selection you can use freehand drawing tools, line tools, and shape drawing tools to mark-up the map. Right-clicking on any of the lines or shapes you draw will open a menu of labeling options. You can also add placemarking pins to your map. When you are finished drawing labeling you can share your map by sending the link that is automatically generated for your map. You can also save a KML file for your map and view it in Google Earth.



National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive can be a good alternative to using Google Maps in your classroom. Mapmaker Interactive offers a number of features that students and teachers can utilize without the need to enter an email address or register to use the Mapmaker tools. Those tools include measuring distances, adding placemarks, layering information, and switching between base map layers. In the following video I provide an overview of the features in National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive.




Scribble Maps is a free tool for creating custom, multimedia maps online. Since 2009 this has been my go-to alternative to Google's MyMaps and Maps Engine Lite tools. Scribble Maps provides a variety of base layer maps on which you can draw freehand, add placemarks, add image overlays, and type across the map. Compared to creating a custom map on Google Maps, Scribble Maps is much easier for students to learn how to use. Scribble Maps also provides far more default placemark icons than Google's My Maps tool. Scribble Maps will work in the web browser on your laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet. In the following video I provide an overview of how to use Scribble Maps.



Last year on Thanksgiving I discovered an ESRI Storymap titled Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? Of course, having discovered it on Thanksgiving Day it was a bit too late to be useful so I'm sharing it again this year in advance of Thanksgiving.



Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. The storymap includes a map for each ingredient. Each map shows the locations of commercial producers. Fun facts are included in the storymap too. For example, did you know that Illinois has at least twice as many acres of pumpkins as any state?






Applications for Education

You could use the Thanksgiving meal storymap to spark students' curiosity to investigate questions like "why does Illinois grow so many pumpkins?" or "why don't we harvest any pecans in New England?"

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This entry is from Danielle Lagnese.



Personalizing learning in my classroom four years ago was challenging. To say the least. Imagine eight red buckets from Dollar Tree filled with binder clipped packets of worksheets. We did the best we could, but humidity curled the papers beyond recognition. Activities were limited to what could fit on a piece of 8X11 white paper. Students were compliant, but the activities were antiquated even if my desire to reach each student where they were was genuine.



In 2015, we moved to having Chromebooks carts in each Social Studies Classroom and using Google Classroom districtwide. My ability to make differentiation manageable, rather than something that would overload me, changed overnight. I was faced with an opportunity to create a system that would reflect the pedagogy I believed in and serve my students without sacrificing my personal style. Creating “learning playlists” have improved ability to differentiate in a digital environment. They’ve given my students choice, voice, an opportunity to reflect on their learning, and an increased growth mindset. They’ve given me a chance to try out new tools, adapt my instruction anytime, and a refuge from red buckets of crumpled worksheets. I’m able to do all of this with Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Google Classroom.



My unit planning starts the creation of a playlist - here’s a PDF of the finish product. I consider which learning activities all students must do within this curriculum. The diversity of my students makes this a small number. Our students’ reading, writing, vocabulary, listening, and technology skills range widely and I want to move all students forward while meeting each exactly where they are. This is not a science and it’s something I hope to improve at every day.



The top part of the Google Sheet contains these required activities. I try to make it as visual as possible and I mix colors and images to help students use the sheet as independently as possible.



In the initial planning phase, I leave a few of these rows blank so that I can use formative assessments to make decision about what activities are necessary for all students as we move through the unit. This should be a living document that I can adjust at any time as I teach real humans whose capacities expand constantly.



The bottom part of the Google Sheet contains individual activities. This is a much larger area of real estate on the sheet, which reflects the percentage of activities are personalized in my 8th grade Social Studies class. This may look different in different subject areas and grade levels.



After I have created categories for the unit, I add individual activities. This can be extensive. One unit can have 15-20 activities in the individual section. The best way to “make it manageable” here is to collaborate with your departments or grade levels. Take advantage of the best resources around you - other educators.



Within each category, there may be different choices - leveled, specific skills, or choices for different interests:



The most important column in the individualized section is the materials section. This is where all the learning lives. Some links prompt students to make copies of activities, or link to directions, flipped videos, Google Forms, or other digital tools. I can pull students to a small group for extra practice at any time and they can track and reflect on that practice in this space.



I leave a spot below this blank canvas for students to write in their goal and the amount of points they’ve earned. I use a formula so the sheet works for kids to automatically track their progress. As we progress through the unit, my kids conference with me constantly. I give them feedback, they use evidence from their work to convince me how many “points” should be earned for each activity.



Goals are set on the first day of the unit using Google Form. Students answer questions like these to evaluate their strengths and calculate a points goal.



The final step is the “assessment conference” I have with students. Students run the conference. Here’s a script for how I model that. They tell me what activities they did, why they chose them, how they used the feedback the got, and why they deserve to have met their goal. If students didn’t meet their goal, we reflect on that together and come up with ways to meet them in the future. Using this method has made personalization manageable for me and I hope that it can help you too!



Danielle Lagnese is a middle school Social Studies teacher in East Windsor, NJ. She has presented at conferences around the state about digital differentiation and using technology to personalize learning. You can follow her @MissLagnese on Twitter.

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