Primal Play

Bloomfield Public Schools has created a remarkably effective blueprint for narrowing and eventually eliminating the achievement gap using parent and community engagement, holistic accountability, a positive school climate, and a rigorous curriculum. In this webinar district leaders discuss the challenges they faced and describe their blueprint for success:


Zombie fish

Zombie Fish Bits is the most entertaining and effective math game that excites players without looking like school. Now available on the Apple App Store for FREE!


8 things every teacher can do to create an innovative classroom

Innovation can’t be tested or graded — but it can be built up

innovative-classroomInnovation is a trait that I desperately want to instill in my students, and many teachers I talk to seem to share that goal. In the current climate of high stakes testing, state standards, and prescribed learning outcomes, it can be incredibly difficult to foster an atmosphere of innovation and creativity that inspires students. But rest assured, it is possible.

Here, I outline eight basic principles for the “Innovative Classroom,” around which I designed a middle school course called Physical Computing. Some of the projects and tools are specific to that course, but I think the fundamental ideas could be applied to almost any course at any level.

  1. Give students a problem that is both interesting and authentic. There is no such thing as a problem that is going to be interesting to every kid. This means that a project has to be flexible enough for students to tailor it to their own interests. It also means that teachers need to take the time to learn about their students’ interests. Authenticity comes from using real tools to tackle problems that don’t have their answers printed at the back of the book. Ideal projects dictate some general parameters and tools, but leave the specific problem definition up to the student. Some examples of interesting, authentic projects with built-in flexibility include:-Design a musical instrument that you can play without using your mouth or hands.
    -Choose a challenging terrain and design a vehicle that can conquer it.
    -Create a sculpture that incorporates both light and motion.

    Next page: How to motivate creative thinking


Rand McNally launches new digital edition classroom atlas

Digital atlas tool helps make learning about geography fun, interactive

atlas-mapRand McNally’s Classroom Atlas is now available in digital format to help students interact with the world with the touch of an iPad.

This is the latest innovative educational tool that Rand McNally has introduced to help teachers incorporate geography across the curriculum in social studies, history and geography, as well as reading programs and writing lesson plans.

From pull-down wall maps and printed atlases to 21st century digital tools, Rand McNally’s products promote global literacy by helping students learn about the world around them.

“Rand McNally has always been a leader in keeping students connected to the world,” said Stephen Fletcher, CEO of Rand McNally. “As technology advances in education, Rand McNally’s digital tools enable students to learn more effectively–not just in the classroom but at home or anywhere.”

Available now in Apple’s iBooks Store, this digital book includes more than 100 physical, political, and thematic maps plus vivid photographs and graphs–all accessible without an Internet connection.

Students can flip through the Classroom Atlas, tap images and content to highlight and add notes to reference later. The interactive format also makes it easier for students to magnify a particular region on a map for a closer look.

For teachers, the Classroom Atlas has great learning tools to use as quiz material, including questions to teach students how to think critically, and brain teasers.

Beyond its 100-plus maps, the Classroom Atlas features:

Graphs and charts to illustrate information from the map, and photographs to show students how the features shown on the map look in the real world.
Did you know? questions presenting interesting facts about the world.
What if? questions asking students to use information from the atlas and other sources to think critically to answer a question.
Key geographical terms in an alphabetical glossary.
Chapter on world facts and comparisons.
In addition to the new Classroom Atlas, Rand McNally’s World Atlas is available as a digital online educational tool.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


App of the Week: Great math app for young learners with special needs

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated with help from Graphite by Common Sense Media. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? Todo means all in Spanish — and this app is designed for all kids, including those with learning differences such as deficits in auditory and visual processing, language delay, or underdeveloped fine motor skills. Todo Math: School Edition is also comprehensive in its curriculum, which spans numbers through multiplication.

Price: paid or subscription ($200/classroom per year)

Grades: K-2

Pros: Research-based strategies and modifications for learners with special needs support a wide range of abilities.

Cons: Progress data on the Web-based teacher dashboard isn’t always intuitive.

Bottom line: A variety of strategies and accommodations make this app classroom-ready for a variety of levels and abilities.