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No Cheating: You Tube Pulls EduBirdie Videos

YouTube has pulled videos from more than 250 channels that contained paid promotions for EduBirdie, a service that allows students to pay for ghostwritten essays. Although the service isn't illegal, YouTube's policies forbid advertising for "academic aids." EduBirdie's own channel on YouTube has also been severely reduced. Where once there were dozens of videos, there is now just one left, a guide to how to write an introduction to an essay.

Media Literacy and Great Video Essays

Kids are often given the option of creating a video in lieu of some kind of written assignment like an essay. However, even with a rubric to guide them on what should (or shouldn’t) be in the video, it can be hard to know what a really good video essay should include as well as look and sound like.  Fortunately, there are some great examples on YouTube. Here is a list of channels and videos. Check out how these video essays use narration, juxtaposing video footage, images, audio, and text to make the same kind of arguments that a writer would do in a traditional essay.

Making a Speech in Class? Some Tools That Can Help

Are your children making a speech in class or a presentation at a science fair or entering a speech competition? Here are a couple of tools that can help:

  • Say What?: Kids (and parents) sometimes struggle with how to pronounce words that are part of a presentation on an unfamiliar topic. The Howjsay English Pronunciation Dictionary is available on the computer or as an app and gives you the standard pronunciation or alternative pronunciations (if applicable) of a wide variety of terms. It also supplies alternative definitions and synonyms.
  • How Long is That Again?: The Speech in Minutes tool is helpful when kids are preparing for presentations or competitions in which they have a certain length of time to speak. Instead of timing their speech, they can use this tool to find out how long their talk should take and at what pace they are going to have to speak to get it all in. To do this, you first add your rate of speech (below average, average, above average) and then the number of words in the speech. The program tells you how many minutes you’re going to be talking.

Citizen Science Resources

Have a young scientist to be in your midst? Looking for a way to make science more “real world” at your house? Citizen-science projects -- those that involve the public in collecting data – may be a way to encourage an active interest in science and find out what it takes to be a scientist. Try these links to find citizen science projects that might work for you: SciStarter, Zooniverse, Citizen Science Central from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Galaxy Zoo, Citizen Science from the Smithsonian Institution, and Citizen Scientists from NASA.

Help With Posters

Is a poster in your child’s school project future? Are you in charge of an event for which you need a good looking flyer? The free templates on the Lucidpress can help. Each template is ready for customization with colors, photos and fonts. The poster then can be printed or distributed digitally. The site is great way for kids to practice using digital tools and get professional design tips.

Help With Posters

Is a poster in your child’s school project future? Are you in charge of an event for which you need a good looking flyer? The free templates on the Lucidpress can help. Each template is ready for customization with colors, photos and fonts. The poster then can be printed or distributed digitally. The site is great way for kids to practice using digital tools and get professional design tips.

Getting Your Kids to Put “Picting” To Good Use

Social Media, Apps, Homework, Digital Savvy, Digital Literacy

Images increasingly are taking the place of words on social media. This is a trend known as "picting," writes educator Chrissy Romano-Arrabito in an article for middle school teachers, but a good resource for parents as well. Romano-Arrabito reminds adults that new studies tell us that 90% of K-12 classroom time in the U.S. is spent with text-based materials, and 10% with image-based materials; but outside the classroom, 90% is spent with image-based materials and 10% with text-based materials. So what does that mean? In a cliché, “a pictures is worth a thousand words” Picting has arrived and to be literate kids will need to know how to create and manipulate images and video in very sophisticated ways to reach their peers – the adults of the future - and understand their world.

What can you do to help your kids use social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and other apps in productive ways? Romano-Arrabito suggests things like using Instagram to do a mini book report or chronicle a school project. Snapchat is an easy way for kids to video themselves speaking and test themselves on new vocabulary in a foreign language. YouTube is a great way to do a creative book report by creating a commercial for a book. Her article is full of other digitally literate ideas for helping kids use technology in creative and sophisticated ways.

Coding For Everybody

Whether you think your child is going to go in coding career direction or not, it is essential for today’s young people in understanding why technology can do what it does, what it does well and not so well, and why it is so difficult for it to do other things as an extension of their digital literacy. To that end, you might want to take a look at the games in the article Coding Across the Curriculum featured on the Edutopia site. While written for teachers, the article cites a variety of games and apps for all ages that parents can employ just as easily and even suggests things like having kids “build an animation in Scratch [a web-based coding language for building animations and games] for their next book report—a modern, digital update for the shoebox diorama. “

The Hurricane Harvey Book Club

Second Grade teacher Kathryn Mills started a Facebook book club to encourage students who were unable to attend school during Hurricane Harvey to post videos about the books they were reading. The Hurricane Harvey Book Club started with 70 members and has grown to more than 72,000 followers. It is a great example of how digital book reports can be done.


Class Notes: Paper vs. Digital

Paper may trump digital when preparing for exams, according to a report from the Paper and Packaging Board. Data shows that 70% of junior- and high-school students use handwritten class notes to prepare for tests, while 81% of college students still use paper notes to prepare. Not to be outdone, the National Pen Company has also put together an infographic that highlights the pros of putting pen to paper. Some of the benefits they mention include having better recall of the information jotted down, making you think about the concepts discussed more deeply, and helping you process the information presented.


With tablets becoming more and more akin to sketchpads these days with the use of a stylus, it is no wonder that educators are talking more about a new method of taking illustrated notes called sketchnoting to help kids improve retention and learning. Take a look at this presentation called Sketchnoting for Beginners to see what it entails – sort of a combination of visual notetaking, diagrams, symbols, objects, arrows, dividers, bubbles, boxes, colors, and typography and much more. Ask you kids to try the method by sketchnoting a newstory on television or part of a documentary. Sketchnoting can help kids focus during lectures and adds that digital component – if done on a tablet- that may just help them focus.

Digital Note Taking – Summer is a Good Time to Practice

Does you child have trouble taking notes in class? If he or she has a 504 plan or IEP, they may be allowed to record lectures, but many students don’t have the patience  (or the time) to review hours of talk when they get home. Smartpens, such as Livescribe or Equil, may help. They can capture not only everything your child hears, but anything they write down in class. If any note is unclear, all your child needs to do is touch it with the smartpen and replay what was said at that exact point in the lecture. Some schools may even cover the cost of a smartpen if it’s part of a 504 plan or an IEP.

Although this sounds great, don’t send them back to school without some practice. If you get one of these pens, try it out at home. YouTube has lots of short videos on how each pen works (just type in the brand name or “smart pens” in Search). Have them take notes on a newscast or documentary of interest and see how it works in practice. Even if your child does not have specific accommodations, this kind of digital tool can help, especially for children who are just learning to take notes in class.

Enhancing Book Reports

Are your kids interested in using technology to enhance projects for school? Take a look at the article 5th grade teacher Jesse Buetow has written on Edutopia site entitled Using Technology to Inspire Independent Readers. Although the piece is written for teachers, the list of apps is a great resource for parents as well. Many of the apps he suggests are free like TouchCast, an inclusive video production app that has features such as video graphics, text, and links. The green-screen option in the app also allows your kids to place themselves in the book and even create a professional-looking commercial.

Page Flip Could Make Textbooks and Non-Fiction Ebooks Easier to Use

Amazon’s Kindle has a new feature called Page Flip that could make reading a nonfiction book or textbook on a digital device easier and more productive. The feature is now available as a free download on Amazon’s own Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets, as well as the Kindle app on iOS and Android phones and tablets. Page Flip has a singular purpose: to make it easy to hop, skip and jump around a book while saving your place. You can skim past thumbnails of every page in a book, tapping to zoom in on any of those pages or zoom out to get a birds-eye view. There is also a thumbnail pinned to the screen that represents the last page you read, making it easier to go back to what you were just reading by tapping that pin.

Tweens Not the Digital Natives They Would Seem

A survey of 1,200 children examines how upper elementary students use digital spaces for communicating, reading and writing. The study, published in the International Literacy Association’s “Reading Research Quarterly”, reveals that tweens have more difficulty using the internet for research than for reading books.  Data also shows that students are online more at school than at home, and use the internet for different tasks at home than in the classroom. The research also suggests that there is a big difference in knowing how to use a digital device and using it to locate, understand, and effectively communicate information to others.

The study advises parents that even though they may not consider themselves tech savvy, they are still likely more skilled than their tweens at reading, problem-solving, and making sense of information online, so their support is still very valuable. “With print-based reading we provide children with plenty of opportunities to read appropriate texts independently, but we also help them read increasingly difficult books so that they can continue to develop their skills,” one of the researchers wrote. The process is the same for online reading and writing, and parents should help kids learn to use all the multiple modes of information (such as color, image, video, hyperlinks, and text) that are encountered in digital spaces.

Using Voice Typing in Google Docs

Do your kids have great ideas for projects but have trouble translating their ideas onto paper? It might be fun for them to try speech to text dictation on the computer for free with Google Docs. The summer is a great time to try this out before the pressure of schoolwork makes it hard to try something new. All you need is an inexpensive microphone, a computer with the Chrome browser installed, and Google Docs (free). Here is a step-by-step set of instructions on how to get started.

Video Games Involved in the Classical Retelling of Tales

Several literary classics, including Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, are being retold through a new art form that involves using video games. The EK Theater Company , based out of Connecticut and made up of students, uses video games to convey timeless tales through performances to live audiences. Students narrate dialogue from classic works to scenes of video games as avatars move through the action. The director decides which game scene will be projected while students (the digital puppeteers, voice actors and technicians) speak lines, move characters and manage the sounds and transitions. This new source of storytelling helps students study literature through a medium that is engaging and fun.

The Homework Gap – The Expanded Version

The divide between families who have computers with Internet access at home and those who do not is known as the ‘homework gap’.

Getting More Out of Google

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, nearly 2.3 million Google searches will have been done, according to a

Writing and Assistive Technology

The web site Understood, a place where parents can connect with experts on learning issues such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalcul