Clif’s Notes on Education and Technology

Primary Sources: NewseumED Tools

Your class may not be able to travel all the way to Washington D.C. to visit the Newseum–the museum of news–but you can still take advantage of the Newseum’s archive through NewseumED Tools! NewseumED offers a wealth of tools for teachers, but one thing that sets it apart is its primary source material.

NewseumED’s search engine allows for you to search for materials by state, time period, topic, type of artifact, and more. You can access Life magazine covers from the 1930s; you can have access to international newspapers.  Primary sources are easy to access.  

NewseumED also has suggestions for how to best incorporate their artifacts into your lesson plans, including media literacy activities. The EDCommunity allows you to communicate with other teachers. EDCollections contains curated groups of artifacts on a variety of potential topics, including the First Amendment, the Civil Rights Movement, and Women’s Suffrage.

Getting Started

  • Dive into a historiography lesson by exploring how different news outlets from different regions covered the same event
  • Spice up a foreign language class by accessing real historical documents in their original language
  • Teach your students the difference between primary and secondary sources–and what can be learned from each

Foster a Life-Long Love of Stories with Storybird

Simply put, Storybird uses beautiful images to inspire students to write.  Choose one of three formats: picture book, long-form, and poetry. With the picture book format, choose images from Storybird’s enormous image library. By arranging these pictures thoughtfully, a story forms. 

The poetry format allows students to drag and drop words anywhere onto Storybird’s artwork. This encourages students to draw connections between words, images, and the emotion that both evoke in tandem. Finally, long-form allows students to really push their writing skills. While Storybird’s image library provides creative scaffolding, students may use an image to write a chapter that is thousands of words long, which in turn may be tied to other chapters to form a whole book.

Storybird Studio was made to be teacher-friendly.  You can onboard your students, assign projects, and review their work all in one secure place.  The feature that really sets Storybird apart, however, is its fundraising capability. Storybird will actually professionally print and bind your students’ stories for parents to buy, and 30 percent of the profits will go right back into your classroom.

Getting Started

You can sign up for Storybird, for free, right here.

Incorporate Storybird into your next lesson plan:

  • Use Storybird’s image library to create a story skeleton and teach students about fundamental plot elements (rising action, climax, falling action, denouement, etc.)
  • Make poetry more fun and accessible by using Storybird’s poetry form
  • Encourage creativity and a life-long love of stories by encouraging your students to share their creations with the class

Bring Adventure to the Classroom with Classcraft

Classcraft is one of many tools available to teachers and educators that “gamifies” the learning experience. But what sets Classcraft apart is that it’s more than a technique applied to one lesson–Classcraft gamifies the entire classroom experience.

Here’s how it works: students create their own role-playing game (RPG) style characters and form collaborative groups or “parties.” Classcraft helps you to create an enthusiastic, motivated, cooperative classroom by rewarding positive behaviors and punishing negative behaviors through a graphically beautiful and highly immersive system. Award your students experience points for turning in homework on time, answering a question correctly, or making an encouraging remark to a classmate. After accumulating enough experience points, students can purchase “abilities” that are tied to real-world rewards such as getting to turn in an assignment a day late or getting a hint on an exam. Bad behaviors such as tardiness can be punished by taking away “health points.” If a student loses enough health points, just like in a video game, they “fall in battle.” What’s more, when one student falls in battle, everyone in their party loses health points. This incentivizes students to work together and hold each other accountable for keeping the class on track.

classcraft treasure chest
This is just the beginning of the adventure with Classcraft.  Transform your lesson plans into interactive “quests.”  Use a “volume meter” to keep your students working diligently and reward treasure to a silent classroom.  Convert grades into experience points to further motivate students. You can present formal assessments as exciting boss battles!

Getting Started

Request a free trial of Classcraft here.  Once granted access, you will be able to do a host of exciting things, including:

  • Reward experience and deducting health points for effective behavior management
  • Transform your lesson plans into interactive “quests”
  • Use a volume meter to keep your students working diligently
  • Convert grades into experience points to further motivate students
  • Present formalized assessments as exciting boss battles

Related Resources

Educators interested in adding even more gamification into their classroom may also be interested in:

Interview: Tim Scott on Latest Book “The Dragon King”

Talking Ed. with Tim Scott

Episode 011 (View entire series)

Tim Scott discusses the unique qualities of his latest book involving heroic yet relatable family characters in a fast-paced series.

Tim takes the leap as a full-time writer, connecting with others through story. He finds full-time writing a frightening, challenging, rewarding experience and shares the intriguing process of developing a plot twist.

Visit Tim Scott’s site:

Happy Halloween

Sir Ken Robinson: How to Create a Culture for Valuable Learning #edchat #cpchat

“Education reform discussions often center on how to tweak existing mechanisms, but what if the system itself is creating the problems educators and policymakers are trying to solve? That’s the theory favored by author and TED-talk sensation Sir Ken Robinson.

““If you design a system to do something, don’t be surprised if it does it,” Robinson said. He went on to describe the two pillars of the current system — conformity and compliance — which undermine the sincere efforts of educators and parents to equip children with the confidence to enter the world on their own terms.

“…Robinson believes education is “to enable students to understand the world around them, and the talents within them, so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.” He doesn’t deny that learning information about the world is important, but he says it’s equally important for students to understand their own talents, motivations and passions if they are going to lead lives that satisfy them. The current system of conformity and compliance leaves no space for this type of self-exploration.

“….Robinson is calling on all educators to look at the available resources differently, more creatively, and to use them to create learning environments that allow individual students to thrive and flourish.”

Read the full article.

Highlights from Last Night’s Thunderstorm

We had a big thunderstorm come through the region last evening. This electrical storm footage was shot in Arlington, TN, a suburb of Memphis. Our son, Zeb, edited it into this short highlight clip.

Enjoyed a Great Week in Washington, D.C.

I enjoyed presenting at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education Conference (#SITE18) and visiting with the U.S. Department of Education.

Photos are part of my Daily Photo Project.