How many days until vacation?

4fingers For most educators, this is that crazy time of the year between Thanksgiving break and the winter holiday break. You know the drill…try to balance the desire to get a complete “unit” in before break with the inevitable onslaught of obstacles such as special schedules, holiday events, weather related cancellations of part or all of the school day and the general craziness that surrounds the holidays. If you teach seniors, you can throw in the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the release of early college acceptances.

Regardless of how frenetic the next week or two get for you, you have to remember to take time for yourself and recharge your professional batteries. To that end, I have 4 items this week that may serve as your elixir. I have two neat tools that recently crossed my desk that you may find could add a little pizzazz to your lessons in 2015. Why not spend some time over the winter break playing with a new toy (er, I mean “tool”)? The final two items are more reflective in nature and may help you to focus on the big picture for a bit and not get so caught up in the day to day rat race that teaching can sometimes feel like. Without further ado…

  • Have you ever wondered how you or your students could create those snazzy looking infographics that you frequently see in magazines or online? Well, there is a free online tool that can help you or your students actually create your own infographics. Piktochart is a website that will walk you through the steps to create visually appealing presentations that “make information beautiful.” Thanks to my colleague Meg Blunden for sharing this cool tool.
  • Tour Builder is a new way to show people the places you’ve visited and the experiences you had along the way using Google Earth. It lets you pick the locations right on the map, add in photos, text, and video, and then share your creation.” Think “virtual field trip” and you have a sense of what this tool allows you or your students to create. There is a brief video on the site from a history teacher who uses Tour Builder in his classroom that can be seen here.
  • Fostering Reflection is a piece from a past issue of Educational Leadership, the professional journal of ASCD that is a good reminder of a frequently omitted aspect of professional learning.
  • Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities is a piece from the Edutopia website that will allow you to put your “reflective hat” on after the last article and put it to use.  😉