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Five Ways to Power Up over Break

For many educators, tomorrow is the last day before winter break. Some are already enjoying a winter hiatus. This time is great for connecting with family, enjoying holiday traditions, travel or catching up on much-needed rest. And yet after the big meals, parties and festivities are done, this might also be a perfect time to power up on some new digital learning ideas to jump start 2014. Here are a few things to check out in your down time.

#1 Create a Class Twitter Account

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 11.05.34 AM.pngAs your students explore, learn and grow, it is great to chronicle their journey. Amplify their voices and experiences with social media! Creating a class Twitter handle or Tumblr account will allow you to share the magic that happens in your classroom with your students' families as well as other educators and experts around the world. Twitter is best for quick, 140-character thoughts collected from your students or asking quick questions. Tumbler is great for sharing photos of learning, student work or field trips. In both cases, be sure to speak with your principal to find out what your district's policy on social media is and also get permission from parents before posting anything of or by their children. Once all of the paperwork is complete, encourage your students to share their thoughts and create a positive digital footprint! Recently a kindergarten teacher colleague tweeted to Mercer Mayer and got him to read one of his Little Critter books to the all of the school's primary students! It's great moments like this that shine a light on how social media can be a true friend to educators.

#2 Jazz Up Your Presentations

A lot of educators are using PowerPoint to teach lessons and present content to their students. However, the same old stale bullet points and word art can get a bit dull. Lucky for us that the iPad app, Haiku Deck, is now available on web browsers for our desktops! Try jazzing up your lessons with visually stunning slides and simple text. Explore how to leverage this free tool to allow your students to communicate content to one another and world... then tweet it!

#3 Create a Library of Your Own Digital Content

Beyond slideshow presentations are video lessons. Get started on flipping your classroom or cloning yourself in-class through differentiated video content. To do this, check out Explain Everything - a great app that is available on both iOS and Android devices. Explain Everything will allow you to... well... explain everything. From creating screencast videos showing your students how to multiply to annotating over primary source documents or creating interactive texts for your students to read along during class, this app has a myriad of different possibilities.

#4 Start Your Own Blog

Maybe you already have a class Twitter handle. Or perhaps 140 characters isn't enough for you to share what you've got cooking in the classroom. Create a class blog! Try KidBlog for your students or Blogger for yourself. This online-journal will allow you and your students to reflect on your learning and share with the world! It doesn't matter if you feel that you're a content expert or a tech newbie. We all have stories to tell, and students whose voices should be heard.

#5 Automate Your Life

Tired of grading quizzes? Sick of sending dozens of repetitive emails to parents, colleagues or students? Having trouble scheduling conferences or appointments? Try some automated tricks! Check out Jay Atwood's Sandbox - a great website full of tutorials on how to use automagical tools like Google Scripts, Gmail labs and other super helpful workflows!

Whether you dig into one or all of these ideas, or you find some of your own, break is a great time to brew a hot cup of caffeine, sit in your jammies and dig into some cool new ideas. What are your plans for powering up on EdTech over break? Share them below!

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