MAT Blog

5 Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 8, 2012 6:00:00 AM

collaborative learningWhy do our students come to school? Yes, yes, of course because they have to, but why else? Is it because of you? Is it because of the mind-bending textbooks?

If you asked Michael Kahn (see his article, “The Seminar”) these questions, he’d tell you that there’s nothing intrinsically special about us or the textbooks.

No, what makes coming to school “worth it” is the collaborative learning experience—or in his words, the “opportunity to engage in a fantastic dialogue, trialogue, multilogue with a fantastically varied assortment of consciousnesses.” Indeed, the teacher facilitates and instructs and the books are the springboard from which conversations and teachable moments are launched. But Kahn believes classrooms become magical because of the relationships we nurture and the conversations we have.

To enhance or reinvent your students’ collaborative learning experience and use technology to do it, we thought we’d offer 5 apps to get you started!

5 Apps to Boost Collaborative Learning

Corkboard Me. If Google Calendar and Pinterest had a child, the result would be Corkboard Me. It's a pragmatic way to keep everyone on the same page in terms of who is doing what and when. Students can create "post it notes," keep track of the project's timeline and leave messages to each other on an online cork board. Nobody has the excuse they didn't get a message or didn't know what they were supposed to do because it's all on the group's cork board. Once the students are ready to work, is a one-stop-shop where students can work on the same document, at the same time, in real time. Different colored highlights are assigned to each student. It eliminates the need for cutting/pasting, or attaching documents back and forth, with different versions of the same thing floating out in cyberspace. Students can check out previous histories and collaborators can chat in real time while the document is being created. These are just a few of the perks of using

MixedInk. Similar to, MixedInk is another collaborative learning platform that allows students to work on one document at the same time. This one’s quite user-friendly and more geared toward teacher/student/classroom learning. Perks include the ability for students to give a star-rating to certain ideas, passages, or versions of the document so they can decide as a group which one should be the final product. It's completely free and can be as professional, creative, or fun as the collaborators want to make it.

LiveBinders. Email, Facebook, Twitter, and texting can all be used to send information to individuals or groups. You can embed URLs on a website or blog. But after enough links/sites come your way, it can be hard to keep track of them. LiveBinders created a way to organize resources and information in one location - which is put together like a traditional 3-Ring binder using tabs and sub-tabs. Ideas:

  • Teachers can embed a LiveBinder link on their website which houses PowerPoint lectures, YouTube Videos, and recommended websites for student/parent viewing.
  • Parents can use it to keep track of safe websites for their kids, or to help them find online resources for their student's project.
  • Collaborative learning groups can use LiveBinder to keep all of their group project resources and information in one organized place.

Realtime Board. This online app combines the best features from multiple apps. It's a collaborative, creative, organizational Realtime Board, based on the idea of a whiteboard, which allows groups to create presentations, infographics, papers and more. It's a little more high-tech so older students will benefit the most from this one. One of the bonuses is that when a document is pinned to the board, you can still work within it - scrolling between pages, or editing it, and then save the changes back to the original file on your computer.

Students, of course, aren’t the only ones who benefit from collaborative learning. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a recent Education Week article featuring Keith Pomeroy, an Ohio-based director of technology, who exposed us to collaborative-learning websites like Edmodo and Schoology. If you’re ever looking for lesson-plan ideas or new resources, we recommend that you check both of these sites out!

Also check out our free download, Surfing for Substance: 50 No-Nonsense, No-Fluff Websites and Apps for Teachers, to learn about some helpful websites and apps that can streamline your curriculum, keep you organized, and engage your students.

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Tags: curriculum design, download, apps for educators, downloads, Collaboration

Download our free guide: 50 Apps for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 2, 2012 1:32:00 PM

surfing for substanceMaybe you’re a veteran teacher. You have a robust arsenal of lesson ideas; you’ve gone through the trial and error period of keeping great assignments, tweaking mediocre ones and scrapping others that didn’t work at all.

Or maybe you are a new teacher and only beginning to build your repertoire. As a result, you may be spending long days (and nights) not only juggling lesson planning, but grading and attending to all of the other administrative responsibilities that come with the territory.

Either way, both new and veteran teachers share something in common: They are busy. In addition to this, they can never have too many ideas for increasing student engagement, streamlining curriculum and staying organized.

That’s why we are offering our FREE downloadable guide, Surfing for Substance, a compilation of 50 User-friendly websites and apps for teachers.

You may be a “tech-head” already, but you don’t have to be to make any of these 50 user-friendly websites and apps a part of your everyday life. Our descriptions of each resource are brief and lighthearted—and hopefully, substantive enough to give you a sense for whether or not they will fit your students’ and your needs.

Inside you'll find apps for keeping you

  • Organized
  • Connected with Social Media
  • Enhancing Your Curriculum

    Download our FREE guide: 50 Apps for Teachers!

Tags: curriculum design, apps for educators, apps for teachers, downloads, technology in the classroom

Teach grammar...without teaching grammar: the labyrinthine sentence

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 25, 2012 11:46:00 AM

labyrintheLike most of us, I spent years memorizing irregular verbs and diagraming sentences, but I can’t confidently say that these activities made me more articulate or a more dexterous sentence spinner. But I can’t say that they didn’t either.

What I can say is that like most arbitrary human conventions, I really learned (and unlearned) the conventions of writing from watching someone else do it. Then I stole from them.  

As a kid, I may have temporarily learned the rules of diagraming a sentence, but I still had no idea what made good writing tick. I may have memorized some irregular verbs, but I still had no idea how or why the best writers varied their sentences with dashes, colons and semicolons or why they were allowed to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and I wasn’t.

Later on in life, one of my teachers exposed me to something called the labyrinthine sentence. Unlike traditional methods of teaching grammar, this one doesn’t involve rote memorization or workbooks. I’ve had good luck with the assignment and students get a kick out of it even though they find it intimidating at first. What continues to surprise me is that it works.

The gist of the assignment is this: Students are asked to write a sentence of at least 100 words. The sentence must contain at least one dash, a colon, a semicolon and parenthesis. What makes the assignment challenging is that the 100-word sentence can only contain one period at the end.

Before I give them the assignment, I spend a class period going over how dashes, colons, semicolons and parenthesis work. Students take notes, ask questions and then I give them the assignment sheet, which actually serves as a model for how they might craft their own. Their labyrinthine sentence can be about anything at all and you’ll be surprised at how laugh-out-loud hilarious some of them will be.

After they submit it, I look it over and schedule a 10-minute meeting with each student to go over how s/he might make the appropriate changes. After this, I have them submit a revision. Then I assign another one and repeat the process.

I'm interested in your feedback on this one. Let me know if you find any grammatical hiccups.

The Labyrinthine Sentence Assignment Sheet

Although I fully understand the challenge (maybe even the frustration) you will experience while composing a labyrinthine sentence—that is, a sentence of at least one hundred words and only a single period at the end—I declare to you that you can complete the annoying task and do it without breaking any grammar rules; incidentally, I never said it’d be easy; moreover, it probably won’t be as thrilling as some of our other assignments (or maybe it will be, I’ll let you be the judge of that), but I’m hoping that it will liberate you from being afraid of grammar: commas, semi colons, dashes, and don’t forget parenthesis; not many students use the latter, but I find parenthesis useful for breaking up my sentences, especially longer sentences that contain complicated ideas.

In case you’re wondering, let me tell you something about the above sentence: It contains 132 words, so don’t start thinking, saying, or grumbling (I guess you can grumble a little if you want) that it can’t be done—and just to prove it, let me give you another example: in this one, I’ll describe, say, the coffee mug I am drinking out of at the moment: It’s about five inches tall; it has a handle, of course, and then there’s a really corny, Christmas-themed picture—a white rocking horse bedecked in red streamers and bows—that wraps around the entire mug! I’m tired of describing this mug; it’s reminding me of Christmas and Christmas (inevitably) comes with snow—oh, and just in case you’re wondering, this paragraph contains 153 words; moreover, only a single period can be found in it and no one can scold me with their  red pen for it.

Give it a go. Write something. Describe something. Say something—anything! This assignment is due on __________________.


Known for excellence in teaching since 1905, Marygrove College has been offering the convenience of online degree programs since 1990. We’re confident that one of our rigorous, custom-tailored Master in the Art of Teaching program online will fit your needs, your schedule—and your budget. 

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Tags: curriculum design, teaching grammar, teaching composition, curriculum

Hot job in education: The Curriculum Specialist.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Sep 5, 2012 5:34:00 AM

The Curriculum Specialist is a hot job in education.A curriculum specialist is a teacher leader who is committed to the creation and alignment of curriculum and high quality professional development. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that curriculum specialists will experience a higher than average growth rate through 2020. This projected growth is a positive indication of the importance that school districts are placing on the position of curriculum specialist. 

A professional seeking one of the thousands of curriculum specialist jobs across the country can expect to perform many duties including:

Organizes, develops, and coordinates curriculum design. Although school districts primarily adopt published curriculum there is also the need for development of additional curricula. This might be designed to supplement the adopted curriculum or to supplant portions that don't align with the standards. The development of curriculum should be thoughtful and deliberate and involve classroom teachers.

Plans and leads professional development. Those that perform curriculum specialist jobs will lead a variety of professional development opportunities. These sessions may cover curriculum design and implementation, instructional strategies, and assessment methods. The professional development should be made available in a variety of settings such as an entire staff, grade levels, or one-on-one with individual teachers.

Leads teachers in standards based analysis of adopted and created curriculum. Any published curriculum should be carefully analyzed for its alignment with instructional and achievement standards. If there are portions that don't align with the standards, the curriculum specialist can facilitate the creation of supplementary curricula.

Collaborates with teachers to adapt curriculum. Teachers are expected to meet the needs of a variety of learners and should be able to use the adopted curriculum with all students. A curriculum specialist can work with teachers to modify and adapt the curriculum to extend the curriculum for students needing additional challenges and to differentiate for learners who need additional support.

Analyzes assessment data. The curriculum specialist should work with a team of administrators and teachers to analyze classroom and school-wide data to determine effectiveness of curriculum and instruction. There is a correlation between achievement, instruction, and curriculum. The team of administrators, teachers, and the curriculum specialist should work together to disaggregate the data and determine areas for growth.

The Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (CIA) program will help to prepare you well for a curriculum specialist position.  The CIA coursework is designed to encompass all of the critical thinking, leadership skills, and knowledge required to qualify.  If you would like more information, contact an enrollment specialist at (855) 628-6279, today!


Learn more about our online Master's Degree Program

Tags: curriculum specialist, curriculum design, careers in education, hot jobs, Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching

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