Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Websites & Apps for to Stop the Summer Brain Drain

Recently, a parent asked me how she could use technology to help her children do something educational while they are traveling this summer.  Here are some of what I suggested to her (and my other parents) as ways to use technology to keep kids’ minds active this summer:

15 Ways Kids can Use Technology to Help Prevent Summer Slide

1.  Read Online Books:  There are so many books and stories available on the internet nowadays.  I listed 6 possible places to get good books in this blog post not too long ago, but there is also the Kindle reading app, which can be downloaded to most any device and filled with good books that can be read offline.

2.  Play Math & Logic Games:  My favorite place for logic games is Cool Math, but there are so many puzzle apps and math games out there, that you shouldn’t have a hard time finding games that meet your kids’ needs and let them have fun with math.  For a jumping off point, check out my Top 10 Math Websites blog post.

3.  Watch Educational Videos:  Kids all have topics that interest them.  Pick something that kids like (baseball, dance, cats, video games etc.) and find documentaries or other educational videos like Magic School Bus Episodes around these topics.  Great starting places for documentaries include National Geographic, the History Channel, PBS, BBC and the Discovery Channel.

4.  Blog About Places They Visit:  No matter if you are traveling the country or going on a walk around the park, kids can keep summer journals by simply blogging about the things they do and places they visit.  For some information about how I’ve done blogging with students check out my Student Blogging blog post.

5.  Create Stories:  Kids love to make up stories and technology gives them so many ways to put those stories together – Storybird, Puppet Pals, and Powtoon are three of my favorites.  You can also check out my Top 10 Writing Websites blog post for more suggestions.

6.  Find Answers to their Own Questions:  Children always have questions of their own.  Summer is a great time to let them practice using search engines while finding the answers to their own questions.  Children can use Kid-Friendly search engines like Fact Monster, online Encyclopedias like Britanica, use a basic Google search or even use YouTube’s search feature to find videos that will answer their questions.

7.  Practice Math Facts:  Keeping up with math facts is one of the easiest things that kids can do over the summer.  Websites like Mathmagician and apps like Flash to Pass help students to practice the facts, whether they are working on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

8.  Watch “How to” Videos to Learn a New Skill:  Students can learn so much from videos, and they often want to know how to do something, so why not let them watch how to videos to learn how to do something that interests them – to make boondagle keychains, to bake a cake, to build a wooden car, to braid hair, to play a video game etc.

9.  Create a Detailed Map of Places Visited:  If you are traveling, you can use Google Maps – or even a map background in Powtoon – to create a detailed map of the places you have visited.  Kids can add pictures and information about the places they have visited.  Check out my blog post about Summer Google Maps to see how I have done this with my own children.

10.  Create a Time Lapse Video of Your Summer with One Picture a Day: Have kids take a picture every day with one thing that stays the same in each picture – perhaps placing a teddy bear or book into a new place or position each day.  Then, kids can put the pictures together into a time lapse video using the app iMotion HD on the iPad or Stop Motions Animator for the PC.

11.  Create Your Own “High Tech/ Low Tech” Game:  Combine high tech and low tech by having kids use one of the simpler capabilities of their device – the timer, the calculator, the compass, the camera – to create a new game where they make up the rules.

12.  Geocaching:  Geocaching is a real life treasure hunt where you find the GPS address and clues online.  They can be done with the aid of a smart phone or table that has 3G, or even with the GPS device you use in your car.  Find more details in my Geocaching blog post.

13.  Be a Critique:  During the summer, children “consume” more movies, songs, games, events and books than during any other time of the year.  Give students a chance to critique what they consume.  Let them write up a review and post it on Amazon, Good Reads or Trip Advisor.  Check out this blog post on writing book reviews for more ideas.

14. Download an Instrument App and Create Your Own Songs:  There are lots of great apps out there that let you “play” instruments – like the Free Drum Set app for the iPad or the Virtual Keyboard for the PC.  Children can create their own songs and even choreograph dances to go along with them.

15. Math and Science Simulations:  There are tons of Math and Science simulations on the internet.  Even if students haven’t learned these topics, playing with simulations can help students build background knowledge that will help prepare them for future lessons, or help them connect between different topics.  PHET is a great starting point for finding simulations.


What do you suggest that students do with technology over the summer?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources