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  • 10 Best Cities to Visit in the Fall

    Asheville, North Carolina

    Asheville is that type of unique, special place that lingers sweetly in your mind and memories for years to come. The city’s rich architectural legacy with its mix of Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles is the perfect retro-urban backdrop to the edgy energy that emanates from the locally owned-shops and art galleries, distinctive restaurants and exciting entertainment venues. 

    A bastion of cutting-edge art and technology in the Blue Ridge, the city also prides itself on its fascinating Appalachian past and celebrates this culture with annual events such as Shindig on the Green. While many cities underwent major overhauls in past decades, Asheville’s historic and architecturally diverse downtown remains beautifully preserved.

    There’s something special about Asheville, and the world is just beginning to discover it. Read more here.

    San Diego, California

    San Diego is renowned for its idyllic climate, 70 miles of pristine beaches and a dazzling array of world-class family attractions. Popular attractions include the world-famous San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California. San Diego offers an expansive variety of things to see and do, appealing to guests of all ages from around the world.

    In San Diego’s East County, the terrain varies from gentle foothills to mile-high mountains and the historic mining town, Julian, down to the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, offering nature-conscious visitors endless opportunities to hike, camp, fish, observe wildlife and much more. Read more here.

    Boston, Massachusetts

    Boston is best known for its famous baked beans, Fenway Park, The Boston Marathon, and of course for the bar from Cheers, but dig a little deeper below the surface and you’ll find a surprising wealth of things that make Boston one of the best cities in America—and the world.

    In the 19th century, acclaimed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted laid out his plan for a sprawling Emerald Necklace surrounding the city. From original green space like the Esplanade on the Charles River, the Back Bay Fens, and Boston Common to newer iterations like the 15-acre Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, all Boston neighborhoods offer outdoor opportunities for fresh air and exercise without having to leave the city limits. Read more here.

    Denver, Colorado

    Denver boasts 300 days of sunshine each year. Even during cold winter months, it’s not uncommon to experience the warm sunshine. Denver has the 10th largest downtown area in the nation. It is also one of the most walkable cities. Within a mile radius of downtown, you can explore three various universities and colleges. There’s also a professional sports stadium, home to the Denver Broncos, and art & history museums. The city has 200 parks and nearly 20,000 acres of parks in the nearby Rocky Mountains. Denver has the sixteenth most educated city in America. Read more here.

    Providence, Rhode Island

    “Best city for foodies,” “No. 4 quirkiest city in America,” “No. 3 favorite U.S. city…” the awards for our capital city are countless. Providence combines the friendliness of a small town with the culture and sophistication of a big city. The city has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past 50 years and has a thriving arts community, vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, fantastic hotels, a renowned restaurant scene and tons of things to do. Small city, huge impact! Read more here.

    Portland, Maine

    With over 66,000 full-time residents, Portland swells to two million with the addition of its seasonal visitors and part-time residents in the summertime. The city is located on a peninsula in Casco Bay with access to many islands such as Peak’s, Great Diamond, and Long Island.

    Portland stands as one of the few working waterfronts left in the United States, acting as New England’s largest tonnage seaport and second largest fishing port. Portland is also the largest foreign inbound transit tonnage port in the United States! Each year our port alone handles over 206,000 international passengers, including 41,000 cruise ship passengers. Read more here.

    Anchorage, Alaska

    Urban and wild aren’t opposites; they are Anchorage’s two defining elements. There’s no need to choose one or the other since they are both part of life here. Anchorage lives under midnight sun and auroras. Shares the backyard with moose. Fishes in urban salmon streams at lunch. Cheers runners and reindeer on the main street. The city’s adventures may be beyond belief, but they aren’t beyond the boundaries.

    Anchorage might appear at first glance to be a typical American city, but closer exploration shows some surprising facets of urban life in Alaska. The city’s 300,000 human residents share their space with an estimated 1,500 moose, not to mention bald eagles, bears, beavers, Dall sheep, and the occasional lynx. King and silver salmon fill Ship Creek all summer long, drawing anglers to one of the world’s only urban salmon fisheries. Read more here.

    San Antonio, Texas

    Named the first World Heritage Site in Texas by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), the designation includes the city’s four southernmost Spanish colonial missions – Concepción, San José, San Juan, Espada, and the famous Alamo, located in Downtown San Antonio, and is one of the most popular historical sites in San Antonio.

    The city’s rich culture offers an authentic glimpse of early Spanish colonial life in the Southwest. As the first civilian settlement in Texas, San Antonio de Béxar was founded in 1718. Today, many of the city’s early architectural and cultural elements remain, allowing visitors to visit the historical sites in San Antonio and see into the city’s storied past first-hand. Our brave old world is your next, new adventure. View these historical sites and landmarks with modern-day events, celebrations, and fun. Read more here.

    Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Evidence of Native American occupancy has been found throughout Minneapolis with the oldest being found near the Washington Avenue Bridge and Boom Island Park that date back to roughly 10,000 B.C.E. In more recent times The Dakota have considered the area around St. Anthony Falls to be very sacred. Nicollet Island was a peaceful meeting place between the Dakota and Ojibwe, and downstream eight miles, where the Mississippi meets the Minnesota River, lies Bdote. The Dakota believe Bdote is the center of the world and where the Dakota people began.

    St. Anthony Falls, also known as Owámni, or “falling water,” in Dakota, is the heart and soul of the city. The waterfall provided energy for dozens of mills along the riverfront and is currently one of the most scenic spots along the river to enjoy a beautiful day. 9,000 years ago, when St. Anthony Falls was eroding its way upstream, the waterfall split when it reached Minnehaha Creek. Most of it continued up the Mississippi to its current location, but a part of it eroded up the creek and became the popular attraction known today as Minnehaha Falls. Minnehaha Regional Park offers amazing hiking trails and breathtaking views of Minnehaha Falls. Read more here.

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    Nestled on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and overlooking the largest inland lake in the western US, Salt Lake is home to a pioneering past, and an exciting future. Prior to the Mormons settling the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, it was home to the Ute Indians who called the valley and encompassing mountain range the ‘low place in high mountains.’ Salt Lake’s history is as rich as its vistas, surrounding mountains, and beautiful lake-enhanced sunsets.

    In the meantime, Salt Lake has grown in population, cultural diversity, and accolades. In addition to being home to the Winter Olympics in 2002, our city’s nearby mountains are widely known to be the home of “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” Large storms pick up more moisture as they roll in over the the Great Salt Lake, and that moisture slams against the Wasatch Mountains, creating incomparably light and skiiable powder snow. Read more here.

  • Educators! Win a Gift Card to Insomnia Cookies!

    Educators! Click the link and take a quick survey to WIN a gift card to Insomnia Cookies!

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QDK5SJW

  • Canva- A Quick Crash Course Blog

    Canva, a more than popular tool most recently used on mobile devices as means of creating stimulating visual marketing and social media related images. However, do you know enough about Canva to become an effective Canva user? I hope you are able to leave this crash course well informed about the many uses of Canva!

    There are hundred’s of pre-made templates that you can download and use to DIY your blog’s design. If you are struggling with web design, did you know you can use Canva to design certain elements of your site? Read more about this and other topics below centering around Canva!

    10 Types of Visual Designs You Can Create With Canva

    1. Blog Post Image Template
    2. Sidebar Graphics
    3. Blog Email Newsletter Header
    4. Lead Magnet
    5. Content Upgrades
    6. Email Opt-In Mockups
    7. Blog Post Graphics
    8. Blog Post Infographics
    9. Tip-O-Graphics
    10. List-O-Graphics
    11. Blog Media Kit

    Many users still don’t know the powerful features of Canva. With Canva, you can create the following:

    • Design product labels
    • Create workbooks / Planners / Ebooks
    • Posters
    • Flyers
    • Banners
    • Invitation cards
    • Logos
    • Templates
    • Photo collages
    • GIFs
    • Mobile videos
    • Infographic
    • Resume
    • Desktop wallpaper
    • Postcard
    • Worksheet
    • Certificate

    3 Ways To Enhance Your Blog Posts with Canva

    1. Blog Title Image

    Canva’s Blog Title design template is best for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn shares. If you’re looking for a portrait or vertical blog title image for Pinterest and Google+ shares you can use Canva’s Blog Graphic template. It works great!

    2. Infographics

    The best thing is Canva created an infographic template, which is SO helpful. You can use any of the ready to use template designs and switch out the font, colors, and design elements. Have an outline ready for your infographic, which will make it easier to get done.

    3. Photo Collages

    Photo collages are a great visual piece with a variety of images in one. You can use the ready-to-use Photo Collage template in Canva to show steps of a recipe or instructions. The Canva photo collage template is square shaped however you can create a photo collage with many of their photo grids.

    You can use collages for designs and to display your portfolio. Use the Pinterest template in Canva and the multiple image photo grids as shown below.

    Tip: Find the right photo with Canva’s built in photo library

    To start, type a keyword or two into the search bar, and choose from any of the photos or illustrations — that means no more Google image searches. The extensive photo library hosts a wide variety of subjects and themes, like abstract images, textures, landscapes, people, and animals. Once you’ve found the perfect image, just drag it over to your design, and drop it where it needs to go.

    Canva also allows you to upload your own images and use them on your design, which is perfect for adding your logo and other branded visuals to content.

    Tip: Resize your whole design to fit various platforms.

    The Magic Resize tool is available for Canva for Work users — a paid plan starting at $12.95 per month. Users of Canva’s free tools can still resize their designs by creating a copy of the original visual. Click “File,” “Change Dimensions,” and select the format to which you’d like to resize the design. That said, Magic Resize is quite a time-saving feature that lets you copy and resize one design into formats for various channels. Just click on “File,” navigate to “Magic Resize,” then choose the different formats you want to use to adapt your visual. Then, click the “resize” button, and you’re done.

    Visual content is #Winning!

    Social media users are much more likely to engage with posts that have “visuals” tied to them.

  • 8 Google Sheets Add-Ons For Educators

    Below is a collection of Google Sheets add-ons that I believe every teacher and educator should at least be aware of. These are tools that provide you with tons of functionality hacks to enhance your productivity and facilitate your workflow. Some of the things you can do with these add-ons include: creating forms of various types (e.g., quizzes, assignments, surveys, etc), generate PDFs and documents from Sheets’ data, grade and analyze digital assignments, create a class website from spreadsheets, and many more.

    FormsCreator

    An easy way to generate Google Forms to use for various educational purposes including for surveys, quizzes, assignments, feedback, etc.

    Doctopus

    Enhances teachers workflow by providing teachers with the ability to “mass-copy, share, monitor student progress, and manage grading and feedback for student projects in Google Drive”.

    Autocrat

    “Flexible, easy to use document merge tool that creates PDF or shared Documents from spreadsheet data”.

    Wikipedia and Wikidata tools

    This add-on is great for mining data for your classes. You can use Wikipedia and Wikidata tools to do a ton of information gathering, instantly. The add-on provides you with a host of custom lookups such as WIKITRANSLATE and WIKIGEOCOORDINATES. These functions pull live data straight from Wikipedia into a spreadsheet, enabling teachers to compile an up-to-date and accurate database of facts.

    Flubaroo

    A Google Spreadsheets Add-on that helps educators quickly grade and analyze online assignments and assessments, as well as share scores with students!”

    Sheet2Site

    Allows you to create a website for your class using Google Sheets.

    Form Publisher

    Allows you to generate documents (e.g., Docs, PDF, Sheets, Slides, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) from data on Google Forms and Google Sheets.

    Flippity

    Originally, Flippity was designed to help you create online flashcards from Google Sheets, but the range of templates now includes everything from quiz shows and crossword puzzles to spelling and typing tests. The add-on has recently been discontinued but all the same great templates are available directly via the Flippity website.

  • The 7 Components of TPACK For Successful Technology Integration
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    At the heart of the TPACK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). The TPACK approach goes beyond seeing these three knowledge bases in isolation. The TPACK framework goes further by emphasizing the kinds of knowledge that lie at the intersections between three primary forms: Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), Technological Content Knowledge (TCK), Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).

    Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between these components of knowledge situated in unique contexts. Individual teachers, grade-level, school-specific factors, demographics, culture, and other factors ensure that every situation is unique, and no single combination of content, technology, and pedagogy will apply for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching.

    May be an image of text that says 'TPACK P (or Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) is a framework that highlights the interdisciplinary relationship between teaching, learning, and technology.'
    May be an image of text that says 'Contexts Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK) Technological Knowledge (TK) Technological Content Knowledge (TCK) TPACK Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) Content Knowledge (CK) Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)'
    • Content Knowledge (CK) – “Teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter to be learned or taught. The content to be covered in middle school science or history is different from the content to be covered in an undergraduate course on art appreciation or a graduate seminar on astrophysics… As Shulman (1986) noted, this knowledge would include knowledge of concepts, theories, ideas, organizational frameworks, knowledge of evidence and proof, as well as established practices and approaches toward developing such knowledge” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
    • Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) – “Teachers’ deep knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning. They encompass, among other things, overall educational purposes, values, and aims. This generic form of knowledge applies to understanding how students learn, general classroom management skills, lesson planning, and student assessment.” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
    • Technology Knowledge (TK) – Knowledge about certain ways of thinking about, and working with technology, tools and resources. and working with technology can apply to all technology tools and resources. This includes understanding information technology broadly enough to apply it productively at work and in everyday life, being able to recognize when information technology can assist or impede the achievement of a goal, and being able continually adapt to changes in information technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
    • Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) – “Consistent with and similar to Shulman’s idea of knowledge of pedagogy that is applicable to the teaching of specific content. Central to Shulman’s conceptualization of PCK is the notion of the transformation of the subject matter for teaching. Specifically, according to Shulman (1986), this transformation occurs as the teacher interprets the subject matter, finds multiple ways to represent it, and adapts and tailors the instructional materials to alternative conceptions and students’ prior knowledge. PCK covers the core business of teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment and reporting, such as the conditions that promote learning and the links among curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
    • Technological Content Knowledge (TCK) – “An understanding of the manner in which technology and content influence and constrain one another. Teachers need to master more than the subject matter they teach; they must also have a deep understanding of the manner in which the subject matter (or the kinds of representations that can be constructed) can be changed by the application of particular technologies. Teachers need to understand which specific technologies are best suited for addressing subject-matter learning in their domains and how the content dictates or perhaps even changes the technology—or vice versa” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
    • Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK) – “An understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular technologies are used in particular ways. This includes knowing the pedagogical affordances and constraints of a range of technological tools as they relate to disciplinarily and developmentally appropriate pedagogical designs and strategies” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
    • Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) – “Underlying truly meaningful and deeply skilled teaching with technology, TPACK is different from knowledge of all three concepts individually. Instead, TPACK is the basis of effective teaching with technology, requiring an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
    The TPACK Image (rights free). Read below to learn how to use the image in your own works. Right click to download the high-resolution version of this image.
    Photo Courtesy of TPACK.org

  • 4 Types of Cloud Computing Services

    “The cloud” refers to servers that are accessed over the Internet, and the software and databases that run on those servers. Cloud servers are located in data centers all over the world. By using cloud computing, users and companies don’t have to manage physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own machines.

    Cloud technologies have transformed how organizations procure and manage infrastructure. With every organization today entering the cloud world, it is essential to understand the different types of services cloud computing offers. Although there are many types of cloud computing services, all these services have a few basic features and advantages in common and can be categorized into four basic cloud service offerings. Organizations can fly their business, small or big, to the cloud with these four different types of cloud computing services.

    1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

    The lower end of managed cloud computing services where hardware resources are provided by an external provider and managed for you. IaaS provides users access to computing resources such as networking, processing power and data storage capacity. The lower end of managed cloud computing services where hardware resources are provided by an external provider and managed for you. IaaS provides users access to computing resources such as networking, processing power and data storage capacity.

    Examples of IaaS: Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, Rackspace, Google Compute Engine.

    2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)

    This cloud computing service is an advanced version of IaaS. Apart from just providing the IT infrastructure, PaaS also provides the computing platform and solution stack as a service. PaaS is a cloud computing service that provides developers with a framework that can be used for building custom applications. Platform as a Service lets software developers build custom applications online without having to worry about data storage, data serving, and management.

    A typical Platform as a Service offering consists of – 

    • Hosting Solutions
    • OS
    • Software tools for design and development.
    • Environment for server-side scripting
    • DBMS
    • Network Access
    • Storage
    • Server Software
    • Support

    Examples of PaaS solutions include Microsoft Azure, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Force.com. by Salesforce, Google App Engine, Rackspace Cloud Sites, OpenShift, and Apache Stratos

    3. Software as a Service (SaaS)

    A special cloud computing service that incorporates both IaaS and PaaS service offerings. SaaS is a cloud computing service that provides application-level services tailored to diverse business needs such as business analytics, CRM, or marketing automation. SaaS is a cloud computing service offering that provides web-based software applications to customers on-demand. SaaS providers host a fully-functional application through a browser-based interface and make it accessible to the users through the Internet.

    SaaS offerings allows the cloud to be leveraged for software architecture thereby reducing the overhead of support, maintenance, and operations as the applications run on systems belonging to the vendor. SaaS is the most familiar cloud computing service offering as users most often interact directly with SaaS applications like Netflix, Gmail, JIRA, Dropbox, or Salesforce.

    Examples of SaaS solutions include SAP Business ByDesign, Zoho CRM, AppDynamics, Microsoft Office 365, Pardot Marketing Automation.

    4. Functions as a Service (FaaS)

    Before we understand Functions as a Service, it is important to understand the most popular tech term associated with FaaS – serverless computing. Serverless computing is a cloud computing model that takes away low-level infrastructure decisions and server management from the developers. The application architect need not deal with the allocation of resources as it is managed by the cloud service provider. 

    FaaS is a brand-new and very young cloud computing service acting as a game-changer for many businesses. It is a serverless computing concept that lets software developers develop applications and deploy an individual “function”, piece of business logic, or an action without maintaining a server. It increases the efficiency as developers need not to consider server operations because they are hosted externally. 

    Examples of FaaS include Google Cloud Function, Microsoft Azure Functions, Webtask.io, Iron.io , Open Whisk, and AWS Lambda.

  • Gamification In E-Learning and Training To Improve Retention

    Gamification is a technique used in e-learning to enhance user participation. Gamification techniques are intended to leverage people’s natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism or closure. Gamification strategies use rewards for players who accomplish desired tasks or competition to engage players. Types of rewards include points, achievement badges or levels, the filling of a progress bar or providing the user with virtual currency. Making the rewards for accomplishing tasks visible to other players or providing leaderboards are ways of encouraging players to compete.

    Retention also improved when gamification was used in the workplace. In the future, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may also become a regular part of gamification in business. These two types of gamification put the user in an entirely different place (VR) or augment their surroundings (AR) to offer just-in-time training simulations and problem-solving situations. Read about ways to include gamification into e-learning programs.

    1. Stories

    Create a compelling storyline to captivate your users and take them on a journey. Create a story that embeds users in the plot as they tackle each section of the content. This is a great way to create immersive content and keep learners engaged throughout. Incorporating characters or avatars to represent employees can add an extra layer of fun to this.

    2. Visual design

    Eye-catching visuals and aesthetically pleasing designs can make your elearning more appealing and draw your users in. Combine bright colours and graphics for a visually-stimulating learning experience.

    3. Competitions

    Who doesn’t love a bit of healthy competition? Allow users to compete against others in their team or anonymous players, or even against themselves to keep motivation levels high. Consider including leaderboards so learners can see how they’re performing against their peers.

    4. Challenges

    Reward your learners with smaller, more frequent tasks and then ramp up the difficulty level as the session progresses. This will not only help them get into the swing of things, but leave them primed and ready for more difficult, rewarding challenges using what they have learnt along the way.

    5. Rewards

    Incentivizing your users in the way of rewards such as badges, medals or unlocking new levels can help to boost their motivation and keep them engaged for longer periods of time.

    6. Leader Boards

    They are dashboards that are used to provide a pictorial view of the overall progress—including against others. The analytics keeps learners connected to the learning journey and aligned to meeting their terminal objectives.

    7. Instant Feedback

    Providing instant feedback when a learner completes a task or quiz is a great way to keep them focused and engaged as it allows them to track their progress as they move through the different stages of the game.

    Will gamification truly help learners learn?

    The fact remains that the success of any learning strategy is determined by the effectiveness of its application. Remember, gamification can help create not only extrinsic motivation through rewards and competition, but can also be helpful in providing intrinsic motivators like skill development and autonomy for students.

    Use Of An Avatar

    An avatar allows employees to place themselves in a game. This type of game can be very helpful when everyone in the company needs to undergo a new training at different levels.

    Simulations

    As discussed above, gamification using VR and AR are great ways to teach hazardous situations without placing employees in harm’s way. First responders in the early stages of their training can use gamification in this way to make decisions or react to emergencies, but simulations are also effective for training in call centers and engineering and retail.

    Task-oriented approach

    This type of gamification in eLearning uses a specific, task-oriented approach to teach employees a specific process. This could be something as simple as teaching a new plumber how to hook up a water heater or as complex as developing a new system of resource management.

    Gamification in Assessments

    For companies that need a quick overview of what their employees know, either in theory or in practice, gamified assessments can provide a snapshot in a low-pressure setting. Some of these applications can be developed in such a way that employees don’t even realize they are being assessed. This is not to be done in a “gotcha” way; rather, managers can use this data to structure relevant future trainings and clarify anything that is widely misunderstood.

    Click the link below for more information on integrating your organizations content into gamification software from The Training Arcade: