Friday, August 31, 2012

Pinterest to organize

Over the last few months, many of my colleagues and myself have started using Pinterest for all sorts of things.  I use it to organize recipes, library ideas and fashion.  But, think of all of the wonderful things that we as educators can use with this tool.

I have seen so many boards by teachers that have come up with some fantastic uses.  Some use it for organizing grade level content.  I have seen some use it for different chapters in each content area.  There are graphic organizers, anchor charts, even top read books.  I have a board just about Harry Potter and the Hunger games.  One of my colleagues has one with just bulletin boards. The possibilities are endless.

The one issue I have come across with pinterest is the amount of bandwidth it uses.  The program is still in its earlier phases and one of the disadvantages is the fact that the entire program downloads everything from everywhere. Two teachers were using it at the same time at my school and it used 75% of the district bandwidth.  There were also several copyright concerns that came up a few months back.  It is important to be a smart pinner and not just one who pins everything.

Here are a few ideas to using pinterest in your classroom.

1.  Content area/ Chapter boards:  Create a board for each chapter you teach.  Post links to content you plan to use for your lessons.  As you teach the lesson, you can add more materials to the board for later reference.  *Don't forget to make sure items are part of creative commons.

2.  Book IDs:  In Indiana, we have Rosie Awards and the Young Hoosier awards.  I know other states have the same thing.  Why not assemble a board for each award and pin each nominee so they are easy access.  You could keep the board after the winners are announced so people can look back at the information.

3. Vocabulary organization:  Being a foreign language teacher, I have considered making a board for each chapter with images that relate to the chapter. Example:  For the food unit, insert photos of each vocabulary word and a link to the audio pronunciation.  Your students could access the board and use it for their lesson and their review.

4.  Video link assembly:  If you have a series of videos you use for your class, you can assemble them into boards for later access.  Keep in mind the creative commons and copyright.

5. Images of classroom:  If you have things in your classroom you want to share, make a board and post images.  I would use it for bulletin boards, classroom layout and projects.

Pinterest does require an invitation but once you join, there are so many opportunities to use it for.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Using wallwisher to organize your class

Wallwisher is a tool usable on a personal level or on a school level for numerous tasks.   I use it in my classroom as a way for students to ask questions, collaborate and offer input into things. It is a simple program to use and it works well for various things.  We use it sometimes in my district for professional development.

It starts with creating a free account.  Once you are in, you make a wall. You set permissions to be personal or public. When you are ready for students to use the wall, you send them the link (I post my links into edmodo.) When it's time for class to use, they double click anywhere on the wall and type a post.  Voila, it's as simple as that.  A few neat things about it, is the capability to embed onto a website and also the capability of an RSS feed of the discussion.

I have found that wallwisher is easy to use and the kids don't mind using it. I have used it for several things in my class.

1.  Review of materials:  I have posted a question on the board in French and the kids use wallwisher to respond.  It can be anonymous as a way to survey what the kids know or have them input a name to answer questions for participation points.  The kids can also insert video or audio clips.

2. Exit slips: Have students do a quick question about things you covered in class to see comprehension.

3. Class collaboration:  I have the kids write about things they have been doing in the target language.  We chat about all sorts of things: family, reflexive verbs and daily routine, clothes, food.  It works as well to discuss books and art.

4. Book review/ chat:  If you run a school library, you could create a wall for a specific book and have patrons use the site to chat about it.  It could be an anonymous book club, per se.

5. Staff Development/ PD:  We used wallwisher in a PD. The teachers used it to ask questions of the presenter anonymously.  It was a great way to get the teachers involved and solve several concerns and questions they had.

6.  Personal level:  You can use wallwisher to organize your week, do lesson plans, write notes to yourself about things that need to be done, etc. 

Wallwisher is a really great tool to use in the classroom and on a personal level. It's worth looking at.

Friday, August 24, 2012

3 x 3 links to organize on a small level

A few weeks back, I did a post about a site called Symbaloo, which I adore using to organize a lot of links and websites together. What happens if you only have a small number of pages to share with students or colleagues and don't need all the space a symbaloo has to offer? Take a look at 3x3 Links.   3x3 links is a grid of nine tiles you can custom make to do exactly as you need it to do.  If you teach a course that only has 4 or 5 sites you expect students to use, this is a fantastic way to do it.

You go to the site and see a pre-made 3x3.  You sign in and custom make your own.  Did I mention this site is linked to google, so your google account is the sign in?  You click on a create a space, then insert the links. When you make the tiles, you see a logo from the site appear (if there is a logo available). When the space is complete, you save it and get a link. This link can be customized to have exactly what you want it to say. The links are stored on the site and you can access them.

The neat thing about this site, you can embed the links into another page that uses HTML.  I spent some time learning about the site and found it fairly easy to use.  There are a lot of possibilities with it as well.  Exporting, importing, embedding and collaboration.  It can also be made as you browser homepage without logging into google. You can use it a few different ways.

1. Project:  Assign a project and have the students refer to specific links to do what they are doing.
2. Collaborative learning: Create a link for groups of students and have a tile for each student.  They can set it as their homepage on the computer and refer to their specific tile as they do their task. (perhaps blogging, a wiki page per student, a student built website, etc.)
3. Homepage:  Maybe you do have a specific website for each class you teach.  This could be a homepage for you to just click on the page and be ready to go.
4. Polling:  Maybe you have several different sites you use for polling and want them all linked together.  This could be a method of getting them fast and easy.

Check this site out, I am going to use it in my classroom this year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mentimeter to poll students

I attended a webinar that had participants answer a few survey questions using a program called Mentimeter. I checked it out to see if it was comparable to something like Poll everywhere. I liked it, but I don't see it being something I would use frequently.  Mentimeter does allow you to create a poll and select options for the answers. It is an instant response, you can see everything people select on a screen as soon as it is submitted.  It can be used with a cell phone or with a computer.  With a cellphone, students can use their browser, input a code and select the answer.  The same can be done with a computer browser as well.  It is a free service.

The positive if Mentimeter, the number of respondents can be unlimited.  The negative, you can't save surveys.  On sites such as poll everywhere, you can create an account and save your polls, you just have a limited number of responses available.  Mentimeter responses are only choices.  Participants cannot fill in the blanks, so if you are looking for ways to get more than a yes, no, or a multiple choice answer, don't use the program.

Mentimeter has a page with ideas for use developed for teachers. Responses are anonymous but there are several things you could use this tool for.

Quick exit slips:  Have students do a poll to see what they understood from class that day.
Topic polls:  Perhaps you teach a class where the kids have a say in the content.  You could survey students to see the next step.
Yearbook surveys: If you sponsor the yearbook, like I do, you could do a survey to gather responses for a page.
Warmups:  Have a survey ready upon arrival and require students to answer them to see if they retained prior knowledge.
Predictions:  If you teach an English class and are reading a specific title, you can have students guess the outcome of the book or predict what is happening next. 

The Mentimeter site offers a few more ideas for use.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Choosing a QR code generator

Let's face it, there are dozens of sites out there guaranteeing the user a good QR code, but how on earth does one decide what to use and where to get it?  I have spent some time looking over a few options and have generated my own small list of some I don't mind using and they are free, which is the key.  I have found so many generators that I decided to do a few today and come back in a few weeks with another part 2 post with more.

Google shortner If you shorten a link with this site, you can view analytics and see a QR code immediately. It can be cut and pasted right into your document. It's convenient to use, especially if you want to keep your links and your QR codes together.   The program also allows you to track hits and visits from the code.

I-Nigma is the code generator I prefer to use the most.  I like it because you can actually label the code with a caption before you cut and paste it.  I use it when I make a lot of codes at one time for labels or on a specific document.  It helps me organize.   You can't keep track of the analytics like Goog.l shortner but, it gives you that caption and to me that is huge. I make so many group QR codes that the caption saves me time.

Kaywa is another generator that can be used free (or with a fee).  You log into the account, input the information and voila, you have a QR code to copy and paste into your document. It allows you to generate a free code or a safe code (with a paid subscription).  One thing I like about this program is the embed code it makes for you to put on your website or blog.

If you are going to be using QR codes, there is one thing I can't stress enough: don't forget to shorten your URL.  The codes look more jumbled if the address you are using is long.  Codes are cleaner if you use a short code.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How I use twitter in my classroom
I have read a lot of posts by different educators about Twitter in the classroom.  I decided I would share some of the ways I use twitter or how I anticipate using it this year.

First of all, my school district has been very open minded about attempting to use social media in school.  If it is monitored by the teachers and used for a learning process, the administration has been all for it.  I am grateful for this.  I think allowing social media is a great tool and it's something different that kids will use.  I also think opening it up to them teaches them more social responsibility and more about digital citizenship.  If they see how it is being used in the real world, they are going to learn more about it and do it right.

I start off the school year having all of my students create a twitter account. We have set hashtags for each class.  Since I teach French, I use #hhsfrench1, #hhsfrench2, etc.  I have not seen those tags used any other time, so I am pretty fortunate to use them.  Since the group tweet program is running now, I will look into using that as well.  It can keep the kids tweets private and only I can see what they say.  I have a twitter account set up for my personal use as well as one for school.  My students are all instructed to follow my school account.  I follow them back.  I don't use my school account often.  I usually just access it when we are doing tasks on twitter. Some of my students also follow my personal account, but I think once they see how many things I tweet about education, they lose interest and unfollow me.

When it comes time to do things, I use twitter in a few different ways.  I have the kids tweet sentences to me about things we did in class.  I use it as an exit slip.  I have a few kids who prefer to submit their assignments via twitter and not on paper.  Works for me.  I set up my google reader account to follow that hashtag and I can refer to it later.

I have used twitter to have the kids connect with people from other countries. They ask questions of them or merely read their posts and summarize for me.  I give them names of famous people in Francophone places and a few newspapers and have them follow those.  They summarize what they read to me.

This year, we are making a few connections with other schools so they will hopefully have the opportunity to tweet with their new colleagues abroad.

On an additional note, I also have a twitter account set up for the school library and the yearbook.  When I need images, I tweet and kids send them to me.  I use the library account to announce new books we have added, contests we are doing and special events.  I have a good number of students who follow the library on twitter and use it to find out a lot of information.

I am a twitter freak.  My husband makes fun of me because of how many things I post on twitter.  He calls me a twitterer.  Oh well, I am proud to be a twitterer and excited to share it with my studens.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School Freebies

via creative commons
When I attended edcampindy this past June, one of my colleagues signed my up to moderate a session about freebies.  We are teachers, we all love to get stuff for free, so I decided as we get close to the school year beginning, why not do a quick list of places that offer free things for teachers.  Some are local shops, some are online sites.  I am sure there are even more than what I am publishing, but at least my list is a start.

1.  Donors Choose.   I tried this one a few years ago and had no luck but I decided to give it another shot and voila, within two weeks, I was fully funded.  The site allows you to create an account, you receive three points upon registration and you spend the points to create projects.  I created two, one for library books and the other for library seating.  You have some writing to do, some details to fill out, but, once you are funded and you complete the steps donors choose requires of you (thank you letters, notification packets, PR, etc.) you receive more points and start it over again.  I am going to do another on in the spring and try to get the Rosie Award/ YHBA books. I ended up with half my titles coming through this site.

2. Best Buy.  Little do many know but your local Best Buy will do a program in your school and give you $1000 to spend in their store.  I spoke to the manager at my local and found out they will come to school carnivals and bring xbox, wii, playstations and use that as a time donation, or they offered to come in and show my students digital technology/ eReaders and how to use them and the benefits of one versus the other.  They send a few employees, kids benefit from it by getting money back.  I am going to try to get them to the school carnival with the gaming systems and use the money to buy a gaming system for the library.

3.  Kohls.  Many have heard the slogan of Kohls Cares.  They really do care.  All of their employees are required to do community service.  So, Kohls will send a group to your school, do a project for a certain amount of time and after it is completed, give you $500.   They redid our softball field a few years back.  I am going to see if they will come in and help repaint the library for me or help with the book fair.

4.  LowesLowes does a toolbox for education that provides money to schools and parent groups.  The link has all the details.

5. AdoptAClassroom This site allows you to create an account and publicize it via social media, websites, etc.  You can fundraise or just let your balance grow.  After you have money, you shop for school supplies. They ship them right to you.  You can even put a widget on your blog so people can link right from it.

6. Supply Our Schools This site is a little bit like donors choose but it is sponsored through Office Depot.  You create an account, create a shopping list of school supplies and as people donate them to you, they ship right to your school.  It is a great way to get construction paper, markers, pens, paper, etc.  Teachers who are members are also eligible for a day in October when Office Depot surprises teachers with a $1000 gift card.  Sounds exciting to me!

7.  Ask local businesses.   I learned from some of my colleagues that local businesses offer special programs for schools as well.  My local Walmart will donate left over clearance items to schools.  You contact the store manager and ask to be on the list.  Applebees will donate meal cards to support reading programs and for academics.  Many fast food restaurants will have special fund raiser nights donating proceeds to your school or PAC.

The key to freebies, is asking. Call around, you will be surprised how many businesses are willing to help educators.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Some ways I am using QR codes

I am a huge fan of QR codes. I think the concept is such a time saver and such a fantastic way to access information quickly. I even had a QR code reader added to all of our student laptops because there are apps out there that read QR codes with a webcam. I decided this upcoming school year I am going to devote some of my time creating things and link them with QR codes and encourage kids to use them.

In my niece's elementary classroom, her teacher installed a QR reader on the iPads and has the students scan codes on the board or through the Elmo to get a worksheet she has posted previously. That got me thinking. Why not try using these fantastic little tools for the same thing if not more.

I run a school library. I make blogposts and surveys and have contests. Why not use the codes for students to access information quickly. I started by making a voting system for the Indiana young Hoosier books the Eliot Rosewater books. I made the survey and put the QR code on a bookmark so the kids can scan and vote as they get done with the book, vote and voila... finished. I also made business cards for myself and linked my blog address through a QR code.  I have also placed a QR code in my school email so anyone who receives something from me can link directly to my blog.

I have done a QR code scavenger hunt where the kids will be able to win prizes for completing.  It will involve the use of our new genre based fiction section.  I want kids to be able to use it.  I made a map of the library, kids can access it via QR code on their computer and see immediately how we have it laid out.  I have also put book trailer links in books.  Kids can scan the QR code and watch the trailer. This one has been a bit of a challenge because not all of the books have a trailer and some of them are home made.

As far as assignments go, we are on Edmodo, so using a QR code to do a lot of assignments like my niece did isn't very practical, but, I am thinking about doing a small art fair in the media center, which is also my classroom and have QR code links to the biographies and art information.  I also have a lot of realia from Africa, Martinique and other Francophone countries.  I am thinking why not use a QR code and link to the country page on the CIA world fact book and let kids learn a little about the country of origin.

Perhaps the kids can find a QR code and hear the vocabulary word pronounced.  It can link to a site such as Quizlet which pronounces foreign language words. It's a lot of work at the start, but why couldn't the kids do it for an assignment?  Assign each 10 vocabulary words, ask them to make the QR codes for the words and paste them in a shared google doc for the chapter. In a class of 20, you'd have 200 words.  It would add up fast and be a huge time saver.

QRCodeA few very important tips to know before you make a QR code- you have to shorten your link.  Use or tinyurl and shorten the link you want to use.  Look at the difference between shortening my school website link:  These are the exact same address- one has been shortened with  Look at the difference.   The next word of advice, find a program you like to use to generate the codes. I use I-nigma to create the codes.  I like this one because it allows you to label the code before you make it.   I have also learned that before the new look, build codes too, but I haven't been able to see if they are still part of the new version.    Another site to look at is Kaywa.  It allows you to build codes too and create embedded info for a blog, etc.

When I got started on the QR code journey, I visited the Symbaloo site and started searching for webmixes people made about QR codes.  There are a few out there with great links to generators, readers to add to PC/Mac and some blogposts about how they are used. Another huge fan of the QR code is the Daring Librarian.  She has several great posts about how she uses them. You can access her site here.

If you are like me, the concept will be a huge time saver once the initial work is done.  There are so many phenomenal ways to integrate QR codes into the classroom, the school district, the Media Center, etc.  It is very much worth a shot looking into it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Collaborate, Note Taking with Titanpad

I have spent several days this summer doing webinars via SimpleK12 and learned they subscribe to a site that they use for the backchannel of the webinar.  I immediately started asking them questions about the site and learned it is free to use.  That was the key to me.  So, I created an account at titanpad and have already started generating ideas to using it in my classroom or my school library.

Titan pad is a platform that has a note-taking component on one side and a chat option on the other.  The note-taking side syncs constantly so multiple users can add their information.  It reminded me a little of one-note but with the ability to chat.  The owner of the "pads" as the program calls them can keep them in an archive to refer to later.   The pads have security options, the ability to import and export the notes and the capability to save revisions.

As a classroom teacher planning to flip the class and also thinking heavily of devoting a portion of my time to PBL, I started seeing the lightbulbs going off with this program.

First of all, think of all the special ed students you have in class.  Often, they can't keep up with notes or need to have an assistant there to take good notes for them.  Occasionally, a student helper is used to jot notes down and then have them copied for the student.  With Titanpad, the notes are input directly on the site.

With the chat component, the students can type questions directly to the teacher and the teacher can use that information to see immediate feedback of comprehension.  The pad is exported to a PDF or a Word file and voila, instant access to all the notes.  If you have a school that is 1:1, this is a fantastic way to collaborate in your classroom.  I was saving my notes and copying and pasting them into OneNote so I could refer to them later. 

I am thinking this could be a great way for partners and groups to collaborate.  Often, in my French class, I have the kids write skits.  If you use this, the kids can work on their skit in groups and I can be involved with it.  

If you teach a class and have kids absent, you do the notes here and make them available later. No excuses for missing class.  Kids are at home sick but not really that bad? They can join the class and see what is happening and ask questions.

I can see this working for a class that involves collaboration or a class using PBL.  It's worth a shot, right?