Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Get organized pt. 4: Google Calendars

I am all about getting organized, both in my school life and my home life and I must say, using Google Calendars has done a lot to save me.

I have an Android phone, so I was fortunate enough to sync my phone calendar right to my google calendar. But, I use both platforms together, and I have found some free apps and extensions that can be added to your chrome toolbar that make it even easier to get reminders and updates from your calendar. I love that when I add something to my phone, it instantly adds to the cloud and shows up on every device I own. I can schedule appointments, schedule my blog, do trainings and PD, whatever I need to do.

I often carry my phone around school with me when I go to a classroom. Sometimes, my aid needs me or sometimes, I have things on my phone to share. But, having it with me has been a lifesaver more times than not.  I am able to pull up my schedule on the spot and plan for classroom visits, one on one staff training, and meetings with the principal or the superintendent.  I can also see if I have something scheduled for my French class, as I do my lesson plans on Google Calendar as well.  I can share my calendar with my library aid and together we can add class visits and trainings from wherever we are so we know immediately who is going to be coming and for what reason.  (Sometimes, we have several classes show up and it is hard to juggle all of it- but if we know ahead, we can plan ahead.)

One school library I visited had a Google Calendar set up publicly and the teachers could input their personal library schedule directly into the calendar so the media specialist knew who was coming and when to get books, check out media, etc.  The staff still contacted the teacher for lessons and direct instruction, but, it did help her organize her day.

I am sure a lot of people are familiar with Google Calendar, but I think if you dabble a little, you will find some fantastic ways to make it work for you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Get Organized pt. 3: Symbaloo

Last summer, I did a post about Symbaloo and how I use it in my classroom.  I think, since it has changed a little bit, it is time to redo a post about it and show it's new look as well as offer some organizing tips with it.

Let's face it, we teachers come across so many things we want to use in class.  We want our kids to access things and learn stuff, but, we also want to have a little control in what they are accessing. Symbaloo allows teachers to have more control over what kids access.   We assemble a webmix that has our necessary links for projects and require the students to refer to that webmix.

It's really a good way to organize your classes too.  I teach French but I am also the school library media specialist.  I have created several webmixes that cater to the teachers and students in our school. I established one for writing, polling, audiovisual, as well as general research and collaboration.  

Being organized via weblinks helps me share what I know with my staff and students.  Symbaloo is so easy to use and user friendly that anyone can figure it out. The outcome can organize a lot of great links for your students and for you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Get Organized Pt. 2: Wunderlist (Collection Development)

I am not sure how many of you have seen Wunderlist (it's an app as well as online) but I wanted to take a few minutes to show the organizing tool to you.

I added the Wunderlist app to my iPad a few years ago and I decided to start using it for a method of organizing my collection development.  When I preorder a book, I add it to the list with the day it comes out and I add a note about where I ordered it from. I keep all of my records of orders on a spreadsheet, but, a spreadsheet isn't going to remind me of the day I should start seeing it arrive.

Wunderlist allows you to put notifications on your desktop, like a calendar and it will popup a reminder when you are close to the deadline.  It allows for a reminder and a due date.

It is also a great tool to show students so they can learn to task manage.  Task management on project based learning is very important and using a tool such as Wunderlist can really help them learn to organize and plan their tasks.  What is awesome about the tool is the capability of inviting friends to the tasks.  So, if you, as the teacher assign a project, you can invite all of your students to the different tasks and they will get the notifications and be able to refer to the assignment on their own.

If you are in the need of becoming more organized, take a look at this site.  It offers a lot of possibilities for your classes or you.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Get Organized Pt. 1: Workflowy

I believe that being organized is one of the most important things about being an educator.  Looking at my desk, you would never know I try to organize my life, but looking at my web 2.0 life, you would see I really am an organized person.  I make lists, I keep a calendar, and I use post-it notes.   I have managed to find several free tools that are really awesome to use for organization.

Workflowy is one I came across just recently and I am intrigued by how it works. It was recently named to the AASL top 25 web 2.0 tools of 2013.  I decided to try it to organize my grant writing schedule.  I love how it looks.

It has these little bullets that can be hovered upon to add notes, change concept, etc.  It's awesome!  It gives you the power to hide notes and information so you can refer to it later.

I created a board that was for my grants.  It's a little hard to see, but the site has the capabilities of expanding and decompressing the information you are adding. Signing up is free, and it's like dropbox.  If you invite others to join and they do, you get more space.  I have been using that aspect of dropbox for ages.

This site is very easy to organize and plan your day.  I suggest looking at it.  You might find it works for some of your needs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Collaboration Tools pt. 4; Realtime Board

I am all about students collaborating.  I think it's one of the most important parts of education.  Kids need to be able to learn to work together and share ideas, as it's part of their future when they graduate and move into their adult life.

Realtimeboard is another tool that provides collaboration options. It is free and can link to google. You, as the teacher creates a board and invite kids to access it.  They also upgrade teachers to PRO for free. (Follow this link)

This site is set up a lot like ConceptBoard, which I showed in a previous post.  It's collaborative, uses invitations to access boards and is easy.

I can see this working in a project based learning setting.  Students can conduct their research and use the site for a final project.  Maybe a history related search or a biography project.  It is also a way to organize yourself.  There are several mind mapping methods and organzining tools. When you create a new board, you see several templates that can be used for different things.

It could also be used for a foreign language classroom to make vocabulary boards.  Kids can locate images of vocabulary and the shared boards can be used by the teacher as a review tool.

The possibilities for this program are endless.  There are a lot of things that can be used in the classroom.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Collaboration Tools (and a little bit more) Part 3: One Note

I have talked about One Note in the past, but I feel despite the number of times I mention it, I come up with even more rationale for it's brilliance.  I love this program.  I love it's simplicity.  I love how many things it can do, so I am adding it as one of my collaboration tools for the classroom.

Why?  It does more than collaborate but, if you are using the live, online version, the opportunity to work with others is an awesome tool.  I have used it a lot in my classes and I have shared it with some of my colleagues and some of them have started using it in class.

I was in a training session about one note and the presenter was telling us about her daughter, a pharmacy student in college.  She uses One Note for all of her notes and classes.  She inserts audio of the lecture and takes notes as well.  COOL!  The software on the computer allows for tablet note taking and doodling. You can insert math notes and questions and complete the problems directly on the program.

The online version, mind you allows for a lot less in the insert, add, edit component.  You have to download the program and open it on the computer to add all the bells and whistles, but, as a teacher, there are a lot of great ideas that can be done with the online tool that makes students working together work.

With the online tool, you can track changes and edits.  You can see who did what at all times. You, as the teacher can create the actual notebooks for the groups, invite them and then monitor them as the kids work.  It's a great way to get kids to work together to accomplish a great outcome.

Do you teach History and have a student who is special needs?  Allow them to record the notes on their device or, you upload the notes to the notebook and then have a student who takes good notes edit it on the online platform.

What about Science?  Create an experiment notebook.  Have questions and logs students need to complete about the dissection they are doing or the experiment they are completing.

Foreign Language?  Flip that class...  embed videos or links to them and include the vocabulary.  Make your own text.  Why rely on the book the companies want us to buy for $60 each when you can make each tab a chapter and build your own tools.

Math Teachers:  Create a chapter by chapter notebook and include links to videos, activities and problems.  The students can work together or alone to master the techniques.

The list goes on and on....  Look at one note, it is a challenge to come across as you have to access the Skydrive via Microsoft, but once you are in... you are in.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Collaboration Tools Part 2: Google Docs

If you are in a district where google products are open sources for everyone, like I am, you will be pleased to find how easy it is to use Google Documents as a way to encourage student (and staff ) collaboration.

In an all staff PD last year, our trainer showed us how easy it is to collaborate with Google, I was already aware of the components and the ease, but I was trying to get some ideas of ways to make it work in my class.

For the library, I was thinking of having google docs be a component for a group chat about books.  We can have a doc for each title that is being read as a team and then the kids and perhaps myself can go online and discuss the book on the site.

For class, the options are endless.   Since google docs lets you track the collaborators, it's a great way to do PBL.  Students can be assigned projects with collaboration and as a teacher, I track the collaboration and who does what.  The students can peer edit, collaborate, do individual parts, plan, write, do it all. The kids could do partner papers, research projects (since presentatiion is also a part of google docs and it can collaborated as well). There is also a chance to integrate other tools into the docs program and use them for projects. There are a lot of options.

The spreadsheet could very easily be used for developing group data collection.  A series of questions could be asked and each student could be assigned a column.  They can go in and add their data and at the end, the information can be mingled together into graphs and charts.

I think with a little experimenting, every teacher out there could find at least one use for google docs.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Collaboration Tools Part One: Conceptboard

More and more of our teachers are starting to dive into the collaboration method of teaching, doing PBL and having students work together on projects.  There are a lot of skills developed when kids work collaboratively: Responsibility, Time Management; Cooperation with others and Trust.  All of the skills learned through tools like this are needed in the workforce, not just in schools.  There is a plethora of free web based tools that can be used to make collaboration work for schools.

One tool I came across that works very well for class collaboration is called Conceptboard. Concept board allows for internal chat, drag and drop of items and scribbling. There is the capabilities of brainstorming, collaborating and creating.  I was thinking of using it as a PBL based project for my French classes.   Students will divide into groups of two or three and do some virtual tours, do a vocabulary project or a historical project.  I often get to a point when I am teaching where I am lost for ideas, but using something like this can make a very nice collaborative project.  The great component, as a teacher, I can see all of the collaboration that happens.  Who is involved the most, who is helping, who isn't doing anything.  It will make grading easier.

I saw a teacher using this program in his History class to do projects about war.  Each group researched wars, events leading to wars and also things that resulted from the wars. The outcome? The students were very well versed in the wars and learned more from their research than they would have from a lecture.  Lecturing kids today isn't the best way they learn, letting them drive the learning impacts them much more.  Something like conceptboard is a great way to do it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The importance of PD in technology

I have spent a lot of my summer in conference mode.  I have done some online lessons, some free conferences and also some national ones.  All of them have stressed the need for professional development to make a 1:1 program a success. I decided to dive into it myself.

Starting this year, I will be offering a 15-20 minute web 2.0 lesson each Tuesday.  Teachers can come and go as they please, attend or skip if they wish.  My goal is to see everyone at least once and that everyone tries one of the tools, even just for a lesson.  If we build this into the weekly routine, maybe our students and staff will embrace the technology.   There are so many tools out there that can be used in the classroom.  Some can be for the teacher afraid of tech and some can be for the tech vet.  No matter what the tools, there is something for everyone.

We went 1:1 two years ago.  We had a few summer PDs where there was an info overload.  We were shown a hundred tools at a mile a minute and for many, that was way too much.  We have taken some baby steps, some have climbed in the shallow end and done a little wading and some have jumped right into the deep end and started going to town. I am proud of our teachers for doing what they can to embrace this change, it's hard.

My goal is that the 1:1 program will flourish this year and I am hoping my Tech Tuesdays with little bits of info at a time will help guide that growth.