Friday, December 30, 2016

From the Archives: Diving into Technology

As the winter break ends for many of us, it is time to get back into the grind and start a second semester (or in come cases, trimesters).  Some of us are currently One to One, but some might have a district that is piloting for the second semester or  are starting a program.  I have been a part of a district that has one to one for five years now and the tips below are things to think about as you make that transition. 
  1. Technology shouldn’t be used as a replacement for instruction.  It should merely be a tool to help you.  Don’t plan lessons around the technology, sometimes, you can get better results as a human leader than as a tech leader.   Kids love technology, but there isn’t always a need to have it.  If you can teach a lesson the traditional way do it.  Just because you have technology doesn’t mean you have to use it all of the time.
  2.   Spend some time using a tool.  Before you implement something, use it yourself.  Don’t assume kids know how to do something, you must teach them to use the tool.  When you know the tool, you can help the kids use it better.  
  3. Don’t use a ton of tools, focus on a few that work.  Overwhelming kids with a dozen tools for projects will make them despise using technology.  Stick with a few that you know work for the projects you are doing and use them.  Some tools can be used for many different things with great success.
  4. Find sites that you can refer to for help.  There are a lot of great blogs out there that provide readers with hundreds of tips, tricks and sites that can be used for education.  Spend a little time checking them.  I was told once by a very smart edtech blogger to spend just a little time each day to check out stuff.  Don’t spend hours working on this, just a little time is all you need.  
  5.  Get a twitter account.  Twitter is the best place to find technology tools and tips.  There are thousands of edtech specialists out there who can help you find what you need. Follow them, they will all offer great things.

All in all, jumping into a One to One environment can be done very simply with preparation. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Curating the web with Bag the Web

Through the years, I have spent a lot of time saving links and articles in various places to refer to at a later date.   It always seems as if I am very busy and I fall behind and having these available gives me a chance to stop back later to check things out. I love curation sites.  I took a webinar at the beginning of the school year and the presenter was raving about a site called Bag the Web.  I, being an investigator, had to check it out.

I discovered a few things:  First of all, it is very easy to follow.  You don't have to have previous knowledge to use the site, you just create a bag and then add links or dividers to the bag.  (A bag is your hub, per se, where you can store the links together that relate to a topic.) 

I thought a lot about using this to put links about specific books for the library.  Maybe make bags about genre.   The problem, our school filter blocked the site for teachers as well as students and I had to have it unblocked.  Make sure your school's filter lets it through.

This is a great tool to sort content specific links or to make lists for kids to use for projects and papers.  It allows the teacher to have more control over what students are looking at.  It's a great tool for the classroom.  I think it will help kids not just google the sources, but use links and pages that the teacher has evaluated it. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Choosito for web searches and reading

 If you are one who requires students to do research and find that kids spend more time just googling their topics and not actually doing hard core research or, they come across items that exceed their reading level, take a look at Choosito.  While Choosito isn't 100% free, there are free components that can be used by anyone with an account.

I spent a little time investigating the site and was pleased with what I learned. I did a search for something generic and got a lot of results.  I modified my searches for different reading levels and received a lot of different levels of results.  It was exactly as anticipated.

I think this is a good source to refer students to use when they need research.  It's got a better response than google as there were no advertising coming back in the searches, and with google, it seems that those results are the most common.

Because of the leveled results, I think the site will be helpful for kids of all levels when it comes to research, despite the age of the students. Sometimes in researching, students find materials that are so above their level that analyzing them and using them for a successful paper is often a challenge.  This site helps alleviate that problem.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Quick assessments using Plickers

Are you looking for a way to quickly assess students and get an idea if they comprehend a topic or not?   Do you have a smartphone or tablet?  There is a free app called plickers that is used on the computer and a portable device.  Students have an assigned card with a graphic that is read by the device.  It records responses immediately to do a check for understanding.

I really feel this is a simple and easy way to do a check for understanding in a class.  The response is quick and immediate and the prep work isn't too intense.   You start off making a question and determining the correct answer.  Then you load the question into your plicker and share it with the students on the screen.  Kids hold up a card that is assigned to them and the responses appear on your device and are stored on the web.   I tested it with my class and it was so easy to use.

I can see this being used for not only a check for understanding or an exit ticket but also as a way to have kids to surveys.  You can create 4 potential topics and ask the kids to vote.  It's simple.  I like how fast the responses come back to you and how easy it is to use. I would recommend giving it a shot.  It's a great tool for the classroom.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Making digital worksheets with Edueto

I have started to dabble a bit in digital worksheets as ways to assess my students.  I have been trying to come up with some different ways to do things.  I noticed on the AASL Best Websites of 2016, a link for a free digital worksheet site called Edueto. I checked it out to see if it was something I would use and I believe it is.

The site has a library of publicly shared worksheets that are sorted by content, age, country and grade.  If you find one you like, you can copy it to your personal worksheet collection.  You can also make your own worksheets fairly easily. There are many options available for the worksheets you make, including math equations and fill in the blank. Even foreign language accents are available. There is a capability of making a class list and assigning work to the students and classes.

I felt this was a fairly easy site to use and I think it will make some of my daily work a little easier.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Using for Digital Worksheets

 I work in a school corporation that uses Canvas by Instructure as our learning management system.  I have been trying to find some different ways to create assignments that aren't the same ole same ole.   I was told by a colleague about a free worksheet generator site called   I decided to investigate and see if it worked for me and my students.  I would have to say, it is easy to use and meets my expectations.

First of all, it was very easy to create a free account.  I was able to use my google plus account to create it and link it directly to my school email.   The kids can also do that since we are a google school so the platform is more private and only linked to their school email and not personal emails.

I found the format of the site very similar to Smore, which is a newsletter creation site.  This site was set up very similar to Smore, just as easy to use.  I noticed there is an autograde option as well.  I love that.  If you are doing a multiple choice, matching or true false test, you can select this option and it will auto grade for you as soon as the kids are done with the assignment.  What a time saver!  That alone makes it worth it for me.

The program does offer several tutorials to explain how to use it.   I found it very simple.  You can embed the worksheet into your LMS and the kids can do everything right there, directly in the LMS and not on an external site. I love that capability.  When the kids go there the first time, they do have to link their account to their gmail, or make a personal account.  We are a google school so they linked via Google+ and it took them right to the worksheet.

I think this is a very easy site to use and once a worksheet is made, it can save a lot of time later.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Using Aviary for class

There are so many times in our teaching where we need to work with photos.  Sometimes, we need to edit those photos to make them meet our purpose.   Aviary is a great way to do that without spending money on expensive photo editing software.

Aviary allows the user to upload an image and pull it into a graphic window to do all sorts of different things, such as filters, fades, specific focal points, and even memes.  It's very easy to use.

Being a foreign language teacher, I envision using Aviary as a tool in my classroom.  I can see students writing memes in the target language and submitting them as an assignment or an exit slip.  It's a different way to present something learned to the teacher or even to classmates.

I think it could help with prompting as well.  Wouldn't it be interesting to have a photo edited in Aviary available in black and white and ask the kids to write a description about the colors and what the image would look like in color?  Aviary allows for that to happen with the numerous filters.

I found this site to be very simple to use and I was able to get around it without a lot of need for help.  I understood what I was doing.

It's worth a shot, and since it's free, it's even a little better.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Free online teleprompter tool

Being a former foreign language teacher and a current media teacher, I have often had my students do projects where they record themselves.  Usually, it is difficult for them to do their recordings and have a paper in front of them as a cue or a prompt.   While sometimes, we want them to be impromptu, often, a script is a component we want them to use.  I found a free site that allows you to insert your script and it converts it to a teleprompter so students can be more natural when they present.   It could also be used as a cue for teachers when they do a lesson or a training as well.

The site is called Cueprompter and it's a simple, free way to make your video have a more natural presentation.

Once you embed your document into the white box, you press start prompt.  It opens a new window or tab with a black screen (of course, one can choose the background/ text color).   It also has the option of adjusting speed.   Press forward as soon as you are ready to play and it will start your teleprompt!

I think I will encourage my students to use it for their book talk recordings as well as maybe a lesson they will do for digital citizenship.  I think it will make their presentations more natural and we will be able to see their face and not the top of the head that one gets when they look down at a paper over and over for reference.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Access to free videos for all content areas

I was spending some time on Twitter recently, looking for some ideas for my posts.  I came across a link for a site with free education videos for all content areas.  I was very intrigued and had to check it out.  What I found was WatchKnowLearn. This site is amazing.  It features close to or more than fifty thousand videos about every topic imaginable.  The creators of the site list is a free domain to categorize and rate K-12 educational videos.

It reminds me a little of or pinterest for video links.  It provides teachers the capability of adding links to videos about topics. After adding the links, a team from WatchKnowLearn sifts through the videos and determines if they are right for the site, they are added to a large database where anyone can access them.

I love, love, love how this site it checked and maintained and evaluated for good sources.  There are many opportunities.   Teachers can actually set up a classroom on the site and assign videos to classes and students. There is a step by step instruction sheet as well as a video about creating the account and the classroom. What's even better, all of it is free!  One tip, someone has to be an administrator so talk to people at your school and see who that would be.  Enjoy!  It's a great tool

Friday, August 26, 2016

Primary Access: Projects with Primary Sources

The University of Virginia has established a free site for teachers to use where students can create movies and storyboards with primary sources.  It's called Primary Access. 

One of the reasons I really like this site is the fact that a teacher can create classes and assign students activities to do with the plethora of primary sources available on the site. After students make their assignment, the teacher can view it on the primary access site.  Everything is in one place.  It's so easy to do.

When one creates an account, the directions for adding classes and students are simplified and detailed.  Making assignments are also easy to do.

I can see this being used in a large variety of courses.  Social Studies, Language Arts, Science and Foreign Language definitely, but even some other courses could find value with this site.

I decided that this is going to be one of the tip sheets I share with colleagues this school year because many of them can use this in their classroom.  I think it will be a great PBL tool.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Send your class a video email

Have you gone to a special conference and met someone you wish you could share with your students?  What about a trip that you took somewhere during Spring Break that was a great content related journey you think students need to see?  There is a site you there called eyejot where you can record video and email it directly to your students.

Eyejot has several options for use, the free version lets you send 50 emails of a 5 minute video. That means you can share an experience with 50 students!   You have an unlimited number of messages sent as well.

Due to the limited number of emails you can send, you may have to get creative if you teach a lot of sections of the same class, but, with unlimited messages, you can record different segments of the video to share with students.

There is an app you can use on iOS as well.

Friday, July 22, 2016

FlipSnack: Homemade Learning materials

Have you come across a need to make a small collection of materials for your class, maybe a booklet or a perhaps your students wrote a poetry collection you wish to publish- FlipSnack is a potential way to do that.   FlipSnack is an online flipbook site that users can use to upload materials and publish them for a certain about of uses. And the amount of uses is high.
While FlipSnack has a paid version, there is also a free version with limited access. It isn't something you could use for a long time, but it could be used for short-term.

It's easy too.  Just upload PDFs or JPGs to the site and click publish.   With the free version, you have 1GB of storage, three 15 page books that can be opened 10,000 times a day.  The booklet can be embedded but it does have a watermark, but who cares, it's free. 

I think if someone is doing a unit and has a small collection of materials, this would be a great way to present it.  There is also a paid version that allows for more things to be uploaded to your flipbook. 

What an interesting tool, right?  It is definitely worth checking out.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Vocaroo: Voice Recording quick and easy

I have been looking for some options for presentations because some of my students are very hesitant to talk about things in front of the class. While I require them to do some sort of book talk or presentation, I decided to allow them to do it in a different way so I looked around for some tools online that can be used for that purpose.

Vocaroo is an easy tool to use for just the purpose I wanted, quick oral presentations.  I think because of ease of use and the method of delivery any class could use it.  Social Studies, English and Foreign languages.   I love the fact that it doesn't save everything on a site, you just receive a link with the final product and embed that into your page.

I could see a recording from this site embedded into a blog or a website with some sort of oral description.  A foreign language teacher could very easily use this for an oral prompt for an assignment or a test as well.

I love that the result can be emailed directly so if you are assigning students an oral presentation, they can complete it and email it.  The link can be embedded as well.  It is so easy!  I think it can be a real benefit to reach those students who fear public speaking.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Blabberize: Quick mini oral presentations

Being that I am originally a foreign language teacher, I often have that side of my brain running when I look at a website.  How could this be used in a foreign language class?   I found a fun one today called Blabberize.  It's free and it is quick, but it could be very beneficial in a foreign language class or even some other classes where a quick presentation could take place.

Here is how it works:  You find a photo or a picture and upload it to their site.  Then, you record a clip of information one of three ways, microphone, telephone or upload.   Then, the site merges the audio together with the image and you have a talking photo.

I see this being very useful for a quick response in foreign language.  It appears that only one person can speak so no conversations but maybe students can answer a quick question or something.

I wouldn't use this often in my classroom, maybe from time to time as a change in pace. It's definitely worth looking into.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Educaplay Learning Resources tool

Not long ago, a tweet passed through my feed from SimpleK12, and as you probably have seen,  I am a big fan of SimpleK12.  They offer so many wonderful things to educators.  The feed was a blog post with 50+ free tech tools for your classroom.  I was hooked.  I started checking them out and decided I am going to do several posts about some of them.   We are starting today with a post about EDUCAPLAY which is a multimedia resource tool.

Educaplay is a site that allows users to create multimedia games and tools to use as a review tool.  You can create a free account to use and also search a directory of other people's files.  This site reminded me a little of Quia, which I used to use when I was teaching as a review tool.  As my followers know, I am too cheap to buy tools, and this one is a freebie.

Creating an account was easy, so was making an activity. I noticed you can select your country and then see specific grade levels and specific content to cover in the activity.  There are also tutorial videos available for each activity you use.  When you make the activities, you can alternate the method of presenting the materials-  visual, text or audio.  (Awesome tool for a foreign language teacher!)

I think this is a pretty good tool for the classroom teacher of all levels.  Because there are many methods of presenting information, it will benefit many.  I think, too, it could be embedded into some LMS as well.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A New form of book reports: Trailers

With students today being so much more tech savvy than they were ten, or even five years ago, the need to change out methods of instruction is vastly growing. But, what about our way of collecting information and assessing students?

This semester I was given two sections of a course called Library Media.  In Indiana, this is a course that is designed to focus on research as well as the ongoings of a school library.   Students are to focus on digital citizenship, reading and recommendations.   One of the assignments I decided to do was to replace the traditional book report with a book trailer.  I felt letting kids do a more technology based presentation/ recommendation would be more exciting and let them use a little more creativity than simply writing a report.

The students used one of two online platform called Powtoon or Animoto.   Both of them allow users to create fast presentations that come out as a video.   Many of the kids chose Powtoon because it let them modify the fonts and change the size of text.  They are also able to do transitions, which they liked.

The outcome was really a great one.  I was pleased with the results and it made the assignment so much more fun.

Anyone who requires students to read a novel or even a book excerpt can require students to do a book trailer in place of the traditional report.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Symbaloo is still awesome

I know in the past I have written about Symbaloo and how I have used it for various things but I again want to rave on it a little.

I have been using Symbaloo as an embedded part of my library website as a tool for my students to access.  I have found it offers them so much information in a little space and it has been so helpful to the kids.   I love the fact that I can make color coded categories and that I can link to other Symbaloo .  It's wonderful to not have to re-invent the wheel if you need to do some additions.  You just make a box and link it to another Symbaloo you already have done.

I think having access to it makes the library page a little more user friendly.  Kids just remember what color you told them to look at and they go to that section to get their information. It has helped make research a breeze for the students.  I think my teacher appreciate it as well since they can direct the kids to the section they want.

Teachers are also finding ease of use with Symbaloo.  Many of them are picking the sites they want students to access and creating a Symbaloo they use for that component of class. It works wonderfully.

Again, Symbaloo is so user friendly and easy to work with, it is definitely worth looking into for any content area.

Friday, January 22, 2016

It's been awhile: Digital Citizenship Lessons for Free

I just realized as I was doing my new releases post for the library that I haven't posted on my blog for ages, about 4 months!  Time sure does fly!   I think this is the perfect time to talk about a program I discovered and have been using for my Library Media class:  A free digital citizenship program from Common Sense Media.

I was assigned two Library Media classes this semester and was looking for an engaging program to use with the kids to make them appreciate copyright and ownership of things.  I also wanted them to acknowledge internet safety.   My students are mostly Sophomores and older, but they still are in a "That won't happen to me" mindset.   I wanted them to think before they post and focus on their digital footprint.

The Common Sense program is very customizable.   You can do the entire scope and sequence or just pick and choose lessons.  Most of the lessons last a day so we can cover a lot, but there is a good deal of reinforcement and recall because many of the lessons recycle vocabulary.  I am finding the kids are engaged, despite who they are.  The sequences have a short video clip (typically no more than 3 minutes.)  The program has led to a lot of discussion and it has been flexible enough that I can add or subtract parts on my own.

I am very impressed by the ease of use and the flexibility of the program and I am going to continue using it for my classes.