Archive for December, 2010

Home for the holidays

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

In the spirit of the holidays, I will be taking some time away from the internet to spend with family and friends. See you all in the New Year!


Tips for Online Discussion

Posted: December 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

Not much time for a *real* blog post today, as I’m busily preparing for Christmas and semester two once we return to school. I have found an amazing resource that I wanted to share with everyone from the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence. The resource gives many tips and tricks to facilitating online discussions with your class.

Online Discussions: Tips for Instructors

Let me know what you think! Do you have online discussions with your classes?

Budget cuts, unsupportive administration, weary parents, disengaged students. These could be factors in any educational struggle, but for me they are the key components of my struggle to incorporate technology into my classroom.

There’s a reason why my teaching practice hasn’t included much tech up to this point: it’s isn’t easy.

I am insanely jealous of teachers who I follow on twitter who have 1:1 computers, or an entire class set of iPads. In my school, it’s a struggle to book  a computer lab (for some periods it isn’t available at all). We don’t have Wifi access, and only one mobile projector for the (very small) school. Each classroom has at least one computer, usually two.

With all these challenges, I do have a very supportive principal. He is usually on board to let me try anything that I want (obviously within reason) and is always behind me when it comes to new and innovative ideas.

In order to be successful with my challenge, I’m going to have to have some students who are excited about using technology: as much of it is going to have to be from home for them. I will be booking the computer lab as much as possible, but much of it will still fall on them and my success will depend on their enthusiasm (and therefore my enthusiasm as well).

The Super Book of Webtools for Educators

Posted: December 13, 2010 in Ebook

Amazing ebook can be found and downloaded for free here! Full of tons of web tools for teachers of all levels!

If you’re like me, you’ve spent precious time putting together slide shows for family members and school functions. It’s a huge waste of my time every year, and I’ve had it. I went searching for another option for my annual Christmas slide show, and discovered animito. Animoto is a very easy website to use, and it has an amazing program for educators.

The technology: Animoto for education

My impression:

Animoto is a great website to use if you’re looking for a quick slide show. Teachers get a free account to an all-access pass by signing up with a valid school board email. If you’re not a teacher or want to purchase an account, the same service costs $30/year. Using this account you get unlimited full length videos, downloadable files, and greeting cards. With the animoto for education account you also get 50 promotional codes to share with your students or colleagues that are valid for a 6 month subscription.
Following a simple 3-step process, animoto creates beautiful slide shows quickly and easily. All you have to do is upload pictures and music (or choose some of theirs), and the website makes your slide show for you. As an added bonus, it’s easy to share the completed video via twitter, facebook, youtube, or email.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

I’m always surprised how often I use slide shows in my teaching practice. Every year I make a video for our Christmas assembly, then another one at the end of the year/ graduation time. I also use them in my lessons when talking about current events (they make a great introduction to news stories) or as a creative writing exercise. To do that I load up some images from a Google image search on a specific concept that I want my students to focus on (justice, for example). Using that concept I load up the pictures into the slide show and have the students write about the images that they see. They can choose one image, a few, or all of them. A simple concept, but one that often has powerful results.


Here’s a quick video

Where can I learn more?

Rating: 4 stars

If you read my post on Monday, you know that one of my goals is to have my class collaborate with another class online. I decided to research some online collaboration tools that could be useful for that purpose. These sites are all free, and most of them don’t require registration from your students to use. I hope that some of them are useful for you!

GoogleDocs– Collaborate with other Google users on spreadsheets, documents, powerpoint presentations. drawings, and forms.

Titanpad– Collaborate on word documents. You can read my review of Titanpad here.

Scribblar- Online virtual whiteboard, great for brainstorming. You can read my review of Scribblar here

Cacoo– Create diagrams with real time collaboration.

Wallwisher– (Thanks to Nicole for reminding me about this one!)- An online notice board, excellent for brainstorming or taking notes.

Filedropper– Upload a file to share with anyone

AuthorStream (Live Present)- Share powerpoint presentations online. Everyone attending can discuss the presentation and everyone stays on the same slide.

Twiddla– Browse online with others, mark up websites.

I haven’t used all of these websites with my students (I posted reviews of the ones that I have). I have used them all in some way or another, and I can vouch for the fact that they all work, and that I think that they could be used effectively in the classroom. If you’re looking for even more options, there’s an extremely through Mindmap here that shows pretty much every online collaborative tool I’ve ever heard of (and then some).

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I have issued myself a challenge for the upcoming new year: to use a minimum of one new technology per week and write a review about the new sites I use. To date, I’ve reviewed websites that I’ve been using, and if you’ve been following along you know how limited that is… because as of my last post I’m out of technology that I currently use in the classroom. Good thing it’s December.

I’ve decided it’s time to come up with a plan. I teach in a high school, and next semester doesn’t start until January 31st, and the month of January will mostly be spent on review. I have quite a few ideas for various tools that I can use for review:

  • I intend on introducing Headmagnet to my students. Headmagnet creates virtual flash cards for your students that will help them to predict what they will forget. I haven’t used them yet, so I can’t provide a full review…. but if it works the way it’s supposed to the implications for students could be amazing.
  • I’m also currently brainstorming ways that I can use Google Docs as a tool for review.
  • Once the exams are marked I will be using Markbook (for the first time, though it is far from a new program) to compile my students marks. Other teachers at my school seem to either love or hate this program, so I’m curious to see how easily it works.

Once my new classes begin at the end of January, I have a lot of ideas of new ways to integrate web 2.0 into my classroom.

  • I will be setting up and using Edmodo for each of my classes. I think Edmodo has exciting implications for students and teachers and I know that my students will enjoy using it.
  • One of my upcoming courses is very conversation-based. To that end I plan on using kidblog to have them post blog entries and discuss each other’s thoughts and ideas. I’m still thinking about how exactly this will work, if anyone has any thoughts on how to introduce blogs to my students I’m excited to hear them.
  • I will be having my senior students create e-portfolios using powerpoint. Again, I’m currently working on the logistics of this and researching articles and blogs on how to do it effectively. My thoughts right now are that I might use this as a culminating task at the end of the year.
  • I’m working on finding another teacher who is willing to collaborate with my class on group projects using Titanpad, Scribblar, or Google Docs.

That’s where my ideas stand for now. None of them are brand new or revolutionary, but they are all new to me and I’m excited to see the results of this challenge.

I’m looking for suggestions of new tools to use with my class, feel free to leave me a comment! I will be reviewing all sites that I use with my class and updating this blog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I feel like before I started this blog (and my PLN) I had my head in the sand in regards to professional development. Since october, when I started paying attention to my PLN, I have learned more about teaching than I did in University or from all the professional development days since I started my career. The teachers I have met online who have made the effort to blog, tweet, and post their online creations have been a real inspiration to me to improve my teaching. Thanks to my connections online I have my finger on the pulse of what’s new and exciting in education and ed tech.

With that in mind, I think you should check out “Build a PLN: A Newbie’s Guide“, even if you aren’t a newbie. It provides a number of resources and ideas for building a super sweet PLN that will keep you informed and up to speed.

The technology: PlanbookEdu

My impression:

This was probably the easiest registration process I’ve undertaken in quite awhile, I think it took about 30 seconds.

Creating a plan book was easy and very customizable. You’re able to choose your start and end dates, as well as how many periods you teach daily. Once you’ve created the plan book everything is super simple and straight forward, much easier than all the headings that I usually find in online plan books.

I haven’t signed up the premium version yet (but I intend to soon), but the premium version is only $20 a year and comes with the added benefit of attaching documents to your plans, common core standards, the ability to embed your plans into your website, the ability to print directly from your browser, exporting to Word and PDF, and built in spell check. All of these features aren’t necessary, as the free version is perfectly functional, but would definitely make it easier to stay organized. You get a free 14 days of premium service when you sign up.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:This program doesn’t have direct applications in your lessons, but it’s usefulness to teachers is obvious. The fact that your lesson plans are stored online means that you will always have access to your lessons when you need them (as long as you have access to the internet). I’ve been looking for a good online planbook for awhile now (I HATE using a paper planbook), and this version does an excellent job of providing me with what I need.

Where can I learn more?

Rating: 5 stars

I was happy to see that 7 Online Magazines for Kids That Are Worth a Read was linked in my twitter feed today, it’s a resource that I will be pointing my students to for assignments and personal reading. There are links to some classic educational magazines like National Geographic Kids, TIME for kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Discover Girls, Weekly Reader, Highlights and Popular Science.

My school library, like all school libraries, has subscriptions to many of these magazines (or at least the ones that have a print version). Print resources are great in a lot of ways, but online resources have so many more possibilities for the tech-savy student and teacher. Not only that, but there’s something about online content: my students are way more willing to read articles online than they are to read a hard copy (digital natives, indeed).

First of all, they’re free! Schools don’t need to spend any of their budget in order for their students to have access to the rich information that online magazines have to offer… and in the days of budget cuts and spending freezes, that’s always a good thing. Additionally, students are able to access the content from home (maybe you should use your class website or blog to link to them!) and you don’t have to worry about them getting lost. Finally, many of these websites offer interactive games and activities that students will find interesting and you will find relevant to your curriculum.

Students can (and should) link the articles to their blogs, use the content for research, and find articles that are relevant to what they’re learning in class. There are some great magazines in that article, something that is bound to apply to your students.