Archive for January, 2011

Review of Engrade

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Websites
Tags: , , ,

I’m always hearing about Engrade, an apparently amazing online gradebook that’s free (always a plus), so I decided to give it a shot.

I’m impressed.

Since second semester starts for us on monday, I’ll be using this site to track my grades, attendance and communicate with parents and students.

The technology: Engrade

My impression:

Wow is this website ever easy to use. Registration is easy, signing up your class is a breeze (and they don’t need an email to register), and the interface is extremely intuitive. It is (by far) the easiest grade book I’ve used.

Since it’s online, there’s the added advantage that you are able to access your grades anywhere that you have internet access (handy for inputting marks when you’re marking at home). Of course, this also carries disadvantages with it: if the website goes down for any reason your marks are lost, and if you loose internet access but need to get into your gradebook, you won’t be able to. Of course this can be overcome by exporting your data into a spreadsheet periodically.

I haven’t used the discussions, wikis, flashcards, or quizzes with students yet, but I took a good look around and they seem easy to use as well. I’ll update you next week on how those work in real-life.
Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

In my opinion, the biggest strength of engrade is how accessible it is to students and their parents. You don’t have to worry about constantly updating students on their marks, and parents can easily view their child’s attendance as well. Essentially, the site makes communication easy. I’ve also found over the years that students are often baffled by weighting and how their final grade is calculated. With Engrade they can see weighting in action and always know what their final grade is.

Pictures:


Where can I learn more?

www.engrade.com

Rating:

5 stars

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I have an unnatural love for Google. Seriously.

That love only got stronger when I read today in the Google Blog that they’ve added an education category in the Google Apps Marketplace. If you’re lucky enough to be part of a school district that uses Google Apps for Education, this addition is big news. The new EDU section allows your administrator to purchase (if necessary, some are free) and add apps quickly and easily.

Here’s a quick video:

*Happy Dance*

The school tries, they really do, but when unblocking YouTube is seen as a progressive move- you have a problem (and a serious one at that).

Too often it is left up to the individual teachers to ensure that their lessons are technologically rich. Certainly, many teachers are stepping up to this task, but what about those who aren’t?

Too many students are leaving our schools with no idea about what is available to them on the internet or how to use the internet safely. For this reason integrating technology shouldn’t be an option, it should be mandatory.

“How to use the internet” should be the new “look both ways before you cross the street”. We need to show students how to use sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter safely. Unfortunately, that can’t be done if integrating technology is seen as a bonus rather than a requirement.

From my research on Twitter, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone on the internet has been using Wallwisher except me. After using it this week, I can see why…. it will definitely become a major part of my Web 2.0 tools.

The technology: Wallwisher

My impression:

Wallwisher is an absolutely fantastic tool, and I can’t believe that I haven’t used it before now. There are so many possibilities for the classroom, and its usefulness to teachers is made even more strong based on the fact that posts can be locked so that they are only viewable once approved. At the same time, posts can be either anonymous or not, making it easy to have students’ input on issues that would normally be too difficult. Wallwisher makes it easy to post links, pictures, or audio. The only limit is that posts have to be under 160 characters, which isn’t always a bad thing.
Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

There are so many possibilities for using Wallwisher in the classroom, but instead of me telling you, you should read this (31 ways to use Wallwisher in the classroom).

I used Wallwisher as a final wrap up for my students before their exams next week. Since this was my first time teaching the course, I asked them to post their likes and dislikes about the course, in the hopes that I could better my teaching for the next time around. I got some great suggestions, all anonymous (as per my request) that I’m not sure I would have received under another format.

Pictures:


Where can I learn more?

www.wallwisher.com

Rating:

5 stars

I came across this article this morning, about a mother who takes away her teenagers cell phones, ipods, laptops, and the television.

It’s likely that everyone reading this blog is a big fan of technology… and I obviously don’t refute its usefulness for a single moment. However, as the article shows, it’s also very important for everyone (especially kids and teenagers) to be balanced in their lifestyles and seek out entertainment and information from sources other than the internet.

Obviously we don’t all have to go to this extreme, but I plan on having a tech-free night for my spouse and I (our son is still way too young to care either way). I chatted briefly with my students today about this concept, and for a group of 15-18 year olds they were surprisingly accepting of the idea. A few even suggested that they might ask their parents to try it in their household.

To begin my 2011 ed tech challenge, I did two reviews of websites that aim to help students study. The first week I took a look at HeadMagnet, and last week I reviewed StudyBlue.  I found both of these websites to be great new ways to get even the most reluctant of students review and studying their notes.

There are, of course, plenty of other apps to help students study. There are tools available for cell phones, ipod touches and ipads. With that being said, I believe that I picked two of the best to review and present to my students. I believe that there’s a place for both StudyBlue and HeadMagnet in any classroom, and I intend to use both regularly in my courses from now on.

Like I mentioned in my reviews, I’ve found that both websites have unique strengths:

HeadMagnet is an excellent tool when used regularly to review concepts and ideas. Its ability to help students predict what they will forget can help them review concepts for long-term recollection and understanding, rather than just cramming for a test the next day.

StudyBlue is a great website for on-the-go students who want to have their notes available to them anytime, anywhere. There is also the collaborative function that I found to be slightly easier to use than HeadMagnet’s.

My plan for the future is to use both sites, which is made easy by the fortunate fact that both allow you to import notes. Beginning next semester I plan to have students create a database with terms, vocabulary, and concepts. The students will decide for themselves which items to include in their spreadsheets (This will be effective because I teach at the high school level, if I taught younger students I would give them a list of items to use). From there they will have the option to upload their spreadsheet onto HeadMagnet so that they can review as often as they need to.

For my younger students, whose study skills are still developing, I plan to give marks if they can demonstrate to me that they have been using either StudyBlue or HeadMagnet before a test. For older students I will simply verify that they’ve completed the spreadsheet, and let them use it if they choose.

I have great hopes that this system will help students to learn concepts in the long-term.

Oh, exam time. The time of year for cramming, reviews, and study groups. In an effort to help my students get the most of their studying, I’ve been introducing them to websites that they can use to better their test scores. Last week, headmagnet, this week: StudyBlue.

The technology: StudyBlue

My impression:

This website is handy because it keeps students notes available to them wherever they are. There’s also a handy linkup to Facebook and Twitter (for students to share their notes and let others know what they’re studying).

One great strength of this program is its portability. The majority of my students are constantly on the go, and this program allows them to study anywhere they have access to their phone. While it doesn’t guide you though your studying like Headmagnet does, StudyBlue does allow for a much greater amount of collaboration between students.

StudyBlue is a good website for students looking to review notes, but its greatness lies in the fact that it allows for students to collaborate with others who are the same class or who are taking the course in a different city. Students can share notes, flashcards, study guides, and past quizzes. For students who are as social as mine, this adds a new facet to studying that makes it more enjoyable and should (hopefully) encourage them to do so more often.

A problem that I can think of is that students who don’t use computers for their notes may have a hard time using the program. They can, however, create flashcards and use them to study, or transcribe their notes as they are preparing to study for quizzes, tests, or exams.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

StudyBlue allows students to study their materials whereever they are. While I wouldn’t use it directly in a lesson, I do think it is a valuable website to introduce to students to help them with their studies.

Pictures:


Where can I learn more?

StudyBlue Mobilizes Notes

www.studyblue.com

Rating:

4 stars

I thought my faithful readers would enjoy “100+ Online Resources That Are Transforming Education”.

The article divides the resources into 9 different categories of websites and apps that are changing the face of education. As someone who’s new to all this, I found this categorization really helpful.

There are so many different ways to use technology as part of your teaching, these categories make everything easier. You can choose one way that you want technology to influence your classroom.

For me personally the tools in “Learner Tools” and “Collaborative Learning” fit well with my teaching style and practice. However, I know many teachers who would benefit from the resources in “Hardware for Education” or “Online Content”.

If, like me, you’re trying to integrate technology bit by bit this is a great place to start.

Those of you who have been reading know that my challenge for 2011 is to use a new technology every week in my classroom.

Last week I began my challenge by introducing headmagnet to my class to help them study for their exams (I teach High School languages). As you can see from my review, the website was well-received by my students and many of them found it very useful. A few students even commented to me that they spent way more time studying with headmagnet than they would have normally.

I never cease to be amazed at how technology can motivate people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do, or do them differently than they might normally. In the case of headmagnet, the students who normally lack study skills or the motivation to use them seem to be much more confident about their upcoming exams than I would have expected. We’ll have to wait and see until we actually start exam preparations and for exam results to see if it has had a major impact.

Today I introduced StudyBlue to my students as a resource for collaborating with each other on study notes. Stay tuned for my review on friday as I get their reactions!

My students are starting to study for their exams, so I took the opportunity to introduce HeadMagnet to them. The students who have tried it have told me over and over how helpful the program has been to their studies and to preparing them for the exam.

The technology: Headmagnet

My impression:

Headmagnet is a fantastic web app that helps you study. Essentially, headmagnet creates virtual flashcards that you can review online while you’re studying. Not only that, but the app remembers which of the cards you’ve had trouble with, and helps you review the facts that you know. This kind of studying helps learners to recall the information that they’ve learned in the long term, rather than just cramming for a test.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

Obviously, this website is extremely useful for students preparing for tests, exams, or quizzes. It’s also useful as a tool for reviewing information as it’s learned. Students can create their own study lists, or the teacher can create a list and share it with the students (this would be especially useful for younger grades). I teach high school students, who are capable of creating their own study guides, but I did point out the sharing feature to them in case they wanted to use it in study groups (which some have).

Pictures:

Where can I learn more?

http://headmagnet.com

Rating:

4 stars