Archive for the ‘Websites’ Category

My favourite education blogs

Posted: February 1, 2011 in Websites

I wanted to take a bit of time today to point out some other fantastic education technology blogs that I frequent. There are so many fantastic educators out there who are good enough to share their knowledge with the rest of us. Take some time to check them out!
Larry Ferlazzo


Chris Atkinson

Gary Stager

Teacher Reboot Camp (Shelly Terrell)

21st Century Principal

The Innovative Educator

Free Technology for Teachers


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.


Where can I learn more?


5 stars

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.


Where can I learn more?


5 stars

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.


Where can I learn more?

StudyBlue Mobilizes Notes


4 stars

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).


Where can I learn more?


4 stars

While I was away on the holidays, I got an email update from livebinders detailing a new feature that they’ve added which allows for collaboration. If you’re not familiar with livebinders, check out my review here.

Since I’ve been on a bit of an online collaboration kick lately, I decided to check it out. The addition basically allows you to add other livebinders users to your binders, so that they can add websites and information.

Click here to view the livebinder with all the relevant information.

Though this feature is certainly helpful for students working on group projects, it does have limitations. Firstly, all collaborators have to have a livebinders account. A seemingly small detail, but as a teacher who is trying to use online collaboration as much as possible with my students, I am weary of them all having to have an individual account. Not a huge deal, but worth mentioning. There are also some limitations to what collaborators can do on the same binder: the text editing has some bugs when two people are working on the binder at the same time, making it possible to loose your work if you’re not careful.

This new feature has a variety of uses for teachers. Personally I have been using it with a colleague in a different city to plan a lesson we are going to teach together (online), it would also be useful for districts, schools, or grade level partners to share information. Students could use it for group work or to work on a binder with their teacher.

I don’t use livebinders extensively, but I do plan on having my students use them in a research unit we’re going to be doing this term (stay tuned for a post on how that one turns out), and I think that this feature will come in handy. Thanks livebinders for another great addition!

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).

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