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.


Where can I learn more?

StudyBlue Mobilizes Notes



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).


Where can I learn more?



4 stars

11 ways to learn in 2011

Posted: January 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

I thought this was a great article for teachers interested in technology (and tech geeks in general). There’s some great, inspirational links that will show you some great ways to interact with web 2.0 on both a personal level and a professional level.


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!

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?