Posts Tagged ‘4 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.

Pictures:


Where can I learn more?

StudyBlue Mobilizes Notes

www.studyblue.com

Rating:

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).

Pictures:

Where can I learn more?

http://headmagnet.com

Rating:

4 stars

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.

Pictures:

Here’s a quick video

Where can I learn more?

http://www.animoto.com

Rating: 4 stars

Most teachers with regular access to a LCD projector have played powerpoint Jeopardy with their class. I do it all the time, infact it’s something that I’m well-known for amongst the students at my school. Jeopardy is fantastic. Unfortunately, with powerpoint it’s finicky to put together, and I often found that I made mistakes when putting the slides together. Fortunately, there’s a website that now allows you to create Jeopardy templates quickly and easily.

The technology: JeopardyLabs

My impression:

JeopardyLabs is a very easy website to use, I’m pretty sure my grandmother could figure it out if she was so inclined. Aside from that there’s also a nice feature that allows you to search other templates for one that you might find useful. Knowledge of HTML is useful, but not required, and you can access or edit your templates from anywhere you can access the internet (as long as you have the link).

You don’t need to create an account to use this website. If you do become a member you can keep your templates private, have access to a list of your templates, and you’re also able to delete your templates. All of this doesn’t happen if you don’t have a membership. If you choose to become a member you choose how much you think that’s worth (I always admire it when website creators do this).

The downsides to this website is that you must have access to the internet to access your template. In a situation like mine (no wifi, yet) this presents a difficulty. Luckily for the rest of you, though, I think a lack of wifi access is pretty rare these days.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

Jeopardy is a great classroom game for students of all ages (I’ve used it with students ranging in age from 7-18), and I’ve found that after a while it’s a lesson that practically runs itself. I use Jeopardy for review before tests, but this website is so user-friendly that it could be used by students for presentations as well.

Pictures:

Where can I learn more?

www.jeopardylabs.com

Rating: 4 stars

Livebinders

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Websites
Tags: , ,

I have so many bookmarks, most of which are education related. When I stumbled upon this website, I couldn’t believe my luck! It would seem that most of the educational community has already discovered this amazing resource, but it’s new to me (and many other teacher’s I’ve talked to) so I decided to review it today anyway.

Livebinders allows you to store websites, pdfs, word documents, and images in a convenient digital binder that is stored online. Best of all, you can share these web-binders, with anyone you like, and you can search for other public binders that have already been created.

The technology: Livebinders

My impression:

I just started using livebinders last month, but I’m already excited about it. The possibilities to teachers are pretty amazing. Thus far I have limited myself to creating a digital binder for each of my courses to share with my students and their parents. I’ve linked these binders on my class webpage, and they’re already getting a lot of use. Parents love being able to access currciulum documents, rubrics, and assignments so easily. As an added plus, I haven’t had a student come to me saying that they’ve lost (insert assignment/rubric/resource here) because they’ve been able to access them online and print off a new one.

Putting the livebinder together was pretty easy. I used the livebinderit tool which allows you to add websites while browsing, and before I knew it I had a huge resource for my courses.

For the most part the website was easy to use, but there were a few tricks that I had to play around with a bit to figure out. I also had some technical problems trying to upload documents. Regardless though, I think this program would be easy to teach students and parents how to use, and it makes sharing information online easy and organized. Not only that, but think of the paper you could save!

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

Other than having resources for each class like I do, livebinders would be perfect for pooling together information for an assignment or test review, or posting letters or notices to students and parents. Another great application would be to have students create a livebinder for an assignment or portfolio.

Pictures:

Instead of a picture, here’s a video from Livebinders that shows how it all works:

Where can I learn more?

Livebinders website

A great livebinder filled with tutorials

Rating: 4 stars

Bitstrips for Schools

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Websites
Tags: ,

I was recently reading this article about 6 websites that allow you create your own cartoons online. I was saddened that one of my favorite websites didn’t make the cut (though it likely didn’t make the cut because it isn’t free. The websites in that article are all fantastic alternatives if your school board isn’t able to fund purchasing bitstrips).

Bitstrips for schools is an absolutely amazing website that has enhanced my lessons in almost all subject areas. Once you’re registered, you can add students to your class and have them create their own avatars within the website. Once the students are added and avatars are created students are free to create their own comics using any of the avatars in the class along with a vast collection of props, characters, and backgrounds.

The technology: Bitstrips for Schools

My impression:

I have used this program with students of all ages, and it’s easy enough for very young students, but diverse enough that high school students enjoy it too. I have never had a student tell me that they didn’t enjoy working with bitstrips- there is nothing like having your students creating a good quality product when it’s not even an assignment.

There’s very little I can think of about this program that’s negative, but there are a few criticisms that I have after working on the program with my classes. The character creation is somewhat limited, and it can sometimes take awhile to create a comic that looks the way you want it to. Students who are perfectionists (or who like to goof off) can spend hours messing around in the program, trying to get it to do exactly what they want. While I normally applaud this kind of determination in my students, it can be frustrating when you have an assignment deadline looming and all they want to do is make sure their character’s hands are posed exactly the way they want them to be : ) .

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

One thing that I love about this program is that there are hundreds of activities and assignments that you can use with your students built into the websites. The majority of these assignments have been created by teachers for their own classes. Best of all: they’re searchable by grade and subject. I’ve used this feature a few times when I was in a pinch to create an assignment and didn’t have time to be creative on my own.

Pictures:

Creating a character

An example of what a finished class looks like.

Example of a finished comic.

Where can I learn more?

www.bitstripsforschools.com

On twitter @bitstrips4school

Or their blog http://blog.bitstripsforschools.com/

Rating: 4 stars

Sign up for a free 30 day trial! If you like it, convince a colleague or two to give it a try as well. Having your district pay for a subscription to bitstrips is the cheapest way to activate an account. Individual teachers pay $9.95 a month, and school districts pay $1.50 per student per year.

I thought long and hard about what the first review that I posted would be, and ultimately I couldn’t have made any other decision. I have been using Termites Seating Plan software for years and it’s currently my favorite program for improving my own efficiency as a teacher.

The technology: Termites Seating Plan

My impression: I have been using this software for the past three years and I absolutely love it. It is very user-friendly and saves me a ton of time.

Students are input into the program, and assigned relationships with other students. For example, if John and Sally are in your class and don’t get along (or they get along too well and are disruptive to the progress of your lessons) you can give their relationship a negative value and the program will seat them apart from each other. You can also specify if a particular student should sit in the front or back of a class. Termites also has a new feature that allows you to assign each student an ability level so that if you want your weaker students to sit at the front of the room, or to sit together, you can do have the program do that for you as well.

After you’ve listed your students and their relationships, you lay out your classroom by indicating where your desks are. Click “Generate” and within seconds you have your seating plan. If you don’t like it, you can generate again until you do.

The primary concern that I have with this program is that it’s not readily apparent to my students which side of the seating plan chart is the front of the room and which is the back. That’s my biggest problem… and after explaining it to them once it’s really no problem at all. (Edited to add: An email from Richard from tinyrock has brought to my attention the fact that the new version specifies which side of the diagram is the front on the printout- solved my only complaint! I’ll have to download the newest version asap, Thanks Richard!)

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas: I think it’s pretty obvious what the uses of this program are in the classroom. I change my seating plan monthly, and it’s easy with this program. On the first day of the month the students know that when they come into the room there will be a new seating plan on the projector, and they automatically seat themselves accordingly.

Next month when I want to create a new seating plan I load my saved data file, change any relationships that I have to, and generate a new plan.

Pictures: (From the termites website linked below)

Add the names of the students in your class

Lay out your classroom

Ta da! Here's your seating plan. You can now save or print it as needed.

For more images see the Termites website.

Where can I learn more? http://termitesapp.com/

Rating: 4 stars

I highly recommend that you download the free trial and give it a whirl. If you’re still using a pencil and paper to do your seating plans I guarantee this will save you some time. The full version is $27.95 and with that you can download any new versions that come out.