Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

The technology: Cellphones

My impression:

I’ll admit a bit of trepidation when I was considering this idea, but I’m glad that I finally decided to take the plunge. This little experiment has been, by far, the most well-received of my tech challenge. Almost all of my students have a smart phone, and those that don’t are very familiar with how to use them and were more than willing to share with a friend for the activities.

Classroom management with the phones was (and still is) a bit of an obstacle, but I’m going to stick with it because I can see the benefits and enthusiasm in the students.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

  • Students can use their cellphones to access websites like StudyBlue (you can read my review here). One activity that I tried this week was to have students create flashcards in StudyBlue for their friends on a concept that they had learned (I teach french and used this as review for grammar. Each student was responsible for one verb tense that they created flashcards for and shared with the other students). They then worked in small groups, reviewing the material together and using the flashcards to assess their knowledge.
  • I used PollEverywhere (look for the review on PollEverywhere next week when I’ve had a chance to really try it out) software during lessons to ask students a question about the material. They texted the answer and I could display the data right away, so I knew if they got it.
  • I haven’t had a chance to do this yet, but I think I might try and use voicethread next week for some digital storytelling, allowing the students to use their cellphones to comment on the material.

Where can I learn more?

Some of the ideas for this post came from this blog


5 stars. I’ll be doing this again and integrating it slowly with my other classes.


This week I’ve decided that I’m going to try things a bit differently. Since it’s the start of a new semester, it seems to me to be a great time to bring out some new rules…. so I decided to try allowing my students to use their cellphones in class (against school policy- shhh!). It’s entirely possible that I may get in a lot of trouble over this one. However, I’ve opted to live by the saying “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” in this particular case because 1) it’s something that I’m willing to defend if confronted about it, and 2) I don’t think anyone will confront me about it anyway. I’m a bit of a rebel though, I’ve been letting my students listen to ipods for years (again- against school policy)

It’s very new ground to me, so I’ve had to establish some rules with my classes. I opted to start off with only one class to see how it goes, and so far it’s been going well. We’ve had a few little bumps along the road, but I’m generally happy with my decision and I think I might introduce the idea to another class next week.

Look for my full review of the experience on friday!

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

*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.


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

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!

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!

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).

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