"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." --John Dewey

Monday, December 26, 2011

Socrates Would Be Pleased

Twas the day after Christmas and teachers worldwide
enjoyed some hot cocoa, and relaxed fireside.
Still, as joyous and fun as Christmas had been
the thought of their classrooms caused some chagrin,
for as the last Christmas ember fades and flickers,
they remember their wish for student response clickers.

Their request to Santa had been quite emphatic.
"My lessons need 'oomph', from questions Socratic."
But, alas, no clickers neath the tree appeared.
"It's back to the same old stuff," they feared.
Only the most eager of students will react
when asked to express opinion or state simple fact.

All hope is not lost, though, my good fellow teachers,
for we, as a group, are resourceful creatures.
To gauge students' learning with just a few questions
I have what I think are some worthwhile suggestions.
However, from here I'll proceed without rhyme,
for this is taking WAY too much time.

If you're lucky enough to have a computer lab at your disposal or a set of laptops to share, creating an account at Socrative.com will turn your present technology into a student response system that can be used with prepared questions, or "on the fly."  Here's how it works:
Go to http://www.socrative.com to request access to the site.  Once you receive an invitation to use the private beta site you'll go to http://t.socrative.com to sign in, and be assigned a room number.  Instruct your students to go to http://m.socrative.com and enter the same room number to become an active user.  Once everyone is logged in, you will have a number of options for using the site.  The immediate feedback you get from just a few questions will surely prove helpful in determining the pacing and direction of the remainder of the lesson, and the reports generated from a short quiz provide the all-important documentation you need before moving forward.  Can you think of a more impactful way to integrate technology?

BTW:  Any internet-connected hardware can be used with the Socrative website.  If your students have phones, or iPods or tablets at their disposal, they can all be viewed as a means for student interaction.

Of course, Socrative.com is far from the only option for electronically getting feedback from your students.  Polleverywhere.com, for example, is another option that's worth investigating, and free to use, assuming your class has fewer than 40 students.  Check out a concise "how-to" for using Polleverywhere here.

As valuable as they are, these websites do, unfortunately have their short-comings.  They will, however, give voice to those students whose hands rarely are raised, and whose vocal cords are normally dormant in class.

So there you have it--my advice for the week:
a website inspired by a wise ancient Greek.
Now I'm left with just one thing to do,
express my very best wishes to you.
Happy holidays, blog readers--each and every one.
You'll be happy to know, my poetry is done.  :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Writing on the Wall

Not long ago I was asked by one of our school administrators to send out an email to the parents of our junior high students to let them know volunteers were needed for the junior high holiday dance.  After receiving several quick responses, I was again asked to send a message to these same parents to let them know our updated needs.  "Hmm . . . " thought I, "there must be a better way."  And, of course, there is.

Sharing information in real-time is easy, and a lot less cumbersome if you use the right tool.  A collaborative site like Wallwisher.com will allow users to post virtual sticky notes, complete with a link to  an image, audio or video file.  When building the wall, you can specify whether or not you want to approve each post before it goes live, so it's perfect to use for student projects.  You could, for example, ask your students to predict what's going to happen next in the novel you're reading, or brainstorm ideas for a class bulletin board, or . . . collect information from parents about who will be volunteering at the dance.  This might also be a good way to have your fellow attendees indicate what they'll be bringing to the neighborhood potluck dinner, so you don't end up with five variations of sloppy joe's for dinner.

Now, being the creature of habit that I am, and having used Wallwisher for some time now, that's become my default "sticky note site".  There are, of course, many other options.  Stixy.com, for instance, is certainly worth checking out.  While similar to Wallwisher in many ways, it offers the additional options of being able to upload entire documents, add To Do list items, and invite specific contributors.

You may also want to check out AnswerGarden.ch for a simple way of sharing information.  Scroll to the bottom of this blog to find an example of an embedded Answer Garden, and share a favorite web resource, and don't forget to add a little something to the wall below.  Happy collaborating, everyone!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Educational Power Tools

A tool that can make your students look forward to doing their homework must be pretty powerful, wouldn't you agree?  Well, ClassTools.net is just such a power tool.  Here you can turn an ordinary vocabulary list into arcade games that will keep your students practicing for hours.  (Try one of the sample games below and see if you can stop after just one level.)  You can share the game by posting a URL to your class web page, or use the HTML to embed the games directly into a wiki or blog, as I did here.

A quick look at the list of templates available should convince you that this site is worth investigating. The Random Name Picker and Countdown Timer are tools that virtually any classroom teacher will find useful.  Fakebook and Twister will definitely capture the interest of your social media enamored students, and the graphic organizers are . . . well, indispensable.  And, many of the ClassTools activities will work nicely on your interactive whiteboard.

Although you can use Classtools.net free of charge, they do offer a premium membership for those who are interested.  For a membership fee of £19.99 (about $31 US) per year, you can enjoy the tools ad-free, and get a personal storage area so you can save and access your resources.

I can't very well talk about educational power tools without mentioning NoodleTools.  While this site requires a subscription to make full use of its capabilities, if you have ever tried to organize a research project with your students you will most definitely find this worth the $60 subscription fee.

NoodleTools allows you to create individual accounts for your students, where they can easily create bibliographies, well-organized and documented note cards, and outlines of their research papers.  Students can collaborate on projects, and can share their work, while in progress, with a teacher or teachers who can provide feedback without a single page being printed.

Now don't get the wrong idea.  I can certainly appreciate the fact that most teachers can't justify spending money on Internet resources.  I hardly ever spend my hard earned money on website subscriptions.  But, when 7th graders voluntarily tell me that they love using this website to help them with their research papers, and ask if they can use it for their other classes, I know my money has been well spent.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Give Yourself a Nudge

I may not be the most forgetful person on the planet, but I wouldn't have to go far out on a limb to guess that I'm definitely in the running for the title.  This, however, seems to be something of a common perception among teachers at this time of year.  Besides your regular lesson planning, teaching, grading, and updating of your web page, you have decorations to put up, a holiday concert to prepare for, and of course, lots of shopping to get done.  And, if you somehow got involved in coaching a sport at your school, or helping with the 8th grade play, your head should be spinning pretty quickly about now.  What you need right now is a personal secretary to keep it all straight, right?  Or, maybe just a nudge or two will do the trick.

Nudgemail.com is one of those handy, little tools that can be invaluable in helping keep you on track when your busy schedule starts spinning out of control.  Here's how it works.  Let's say that you promised to cover a fellow teacher's lunch recess duty on Friday, and although you're normally responsible about honoring your commitments, there is a good chance that this is the kind of thing that you could, quite possibly, forget by Friday.  Open your email application and send a message to:  friday@nudgemail.com.  Write yourself a reminder in the body of the email and hit send.  Friday morning you'll be getting a reminder from yourself so you don't forget you have to cover lunch recess.  Seriously, it's that easy.  No sign-up necessary, no password to remember. Your reminders can be sent to “monday@nudgemail.com” or “tomorrow@nudgemail.com” or “dec12@nudgemail.com” or “2hours@nudgemail.com” or . . . well, you get the idea. Give it a try. Send yourself a nudgemail reminder to visit Tech Talk for Teachers again
next week!

Here's a special little gift that will give you a chance to use Nudgemail, and get free music downloads. Amazon is giving away 25 days of free holiday music. Click here to visit the site and download a free holiday song each day. Or, send yourself a nudgemail reminder to visit the site on December 25th and download all 25.  Can't wait, hmm?  Go to Amazon.com and search for free Christmas mp3 downloads to see some more choices, or sit back and relax now, and remind yourself to do it tomorrow.   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is Collaborize Really a Word?

Your spell-checker may tell you that collaborize is a no-no, but when it's used in conjunction with classroom, it's a very big YES!

Collaborize Classroom is a feature-rich collaborative platform that can be used for class discussions, polls, quizzes and so much more.  Teachers can create and customize a site that can then be accessed by a unique URL and password.  Students can then easily create individual accounts, even without an email address, and be able to participate in online discussions, polls, projects or tests.  Teachers can post topics chosen from the Topic Library provided by the site, or of their own design.  Pictures, videos, and even documents can be attached to each topic for immediate reference.  Your teacher dashboard allows you to easily manage students, groups, topics and a plethora of reports.

Collaborize Classroom is easy to set up and easy to use.  There are plenty of free resources to help you get started, as well as topics and suggestions for keeping your students actively engaged.  This site is one that can be useful for any grade-level or subject area, and all of this versatility is absolutely FREE!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold, and Dabble a Lesson

In Illinois, November winds bring cold weather, and cold weather brings, . . . well, colds, and generally plenty of empty seats in our classrooms.  Luckily, technology offers several ways to reach students who are not able to come to class, one of which is an easy to use website called Dabbleboard.

Dabbleboard is an online whiteboard that will allow you and your MIA students to share a screen, and collaborate in real-time.  Start by going to http://www.dabbleboard.com and start a drawing.  (No account is needed, unless you want to save your work online.)  Customize a URL for your page (or you can use the one that's generated for you), and post it, or email it to your students.  When they log on, they will be able to see what you do on the board, and can participate in the written chat, or even via voice/video chat.  Your sniffling students can demonstrate their problem-solving skills, for example, without ever leaving the comfort of their homes, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you won't have to play an extended game of "catch-up" when your students are well enough to return.  You can insert documents and images, and use the freehand drawing tools to create create diagrams and mind-maps.

Give Dabbleboard a try below, and then try it out with your class.  Yes, it may take a little planning to make sure your students are logged in to the right place at the right time, but I really think you'll find this worth the effort.

Oh, and now that the cold weather is on my mind, I have to share a fun weather website: YoWindow.com. If you start your school day by looking at and/or discussing the weather, or if perhaps you have your students graph weather data, you will definitely want to check out this site. Not only will you get the usual temperature and humidity information, but it will be displayed on an animated background. Take the time to customize, and add the widget to your website or wiki, and be sure to view it full screen. Studying another country, or communicating with pen pals? Create a widget to show their weather too!

Forecast by NWS

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Global Greetings

It's in the air.  You can feel it, right?  It's the middle of November, and if you've shopped lately you know that the holiday season appears to already be in full swing, and our schools are not very far behind the retailers.  The Music teachers among us are, no doubt, already busy preparing our students for the annual holiday concert.  Art teachers are stocking up on green and red construction paper, and soon even the most dedicated and determined educators will put the Math manual on the shelf for a couple of days to be sure the finishing touches are added to the macaroni picture frames that will be going home to Mom and Dad. Yes, the feeling of holiday magic is most definitely in the air.

Share a little of the excitement for your holiday celebrations by participating in the Global Greetings Project.  This collaborative online project (a Google Docs slideshow--no construction paper needed) will allow each of us to post a holiday greeting card for other project participants to view and/or download. Go to the project website and use the template to share information about how you celebrate the holiday season.  Add your contact information, and maybe you'll be able to establish a partnership for future collaborative projects as well.
Hmm . . . global goodwill.  Now that would be holiday magic!

BTW:  I know that time is a precious commodity and that instruction time, in particular, should be used to address subject standards.  You may be happy to know that this project does, in fact, address the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS•S).  Specifically, it meets Standard 2a. "Students will interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety of digital environments and media," and Standard 2c. "Students develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making History on 11.11.11

Seems like it should be a pretty magical day, doesn't it? Well, it certainly looks like it's shaping up to be just that. People from all over the globe (including me) have committed to participating in a documentary project called One Day On Earth.  We'll be photographing events of the day and contributing to a worldwide documentary film.  If you would like to know more about the project, or if you'd love to contribute footage of what happens in your school and/or neighborhood on that day, go to http://www.onedayonearth.org/.  The site provides instructions, ideas and resources as well as access to user groups for making connections with other participants.  The completed documentary is due to be ready for viewing in early February.  Hmmm . . . global collaboration.  That truly is magical.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Halloween Treat, and a Few Clever Tricks

There are few things that will lift a teacher's spirits at the end of a long day like a healthy dose of chocolate--except maybe going home without a bag full of papers to grade.  So, assuming you'll be the recipient of at least a little chocolate on Halloween, let me wish you a happy holiday by providing a website that may help empty your book bag.

Edmodo.com is a wonderful website that provides a secure environment for you and your students to connect and collaborate.  You can post homework assignments, and provide a library of resources (documents, links, videos, etc.) for your students to use in getting it done.  Here's how it works:

Suppose you're studying the International Space Station, or (insert your favorite topic here).  That YouTube video that is likely to be blocked by your school's firewall can be embedded into your Edmodo site, so that your students can watch it for homework (or maybe watch it again for homework if you're lucky enough not to have it blocked in the first place).  The reaction paper that you want them to write can be posted to the Edmodo portal along with the video, the assignment due date, and any other pertinent resources.  Your students, after dutifully watching the movie, will begin their response in a word processing program, and instead of saving the unfinished document to a flash drive to bring to school, can then save to their Edmodo "backpack" to finish at a later time.  No flash drive needed.  When assignments are completed, students attach their files and submit them to you right through the website.  You can now read and grade the assignments, post the grades and your feedback for your students to view the next time they log in to Edmodo.

In addition to streamlining assignments, Edmodo will enable you to post important alerts to the entire group, or messages to individual students.  You can maintain a class calendar, and your students can add their own important events that only they will see upon login.  And, if you're lucky enough to work with colleagues who love to collaborate, Edmodo makes it easy for your students to access class materials from all of their teachers with a single log in.  You can even provide parental access if you so choose.

Edmodo is truly a gem--the digital equivalent of chocolate to be sure.  Give it a try.  I promise you, this one is a keeper.

Now for the clever tricks. (You didn't think I'd forget, did you?)  Anywhere that Edmodo will allow you to post a link, it will also accept HTML so that you can embed not only videos but other useful gadgets you can find online as well.  Try this website, for example, for some great "embeddables."  (No, I don't think that's actually a word.)

Go to http://clear.msu.edu/teaching/online/ria/ and create a free account.  Choose one of the awesome Rich Internet Applications, create and embed into Edmodo using the HTML.  You and your students are going to see homework in a whole new light.

Which CLEAR application will be your favorite? Use this Audio Dropbox to submit your reponse, and imagine how you could use it with your students.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What's a Wiggio?

Sounds a little like a cross between part of your Super Mario Halloween costume and a children's breakfast cereal, don't you think?  It is, in fact, something far more useful than either.  Wiggio is a website specifically designed to make Working In Groups easy and efficient.  And, by the way, it provides some wonderful tools to do just that.

Start by going to http://wiggio.com and creating your free account.  Next, create a group, and invite contacts to join.  You and your fellow group members now have an easy way to share files, messages, calendar events, and so much more.

Decide on user permissions when setting up your group.  Here are your options.

Users will see a menu that looks like this. 

Together, your group members can 
  • keep a shared calendar, 
  • create or upload documents and spreadsheets to share, 
  • share links to great websites, 
  • send text, voice and/or email messages, 
  • set up conference calls, virtual meetings and chatrooms,
  • share task lists, and
  • create polls with yes/no, multiple choice and short answer questions.
Try creating a group for your colleagues, and see how useful this website can be.  You may find yourself with a lot more free time, and maybe even a little extra money, on your hands.  You see, for every new user who accepts your invitation to join a group, you'll be awarded a "ticket" for the Wiggio weekly raffle.  You may end up with a $50 gift card to iTunes, Amazon or Best Buy, just in time to start your holiday shopping.

Use this link to check out Wiggio:  http://wiggio.com/share.php?id=103360.  After all, I have holiday shopping to do too!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Drop More Than Hints

Okay, so you've gotten into the habit of creating documents in Google Docs so you can save to "the cloud."  I know what you're thinking.  "What about all the documents I already have saved? Or those PDF files that I download from the Internet?  How do I easily access those from multiple computers?  Hmmm???"  I'm glad you asked.

If you regularly work from multiple computers (say, home, school, laptop) registering for an account at www.dropbox.com is a must!  Once you register, you can download a dropbox folder to each of your computers, and have instant access to all of your files from any of your computers.  So, that interesting PDF that you downloaded on your computer at school, is readily accessible on your laptop, since you've saved it to your dropbox folder.  Even better (well, maybe not better, but certainly as exciting), you can choose to share that document in your dropbox with the tech-savvy colleague down the hall who also has a dropbox account.  Here's how to get started:

  • Go to http://www.dropbox.com and click the Download button.

  • This last step takes you back to the Dropbox home page where you create your username and password.
  • Now do the same on each computer you regularly use, and be sure to log in with the same username and password.
  • That's it!  Now when you save a document, choose your Dropbox instead of your Documents folder or Desktop, and . . . voila! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Calendars and Spreadsheets and Forms . . . Oh My!

The recent passing of Steve Jobs has spawned more than a few conversations about how many of the products born from his extraordinary imagination we can no longer do without.  It made me start thinking about some of the technology-based things (websites, gadgets, shortcuts) that I can't imagine working without any more.

There was a time when the documents you created on one computer stayed on that computer until they were printed, or until you found a way to carry a digital document with you.  Not always an easy feat.  If you started creating a test, for example, on your computer at school, working on it at home meant saving to a flash drive, or emailing it to yourself so it could be opened on another computer.  Forget to do one of those, and your students could be taking a 3 question test that you didn't have a chance to finish.  Luckily, we now have better, more convenient options for saving work and accessing it on multiple machines.

The easiest option, I think, is to create your documents online at a site like Google Docs.  You will need to sign up for a Google account (free and easy to do), but this will give you access to online applications similar to Microsoft Office applications.  Yep, you can create word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and, one of my favorites, forms.  Whatever you create in Google Docs is stored in "the cloud" so that you instantly have access to all of your documents from any Internet-connected computer.  In addition, you can invite other users to collaborate on documents with you.  Team teachers can work as a team, each from the comfort of his or her own home.

One of the best and most underused features of Google Docs, I think, is the ability to create forms.  Any time you need to collect information from a group (students, parents, colleagues), creating and posting a form online allows the members of your group to add their information to the form and submit.  No papers to collect!  And, best of all, the information that is submitted, instantly populates a spreadsheet, so you don't even need to spend time gathering and organizing the submissions.  You could even create an online test or quiz using Google Forms, and have all of your students' responses in one place for you to grade.  Intrigued?  Here's something that might make it even more enticing:  visit www.flubaroo.com, and download an add-on that will grade the test results for you, and generate summary reports on student performance, including which question(s) tripped up more than 60% of respondents.  This is such an enormous time-saver, it's almost every teacher's dream come true, and certainly worth a look if you've never tried it before.

BTW:  When you create your Google account, you not only get access to Google Docs and a Gmail address, you get the ability to create your own Google Calendars. I'm not sure exactly how I would get through a day without checking my Google Calendar to see what's on tap, but I know I don't want to try.  This site allows you to create multiple calendars (ie. work, family, book club . . . ) and stay on top of all your activities.  Your calendars are sharable, and allow you to create "To Do" lists that keep you from forgetting those little tasks that tend to slip your mind so easily.  You can even import calendars, like national holidays, or the schedule of your favorite sports team, so you never miss a game. FYI:  My White Sox open the 2012 season on April 6th in Texas.  Thanks Google Calendar, for the heads up.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Big 6

Sounds a little like a football conference, doesn't it?  The Big 6 is actually a problem-solving model that, according to the Big 6 website, includes:

  1. Task Definition
  2. Information Seeking Strategies
  3. Location and Access
  4. Use of Information
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation
It's all about "inquiry based learning." There is a ton of information on this subject online, so there really isn't much for me to add.  Just start checking out some of these helpful resources.

Remember that having your students create a technology-based project doesn't always mean a PowerPoint.  There are so many wonderful, free alternatives.  Prezi is one that immediately comes to mind.  If you haven't seen a Prezi or used the site, it is certainly worth the effort to check it out.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Differentiator

More and more often, we as teachers are being asked to differentiate instruction to meet the learning needs of all of our students.  A noble intention, to be sure, but often easier said than done.  Between thinking about backward design, Bloom's Taxonomy, Marzano's Instructional Strategies, state standards, and . . . oh, right--content, weekly lesson planning can become a mind-boggling endeavor.  If only there was some sort of educational superhero to come to the rescue when you're staring at the blank page of the plan book in front of you, feeling defeated.

Introducing (drum roll, please) The Differentiator!  While not quite a superhero, this web site is definitely an invaluable lesson planning tool.

Begin by choosing the appropriate thinking skill (yes, those are Bloom's verbs you see), and it will be added to your objective.
Move on to the aqua tab to choose the type of content you want for the lesson.  The green tab allows you to choose the resource you expect your students to use, and the melon-colored tab will offer a wide array of finished product choices.  Next, use the Groups tab to select how students will work to complete the assignment.  Once all of those choices have been made, simply fill in the subject matter where you see (click to enter content), and you have a detailed objective that you can copy and paste into your lesson plans, or modify as needed.  
The Differentiator really is a pretty handy, dandy tool, and one certainly worth bookmarking for easy access.  Give it a try.  It may not be a superhero, but it may make you feel like one. 
(Insert your name here)--Super Teacher!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Are You Listening??

When was the last time you saw someone under the age of 30 walking down the street without wires coming from his/her ears?  I wouldn't have to go too far out on a limb to suggest that most of our students spend at least some of their after-school hours listening to some type of mp3 player.  Why not take advantage of the situation, and get them to listen to some of their homework?

There are loads of websites that will convert text to speech, quickly, easily and freely.  (Okay, I know I'll be getting points off for using freely incorrectly, but you see what I was going for, right?)  Try Yakitome.com for easy text to speech (mp3) conversion.  You will need to register, but the account is free.  Vozme.com is another good online choice.  This site does not require an account, and it offers a choice of six languages (including Spanish). You may prefer to download an application right to your desktop for easy access.  Try Type It Read It (also free).  This will require a little more effort to turn the sound file into an mp3, but this program definitely has its advantages over free online converters, including a variety of more natural sounding computer voices and adjustable reading speed.

There's even a search engine designed specifically for your audio learners.  Check out Qwiki.com.  Enter the topic, and press the forward arrow to search.  What you'll get is a narrated slide show of information.  Press the "Contents" tab at the top and see the text, as well as links to picture files and related searches.

Last, but certainly not least, if you work on a Mac computer, you can make your computer read text to you as well.  Here's how:
  • Go to System Preferences (in your Applications folder if it's not already on your dock).
  • Click on Speech, and then Text to Speech at the top right of the new screen.
  • Check the box that says "Speak selected text when the key is pressed".
  • Now click on Set Key, and type in whatever key or key combination you'd like. (In the lab we use Option+Apple (Command)+T) 
  • You can also choose your computer's voice from this screen too.
Now, any time you highlight text, and press the key(s) you've chosen for speech, your computer will read to you.  (Try opening Garage Band to create a podcast of what your computer is reading, download as an mp3, and listen repeatedly on your iPod!)  I'm finding myself relying on this method to check my work more and more frequently as I get older more quickly than I get wiser.  I think faster than I type, and consequently often miss words entirely when I try to write what I'm thinking. Thank goodness my friendly Mac reads exactly what's written so I can hear when something is missing or misspelled.  Wouldn't your students benefit from hearing their work read too?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dealing with Behavior Issues?

No, I'm not particularly interested in your behavior.  I'm referring to the behavior of your students, of course.  Are you constantly reminding Bart to stay in his seat, or Lisa to finish her work quietly?  There's an app for that!  Class Dojo is an easy to use website that promises to "improve student behavior and engagement by awarding and recording real-time feedback."  Think of it as super-sized reward stickers for the 21st century.  Here's how it works:
  • Sign up for a free account at http://bit.ly/oagBmZ.  (I'll explain the weird URL in a bit.)
  • Click on the (+ Add a Class) button at the top left of the page.  Choose your grade level, and create a name for your class.
  • Create as many classes as you like.  Perhaps one for each grade level, if you teach more than one, or each subject, or morning and afternoon.  Whatever you like.
  • Add your student list to each class.  Type the names in, or copy and paste if you have a list already typed in a word processing or spreadsheet document.
  • Click on "Classes" in the left margin, and again on one of the classes in your list.  What you'll see is a funny, little comic avatar for each of your students in the class.
  • Click on the "Behaviors" tab at the top of the page, and see the positive and negative "stickers" that are available for you to award your students.  Behavior icons are editable, and you can add more in each category, if you choose.  
  • Now that you're set up, the site is ready for use.  At the beginning of a class period, click on the blue (Start Class) button at the top of the page.  At any time during the class, you can select a student's name, and the behavior "sticker" you wish to award. (You can even do it from your smart phone, if you choose.)
  • Click on the blue (End Class) button when your class is over.
Of course, this site works best if you have a projector in your room, so that your students can see how their behavior is being rewarded.  (It's especially easy to use for those of you with Smart Boards in your room!)  Now, whenever you like you can click on "Report Cards" in the left margin, and create a graphic for each child that shows behavior progress for the time period you specify.  Report cards can be printed for take-home folders, or emailed for more immediate (and paperless!) feedback.

Wondering about the weird http://bit.ly/oagBmZ URL for a site called Class Dojo?  Here's the scoop.  By default, everyone who creates an account at Class Dojo has access to the cartoon avatars.  If you get another teacher to join through a special URL that the site provides (like the one the site generated for me above), you will unlock a special feature allowing you to upload your own pictures or avatars for your students.  Hmm . . . offering teachers something free just for spreading the word about a resource that's worth sharing anyway?  Genius!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Student Emails

Have you heard the term Web 2.0?  Wikipedia says "A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community."  Interact, and collaborate are two verbs that make web 2.0 sites perfect for use in your classroom, but very often they require an email address in order to create an account.  Does that mean that your students are out of luck when it comes to using these sites?  Of course not!  If you have a gmail account (and if you don't, you should), you can create email accounts for your students for the purpose of website registration, without providing any of their personal information, and without any of them actually having to access the account.  Here's how:

Send yourself an email.  But, instead of addressing it to yourself@gmail.com, address it to yourself+lisas@gmail.com.  You've just created an account for Lisa Simpson!

Select the message when it arrives in your inbox, and go to the "More" drop down menu. Select "Filter messages like these."

In the new screen that appears, enter your student's email in the "To" field (everything else should be blank), and go to the next screen.

Check the box that says "Apply the label," and from the drop down menu choose "New label."  Enter this student's name as the new label, then press "Create filter."
    Messages intended for this student will now come to your gmail account, with your student's name in the filter.

    Now I know what you're thinking--that's a lot of work just to set up email accounts that my students will never even access.  You're right, I suppose.  But when you find a wonderful web 2.0 site that is just right for use in your classroom (and trust me, there are so many), you will have no trouble setting up individual accounts for your students.  Before you know it they'll be "interacting and collaborating" like you never thought possible.  It really will be worth the trouble.

    Not ready to tackle this yourself?  Please let me know, and I'll be glad to help.


    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Do you Symbaloo?

    We're creatures of habit, aren't we?  Especially true when it comes to using the Internet, I think.  Every day we go to one website to check email, another to update our school web pages, another to enter attendance and grades, and maybe even a favorite blog or two. ;)  Bookmarking is helpful, but I'd like to recommend a website that will make your online life even easier:  Symbaloo.   

    Symbaloo allows you to create a webmix of your favorite sites, and makes them accessible to you from any computer.  After creating your free account, you can begin assembling your mix.  Create buttons for each of the websites you frequently visit, and easily hyperlink each button to the site it represents.  That's it!  You can even order/organize the buttons with a quick drag and drop.  Create several mixes, if you'd like, for subject resources, personal resources, or the websites you visit just for fun.  You can choose to keep your webmix private, or select to publish for your students' use.

    The picture below shows the webmix that I created for students in my Computer classes, and now use as the homepage on our lab computers.  The additional tabs you see near the top of the screen are ones that I've kept private, and are only visible because I logged in to the site before taking the screenshot.  Drag your mouse over the image to access hotspots with additional information.  

    Not sure where to begin?  Let me know and I will certainly help you get rolling.

    Symbaloo has become a "must-have" for me, and I believe it will for you too.  So the next time somebody asks, "Do you Symbaloo?" I hope you'll respond, "I do, I do, I do Symbaloo!"