Using HootCourse May 13, 2010
I am just practicing to see exactly how this HootCourse system works. Still confused.
Using Forms in Class and in School April 12, 2010
Most classrooms have at least one computer in them, granted not all, but this might make you fight to have one.
Forms are a big part of the daily life in education. Students have forms for missing class, tardies, discipline, and a lot of other things. Most of these forms are on paper format and you will end up with a big stack of them by the end of the year. Well, the transition from paper forms to digital forms is quite simple and it will save you a lot of time.
Creating a Form
The process to set up a form online it quite simple. Take an online software program that creates forms, such as Google Docs or Survey Monkey and create a form. You will be given a link or embed code to make the form available to your students either by bookmarking on the computer in your room or putting it on your class blog or website. Then students just fill out the form.
I can see many uses for using forms for both the classroom and the school. The idea that sparked this in me was that the teacher had students fill out a digital form when they were disruptive in class. Essentially “writing” themselves up. You could also use this as a reflective tool at the end of a unit by asking the students what they thought about the unit. I am planning on using a form to track student absences, tardies, and there reasons. Granted, I teach a computer class, which allows my students access to computers at all times. I also see this as a part of an assignment, where the student reflects on what they did and learned.
Essentially, using digital forms throughout a school would be great for data collection and identifying trends quicker. Students can fill out a digital form in the office, which the administration can see immediately to identify the flow of student traffic in and out of school. Instead of a suggestion box, it could be a form that the students fill out.
The Rest of the Story
Obviously, digital forms will not rid the world of paper forms. I am still hesitant to have a digital form for student field trips that need parental approval, unless the form was accessible only in a secure location that only parent’s could get into. And parents would need to all have access to computers and Internet also for that to work. But, it is a step in the right direction for better communication in education.
Wikis vs Blogs- The Endless Debate March 4, 2010
Wikis and blogs are some of the most basic Web 2.0 options that teachers will be attracted to. The question is, which one should I use? I was working with another teacher who is jumping into the world of Web 2.0 for his courses, and we worked on the issue.
I don’t like to reinvent the wheel, and I found a really good PowerPoint explanation of when you should use a wiki and when you should use a blog. This is a really good PowerPoint created by Jacki Weikert.
What I got from this is that at the core of the software, blogs are for 1 person to explain something and wikis are for multiple people to explain something. There is quite a bit more to the puzzle than that, but after taking a step back that is where I am looking at it from.
What Does This Mean?
Well, I don’t care which one you choose to use in your classroom, blog or wiki. I think of them like having pizza and a burger. Both are great, but you would eat the pizza with at least one other person (usually) and a burger is more of a single person event. Not the best analogy, but I try.
But you almost have to have one or the other to making your classroom more appropriate for students today. They are simple steps to the process of starting a wiki and blog with many examples out there to get you going on using them in the classroom. Give it a shot.
Staying in Contact with Students & Parents Outside of the Classroom February 15, 2010
Ever heard this? “What did we do in class yesterday?”
You probably have. Not a big deal if it is only one student. However, it is never just one student and they always ask one right after another. The good thing is that your students want to stay caught up on the material in class. This is always a good thing. The problem is by taking the time explaining what you covered yesterday (multiple times) eats away at the class time you need to cover today’s material. Not to mention that parents are left out in the dark on what is going on unless they get a call or call the teacher, or at conference time. This is especially important in elementary and middle school when students are very forgetful. (Yes, I know it applies to high school, but they assume more responsibility then.)
Luckily, this is one area that technology is definitely able to assist with. You can use a class blog/wiki, send email updates, send text messages, or post twitter messages.
First, you can take a traditional route of printing and posting yesterday’s lessons. But in today’s world it is not enough to do this. Students forget what they need to do before they go home, sometimes forget any sheet that explains what they need to do, and then it is a wasted day.
Excerpt: I do not grade most of my daily work. The problem I have seen and heard about are students getting low grades because they have forgotten daily work and received zeros for it, even if they scored decent on their exams. So, if you are going to grade daily work, you need to take the effort to provide as many chances for students to know what the assignment is.
This is probably the easiest option for teachers because of the familiarity of writing down what you did in class. There are many options for blogs and wikis which I talked about earlier. The beauty with this option is with a service such as Google Reader (or any RSS reader), parents can get notified easily of updates to the webpage. You could even assign a student to update the page instead of you taking time out to do so.
Sometimes it might be easier to communicate with your students and parents via email. If your school has student emails set up you already have access to them. Otherwise, getting a list together of both student and parent emails will need to be compiled. You might want to allow parents to use an online form to respond, having the students use the form in class will prevent parents from having problems with it. Their students can help. With Google Docs, you can quickly create a form that will allow you to export to an Excel document. I really like this option because it makes communicating with students and parents about other issues very easy since you already have their email information.
The first two options assume that the students and parents are able to easily access the Internet. This is not the case for most people. But, most people today do have cell phones. There are online sites that allow you to send mass text messages out to students and parents. One site that I feel that should be looked into for this option is Homework Now. A site Remember the Milk has many options including sending text message reminders and email reminders.
This option is really unique. But it is simple to use. All you need to do is inform your students and their parents what your twitter account is. You could create a new account just for your classroom needs. There is no other setup required.
With all of these options you obviously will need for the families to have technology at home. This is becoming more and more likely that they will. You also need to check with your school for any policies on communicating with your students and their parents. The good news is that all of the above mentioned communications leave a trail, so if there is a supposed problem you have proof of all your actions.
Definitely explaining your reasons for what you are doing to the students and parents are key to making this work. Hopefully, more assignments will be turned in and students will be better prepared for class.
Computer Spring Cleaning February 11, 2010
Spring cleaning isn’t necessarily the most fun thing you do in your life, but at times it becomes a necessity. I have proposed that teachers do spring cleaning on their computers as well.
Essentially, spring cleaning your computer has just a few steps to it and you can make your computer much more friendly to use because of it. Now these steps should work with either a Windows or Mac computer. I have both types of computers and so following these steps will be easy. (Here’s to hoping!)
Step 1- Big Items
The first thing to do, just like cleaning your house, is to fix up or get rid of the big items. It makes you feel successful and motivates you to go ahead with the next steps. So on the computer your big items are your applications. Over the course of a year or so (depending on the last time you went through a clean-up), you have inevitably downloaded various programs on your computer that are not used anymore. If you need a little help in determining which programs you don’t use just check the properties for the program. There is most likely a last used or modified date. This should help steer you in the right direction. Now, Macs and Windows differ in how you can delete the programs. Windows has the Add/Remove Programs utility in the control panel. Mac doesn’t have a program built-in to do the same thing, but there are programs out there to help. I have used AppDelete before, and it works really well and as a plus, is free. The benefit of this program is that it will delete all associated files of the application when you delete it. Ideally just freeing up more memory.
Step 2- Your temporary files
You have accumulated a long list of temporary files from the Internet on your computer. This can be downloads that you viewed once or just the long list of images that are downloaded from websites you have visited. Depending on your Internet browser the steps to follow differ. However, a simple help search in your browser should lead you to your temp file location. This step is actually something you should do on a regular basis, and many browsers have settings to automatically delete thing after a period of time.
Step 3- Your files
This is going to be the most difficult of all the steps because you have try to remember what the file actually was before you can determine if you want to delete it or keep it. If by chance you find files that were from some of the programs you deleted it might make the situation easier to decide to delete it. I am a believer in never delete anything. That doesn’t however mean not move anything. I start by creating a new Documents folder and create a new set of folders inside of it as I decide to move some files over that I want to keep available to me at all times. What is left in my original Documents folder is going to become archived and locked. Both Windows and Macs have built-in archive creation programs, but you might want to use WinZip for the Windows if you want more simplicity. Then rename the archive so you know what it is and lock the file so nothing can accidentally happen. Then you can put this somewhere in your Documents folder or “C” drive.
Congratulations! Your computer has gone through a basic spring cleaning! There are more in-depth cleaning tactics you can take on your computer, but sometimes just going through those 3 steps it can clear up a lot of problems.
Throw a Computer Cleaning Party
Get a group of teachers together can see how far you can get. You will be surprised at how many laughs there are. You will hear things like, “When did I download that?”, or “I have looked for this forever.” Maybe teachers will also be able to share some programs or files that they wouldn’t have known about before. Kind of like having a garage sale and buying stuff from other people’s garage sale at the same time.
Using e-Books and e-Readers without the Handheld February 9, 2010
Ok, there are a ton of e-reading websites out there. My hopes and dreams are for them to either have interchangeable files or make them all free so I don’t have to try to remember which site I had a certain e-book on. However, for now I don’t see that happening. What I want to do is show some good options for your online e-reading choices. I am not looking at the e-reader hand-held devices such as the Kindle. Those devices cost a lot of money now and while they are useful, I want to wait til I see who is going to survive the e-reader battle.
Why Teachers Should Use e-Readers & e-Books
Ok, maybe I am thinking a little too big on what an e-reader is, but I see endless possibilities for teachers. I see teachers using e-readers as useful for their professional development, classroom, and professional growth. In my definition of an e-reader it is: any hardware or software that allows for easy viewing of electronic documents. This includes pdf, ppt, xls, doc, etc. I mean, why do you need to limit what you read to just a pdf?
First, professional development. Teachers are notorious for posting free information on the web. Now, with the growth of e-books, teachers have posted their books online. The beauty of it is most of them are keeping them free to download. Teachers can also view them on the site. While I love going to a book store and searching for my next book, it is a lot quicker to search online for my next book. Administrators should think about this option too. Usually, a whole school or district or whatever will do one book a semester or year for professional development because of the large costs in buying the books for teachers. Think of what could be done with an e-book, most of them being free.
Second, e-books for the classroom. The most obvious use of e-books and e-readers for the classroom is for English. I hated having to share my book with another student because the school was short on stock. A lot of the books teachers use in class are free online. Catcher in the Rye, Sherlock Holmes, etc. The downside to this is that the students will need to view these e-books on something and if they don’t have readily available computers, you might have some trouble. Still, there are too many options to just discard the possibility.
One other use of e-books and e-readers I see for the classroom is basically the end of turning in paper assignments. I don’t know why, but I have always hated collecting student papers. This includes research papers, quizzes, exams, notes to review, powerpoints, and many other things. The classes I am currently teaching involve a lot of printing. I don’t have a big desk by any means, and I do not want to haul them home. So, I have had my students print to xps format (Windows only) which is very similar to a pdf file, and send the files to me. We also have a semester long project that normally has them print out the finished product. I am having them upload to an e-reader site such as Scribd. This is a really good way for the students to work on their online self/image.
This leads me into the last part, professional growth. Teachers have a lot of good ideas. Some of them are good enough to be written into a short book, but usually are not because the teacher knows nobody will probably publish it. Well, nothing is there to stop them now. Publish it online. Who knows, maybe someone else will read it and want to have their fellow teachers read it as a professional development need. It could also catch the eye of a publishing company and go from there.
Online e-Readers Available
There are many e-readers available for online usage. Most sites that have e-books will have some type of e-reader as well. The site I mentioned above I like to use because it will allow for easy embedding into other sites, such as Facebook, and blogs. But most will allow you to download the e-book to your computer. This option is where I like to go.
Now, the great thing about downloading your books to the computer is if you do have a hand-held device that reads pdf files, then you are good to go. But I have multiple computers that I use at various times during the day.
My solution, use a site that allows you to upload your e-book to a place where you choose who can see it. I don’t want everyone seeing what e-books I have. This is important because either you paid for it and the person you bought it from would not appreciate you forwarding it out for free, or it was free and you still need to at least direct people to where you got it from.
My choice was to use Google Docs. Docs recently updated the site to allow uploads of various other formats than the typical doc or ppt. When you upload a pdf and view it, it looks like any other book you would view on Google Books. You can share just like you do with any file on Google Docs. But for me, this is just my own little online library.
I would, of course, prefer to have a cool e-reader like the Kindle or iPad. But until that day comes, I am happy with my setup.