Finds of the Week: March 22-26

This week we look at two tools that will help your students to be more productive, be it in writing an essay or reviewing for tests and quizzes. Our third tool helps enhance critical thinking skills.

1. Essay Map - NCTE and their ReadWriteThink site offer this great interactive to help students organize their thoughts for an essay. A student would begin by writing their introductory ideas in the applet. The next step is to provide three main ideas, each of which branch off to the supporting details for the idea. This information then leads to the conclusion. Once the information is entered into the applet, a map of the ideas is presented and can be printed or saved as a PDF to submit electronically. Here is a sample map.

2. Create Debate - Create Debate is a social site that is set up to allow people from all walks of life to debate the issues of the day. In order to do provide your input to a debate, you will need a free username to sign in. If you only wish to read the debates, then there is no need for a sign in.

This site can be used in many different ways. If you are in a speech class, you might want to look at how users are (or are not) supporting their stances. In a social studies class, you might use a debate to gather feedback from people in other areas of the world. You might even set up a debate between your classroom and a classroom from another school to see how different viewpoints could lead to an overall better understanding. If you find that using Create Debate is a tool that works well in your classroom, you might consider exploring the teacher option. There is a 30 day free trial, and if you find it is something you desire to integrate into your classroom, there are varying levels of pay plans to provide extra tools for doing so.

3. Quizlet - Do your students have trouble studying? Do you create a study guide that students don't use? Why not use the same ideas from your study guide to help your students study through Quizlet?

In Quizlet, you can create your own flash cards for students to study and quiz themselves from, or students can create them for themselves and others. Sets that are created can be set as private or public. Anyone can search through the public ones to find things they may need to study, including both the core and non-core academic areas, standardized testing, and careers. Follow this link to see a sample set on debate terminology.


Finds of the Week: March 15-19

With a week that was full of tutoring, meetings, and other work, there just wasn't enough time to get the Finds of the Week posting in. But don't fret! Here it is a few days late.

1. Puzzlemaker from Discovery Education - There once was a time where teachers would have to spend a large amount of time creating word searches and crossword puzzles from scratch. No more! With Puzzlemaker, you can create these puzzles quickly, and even make different ones so that students won't have the same puzzle to work from. In total, there are ten different puzzle types to choose from. These puzzles could be used to help students preview and solidify vocabulary or be offered as extra credit.

The puzzles aren't the only things that Discovery Education offers. On the site, you will also see links for first year teacher resources (who says you can't use them beyond your first year?), brain boosters, clip art, and lesson plans.

2. drop.io - drop.io is a great way to create a space where students can submit work for teachers or other students to access it. This is a great way to move away from having student turn in a physical paper, and it doesn't not require a student to be on the network at school in order to submit paperless now, as we see with working with a drop box either on your teacher machine or the school's server.

When you create a "drop," you gain a lot of control over what can be done with the work. Check out a current drop that I have set up. First, you will notice that it will require a login. I have a login setup for myself as the admin of the drop, but there is a separate one for guests to sign in. This allows for my audience (whether it is students or teachers) to access my drop and the files already on it, as well as upload new files, but they are unable to delete a file from my drop. If you would like to access my drop, use the password mathrules to sign in. When there, you'll notice three files: A .mov file of a commercial that promotes the Arts, the Chapter 5 Preview for my Integrated Math 2 class, and a phone recording from last April.

Being able to upload the different types of files could lead to a variety of uses. It's a simple way to submit work paperlessly. You could use it as a way for students to reflect on their work by making a phone call. Each drop will have a phone number associated with it. Be aware that the phone number very well may be a long distance number, which could somewhat restrict the use in and out of your classroom. It is also a nice way to set up a space for collaborating within a class, or even between separate classes. Each drop provides 100 MB of space free, and if you require more space, it is $10/GB per year, which is a very fair deal.

3. PaperRater - When writing a paper, it is often difficult to find someone to proofread it to help you find grammatical errors, or even to help you determine whether you are plagiarizing or not. Students face the same issues, and often when plagiarism occurs in a paper, the writer may be unaware.

PaperRater is a great tool that will allow for the uploading of a paper to help identify these errors. For students, they could upload their papers and sources to check for plagiarism. This is a great learning opportunity for all students, which will lead them to doing better at making sure plagiarism is not in their writing. Teachers can use this site to check student work that has been handed in for any possible plagiarism, as well. This would be a situation where a digital copy of a paper would be more worthwhile than a printed out copy.


Finds of the Week: March 8-12, 2010

NOTE: I currently am running a blog for school at Annville-Cleona Tech in an effort to better communicate with the staff I work with. I figure, why not share the same things here, as well? The posts on A-C Tech are for my staff and students only. This one is more for my views and reflections.

March didn't quite arrive like a lion, as we have seen the nicest weather in a long time for most of this week. Of course, this Nor'easter that's hitting us today and tomorrow is reminding us that Winter is not quite over. But cheer up! Spring will be here before you know it!

Oh, and don't forget to spring forward an hour this weekend. On to the finds of the week!

1. Preceden - Many times in class, you might want a quick and easy way to create a timeline. With Preceden, you can create a timeline with a few clicks and a little typing.

Before creating your first timeline, you do need to create a free account. As with anything that requires you to sign in, make sure you are keeping track of your usernames and passwords, and don't leave them out for anyone to access! Once you have your account, you can create your timeline. Timelines are set as private by default. For classroom purposes, you will most likely change viewing permissions to "Everyone," which can be done by choosing "change" in the upper left of your screen, just above your timeline. Doing this will also allow you to embed the timeline into a webpage, as shown below.

Some great features of Preceden for timelines include layers for including differing content on the same timeline, the ability to add details to events, and the overlapping and varying colors of events within layers.

One possible use for layers would be to have students have layers to compare/contrast historical events that were going on at the same time. If using with the Civil War, have one layer for the Union and one for the Confederacy. Events can then be entered into different layers so a comparison of events could be shown as the war progressed. Adding details to the events would lead to a deeper understanding of what the significance of each event was. Overlapping events within a layer could be very important, especailly since the entire armies were not all at the same places at the same times.

2. TypingWeb - A common misconception that many teachers and adults arrive at is that all students are very proficient in all aspects of technology. Many of us know that is not true. One place where that can be evident is in typing. But with many schools not offering typing as a class anymore, how are students (and even other adults) supposed to improve? TypingWeb is one site that can help out.

TypingWeb is a free service for their online typing lessons and can be accessed through any computer with internet access. There are ads on the page that can be removed by upgrading to a pay account, but if you live with the ads, then you can keep the free account.

Once signed in, you can either begin with a typing test to gauge a starting spot and focus on for improvement, or just dive right into the lessons. If you want to see the cumulative stats of your typing tests, it requires you to take the test five times. There are four levels of courses on the site (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Specialty Courses), as well as a level to earn certifications (pay) and an area called the News Headline Exercises, where information from websites such as FOX Sports, Google News, and ABC News is used to help you multitask by typing in headlines from the day, so you also get caught up on world events. There are even typing games on the site to help give a little extra motivation for students to work on improving their skills.

This is a great site that can be used to help improve your own typing or to direct a student to if they have a need to improve their typing skills. In study halls, if you have students that never seem to have anything to do, why not help them use the time productively by improving their typing skills?

3. Slideshare - There have been many times where we have used slide presentations in class to help present our content. However, what do you do for the student who is absent? If you upload your presentation to slidshare, it can be available to anyone at anytime. Not only will an absent student be able to access notes when absent, but all of your students can use your presentations to help study. You might even create slide presentations just to post online for review and not show them in class.

Slideshare is more than just a place to store slide presentations. When you upload a presentation, you are able to enter a description and tags for it, and it goes into your slide space. You can search out content from other users, and even connect to share. When viewing slide presentations, you can view them in full screen. Many are also available for download so you don't have to start from scratch when you find a presentation you like (this option is up to the person who uploaded to presentation). You can even upload audio to go along with your slides so you don't have to include all of your content on the slides.

Slideshare works with Keynote and Powerpoint and allows for uploading supporting documents, such as notes, and is a snap to embed in a webpage.


Finds of the Week: March 1-5, 2010

Last week was a busy week with PETE&C going on in Hershey. With that in mind, I did not have the time to add a "Finds of the Week" post, though there were many posts provided during the conference. This week, it's back to some great finds!

1. TED - TED stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design" and is a conference that brings together great minds from these areas to share the innovations that they have pioneered. It is a bit of an exclusive conference, but the most interesting talks are provided for free online throughout the year. On the main site, you can search by different themes, speakers, when talks were given, or even with foreign language subtitles. All videos can be viewed on the site, or you can subscribe through iTunes. Options for subscription are audio only, standard definition video, or HD.

The TED Talks could be a great way to include what people are doing in the real world with concepts you are covering in your classrooms. In a Social Studies classroom, you could use Paul Collier's talk on rebuilding countries to discuss what leads to conflicts and how external politics affect the outcome. In a music classroom, you could use Benjamin Zander's talk on music and passion and how it can open up opportunities in various areas. There are so many talks available, you can find one for every class. Most talks are between 15 and 20 minutes in length. Be aware that not all talks have language that you would use in your classrooms.

2. Prezi - Prezi is a tool that has been created as a web-based presentation tool, but it also works great as a mindmap. When creating and presenting, it can be much more powerful for showing relationships between ideas. A tool that is great for both teacher and student, this is a way to allow for students to create and see connections that they may not have seen before.

Check out Prezi's homepage for a brief overview of what Prezi can do. Sign up for an educator account and experiment with the tool. Below is a sample Prezi from the creators, talking about some of the tips and tricks.

3. edmodo - Edmodo is a private social network for education. It is a great way to bring social networking into the classroom while keeping it in a controlled environment. Among the features of edmodo are privacy, classroom polling, the ability to post assignments, sharing a group calendar, posting and grading assignments, and mobile access.

Using edmodo could be a great way ensure that all students have a voice within your classroom. When discussing a certain topic, such as types of rock, you could have your students discuss the differences between the types while comparing and contrasting rocks that they find around their house. Using edmodo in the classroom can also help to teach proper etiquette for social networking while keeping students in a safe environment. This way, when they go home and log in to facebook or twitter, they might be able to make better decisions for how they conduct themselves online.

You can also post files, embed widgets, or post links. And in the future, there are plans for a tool that works just like Etherpad, which is great with the plan for phasing out Etherpad since its acquisition by Google. If you would like to see a sample edmodo class, feel free to make an appointment to meet with me during periods 1, 4, 6, 7, or 9.

Of course, for every tool and suggestion given on this blog, there are many more possibilities for integrating technology into your classroom. Remember, these are only tools and should be used as such. When looking at integrating any tool into your instruction, remember to only do so if it enhances the content. If you use technology only for the sake of using technology, it will not be successful.