Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Zen.do - A Great Way to Study

Often, students may find it difficult to study for quizzes and tests, especially for those that are for things such as the periodic chart or assessments that are heavy on vocabulary. Most students do find flash cards to be helpful, but often it takes a lot of time to complete them. And the students would need to have flash cards to make them on.

This is where Zen.do comes in! Zen.do is a new service that allows for a user to create flash cards directly from their notes. The first step is to create a free account so that you can not only create, but save and access your flash cards at a later date. Once an account is created, there are three simple steps to take to create your flash cards. These steps are shown in the photo below, and will open up for you when you go to create a new set of flash cards.
Step 1: Title you document - This is done so that you can keep your flash cards organized. This can be very helpful for studying throughout a chapter. Older flash cards can be studied in preparation for a test or even the final.
Step 2: Create flash cards as you take notes - This can be very easy to do, especially if teachers provide notes in a digital format. Just copy and paste the notes, delete that which is not needed for studying, and add a hyphen and an answer. Whatever is placed beyond the hyphen will be on the back of the flash card, while whatever is places before the hyphen is on the front.
Step 3: Save and review - Once this is done, your flash cards are ready to go.

As this is still a new service, it doesn't yet have all of the features one would prefer to really take advantage of using flash cards as a study device, though they are working on them. Among the features in development are the option of being able to share flash cards (great for study buddies or for teachers that want to provide them as extra resources to students who are struggling), the ability to add pictures, and a mobile app for access on the go!

For more, visit zen.do and play around to make your own flash cards!

Monday, January 3, 2011

PowerTeacher Gradebook: Quick Launch

Pearson, the provider of our Student Information System (PowerTeacher), is constantly updating the product it provides us. This is both a good thing and a bit of a pain. Like, when you try to launch your gradebook, you have to scroll the whole way to the bottom of the page after reading all of the updates (which have been listed for months) 

before you can launch your gradebook!
Or do you really need to scroll? Pearson did listen to some of the complaints of having to scroll through all of that text, and they have provided us with a "Quick Launch" button. I refer to it as the "non-scroll launch." You can do this in two simple steps while signed in to PowerSchool.

1. Click on the "Gradebook" button in the left pane.

2. Click on the "Quick Launch" arrow. This does the same action as clicking on the "Launch Gradebook" button at the bottom of the page, though it saves you from having to scroll.
I think this is a step in the right direction to speed up the process of opening our gradebooks quicker. I would be happier if the "Quick Launch" button was on all pages. But we can only hope, for now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Goodbye, Delicious!

Big news yesterday on the tech front! It was announced that Yahoo! would be eliminating around 600 positions, and in the process, eliminate a series of services, the most important in the field of education being Delicious. [Update: Yahoo! appears to not be closing down Delicious, but selling it. Still, it is important to remember to create backups of things you want to keep around.]

This is big news for those of you that use the service. Delicious was one of the early sites that allowed for social bookmarking. Instead of just bookmarking a site for you to visit at a later time, Delicious allowed for bookmarking online, so you (or any number of friends/colleagues/students) could also access the same bookmarks anywhere in the world, as long as they could get online. After reaching great success, Delicious was bought by Yahoo! But now Yahoo! seems to be ready to drop the service. There is a possibility that customer feedback might force them to keep the service a bit longer, but don't hold your breath. So, if you use this service, now might be a good time to back up your bookmarks and upload them to a new service. Steps will be provided after an exploration of an alternate service.

One service that could act as a replacement to Delicious is a service known as Diigo. Diigo, like Delicious, allows for bookmarking and sharing over the web, but it also includes a few features, including groups. The use of groups allows you to not only share bookmarks in your own list, but also in a list that you share with others. I use one with other Pennsylvania instructional coaches (formerly CFF), educators on Diigo, and there is even one for virtual manipulatives for math.

If you are working with students and want to easily share a series of links to websites, creating a group in Diigo is one great way to do that. Create a group for your classes by period or by content area (government, geography, etc.) and allow the kids to not only access the links, but also share with the group as well. When bookmarking, remember to enter tags to help organize your bookmarks and also add short descriptions to provide information as to what can be found on the site. If sharing with a group, just select that group when sharing.

Below is a screenshot of how you would bookmark in Diigo using their new Google Chrome extension.

You can find extensions for various browsers here. You will notice in the screenshot that there are also options to bookmark a site as private (only you see the bookmark) or to read later. Other tools allow for open discussion of items on the page. You can highlight important text (again, both privately or publicly) as well as leave a sticky note to share ideas about the content with other readers.

So the real question now is how do you get your Delicious bookmarks into Diigo? You can follow along with Diigo's instructions, or follow the screenshots below.

1. Sign in to Delicious. Select "Settings" in the upper right hand corner of your screen.

2. Select "Export/Backup Bookmarks."

3. Export your bookmarks. This will create an HTML file that will allow you to import your bookmarks into Diigo. Make sure you do not change the extension on the file, and be aware of where it is being saved.

4. Sign in/create a Diigo account (it's free!) then select "Tools."

5. Select "Import from Delicious (HOT)" from the list on the left. This is a feature that is being used quite a bit since the announcement.

6. Select your HTML file that you downloaded in step 3 and click the "Import Now" button.

You will now have all of your bookmarks saved in Diigo. Diigo also offers an educator account here. You can upgrade an existing account if you did not know about this. While in the educator account, you can create class groups there. Learn more about the educator account here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome back!

Here we are, already two days into the 2010-11 school year, and time is just flying by. This year, I will be working a bit differently with this blog. I won't be posting every Friday, but (hopefully) more often as soon as I discover a new resource or concept.

One of the new things I have going this year is a way of booking me. I am using a service known at YouCanBook.me to help keep appointments with teachers and staff more organized by allowing people to see the times I am available for collaboration, planning, just-in-time professional development, co-teaching, and a variety of other needs that go along with my instructional technology coaching.

YouCanBook.me connects to your Google Calendar to view times when you are busy and shares times you are available through a webpage or widget (see below). To set up, you must give permission to YouCanBook.me to access your Google Calendar. You might want to create an account specifically for use with this tool, as opposed to a personal calendar you may already have set up within Google. Remember, you can copy events from one calendar to another if you like.

Once the connection is made, you have a lot of options you can set up for use. You can choose when bookings can start and end, and how long they will last (the free account provides for 15, 30, and 60 minutes) and what days are available. You can also add events directly to your Google calendar and list them as busy so they do not appear in your possible booking times. On the booking form, you can add and delete various fields for use (the Captcha field will remain to help ensure you are not spammed). There is a confirmation notice that is sent, and reminders are an option, as well. When a booking is made through YouCanBook.me, it sends you a notification and creates the event for you in your Google Calendar.

This tool may not help out many high school teachers, but you might be able to think of a use for it.

To book me, click here or use the embedded calendar below this post.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Refresh

As we near the end of the school year (only one day left!), many realize it is a great way to sit back and reflect on the things you did in your classroom. You have the summer months ahead of you where you don't have to fulfill the everyday needs of your students and can focus on better ways to fulfill them in the coming school year. Plus, there are the summer inservice days that will provide you with new skills and insights to use with your students. But what are some ways that you can help yourself grow over the summer? Through reflection and communication with other professionals!

1. Twitter - You may have heard about twitter on any variety of news and entertainment outlets, and most mock the service, often wondering why anyone would care about what you had for breakfast or the latest shenanigans of the celebrity flavor of the week. While it is true that many users do post such banalities, twitter is a tool that you can use to do for you that which you need it to do. You choose whether to have a protected or unprotected account (in other words, you decide who gets to "follow" you). You choose who to "follow," which would be the users whose posts get fed into your twitter stream, and these users will become your Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Twitter is known as a micro-blogging site that allows you to share information 140 characters at a time. Many users share thoughts and ideas in these little posts, but is it also great for sharing links or having conversations with certain groups of users. One such conversation that happens every Tuesday at 12 PM and 7 PM Eastern is EdChat. Two different discussions are held, and each tweet includes a hashtag #edchat so that all edchatters can follow the full conversation. As you grow your PLN and use of twitter, you will find that it molds into a tool that fits your needs.

There are a great many educators on twitter who are more than willing to share ideas and resources, or even set up a classroom collaboration project between your classroom and theirs. If you do decide to use twitter as a way to build a PLN, let me know and I will help you connect with other educators around the world who are members of my PLN (my handle on twitter is misterlamb).

2. Blogging has become a great way to reflect, share, collaborate, and coordinate in today's connected world. While twitter allows you to share small thought 140 characters at a time, blogging gives you a much larger canvas to work with. There are many educators who use blogs to reflect for themselves or to allow their students to collaborate and reflect on classroom discussions. The service that is used for this blog is Blogger, but there are a multitude of other blogs available out there, including WordPress and Edublogs. Of course, this doesn't include all blogging services, and you'll want to find one that fits needs of you and your students.

If you want to use blogging in your classroom next year, set up an appointment so we can discuss various ways the tool could be utilized in your classroom. If you need help setting up either of these ways to help with reflection, also set up an appointment so I can help you out.

As with anything where you are posting online, always remember that you are a professional and put under more scrutiny than those in other fields. Information that you post online should not be derogatory in any manner, and definitely should not identify students, administrators, colleagues, or parents, especially in a negative manner.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Finds of the Week: May 24-28

Since this blog was started, many great resources have been shared for the staff here at A-C. It is important to remember that when you are thinking about integrating a tool into your classroom that you are doing it to help enhance your lesson, and not just to use it for the sake of using it. I have offered some small suggestions on how some of the tools can be implemented, but that doesn't mean that there aren't uses out there that haven't been thought up yet. I am available to help out all secondary school staff during the school year during my non-teaching periods: 1, 4, 6, 7, and 9 (I try to keep one of these periods as a prep period, and I have the ability to shuffle that around daily as needed). If you are unencumbered during any of these periods, I can meet with you to discuss different uses and ways to reflect on what you are doing with your lessons and students.

During a meeting, you and I will look at the lessons you have identified and discuss what the goal of the lesson is and then determine what, if any, technology could be implemented. There will be times where technology will take away from the lesson and integration won't be recommended. Of course, implementing a new technology could be a bit unsettling for a teacher who may not be completely familiar with the particular tool, but I am also available to come in and coteach in your classroom with you. Again, I am available the same periods as listed above, and if absolutely necessary for one of my teaching periods, there is always the possibility that I can get a cover for my own classroom. For any elementary teachers, you have Jeremy Paul that you can set up time with. If you are in need of some resources, you could send me an email with what you are looking for and when you need it by and I'll see what I can do!

So whether you need some resources, you want to have someone to bounce ideas off of, or you need some "just in time" training, make sure to use the resources that are available to you in your tech directors, tech integration coach, and librarians!

And speaking of resources, here are some great finds for the week!

1. Google Docs Self Grading Quizzes - The end of the school year. A time of finals. And having to get senior grades in immediately. And waiting in line at that Scantron machine! Here's Google Docs to the rescue! Through this Screencast-O-Matic, a wonderful educator (I wish I knew who he was so I could give him proper credit) has shared how anyone can use Google Forms and Spreadsheets from Google Docs to create a self-grading multiple-choice quiz or exit ticket. There is a slight learning curve to setting up your spreadsheet and form, and you have be a little familiar with using formulas within spreadsheets, but once you have it set up, it is a breeze to use. And you can even let your students know what their grade is as soon as they submit their answers. Talk about immediate and timely feedback! As a bonus for you, you get a breakdown of how each question was answered in the summary for your form.

You can view the screencast below or click on the link above to see how to set up your own form and spreadsheet. This will also be provided in summer professional development on August 4 and 11.

2. bomomo - Here is another site that's for our art teachers out there, or for other teachers that want to get that creativity shared with their kids. I don't have much of an artistic talent, but knowing some of our students, I'm sure they can come up with some extraordinary pieces of art with a tool like this.

Bomomo is a free web app that works in Firefox, Safari, and Chrome (and I'm told in many other browsers, too) and allows a user to get to work as soon as the site loads. There is a level of experimentation that goes along with using the site, but this experimentation also can lead to so interesting discoveries. When you have created something you like, you can save it as a low or hi resolution jpg.

3. Quizinator - Have you ever left your laptop at school, created a quiz or worksheet on your home computer, and then forgot to save it to a flash drive or email it to yourself? Or what if you want to share with other teachers? Quizinator is a site that allows you alleviate these problems and even to make it easier for you to create a multitude of worksheets and quizzes. With Quizinator, a bank of questions is kept from questions you enter, and you are able to select the questions you want and rearrange them using drag-and-drop. Once your document is complete, you obtain a PDF version for printing or posting online.

Quizinator has stated that they will always be free, but they are planning on adding premium features on top of what is currently offered. You can follow them on twitter (@quizinator_en) or read their blog for even more information and ideas. This resource was shared on twitter via @thadhaines.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]