Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jimbo Lamb asked me to contribute to this tech blog so I thought I would share some interesting instructional tools I learned about at the Pete+C technology conference this week. It's always an interesting conference with loads of ideas and educational resources. There is always so much info and it would be very difficult to sort through everything. Keeping that in mind, I have compiled what I think are the best little gems that you might not know about but probably could be using as educational tools. These are all very easy to learn and use.

Students: (Teachers too!)

This website is a great resource for students who like to use and study with flash cards. The site allows you to create virtual flash cards and then review them like you would for a test. You can view just the front, just the back, or both. The cards can be randomized and shared with others who might also benefit. Quizlet also allows you to learn through games that pull data right from the cards you just created.

Check out this example of science vocabulary:



Have you ever wanted to quickly create a jeopardy game but powerpoint is too time consuming? Try this extremely easy web tool from Jeopardy Labs. You simply fill in the answers and the categories and start playing. There is no registering and it just works. Students can play in teams or individually.

Many teachers are starting to have students create multimedia presentations featuring video or audio recordings. This web tool displays text on the screen like a Teleprompter so that scripts can be read while recording and the video will look like the student is looking directly at the camera. Using this with the photo-booth camcorder would be a great way to create a podcast!

This site is fantastic for uploading, downloading, embedding content, sharing files, etc. 100Mb of upload space for free. Lets say you were working on a file that you want your students to download and use during class. Students will go to your unique web address and can download any files that you specify. Many email clients, wiki sites, and web 2.0 tools have content size limits, this site provides you with 100 Mb of storage for free. You can link to any file via URL or embed and file like you would any other media.

Social Studies:

This is a free web tool that allows students to create timelines of events and share them dynamically on the web. Each event can be completely interactive with pictures and data. Check out the web-site's main page for a simple example and you will see the power that this tool has for instructional value. I would recommend everyone in the Social Studies department check this out.


This is a free web tool that works like a drawing and painting application. I was floored by the functionality offered by this program. This application would be a great substitute for Adobe Photoshop if students needed a graphical program at home and didn't have access to Photoshop. It is completely web based but when your using it, it seems like a native application. Oh, did I mention it's free.


Both of these sites allow students to create MLA or ALA style references in a snap. I have known about these sites for awhile and maybe you have too, but if you have never tried them or haven't in awhile they might deserve another look. Both of these sites allow you to copy and paste the URL of a website and it will then autofill all the necessary info for the reference. Setting up an entire works cited sheet or bibliography with these tools is so easy.

This is a blogging website specifically designed for educators and students. If you have ever thought about using a blog as an assignment this is the site for you. The blog supports pictures, video, podcasts, etc. Unlike many other blogging sites this one is not blocked by our content filter.


There were many others but I thought these would be the most useful for instructional purposes and ease of use. Many others can be found here:

Disruptive Technology: Cellphones in the Classroom

The Results of Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom

Catch the Google Wave - WOW!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Science 2.0

Student showcase #petec2010 "I built this and it uses a simple program".

A student from Commonwealth connections worked on showcasing this. He
was really enthusiastic. To him, programming a LEGO robot is "simple."
How would you challenge this student in your classroom?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Live Blogging from PETE&C

Here are some live blogs from sessions I attended at PETE&C. You'll see more Tuesday and Wednesday.

First session: Edmodo: Relevant, Functional, Fun!

Second session: iPods as a Classroom Computing Platform

Third session: Using Ning as a School Social Network

Friday, February 19, 2010

Finds of the Week: February 15-19

Starting tomorrow, the annual Pennsylvania Educational Technology Exposition and Conference (PETE&C) will be going on in Hershey, PA at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. This conference is the state conference on educational technology and the precursor to the international conference ISTE 2010, formerly NECC. On Saturday, there will be preconference sessions for Instructional Technology Coaches (formerly CFF Coaches), followed by preconference sessions for anyone to attend (pre-registered, pre-paid), including sessions hosted right here at Annville-Cleona Secondary School.

The real conference begins Monday morning with an opening keynote from Sir Ken Robinson. The remainder of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will be days full of conference sessions, connecting with colleagues, interacting with vendors, and some great discussions on education and technology integration. Here are some ways that you can follow along with the conversations.

1. Cover it Live - Cover it Live is a way for people to collaborate from anywhere on any type of presentation or event. You might see that many sites are using Cover it Live during Olympics coverage so people can discuss the events as they go on.

For Cover it Live, if you are going to use it, you will first need to create an account. From there, the options open up for you. Many users embed their Cover it Live sessions into a blog, website, or wikispace. As an example, many of the session I will be sitting in will be on my personal professional blog so I can carry on the conversation with more people, especially those that either may not be able to make it to PETE&C, or with those in other sessions that are interested in the information.

Others will use Cover it Live during faculty meetings or classes to allow for a backchannel to occur to extend upon the conversations that are taking place, which also allows for everyone to have more of a chance to get their say in.

2. #hashtags - Many educators have joined twitter to help improve their own instruction by collaborating with other educators from around the world in what are known as Professional Learning Networks, or PLNs. To help find each other and to find information that they would like to share, they use what are known as hashtags, which are very similar to tags you make when using social bookmarking.

For example, every Tuesday, large groups of educators talk about various educational topics in what has become to be known as EdChat, and the hashtag #edchat is used so all can follow the conversation without having to follow the individuals in the conversation. It is similar to being able to enter a room at a conference, talking with people you have never met before, having your conversation, and then leaving, never to speak again until the next conference.

If you want to find information from a hashtag, there are many ways to do so. The most common way is to use twitter, as the use of hashtags has become a prevalent practice among users, but it is not the only way. You can also enter the hashtag you want to follow at, or enter the hashtag in a Google search. Google has realized the high use of the tool, and have included a live result feature in their searches. To follow what is going on at PETE&C, the hashtag is #petec2010.

3. Rubrics - I couldn't complete a blog post without a resource for you to use in your classroom. Rubrics are tools that we all use to allow for students to know what is expected of them on projects and assessments.

Rubistar is probably the most widely-known and widely-used rubric creator, but it is not the only one. With Rubistar, you create a sign in and work on creating rubrics from a template. They have sample assessors, or you can create your own. Once completed and saved, each rubric can be assigned a number so anyone can access it at a later point in time. Enter the code 1752791 under "Go To a Saved Rubric" to see a sample of one I created. Rubistar is fairly easy to use, and they have a great tutorial as to how to use their tool.

RCampus is another tool that allows for free creation of rubrics. This site even allows you to pull in rubrics you currently have to edit them. Again, it is free, but you do need to register. There are tons of sample rubrics, separated by grade level, subject, and type. They also have tutorial videos for how to better use their service.

Want even more rubric builders? Then check out teAchnology for a list of rubric builders. You can even use teAchnology as a rubric builder, with either a 4-point system or under a custom rubric.

Pay attention to this space next week as I share the things I see from PETE&C.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Finds of the Week: February 8-12

It has been a snowy week here in Central PA, but that doesn't stop the web! This week, how to convert files online, text-to-speech, and collecting and sharing bookmarks.

1. Online Video Conversion - Many schools (including A-C) do not allow access to Youtube. Bummer. But don't let that stop you from using these sites educationally, as there is a wealth of great videos that can be used in your classroom. Vixy and Zamzar both will allow you to enter the URL of any Youtube video so you can download them for use in your classroom. Be aware of fair use rules if you do this, as these videos could be copyrighted! Make sure to provide proper citations.

When working with Vixy, all you need to do is enter the URL of the video you want to convert in the field, choose your format, and convert! For your work computer, you will want to convert to a MOV file, which will open in QuickTime. You can choose other options, based on what you will be using the video for. Vixy will automatically give you a download link, and you'll have the file on your machine for use in class. Make sure to save the file with a new name and location. I have found that Vixy does not always work well while at school due to the firewall.

Zamzar works a little differently. When you go to Zamzar, you will begin on a regular file conversion page. This allows for you to convert any number of files, which is helpful for when students create a document or other file at home on one piece of software and want to work with it at school with a different piece of software. To convert a Youtube file, you will have to click on "URL" under Step 1, or go directly to the URL conversion page. In Step 2, choose what you would have the file converted to. Again, Zamzar supports image, document, audio, video, and a few other conversions. Zamzar does not provide an instant link, as the file is sent to their server to be converted. Once converted, an email will be sent to the address you provide in Step 3. This could take some time, depending on the amount of files that are being uploaded to their servers at the time. This can be done at school or at home, as long as you have the URL to the video you want.

Another easy way to convert Youtube videos is with Kickyoutube. This cannot be done at school, as it is blocked by the filter. But if you have viewed a Youtube video at home that you want to use in school, just add the work "kick" in front of the "youtube" in the URL. For example, if you are viewing a video at, just edit the URL to look like instead. It will give you options as to how you would like to download it. Choose your option and download!

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas

2. Carryout Text - This is a site that is in beta, and while they are, the services will be offered free. The beta could end at any time, at which point the entire service could become a pay service, or there could be a tiered service, where parts could remain free and others would become pay services. Until then, this is a great site you can use to convert any text into audio. It is as simple as pasting text into the converter, pressing "Submit to Process," and waiting for Carryout to do its thing! This is a great site that can be used for those that have trouble reading, or for students who are taking a long bus trip to a sporting event and need to stay caught up on class content. The flow is still a bit choppy, but it works quite well.

Areas of use: Across curricular areas; especially helpful for struggling readers and audible learners

3. Social Bookmarking - Don't be scared off by the word "social" here. These two services offer many perks for educators (and individual users) by allowing for bookmarking of websites online as opposed to inside a browser.

First, we will explore delicious. delicious allows for you to create a site that you can bookmark websites you like for use later on. Once you create an account, you download the delicious toolbar and button and you're all set. From a site you want to bookmark, just press the "Tag" button in your delicious toolbar, enter the data for the site, including a description and tags. Tags are used to help group things together that for similar interests. For example, if you go to my delicious page, you can click on "web2.0" in the right hand column, you will get a series of sites that fit into the Web2.0 window. When tagging, you can even tag a site that a fellow user might find useful. If you find a site that you think I would like, tag it with "for:misterlamb" and a message will be sent to me with the info. This could be helpful in a class where you gather current events. Just have students tag their current event to you.

diigo is very similar to delicious in the fact that it is also social, but it is organized in a different way. With diigo, you will download a toolbar and tag sites like you do in delicious, but in diigo, you can also set up groups, so when sites are saved, they are made accessible to all in the group. Having a class group set up could be very helpful to share resources. If you use it for current events, you could have students check to see what others have tagged to make sure to eliminate any duplicates. Or if a student finds a great resource for a class, it can be made available to all immediately.

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas; great for sharing resources with colleagues, students, etc.

All of these are great tools and have even more applications in your personal life and classroom that discussed here. As always, any A-C teacher is more than welcome to contact me and set up a time where we can explore and discuss these tools together.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Finds of the Week: February 1-5, 2010

This post is a mobile devices special edition. As we all know, students will always have their mobile devices (cell phones, iPods, etc.) with them, even if they are banned. This can be a good thing when used properly. This post will focus on some tools that will allow you and your students to become more productive with mobile devices.

1. TextMarks - TextMarks is a group text messaging service. There are many possible uses for this service, from sending text messages that inform about homework assignments and upcoming assessments to helping to keep in touch with participants and parents of sports teams and other extracurriculars. There is a free portion that is ad supported that will allow you one free keyword to set up and 120 characters per message. If you want more keywords or no ads, you can upgrade to a larger plan. When you have your keyword set up, your students can subscribe by sending your keyword to 41411, wait for your message to be sent to them, then reply to that message with a "Y." Once subscribed, they could even set up the time that they receive the message every day, as long as you enable that feature in the setup. There are other services that do similar things, but TextMarks is one of the easier ones to work with.

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas, sports, extracurricular activities

2. PollEverywhere - PollEverywhere is an online polling service that allows for anyone to collect information from a group through polling using text messaging and web voting. PollEverywhere allows for an educator to sign up for a free account that allows for unlimited questions with 32 responses per question. Each question receives a code that matches up to only that question, and you can display the responses for multiple choice questions as a live aggregate of the answers or as a table to hide the results so you can get a true read for what your class knows or needs extra help on. If you wanted a more open-ended response, you can create a text poll, where students would respond with their own answer. For students without unlimited texting plans, you can set up your polls to allow for multiple responses for students to share their phones, or allow webvoting to allow students to vote through a widget you embed, a webpage with your question on it, or by using to enter their quick response (also great with smartphones). If you want more plan options, the year-long teacher plan runs at $129 per year, or there are school building-wide and district-wide plans as cheap at $2.50 per student per year (minimum 200 students). 

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas

3. iPhone/iPod Touch (and other smartphones) - Of course, I would be remiss if I did not venture into the field of the smartphone. The iPhone really changed the idea of what a cell phone could be, and that idea was extended into the iPod, as well, with the iPod Touch. Of course, the iPhone is not the only smartphone out there, and the other ones also have apps available, but I am most familiar with the iPhone. If anyone would like to add to the discussion about other smartphones, it would be a great addition from a guest blogger.

Imagine a student has the entire works of William Shakespeare available to them. At first, one might think that said student would have a really large book. Instead, an iPhone is pulled out and this student begins to read Act II of Hamlet. This student could do so anytime, anywhere, and the collection was a free download. Another student works with an interactive of the trigonometric function, while yet another is working with SAT test prep software. Between all of the free and paid apps, there are so many ways that a smartphone can help enhance your instruction.

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas

4. Yodio - Podcasting has become a prevalent practice in education. It is a great way to include digital storytelling in the classroom. More students are able to share the information they learn and create, and teachers are able to get information out to their students in a more readily accessible way. However, many people believe that certain software needs to be available to them in order to create a podcast.

With Yodio, you can create a podcast with nothing more than a phone and any computer with an internet access. First, you will want to set up an account at Yodio so you can start recording. Once your account is set up, you can call from your cell phone, record your audio (as one long podcast or as shorter chunks) which are then saved in your account. Once you are done recording, return to Yodio and create regular or enhanced podcast with photos you can also take with your cell phone. Yodio has even been trying to get a foothold in the education field, and if you contact them, they might be able to set up a plan to allow for you to obtain a number for your students to call to dump information into a central teacher account, as opposed to having each student create an account.

Just imagine if you have students out on a field trip and want them to do some mobile reporting. You could give them the number for the central teacher account and have them phone in their responses at various points throughout the trip. When you return to the classroom the next day, you could have a class report ready to go and listen to as a class so all students can provide different amounts of information to a bigger idea (a great application of reciprocal learning, as we saw in the Classroom Instruction That Works book). 

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas

Of course, using mobile devices in the classroom is still a relatively new idea. If you are looking at using the devices in your classroom, start out small and make sure to have a structure for use set up, including consequences for misuse. Make sure students are aware of their own plans.