Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
I mentioned in my last post about my current love affair with Google Apps for Education. Before I go any further, I thought I should share with you what this is and why it is great for teaching and learning. If you are already on the bandwagon, have a great day and look for my next post.
Google Apps for Education is a suite of cloud computing apps that include word-processing (Docs), spreadsheets (Spreadsheet) , a presentation software (Presentation) , and a website creation capability (Google Sites) that are all contained in “the cloud” instead of on a local machine at school or home.
Why is this a big deal?
- If the software is in “the cloud” there are no more compatibility issues with work happening at school and at home – no worry about what version of PowerPoint the child has or if they have Word, but not Excel, etc. If they can connect to the internet, they have access to the same software they were using in class.
- If the work is in “the cloud” there are no more issues with “I left it at school” or “I left it at home” or flash drives that may or may not work or file compatibility. If the work is in “the cloud” it is always accessible any time an internet connection is available.
- Google Apps for Education is cross platform – which means that it doesn’t matter if you are working on a PC or a Mac, an iPad or an Android tablet – Google Apps is accessible across all devices.
- Google Apps is free. Your school or district may have already set up accounts for your students, and if it hasn’t, suggest it to them!
Still with me? All of these things are awesome, it is true, but that is not what really makes Google Apps special. What makes it special is how it allows students to collaborate and how it makes feedback from peers and teachers easier and more direct.
- For peer conferencing, students share their Google Doc with another student and they leave written comments for each other embedded in the text. Student can highlight awkward or unclear sentences to point out or make suggestions. The teacher then has access to every comment made within the text.
- Teachers can insert feedback where it is needed in clear typed notes – pointing out grammatical errors, or highlighting words that would benefit from stronger word choice, or whatever writing skill is the focus of the piece.
- The teacher has access to the document without physically picking it up, so comments can be made on works in progress.
- Comments can be made via your iPad, laptop, or desktop computer without taking stacks of papers home to assess.
- In my experience, students are much more likely to revise typed work versus handwritten work. It allows students to focus on the revision versus the sometimes laborious task of rewriting an entire assignment.
In short, these are some of the reasons I love working with Google Apps, and in my next few posts will be focusing on how I use Google Apps for Ed in the classroom. My first experiment was in using shared folders, which I wrote about here.
Edmodo is an amazing service, and it is free. I’m going to write in this post how I am using Edmodo in my classroom as you can easily Google it to find out anything else.
Assignments: Every assignment I give is on Edmodo. You can actually assign tasks to individual students or whole groups. You can attach handouts, links, or videos to the assignments – no more lost instructions. Students can comment on the assignment asking for clarification. These assignments then show up in student notifications, and can be turned in online. When I grade them I can use Edmodo’s annotate feature, or I can type feedback directly in to the student’s turned in assignment. They can continue to revise until the assignment is graded.
Calendar: All assignments show up in the student’s calendar, and they are clickable. This has been amazing for parents. Also, you can add dates for quizzes/tests/events. My teaching partner is on Edmodo too, so we can see each other’s assignments and coordinate due dates.
Updates/Announcements/Pictures: I can share what we are doing in class, and I can choose what to make public – Edmodo is a closed, safe environment but you can choose to make certain things public – no more double work on the school webpage. Also, students can interact with this content – asking questions or commenting.
Quizzes – you can create all types of assessments in Edmodo – short answer, fill in the blank, multiple choice. These can be graded within Edmodo and show you at a glance where the class is and where understanding is breaking down.
Parent Involvement: the absolutely best thing about Edmodo is parent communication. Parents receive everything you send the the student – every assignment, every direct message, the calendar, the quizzes – everything.
Slow shift to paperless – my district wants us to become 90 percent paperless in three years. Edmodo has allowed me to start that – I don’t print copies of study guides for the entire class anymore, only those without access to a printer. Edmodo also plays nicely with any Web 2.0 service you use via links or embedding – projects are completed, submitted, and graded online.
Students use Edmodo at school and home, and it is leading my class to a more blended environment.
Many school systems have invested in online grading systems that allow parents to access their students progress online. These systems increase communication and put more information at parents fingertips, and they can be really expensive.
The good news is that there are a couple of free services that will allow you to do the same thing!
Engrade is a free service for teachers that has the following features:
- Online gradebook – allows for marking missing assignments, excused assignments, weighting by categories or not, dropping the lowest assignment in a category.
- Calendar feature – allows uploading of assignments.
- Secure messaging between parents and teachers.
- Parent and student access to grades.
And did I mention it is free? I’ve used this service for the last two years and I’ve been really pleased with it.
This is a new service I’ve become aware of – apparently it is a another service with similar features to Engrade. I would love to hear from anyone who is using this service!
Susie in the front row has her hand up, as always.
Damian, off to the side, looks like he might actually suffer some sort of injury if you don’t call on him.
Scott is just glad those two have their hands up so he doesn’t have to.
It is a scenario that plays out in classrooms across the country on a daily basis. The same kids put their hands up, and the same kids “check out”.
One way to avoid the scenario completely is to use cooperative learning structures instead. That’s another post.
Another way to avoid this is to use some method of randomly calling on students so that they never know when they are going to be called on – only that at some point, they will.
Traditional Methods of Random Calling
- Craft/Popsicle Sticks. For each class you teach, write each student’s name on a stick. Keep them in a jar/cup. Choose as needed. I like using the colored sticks for this, because I can give each class a color.
- Index Cards. On the first day of class, have students fill out index cards with basic information and their names in print letters big on the blank side of the index card. Shuffle the deck, choose as needed. A plus for this is being able to jot down notes on students as you go.
- Playing Cards. Print out labels with your students names and attach them to playing cards. Shuffle. Choose as needed.
I used to be a big proponent of the craft stick – it just takes up so much room, and writing the names out is so tedious. With the introduction of my Promethean board, I prefer the following techie options. (If you don’t have a smart board of any kind, this still works on a computer. I believe most handhelds (pdas) also have some type of name generator software available.
Techie Ways of Random Calling
- Super Teacher Tool’s Random Name Generator – I really like this one as it makes it easy for you to type in your class list once, and be done with it. The Name Generator is a cute clipboard graphic with the chosen child’s name on it. I made each class page a favorite in the same folder so I can bring up all four pages with one click. You can also use the same class list to generate groups and seating charts.
- Classtool’s Fruit Machine – If you haven’t Classtools they are definately worth a visit. This particular tool allows you to input your class list, and then either use the “fruit machine” which looks like a slot machine to randomly select students or use the typewriter function to do the same. You can either have your kids typed up in a word document and paste in as needed, or you can embed the finished product in your webpage. Thank you, Mrs. Smith for the idea. I teach four classes, so I just embedded four different fruit machines on my page.
If you have any other ways of randomly selecting students, please share!