Thursday, December 12

Instagram Resources for Educators

If you're wondering what all the hype is about Instagram and would like to give it a try, here are several resources that you might find to be helpful. Yes, Instagram can be used for educational purposes and it can be fun, too!

I add new resources to my Diigo Library quite frequently so please visit and help yourself to any resources that you may find useful.

Thursday, October 10

Have You Started Tweeting Yet?

Those of you that have read some of my previous blog posts know that I am a huge supporter of teachers using Twitter. Even after a few years of being “active” on Twitter I find that I’m still more of a follower than a “tweeter.” By following numerous key educators and organizations, I've been directed to some very interesting articles and have obtained many useful online resources.

I log in to Twitter a few times a week - usually while I’m watching TV. I admit that I do enjoy reading tweets from my local police department - those police logs are always so captivating. And those of you who know me know that I do (shamelessly) like to “keep up” with the Kardashians (it’s so easy on Twitter!). However, when I do come across an educational  resource that I find useful I email it to myself (directly from Twitter) so that I can read it in more detail at a later time.

 I encourage all teachers to create a Twitter account; you’ll be glad you did.

Tuesday, March 5

Are You a Smartphone Addict?

I admit that I'm a smartphone addict; my iPhone is my lifeline. I no longer have to struggle to memorize phone numbers. I no longer have to keep track of little pieces of paper that contain To-do lists, reminders or grocery lists. I love texting but I do admit to having to set my font size to large (my kids don't hesitate to tease me about this fact). I don't get lost driving anymore (I love my Maps app). I rarely miss appointments anymore (I love iCal). Thanks to the Clock app, I don't oversleep anymore. I can capture photographs and video at a moment’s notice (although I do admit that I have more pictures of my cats and dog than I do of my children). I have apps that entertain me and apps that help me be more efficient with my work. My addiction to my iPhone started about 4 years ago; I don’t expect to be cured any time soon.

Of course, I admit that it took me a while to get comfortable with smartphone technology; I had so many old habits to break. My children and my students, on the other hand, have grown up with these devices. They are well versed on their capabilities and eager to use them to their fullest.  My son, who is a senior in high school, does as much of his homework as possible on his iPhone. He writes papers, reads books, researches and collaborates all on this small, hand-held device.  This is where the disconnect lies; the students want to use smart phones in school but many schools ban them. Even schools with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies that allow students to bring in their own laptops, tablets, etc., often exclude smartphones from the acceptable list of electronic devices.

I’d love to hear from students and teachers on this topic? Do you feel that smartphones should be allowed in schools/classrooms or not? What policies are in place at your school regarding the use of smartphones (for teachers and students)? 

Monday, February 4

Get Evernote: Get Organized!

Evernote.comBack in the olden days (as our students would think) when desktop computing was "new" and was advertised to be our gateway to a “paperless society.” I was very excited about this prospect from both an ecological and organizational stand point. Now, many years and a lot of new technology later, I’m still waiting for this “paperless society.”  My desks (at home and at work) are littered with numerous piles of “very important” papers. My to-do lists fill my pockets and decorate my counter tops. Important receipts are stuffed into paper folders in a very “helter-skelter” fashion making it rather difficult for me to find the ones that I need. My email accounts – well, to begin with, I have too many – but besides that, finding email that I need (especially on my personal accounts) is not very easy. Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you might want to consider organizing all your “stuff” in Evernote.

Hailed by the New York Times as one of the Top 10 must have apps, Evernote’s mantra is, Remember Everything.  Evernote is designed for note taking, organizing and archiving. A "note" can be a piece of formatted text, an email (with attachments), a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a picture, a voice memo, or a scanned document/paper. In Evernote, notes can be sorted into folders (notebooks and stacks), then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported. Evernote can be installed on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone. Once you make an entry in Evernote on one of your devices, it automatically syncs up to the other devices. Love this feature!
I first learned about Evernote about a year or so ago but only recently became serious about trying to learn how to effectively use this highly-praised productivity tool. I must admit that while it hasn't solved all of my issues with organization and over-dependence on paper yet, I can honestly say that I’m finally on my way.  

I was talking to Anita, a colleague of mine, the other day about my next blog post. When I mentioned to her that I was in the process of writing about Evernote, her response to me was, “Oh my gosh, Evernote has changed my life!” That was my queue to ask her if she would be willing to write a brief summary on how she uses Evernote that I could include in my blog post. Her thoughts on Evernote are posted below – perhaps her words will spark your interest so that you too will start using Evernote and, Remember Everything.

From Anita:

Like most teachers, my inbox was cluttered with millions of things to do. I was having a hard time organizing everything that needed to get done, and as a result I found myself at risk of missing deadlines and dropping the ball on projects.   I picked up David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done and read it with the hope that it would give me a better system of organizing all of the action items that I had on my plate.  At the heart of his program is a bookkeeping system, Evernote, used to help keep track of responsibilities and action items. 

Evernote is a cloud-based program that allows you to create as many “notes” as you want and then tag those notes for easy retrieval at a later date. There is a great article called “The Secret Weapon that describes how to use Evernote to organize your to-do list.  I currently have tags set up for timing (now, next, soon, later), for people (department head, administration, family, parents), for projects, and even action types (such as emails and phone calls).

Each time something gets added to my to-do list, I create a new note in Evernote and then tag it into one or more of my predetermined categories. Information can be captured from anywhere using a variety of different entry methods; snapshots, audio recordings, webpages, Facebook, etc, can all be added directly to Evernote as a new note.  I can also add email into Evernote.  Every email that requires action on my part gets forwarded to Evernote where it gets tagged and filed. All the rest of my email gets archived or deleted.  As a result, my inbox remains clean and empty. 

This process works because I can access all of my Evernote files from anywhere; my smartphone, my iPad, or my computer.  When I have a few minutes, I go into Evernote and review my tags to see what needs to be done. For example, if I am sitting in the parking lot waiting for my kids, I review the “phone call” tag and make the important calls. If I am headed to a meeting with my department head, I pull up his "tag" before the meeting and review what I need to discuss with him.

I have found that having everything written down (in Evernote) allows me to be more relaxed because I don't have to worry that I'm forgetting something.  I am also more efficient because if I have 10 "spare" minutes I can actually accomplish something, instead of just trying to remember what it is that I am actually supposed to accomplish.   The Evernote system is very easy to set up and very powerful once it is in place.

Now if someone could just find a way to add a few more hours to the day…..
Thanks Anita!!

Tuesday, January 15

Use Dropbox & Never Email Yourself Again

Scenario #1: It’s late in the day and you've just finalized your PowerPoint presentation that needs to be emailed to your department head ASAP (or sooner). With minutes to spare, you attach your PowerPoint file to your email and with a big sigh of relief, you hit the Send button. But your relief quickly turns to fear as you get a message that politely informs you that you have exceeded your space allocation.

Scenario #2: Your students have been working on a technology-enriched project involving numerous electronic files (Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop etc.) that need to be assessed.  Your students (all 25 of them) start emailing you their work (files) which for you, turns into an organizational nightmare. In addition, several students can’t send you all their files because they have exceeded their email space allocation and of course, you will eventually exceed your space allocation as well.
Scenario #3: You had planned to stay home all weekend to work on an important report that is due Monday morning. The files that you need to reference are all resident on your laptop – you’re ready to write a report that will even impress your boss’s boss. However, your best friend just invited you to an all-expenses-paid, fun-in-the-sun weekend at a famous resort – flight included. Not to worry says your friend; you’ll be home early enough. Mechanical issues find you stranded (with your iPhone, but unfortunately, not with your laptop) at the airport  thinking of how you’ll ever be able to explain all of this to your boss.
Each of these scenarios above could have been averted by using Dropbox. Dropbox is a free service (although you can upgrade for a fee) that easily allows you to move files between computers and to share files (and folders) with other users. You can use the web-based version of Dropbox or you can download the App.  Dropbox can also be used on the iPhone, the iPad, and on Android devices.
Create an account and see how easy it is to use Dropbox!
Dropbox Resources
The Dropbox Tour
Dropbox: A Superb Classroom Tool
Dropbox for Teachers
Top Tips for Using Dropbox at School
Cloud Storage Face-off: Dropbox vs Google Drive vs SkyDrive  
Dropbox vs Google Drive for iOS: Which is Better For iPhone or iPad Users?

Friday, January 4

Student Blogging 101

I’d like to take this opportunity to brag about my students in my Web Design class. Like any proud teacher, I like to show off their work and share their accomplishments with my colleagues and other interested educators. My students are just finishing a unit on blogging and I must say that they’ve all done an outstanding job. Their assignment (which you can find on my class blog) was to create a blog on a topic of their choosing. Students blogged about many interesting topics such as babies and the elderly (a must read), cake, goldfish, track and field, and iguanas.
As an introduction to the unit, students viewed a few short videos about blogging. We then discussed the differences (and similarities) between blogging and more traditional modes of communication such as PowerPoint, essays, newspapers, magazines etc. We also discussed the potential challenges that they might encounter while blogging. For example, students had to become skilled at how to create effective blog posts. An effective blog post, they learned, is developed as a “conversation starter.” Their posts had to be robust with information and written in such a way as to encourage reader comments and effective online dialogue.  

Learning how to respectfully participate in this form of online “conversation” was another challenge that the students had to consider.  Crafting comments (on their classmates’ blogs) that were both positive and valuable to the online-discussion was certainly a challenge that many students had difficulty with initially. However, with more practice, they soon became quite adept at submitting comments that developed into some very interesting (and respectful) online-conversations.  

Another challenge with blogging (as with any other online medium) is that blogs should be designed to be visually appealing. The more “artsy” students had little difficulty with this requirement but some of the other students were a bit more intimidated. Fortunately, with Google Blogger, adding images and color and making use of the pre-set layouts, makes this challenge fairly easy to master.  Using Animoto, students also created their own "videos" about their topic.

Please take some time to visit a few of my students’ blogs (links are listed below). You’ll find them to be creative, informative, witty and interesting. As you view their sites, please think of how you might be able to incorporate blogging into your curriculum. Might an assignment that typically requires your students to write an essay or to create a PowerPoint lend itself well to blogging? Do you have students that struggle with writing assignments? If so, consider blogging. My experience with these students is that they become completely engaged when blogging. They put a lot of effort into researching their topics and developing the content for their posts.  If you’d like to include blogging in your curriculum and would like help doing so, please let me know and I can help you and your class get started.  

Class Blogs 2012-13 Semester 1