Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My top tech tools for 2012... part 2

Last week, I started my review of my top tech tools for 2012.  There are so many tools out there, but some are much better than others.  Some are more practical for my purposes that others as well. My opinions are just that and you may not agree.  I am sure there are tools that work better for you than for me. Keep that in mind.

One Note via skydrive or office suite.  I never realized the full potential of one note until a teacher asked me to find a way for her to store some curriculum she bought.  I investigated places to save files, add files, etc.  Evernote is great, but you need to pay to get more space.  One note, on the other hand is part of our office suite already.  I experimented with my classes taught the kids how to use it and even they are hooked.  I have one student who is using it for a research paper.  She super organized herself and feels better about the end result.  Who couldn't appreciate it.  The fact that whatever you do can sync to the skydrive and that you can use any type of device to do it makes it even better.

Dropbox.  I am a real newbie to dropbox, and I have no idea why I waited so long to use it.  What a time saver and a lifesaver.  I made all of my students download it and create accounts through me.  I got free space, they put files there it's a win-win. I have shown it to a few of our teachers and some of them are now using it to share videos with their students for their flipped classes.  They put them in, leave them until the unit is over and pull them out.  Less work, less excuses, what's not to love?  Our Science teacher is using it for videos.  No excuses for missing work.

Google Drive (formerly docs) with Flubaroo. What can I say?  Make a form, write a test, after kids take it, Flubaroo grades it for you.  Of course it has to be a multiple choice to be graded, but think of the time saved.  I have been using it for quick assessments a lot lately and I couldn't be happier.  I also use it often for quick polls, exit slips and entrance slips.  It doesn't take much to create anything and they last forever! I have made a lot of surveys for the media center.

Thanks for checking on my blog.  This has been an interesting journey for me and my new years resolution is to continue it.  Because of Final exams, holidays and such, I will be taking a break from blogging.  My next post will  come out Tuesday January 8.  Not sure what I will write about, but I will think of something.  Have  happy holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

My top tech tools for 2012... part 1

As the end of the year approaches, I think it is only appropriate that I look back through the year and evaluate some of the tech tools I have used in class successfully.   I have tried a lot of them, some were huge hits, others not so much, so let's do a quick review of what has worked for me. I am splitting it into two parts. 

CLEAR RIA tools.   I can't say enough positive things about CLEAR, especially the audio dropbox.  it has saved me a lot of time roaming the room.  I can let the kids practice, record themselves and then grade it. It is a fantastic concept.

Edmodo.  My kids don't always appreciate the site, sometimes they whine when I instruct them to login and get their assignment, but, I like the many options it offers:   Links, the ability to embed things (such as audio dropbox) , a library you can save and share, the capability of adding files, making quizzes that self grade, need I say more?  I love the communities offered and the many people you can collaborate with.  The PLN building is fantastic. I could go on and on.

Twitter.  Yes, twitter.  I can't live without it.   I love, love, love the PLN I have built.  The fantastic collaboration, weekly meetings and PD I receive from people I don't know but connect with.  I enjoy the ability to make a statement and get 15 people saying how they handle it.  It is wonderful.  I love the diversity of my PLN.  I have met some fantastic colleagues who I feel closer to than my co-workers (I am the only French teacher and the only librarian, so I really don't have a lot of people who I can collaborate with.)

Simplemeet.me.  My students like this one.  I like the ease, and the digest.  We chat, we practice skills and then, I get an email with the final version.  I grade it, we are done.  I really think if you are doing any form of collaborating in your classes or are doing a chat with other schools, look at this.  It is really cool.

That's it for today.  I am going to continue Tuesday with part two and then, because I get to have final exams next week and holidays following, I am taking a few weeks off. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mightybell: Using spaces for collaboration

I received an email from Library 2.0 with an invitation to a chat with a woman named Gina Bianchini who co-developed Ning and also a new site called Mightybell.  I was instantly curious.  I checked it out and was drawn to the concept.    It reminded me a lot of Pinterest, but in a much more organized way.  I saw a similarity to Wallwisher and linio.it as well.   

The concept is newer to me, but useful.   Once creates a space, invites people to visit and those people can tag items to the space.  The options and the postings are vast, videos, links, posts, images and files.  And an even cooler part, the participants can CHAT! 

There are so many possibilities for the classrooms.  I invited my French three/ four students immediately and decided we are going to use the site as a platform to expand our skills.  I am going to start posting images to prompt their conversation and attempt to post videos. (When I say attempt, I mean, post videos kids can watch.  Our school blocks video right now, except for school tube and united streaming.)  

I wasn’t able to add my audio Dropboxes to the site.  They are embeddable. If I want to use them, I have to send the kids to my school website or to Edmodo, but organizing the items into one space is an awesome concept.    

I like to use sites like wallwisher, simplemeet and linio because they are easy and kids can do peer edits.  This site has a little bit of everything.  I can see a district using it for PD, a department using it for PLN development and collaboration. Teachers can use it for group work and projects.  It is good for PBL because you can create spaces for specific groups, act as the moderator and invite specific students and monitor their collaboration.  You can have numerous spaces at once and you can make them private or public.

I am very excited to explore this site and discover the limitless possibilities to use it in my classroom.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How epals is helping my students

I have been teaching French since 1996 and all but four of those years I have had a decent amount of access to technology for my classes, but I never really spent a lot of time using that technology to let my kids meet others abroad until this year. 

I have had a membership to epals for about 8 years, I have seen it change through time. This year I decided I needed to do more to get the kids global.  I needed to do more to practice their grammar and their vocabulary and maybe build a little more confidence in their language skills.

I had no idea what I was missing all these years. My class has been connected with two different classes in France.  My students, despite their level of language skills are able to do a lot with their penpals.  As they  grow in their skills, the kids are adding more and more to their letters.   The French one class has been very directed with what they write.  I give them a topic, and tell them exactly what I expect to see in their letters.  They get graded on what they write.  My older levels are a little more fluent.  I give them a topic and let them roll with it.

I get asked almost daily if there is email.  It was awesome to open the mailbox a few weeks back and have paper letters.  The kids don't know a lot about snail mail, and getting a letter written from someone in France is a very unique lesson for them. We end up spending a lot of time talking culture, comparing the paper, the penmanship, the grammar and language skills the kids have.  It is a spectacular way to introduce the kids to cultural things they often miss.

I am very grateful that I decided to locate a class this year.  I think my students are going to get connections outside the classroom they never would have had and I am certain their language skills will be expanded greatly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A followup to Simplemeet.me

Several months ago, I wrote a post about Simplemeet.me as a way to have a private chat room in a classroom.  I hadn't used it yet with my classes, so I decided I would do a quick followup post about it because it has become a very well liked tool in my classroom.

I introduced it to my French three class about a month into the school year.  We had just completed the imperfect tense review and I needed a way to practice the grammar and do more vocab expansion.  We started it up.  The kids loved it.  They were quick to join, quick to get excited.  I started out asking questions in the tenses and the girls were immediate to respond.  I noticed instantly extra vocab words popping up, self correction as well as peer correction and I noticed them trying to expand their grammar by asking me different questions about things outside what they know.

The girls beg me often to do simple meet.  We did it with other grammar points and I found it to be one of the better forms of review. I am very impressed by how effective it has been in my classroom.

I have had a few glitches with technology, occasional kick offs, a few times the kids are logged in as two different people. After all is said and done, however, they are benefiting from the tool.  I think this is one of the better tools I have come across and I am certain I will use it a lot more often in my classes.