Friday, November 30, 2012

Using to brainstorm in class

I came across an article from edudemic with a list of 35 web 2.0 tools that are the best for the classroom.  I was really intrigued about as one of those tools.  I had to check it out.  The reason, because our district has talked about paying to get Inspiration for one of our teachers (or installing the old version we have from seven years ago on the student devices. Before spending all of that time, I decided I best check it out to save hours.

It is very simple to use. You create an account (takes about thirty seconds) and press the start brainstorming button in the middle of a large space. Start filling in your information.

You can add new sheets to continue your brainstorming process. I think the reason this was picked is because it is so simple to use.  It is easy to share with others, it is easy to export and import lists.  The format for adding additional pages reminds me a little of excel, adding tabs.  These are, however at the top instead of the bottom.

As you save your lists, it adds them to the sidebar.  It allows you to refer to them again later.  I can see this as a great tool for research papers, for short stories, for poetry assignments, for yearbook or even for French class.  It could even be a way to organize that great first novel.

If students share the sheet they build with the teacher, there could be a potential for grading.  Kids could really benefit from using this program for organizing.  I think that is one skill kids lack is organizing.  This is a way to teach them how to organize their work.  I suggest if you have a task for students to complete that involves using organizing and brainstorming, look at this site.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Using Wordle to practice vocabulary

Being a foreign language teacher, I often need to find lots of ways for my students to practice their vocabulary.  Early in my career, I started requiring my students to write their vocabulary words several times each as a means of practicing spelling. A few years back, I attended a conference and spent the entire lesson focusing on merely tech and web 2.0 tools. Someone did a presentation about wordle.  I took it back to my students immediately and had them attempt to use the program for word practice.  They really liked how it worked.

Wordle is a simple way to do a word graphic.  Students type in the words several times and each time the work is input, it gets larger on the final output of the graphic. The outcome is a really neat visual of all of the vocab words.   The students finalize it and embed the link into edmodo or email it to me directly.  It is a neater way to do an old fashioned assignment.

Wordle does more than just vocabulary.  Students can also write simple sentences, poems, definitions and create a visual of the words.

I can't tell you if kids are actually retaining the words doing it this way, but it is a different approach.  A few tips, however, if the words have articles, it is best to connect them together (lestylo) because the wordle will make the article huge and the words small. It also helps to keep the word and the article together.

Overall, this is a simple tool for the classroom. I think it has a lot of potential ideas for a classroom.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An update on the Genre Shift/ Book Store Model

I decided to take a few minutes this week and update my readers about the Book Store Model/ Genrefication we are doing in my school library.  We are about 60 percent done with the non fiction section and I am already seeing a lot of benefits from the change. I am also seeing a lot of criticism.  Justifiably, I did this to help kids.  When a student comes to the media center, they need information and they need it fast. They are no longer given time with the Common Core Standards and the many assessments they need to do each year to spend hours in the media center roaming the stacks looking for books.  They also aren't effectively trained to use the catalog because doing so with a whole class setting doesn't happen. There just isn't enough time.  So we decided to move away from the classical setup of a library and shift ourselves into the new millennium.  A place where patrons can find things easier and staff can be more organized.  We have spent a lot of time talking and planning.  We are also spending a lot of time walking through the library and physically observing the things we have.  I am finding on a frequent basis that our collection is lacking and we are in need of newer things. I am also learning about what our kids are needing.

My critics feel I am not teaching kids the necessary library skills.  They comment that I am taking the lazy way out of running a library.  I disagree. Schools today don't have time to teach library skills the way they used to.  I get maybe five minutes per class to show them skills because the Common Core Standards require so much to get done.  I do a lot of one on one or very small group training.  It isn't uncommon to walk into the library and see two or three kids looking over my shoulder taking notes about a database or about the catalog.  Or, me making a quick training video and sending it them on email so they can learn it on their own. I am not lazy about this, I am efficient. I am not avoiding teaching them library skills, they learn skills, they just don't look for numbers developed 110 years ago, they look for categories.   When they leave my school, go to college or to the real world, they will do the same thing they do here, ask a librarian.  I hear adults at the public library asking for help all the time, how is my way any different?

Since I started this implementation, the kids are checking out Non-Fiction titles they never even glanced at before.  We label each section with a different sticker.  The kids see the sticker and it pops out at them.  They are pulling things based on what they see. They are reading books now that haven't been checked out in 5 or 6 years because of the location; the genre; or the area they see it. It is AWESOME!  If you are a school librarian and finding kids not using the library because there is no time in the day or because their teachers are rushing them in and out to meet the standards, look into it.  It is an awful lot of work, but the end result is so rewarding!

I am always willing to answer questions about the process.  I have been trying to establish a photo log of the process as well.  You can see my genre library dropbox and get an idea of how things are being developed as well as some ideas of the process we take.  Feel free to borrow ideas and email me if you ever have questions.

Because of Thanksgiving and the fact that Friday, I am taking a much deserved rest and shopping, I will not have a second post this week.  Look for more CLEAR posts after the holiday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

CLEAR RIA tools: Conversations

To continue my chat about CLEAR RIA tools, we have to talk about the conversation one.  So often, foreign language teachers have to assess lots of kids with just a little bit of time. I have some classes where I am spread thin and not able to meet each child several times during the duration of the class, especially if I am differentiating and helping someone who is confused about a step.

Conversations allows the teacher to record a series of questions and embed them into a website for students to respond to orally.  It is a super easy tool to use and I don't think it has to be used solely for the foreign language classroom.  I can see success with this in a variety of classes.  In a Social Studies class, students can use oral responses for a portion of an assessment.  Special education students who rely on dictation as a means of testing can respond orally. A speech teacher can strike an impromptu speech showing students an image or a question.  The ideas go on and on.

I am going to use it to get my French One students to talk about the weather.  The time setting it up may be a little more lengthy than a normal assignment, but as I do it annually, it can be recycled.  Check it out.  You may find something to do with the software.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

CLEAR RIA tools: Viewpoint embeddable videos

Being a foreign language teacher, the need to use videos is often very necessary in the classroom.  With all of the talk of flipping classrooms and using video for instruction, the need grows for many educators.  CLEAR from MSU has a program for videos called Viewpoint.  You can actually record video, audio and embed it directly into your school website or into Edmodo (and probably My Big Campus too). One thing I like is the fact that our school does not block these video streams.  Since they are directly coming from CLEAR, my school doesn't block it.   It saves a lot of time with the process to unblock websites for classroom use.

The program has a few options for you.  First of all, you can record a video with a camera and upload it to the site.  You can also record directly onto the site.  There are places to make a collection of videos as well.  You can also add your students to the site and have them respond and upload video.

It's something different to do in class and with so many people starting to talk about the flip, it might be a way to do it successully. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

CLEAR RIA tools: Revisions

Do you have your students do writing assignments in the target language you teach or in English, Social Studies, Science etc?  MSU CLEAR has established a tool that allows students to peer edit online.  The cool thing about the program, it also allows kids to record audio and add it to the file.  I spent a little time experimenting with it to see how I can use it in my class and I already have a few projects in mind.

First off, you have to have a CLEAR account.  You open Revisions and create classes. (Don't worry, there is a series of mini tutorials to help you get started.)  Invite your students to the classes.  They join, you add them and they accept the class.  From here on, you get to work.

There are tabs available for each class and here, you add assignments.  I decided to do a short writing assignment and sample the program.  It's awesome.  Each student can type/ record their thing and then they can edit each other's work.  The teacher can see a revision list with who does what.  It is easy.  I have used one note before and this program reminds me a little of one note, but, I think the teacher has more control of the actual outcome.

I tried using it a little last year and had my students work with poetry.  They translated a piece and then read it aloud onto the computer.  It was easy to do and to grade.  I recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CLEAR RIA tools: The Video Dropbox

For part three of my CLEAR tools, I decided to talk about the video dropbox.

If you read my post about the audio dropbox, you will know how easy these tools are to use.  Merely create an account, login and go.  You embed the dropbox into a website or Edmodo and voila, kids can record anything right off the bat. The fact that the teacher can set a time limit on the dropbox also helps 

I used this a few times last year to record short skits in my French class but I think the tool could be use

d for so much more.


school is a 1:1 school.  All students have a device with a webcam.  I can see a video dropbox being used for oral history reports, weather reports, broadcasts, and presentation.

The one disadvantage to the CLEAR tools is the teacher has the account and the final product is only accessible to the teacher.  It would be hard to use it as a collaboration tool or to share information online with others. (Perhaps a presentation to sister school or something.)

Take a look at it, if you are in a district with webcam capable devices, it could really work for you.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How we handle Dia de los Muertos, in French class!

I am not a teacher of Spanish so dealing with day of the dead is not typically part of my cultural component in French class but, my partner in foreign language crime and I started a tradition a decade ago that we are happy to say continues to this day.

Every year, we build a cemetery in either the library or the courtyard (depending on the weather of course). Each of us require our students to write obituaries in the target language for themselves but not typical ones- comical ones. We also select a few teachers each year to add to the cemetery. We make tombstones for each and draw pictures and make them fancy. Their methods of "death" are often odd (the typing teacher died if key stroke, the librarian died of bookworms etc.) The kids do help write up the tombstones and the teachers are begging to get in.

How do we assess this? I use it as a writing grade and I also have my early level students figure out the tombs and answer questions. Some of the information is historical in nature- for example, Marie Antoinette and Edgar Allan Poe are included. The language related history is phenomenal and the kids leave learning a little bit about famous people who influenced language and history.

I love the reactions when kids walk into the library and see the tombs and the response as they scramble to see which teacher made it this year or which senior was lucky enough to go in.

The project is a process but, the outcome is really worth the time. If you are interested in any information about this project, you can access some of my files from the IFLTA conference a few years back. I will post those as soon as I track them down.