Friday, December 27, 2013

From the archives: Wunderlist

I am not sure how many of you have seen Wunderlist (it's an app as well as online) but I wanted to take a few minutes to show the organizing tool to you.

I added the Wunderlist app to my iPad a few years ago and I decided to start using it for a method of organizing my collection development.  When I preorder a book, I add it to the list with the day it comes out and I add a note about where I ordered it from. I keep all of my records of orders on a spreadsheet, but, a spreadsheet isn't going to remind me of the day I should start seeing it arrive.

Wunderlist allows you to put notifications on your desktop, like a calendar and it will popup a reminder when you are close to the deadline.  It allows for a reminder and a due date.

It is also a great tool to show students so they can learn to task manage.  Task management on project based learning is very important and using a tool such as Wunderlist can really help them learn to organize and plan their tasks.  What is awesome about the tool is the capability of inviting friends to the tasks.  So, if you, as the teacher assign a project, you can invite all of your students to the different tasks and they will get the notifications and be able to refer to the assignment on their own.

If you are in the need of becoming more organized, take a look at this site.  It offers a lot of possibilities for your classes or you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From the Archives: Ways to organize my tech life

With the dawn of the new year, I have been thinking hard about ways I can organize my technology life, my library life and my teacher life.   I think I will start with my technology life.  That seems to be the area where I find fantastic ideas but sometimes forget them.
Here is how I start things and what I need to do.   I tweet.  A lot.  I favorite tweets with links of interest and they send themselves magically each day to my diigo account. The problem is I forget to go to Diigo and sort them.  Mistake one.  I logged into Diigo today and there were close to 1000 tags I need to sort.   So, my tech goal is to do the following:   Each week, be it Sunday or Saturday I need to go through my new tags, check out the links and sort them. I need to post the most important links on pinterest. Why, you say?  On pinterest, I can see a visual.  Sometimes seeing a visual helps me remember more about the link. 
That's another thing I need to do.  Organize my pinterest.  When I started using it, I had a few boards for recipes, ideas and such but I have discovered after a year on the site, I need to reorganize.  I have a lot of jumbled boards that I need to re-define.  I think doing that will make my boards so much more orderly and easy to track things.
Using technology has so many benefits to teaching,  libraries,  and kids but,  to use it right it has to be orderly. That is my goal for this year.  Organize my tech life.  Perhaps I will come across some fantastic ideas I found years ago.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A wrap up of 2013

So, as 2013 comes to a close, it's time to reflect upon the many tools and tricks I have found this year. There are many of them...  but, some of them stick out in my mind as my best tools of 2013.  I am only posting six, but believe you me, there are many many more.  These are my go to tools.

1.  YouTube I never really realized the power of a good video.  YouTube has changed the way I have taught a foreign language.  There are so many great videos out there, why reinvent the wheel?  I say, check there first and then expand as needed.  Kids will remember the videos and they will learn from them.  It doesn't take a lot of time to find the videos either.

2. Pinterest/ Learnist/ Educlipper  I have added all of these into one because they all accomplish similar things. They create a bulletin board for sites, images, and links.  I use all three of them and I have gotten so many ideas from them.  I spend a little time (maybe 10 minutes) a week scanning the three sites/apps to find ideas for the library.  It is amazing the things people in my PLN are doing. I have borrowed a lot of tools for my class via these sites.

3. Twitter  Need I say more?  The best PD in the world comes from Twitter.  I have found so many connections and so many people who share my experiences.  I am the only LMS in my school and I am the only tech coach in my district.  I have built a strong PLN and have learned more from people here than from any PD offered to me elsewhere. Every single teacher needs to be on twitter, even just to scan other people's posts.

4. OneNote  I have started inputting information left and right into OneNote.  I use it on the Skydrive and sync.  I love being able to work anywhere on my items and having access to it at all times.  Collaborating is also a great part of the program.

5. Google Forms I have built a lot of surveys using google forms.  I use them to establish tech tickets for kids, to log my personal hours doing tech (it helps the treasurer decide where to budget my salary) and I have forms for library surveys.  I have found that they are easy to make and easy to share and the instant results and graphs that can be built right on the site are easy ways to share data immediately.

6. Dropbox  Last, but certainly not least- Dropbox.  I use it daily.  I share folders with students, coworkers, family and friends.  I love having it on my phone, iPad and computer.  Everything I do is added instantly into one place.  I store photos, files and even whole ebooks there.  My assistant and I work on files together and Dropbox helps make that happen.

These six tools have been an integral part of my daily life.  I have used them often and honestly don't think I could live without them.

The next two weeks of my blog are archived stories.  I am taking a few weeks of much needed rest to read some books, watch some movies and spend time with the kiddos.  Maybe even go sledding a little. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Choosing an online education platform

The last few weeks, I have been spending hours upon hours searching for the right solution to online learning for our students who need credit recovery and courses due to scheduling conflicts.  I never realized how difficult it is to evaluate and how many platforms there are out there.

Of late, we have had our regular education students doing a program with live teachers through a state program. Our special education kids have an online platform that self grades.   We pay the live program per class and each student does their work and have someone grade it.  I have been really frustrated with this method lately because our students are being expected to keep working but don't get a direct response or grade.  They never know how they are doing and how far they have progressed because the teachers have teaching jobs and do this as an extra special.  Face it, they are all busy too, we all are.

So, I started looking for something that can be controlled in house and is comparable to the classroom environment, especially with content.  The online platform we have been using for our special education students isn't as content heavy and the kids who are stronger students won't get a challenge from it.

My process began by starting a thread in several state tech forums.  I wanted to know what others have found to be helpful and what others are using.  I needed to know what people thought and how the programs worked for them.  I understand that every situation is different, but there are a lot of schools out there using online education and a lot of them are finding great success with it.

My endeavor has led me to about 4 programs that meet our needs.  I have spent a lot of time doing meetings with their representatives, pilots, sample classes.  I have found that there is a lot of great stuff out there.  Some of the platforms are very user friendly and can be modified and edited to accommodate the needs of every student. It can be edited to match the curriculum the school district is using.  A lot of these tools are very impressive and exciting.  The cool thing is the cost difference!  We can get kids in online classes every class period for a site license fee and save a lot of money on online learning.  We can do great things offering this.  With so many colleges offering online classes and so many options in life being online, doing this makes for a lot of opportunities for kids to build needed future skills.

I am excited to be a part of the evaluation process.  I look forward to seeing the outcome.

Friday, December 13, 2013

From the Archives: Realtimeboard

I am all about students collaborating.  I think it's one of the most important parts of education.  Kids need to be able to learn to work together and share ideas, as it's part of their future when they graduate and move into their adult life.

Realtimeboard is another tool that provides collaboration options. It is free and can link to google. You, as the teacher creates a board and invite kids to access it.  They also upgrade teachers to PRO for free. (Follow this link)

This site is set up a lot like ConceptBoard, which I showed in a previous post.  It's collaborative, uses invitations to access boards and is easy.

I can see this working in a project based learning setting.  Students can conduct their research and use the site for a final project.  Maybe a history related search or a biography project.  It is also a way to organize yourself.  There are several mind mapping methods and organzining tools. When you create a new board, you see several templates that can be used for different things.

It could also be used for a foreign language classroom to make vocabulary boards.  Kids can locate images of vocabulary and the shared boards can be used by the teacher as a review tool.

The possibilities for this program are endless.  There are a lot of things that can be used in the classroom.

Student study groups with Thinkbinder

Thinking back to the 90s when I was a college student, I remember numerous visits to the library.  I attended Ball State in Indiana and recall meeting at the "naked lady" statue with collaborative groups to do projects and papers with classmates.  We had a lot of study sessions that way.  Nowadays, our kids are not the same when it comes to collaboration.  They don't head to the library to work on projects, they tend to do more at home, or online.

As a foreign language teacher, I find it incredibly important to have collaboration between students.  Sometimes with me, sometimes together.  Regardless of the topic, I want them to be able to work together.

I found Thinkbinder, a free tool where kids can "meet" virtually and review materials, collaborate, do projects, etc. as a group.   It is an easy to use tool as well.

Start off by creating an account and generating a group.   Once you are in, you invite members to the group and they login and join.  It is a little like Edmodo in the aspect of group codes and moderation by a teacher.  Once the kids are in, they can add files, collaborate, work together.  It could be used for many different things:  project planning, review for tests, small group meetings to do a task, the list goes on and on.

Check out this site.  It's free and easy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Make that fun video

I don't often do commentary about iPad apps, namely because not everyone has an iPad, but, when my co-worker showed me Touchcast, I had to share it.   Touchcast is an app on your iPad (sorry android folks, it's not available.) that lets you make a creative recording.  It has a green screen, the capabilities of adding a moving background or adding an image for the background.  Why do the typical boring video when you can make something special this way.

I made a quick video to share with students information about our Doctor Who theme.  It was easy to use and a little addicting.  (I think I spent more time playing with bells and whistles than I needed to, but who wouldn't!?) I am going to add it to the class set of iPads I have in the media center for the seventh graders to use for their book talks.  I am going to start doing video chats about books as well.

What I liked about it is the numerous types of products one can make.  It has a business report, a new report, a how to setup, just to name a few.  You pick the type of video you want to make, add some text and record.  It puts the text directly onto the screen and it has a ticker that runs across the bottom with current events.  It's really cool.  There is even a TelePrompTer tool that scrolls your content.

The app also links to several social media sites and allows for posting videos on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.  I have decided I am going to take a new twist to doing some of my promotional videos. Right now, I use Animoto and add images of the new releases, the books we are sharing or book clubbing, but, with this app, I can make an actual press release type video.  According to the site, there is soon to be a desktop version available.  I will certainly check back for that one!  Imagine using my desktop to make a video.  Just like in the newsroom. I can't wait.

Touchcast is fun and it's FREE!  Can't beat that!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Using educanon to make Q/A videos

As a member of, I get several digests each day and lately, the bulk of them have referred to a site called educanon that teachers are using to make the flipped model more inviting, more accountable and more specific to the needs of the kids.

Educanon takes your YouTube video and allows for insertion of questions to assure students are paying attention and learning something from the video.  A lot of mentions lately are by teachers who are flipping their classroom or considering the flipped model.  They are making videos galore and inserting lots of questions to check for understanding.

I decided since I was using a flipped model, somewhat, in my French class, I wanted to give it a shot. I made a few video clips that had some questions inserted.  It was easy to use and the fact that it's free is even better.

If you look at the images I posted, you see the video I selected and the questions I added. You can also see there is a desktop, per se, where you assign work to specific classes.  All of your videos are placed in a queue and you select one to send to a class.  It is very simple to do.  It seems to me that it takes longer to preview the video than to do the activities with it.

I think if someone is going to consider flipping a class, this site is a smart move to generate questions and answers.  It will certainly hold kids accountable and show the teachers what kids know. I am going to start implementing videos into my classroom.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Doctor Who Themed December

With a new season of Doctor Who quickly approaching, my assistant and I decided it would be great fun to create a Doctor Who Themed month.   We decided to pull books that cross several of the genre Doctor Who represents:  Time Travel, Science Fiction and Historical Fiction.

Doctor Who has become a classical cult icon to several of our students and staff.   There are numerous Whovians amongst us who have our favorite character, favorite Doctor (Mrs. Wells thinks David Tennant is the best)  and even favorite episode.  Our devotion to the Doctor led us to our December Theme.

Because Doctor Who travels through time in his TARDIS (for non Whovians, a TARDIS is a machine shaped like a Police Box that is enormous and never ending on the inside, think of Hermoine's purse from Harry Potter but capable of transporting through space and time.  Doctor Who and his companion travel to various points in history to solve problems and outrun Daleks and Weeping Angels. Long story... you have to watch to see. )  Since we moved our collection to a genre style, we pulled titles that Doctor Who would experience- historical fiction books set in various eras (We pulled Chain by Anderson, A Northern Light by Donnelly, The Springsweet by Mitchell, Crispin by Avi, just to name a few.)  We also grabbed some Science Fiction books that fit a typical Doctor Who experience (Delirium by Oliver, Ashfall by Mullin, Starters by Price, Search for Wondla by DiTerlizzi, and XVI by Karr.)  Our final genre of choice was none other than Time Travel.  We grabbed books by James Dashner, Margaret Patterson Haddox and The Time Traveler's Wife.  We even shared the new Infinity Ring Series.

On Friday, we decided to have a Doctor Who themed day, wearing our Doctor Who shirts and maybe a Fez.  Cause like Books, Fezes are cool.

So, Read a book:  As Doctor Who says, "We are all stories, in the end just make it a good one!"

Donna Noble has left the library, and Donna Noble is safe!