Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And so...

It has been a great learning experience for me as a technology teacher.  I have been looking for web 2.0 tools to use with my students as I create lessons to supplement the eGuides the county provides.  I thank my fellow Loyolians, who have provided great ideas I can use with my classes. 

If I feel the need to share any of the results from the lessons I am planning using web 2.0 tools, I will post them here. 

Discovery Streaming Pt.2

 Discovery Education has been available to me as a teacher for at least three years now, but I only really starting using it this year.  Some of the eGuides that are available use 5-15 minute clips from Discovery Education.  I have used Discovery Education to go over...
                Wonders of the World
                Even and Odd Numbers
                Goods and Services
                and more

  I have used Discovery Education mainly as a collection of videos to draw from when necessary.  I recently read a classmate's blog post about how one could use DE with students.  I tried to create a class, but got stuck on the part where I was supposed to add students.  Here is a screen shot of my progress.

When I can get past this obstacle I am going to set up a third grade class and have them do a research project using video sources, among other sources too.  A big part of the lesson will be citing sources, websites and video.  NoodleBib,  here I come.  I can also use it to give assessments if we focus on a particular content area.

Lastly, I would like to add to my reasoning as to why I think DE is a web 2.0 tool.  Through much of my searching of blogs, wikis, and more I have come to notice the "feel" of these tools.  You typically log in, permit access to others, prepare lessons/content for students, and give assessments/surveys.  That is what Discovery Education is able to do, so I consider it web 2.0.

Podcasting Part Two

I recently conducted various searches related to student podcasts and discovered that it can be hard to find collections of podcasts, especially about a related topic of content focus.  Still, it is quite easy to find a class website that features about 8 podcasts, sometimes more.  Many times the audience is neglected, never really acknowledged.  It sometimes seems as if you need to know the actual students and what in the world they are learning about to understand.  I came across one class were discussing reactions to poetry, but it wasn't referenced.  These flaws and more have made me think.

It still might be a little while before I get the chance to record podcasts with my fourth graders, but I am learning some things I want them to do.  I already knew I wanted them to work on sentence fluency, and now I want to ensure they have a good intro.  I'm sure I will learn more about what I want as we create the podcasts.  My biggest concern as I move ahead is finding a quite place to record.  I am lucky because there are some "extra" rooms nearby, but sometimes there are people in them (music, band, and reading specialists).  I'll have to talk to the teachers to see what times I could potentially use their rooms for recording. 

Update on Mac App Store

It sounds like some people have checked out the Mac Apps Store.  If you haven't and would like to, you should click on the apple in the top left corner of computer screen and choose software update.  It will take a little while, about 15 minutes. 

I searched around a little bit, and I feel like there is some good stuff, but I think the app store will be better once it is past the launch phase.  At this time I have found something I could use with students.  I found a free app about the Constitution.  I downloaded it to my computer, and now can access the original text, comments on it, as well as notes about the signers and amendments.  If I can send this out to the student laptops (need to check on that), then it will be a great resource for fifth grade in fourth quarter.  That is still too far away for me to have any definite plans, but I may have students create web pages (using weebly.com) about the Constitution, the Amendments, or the signers.  I recommend you check out the apps at the Mac Store from time to time.

Collaborative Writing Tools (like Google Docs)

The one problem with Google Docs is that it does not allow users to get on without an email.  Since I want to use collaborative writing tools with my students in the telecollaborative project, I needed to find another resource.  I think I have found it in MixedInk.

So far this service seems pretty cool.  I highly recommend the tutorial video which features quite possibly the best politician EVER!  Anyway, after creating a class and a fake project, it was easy to see how this could be used.  It is not quite a Google Doc, and I am not sure if students can work on the same document at the same time (I haven't been able to test it).  You can set up deadlines and have students vote on segments and drafts so that all is decided democratically.  The major benefit is that you can give students the address and they can access it.  

My plan with this service is to link up with Megan's fourth grade class (connecting one of my fourth grade classes) to do some collaborative writing.  We are considering our options, and realize that the writing does not need to be synchronous, in fact that may be too difficult.  Therefore, MixedInk could work really well.  Still, I feel the need to find other sources that are free and allow for synchronous writing.

Don't forget writeboard.  Steve posted this good idea on his blog.  I like that it doesn't require a gmail account, although it seems to need an email. 

Online Surveys

Okay, I have to admit that my last choice of an online survey service, specifically polleverywhere.com, was a bit limited.  While I believe that it has a niche, students are not in it, due to school system rules.  Not to mention it would be wrong to expect all students to have a cell phone.  I would consider it akin to how Charlie's teacher assumed that he ate hundreds of candy bars in his search for the golden ticket  Still, I see possibilities, especially when using polleverywhere among adults/staff.

I didn't have to look far for something to replace polleverywhere.  Survey Monkey has more features, and does not require the use of a cell phone to respond.  I created a short survey about immigration to use with third graders since we just finished a project where we visited a Scholastic site and took a tour of Ellis Island, and listened to stories of immigrants.  I have included a pic (using Jing) that I took as I was developing the survey.

Another cool wiki

As I was searching for good blogs, I came across a good wiki.  PBWorks is a great resource.  It allows users to invite students without requiring email.  I signed up, but am still working out what I plan to do with it.  The possibilities are there though, since multimedia can be added to the wiki.  One way I intend to use this service is to put a few lessons on here, with links to pictures and such.  I like the idea that an entire lesson can be contained within the wiki, and hopefully streamline things for me.  In case I have not mentioned this, I would mainly give access to wikis and blogs to my students in grades 3, 4, and 5.  The other students may use wikis and blogs, but probably more of a resource for information/content.

Ultimate Guide to Blogging

Hello again, I thought it would be a good idea for me to gather a large assortment of blog managing services for myself and others.  As a tech teacher, I am sometimes limited to only one class per blog service, especially since I am seeking free services.  Therefore, this collection can serve as a link to services I can use to set up classroom blogs.  My search of the web included my fellow classmates' blogs (about blogging).  Here are some excellent resources:

ePals- So much more than just a blog service, I highly recommend you check it out.

Edublogs- Another free service, one that doesn't require email accounts. 

Blogger- You're accessing a Blogger blog now.  Google recently bought Blogger. 

Edmodo- I came across this site, and logged in and started a group for one of my third grade classes.  I noticed that some of the fifth grade teachers use edmodo with math classes.  I can help get them prepared by starting in third with this service (and others) so that students are used to contributing to blogs.  I feel this will lead to more effective blogging for those fifth grade teachers.  Other features make the service pretty worthwhile. This site has also been referred to a social networking site, both for teachers sharing with other teachers and one that connects students within a class.

I hope I can get by using these four services, maybe with various email accounts or by contacting those who manage these services to see what I can do.  Edmodo will let me have multiple groups, which is promising.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Revisiting Google Apps

In a previous post I highlighted some of Google's best apps.  Most importantly, I mentioned how Google Documents could be used by teachers.  I created my own Google Doc to use with students next year to get to know them and where they are with technology.

Since my last post, another way to use Google Docs has come to me.  I have created a questionnaire for the teachers with whom I share a class.  I have found that I really know certain grade level content better than others, especially the ins and outs of what the students study in language arts.  My questionnaire hopefully will lead to answers that can help me plan appropriate lessons that will not overlap with what students do in their homeroom or content classes.  I am asking what units they would like me to focus on, if they want to collaborate, if they would like for students to use tech time for internet research, and more.  I would share my questionnaire, but I am using it soon with the teachers with whom I work. 

There are other good apps by Google.  Google Earth allows users to travel the world.  What makes it a Web 2.0 technology is that users can add information to the "globe."  Such information includes pictures, 3-D buildings (via Google Sketch), and more.  I have used Google Earth with students, finding landmarks (cutting and pasting pics to word doc), learning about Maryland by examining physical and human made characteristics, and by researching Wonders of the World then adding placemarks with informative paragraphs. 

What will Google add next?

Wiki WIki

I've always felt that one wiki is not enough.  Anyway, if you read my last post about wikis, I gave a general definition and some examples.  If you didn't read it, go back and check it out.

As a technology teacher, I am involved in helping the staff with computer issues.  This includes a wide range of problems, from the simple act of plugging something in to completing a work order that will solve the problem. 

Before I was the technology teacher, the media specialist at the school developed a tech troubleshooting wiki.  I have slightly mixed emotions.  On the plus side it offers staff a chance to post problems and get quick attention.  This is especially true since I have subscribed (through RSS) to the tech wiki.  Another positive is that a teacher may notice that others had a similar problem, and can read the solution.  Once one of the media specialists or tech teachers have fixed the problem, they edit the wiki to explain how the problem was fixed, usually in another color.  I also like that teachers must think before they post, meaning that they should hopefully check for simple solutions to avoid the "plugged in ethernet cord" posting.  Perhaps the biggest plus is that it allows the helpers to fit the assistance in their schedule, as opposed to being interrupted or taking too long to get to the problem.  On the negative side, many staff members (including myself in past years) have opposed the wiki.  Its one more password to remember, one more step to getting help.  Not to mention what do you do if your computer won't turn on, how do you get on the wiki?  I guess my biggest beef is that the media specialist said "your administrators are watching how often you go on the wiki."  Doesn't make me want to help her with her wiki, even if it is a good idea.

Here is the tech troubleshooting wiki, using WikiSpaces:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is one of many online survey services available.  I used this free service in a previous course to poll the cohort during a group presentation.  The feature that drew me to this site was the ability for audience members to text responses, without fees.  This may be especially helpful for teachers of older students, ones likely to possess cell phones.  Still, many other options exist, including emailing, touch-tone (via 800 number), embedded link, smartphone, and tweeting.

A teacher could use this in a variety of ways.  For me, I am tired of messing with the batteries and the screws of the PRS clickers.  This is a simple way to replace the clickers, or another option if you are unable to obtain clickers.  As a technology teacher a big part of my lessons focus on content, and I could use this to review the important parts of the lesson.  I may also use this to create a technology vocabulary quiz for my 3rd and 4th grade students.  Poll Everywhere allows for a few different types of polls too, including Free Text (open-ended), team scoring, goal setting, and more.  Visit PollEverywhere.com to learn more!

Try a free poll now!

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Mac Apps Store

Check it out, there is some cool free stuff!!!  The new App Store for Macs is here.  If you are like me and don't have an iPhone, the wait for apps is over!  Go to Apple's website to download (it takes a little while).  I downloaded Whiteboard Mac, and might just play with it today.  Don't do anything stupid and buy something you already have, or will be getting soon with new image. 

Discovery Streaming

In order to better understand what Web 2.0 really means, I have come across a number of other blogs, wikis, and internet literature about the subject.  Some of these resources highlight Discovery Streaming, an organization (hosted by Discovery- as in the channel) that provides streaming and downloadable video, but a lot more as well.  Some other features include...

Lesson Builder
Interactive Atlas
Lesson Plan Library
and more

Even more resources exist to help teachers with planning and instruction, including a specific focus on STEM topics.  I think the most valuable part of the site though is the huge collection of educational videos.  I have used this resource when teaching concepts that benefit from short video segments.  It was especially helpful to show a video of erosion, since our schoolyard example of erosion don't compare to other examples (i.e. Grand Canyon). 

Howard County teachers, if you have not tried Discovery Streaming, you could click on the picture at the top.  If you don't know your username, it is your email address.  I cannot reveal password over the blog, but if you need to know, please ask teachers on your team or the tech/media staff at your school.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


The idea of creating a podcast has been around since people could record sounds, since a podcast is really just a recorded audio (maybe video too) track.  The term podcast originated when i"pod"s were first popular- hence podcast.  There are various ways to record the audio for a podcast.  When using a computer with a built in microphone, a podcast can be recorded, although it may have a different name on a PC.  Several websites exist to help create podcasts, including Audacity.  I recommend Audacity, a free service.

Podcasts have been a popular tool in the educational setting.  Teachers can share podcasts that others have made.  In fact, some teachers post their students' podcasts to the internet, allowing other teachers focusing on similar content to use them for instruction.  Teachers may also have students create their own podcasts as a product for a content unit or activity.

Earlier this week I began a project with fourth graders about biomes.   I have found a good website (.gov) for students to gather information.  They will add the information to an organizer (created in Inspiration), and then create a script for their podcast based on their biome.  I'm thinking about doing something with fifth grade and podcasts soon too.  More to come.

Google Docs (and more)

In case you haven't heard yet, Google owns the internet.  As part of their continued domination, they have added many tools that people can use to be more productive, access information, and collaborate more effectively. 

Google Docs (short for documents) allows people to edit documents synchronously (or not).  Google also provides a few different types, with documents similar to word documents, excel documents, and powerpoint documents (noticing a trend?), as well as drawing forms and tables.  In addition to the docs that Google provides, the public is free to add templates that others can use, including calendars and budget forms.  

I have never used Google Docs with my students (as in letting them create and share).  One big roadblock is that they need gmail accounts, which I am steering way clear of to avoid problems.  A classmate and I were considering using Google docs for a telecollaborative project, but would prefer to use a service that doesn't require an email account. 

Still, there are many uses for Google Docs inside the school.  Earlier this year I had students complete a short survey for the guidance counselor.  She used the data to get to know students better.  Administration used Google Docs to gather info that was typically collected using paper and pencil. 

How do I plan to use Google Docs?  One possibility that sticks out to me is a survey at the beginning of the year.  I could gather info about student experience/comfort with technology, interests, and more.  I did something similar (with chart paper and markers) this year, but I would prefer the Google Docs because it allows all students to respond, and I can chart the data.  In this way, I can get to know the students and their needs.

Here is a link to access Google Docs

Here is a link to a sample survey that I will be using next year.  Feel free to fill it out so I can practice using the data.  I filled it out, and I like how it stores data in a database (similar to excel) so that I can look for trends.  For instance if I notice that none of my students have used Google Earth before, I know I need to really prepare them.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


  Blogging is a popular Web 2.0 tool.  Blogs allow authors to share information, often themed, with people using the internet.  Information is typically posted chronologically, and sometimes the public is invited to share ideas by posting.  In fact, some blogs are more considered to be in the public domain as since groups and companies sponsor them while the public responds. 

  Teachers can use blogs with their students in a number of ways.  Blogs can help organize discussions, keep records, replace typical pencil and paper Q&A, and more.  Depending on a teacher's plan for using blogs with their students, different options exist for making it happen.  Still, it would benefit all teachers using blogs to set up accounts (after getting permission).  This would allow for multiple uses, possibly making it a common routine (i.e. part of closing review of content). 

  I am interested in using blogs with my older students, and will be soon requesting permission from parents.  This will hopefully allow me to do set up a class account for students.  I will be asking for ePals permission as well, so I am keeping my fingers crossed. 

One feature that can be added to blogging that I recently tried was AnswerGarden.  Using this tool, one can ask a question and receive answers from people who visit the blog.  I created one for this blog.  This will be my first attempt at posting an AnswerGarden question.  If you don't see a simpler link, use the one here:  AnswerGarden

 I like AnswerGarden because it allows for open-ended questioning.  It is also good because it does not need to be part of a blog.  It is simpler than using a blog, which should entice some teachers to use it when a blog would be too time consuming.  There are still enough tools to keep using it safely.  Teachers may use this tool to assess prior knowledge or at the end of a lesson/unit.   My favorite thing about it though is that it allows the students to see other answers.