Thoughts on different technologies to use in the classroom...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Google Reader

I wanted to reflect just a little on Google Reader.  I had never used this tool before this blog project.  I find that it is just one more aspect of Google that keeps me as a fan.  I love that I can look at my list and see who has updated their blog and I can read the entries and mark them as unread if I want to go back to it, or mark them as read.  There is a feature that lets you "like" an entry- I used this a few times when I liked an entry and there was something I wanted to go back to later, but I really did not have anything to comment or add to the discussion.
I added a star to one entry that I want to go back to, and Google Reader will let me show just that entry in my list if I choose that option from the top of my menu bar.
One thing I did not like is that I had trouble accessing blog entry comments, or even determining if there were comments.  The only way I found to access the comments of other blogs was to go to the blog directly.  This was a bit cumbersome at times, especially if I just wanted to read the comments without adding one.
I discovered that Google Reader, under Explore,  suggested other popular Ed Tech blogs that I might be interested in subscribing to.  I did check them out and found that 2 looked interesting and subscribed to those, but ignored another 3 that were suggested. 
Last, it is easy to create folders that allow the reader to organize the blogs they follow.  I found this helpful as I added other blogs to my list that I want to follow, yet I could keep them separate from my classmate's blogs.
I can see potential uses in the classroom.  A teacher could make a list of blogs with information relevant to a topic in order  for students to research information using blogs instead of the more traditional online databases.  Students could also choose a topic of their own and then make a list of blogs to follow.  I am not sure that my students this year could keep up with such an assignment, but it is something to keep in mind for the future.
I hope to keep up with following my blog list by using Google Reader.  I have learned so much; I want to keep it up!

More Great Features of Edmodo!

I have been experimenting with my Edmodo site and am even more excited about this tool.  I have to try it in my class!  The possibilities are exciting- it could be the format of a collaborative long-distance project or just a way for students to connect and share ideas about your unit of study.  Reviewing for a test?  Students could post their questions they have and other students could "tutor" them with answers.  Researching a topic?  Students could share exciting sources.  Writing papers?  Students could ask their peers to help edit a difficult passage.  I am sure that you can think of other ideas.  Here is a blogger's list of social networking sites for education and some of their uses: Box of Tricks.  At the top of his list:  Edmodo!
I have been adding things to my Edmodo page.  I created a group, and was having trouble adding students to it.  As it turns out, when the group is created, you are given a code.  Students, once they set up their account in Edmodo, just use the code to join the group.  Simple: the teacher does not have to enter each student into a group; they put themselves into the proper one. 
There is also a calendar page on your site.  When you enter an event into the calendar, it gives a text box with the groups that should be notified.  A message then goes to all groups or just selected groups that there will be a test.  How easy is that?

I have not tried the gradebook page, but assignments can be graded and posted on the site so that students can follow their own grades for the unit.  This is an easy way for students to keep up with turning in all their assignments.
The last page is a library page.   Here, documents, videos and links can be loaded for individual group use or for all groups to use.  I have added in a county crossword puzzle and last summer's VBA quiz, just to see how it works.  When the student clicks on a document it can be downloaded for online use or for printing.
This is a tool with the possibility of housing an entire collaborative project between any 2 classes or teachers.  Individual groups can be created, and information can flow freely between the teacher and groups or just a single group can communicate with another group.  Likewise, group members can have private exchanges between members.
I cannot wait to have the opportunity to use this in my classes.  With careful planning and class introduction, this could be great!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wordia Examples

I have been waiting for my wordia account- I have not recieved an email yet and have not been able to log in to wordia schools.  I am working on figuring out what the problem is, but in the meantime I wanted to post some examples from the commercial side of the site.  This is a new tool, and when I tried out some science words on the commercial page, such as heart and lung, there were dictionary definitions but no videos yet.  In addition, on the commercial side there are some drawbacks for use in the classroom: there are examples of how the word is currently being used on twitter.  I can see potential risks with words like heart, although artery might be safer.

Here is an example of  Wordia defining the word internet. 

If you choose the examples tab on the top of the page, you can get all videos that have been uploaded, as well as the word in use. 

This is the first video the site lists for "internet".  It is simple, using an interactive whiteboard and 2 students.  It is a YouTube video uploaded to their site....

On the positive side, it is easy to obtain a link for the definition, which could be posted on your teacher website or within a document in your teacher handout folder.  Try it for yourself: Internet definition on Wordia.

I like this tool; I hope I figure out how to get into Wordia schools so I can see if the science vocabulary is larger.

A Social Network Site for Students- Edmodo

On a listserve, I found this alternative to Facebook,  It looks very much like Facebook, yet it has the safety features we would like to have at school.  It was easy to set up an account, and the accounts are sorted by school.  If you had several teachers at your school using this tool, they would be grouped together.  You could create a different group for each class, and enter each student into the groups.  I think that this would be a great tool to use in a collaborative project, and would like to work it into the one I create.

Here is a picture of the page I created.  It was really easy to do, although I did not create any groups yet.
I copied this from their homepage, for a bit more information about edmodo.

  • Edmodo is the leading social learning network for K12 education.
  • Our social learning network

  • Edmodo is a social learning network for teachers, students, schools and districts.
  • Edmodo provides free classroom communication for teachers, students and administrators on a secure social network.
  • Edmodo provides teachers and students with a secure and easy way to post classroom materials, share links and videos, and access homework, grades and school notices.
  • Edmodo stores and shares all forms of digital content – blogs, links, pictures, video, documents, presentations, and more.
  • Edmodo is accessible online or using any mobile device, including Android and iPhones.
  • Edmodo has special institutional features for schools and districts that can be accessed for free by administrators.
  • Our company

  • Started in 2008, Edmodo was created by two school district web professionals who teamed up with education experts to address the demands of teachers and students seeking a secure social network for classroom use. Edmodo is a privately held company based in Mountain View, California
Here is an introductory video about the site.

There is also a blog about Edmodo, with a calendar of upcoming webinars that let teachers know how to use the site better,

I am really excited about this one!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wordia- an online visual dictionary

I drifted onto this web-based dictionary tool that looks interesting,  I looked at the commercial site from this link and was intrigued by the ability to type in a word and you get not only definitions but also videos that describe or use the word.  Contributors can upload their own videos to describe the word, and enter definitions as you would find in a dictionary.  Here is a YouTube video of the founder of Wordia explaining the site from 2008, when the site was brand new. However, I was nervous about the site using YouTube videos and Twitter tweets- great for the students but potentially trouble for the teacher. 

Good news- there is a Wordia Schools option.  Students can create their own pages for words and teachers can choose appropriate terms for their students.  Words are available in all subjects.  Apparently students can not only add videos of their own but keep track of their own personal dictionary and their progress.  The videos are monitored, not available on their public site.  I have signed up for an account and hope to create something soon, pertaining to one or more of the human body systems my students are studying now!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Google Docs Word Study Tool

I have played with another of the Google Docs gadgets- the Interactive word study tools.  The creator tells about them on her blog, Word Study Tools.  The format is the same as the flash cards; type in the word list in one column of a spreadsheet and type in the definitions in the second column.  Highlight the columns and insert gadget, Word Study Tools.  then choose if you want word jumble, multiple choice or fill in the blank and if the hints come from column 2 or google images.  If you choose images, it finds the pictures for you and inserts them!  I have had trouble with using column 2 as the hint, but creating a short word jumble with pictures was easy.  You can find a sample that quizzes students on the names of the body systems here: General Vocabulary Gadget
I created the list on sheet 1, which I clicked on to rename the General Vocabulary List.  After inserting the gadget, I clicked on the new square at the top left to get a gadget pull down menu.  From there I moved the gadget to its own sheet, and then renamed it Word Scramble.  Students can go back to the list if they get stuck or have a question.  I plan to introduce this tool as we review for the second quarter assessment in a few weeks, and email the link home so students can use it at home as well.  I have more vocabulary lists started and hope to finish them as well.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Google Docs Flash Cards

 I started browsing in Google Docs one day (I can’t even remember now what I was looking for) when I stumbled on to a flash card gadget.  I read the directions at How to Make Google Flash Cards  and Google Flash Cards with Pictures and decided to give it a try.  In just a few minutes I had created electronic flash cards for my students, in my words.  It was almost too easy.  All you do is type the word into a spreadsheet, and the definition in the adjoining cell.   I set it up so that anyone with the link could access it (a mistake- see below **).   I wanted my students to be able to label their diagram with the name of the digestive organ, and then give it a simple definition they could relate to.  I was very excited about the possibilities for future uses- they can make their own for other systems and they can use these for review for quizzes now and the assessment later.  Here is the link for my digestive system flashcards.  Digestive System Flashcards

If you click on the "sheet" at the bottom, you get the word list, if you click on "gadget" you get the actual flash cards.  You can use mine as a template or use the official one at Google Flash Card gadget

**Important Note:  My students had some difficulty accessing my flash cards!  I was sure I had set them up with easy access.  I learned, after the first class couldn’t access them, that they need to be set up so that anyone can access them.  Giving the link only seems to work if the recipient is logged in to their google account; otherwise they must ask for permission to access.  I should have read the details more closely the first time, but in my enthusiasm I must have missed that.  My students were then able to access the cards from both school and at home.  I emailed the link home so that parents would know what we were studying and that a tool for review was available.  

I especially like the options that are available for the flashcard user.  Reverse allows the reader to see the definition and guess the vocabulary word and shuffle mixes up the order of the flashcards.  Giving anyone access to the cards only allows them to use the cards, but I kept the editing privilege for myself.  I have already created more for the next unit that my students are working on, and by the time we get to the assessment review the students will be able to use all of the sets to review.  I think that this is such a great tool and incredibly easy to set up and use.  I can’t wait to see what else I find!

 If you want to start one from scratch, it is really easy to do.  You can open a new Google Docs spreadsheet, and then go to Insert, Gadget, and then choose from any gadget listed.  There are many to choose from!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Google Docs

Google Docs is an application that I have known about for several years but have used only a little until recently.  Oh, I knew that I could share a document with others at my school, and everyone could edit, but since the other teachers at my school were hesitant to use it, I didn’t either.  I started using Google Docs in this graduate program because it makes it so easy for a group to work on the same document and for the other writers to see what progress has been made.  Then the document can be easily copied into a Word document and the final editing and formatting can be done there.  I have found that a few things do not copy exactly into the word document, so it is better if you proofread carefully to prevent minor typos!  I wish more of the teachers I worked with were comfortable with this, but I guess that convincing them is a challenge for me.  
I have had a google account for years, and I thought that you needed to have one to use google docs, but it works just fine with any kind of email account if you invite them to join.

This year I have 7 different adults who work in my classes on a regular basis.  I have copied a planning calendar into a google doc and invited the paraeducators and co-teachers that work with me to view and edit the calendar.  That way if they are going to be out, or are just curious, they can look up the most current calendar for my class.  It saves them from wondering when the next quiz will be or when we will be doing a lab.  I gave them editing privileges so that they can type in when they will be out.  They haven't changed or added much but I know that they like the ability to view it from the convenience of their own computer.  Here is a sample from October.....Sample planning calendar

Monday, December 13, 2010

Podcasting tutorials

When I began my quest to learn how to podcast with my students, I viewed the Apple tutorial located at  Apple seems to have routed that address to iLife '11 as of 12/13/10.  However,  I have also found an excellent professional development site put up by Henrico County VA schools at  There is also a blog entry, especially helpful if using a slightly older version of GarageBand, at  By the time you watch all of these, you will be an expert!

Here is a sample of the podcasts my students created in class.  You can sense their excitement.  All of my students, from very different backgrounds and ability levels, were able to participate in this activity.  Demo podcast
I hope you enjoy it....and try this with your students!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Podcasting Issues

When I planned my podcasting project for my 7th grade students, I envisioned a 2-day project. Students had already spent some time exploring cell organelles and their functions, drawing plant and animal cells, and we went over comparing objects to everyday items. I gave them a template to use for their script, which they were free to edit if they chose, and thought that one day would be enough time for the students to write about the cell organelle they chose (randomly). There were issues with some student groups' computers, and other groups had difficulty typing into the template. A few groups did not save their script to the desktop or their document folder, so we had difficulty finding them. I did not realize their experience with templates was so limited, and I needed to give more guidance than expected with their typing, editing, and saving skills. In the future, I might just use paper scripts for the first project, just to limit the number of new skills associated with the project. The scripts were turned in to my teacher hand-in folder so that I could review them before the students recorded their projects.
The second (and third, and in a few cases fourth) day the students were to record their podcast, using the script that was opened on their computer. I demonstrated the recording techniques using a projector, gave the students written directions in electronic form, and created a podcast of directions for the students to follow. Many students were able to record their podcast in one or two tries, save it, and turn it in to the teacher hand-in folder in one class. A few were extremely critical of their voices, and deleted every attempt. Others recorded using the piano (not sure how) and had to redo. A few had trouble locating their saved file (using GarageBand, I found they automatically save to Music, GarageBand in the finder.) In the end, nearly every student did create a podcast that was then combined into a class podcast that included all of the cell organelles in one.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


After attending several sessions about podcasting in the classroom, I gathered the courage to try it. As far as I know, I am the first in my school to have students create podcasts. I created a lesson using GarageBand to create podcasts. Each student pair was given one cell organelle and a sample script. The students had to tell what the cell part's function was in the life of the cell, and then relate it to an everyday object. The students also needed to give a reason why that cell organelle related to the object. Both my students and I were excited to begin this project.
I learned so much! First, just having the students type into a script template was difficult for some. I wasn't sure if it was the template or the content that was the problem. To help them record, I created a podcast of my own that instructed them on how to record, and wrote the directions as well. I posted both in my teacher hand out folder for them to use as they needed.
What started as a 2 day assignment ended after 4 days. Technical glitches slowed us down!
The students recorded in GarageBand, exported it to a file, and then submitted the file to me in the teacher hand-in folder on the server. I then sorted them all by class and opened each one, edited out the "blank time" and copied each finished podcast into one for the entire class. To publish them, I was able to export my new longer file to the desktop, and then upload each file to the documents section of my TeacherWeb page. The last step, to add a link from my handouts folder, was the easiest part. Listening to them on the web was exciting for all of us!
Next post- sample files and technical problem tips!