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

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!