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.