Kindle Unlimited: Not Worth Your Money

Have you heard?  Netflix for books has arrived!  Amazon now offers a new service called Kindle Unlimited.  For a nominal fee of $9.99/month ($119.88) you can “enjoy unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audio books on any device.” Sounds excellent, right?  Sorry, no.  It’s not worth your money.  Here’s why:

    • Borrowing books, not buying them…so there is a limit on how many you can have out a time.
    • Not included in Amazon Prime
    • Do not have access to all Kindle books
    • Better/More Popular selection available for FREE through your local public library using the app OverDrive.
    • Not a new, innovative idea

Borrowing Books, Not Buying Them Did you actually read the all the fine print or just watch the sailboat video?  I’ll say it plainly so there are no questions: you are borrowing books, not buying them.  The subscription service is not “get unlimited books for $10/month”, it is “borrow 10 books at time, as frequently as you want for $10/month”.  That’s right, you’re actually restricted to “ten books at a time and there are no due dates.”  While the restriction seems logical…it’s not so awesome if your family shares an Amazon account. A caveat of borrowing Kindle books is this: once you return the book, any annotations and notes you make are gone.  Technically, they are inaccessible because they are saved as a separate file on your Kindle, so if you borrow the book again your notes will be there…as long as you didn’t accidentally delete the “letter” that states your rental expired.

Not Included In Amazon Prime Kindle Unlimited is not added into the Amazon Prime subscription.  It’s an extra cost.  However, if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle, each month you can read free books through the Kindle First and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (about 500,000 titles).

Do Not Have Access to All Kindle Books Did you read the first paragraph thoroughly or did you just skim right over the 600,000 titles number? Or did the difference simply not register?  Amazon boasts “over 1 million books are available for the Amazon Kindle”.  Let’s do some simple math: 1,000,000-600,000=400,000 Kindle books that Amazon has that are not available for Kindle Unlimited. So what accounts for the large difference? Five major publishing houses opted not to participateSimon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, MacMillan, and Penguin.  So while Scholastic and HoughlinMifflin Harcourt are participating, there is a noticeable lack of New York Times Bestsellers.

Better/More Popular Selection Available through OverDrive and Your Local Library OverDrive is a free app that you can download to your iPad/iPhone/iPod, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle, Nook, Mac, and Windows.  Once downloaded, you log into OverDrive using your library card and pin/password that was given to you at the library.  If you have any trouble with this, consult your local library. Be advised: the availability of books for you may differ from someone else as availability depends on what subscription your public library has with OverDrive. You can filter search results by format: Audio book, Adobe ePub, OverDriveREAD, Adobe PDF EBook, and Kindle.  Yes, you can borrow several Kindle books through OverDrive that are unavailable through Kindle Unlimited.

Not a New Concept There are already a few eBook subscriptions sites available: Scribd, Oyster, and Entitle, just to name a few.

Not Worth Your Money So, why is Amazon charging an extra $9.99/month to borrow books that I can digitally borrow on my iPad through OverDrive and my local public library for free?  It’s a great business endeavor for them, but bad for the consumer.  You’re better off either buying the ebooks, borrowing for free from your local library, or using a different subscription service that actually has some of the top publishing houses.

Stick Pick: Web 2.0 Popsicle Sticks

Popsicle sticks have been a popular choice for teachers to randomly draw names of students.  However, keeping classes organized can be difficult.  Standing in front of 30 students is not the time foStick_Pickr a game of pick up sticks.

Stick Pick is an app by Buzz Garwood and available for both the iPhone and iPad.  It costs $2.99 and can hold as many electronic Popsicle sticks as you want; all organized by class.

Stick Pick will keep used and unused names separate so keeping track of who has already had a chance to speak won’t be an issue.  When you get to the end of the tin, you can just simply reset.  Of course, you can reset the tin at any time to start over.

You can operate Stick Pick in just “Stick Only” mode where names are being drawn, or you can operate in one of several modes with stem questions being prompted from either Bloom’s Taxonomy, Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, or ESL.  You can customize a different mode for each student as well, to apply differentiated learning strategies to your classroom.

Additionally, you can utilize a few feedback buttons and gather statistical data on your discussion.  In other words, you can draw a name and click “assess” and mark if the student answered the question correctly or incorrectly.  Then, at the end of the discussion, you can go look through statistical data.

While the app is available for both iPhone and iPad, it does not appear to sync between the two devices.  This can be rather difficult if you have both devices that you use interchangeably in the classroom.  You’d have to set up the sticks on each device separately and the feedback data will not sync.

I have used Stick Pick in the classroom before to actually create more classroom interaction.  I have downloaded the app to my iPhone and then directly hooked up the phone to the projector.  I picked the first student and no matter if he or she answered correctly or not, that student still had to get up out of his or her seat to come up to the front of the classroom and hit the button to pick the next student.  There is a bit of audio noise of a tin can shaking and then all students see whose name was drawn.  After a few minutes it became more game-like to them.  They were more enthusiastic with answering and interested to see whose name would come up next.  Hint: Everyone’s name came up!  I used this to during an otherwise boring lesson on comma usage.

I have not hooked up the app on an iPad to a SmartBoard to see if the students could just tap the Smartboard and have the next stick picked, but I would definitely be interested in trying it!

Apps in the Classroom: How do you know which ones to use?

On the internet there are hundreds of articles reviewing iPad, iPhone, and Android apps that can be used in the classroom on mobile devices.  Some reviews tout how amazing and life-changing some apps are for the classroom and others reveal that certain apps just don’t live up to the hype.

But is there any way you can weed through apps on the App Store or the Android Marketplace/Google Play?  How can you evaluate apps for yourself?

According to the Texas Computer Education Association, apps should:

• be easy to use
• be easy to understand
• have no/few ads
• be subject-intensive
• connect to the classroom units of inquiry
• differentiate for users, accommodating the many ways students learn
• have skills and approaches that are real world
• require higher order thinking–which according to Bloom’s includes creating, evaluating, analyzing

But if you are more of a rubric person (after all, most teachers are…), Edudemic provides a list that works quite well if you copy and paste it into a Google Doc.

Overview of the App

  • App Title:
  • App Publisher/Developer:
  • Version:
  • Link to App Store:

Curriculum Compliance

  • Yes/ No – Is it relevant to the curriculum framework?
  • Please add any additional comments regarding implementation.

Operational

  • Yes/ No – Is navigation easy? For example, index, contents, menus, clear icons
  • Yes/ No – Is on-screen help and/or tutorial available?
  • Yes/ No – Does it have multiple ability levels?
  • Yes/ No – How does it respond to errors? For example, incorrect spelling.
  • Yes/ No – Are there audio/video options with controls?
  • Yes/ No – Can selected material be tagged, copied, pasted, saved, and printed?
  • Yes/ No – Does it keep a history of the user’s work over a period of time?
  • Yes/ No – Features that address special needs? E.g. physical, aural, visual, ESL.
  • Yes/ No – What support materials are included? For example, online resources, booklet, lesson plans, student worksheets?

Pedagogy

  • Yes/ No – Does the material accommodate diverse ways in which students learn?
  • Yes/ No – Is it developmentally and age appropriate?
  • Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity to increase students’ understanding?
  • Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity for higher order thinking?
  • Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity for engagement and interaction?
  • Yes/ No – Does it provide opportunity for collaborative practice & idea sharing?
  • Yes/ No – Does it promote creativity and imagination?
  • Yes/ No – Does it provide an opportunity for problem solving?
  • Yes/ No – Does it provide feedback and assessment?

Need a bit more formalized rubric?  Kathy Schrock has a iPad App Evaluation rubric in PDF form you can download and use.

These three guides came from an article, “Friday Five: Top 5 iPad Apps for Your Classroom,” written by Jacqui Murray for TeachHub.com.  Using these guides, she recommends the following 5 apps: Babakus, GarageBand, Educreations Interactive Whiteboard,Google Earth, andTimed Test Arcade for iPhone. Read Murray’s article for her rationales.

 

Murray, Jacqui. “”Friday Five: Top 5 iPad Apps for Your Classroom.”  TeachHub.com.  Web.

Edmodo

Facebook is great for connecting people together.  But some people are a bit wary of friending their parents, let alone their teacher.  LinkedIn is a great social networking site for professional networking…and Edmodo is a great social networking site for education.

I’ve been using Edmodo a bit during my long-term guest teaching position these last few months.  It has been helpful for connecting with students.  Since I’ve been logging in under the teacher I’ve been guest teaching for, I haven’t done too much, but I’ve talked with students.  They love the fact that teachers can post PDFs on its library, that they can message their teachers or other students in their class without needed to give out phone numbers, and that they don’t need to write reminders down because teachers post reminders.

Edmodo is free and lets you register as teacher, student, parent, or administrator.  Teachers create groups in which students can join via link or secure code given by the teacher.  Once students are in the groups, teachers can post notes, alerts, polls, quizzes, and assignments to one or more groups as well as individual students.

Besides groups, teachers can join communities according to subject matter.  This connects teachers to others through the entire Edmodo network in order to share content, ideas, or to simply brainstorm.

Also, teachers can install certain apps to their Edmodo for use with students.  For example, Subtext, can be used through Edmodo.  Teachers can share content, annotate it, or see students’ annotations.  Subtext also works with iPads as well.  And speaking of iPads, Edmodo has free apps for the iPad,  iPhone, and on Google Play.

Students have not complained to me about Edmodo and neither have any of the teachers I know who use it.  However, just like with all technologies, students who do not have access to internet at home or on a mobile device may find Edmodo to be a bit of an issue.

Jobulator

This year I am guest teaching while I finish my Master’s degree.  It works out quite well for me.  I can teach during the day and leave at the end of the school day without having any additional grading or lesson planning.  I can also take off as many days as needed to work on my Master’s.  There are several challenges to guest teaching, however, one in particular is that the guest teacher is responsible for accepting their own jobs.

One of the most commonly used automated systems for guest teachers is Aesop, which stands for Automated Educational Substitute Operator, by Frontline Technologies.  Essentially, it is a central database in which district personnel can create a substitute job for an employee who will be absent.  Once the job is created, it then uploaded into the substitute employee database for that district.

In years passed, the Aesop system would then call eligible substitutes until one of them accepted the job.  However, in the last few years, substitutes have been able to log on to Aesop system via computer and accept jobs online as soon as they were posted.  This led to too many people being tied to their computer, constantly hitting refresh and hoping to snag a job.  So, Frontline developed some software that could assist substitutes in regaining some of their “freedom” back.  This software is called Jobulator.

At first, Jobulator was only available on the desktop.  It was a program that ran in the background and an alert with a sound would notify the substitute employee when a job had been posted.  The person could walk over to their computer and click “accept”.  While this was definitely a step in the right direction towards substitute employee freedom, it was not enough.  The employees were still tied to being within hearing distance of their computers.

Jobulator Mobile was then created to finally break those chains.  It works wonderfully, the substitute employee receives a push notification to his or her iPhone or Android smartphone when a new job is posted.  Then, the employee can simply hit “accept” and immediately receive a confirmation email.  Now, a substitute employee can accept jobs wherever he or she is.  There is a drawback of course.  Since all eligible substitute employees receive the same push notification at the same time, the job will frequently be accepted within seconds.  It does take some ninja-like skills sometimes.  And if you don’t get the job?  Don’t worry, there will always be another one.

The chief complaint against Jobulator is that it a subscription service that costs $39.99/year.  Many people do not feel that it is fair to have to “pay to get jobs”.  It is important to remember that Jobulator is optional; you do not have to use it.  Also, it is imperative you differentiate Jobulator from Aesop.  While both services are provided by Frontline, the district that the substitute employee works for pays for the Aesop service and the substitute employee (optionally) pays for Jobulator.  The subscription cost of Jobulator goes toward paying for the development and maintenance of the service, however, I cannot guarantee that Frontline does not profit from it.

For some people, paying the $39.99 subscription service fee for Jobulator is too risky.  If you are considering using Jobulator but are still somewhat concerned about it, then you should watch the video or try the 30 day free-trial.  You do not have to enter in a credit card in order to participate in the trial.  You just need your name, an email address, your Aesop number, and your Aesop pin number.

There are a number of new features that will be added to Jobulator in the near future with the release of Jobulator 4.01.  These include integration into your iCal or Google calendar, French and Spanish language compatibility, and functionality on iPad and Kindle Fire.  I am especially looking forward to the calendar integration.

Personally, I love Jobulator.  I have used it to work every single day that I want to work, easily block off days for my grad school work, and always know at least a day or two (or more!) when and where I will be working.  It eliminates the rushing that comes with the Aesop system calling me late in the morning and not having enough time to eat breakfast.  Sure, the $39.99 subscription fee seems steep at first, but that boils down to 80 cents per week.  You’ll be able to recoup the cost in a half day’s worth of work, but I think the ability to wake up in the morning with enough time to prepare for the day and eat breakfast is worth at least $39.99/year.

TeachHub Magazine

Digital magazines are increasing in popularity quite rapidly.  The convenience of downloading the magazine to a tablet, the green/eco benefits of the magazine (not killing trees or what to do with the paper copy after you’re done), and, in some cases, the less expensive price-per-issue cost simply outweighs buying a magazine from the local grocery store or newsstand.

TeachHub_AprilCoverDigital magazines have also given a platform to smaller publications to have equal circulation with well-known, well-established magazines.  With lower overhead costs, many publications are able be able sustain their print edition through the sales of their digital edition, or even to survive in digital form only.  One publication to debut in digital form only, is TeachHub Magazine.  It is a recent publication, only three issues published, March, April, and May (just published yesterday!).

If you are unfamiliar with TeachHub.com, you need to become fast friends. The site focuses on the field of education, teaching, and technology.  TeachHub Magazine is available free on Newsstand for the iPad and, just recently, the iPhone.  And when I mean free, I don’t mean the app is free but you have to pay for the magazine, I mean the magazine is free.  Always. Forever.  The K-12 Teachers Alliance (website sponsor) promises never to charge for it.TeachHub_AprilContents

So what’s inside?  Teacher stories, both funny and inspiring, articles on professional development, technology reviews, book reviews, movie reviews, articles on bullying, articles on Common Core, and essentially, articles to help you be a better educator, advocate, parent, or student.

TeachHub Magazine takes advantage of the digital publication medium.  It’s interactive, and it’s more than just hyperlinks.  There are embedded video clips, “tap to reveal answer”‘ prompts, scrolling top to bottom to read an article and left to right to flip between articles, and “tap here to connect” to further your reading/understanding of the topic.

The magazine is a quick read, there are only about 20-some pages in each issue; however, the information is very helpful, reassuring, informative, and current.  Some topics they cover I already know a bit about.  It’s great to be reassured that I am current on at least a few ideas.  The information on bullying, Common Core, apps for the iPad, and reviews are succinctly informative.  They don’t need to go on for pages and pages like professional journal articles because the magazine has a more general audience than professional journals.  Another bonus of its succinctness–the lists of items (i.e. workout tips or music apps) are helpful because they boil down all the possible options into small steps that are feasibly implementable tomorrow.  Articles that I’ve read so far in the March and April issues (still reading the May one!) are the same topics covered in recent blog posts.  TeachHub Magazine infuses as much technology into their digital publication as possible without being so overwhelming that it comes across as trying to hard.  I find it to be a perfect balance.

Speaking of perfect balance, there are no ads in the magazine, either.  At the end of the magazine there are two full-page advertisements: one for TeachHub.com and one for the sponsor of TeachHub.com, the K-12 Teachers Alliance.

For a completely free magazine, there is no other in this field of this caliber.  I am impressed with each issue, impressed with TeachHub.com‘s blog posts and all the content I find on their site.  If you’ve subscribed to Teaching and Technology‘s Flipboard magazine, you’ll notice quite a few articles from TeachHub.com have been flipped into it.

Flipboard

Flipboard is an app for the iPad, iPhone, and Android that connects the best aspects of print media with the best parts of social media. It gives the user the organization of newspaper sections, the appearance and functionality of magazines, and the sharing capabilities of social media.

It has been around for quite some time; in fact, I downloaded it about a year ago. At the time it did not function like I wanted it to, or perhaps I didn’t understand it well enough, or even a not-so-friendly user interface made seeing its potential difficult. I abandoned it in favor of Google Reader. I was content with saving my RSS feeds to Goggle Reader, and we got along quite well. Recently, I logged into Google Reader to find an announcement: Google was going to retire its Reader. I cringed. We were so happy…I understood Google’s explanation for discontinuing he service, but I was sad…how will I aggregate my RSS feeds now? I did not want to bookmark them and individually go to them every day; there had to be an acceptable RSS reader somewhere. Flipboard was back on my radar.

Flipboard is amazing. You can save each individual RSS feed as its own tile on the Flipboard screen. This allows you to go specifically only to that feed if you want. However, there is a feature titled “Cover Stories” where it pulls popular items from all your feeds and you can leaf through the most frequently looked at.

Flipboard TilesThis app goes beyond RSS feeds. As I mentioned above, it combines the sharing capabilities of social media. Connect as many of your social media networks as you want, for example, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Google+, and Tumblr. Not only can you post to these accounts, but Flipboard retrieves the feeds from these sources as well. You can have a tile on your Flipboard that goes directly to your Twitter feed, but items from each of these feeds will appear in “Cover Stories”.

Flipboard also has an abundance of interest categories you can select to creat tiles on your Flipboard. When you tap that particular tile, you can view articles relating to that interest. There are subcategories within each interest to showcase more specific information, such as a particular style of humor, entertainment publication, or sports team.

In other words, “Cover Stories” pulls from all your social networks, all your RSS feeds (blogs), news sources, and interests. You can select to just view one individually or scan thorough all and see the “highlights”. Just like a newspaper, the front section is the highlights but there are more specific sections as well.

Flipboard is formatted for the user to flick from right to left to see more content. It mimics the movement of turning a page, but without it being too page-like. There are no fake pages that curl as you move your finger; however, the illusion of turning pages is present. Flipboard doesn’t mimic the look of paper because it isn’t an imitation of anything; it is its own app with its own defining characteristics.

imageAmong those characteristics is its newest feature: magazines. Magazines allow you to save any item from Flipboard into a “magazine”, which is basically like your own interest category. You can make magazines public or private. A private magazine would be great to save articles you’d like to read later. A public one would be one you’d like to share with anyone. Instead of posting links on Twitter or Facebook, Flipboard allows you to “flip” an article into the collection and people who have added that magazine to their tiles can instantly see it. If you have Flipboard already, check out Teaching and Technology’s Flipboard Magazine. If you don’t have Flipboard, you should download it. It is available for iPad, iPhone, and Android.

PlanbookEdu

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Paperwork.  We’re always doing paperwork.  Teachers are, by far, no exception.  There is paperwork before and after units, as well as the day-to-day lessons.

How much time does writing out lessons in your lesson plan book take?  Hours, I bet.  PlanbookEdu has a great 21st century, web 2.0 solution to lesson plan books drudgery.

Now don’t get me wrong—PlanbookEdu won’t eliminate the need for lesson plans or aligning them with Common Core and/or State Standards.  But what it does do is cut hours off your time writing it all down.

In their own words, PlanbookEdu is “the simpler, smarter lesson planner.”  Why?  “Your lesson plans are available anywhere and are simple to create.”  How simple?  All within the word processing-like editor for each lesson you can “attach files, Common Core Standards, print, export to Word or PDF”.  You can:

Oh, and if you have re-occurring lessons or activities (i.e. reading workshop, writer’s workshop, etc), just a couple of clicks after you type in your lesson will lead being able to repeat something without having to write it over and over and over and over and over again.

There is a small caveat.  Not all of it is free.  On PlanbookEdu‘s homepage, there is comparison chart of what is available with a free account and what features are only available through the measly $25/year premium account.  At first you’re probably thinking, $25?  No thanks, I’ll pass.  Before you do, did you:

  1. Realize that $25 is per YEAR, not month
  2. Calculate how much money do you spend on a lesson plan book?  About $10/book?  So it’s about the cost of 2 books plus tax.
  3. Look at what you’re getting for $25/year…the ability to attach documents, share your plan book, collaborate with other colleagues (and have one book!), embed your plan book on your website, printing and exporting capabilities.

    planbookimage2

    Word Processing-Like Editor

So while it is true that you have to pay for the best parts about PlanbookEdu, you can still can create your own plan books, access them from anywhere (including your iPad and iPhone), and the ability to set the class rotations (i.e. A/B days).  And just in case you were on the fence about whether or not you might use these additional features, PlanbookEdu gives you an initial, free, 14-Day trial of the premium account.  Yup, just long enough for you to get used it, fall completely eraser over pencil tip in love with the features, but not long enough for you to change your mind.  Sneaky!

I’ve only had the account one day and I’m already planning on purchasing the premium account.  As a student teacher, I love the fact that I can embed my calendar onto my website and have the University and school staff who are observing me have my whole calendar in front of them.  It’s embedded into a page on my class Weebly site (which I have changed my mind on my opinion of Weebly), and they can quickly and easily see the Common Core benchmarks I am working on that day, download any documents they may need, and not have to feel like s/he is pestering me for the documents ahead of time.

But just like all technology, some things just aren’t as private as they used to be.  There are security measures I can turn on both at PlanbookEdu and on Weebly; however, I am striving for simplicity for those who are evaluating me.  Thus, I cannot put “pop quizzes” that I plan to give on PlanbookEdu because it is open to all.  I can restrict it by email address on Weebly (but that requires a pro account and I do not feel the need to pay Weebly for that service.  I can work around it) or I can password protect my plan book on PlanbookEdu and put certain email address on an “allow” list.

So my three choices are

  1. Pay Weebly and password protect the page the plan book is embedded on
  2. Pay PlanbookEdu for a premium account, restrict access (vs. open access) to my plan book, and write down the email addresses of those who I will allow access to it.
  3. Do nothing and figure out another plan.

I have chosen Bachelor Number 3.  I have formal unit plans and lesson plans that are very detailed.  The one downfall of all of those lesson plans is that I am unable to get a “week-at-a-glance” big picture when I’m swamped down explaining every detail of every activity.  But if I combine the strengths of both PlanbookEdu and my elaborate Word document unit and lesson plans, I can get the best of both.  The premium account lets me print directly from my browser to have a “week-at-a-glance” printed out and on my desk.  I can then make some handwritten changes on it as the lessons progress and then changed them on the plan book.  Most likely, since the high school has wireless internet, I’ll be able to change the lesson right there on my iPad.

There is so much more I could explore: bumping lesson from one day to the next due to unforeseen circumstances.  Curious as to what the embedded plans look like?  Check below to see my embedded lesson plans for my student teaching.  Another option is to see what it looks like on my class Weebly site.

**Please note.  I no longer have a subscription to PlanbookEdu so my embedded plans are “invalid”.  I have left the embedded frame here to illustrate that they can be embedded.**

Do you have a shared and/or embedded plan book from PlanbookEdu?  Comment with the link and I’ll definitely check it out.  Do you use another plan book website?  Sound off your opinion in the comments!

Quizlet

Sometimes, the tried and true study methods really are the best ways to learn.  One of the those studying tools is flashcards.  Flashcards have helped me learn vocabulary (in both English and Spanish), practice simple math calculations, and memorize information.  I can use them by myself or with a classmate/friend.  The only problem with flashcards is the lengthy time it takes to make them.

Quizlet solves that problem.  Quizlet is a free website the allows users to create electronic flashcards and share them (if they want) with anyone. This means that a flashcards deck only needs to be created once, by one person.  How does it save time?  A teacher can create flashcards for the entire class provide the link to all the students.  One student can a deck for the entire study group with only the amount of time that it takes to make one deck.  You can even have each group member contribute to creating the flashcards deck (and it’s typed – no handwriting issues!).  A flashcards deck can be downloaded an infinite number of times—for free.  Additionally, if the document is already electronic, the user can copy and paste the information onto their electronic flashcards which can save some time.

However, it’s not just the sharing with group members that is helpful—it’s the ability to “publish” the flashcards deck so anyone can download and use the deck.  For instance, anyone who has studied French, Spanish, German, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, or nearly any major language, has heard of the the 501 Verbs book for that language.  Each book contains the conjugations (and meanings) of 501 verbs.  How long do you think it would take you to make a flashcards deck for 501 infinitive verbs and their translated meanings?  Hours.  But with Quizlet, only one person has to invest the time to make the deck.  And let me tell you, it’s already been done.  You can go download a flashcards deck for the Spanish 501 verbs, right now.  In fact, I embedded one in the post.

Creating the electronic flashcards is easy.  In fact, you can even start creating flashcards before you even make an account with Quizlet.  Click the “create” button and you’ll be taken to a screen where you just need to fill in the information.  Name the flashcards set, pick the subject, decide who is allowed to view and/or edit the cards, and then input the data.  You can fill in the cards simply by typing and hitting the tab button (fingers don’t even need to leave the keyboard!) or by copying and pasting information.  Want pictures?  Just click the “add images” selection.  Have all the data in an Excel or other database file?  You can import it.

The Quizlet Dashboard keeps track of all the flashcards decks you’ve ever looked at.  So don’t worry if you saw this really cool deck but you can’t remember the title of it or the username of the person who uploaded it.  Quizlet’s got your back.  You can even link your account with (or create an account using) Facebook.  How can that help you?  Let’s say you’re classmate and you are friends on Facebook and both of you use Quizlet but you have no idea that each other use it.  Quizlet will tell you “hey, your friend just viewed this deck” or “your friend just made this deck”.  You won’t even need to remember to send the link to your classmate…Facebook and Quizlet will do it for you.  Or, you can create a deck and publish an announcement to Facebook and all your friends can click on the link and use the deck.  Again, Facebook and Quizlet, doing the work for you.

But wait!  There’s more!  Quizlet has an iPhone app.  You can download the electronic flashcards to your iPhone and take them wherever you go to study.  You can study on the commuter train or bus, while waiting in line, or waiting at an appointment, etc. Now I know you don’t want to use every minute to study, but the important thing isn’t so much where and when you can study, but that you have options.  You don’t have to invest hours into making the flashcards, worry about losing a card when you’re using them, or sit at the computer to study.  Don’t have an iPhone?  No worries – the mobile website works well on any device.

I’ve embedded a flashcards deck of Spanish 501 infinitive verbs and their English translations.  You can also see it on Quizlet’s website.

Quizlet also goes beyond just flashcards.  They have six different ways you can use the data to study.  So now you really have no excuse…go study!

Weebly and the Class Website

As I wind down my English Language Learners tutoring in preparation for student teaching, I have come to realize most of my student resources are for ESL/ELL students.  I have also come to realize that using Moodle for keeping resources available to students will no longer be my best option.  Additionally, I have found that my tutoring students rarely logged into Moodle.  I want to make class and English/Language Arts resources available to all my students as well as all high school students in the world.  I’ve heard some good things about Weebly, a website that makes website developing and blog posting easy, and its market towards classroom websites.  So I’ve spent some time re-working my Moodle database and learning Weebly.

In my opinion, Weebly is great for someone who needs something to look professional, who has no idea what s/he is doing, and needs a blog-like format.  But for me, Weebly just doesn’t work for my needs as classroom website.

Weebly can effectively integrate blog and standard webpages.  You can have a static homepage and contact page, but a dynamic blog for each class.  If you utilize Weebly to its full potential, students and teachers can log in and interact, posting videos and content from iPhones.  You can have the site hosted on Weebly’s servers or you can buy your own domain for your Weebly-built site.  There are tons of “you can do this or that” with Weebly.  But when you really look at it, what Weebly offers is a ton of “services” but the user-experience and customization is limited.  And that’s its downfall for me.  I may use Weebly in the future for a class blog, but for the purposes of a class website where I can list resources upon resources?  I’ll keep searching.

Browsing for resources will be difficult.  Students don’t want to scroll and scroll down long pages.  Thus, I’ll either have to eliminate resources or create pages upon pages and I just don’t think that it’s practical.  I want to be able to create modules that can have links to documents to download as well as other websites without having so much space in between (take a look at what I mean).

I am also restricted to their customizations.  Sure, I have quite a bit of breathing room to change out pictures and choose from over 30ish templates–but that’s only 30 templates.  I’m used to having a bit more freedom when I use Dreamweaver.  Sure, I love clicking a button and having all the code done for me (it saves hours, maybe even days in the long run), but I’ve run into a few instances where I wanted to deleted something or move something to the left or right and I was unable to do so.  I became frustrated quickly with titles in particular as well as modules not moving to where I wanted them to go.

In essence, Weebly is great for a class blog, but not for a class website which typically is more of a database of resources.

Check out my “work in progress” Weebly/Class Website.