Glogster—Replace Your Flimsy Poster with a Digital One

Glogster is a web 2.0 tool that helps students create digital posters for class projects. Unfortunately, the one glog that explains all about Glogster doesn’t work. In its place, I’ve selected a few from the Glogpedia as great representations of what Glogster can do (see below).

Pricing

Glogster is a paid service. There are three pricing tiers available for elementary, secondary, and faculty. Head on over to Glogster for more specific numbers/detail.

ACCESS: Education ONLY

Sadly, Glogster and its awesomeness is only available for educational use. It has a .com address, but it is frequently called GlogsterEDU. There is no commercial product available. It is truly a shame because I think there a some business meetings that could cease to exist if a link to a Glogster was just emailed instead. Just think of how much time you could save NOT listening to THAT GUY asking the same question three times and then playing Devil’s advocate.

iPad App

Have an iPad and an a Glogster login? Then, according to the marketing copy, you can “experience the new standard for learning anytime, anywhere with our iPad application – built from the ground up for a truly engaging learning experience. See Glogpedia at its very best with a sleek new browser, and express your ideas instantly with enhanced editing functionality.” Sweet. Still need to download the free app? Here’s a link.

Glogpedia Content Library

Students make glogs and some of them are available to the public for examples, enjoyment, or you know, educating. Sometimes you just need to school someone one Newton’s Laws or the Oxford Comma using some sweet graphics and videos. If you happen to find yourself in that type of situation, visit the Glogpeida Content Library to find the perfect lecture, sans lecture*.

  • “Boom!” and “Booyah!” not included.

Sample Glogs

For the following Glogs, you may need to expand into full-screen mode as some of them are widescreen glogs. A message may also pop up about Flash. It is okay to click allow.

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!

iPad as the Teacher’s Pet: An Infographic

This infographic was created by @TonyVincent.  It is the most thorough, most informative, and most helpful iPad app infographic for education that I have seen.   This infographic is more than just a .jpg or .png file; it was uploaded to Scribd, so that the included links to the apps or other websites would work.

On Tony’s blog entry for this infographic he also posted links to download a 6-page version to print or a very large 24-page version to piece together to make a poster.

Rubrics

I think we can all agree on the merits of rubrics. I’ve read numerous articles that support the use of rubrics. Personally, I like them. And while they may take more time to develop in the beginning, it makes my job of grading much more efficient. I would not go as far as to say that rubrics make grading “easier” because rubric or not, I still need to evaluate a subjective demonstration of knowledge in an objective way.  However, rubrics can expedite the process by allowing me to simply circle common items instead of repeatedly writing the same comment. Rubrics can assist the teacher is being objective and fair with essay #1 as well as essay #25 and #50. I am all for rubrics.

The strongest argument in favor of rubrics is that they convey to students exactly what they will be graded on and exactly how they’ll be graded.  It eliminates the excuses, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that” or “I didn’t know I was going to be graded on this” and even, “I didn’t know that was going to be worth so many points.”  A rubric outlines the teacher’s expectations ahead of time.  Additionally, it can help a teacher decide if this assignment is a good assessment of this skills taught.

But there are drawbacks, too.  Ones that have me second-guessing and re-thinking rubrics.

I am conflicted on when I should hand out the rubric. I definitely agree that for major assignments, it should be in advance of the due date, but how far in advance? Within the same breath as in explaining the assignment?  Even before explaining the assignment?  The day before the assignment is due? Not at all? Does it depend on how significant the education demonstration is? As in, large-scale projects should get the rubric a few weeks ahead of time, but for shorter assignments, for example a week turnaround time, aren’t required to give out in advance?   Does it depend on the academic level of the students?  Should middle school students always have a rubric but by they time they are upperclassmen in high school they should need one for every assignment?

The information I gather from conversations and research is that all students, regardless of age and academic level, should receive the rubric right away. Immediately after explaining the assignment (or even part of the explanation of the assignment) is the optimal time in which I must hand out rubric. “Because students need to know what is expected of them for the assignment before they go off in a wrong direction.”

I strongly disagree with giving the rubric in the same conversation as the assignment.

Sure, students should know what they’re being graded on. However…I want the students to explore the assignment on their own first. If I give them a list of expectations from the get-go, following them to the “letter” will be the only direction they will go in. Students will rarely deviate from the rubric. They will not think outside the box. Heck, they probably won’t even read the directions to the assignment!  They will be so narrowly focused on meeting every expectation on the rubric and then demand to know why they did not receive 100% for “checking off” each expectation.  Exceeding expectations will not be considered because they may fear being “marked down” rather than “earning more points”.

I write explicit directions. For the first few days or weeks, depending on the length of the assignment, students should have free reign over the possibilities. I’m not there to teach robots. I’m not evaluating people on the degree to which they jumped through my hoops.  I’m teaching people to think for themselves and exceed my expectations.

Additionally, rubrics have given students this false sense of “if I do all of this, then I get 100% and I’ll get an A.”  Students approach a project with the expectation of getting 100% and get upset when they do not achieve it.  I’ve heard time and time again, student’s ask me, “what did I do wrong?”  Not, “What could I learn more about/study more in order to achieve at a higher level?”  They expect to be “given” an A, not “earn” an A.  Students will not put in the effort required for “outstanding” A-level work, and then demand I give extra credit so they can raise their overall grade so their parents will let them do or have whatever it is they want.  Rubrics have instilled this “checklist” mentality into students.

This type of spoon-feeding education has to stop. “School” should not exist in its own little “education” or “school” bubble. It should be preparing you for life. It should be instilling you with knowledge (book-smarts) and creative ingenuity (street-smarts). I never received a rubric that outlined every minute detail that I was to write. The teacher was not going to write my paper for me. I had to figure it out. And when current high school students get to the real world in a couple of years, and start asking their boss 100 questions on exactly what he or she is looking for the employee to do, the boss will give directions, but not a rubric.

Teachers wonder why students are so needy? You’ve programmed them to be. You’ve instructed them that they must do what you tell them, when you tell them, and how you tell them, and now they are unable to function without this dependency.

Let’s explore the real world here. Pretend “Jane” is the stocker at the local chain bookstore. Her boss, “Fred” has 10 stockers he’s managing, dealing with technology issues and irate customers, and paperwork stacked all over his desk. Jane comes in to work and Fred tells her to “re-stock” the mystery section. He points her to some boxes that the previous stocker was working with and tells her to put them on the shelves. Fred isn’t going to give Jane a rubric that says “authors are alphabetized, there are at least four copies of each book, spines are facing outward, and to turn some popular books 90 degrees to have the front cover facing out instead of the spine”. He may off-hand tell this to Jane. He may have told her or shown her how the store expects books to be shelved—during her training 6 months ago. And she’s not going to be assessed on completion that means “if it appears like there are books on the shelves, that’s good”. He’ll spot check certain books.  And when he yells at her to “do it again”, if she asks him 100 times to come look at what she’s doing to “just make sure she’s doing it right”?….Yeah, not really the type of employee that’s going to stick around.  But one that takes the initiative to remember what was said during her training and does it correctly the first time?  That’s one that will stick around and be promoted.

So what are rubrics teaching students? They may assist students in gaining the full points from the teacher, but if the student is unable to figure out on their own what the teacher wants from the directions given, he or she needs to learn to ask specific questions at the appropriate time. Students need to let go of the safety vest that is a rubric. It’s not the gospel. It should help guide the students in refining their work, not define the scope for them. Students should not be learning to accept cutting corners and losing a few points in order to fit everything in their busy schedule in.

Rubrics are beneficial, yes.  But if I see students relying on them too much, then I’m going to pull back on giving them to students.  I may give them to the students during the last third of the time frame for working on the project.  I certainly do not want rubrics limiting creativity, but I still want to use them because their essential purpose is to communicate more effectively.

Side note: RubiStar is an excellent web 2.0 tool for creating rubrics.

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!

Wordle

Wordle: Teaching and Technology

Wordles are great for introducing new units, new vocabulary (or the word bank on a quiz), or as a poster in your classroom with words describing your subject.

Essentially, Wordles are composite images that display key terms or words to describe something.  You’ve probably seen them around – on websites or printed graphics.  They look professional and look like you invested some time in making them.  However, they only take seconds to create online because Wordle is a web 2.0 tool.

There are numerous Wordles already made that you can use in the classroom as well.  To check them out, look at the gallery.  To create your own, simply go to Wordle.net and click “create“.  There are two options: paste in a bunch of a text or paste a URL of a blog/website that has an Atom or RSS feed and it will pull words for you.  In seconds it will create a “word cloud” for you.

You can then easily adjust the color scheme, the font, and the direction of the words with just the click of a button.  If you’re not sure what you want, don’t worry, there’s a “randomize” button that will help.  Once you’re finished, you can just print the Wordle or you can save it to the public domain as well.

Feel free to read the Terms of Service, but the essential copyright terms are this: it’s yours.  You own the copyright (unless you save it into the public domain).  You can put it on whatever you want.  You can profit off of it.  And there is no need to credit Wordle.net if you don’t want to.  Of course, the applet that creates the Wordle is copyrighted, so if you’re interested in the those terms, you’ll have to read the Terms of Service.

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.

Google Lit Trips

I like Google Lit Trips.  It helps visually orient readers to locations in a book that can be somewhat confusing.  As Google Earth’s capabilities grow, I hope the current trips will be updated to include even more detail.  I also plan to periodically check the site for new Google Lit Trips for other books that I am either teaching or reading.

I’ve created a video using Camtasia screen recording software to explain Google Lit Trips and demonstrate it. This software was quite a challenge for me, but I’ll leave that review for another post.

The video has been uploaded to my educational YouTube channel.

The video is copyrighted using Creative Commons.