Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Screencasting in the Classroom Part 2

Welcome back! If you read my last post on sceencasting in the classroom, you learned all about Camtasia Studio. You also learned how much it cost per license. If you are ready to start using screencasting with your students, but don't want to pay, then there is another option. Jing. This is a free screencasting tool that is made by Techsmith (the folks that make Camtasia). Overview below:

Jing is a very nice tool that I have tried in the past. It allows you to capture screen movements and audio, as well as take screen shots. There are a few major drawbacks that I can see. First, that there is no editor, so you better not make mistakes. Second, your videos are limited to five minutes at the most. Finally, it will only publish in an SWF format, which might not work for some settings. But, did I mention it is free? The one thing that I really like about Jing besides its price is that it also gives you a place to host your videos. Screencast.com (also by Techsmith) provides free hosting for your screencasts. Not a lot of space, but enough to get started.

Because Jing and Screencast.com are provided by Techsmith, you are getting quality tools to use and experiment with for free. Of course they are hoping to hook you into the exciting world of screencasting and get you to buy Camtasia Studio eventually, but it is a great place to start.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interactive Whiteboard with Educreations

 I was just told about a new App for the iPad the other day. Educreations turns your iPad into a interactive whiteboard complete with audio. Upon further investigation, you don't even need an iPad. You can sign up at their Website and use an online version of the same tool.

Because I just learned about Site and App, I haven't had a lot of time to work with it. Some of the things that I saw that I liked right away were: 
  • I like that you can use the iPad or your computer
  • You can record your voice while you are demonstrating
  • Add pictures from your computer or iPad (as well as Dropbox)
  • The Website lets you create classes and organize your finished lessons
  • Your finished lessons can be private, public, or public to just your school
  • You can search for other public lesson and use those that fit your needs.

Because I am in love with screencasting and hearing my own voice (my students may not agree), I really like what I see out of Educreation's Website, their online tool, and the iPad App. Give them all a try!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Screencasting in the Classroom Part 1

This is the first in a three part series on screencasting in the classroom. First of all, many of you are asking what is screencasting? Well Wikipedia defines it as, "a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration." I have used screencasting in my classroom for over five years, and love it. All of my major lectures are saved on video. If students miss class, they can access my lecture at school the next day or from home (Example). This is great for me and my students. If students miss a 20 minute lecture on using Excel formulas, I don't need to repeat that lecture for one or two students. They can watch it on their own at home or when they return to class. Students can also revisit my lecture if they need to go back review a portion of it. They can simply fast-forward to the part they need to watch again. It is a win-win for everyone involved.

I am going to start at the top of the mountain with this first post. Camtasia Studio by Techsmith. I have used this program the most over the years to record, edit, and publish the majority of my screencasts. Here is an overview:

The great thing about Camtasia Studio is that it is full-featured. You can record, edit, and publish in one place and to multiple formats. You can use the Pan and Zoom feature, add titles and transitions, and it even has a PowerPoint add-in. It is powerful! There is stuff that I have not even used, and I have using this product for a long time. It is good (did I mention that?) But, the drawback is the price. At last check, it is $299 per license. Camtasia Studio is the leader in the market when it comes to screencasting. If you can afford it and will use it, I would get it. The next couple of posts will explore some less-costly options if you want to dive into screencasting with your classroom. Until then, thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Desktop Publishing Meets Rock and Roll

If you teach desktop publishing and design, or just a little Publisher as part of an applications class, and need a fun and challenging project for your students, I have a fun book for you. Try Concert Tour Desktop Publisher. As Business Education Publishing's Website says, "In this new and exciting simulation, your students get to take their desktop publishing skills on stage as they create and design a series of documents for their own concert tour band."

I have used this simulation with my DTP classes for the last four years with positive reviews. As stated above, students need to create documents for their fictional band as they journey from the garage to a big-time record deal. Students will create such things as a business card, letterhead, concert poster, CD cover, and much more. Along the way, students are helped out by the book's example band Stonehenge.

Let your students show you the fantastic skills they have developed in your class by completing this simulation and showcase their work.

Give it a try and see what you think! 


Monday, November 7, 2011

Stay Organized with Dropbox

As technology advances and invades every aspect of our lives, I am sure that many of you are like me and tend to accumulate "computer-type" devices. At last count, I have an iTouch, iPhone, iPad, Windows laptop, two HP desktops at work (one in the classroom and one in my office), and a Mac sitting in my living room. I use different devices for different things, but ultimately, I want access to my important documents that I am working with on any of these devices; at any time. To do this, I use Dropbox. Complimentary video explanation below:

There is also an updated video on the Dropbox Website for those of you who enjoy Lee Lefever's work. Any how, I have used drop box for about six month's now and have found it to be fabulous. I like being able to "drop" something in a folder at work, edit it at home, and maybe review it while waiting for my daughter to finish her dance class. If you collaborate with others, there is also a share feature that is very useful. If you use multiple devices and like to stay organized, try it out. Dropbox is easy, free, and comes with a lot of storage.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Map Your Visitors with ClustrMaps

Do you have a Blog, Website, or Wiki? A place for your information on the Web? I used to think having a counter on my Website was cool. I could actually see that people (besides me) were looking at my info on the Web and could watch as my numbers grew. But, here is a new twist on having a counter. Do you ever wonder where the people visiting your site are located? Now you can find out with ClustrMaps. I am talking about that map up in the top left corner of my Blog that looks like this:

ClustrMaps not only shows you how many visitors you have, but puts a colored dot on a map of the world to tell you where they are located. It breaks it down by state if the visitor is from the U.S. or by country if international. Here is a link to my visitor breakdown. Pretty cool.

It you have a site on the Web that generates traffic, try using ClustrMaps to find out where they might be located. Have fun and thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Small Basic for Beginning Programmers

For those of you who might teach programming and are looking for a great beginner language, look into Small Basic by Microsoft. It is free, it is easy, and it comes with a nice, well-thought out curriculum that is down loadable as a series of PowerPoints or online. Further information and download is available here. Using Small Basic reminds me a little of my first programming class back at Davison Middle School. 32 students and two Commodore PET computers. Good times!

As always, here is a quick video:

A couple of things. One, the publish feature is pretty cool. Second, if you follow the curriculum, you graduate from text-based programs to graphics and the turtle, to controls. I teach an Introduction to Programming class using VB Express 2010 and I am going to use Small Basic as an introduction to programing theory to talk about variables, conditions, looping, etc. Then, move on to VB. I will let you know how it goes. Try it out. I think this would be awesome for a middle school beginning programming course.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Second Favorite Blog

I learned about blogs a few years ago when I started reading MGOBlog, a blog about Michigan athletics (mainly football) to keep up on recruiting news. I became quickly addicted to it. Lately I have tried to branch out and open my perspective as it relates to technology in the classroom. I found a blog titled
Teach Paperless and was impressed. Many of the writers are teachers that have woven technology into the very fabric on the courses that they teach.  Not every topic hits a home run for me, but many of them are extra base hits. It is timely and makes me think about the way I am teaching, which I enjoy. Give it a try.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Death of Website Design

There used to be a time in my freshman computer classes where we would create Websites. We would learn a little HTML, move to Dreamweaver, and use an actual Web server that students could upload and publish their finished Websites. Students loved it. They got to create, publish, and they were out there on the Web. Talk about having your students actively working, this was the unit. The finished product was not always pretty. (Surprisingly enough, most students have no design sense whatsoever) But, it was fun. Unfortunately, it has all disappeared. .
Last year, when we upgraded to Adobe CS 4 the other year, it came loaded with CSS tags and became more difficult (and less fun) for students to use. Don't get me wrong, we still make Web sites, but  thanks to Web 2.0 tools such as Weebly and Wix, students create wonderful looking Websites using pre-made templates in about half the time. Their content is about the same (mostly weak), but it looks better.
The part that makes me sad is the loss of the process. Creating and designing a Website (without the pretty templates) took some planning and forethought by students and I think that is a great skill. Even having to upload, test, fix, re-upload, test again to get everything working very beneficial for students. In the end, they were very proud of their finished product.
Wix and Weebly makes it easier and prettier, but I will forever miss the process of the "old way" of doing things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moodle, Moodle, Moodle

Admit it, it is fun to say. It rhymes with poodle (which I have a deep hatred for) and I still like it. But, what is Moodle and what is it all about. Lets take a quick at a video to explain the finer points and then I will fill you in on my experiences.

I have heard about Moodle for several years. A couple of the teachers at my high school use it as the online platform for their classes. Some of you may have used similar programs such as Blackboard or Web CT for Online courses at college. I had always resisted using it because I already had a Web Site and didn't want to try anything new. But, I finally tried Moodle (through my ISD) last year with a Computer Programming class I was teaching. It wasn't bad. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. Some of the things that I liked were the fact that it was "locked down." If I had materials or information that I didn't want floating around on the Internet, I could make my class password protected and not allow visitors. I also liked the testing feature that allowed you to create and give exams over the Internet. Convenient. The class forum feature allows students to collaborate or post their thoughts on videos, readings, or assignments. Other students or the instructor can also comment on each post. Finally, the big thing I liked about Moodle was that I could use multiple means of instruction. Links are easily created to YouTube videos, sound files, screen-casts, PDFs, images, Office files, etc. This really helps students that learn in different ways. Think back to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that I have posted on earlier.

As classroom instruction changes, wireless connections increase, and where a person learns expands, Moodle might be an option for your classroom in the future. Ask your tech director for more information. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Tech Challenge

Yes, I know it is summer and I like to forget about school in the summer. But, summer is a great time to learn something new. So, here is my challenge. Learn some new type of new technology this summer. Here are some ideas: Google Docs, Google Sites, Weebly, Prezi, Wordle, Blogger, KeepVid, etc.

I am taking a vb.net class online (it is very different than Visual Basic 6.0) and reading a new blog I found called Teach Paperless.

Find something that can help you in the classroom next year and give it a try while you have time this summer. Remember that YouTube is a great place to look for tutorials.

Thanks and have a great summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BYOD to School?

No, I said BYO "D" as in Bring Your Own Device to school. This is a huge area of growth and uncertainty for schools across the nation. Also know as BYOL or BYOT (for laptop or technology), these types of programs are just what they sound like, students are allowed to bring their own laptops, net books, iPod Touches, etc. to school and connect to the schools Internet connection as a guest.

This is a shift in paradigms. Gone are the days of checking out a computer lab. All students would have their own laptops. Gone are the days of students saving to their network accounts. All students save their work to the cloud where it can be accessed at home, school, or anywhere with a wireless connection. Gone are the days of printing assignments. All students can hand-in assignments to digital drop boxes, E-mail them as attachments, or post them to a Wiki. Students at Sparta High School can collaborate, search, create, analyze, share, and publish on the Web from the classroom, lunchroom, livingroom, wherever they are connected. Students can greener. Students can be more productive. Students can do it all on the Web.

Forest Hills Local Schools, located near Cincinnati  is one of the schools piloting this type of program. They went to a BYOL program at their middle school last fall and it has been a huge success. Visit their resource site for a ton of info. I would love to do a program like this at my high school. Think about it. If just 30% of students chose to bring a laptop of their own to school with them, the school would automatically have around 300 more computers available. By the way, that is like 10 computer labs worth of computers.
Programs like this are the wave of the future. Think back to graphing calculators. Teachers used to have a classroom set to use with their students. Now days, most students buy their own and bring it to school to use. The same thing will happen with laptops. The future is now and we need to embrace it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tech Savvy Teachers Part 1

Paul and I have spent parts of the last four weeks visiting with teachers around our high school. We have been showing teachers how set up staff profile pages on the district's Website, move materials to the Web, use their SharePoint accounts, and many other technology related items. We were able to work with teachers that were not very tech literate, some that were very tech literate, and a bunch in between. Out next few posts will feature teachers at SHS that are using technology in the classroom effectively as guest bloggers. Our goals is to have them share how technology has made their teaching lives better.

Our first guest is Mr. David Fix. He teaches Civics and Econ here at the high school. Here is what he has to say about using technology in the classroom. Enjoy!

From Dave Fix:

Technology can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the educational process, but it is only a tool. Technology cannot compensate for poor teaching, but it can augment good teaching. A teacher needs to master his/her curriculum, assessments, organization, teaching strategies and professional relationships before the introduction of technology can be of benefit. Once this foundation is in place, however, technology can make the educational process easier and more effective for all involved.

A good first step is to digitize your curriculum. Every assignment, every assessment, every lesson needs to be put into an engaging digital form. This allows for elements of your curriculum to be shared and updated more easily. It allows your curriculum to evolve. Changes are easily made from anywhere and updates are instant.

I used to dread when students were absent because it meant I needed to bring them up to speed in the two minutes before class started or to stay after school tutoring them. Now, all my lessons are online and absent students are responsible for finding out what we covered in class. It empowers students and parents and liberates the teacher.

Digitizing assessments and using Examview is also a great time-saver. It used to take me two to three hours just to correct 100 weekly tests. Now it takes me about 30 minutes to grade them, look at which items students consistently struggled with and put the grades into Powerschool. This saves me about 60 hours every school year.

Although a simple idea, having an online calendar also serves the students, parents and teachers. After digitizing my curriculum and using an online calendar for the past six years, I am now able to plan every day of the school year ahead of time. As soon as the school calendar comes out, I spend about and hour filling in my online calendar with each unit, each test and each project. I no long am constantly recalculating scope and sequence.
Mass emails are another simple and effective idea. I track students who are struggling and send all their parents a mass email notifying them of upcoming tests, projects and deadlines. Parents appreciate this and, once the groundwork is done, it takes about five minutes a week to do.

Of course the catch is that digitizing your teaching process takes a lot of time up front. My first semester using a digital interface, I spent about five hours, seven days a week developing my systems. Now, if I use my conference hour effectively, I can cut my time planning outside of school down to zero. I review and update my lessons and assessments every year. But with everything digitized systematically, I can do it a lot faster, and I can do it from a coffee shop or from home.

I used to get butterflies on Sunday nights worried about weekly lesson plans. I used to spend a lot of time combing through files at school on nights and weekends. I used to make notes to myself about things I needed to remember to say in class - lots of them. Now, on most days I don't even think about the lesson a head of time. Class starts the second the bell rings, and I am confident and well-rested. My professional life has become easy, and I have become a much better teacher. I am more consistent, and my lesson evolve over time.

Investing in learning technology and staying organized are critical elements. If you don't do this homework, adding technology to your teaching will make things worse - more variables, more glitches, more confusion and frustration. But, if you dedicate yourself to some core technology that you use in a simple and consistent way, it can help make you a stress-free and effective teacher.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Graduation Gift? Mac VS. PC

Every year about this time I get the same question over and over again, “my son and daughter has just received a sum of money from their graduation open house and we’re thinking of buying a new laptop computer to send our pride and joy off to college with”. So instead of answering this question over and over and I thought I’d just create a post. This is how I see it (please remember I have never owned a Mac):

  • Number one: I think Macs are better than PCs.
  • Number two: I think PCs are a better value dollar for dollar. A Mac will cost 2 to 2.5 times the cost of the same specification PC.
  • Number three: The less you know about computers, the better idea it is to buy a Mac. 
  • Number four: If you buy a PC you had better have a backup plan, you will get viruses, and you will need to restore your computer to its original factory settings sometime in the next 18 months. That is not a big deal, if you know what to do (that will be the topic of our next blog post). 
  • Number five: Macs are cool PCs are not. 
  • Number six: I will never own a Mac, unless it costs about the same as a PC. I will never be cool. 

I would love feedback from my Mac friends and militant PC supporters. Let’s get this party started!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Last month I told you I was signed up for a training on Universal Design for Learning. Well, we had our training last Thursday and it went quite well. Ron Houtman and Kindy Segovia led our group in a discussion of UDL Guidelines and how teachers can get started.

The three main pillars of Universal Design for Learning are:

I. Teachers should provide multiple means of representation. Or, in plain English, that we should present information and content in different ways.

II. Teachers should provide multiple means of action and expression. Or, differentiate the ways that students can express what they know.

III. Teachers should provide multiple means of engagement. Or, stimulate interest and motivation for learning.  

UDL is meant to benefit all students. Low-level learners, ESL, or high-achievers. Ron and Kindy went on to talk about some of the Web 2.0 tools that teachers can use to help design some of their lessons using UDL. The usual items such as Google Docs, Blogs, Wikis, Screencasting, and VoiceThread were mentioned. One of the big items was to get more teacher materials online so that students could access them from school and home. Also, so parents could access materials and be more of a help to their children. Probably one one line I remember from the whole training was when Ron said that the first thing teachers need to do is "find a place to put their stuff." I found this very reassuring because I had just spent three days helping teachers around my high school set up SharePoint sites, Blogs, and Wikis.

So, all-in-all, I thought the UDL training was very informative and really reinforced a lot of the things that I do in my classes. This, of course, just begins to scratch the surface of UDL and how it can be used in your classroom, but I like anything with technology in it. :) If you would like to learn more about Universal Design for Learning, you can visit CAST.org or the National Center for Universal Design for Learning.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SharePoint Services

One of the great tools that we have to use here at Sparta is SharePoint Services by Microsoft. If you have never used SharePoint (or a Learn Site as it is known around here), here is a great video to explain the what it is and why it can be such a great tool in an educational setting.

Paul and I have used SharePoint with our classes the past couple of years and it has changed the way we teach. Students can upload assignments to their own document library. Once there, they can link it to a Wiki page to showcase and receive feedback from other students or log in in from home to finish their work. SharePoint also offers calendar, blog, discussion, and Web page features. It is a great tool for collaboration. Our Intro classes and my Desktop Publishing classes have been able to go paperless. One of the things we like about it is that you can do all of this on the Web, but people who don't have access to our network can't access our student's information.

If you are interested in having a SharePoint site set up for your classroom, let Paul or myself know and we will make it happen.


My First Day As An Instructional Technologist

So yesterday I started a four day stint as an "instructional technologist" at my high school. We started a pilot program where Paul and I get release-time to work with staff members to infuse technology into their curriculum. As a substitute teacher took over my classes, I started meeting with teachers during their planning to find out how I could best help them. During my first day, I was able to meet with around a dozen teachers. We worked on things like creating Sharepoint sites for their classrooms, creating blogs, creating staff profile pages for the district's Website, Flip cameras, Skype, Twitter, and Google Docs. It was a pretty busy day. What I got out of it was that teachers are pretty open to using technology in the classroom, but most of them don't know where to start. Hopefully I can help them find the way. It is starting off with baby steps for some by creating a Web presence, creating document libraries for their students to store documents online, or posting information online. Others are already at that point and want to use YouTube movies to supplement their lessons or have present with Prezi instead of PowerPoint. I hope that I will be able to accomplish all of the goals I had in mind and still have time to followup with teachers while in the classroom. Overall, it has been very busy, but very rewarding. Day two here I come!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today's Classroom and Web 2.0

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 technologies provide a level user interaction that was not available before. Students can collaborate, interact, create, publish. Unlike the first wave of Web technology where things were static or unchanging.

Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts. Oh My!

Great Places to Begin
  • Get a Gmail account: It is your ticket to everything Google and there is a lot of good stuff!
  • Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Sites, or BloggerEveryone has something to share!
  • SharePoint site at Sparta. Student drop boxes, Web space, Wikis, and more! (Todd or Paul can help set one up for you)
  • YouTube. There is probably something you could use there right now.

Web 2.0 and Social Studies

Definition of Web 2.0:  The term Web 2.0 is associated with web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design,[1] and collaboration on the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumers) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them. Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups and folksonomies. Definition from Wikipedia.

Great information
Social Studies Central
Tech Learning 2.0 - Social Studies
Favorite Web 2.0 Apps of Social Studies Educators
Social Studies « Web 2.0
A Day in the Life of Web 2.0
Monday Models
Web 2.0 Dashboard
Top 1000 Web 2.0 Sites
21 Things for Teachers
Jenison Public Schools
Cool Tools for Schools
The Ultimate Web 2.0 Sites Listing
Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs Oh My!
How to Teach with Tech Tools
Common Craft (Videos for those of us who don’t know anything about specific Web 2.0 tools)
Paul and Todd’s Excellent Ed Tech Adventure (Become a follower) (Lot’s of Google info)

Great Places to Begin

Get a
Gmail account: It is your ticket to everything Google and there is a lot of good stuff!

Sign up for
Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Sites, and Blogger. (With your Gmail account)

Get a
SharePoint site at Sparta. Student drop boxes, Web space, Wikis, and more! (Todd or Paul can help)

Find class materials on
YouTube. There is probably something you could use there right now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

U Jam

Welcome back!

This time around, I would like to to talk about a new Website that came to my attention last week. UJAM is a site that will let students record their voices (singing or talking) and put their voices to music. This video will probably give a better description:

Pretty cool huh? Now, am I going to start singing my lectures to my classes. Doubtful! Lucky for them too. But, I can see where this might have some applications in class. It is an easy way to record your voice online. You don't have to put a soundtrack to it, but maybe some light background music might be nice. Students could record vocabulary terms and definitions? Narrative or explanations of projects posted online? I am sure there are many more creative uses that I haven't even thought of. However, if it looks good, try it out. The basic package is free, just create a login.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What is the scoop on UDL?

If you haven't heard about UDL yet, you will soon. It is fast becoming one of the hot new acronyms in the educational world. Universal Design for Learning (you can see why everyone just calls it UDL) is defined by CAST as a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

Furthermore, CAST says that UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

Now I have to tell you the truth. I don't know much about UDL, but I soon will. My district is offering a training on it through our ISD and I signed up to find out more. It sounds like a novel idea to provide flexible instruction with a number of different approaches to reach the most amount of students. Good stuff right? What got me excited was the idea that one of the ways to provide "different approaches" and "flexible instruction" was the use of Web 2.0 tools. I like using many of the Web 2.0 tools (students do too) and am interested in finding out if many of the things I do in my classes already fit with UDL.

So, in the meantime, if you want to learn more, visit CAST. They seem to be a big player in the UDL arena and have a great Website that breaks everything down for those of us new to UDL. For those of you who learn better by hearing and seeing, here is a video. :)

 I will give an update on my training in the future.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting Scores from Examview into Your Gradebook

For those of you who you Examview frequently and are tire of entering grades by hand, try exporting the quiz/test scores from Examview and importing them into PowerTeacher's Gradebook. If you are interested, watch this handy how-to video:

Give it a try. At first, I thought I could have entered them by hand faster, but after a little practice, I use this method all the time. Less chance for error and the student's who haven't taken the quiz/test are left blank.

Good luck!