Friday, December 21, 2012

10 Tech Skills Every Student Should Have

Just read a great article posted on Tech & Learning about the 10 Tech Skills Every Student Should Have by David Andrade. I though it hit the nail right on the head with the skills listed. Also helpful was the multiple links under each item as a resource. Great job!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Alternative to Pandora?

A collegue of mine just told me about a new music site called Songza. It is a new (at least to me) that is quickly challenging sites such as Pandora or Spotify. The big appeal seems to be no audio commercials. Give it a try. I just downloaded the app on my iPhone and it is also available for Android.

Have fun listening!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Code School

Code School is a great site and service for those of you who teach programming, program yourself, or just want to pass it on to that one kid that needs something extra. Explanation video from Kickstarter:

Sounds pretty cool. Of course it is so cool that most of the courses cost money. Rats! But, there are a few free courses to wet your appetite. Code School, check it out.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blended Learning Explained

Over the past year or so, I have heard the term "Blended Learning" tossed around my high school quite a bit. If you have never heard of the term, or have and are unsure exactly what it means, the following video does a great job of breaking the concept down and explaining it. After watching it, even I understood it.

Is this type of instruction something that would work well with your students? I tend to think that it is great for some and not great for others. Not surprising, huh?

Thanks for stopping in!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Food for Thought on Education

Food for thought on a Friday. Agree or disagree (and I do), it brings up some great points for us to think about.

Thanks Ron!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Question Your YouTube Viewers

I saw a tweet the other day that mentioned YouTube was testing out a feature that would let you ask questions of your views throughout the video. I think that is a pretty great feature for educators. Apparently, you could go to your analytics page to get the answers. Here is where you can turn on the feature or turn it off.

That is it. Sorry no movie that I could find. But, for those of us that use screen casting regularly in class, it could be a very cool feature.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Today's Student?

I love this video. Not just because it does such a great job of copying Lee LeFever's work, but because I want this to be my student. I want my students to leave my class armed with this type of knowledge and know-how.

Absolutely love it!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Game Making with Construct 2

Anyone who is teaching a programming, Web Multimedia, or Gaming course might want to check out Construct 2 from Scirra. There are three down-loadable versions (one is free). Check out the info video below.

Looks promising. There are multiple tutorials to get started and an arcade to test out games. I also like that you can publish to multiple platforms such as iOS, Android, and others. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Google Offline Editing

Great news for all of you Google Docs users. Offline editing is back after a several year absence. Now, if you don't have an Internet conncection, no problem. Make your updates and they will be automatically be updated when you do connect. Here is some info from Google.

Here is also video. WARNING: No sound! :(

Please be aware that to edit offline you will need the latest Chrome browser or OS. Also, offline editing is currently only available for docs. Google is hoping to extend this capability to spreadsheets and presentations in the future.

But for now, Google docs users should rejoice about this update!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Google Apps Script

Google is at it again. Trying to make Google Apps better and more flexible. They have introduced Google Apps Script to help automate tasks such as mail merge. Here is an overview:

Pretty useful stuff if you are into programming or just like tinkering around under the hood. Because of the use a Javascript and the HTML editor available, Google Apps Script sounds like it could fit into a Programming or Web Development class. I am not teaching programming this upcoming fall, but will definitely look into in the future.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, July 30, 2012

PDF Help with PDFescape

We all deal with PDFs on a daily basis on the Web. We get them as attachments, read them, create them, and sometimes need to edit them. PDFescape is a great tool to help you do all of these tasks. Did I mention it was free also? Below is a great overview of PDFescape by Beth  Ziesenis to further explain how it works.

Pretty cool online tool. I have to filll in PDF forms all the time and hate printing and filling it out by hand. I have also tried editing a PDF with PDFescape and it worked out great. I am definitely going to keep PDFescape in my online toolbox for future use. You should too!

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Common Craft Videos

So, I was going to re-post this great older post on Common Craft videos and Lee Lefever, but ended up deleting the whole post. So now, you get a "new" post on this fantastic video site. The old saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words", but how many words would a great video be worth? Especially if it was explaining a computer concept or some new Web 2.0 tool? Priceless. Let's go to a video example of Common Craft's work:

As you can see, these videos are great and all over YouTube as well as the Common Craft Website. They have a ton of computer videos, as well as videos on recycling, elections, and even zombies. (My personal favorite.) Check out Common Craft videos and try them in your classroom. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lean a foreign language with Duolingo?

If you teach a foreign language or trying to learn one, especially Spanish, a new site named Duolingo might be a good fit for you. Duolingo is trying to translate the Web one sentence at a time into different languages. Here is how it works:

Pretty neat idea. I doubt that using Duolingo will having you speaking Spanish by itself, but it is definitely a great way to practice. Sounds like a great activity to start off class with each day. Give it a try, it could turn out to be muy bien!


Friday, June 29, 2012

Dropcanvas for collaboration

I am all about collaboration and sharing of files when it comes to student projects or teachers working together. Normally, groups can share documents with Google Docs, Dropbox, or a Wiki. Dropcanvas helps groups share multiple files by creating a canvas that you can quickly create, add files to, and then share by email, social media or embedding it. It was very easy to sign up (you actually don't even need to register) and easy to use.

I like dropcanvas because you can share multiple files in one place quickly. Pretty cool. Give it a try with your next collaborative project.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Time Machine

I stumbled across this when I was putting some stuff away in my closet. Remember when this was state of the art technology?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stay Organized with Evernote

One of my goals this summer beside looking into Pinterest and alternative sites to use besides Google Apps for Education is to try out Evernote. I have it on my iPhone and have clipped a few items, but I am just not comfortable with it yet. If you are unsure of what Evernote is, watch this video.

With all of the 1:1 or tablet programs out there these days, Evernote is a great tool for students. See what an actual student has to say in this video.

There are a TON of great tutorial videos on YouTube. Give it a try this summer.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Last week, I had a post on trying out Pinterest and how it might be useful in the classroom. I recently got a tweet from Ron Houtman about a new site that is currently in beta called Learnist. This site is being developed by Grockit and hopes to be a Pinterest for education with their slogan being "share what you know."

Learnist is developing a site that will allow you gather various resources from the Web, whether it be videos, images, blog posts, Wikipedia articles, etc. and put them together into a logical order with notes or explanations that people could follow and learn from. It is a great idea for teachers who use resources on the Web on a regular basis.

At the moment, you can only request an invite (which I have), but you can visit and check out some of the beta creations that others have made. Good stuff! I love this idea and can't wait to try it. My summer to do list just got longer. I will let you know how it goes when I get my invite.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pinterest in the Classroom?

I was at the MACUL Conference back in March and hear a lot about a site named Pinterest. Other educators that spoke of it were absolutely hooked on it. If you have not visited or heard of Pinterest, think of it as an online bulletin board that you can "pin" your favorite things. Pictures, videos, links, etc. Here is a quick video to explain more.

A lot of the talk I heard about Pinterest had to do with its possible used in education and in the classroom. I will be honest, I don't know enough about it to have an opinion one way or the other. My hope is that you will explore what Pinterest has to offer and see if you can use it. A note of caution, Pinterest is not filtered or offer and EDU version at the moment, so be careful with your studetnts. I requested an invite this morning and am eager to try it out this summer. In the mean time, here is a great post from Pearson School Systems on Four Ways to Use Pinterest in Education. Let me know what you think after you have tried it or if you already have let me know your thoughts.


Friday, May 25, 2012

SlideRocket Revisited

In my quest to find decent online tools for my students to use that are not name Google Docs, I talked about SlideRocket, an online presentation tool. My students had the choice to use SlideRocket or Prezi for a class presentation. SlideRocket worked well and the students seemed to enjoy it. It has a feel a little closer to PowerPoint and that appealed to some. I had to present to my district's board of education last week and chose to use SlideRocket. I liked it a lot.

Now, with SlideRocket's partnership with Google Apps for Education, students have one more choice to publish their work online. If you haven't tried SlideRocket out, give it try!


Friday, May 18, 2012

My BYOT Experience at School

Are you thinking BYOB? No, definitiely not. BYOT means Bring Your Own Technology. More specifically, to school or your work place. BYOT is a craze that is somewhat taking the nation by storm and creating a lot of discussion in schools about how we should look at technology and our students. Their are school districts out there, Forest Hills Schools near Cincinnati for one, where BYOT is where it is at. Students are encouraged (expected) to bring their own computer to school. Whether it be a laptop, netbook, tablet, iPad, iTouch, Nook, Fire, etc. Students supply their own technology, not the school. Interesting concept, huh?

We are interested in fostering the idea of BYOT at the high school here in Sparta. With that in mind, I organized a BYOT Day at the high school last week. My hope was that teachers would plan some sort of activity during their class period to use the technology that students brought in that day. The staff was asked on a volunteer basis if they wanted to participate. About 25% chose to try it. I was able to email out information about activities that they might try such as Socrative, TodaysMeet, The Khan Academy, and Poll Everywhere to name a few. I had students create a commercial advertising BYOT Day and I even went on the announcements to talk about it. Some students were a little apprehensive about bringing in devices fearing theft or loss.

Results were positive. A lot of students brought in devices. I saw a lot of laptop and iPads. In just my classes, about 70-80% of my upperclassmen had devices with Web access. My freshman class ran around 40%. There were a few filtering options and a few connectivity issues with the wireless, but overall the day went very well. As I was driving home that day, I had a few thoughts. First, students love technology. If we can harness the tech power that they own and bring to school everyday, that is a lot of technology in the classroom that the district doesn't have to purchase, maintain, and replace. Second, there is a segment of the student population out there that does not have any of the devices discussed above. We have to make sure to include them in the process with technology that they can checkout or simply include them in a group or pair them up with someone with technology. Finally, teachers need training. A lot of it. There are some teachers that were hugely supportive of what I was trying to do and I thank them. They were willing to step out on a limb and try something new. That is hard, but great things can come of it. There was also that segment of the teaching staff that wanted nothing to do with BYOT Day, which is fine, but you can only keep your head stuck in the sand for so long. Technology is all around us. Catch the wave or be crushed by it.

Based on the success (small sample size) of our first BYOT Day, I may try another one next month before school is out for the summer. I think that BYOT has merit and is the future. Is my school ready to go both feet in yet, no. But, if we start small, and build some trust and momentum, we will be ready in the future.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Google Search Education

I have always tried to teach my students good search skills. There is so much out there on the Web, that if you can filter down information and find what you need in a fast and efficient manner, you are ahead of the game. Google has just come out with Search Education to help teachers everywhere in the process of teaching students how to get better at their search strategies. Because you want it, here is a video:

Go Google! There are several things I like about this site. First, there is a need. An important one. Everyone should know how to search efficiently. This site will help teachers and students. The quote in the video said it all, "there will be a divide between those who can search and those who can't." Be one of the people that can search. Second, Google provides lesson plans.  Third, Google provides webinars for teachers. Many teachers are afraid of technology and using it because they are not good at it. Google tries to help with that by providing free, on your own time trainings. Finally, A Google A Day Challenge. Google is providing us with a specific challenge problem to use the search skills students are learning. They are categorized by subject area. A great sponge activity at the beginning of the class. There you have it, another tool that Google has provided for education. Try it out. I am definitely going to.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Google Drive

Just as I start my search for alternatives to Google Docs, they come out with Google Drive, their cloud-based storage system that is, of course free, and starts at 5 GB of storage space. Here is you video:

This is Google's answer to the very popular products Dropbox and SkyDrive that are already out there. Now, I have not been able to use Google Drive, because it is not running yet, but I am sure it will work seamlessly with all of the the other Google products that it is partnered up with. They always do. It will be interesting to see how they do stacked up against Dropbox which I like very much. (My account is up to 50GB of storage for free by the way.) But, as everyone in the world goes wireless and cloud computing takes over, cloud storage with its anytime, anywhere access has been wildly successful. Why shouldn't Google get a piece of the pie. It just makes sense.

When I have had a chance to try Google Drive, I will be back with an update. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


I am on a quest! A quest to find Web 2.0 tools that are better than those offered in Google Docs. If you remember from my last post, my students (and myself) were fairly disappointed with quality and usefulness of the productivity tools offered in Google Docs portion of Apps for Education. So, here we to with SlideRocket. Cue the informational video!

When student's do presentations today, they are robust. They are connected to sound or video on the Web. I really enjoy Prezi and the ease that it incorporated the Web into my presentations, but had trouble with it when it came to my iPad. SlideRocket offers an iPad App, but I have yet to try it. Another feature that looks promising is the feature where your viewers can rate your presentation. I like that feature in the classroom because it will add some feedback to students as they present. You can even see which slide is viewed the longest or most. Fun! My freshmen class has been working on their Hero Project for a few weeks, and I have given them the choice of using SlideRocket or Prezi
So far, the results have been good. About a third of my students have used SlideRocket and have liked it. It has a slight learning curve, but my students caught on quickly. One of the requirements was to include a video in the presentation and SlideRocket made that very easy. It was great for publishing and sharing online also. For those wondering about SlideRocket in an educational setting, wonder no longer. SlideRocket EDU. I will definitely be exploring this collaboration with SlideRocket and Google Apps for Education. It looks promising.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Alternatives to Google Apps for Education

I have been pushing my school districts for the past few years to adopt Google Apps for Education as an alternative (not a replacement) to Microsoft Office. It is also a great way to give students space to store and share documents online. The Gmail package, calendar, and Google Sites are also impressive. Finally, around the holidays, our Sparta Area Schools was set up to use Google Apps for Education. I was pumped. My freshman classes were studying careers, so I set up a project utilizing Google Apps with career exploration. Here is what I found. Google Apps is not very good and my students hated it. There was a huge uproar as students begged to use their Office products. Be careful for what you ask for I guess.

However, this raised a question in my mind. I had heard so much about Google Apps for Education and districts adopting it and using it all over the nation. But, was there something out there in the cloud that was better? That has been my quest lately. To find alternatives to Google Apps for Education. I don't know that I can find the total package the Google offers of Email, calendar, productivity tools, Website builder, Forms, etc. But, I feel that I can find alternatives to some of these tools that are easy to use and offer more robust features.

Check back in the coming weeks to see what I can find. Thanks!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Big Campus: CMS Products Finale

Here we are again talking about Course Management Systems (CMS) and this time we are delving into a product called My Big Campus. I first became aware of My Big Campus when I saw my daughter logging into it in 6th grade to do a bonus math problem that her teacher had posted there. How cool is that I thought! Not only that my daughter is going online at home to do a math problem, but the platform being used. Here is the promo video:

Once again, as we have seen with Edmodo and Schoology. My Big Campus feels like Facebook. A lot of chances for colaboration between students. Calendar feature, quiz feature, etc. Very good product. Can't go wrong using it. Give it a try.

[Edit: I got the video wrong above. The promo video from Lightspeed Systems can be found here. The above video was made by Matthew Kitchens. Thanks for the heads up!]

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Schoology: CMS products Part 3

This week we are continuing our discussions about Course Management Systems (CMS) and more specifically, one such product name Schoology. Here is their promo video.

Hmmmm, deja vu? Looks like Facebook, feels like social media. Yes, Schoology is very similar to Edmodo. From what I have seen, the two are almost too similar to tell the difference. Schoology does offer a blogging feature, attendance, and folders where students can turn in work. The latter would seem more important to me as a teacher since most schools already have a SMS. I came away very impressed with Schoology as a CMS that I would definitely try for my classes.

Friday, March 30, 2012


As their Website says, "Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets."

I was happy to have the opportunity to visit a couple of high schools last month (Kent City and Zeeland East) to check out their tablet programs. One had Android tablets and the other had iPads. I also attended the MACUL annual conference for a couple of days a few weeks ago. The one thing I came away with from all three visits was that teachers are using Socrative.

Here is the intro video from Socrative.

Here is a quick look at Socrative in action.

I signed up for Socrative (easy) and created a quick quick (easy). It worked great. Students don't have to sign up for an account. Just go to the URL and enter a room number to access my class and my quiz. Very cool! I think this is a great cool to quickly get student feedback, brainstorm, or just test your student's knowledge in an anonymous manner. Try it out.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Edmodo: CMS Products Part 2

Last time around, we discussed Moodle in part 1 of our tour of Course Management Systems (CMS). Today, we are talking about Edmodo. I had heard about Edmodo, but really learned about it a few weeks ago while visiting Zeeland East High School to check out their totally amazing iPad program. While on my visit, I was told told that up to half of the teachers at the school were using Edmodo. After my visit, I signed up and started "test-driving" it with my classes for a few weeks. My students generally liked it. Why? Because it totally looks and feels like Facebook.

Ah yes, a video.

Some of the features that I liked about Edmodo were I could easily set up my three classes by having students sign up for or my different classes codes. Easy. When students set up there profile they could choose to to get my updates by E-mail or by a text on their phone. This was probably a horrifying thought for some of my students that I would be texting class updates to their phones. Like most CMS products, it also has a calendar which let me add items to my calendar (color-coded by class). The quiz/poll feature is slick too. I can get immediate feedback from students as they enter the classroom or give a pop-quiz. Probably the feature I like the most is the fact that it did look like Facebook and have that social media feel. Students can message each other (or me) and ask questions from within Edmodo. You can also give parents an code to view their child's account. Of course you can post assignments, links, and upload files.

 Having a most of my materials already online with my Website, I am not used to using a CMS, but enjoyed my time using Edmodo. It has a pretty cool app for the iPhone, iPad, or for Android. Overall, I have to give Edmodo two thumbs up

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Moodle, Moodle, Moodle: CMS Products Part 1

Moodle, Moodle, Moodle. It is just fun to say. Try it.

What we are talking about, of course, is Moodle, a free Course Management System (CMS). What is a CMS you say? Well, they are a place to help organize your classes online. You can upload, store, and link materials. You can give online quizzes and tests. Have a discussion board for class members to discuss ideas and assignments. You can post grades if your school doesn't already have an electronic grade book. This is the first in a four part series on different CMS products. First up is Moodle. Here is a quick video on Moodle and some of the features:

Here is my history with Moodle. I started using it last year in my Programming class. I already had a Website, but was looking for a way to give some online tests and quizzes. Our intermediate school district hosts Moodle for member school districts, so I signed up for a user account and created my classes. Moodle was easy to use and my students were able to sign in without a problem. The test feature is very good. I can give practice tests, tests, and retests. My daughter's chemistry teacher also uses Moodle for his classes and has it set up so students must complete a reteaching loop before taking a retest. Pretty nice. My one complaint with Moodle (and it is a small one) is that is is not very nice looking. The interface is pretty utilitarian. But, what does one want for free? Here is another video that I though was good. A take-off on Lee Lefever's videos.

I think that having your classroom materials will be standard in the next few years. I have had mine up for a several years now, but I teach computers. More and more schools are moving to one to one computing with students having laptops or tablets. It is the way education is moving. If you are thinking about using Moodle, here are some helpful links. More videos can be found here. If you are interested in moving your class online or simply looking for a convenient storage place that offers some organization, you may want to look into Moodle

Good luck!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Course Management Systems: What are they and what is best?

Most of us have run into classroom (or course) mamanagement system along the way in our education. I am old and even I have run into a class or two from graduate school that used Blackboard. A CMS is usually defined as "a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content." Thank you Wikipedia. Common CMS products also include the use of calendars, testing options, message boards, and the ability to send alerts to students. Many of us have managed the work-flow in our classrooms in a variety of ways in the past twenty years. My story is below.

I have been teaching computers to high school students since I left Ottawa Hills High School (and electronic typewriters) behind in the late eighties and I have seen a lot of changes. In college I took a class that showed my how to made overheads and run a ditto machine. Ahh, the good old days. I have moved from running my classes with paper handouts and textbooks to sharing documents over the school network on a shared directory to having my own Website where all my documents and materials, such as screencast movies are stored for students to access from home or school. I am still moving stuff from my school's network to the cloud. It seems I have seen it all. But not yet.

After having a class Website since I could code HTML back in the nineties, I am thinking that I might be working too hard. Classroom Managements Systems (CMS) such as Moodle, Edmodo, Schoology, and My Big Campus have become so robust and user-friendly of late, that I can't ignore them any more. Did I mention that they are free also?

I have used Moodle as a platform for my Programming class for the last two years with mixed success. After visiting Zeeland East High School last week to checkout their iPad program, I was blown away by the number of teachers using Edmodo to manage their classes. I found the same thing when I visited Kent City High School two weeks ago. Many of their teachers are using Moodle or My Big Campus to help with their tablet program. Other schools are using a similar product called Schoology.

I will be looking at each of these classroom management systems in coming posts. I plan on test-driving Edmodo in a few of my courses this spring. Please check back in the coming weeks for an overview and tips on the CMS products listed.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Technology Integration: How to Get There?

I read a fantastic article a couple of days ago that really hit home with me. Why did it resonate so much with me? I will tell you after you watch this great movie. (I also got it from the article.)

Alright, here it is. I was sitting in a meeting a few weeks ago with all the building administrators in our district along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent. The topic was technology. Everyone wants it. More screens, more gadgets, more WiFi, etc. The problem is that we have staff members that don't know what to do with technology. How to use it in class, how to create lessons with it, how to have students create and present and publish online. There are brave souls that have been self-taught and try things out. Those aren't the ones we are worried about. We need to move teachers that are not comfortable with using technology to a place where they can use it and have their students use it to increase interest and achievement. What is the solution? We came up with the idea of instructional technology guides for teachers. Paul and I would be have release time in the morning or afternoon to meet with teachers, assess their needs, work with them to infuse technology into their already existing curriculum (let's not recreate the wheel), and most importantly, follow-up with teachers. We called it the "Guide on the Side Model". Problem is, there is no money or money is tight. To pull this off, we would need to add a part-time teacher. Tough sell for some people. In my mind, it is an easy sell. This would be making an investment in our teachers, an investment in our school, and an investment in our students. We have the technology to use, but we can't use it effectively. It is time to step outside the box and make a bold statement about what we want our teachers to be able to do. Everyone wants technology integration in the classroom, but who is willing to take the steps to get it done?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Getting Van Halen Tickets (28 Years Later)

Sometimes I forget what a convenience the Internet is. How much it has changed the little things in life that we do. Let me tell you all a story. The year was 1984, and my favorite band (along with a lot of other people) was Van Halen. Not Van Halen with Sammy Hagar, but Van Halen with David Lee Roth. I had the albums and cassettes. When the the tour plans for their 1984 album were released, I knew I had to get tickets. Like some cruel trick, tickets went on sale at the local Ticket Master outlet which was located on the second floor of Hudsons at Genesee Valley Mall at 10:00 a.m. Monday morning while I was supposed to be in school. Not to be deterred, by buddy Tom and I skipped school and drove out to the mall in search of tickets. Unfortunately so did a lot of other people. What followed was a desperate mob of people pushing on the doors of Hudsons. The doors broke and a small riot ensued as teens stormed through the department store trying to get to the second floor. Displays were knocked down, people running up the down escalator, craziness! Tom and I made it to within ten people of the ticket window when the concert sold out. Devastated, we left. Never to see Van Halen in concert. Of course, a year later the band broke up and our hopes of catching Van Halen on their next tour disappeared.

Fast-forward 28 years. My friend Dave emails me that there is a Van Halen reunion tour (yes, with David Lee Roth) and tickets go on this weekend. From the comfort of my couch, I simply logged on to the Ticket Master Website, and quickly purchased four tickets to see Van Halen at The Palace on February 20th. Done. Quickly. Easily. No skipping school. No riot at Hudsons. Having the Internet 28 years ago would have really helped me out, but it seems like things are going to work out fine after all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Paperless Classroom

Several years ago, I made a concerted effort to go paperless with my computer classes. I would like to share some of my success and failures. I have to admit, as time goes by and technology gets better, going paperless is getting much easier. In the beginning, I was either screen-checking assignments or having students email them to me. Now days, with Google Docs or the Share Point Site our school uses, things are a little smoother. Every student in each of my classes has an online drop box and Wiki. All projects and assignments are posted as PDFs or converted to graphics (for my DTP classes) and linked to student Wikis where I can quickly find them.

All of my assignments are linked to my three class Websites. Students can access them from school or home. Many of my lectures are captured on screencasts using Camtasia. Students can view most of them from home also. (Some are still stuck on the school's shared network). Most of the documents I am working on are in a Dropbox account where I can access them from home, school, Web, iPad, or iPhone. I have a classroom blog with Blogger to keep parents updated. My classroom is 99.9% in the cloud.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't hate paper. We did typed letters to former teachers that had made an impact on our lives a few months ago and we did print them. Some of the students didn't realize we have a laser printer in the back of the room because they had never used it up until that assignment. :)
What has going paperless done for me? First, I am more organized. My assignments are linked and available. No copies. I also don't carry papers back and forth to school and home. Assignments are in the cloud. I carried a briefcase for a few years, mainly out of habit or so I would have a spot to keep my school keys, but stopped earlier this year. My wife doesn't like it. She is a teacher also and does carry a lot of papers back and forth. But, it is working out well for me and my students. Once they are in the practice of uploading documents to their dropbox and linking to the Wiki, they do it without having to be told. It is great.

I enjoy being paperless!
If you are thinking about trying it, checkout such tools mentioned above as Google Docs, Google Sites, Weebly, Dropbox, Share Point, and others. Search my blog. I have talked about many of these tools as well. Start small and work into it. You will enjoy going paperless also.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Be Social with Your Bookmarks

When I am searching the Web for information on a topic, I am a bookmarking madman. I find the sites I like, and when I have the time, I try and go back, read the info, and get what I want off of the sites I bookmarked. The problem is that I sometimes to this over three computers, my favorites are never on computer I happen to be working on, and if they are, there are a hundred or so that I need to filter through to find what I need. Social bookmarking is here to help!

You may have heard of Delicious, which was one of the first big social bookmarking sites, but I have been using Diigo lately and really like it. They also have a great video explaining their product. As the video above explains, both of these services are free, keep your bookmarks organized by the use of tags, and allows you to find your bookmarks wherever you happen to be since it is saved on the Web. The thing I like about Diigo is the ability to highlight text or even leave yourself a sticky note so you are easily reminded why you bookmarked the site in the first place. Cool! Of course, the really fun part of these types of social bookmarking is the sharing of your bookmarks. Again, as the video says, you can take advantage of other people's bookmark's and vice versa. Nice!

So, if you are like me and drowning in bookmarks and your favorites are in chaos, try social bookmarking with Diigo or Delicious. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Screencasting in the Classroom Part 3

If you have been reading the last two posts, I have been writing about products that teachers can use in the classroom to get started. Camtasia Studio and Jing have been covered. In this post I would like to talk about the other options out there for you when it comes to screencasting. First is screencast-o-matic. Besides the totally cool name, it is free and doesn't require a download. Overview below:

I have used screencast-o-matic several times last spring while working with a local business to develop training videos and it turned out to be a good tool for them and fun for me to learn. I like the fact that you can use it anywhere. (It does require Java)and the video can be downloaded and edited in Windows Movie Maker. It is a good option if Jing doesn't fit the bill for you. Other screencasting tools that are available include AviScreen, CamStudio, or Copernicus (Mac Users). I have not tried these last three, so I can't give you an honest opinion one way or the other.

What ever you try, try something, and try screencasting in your classroom soon!