Tag Archives: app

Keeping in Touch with your Students

5 Jun

With any new technology, it inevitably takes me about a year to get anything under control and integrated in my classroom. When it comes to communication, I feel pretty good about my system: utilizing Twitter and Twitter fast follow, making my Google Voice number available for my students to text me if they need anything, using my blog to update information, and sharing handouts via Google Docs. This worked for me for three years, was a lot of work, but was very reliable. However, I recently came across some new online resources that can make my communication even better.

Remind101 is a great texting service that is free for teachers. For any designated group, you get a unique phone number that kids can text. Kids are then prompted to reply with their name so you can see all fo the individuals who are logged into your account. This way, I know exactly who is accessing the texts I send out. I see a lot of freedom with this software. First, I can create multiple groups – one for each class to start. As an activity director, I see creating a group for the school, possibly for parents, for my freshman mentors as well as my leadership students. I can send secret messages such as “If you get this message report to the cafe’. The first five people there get a free shirt”, or “Mentors, give every freshman in your group a high five.”  This allows me access to students on the one item they are pretty much guaranteed to have on them at any time of the day. What’s more, remind101 allows you to schedule text messages so they can go out any time you want. I can time messages to appear at the start of class, end of class, passing period, after school or before school. I use Hootsuite for all of my Twitter updates. Now, while I will still use Twitter, I see Remind101 taking on a whole side of communication as it has the potential to reach a much wider audience.

My next new favorite is Wiggio. Someone mentioned this at a conference I was just at, and I filed it away as Wiggio was described as a mass texting application. When I logged in to the account, I learned it was so much more, the features are abundant.  I was able to enter my students’ email addresses and names right off the bat and invite them to the site. Keep in mind, this site is private, so only myself and my students can see this information. Students can also add cell phone numbers and they have the option of getting sms updates without anyone in the group seeing their number (same for me, the teacher). In Wiggio, I can invite people to meetings, establish groups with smaller members of the main group, assign tasks (and set reminders via email or sms), share documents or even create them directly on the site. I can also share links, important as we are using a lot of items from other sites like Google Docs or Evernote; or there may be a video I would like them to watch before coming to class.

As an activities director, I am noticing more and more that my students are walking a fine line between being organized with a binder and being organized with their phone. In general, teens are disorganized with both except for a select few that teachers often refer to as their favorites. With Wiggio, I see the ability to communicate beyond just the planning sheets or post-it notes on the wall that declare something as being “do”, “doing”, or “done”. I like that it can text kids reminders, I am a big believer that if it has to do with a student’s cell phone they are more likely to do it than when they have to remember to look at a calendar. Every time I add a task, meeting, document or other item it appears in a calendar on the site and color codes it so we can differentiate between the items. I pull it up and on any given day I can see if something was done, not done or is due soon. This I can put up daily for the class to see so I know if we are on task.

Lastly, I like that in Wiggio I can create a chatroom for the kids to discuss items far away from Facebook. I like Facebook, it’s a good tool, but too many times the conversations get out of control and too many times we have read something about teacher/student interaction on Facebook. So, let’s keep it in the class here. I also enjoy the ability to set-up to do lists, and my new favorite, my ability to take a poll. We sometimes spend so much time in class discussing issues – most of which I feel is a waste of time in that it wastes class time. A quick poll online can solve a lot of those issues.

While I will still be using Twitter, Google Voice and Facebook to communicate, I will be adding Wiggio and Remind101. My philosophy with communication, hit kids where they are at. I use all of these services because I have a great chance of finding all of my students on some level. Now, I don’t always post the same content to each site, but I do post to each site as needed. I am excited at the possibilities these apps offer to my teaching and I look forward to seeing how they integrate with my classroom management style. What are your thoughts?

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Video Time Machine

20 Jul

Living in a media drive age, it would make sense that we, as educators, have access to videos and clips that feature some of the great moments in our history: movies, music, tv, news, sports, games and ads.  To truly understand history in any context is to know what is going on in that time period. There are many ways to set the scene, YouTube is one, though researching all of that video footage takes time; the Library of Congress has some great videos to download via iTunes if you have the time; or how about the vidoes and DVD’s which are delivered with our textbooks (in my case, laser discs and reel to reel – totally up to date on technology here).  Even better, how about a device that let’s kids research or identify the videos that best describe the time period? Enger Video Time Machine, a new app available for the iPhone and iPad that carefully selects videos that best represent the time period they were made. As the site claims, “You can watch over 10,000 handpicked videos from 1860-2011.”

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iPad App Awareness

14 Jun

I recently had a great opportunity to participate in an iPad institute at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Moving past the basic commands like zooming in on text, copy and paste, or adding and removing apps, it is the sharing of apps and their use that I find the most helpful. I’ve been on iPad for about two years, but I am amazed at what I can continue to learn with a little insight. So, with good intentions, here is the beginning of my list of favorite iPad apps.

1. iBooks: In the beginning I did not like this app at all, I was all about the Kindle. However, over time, I found that iBooks had features that Kindle and other apps did not. Most books we read in English can be found online as PDF’s or in iBooks as free downloads, for example, The Scarlet Letter. On the iPad or in an iTouch, kids can highlight and annotate text directly in iBooks. I can assign a chapter in class, have kids annotate where they have questions, make connections or analyze a plot point or character interaction. Then, either at the end of class or the next day, I can choose a device at random and place it under my document camera. As a class, we can view the notes, offer feedback and see what other comments students may have made or could have made. Lastly, check out the CK-12 Foundation, they have many free textbooks for download in iBooks.

2. Qwiki: whatever you want to learn in your area or someplace you are traveling, there is Qwiki. A great app to learn about a region or just to see what is going on in your area. You could also research an area that has to do with a book or subject you are currently studying. The app offers video and text and is highly engaging.

3. Flipboard: this app allows you to interact with news sources and social media sites online just like they are a magazine. Flipboard is a news aggregator that goes out on the web and pulls information via an RSS feed and brings the information to you. Not sure what an RSS feed is or how it works, don’t worry, just think of the publications you like to read like O Magazine, Ted Talks, CNN and such. You just tell Flipboard you like those information sources and it brings you the information for free. You can also tell Flipboard to access your social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. As an assignment, give your students a current event assignment to research or have them compare news stories from different media outlets like Huffington Post or Fox News.

4. Inkling: Many text books companies are going digital, and Inkling is helping to make that possible. The App is free, and many of the text books that are offered have free chapters for you to use and experiment with in your classroom prior to purchasing.

5. Shakespeare in Bits Romeo and Juliet: a great app for teaching about the Bard (the lite version is free). This app is great in that it offers definitions in the text, video and audio for student involvement. Students can also access character bios or a character relationship chart to see how the different characters in the play are related.

6. iTunes U: There are literally thousands of podcasts from various colleges and universities across the globe. There are also great resources from high school teachers in just about any subject you are looking for. Find some podcasts you like or have your students go out and search for podcasts they feel will enhance the learning experience for the specific subject you are working on in class. What a great way to get the kids thinking critically about the subject matter and and making connections to different media. Also, check the podcasts carefully as many come with downloadable written content as supplements to the audio/video podcast. don’t forget about the Khan Academy, thousands of videos on multiple subjects to for kids to access, practice and learn at their own rate.

7. Skype: a great tool to connect with classes, students or professionals anywhere in the globe. Check out education.Skype.com for a list of classes looking to have a conversation. This is a great way to practice language with native speakers or learn about other cultures. If calling a school in another country is too much, why not Skype with a class across the hall or another school in town for some great collaboration.

8. Dragon Dictation: a great app to practice speaking. Dictation software has come a long way the last few years and continues to improve. Dragon is great in that students can record what they say and have it transcribed directly on the iPad or iTouch. This is great practice for language learners or anyone preparing to do a presentation or speech.

9. Evernote: By far one of my favorite apps for note taking. You can organize notes by unit and create notebooks, great for research as students collect sources, and you can add pictures, links screen shots, video and audio right in the note. Notes and notebooks are easily shared between parties. Since Evernote is stored on the cloud, wherever you have wireless access and you have the Evernote app/software installed, your notes will be there. For more on Evernote, you can check out my previous post here https://soberandsaucy.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/my-top-10-uses-with-evernote/

10. Evernote Peek: fairly new and a great companion to Evernote, Evernote Peek is a flash card tool for the iPad. It takes advantage of your magnetic cover, so you can see the clue, but you have to figure out the answer. The title of your note in Evernote is the clue, the subject area is your answer. So, in Evernote, create a notebook for whatever you want to study: anatomy vocab, math formulas, literary characters … anything worth memorizing.

11. Dropbox: One of the best way to store large files on the cloud rather than your iPad. Memory is at a premium, so store those files on your Dropbox account and not your iPad. Dropbox is also a great way to share files with others: handouts, videos, pictures, or anything else.

12. Library of Congress: what a great way to give kids an opportunities to evaluate and research using primary source documents. This app offers high resolution examples of many historical documents not usually accessible to the public.

These are the few of the apps I have been playing with over the last few days. I have many more to review and share and I’m excited to see what I can do with them. If you have any apps you like to use please feel free to share. I will be adding more over the next few days and beyond.