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#NTchat & the history of iLearn Technology

Yesterday I was the guest moderator for #NTchat on Twitter.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, #NTchat is a chat held on Twitter.  The chat happens weekly on Wednesdays and is geared toward New Teachers.  To participate in the chat, anyone who wants to join in uses the hash tag #NTchat at the end of their tweet.  @teachingwthsoul asked me to talk about how new teachers could utilize iLearn Technology.  You can see the archive of the chat here.   As I started tweeting, I realized that many of my readers probably don’t know the history of iLearn Technology.  For those of you who are interested, this is how it all started… Out of college, I taught in a second grade classroom.  As a new teacher I had very few resources (no file cabinets full of lesson plans and activity ideas), very few learning games, few books in my classroom library, and as a newly wed out of college, very few funds with which to purchase said items.  I was also frustrated, it wasn’t fair for students in my classroom to have fewer resources available to them just because I was a new teacher.  In college, I stumbled upon abc Teach and Teach-nology.  That first year of teaching, I frequented both sites regularly for printables, games, and lesson ideas.  A few months into the year, I read my students Jan Brett’s The Mitten.  They were enamored with the book and I wanted to take advantage of it.  I didn’t have any resources to accompany the book so I wandered online to see what I could scrounge up.  I found Jan Brett’s website and couldn’t believe what I found.  She had SO many printables for the classroom, from bulletin boards to flash cards, and calendars.  She also had a teacher’s kit and sent my students monthly postcards about new projects she was working on. I quickly realized that the Internet had a lot of resources that could help me through my first year.  One night I was on the hunt for some additional phonics resources that I could print out and use with my students.  A Google search introduced me to Starfall.  I was gobsmacked.  I couldn’t believe the printables, activities, games, and online stories available.  It was truly like finding a treasure trove!  Back in the day, Starfall would send their work journals and cut-up books for FREE along with Starfall pencils and stickers.  I ordered enough journals and books so that every student could have their own. My students really enjoyed the print materials from Starfall, I knew they would love the online books and activities as well.   I was lucky enough to have two computers in my classroom.  They were old and didn’t do much outside of run a word processor, but they were connected to the Internet.  I couldn’t wait to show my students Starfall.  I wish that I could have bottled up their excitement over Starfall.  They were thrilled to be using the computers and loved the fun stories and activities on Starfall.  My students that were struggling with phonics seemed to suddenly get it, Starfall made it click. This was the beginning of my addiction to the Internet.  After seeing what Starfall did for my students, I was eager to find more sites that could make learning fun and engaging.  I found Gamegoo and Book Adventure and soon had my students cycling through those two computer centers throughout the day.  My students were eager for literacy every day and couldn’t wait for their rotation through the computer center.  As the year progressed, I added a few new learning sites each month as a center in my classroom.  I saw the impact that technology made on student learning.  I saw how excited my students were about learning. The following year, I took a position as a computer teacher at a local private school.  They were desperate for a computer teacher, and I was eager to learn more.  I spent my summer creating a scope and sequence (there was no computer curriculum), writing lesson plans, and searching for resources.  I had a handful of ideas based on what I had done with my students the previous year but knew it wouldn’t carry me through the whole school year.  As I was searching for online resources, I discovered that there were excellent lists of websites that could be used with kids.  The problem was that they were literally just lists of links to sites.  There was no description, no organization, it was cumbersome and took a long time to find the really good sites.  I started collecting sites in iKeep Bookmarks, writing detailed descriptions and ideas I had for using the resource with students.  It was my husband who suggested that I start a blog of all the sites and ideas for their use.  If I couldn’t find one comprehensive collection that was well-organized and had clear descriptions, chances were that others had run into the same.  I didn’t really think anyone outside of myself and maybe a colleague would ever use the site.  It really was a place where I could keep track of everything for myself.  Several thousand resources later and here we are If you are looking for a resource that will fit your specific needs, you can search iLearn Technology in a few ways.  The first is by using the search tool bar in the header.  Enter any subject or keyword related to your needs.  I try to tag each post with keywords that I would search if I were looking for the resource.  The second is to use the multi category search in my sidebar on the right.  You can choose a category from each drop down or choose from only a few categories.  For example you might be looking for a science resource for your 2nd grade students.  You could choose “science” from the subject drop down and “Primary Elementary” from the Grade Level drop down.  Every resource on iLearn Technology that matches that search criteria will be displayed. If you aren’t currently involved in Twitter education chats, I recommend you choose one to participate in.  They are always a source of great conversation, thinking, and camaraderie.  Check out @Cybraryman1′s Twitter Chat list here.  Find one of interest and join in the conversation!

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Adobe Forms Center: Create & Share Interactive Forms

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Inquiry, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 11-07-2013

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What it is: Sometimes I come across a useful site and think, “how in the world is it possible that I haven’t discovered this before?”  That happened today with Adobe Form Central.  This free web application lets you create pdf’s that are actually web forms that can be filled out directly on the pdf.  Fancy.  Forms Central has a huge bank of templates that you can start with including a section just for education.  These are mostly application, appointment, quiz type forms.  But the best…the ability to create your own custom pdf form! Design items include text fields, date fields, email fields, single choice, multiple choice, drop down menu, single check box, rating scale, file attachments, formatted text, images, and page or section breaks.  When you have finished with the form you can set the form up to automatically email recipients, redirect them to a new url, or include a confirmation message.  You can even collect payments through PayPal (I’ll tell you why I find that feature useful!).  When you are ready to distribute your form you can email the link, embed the form or share on Twitter.  From within form central, you can view responses and save to Excel or as a PDF.  You can even sort responses from within Forms Central.

How to integrate Form Central into the classroom:  The obvious (and boring) use of Forms Central for education is for creating quizzes and tests.  Pass.  I’m not interested in using it that way so the custom feature is where I head.  Form Central is a great place for you to create a guided inquiry form where students can view the current inquiry question and fill in their own lines of inquiry and thoughts as they begin into a new unit.  Answers are collected in one place so that you can go through with your class and discuss options.  This could be a great twist on the ideation step in design thinking!

Forms Central could be used to create customized rubrics that you and your students can fill in.  Again, the great feature here is that everything is collected in one spot!  Students can create and use forms to collect scientific or mathematical data that can be analyzed and evaluated later.

Students can create their own custom surveys for collaborative projects and easily distribute their forms and collect answers.  Our students created their own not-for-profit (LSGW Foundation), because they occasionally host fundraisers, Forms Central would be really useful for collecting information and donations online.  The ability to connect the form to a PayPal account where they can collect donations is fantastic!

The PayPal function could also be used by you at the beginning of the school year.  If you’re like us, you have parents fill out loads of Q&A’s at back to school night so that you can get to know the family and child better.  You could include a short wish-list of items that you would like for your classroom.  Parents could choose to donate monetarily to your classroom fund through your forms.  Forms Central also gives them an easy one-stop place to quickly fill out all of the information online.

Do you host an after school club or tutoring?  Use Forms Central to create your application/enrollment form and collect payment at once.

Have your students evaluate your class using a course evaluation (template), collect feedback from colleagues at a conference where you hosted a session, collect interest for a new offering in your classroom, create a risk assessment sheet…the sky is the limit for what you can create.

One of my favorite things about the start of the school year at Anastasis Academy is the Learning Profile that we create for each of our students.  We survey students to learn about their multiple intelligence strengths, brain dominance, learning style preferences, and interests and passions.  Forms Central would be a really great way to collect all of this information (at least until the Learning Genome is finished!).

Tips:  You may be wondering…why not just use Google forms?  I love Google forms, I really do.  But Forms Central gives options that Google does not.  Those options are appealing to me on a number of levels!  The bank of templates they have to start from is also super helpful when time is an issue.

Are you using Forms Central in your classroom?  Share your experience in the comments below!

Comments (3)

[...] “Adobe Forms Center: Create & Share Interactive Forms” @ktenkely (Cool!) ilearntechnology.com/?p=5045 [...]

Do you know if there is a way for all of the students to see everyone else’s responses? I like the idea of having guided inquiry questions for students to respond to while at home, but I think it would be more effective if it is treated more as a discussion between the students rather than just communicating solely with the teacher.

Ely- I’m not sure outside of giving everyone the login so that they are able to view it. The other option would be to go through responses on a class with an IWB or projector.

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