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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...

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How to create an online Advent calendar

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Art, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Fun & Games, History, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 01-12-2013

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I love this time of year, it comes with such wonderful anticipation of things to come. A time to be mindful.

 How to make a digital advent calendar- iLearn Technology

You can build some of that anticipation into your classroom with a digital advent calendar that reveals something each day in preparation for the holiday season. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, “coming.” In Christian traditions, this refers to God’s coming into our midst. Anastasis is a faith-based school, so the advent calendar I created for our students and families is to be in celebration of this coming.  Your classroom advent calendar doesn’t have to be faith-based.

Your advent calendar could be in anticipation of the coming new year, the coming break from school, or just a fun way to surprise your students with something they get to reveal each day.  It would even be fun to reveal some sort of “Mission Impossible” task each day for your students. Be creative! This could be related to something they are learning/working on in your classroom, a kindness challenge, a video of the day, a writing prompt for the day, brain teaser, a book/poem/website for the day, a peek into your classroom for families, inquiry question of the day, song/podcast, 25 days of science experiments, etc.  Even as adults we enjoy moments of anticipation, why not capitalize on that in your classroom?

I used Weebly to create our digital advent calendar.  You can follow our calendar here. Weebly is an easy to use, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website builder. It makes it simple to quickly put together a site that you can easily edit in preparation for the next day of revealed surprise.  Weebly also lets you include a nice variety of content so that it is flexible enough to meet your needs. I started December first with some text and an image.  My plan is to take a video each day of our students sharing a verse, quote, thought, blessing, song, etc. and embed the video using the YouTube option.  The only thing for me to do each day will be to take the video and upload it to our Anastasis YouTube channel and then copy the url into the Weebly image for the day. SO easy to keep up with each day!

How to build your own Weebly Advent Calendar:

  • Sign up for a free Weebly account
  • Choose a template to start with for your calendar. Any of the templates will work, choose the look you like best!
  • Start by dragging some text onto your page. This is a great place for a few sentences about your calendar and what students/families can expect to find each day.
  • Under the “Structure” section, select and drag over the “Columns” onto your page. I chose 5 columns.  Repeat so that you have multiple rows of 5 columns.  I have a total of 5 for 5 rows and 5 columns.
  • Into each row and column, drag over the “Image” option so that you have 25 image place holders.
  • I used Apple’s Pages software to create my daily images with the dates listed on them. I used some digital paper, layered a solid box of color, and two text boxes. I took a screenshot of each date (I just created one image and then changed the text for each screenshot).
  • Back in Weebly, click on the image placeholder to upload the images created (alternately, you can just use the search option to find images to use). Repeat for each image.
  • Create a new page (under the Pages tab a the top of the Weebly screen).  Be sure to check the box so that the page is hidden from navigation.  This is going to be your “come back on the appropriate day” page. Click “Save and Edit.”
  • On your new page, add some text and an image.  Type a greeting message from those who are trying to sneak a peek early.
  • Navigate back to your home page. Click on each image, an edit box for the image will come up.  Select “Link” and choose “Standard Page” and then the page you just created.  Save.
  • Create other pages for your site if you would like to, I created an “About” page for those who are curious about Anastasis.  It might be fun to include a “contact” page where students can submit ideas for the calendar (maybe original writing or other work?)
  • Publish your site.
  • Each day go back and click on the image for the appropriate day. From the edit box, go back to “Link” and change where the image links to.  It can link to another page that you create on the Weebly site, a website or video, a file, or an email address (what if your students got a new email address each day to email an encouraging note to?).  Alternatively, you can delete the image for that day all together and embed a video, html, flash, etc.
  • Don’t forget to re-publish after you’ve added/edited the site!

There is something truly wonderful about revealing a surprise each day. Don’t leave the families of your students out, it would be great to give families a glimpse of your classroom so that they can see what there kids are up to each day. This can be photos, original student writing, video, or fun activities to be completed as a family in lieu of homework.

Students can also be in charge of creating their own advent calendar. The possibilities for this are endless!

 

What great ideas do you have for using an advent calendar in your classroom? Share them below!

Sign Up Genius

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, collaboration, Grade Level, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 04-12-2012

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What it is: Sign Up Genius is an easy-to-use site that makes it a snap to organize all of your classroom helpers and volunteers, parent teacher conferences, fundraisers, etc.  Quickly build custom sign up forms, invite the group, people sign up online and Sign Up Genius automatically sends email reminders.  Sign Up Genius has professionally designed graphical templates, tools for bulk email, email reminders for those who have signed up, email privacy settings, and even the ability to view statistics for sign up pages.  Sign Up Genius also has great Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest making sharing SO easy!

How to integrate Sign Up Genius into the classroom: Sign Up Genius is your one stop shop for organizing groups.  Use this handy tool to create Sign Ups for classroom volunteers, parent teacher conferences, fundraisers, class snacks, classroom parties, office hours, student presentations, special room use, etc.  Sign Up Genius could also be really useful for creating sign ups for coordinating online projects with other classes around the world.  My favorite feature: email or text reminders get automatically sent out so there is no need to keep track of everyone’s schedules…it is hard enough keeping track of your own anyway!

For older students, Sign Up Genius could be a useful tool for allowing them to sign up for class project/presentations, meeting hours with you, or coordinating their own clubs or group projects.

Tips: There are all kinds of great themes built in-all customizable to fit your needs!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Sign Up Genius in your classroom.

Replacing the Friday folder with a podcast: Voxie Pro Recorder

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, Evaluate, iPod, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 12-04-2012

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When you change the way that teaching/learning happens in a classroom or a school, you quickly discover that additional changes are needed to support it.  We have been in the process of learning ALL of those things that are affected by changing the classroom model.  At Anastasis Academy, we are largely paperless.  Our students still write with paper pencil, create posters and projects, but much of their work is done in Evernote, iMovie, Stop Motion HD, Pages, Keynote, and Notes on their iPads.  When you take away worksheets, traditional quizzes and tests from the classroom, there isn’t a whole lot to send home as a “Friday folder.”

As teachers, we were pretty comfortable with not having a Friday folder.  We were seeing all of the incredible evidences of learning that the students were creating.  The problem: parents aren’t always seeing those same evidences.  Either the parents aren’t sure where to look, kids are feeling tight lipped or blogs aren’t subscribed to properly or read regularly.  We were hearing often from parents, ‘I know that they are progressing, I know that amazing things are happening, but I’m not quite sure how to prove it to myself.  I’m not sure where to look.’  Because we also don’t give homework, parents can’t use that as a gauge of what kids are doing in the classroom.  So, we needed a solution.  One day while @Matthewquigley and I were rehashing and wracking our brains for the best way to do this without taxing our teachers to the point of burnout, @Matthewquigley had a stroke of pure genius.  “What if we did something like a podcast Friday folder?”

Brilliant!

The more we thought about it, the more we liked audio as a solution.  @Matthewquigley and I can walk into a classroom at any given moment and ask students and teachers what they are observing/inferring/learning/noticing and they can give you a great answer.  It is easy to talk about students and to tell those great stories about a student that often get forgotten before parent-teacher conferences.  It is equally easy to talk about the work you are doing in class, when you are still in class where one project isn’t lost among the plethora of activities and learning that happened in the day/week.

We went full steam ahead with this idea.  First, I looked at audio recording apps for the teacher iPads.  I wanted something that would be easy to use, give us the ability to categorize, easily sync over wifi, and email the audio recording to parents and admin.  The clear winner was Voxie Pro.  It was simple enough to do everything we needed, without too many extra bells and whistles to distract.

Here is what we did:

Length- 30 seconds to 1:30 per student
Frequency- every other week

Purpose: to help communicate the progress that students are making, to collect an audio body of evidence that helps tell the story of student growth, to aid in the building of the digital portfolio.

Teacher should include: what has been observed, noticed, inferred
Topics: Social/emotional, spiritual, academic

Student should include:  Something they are proud of, want to share and where parent can find it in pictures, Evernote, iMovie, the interwebs, etc.
Student could read a few sentences to show progress in skills, explain Bible verse they discussed that week, re-tell a story, explain a new concept, etc.

Teacher Template

Student:___________________
Week: _____________________
What I noticed/observed/inferred:
Spiritually:_____________________
Academically:____________________
Socially/Emotionally:___________________

Student Template

A project/blog post/discussion that I want to share/am proud of: _________________________
My parents can learn more about it here:________________________________________

The first wave of these audio emails went out today.  They turned out great! Parents know exactly what is happening in the classroom as it pertains to their child and kids are sharing work that they are proud of and reminding themselves (and mom and dad) where they can find it.  Not only do parents have a great bi-weekly update specific to their child, they have a timeline of learning and progress at the end of the year.  Imagine the implication of starting a program like this in kindergarten, and following the student all the way through middle school.  You would have a week-by-week of what was learned, what strengths and weaknesses were exhibited, but also have that precious student voice throughout the years.

What I like about the audio Friday folder, is the ability to say more about a child than a worksheet with a star at the top can.  With the audio, you can communicate things about the development of a child.  Their progress in math when they struggled and struggled, but stuck with it to the end.  Their empathy for other students when they notice another student who is lonely in the lunch room and get up and invite their friends to sit with that student.  Their maturation as they handle a conflict with another student appropriately.  I especially love that students can highlight a project(s) that they are particularly proud of and help mom and dad find it.  That is a dinner conversation starter!  With any luck, we will forever banish the “what did you do at school today?” question.  In it’s place, “I’m really proud of you for sticking with that math when it was so difficult, what was it that you were working on?  How did you finally solve it?”

Awesome.

My Online Neighborhood: Internet Safety

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Classroom Management, Internet Safety, Knowledge (remember), Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 23-03-2011

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What it is: I learned about this gem of a video today from my friend @techfacilMy Online Neighborhood is a video created by Common Sense Media.  The video is a great way to introduce kindergarten through third grade students to online safety.  I like how this video compares the online world with the real world.  This helps students understand the rules in a way that goes deeper than just following the rules because we say so.  The video approaches Internet safety in a fun way through the eyes of a student, as you will see above, it is very well done!

How to integrate My Online Neighborhood into the classroom: My Online Neighborhood is a nice entry point for teaching Internet safety.  Use the video to spur classroom discussions about online safety.  The video also makes a nice lead in to the Internet safety lessons from Common Sense Media on Digital Life (sending email, online communities, rings of responsibility), Privacy (follow the digital trail), Connected Culture (screen out the mean, show respect online, power of words, group think, writing good emails), and Respecting Creative Work (whose is it, anyway?).  These units and lessons are detailed, fun, and get right to the heart of the matter of raising digitally responsible citizens.  The lesson plans are leveled by grade and can be used for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Tips: There are some fantastic parent tips and resources on the Common Sense Media website, be sure to share them with your families so that online safety is modeled and reinforced at home.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using My Online Neighborhood in your classroom!

Pilot Handwriting: Turn Handwriting into a Font

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, collaboration, Create, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Typing, web tools, Websites | Posted on 07-03-2011

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What it is: This is a fun site. Pilot Handwriting let’s students turn their handwriting into a font of their own.  The site is easy to use: print the template for students to fill out, take a picture of the completed template with a webcam (scanner and digital camera options also available), click on individual letters to adjust the look, save the handwriting by creating an account, click “let’s write” to use the font.  Writing completed on the Pilot Handwriting site can be emailed.  Saving the handwriting does require students to create an account. The account has no age limit but asks for an email address.  If you are teaching students who don’t have an email address, they can use a @tempinbox.com or @mailinator.com ending so they don’t have to create an email account.

How to integrate Pilot Handwriting into the classroom: I’ll be honest, I am not a big fan of handwriting worksheets- this is due to my own experience with them. I remember feeling like the practice page was endless and in the end didn’t give me a good feel for handwriting (especially in cursive) because I was writing letters individually; how often do you do that in real life?  The Pilot Handwriting font creator would be a fun way for students to end those handwriting practice sessions.  When they have a letter down, they can write it on the template.  The template could be filled out over several weeks as they learn and practice new letters.  At the end, they can turn all that practice into their very own computer font…as unique as their fingerprint!  The finished font can be used for learning how to write a friendly letter.  Students can compose a letter to a teacher, another student, or a parent using their font and send the finished letter via email.

Pilot Handwriting let’s students create multiple fonts within one account.  Students could create a font at the beginning of the school year and again at the end of the school year (or in subsequent years) to compare their growth.  Handwriting can tell us so much about how students are developing and thinking. This is a great way to record that development digitally.

My students love creating their own font, it makes all writing and practice more fun.  I caught a fifth grader typing out her spelling and vocabulary words just so that she could use her font.  In that one exercise she was practicing her handwriting, typing, and spelling/vocabulary.  Not too shabby :)

Tips: This is a neat site for students to share with their families. I have great handwritten notes from my grandmothers, recipes from my mom, and birthday cards from aunts and uncles.  There is something about a handwritten note that feels so personal and meaningful, it is capturing a piece of who that person is.  Students may want to ask their family members to create a font with their handwriting.  I had one student who was creating a family tree for class, he had each member of his family fill out the template and create a font.  He then asked them to send an email to him with the information needed for his tree using the font.  He cut and paste these onto poster board. It was honestly the coolest family tree I have seen, he had his family get involved and created a keepsake in the process.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Pilot Handwriting in your classroom!

Enter the Group: Making Group Project Easier

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blogs, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0 | Posted on 07-02-2011

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What it is: Enter the Group is a fabulous online tool that makes it simple to work with, and organize, groups online.  The tool has similar functionalities to Wiggio. Enter the Group includes shared calendars, site email, file sharing, instant chat and message boards, the ability to create private groups and classrooms, tasks and assignments, polls, blogging, Twitter, and question/answer forum, and best of all: it is totally free!  Enter the Group has some really nice classroom features that other online group management sites like Wiggio don’t have.  The built in blog feature is useful for the classroom setting, it provides students with a place to reflect that can be set as “private” so that it is a closed network for your classroom or school.  This is especially helpful in schools where administration and the school community is hesitant to enter the world of blogging! Enter the Group Classrooms provides a virtual classroom space that can act as an extension of the physical classroom.  Teachers and students can interact, keep track of due dates and special events, share files, post messages, and more.  Students can take their learning with them anywhere and access the resources they need anytime.  Enter the Group is easy to use and has really helpful tips and video guidance throughout the tool.  No matter what your technology ability level is, Enter the Group has made it easy to get started.

My favorite thing about Enter the Group?  They understand that the classroom is about learning, from the classroom page: “What do we do in classrooms? Simple answer is we learn. The longer answer is we; listen, ask questions, start debates, get group feedback, work on assignments, take tests and exams, present our work and perhaps many other things I haven’t thought of as well. Should all these things stop once the bell sounds and the students walk out the door? We all know the answer is no.”  Enter the Group isn’t about the technology, but about the learning opportunities that it enables.

How to integrate Enter the Group into the classroom: Enter the Group is a way to extend learning beyond the walls of your classroom.  Use it to extend conversations, debates, and offer support through online discussion; help students (and parents) keep track of assignments and classroom events, keep track of and share files so students who are absent are never left behind, to collect shared resources and information (a kind of “digital textbook” that you create for/with your students); to expand on class topics with video; and to create a collaborative learning environment.  Students can use Enter the Group to plan and organize projects that they are working on in groups, providing a virtual meeting space outside of the classroom to collaborate.  Enter the Group is perfect for students who are out with an illness or to continue learning opportunities when pandemic illness or bad weather keeps us from the physical classroom (anyone had SNOW problems this year? :) ) Enter the Group provides a platform where students can continue learning and collaborating from any Internet-connected computer.

Do you have students collaborating with another class in another state? Another country?  Enter the Group is a great place for students to work together, discuss, debate, and share.  The ability to create a private network adds a layer of security and manageability to the online group.

Enter the Group also makes a great platform for working with colleagues and for professional development.  Share important dates, files, and reflections within the group.  Enter the Group is a nice way to gather and share resources from one centralized location making it easy to add to, and grow, year after year.  No more, “remember that great lesson we used last year? What was that site/resource again?”  (I cannot tell you how many times I have had THAT conversation!)

Tips: Enter the Group provides a few options for sign-up.  Teachers, parents, and students can sign up with an email address (don’t forget to use tempinbox.com or mailinaitor.com for temporary inboxes for students who don’t have an email account), Twitter, or Facebook.  It would be nice if Enter the Group had a feature like Wiggio where group members could join without registering-this is really helpful in elementary classrooms.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Enter the Group in your classroom

Dushare

Posted by admin | Posted in Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 10-09-2010

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What it is: Dushare is an incredibly easy way to share files.  Dushare lets you transfer files via a web browser as fast as you can upload.  The site could not be easier to use, just pick your file, decide if you want it password protected to download, and then share the file.  Dushare requires NO login or registration, it really is simple to use!  While the transfer is in progress, you can chat with the person you are transferring the file to over Dushare.  File sharing just doesn’t get much easier than this!

How to integrate Dushare into your curriculum: Dushare is a great way to quickly share files with students, colleagues, or Twitter friends.  In a computer lab setting, quickly share a file with all of your students via url.  If they can access a website and have downloading privileges, they can access the file.  Students can use Dushare to quickly turn in work or send in work that needs a quick review.  Need to send something to a colleague but your work email limits the size of an attachment? Dushare can make sharing that file a breeze.  Dushare works when an IM transfer fails, it’s too big for email, or someone is blocked behind a firewall.  Share away!

Tips: Dushare doesn’t view chats or files, they just facilitate the transfer of files over a secure connection.  Dushare sets absolutely NO limits on file sizes of file types making it easy to send whatever you need to.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Dushare in your classroom!

Email Santa

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Websites | Posted on 13-12-2007

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What it is: Email Santa lets your students email Santa directly. The best part…Santa emails the students right back! This site is completely safe, it is all web based and does not require email at all. Students fill in a letter form to send Santa and he sends back an appropriate response. They are each a little different and unique.

How to integrate Email Santa into the classroom: This site is best used with students who are believers in Santa. The older kids are not so impressed! This is a nice activity for that last week of school before Christmas break. It requires students to read and follow directions. For struggling readers, pair with a strong “helper” who can assist. The students really love this! Students can even write letters to Rudolph from their pets.

Tips: Set up Email Santa as a center during the last day before break when the kids are wound up and ready for break. Students can also check the naughty or nice list for their name, get Santa’s autograph, vote for the reindeer who should lead the sleigh, watch the Rudolph cam, read elf jokes, and play some other fun Christmas games.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Email Santa in your classroom.

Let’s Say Thanks

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Websites | Posted on 26-10-2007

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What it is: Let’s Say Thanks is a website that allows students, parents, teachers, and everyone to write messages to our troops serving around the world. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women. Students select a student created image from the site and then type in a personal message of thanks. Let’s Say Thanks prints the messages and sends them around the world to our troops.

How to integrate Let’s Say Thanks into the classroom: Let’s Say Thanks is a wonderful activity to do around Thanksgiving as an activity in being thankful. What a perfect way to teach students gratitude while making an impact on those serving around the world. You could also integrate this activity into social studies learning about our troops, or current events. We live in a global world and this activity could open up discussions about where our troops are serving and what the culture is like where they are stationed.

Tips: Encourage your students to read the messages on Let’s Say Thanks “From the Troops”.