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Grammar Games

  What it is:  The British Council has created an A-Z website of 69 Grammar Games to help students learn and practice English grammar rules.  I wouldn’t characterize many of the activities “games” but instead interactive practice.  The Grammar Game website provides students...

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HP Envy x2: Tablet/Notebook Review (gasp! it’s not an Apple!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 26-07-2013

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Staples HP Envy x2 iLearn Technology

If you have followed my blog or Twitter feed for any amount of time, you know that this review is kind of a big deal.  I have been a hard-core Apple evangelist for at least 10 years now.  As in: Apple is the only technology product that I own and use.  Why in the world, you might wonder, has she suddenly switched gears and started using the HP Envy x2?  The good people of Staples invited me to do a review for them.  Full disclosure: they sent me a HP Envy x2 to play with.  Being the tech geek that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play with a new gadget!

After taking some gratuitous un-boxing pictures, I plugged it in and got ready to play.

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

The thing is…I haven’t used a non-Apple product in a LONG time.  I forgot that Windows likes you to promise your first-born before you actually get to play.  After signing my life away (not really, but it felt like it!) I played with the Envy and did the tasks normally reserved for my MacBook Pro and iPad.  I’ve been using the Envy for almost a month (and exclusively in place of my iPad today, @jtenkely snuck mine away for a client presentation) below are my notes.

Staples HP Envy x2

The Awesome:

  • The last time I used a non-Apple touch screen, it was a train wreck.  I was pleasantly surprised that this touch screen was everything you expect a touch screen to be.  It is incredibly responsive and works like you would (and should) expect it to.
  • The battery life is pretty great.  I had it on for 4 days of off-on use without having to recharge.  I’m pretty sure I got every bit of the 12 hours of battery life out of it.  The tablet alone gets slightly less battery life. The thought that HP put into charging is pretty impressive, the tablet gets fully charged before the keyboard gets charged.  This makes a lot of sense since you want the most out of the tablet.
  • The cameras are decent quality, the resolution of pictures seems better to me than what I get out of my iPad 3.
  • Beats Audio is a nice touch, the sound quality is good for a notebook/tablet.  This let me rock out to Spotify while I worked.
  • The Envy has inputs on the keyboard base including HDMI, two USB, and SD ports.  This makes transferring, adding, sharing content really easy.
  • The notebook/tablet combination are lightweight at just a hair over 3lbs.
  • Aesthetically the HP Envy x2 is nice.  It feels sturdy but still manages to look sleek (everyone seems to be taking styling cues from Apple these days…hard to go wrong with that inspiration).
  • Flash works all the time. Not having to open a new browser just for Flash is nice.  So many educational websites are still built using flash so for a classroom setting, this feature is handy!
  • Bluetooth connectivity.

The Less Awesome

  • I like the HP Envy x2 better as a touch-screen computer than I do as a tablet.  The screen size is just a little too big and heavy to hold comfortably as a tablet for reading, typing, etc.
  • On this device, I constantly used the touch screen instead of the track pad.  The track pad drove me absolutely crazy.  It  wasn’t as sensitive as I was used to, and there are spots on the pad that were way too sensitive for my liking and kept sending me into full screen mode.  It also has some little grooves in it that make it feel like it is sticky. When you work with children, things that feel sticky are never good.
  • Windows 8- I don’t get it.  It seems hard to complete even simple tasks.  This could just be my bias toward Apple’s OS, but I am not impressed.  When I got the hang of navigating, things got smoother.  I still wouldn’t trade Apple’s OS for it.  One of the things that I missed (and this may just be the apps I was using) was that apps don’t integrate seamlessly together like I anticipated they should.  The Windows 8 store is not my favorite.  It isn’t easy to search for something specific.
  • While the camera’s resolution was good, I wasn’t impressed with the response time to get it to focus on something.

What to Anticipate for the Classroom:

The HP Envy x2 would make a fine classroom computer/tablet.  I like that students can use it as a laptop, they can type on it easily, can access downloadable content, and it stores away nicely so you are not taking up too much space in the classroom.  I also like that it transforms into a tablet so that students can make their learning, and capturing of their learning, more mobile.  Our students constantly take photographs and videos of their learning whether they are inside, outside, on a field trip, etc.  The keyboard dock would be too cumbersome to tote all over so it is great that students could just use the tablet portion when a task called for more portability.  I found the Microsoft store a little lacking in apps that are available.  I think that in the classroom, this gets made up for by the free Flash content you can access online.  I anticipate that with the Windows 8 interface, the learning curve for using the device would be more significant than with an iPad (which has no learning curve).  This is especially true for the primary grades.  It really took me some playing around with to get it figured out, and although I’m all Apple, I am also tech savvy.

Fun Find:

Most of the apps that I downloaded are those that I use regularly on my other devices.  I was impressed with some (Twitter app was great!) and less so with others (Pinterest app was ridiculous…it was easier to just use the browser).  One of the fun finds that I immediately searched for afterward in Apple’s app store was wordBrush (not there).  It lets you type some words into a box and then draw with them.  Pretty awesome!  This could be fun for vocabulary/spelling practice, poetry, book quotes, etc.

I was impressed with the number of free apps available for download.

Overall Impression:

The HP Envy x2 is a nice device that would hold up well in a classroom.  My personal preference is NOT for Windows 8, but if you are used to a Windows environment, it probably won’t phase you.  I was extremely impressed with Staples customer service, after I ordered the HP Envy x2, it came within just a few days. Everyone I worked with on the Staples side was great! (They didn’t even ask me to say that!) :)  At $699 this is a good competitor for the iPad.  The combination tablet/notebook is nice.  It really was like being able to use my iPad and then instantly turn it into my MacBook.  Being small, it doesn’t have the same capabilities as my MacBook, but for the majority of what kids do in the classroom, it would be great!

We use Staples a LOT at Anastasis Academy.  I’ve been there every day this week getting school supplies true story.  They have some great back to school deals that you should check out.  The first is Teacher Appreciation Day.  20% back in Staples rewards on all purchases! You can also enter to win a $25 gift card.  Check out the website to find out when your local Staples is holding the Teacher Appreciation Day.

Staples also recently introduced Reward a Classroom.  Sign up and then invite parents to help you earn rewards by buying the school and office supplies they do already.  This could help keep you classroom well stocked all year-long!

**The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own. Thank you Staples for letting me step outside of the Apple world to explore!

 

Oxford Owl: free ebooks (with audio!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 23-07-2013

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Oxford Owl free ebooks: iLearn Technology

What it is: Oxford Owl is an incredible collection of free children’s ebooks for kids ages 3-11.  Each ebook has accompanying audio so that students can choose to read along, or read independently.  The books also have activities that focus on reading comprehension and story recall.  There are several options for filtering the ebooks so that students can find just the right story including by age, by book type, and by series.  In addition to the ebooks on the site, you can find fun activities and recommendations for each age group, games to print and play, and online games with characters from the books and site.

How to integrate Oxford Owl into your classroom:  I am a big fan of books.  Huge even.  It doesn’t matter where they reside, books make me happy.  It makes sense then, that Oxford Owl would be a squeal worthy site for me.  Free ebooks with audio you guys!  This site reminds me a little bit of Lookybook...I’m still lamenting its demise.

Oxford Owl is a great way to instantly expand your classroom library.  Books are leveled by age and include both fiction and non-fiction.  You will find biographies, dictionaries, fiction, myths and legends, non-fiction, phonics, picture books, poetry and books for struggling readers.   The stories that I went through were truly fun to read!  Use the books on Oxford Owl during reading time on classroom computers.  Students can choose a book to go through as a read along (SO very helpful when there are students who really need to read with a buddy, but the buddy situation is limited).   If you only have one or two computers in your classroom, get a headphone splitter and let students read together in small groups.  The related activities are a great way for students to self-monitor comprehension.  Students can also read these stories independently.  When I taught 2nd grade, I had a voracious reader who quickly read through all of the classroom books and was ready for more.  He was only allowed to check out from the library once a week (and usually those books went home) so I would have him use Lookybook.  Oxford Owl would open a whole other world of books for them to read!

We all have days where a few extra minutes to deal with a problem, set up for the next activity, etc.  Oxford Owl could be connected to your interactive whiteboard or projector for students to listen to a story while you get things sorted.  The whole class can enjoy the story together.  My students loved books on the IWB because they could all see the pictures and read along.  Oxford Owl is also ideal for that time of year when the germs settle in and the voice has gone on strike.

One of my favorite things to do in the classroom was reading with small groups of students.  It gave me the opportunity to give them the individual attention that they really deserved and let me get to know them as readers better.  But…what to do with the rest of the class?  I assigned tub work that students could complete independently.  The tubs were centers related to what we were learning during the week.  Each tub contained all the necessary materials that students would need.  This was independent learning they could work on while I was with the small groups.  Oxford Owl would make a great addition to the “tub” work.  Students could visit the computer center and choose some books to read and play the associated games.

Tips:  Now for the unfortunate news: Oxford Owl is flash-based.  BOO! Not ideal at all for a classroom full of iPads like we have at Anastasis.  Luckily, there is a solution.  There are several Flash Browsers that you can download for the iPad to view flash content.  My favorite is Rover (because it is filtered and created for kids!).  If your network is well filtered, I would also recommend iSwifter and Photon.

P.S. We Give Books is another outstanding place to find free ebooks!

P.S.S. Hat Tip to The Techie Classroom- an outstanding blog to add to your reader if it isn’t already there!

Swiffly: Convert SWF (Flash) files to HTML5

Posted by admin | Posted in Download, Grade Level, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools | Posted on 28-06-2011

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What it is: Google rocks my socks.  The good people at Google that are dreaming up ways to change the world never cease to amaze me. Today, new to Google Labs is a little tool called SwiffySwiffy let’s you upload a SWF file (otherwise known as Flash) and convert it to HTML5.  Sweet.  This means that you can use flash content on devices without a Flash player (i.e. iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch).  You know what that means?  The iDevices are officially the PERFECT device thanks to Google.  (No need for the list of reasons you don’t like iDevices, I’m a hardcore fan and you are not likely to change my mind with a rant. Deal? Deal.)  Swiffy works directly from your web browser, I have tried it out in Firefox, Safari and Chrome.  It worked in all three well!  It will also work from Mobile Safari which means it will work from your iDevice.  Very handy.  Using Swiffy is as easy as uploading a file and clicking “upload and convert”.  It couldn’t be easier.

How to integrate Swiffy into the classroom: When I was in college I had a professor that often said “The wheels of academia are SLOW to turn.”  She couldn’t have been more correct.  I have seen this in nearly every arena of education.  Technology is no exception.  Many wonderful resources are available as flash files.  The problem?  iDevices (the iPad, iPod Touch) are becoming more frequently used in the classroom and they are not flash friendly.  Google labs comes to the rescue with Swiffy.  Simply upload the flash file and convert it to HTML 5 using Swiffy. The new HTML5 files can be distributed to student devices so that learning can continue uninterrupted by something silly like file type.  Very cool.

Tips: SWF 5 currently gives the best results.  If possible save the SWF file this way!

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

HippoCampus

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Open Source, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Video Tutorials, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-10-2009

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What it is: HippoCampus is a website with incredible vision.  The goal is to provide high-quality multimedia content on general subjects to high school and college students free of charge.  Subjects on HippoCampus include algebra, American government, biology, calculus, environmental science, physics, psychology, religions, statistics, and US history.  Each of the subject has a large library of multimedia content from students to learn from.  HippoCampus was designed as part of the Open Education Resources, a worldwide effort to make education available equitably to everyone.  Each lesson includes multimedia lessons, the text of the lesson, and related resources.  I believe the HippoCampus model will be the textbook of the future.  Students are able to learn at their own pace, pausing, reviewing, and receiving instruction on demand.

How to integrate Hippo Campus into the classroom: HippoCampus has an incredible library of content for teaching and learning.  Use the multimedia lessons in place of traditional textbooks or as a supplement to your current curriculum. Teachers can build their own HippoCampus homepage where students can access specific lessons targeted for them.  You can even create custom announcements to be displayed to students.   Although HippoCampus was designed with high school and college students in mind, many of the multimedia presentations could be used to teach middle school students as well.

Tips: HippoCampus uses Adobe Flash and QuickTime.  Make sure that you have each on your computers before using HippoCampus.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using HippoCampus in your classroom.

DoInk

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Fun & Games, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-04-2009

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What it is:  DoInk is an outstanding free illustration and animation creator.  The site has tools that are similar in feel and function to Adobe’s flash.   DoInk creates custom animations right inside your Internet browser.  There is an explore section where you and your students can get some inspiration for animations.  DoInk provides tutorials for illustrating and animating making it easy to get started.

How to integrate DoInk into the classroom:   Adobe products not in the budget?  DoInk is a fantastic alternative to Flash.  DoInk would be a great way to familiarize students with the basics of animation that will lead nicely into using more robust programs like Flash.  Allow students to create mini animations to demonstrate science concepts (think life cycles, rock cycles, water cycle, etc.).  Students can also create short animations to display an understanding of verbs.  Since verbs are action words, an animation is a great way to show the action.

 

Tips: DoInk requires registration with a username and password.  For elementary students, I find it helpful to create one class account where students can create.  This keeps you from having to keep track of a class full of login information.  It also makes it simple to keep track of student work.

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using DoInk  in your classroom.

Custom Guide

Posted by admin | Posted in Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2009

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What it is:  Custom Guide is a website that offers free quick reference cheat sheets for using technology (operating systems and applications).  The guides are two sided and remind me of Cliff Notes.  Custom Guide allows you unlimited distribution rights and they make great support handouts. References include: Microsoft Access, Excel, FrontPage, Internet Explorer, InfoPath, Office, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Project, Publisher, SharePoint, Visio, Windows, Appleworks, Mac OS, Entourage, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, Photoshop, Elements, and Firefox.   My one problem with Custom Guide is that it is REALLY outdated for Mac guides.  I suppose that for some schools this would be okay since it can take a while to adopt newer technology and some of us are working with dinosaur computers and software, but for me it is no good.  Custom Guide also offers free online learning with interactive tutorials and you can even create your own custom courses.

 

How to integrate Custom Guide into the classroom:  Custom Guide would be very useful for the computer lab setting.  Print out and laminate the most used applications and operating system sheets.  Bind with a single ring and keep next to each computer.  As students have questions or issues, they can consult their cheat sheets for the answers first.  This is also nice for non-computer teachers who are using the computer labs or classroom computers with students.  The cheat sheets give them an added level knowledge quickly and easily.  If you are a computer teacher or a teacher who is known for using technology in your classroom, you undoubtedly get frequent questions about how to use applications from your colleagues.  I don’t always have time to sit down and give mini lessons, having these cheat sheets on hand could be a big help for those times.  

 

Tips: Even though the Mac Custom Guides are a bit outdated, the guides they do have are very handy.  When you sign up for a free account, you can ask for updates to be sent to you when they add a new guide.  In the mean time, Apple has some great support guides for their products.

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Custom Guide in your classroom.

Kids and Cookies

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Interactive Whiteboard, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Websites | Posted on 04-11-2008

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What it is:   Kids and Cookies is an online flash game that teaches elementary students about fractions in a game setting.  Students choose characters to be their “friends” and then choose how many cookies they have.  They have to evenly share the cookies with their friends and can use different cutters to divide the cookies.  The site provides a great introduction to rational number fractions.

 

How to integrate Kids and Cookies into the classroom:    This is a great site for introducing your students to the concepts of fractions, especially those at the “sharing” and “fair” age because of the way that they have to share and split up the cookies fairly.  This would be a good whole class activity with an interactive whiteboard or a projector where students take turns sharing their cookies.  As they share the cookies, talk about the fractions of cookies (for example when they split the cookie in half or in thirds.)  This would also be a perfect site to use as a math center.  Students can visit the center in groups and discuss their findings as a whole class after every student has had the opportunity to interact with the site.

 

Tips:  You can find more advanced (much more advanced) flash math games and activities on the Center of Technology and Education site where the Kids and Cookies game is hosted. This is also a great game for those of you who don’t have Internet access in your classroom because their is a free downloadable version of the game for Macs and PC’s…cool!

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Kids and Cookies in your classroom.

Cyberbee Copyright Application

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Websites | Posted on 31-10-2008

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What it is:  Cyberbee Copyright is an online flash application to teach students about copyright laws.  Copyright laws can be difficult to teach and difficult for students to understand.  Cyberbee makes it simple.  The flash site features students raising their hands, each asking a different question about copyright issues.  When students “call” on the cyber student, they get the answer to the question.  The site uses language that is easy for students to understand.  

 

How to integrate Cyberbee Copyright Application into the classroom:    This is a great site to introduce your students to before any research project.  The interactive nature of the site makes it perfect for an interactive whiteboard and whole class participation.  The Cyberbee Copyright Application is a site to bookmark on your classroom, library, and computer lab computers.  Students can refer to the site often to refresh themselves on copyright laws.

 

Tips:  Take a look at the other offerings of Cyberbee for research projects.  You will find web evaluation resources, citing electronic sources, a quick site tool, and more!

 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Cyberbee Copyright Application in your classroom.

TIE Conference

Posted by admin | Posted in General | Posted on 24-06-2008

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Hi all!  Today I was at the TIE Conference in beautiful Copper Mountain, Colorado…a seriously perfect day :)  Great Keynote, and learned about Digital Storytelling and learned Flash for the first time, very exciting!  I’ve been going since early this morning so I will have to postpone a post with substance for later when I can form coherent thoughts.  TTFN

Novel Games-Flash

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Geography, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Typing, Websites | Posted on 02-04-2008

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What it is: Novel Games provides free Flash games that can be embedded on any website. There is a long list of games that you can embed from World capitals game, typing games, to Sudoku and other great math games. Search the list of games, you are sure to find many that fit your needs. Because you can embed the games on your website, students can easily access the games from school and home.

How to integrate Novel Games into your curriculum: There is such a variety of high quality, FUN, educational games that integrating them into your curriculum will be varied as well. An example of how I am using the Novel Games in my classroom can be found at www.typing.weebly.com. My students are learning how to keyboard. Because I don’t want to spend my year teaching only keyboarding I offered my students a challenge. Practice typing at home and come participate in a Typing Olympics (where only touch typing is allowed) and you won’t have to spend your computer time learning to touch type. I am at a private school so the best prize that can be offered is a break dress code day. The fastest touch typer’s in each class will get to break dress code on a day when no one else does. Students can practice typing using these practice games I have provided. The games are perfect as part of the Typing Olympics because they give a final score…easy to tell who the winners are! Most of the games are perfect for practicing a skill and will inevitability get kids doing homework voluntarily because they are so much fun to play.

Tips: Don’t have your own website to embed the flash games? Create a free one today using a site like www.weebly.com. To embed a player simply highlight and copy the code from Novel games and paste in an HTML editor in a site like Weebly. Make sure that your students have the latest Flash player installed or the games won’t work properly.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Novel Games in your classroom.