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I have to brag a bit on the students and staff at Anastasis.  Last week, we turned school into a mock sweatshop where students learned what it would be like to be child laborers.  The adults were mean.  No bathroom breaks, no drinks, no smiles.  It was a rough day for all of us.  The kids spent...

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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.

How to Do Research Interactive Graphic

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 29-03-2012

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What it is:  The research process can be a hard one for kids to master.  As a student, I remember thinking that it was a long process of random steps that were supposed to somehow come together as a completed project. I was constantly convinced that I would forget one of those steps and the whole thing would come crashing down around me.  I’ve seen this same behavior in our students at Anastasis. We mention the word research, and we are met instantly with groans.  Kids don’t really dislike research though, they do it all the time voluntarily.  Kids want to know how to be masters at parkour and they immediately search YouTube and Google for videos, tips, blogs, etc. to learn all about it.  Kids hear someone talk about dub step and will go through videos and connect with others who know about dub step.  They didn’t believe me when I told them this is research.  The Kentucky virtual library has a great interactive that leads kids through the research process step-by-step and lets them dig deeper into the portions that they don’t understand.  It has a fun game board-like interface so that it isn’t intimidating for kids to go through.  Every step of the process is covered from initial planning, to searching for information, to taking notes, to using the information, reporting and evaluating.  I’m not a stickler for this process happening exactly as it is described, but I appreciate that the site gives students a starting point so they aren’t so overwhelmed with the “research beast.”

How to integrate How to do Research Interactive Graphic into the classroom: The How to do Research Interactive Graphic is a great site to keep bookmarked and available for easy access for students throughout the school year.  Any time they are faced with the daunting task of performing a research project, they can access the interactive graphic.  Whenever your students are working on research, set up your classroom computers as a “research station” where students can perform searches online and access this graphic.  The interactive graphic will keep your students moving when they are feeling overwhelmed and stumped and provide a great foundation for conducting research.
The graphic is also a great way to introduce students to the research process.  Using an interactive whiteboard, or projector-connected computer, you can lead students through the process, explaining specific areas of focus for the project or your classroom.  I like that this site doesn’t just focus on the research paper, but shows students that research can have a variety of outcomes.
Tips: Within the graphic, there are pages that you can print out for your students.  Check out the notes section for an example of this.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using How to do Research Interactive Graphic in  your classroom!

BookSource: Classroom Library Organzier

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 21-02-2012

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What it is: Book Source has a pretty incredible tool called the Classroom Library Organizer.  A FREE account on Classroom Organizer let’s you digitally build and keep track of your classroom library, import BookSource orders, import student rosters, track book conditions, generate reports, and more.  All of this equals one thing for your classroom library: organization.  For an organizational freak like me this is heaven!  It makes it SO easy to track your classroom library, check in and out books to students, keep them located where they are supposed to be located in your classroom.  Basically it is a miracle worker (not to overstate it or anything).  As a teacher you can create book rules (like what you are prompted to enter in about a book upon return or how many days books can be checked out), you can choose which fields to display (including reading levels, word counts and interest level), and which fields to display to students.  You can even view reports about students reading habits.  Pretty handy.  And free. Did I mention free?
So, how does this nifty little tool work?  You won’t be spending your time typing in information about each and every book you own, that would be WAY too tedious…not to mention time consuming.  Classroom Organizer comes with a handy little (free) app for your smart phone.  Search “BookSource” in your app store, download the free app and you are armed and ready to go.  The app lets you scan ISBN barcodes on the back of books.  In a few seconds you have a complete entry for the book including the name of the book, the author, reading level, interest level, etc.  This gets automatically added to your classroom library.  You can even set a location on the book so that it is returned to exactly the location it came from.  SO smart!
Now for the downside: The site is not very explanatory.  You have to play around a bit to find what you are looking for and figure it out.  There are no “about” pages or even cues from the home page about what all the tool does.  As a blogger and a teacher, I find that annoying.  I don’t always have time to sit and figure a tool out without a little pizazz that says “don’t forget to look at me!”.  It is a small thing really, the tool isn’t hard to use at all, just not very consumer friendly…it doesn’t sell itself until you play.

How to integrate BookSource Classroom Organizer into the classroom:  Do you have a classroom library? Do you like organization?  Enough said!
We are using this as our only library tracking system at Anastasis since we are so small.  I started adding books to our library today.  If you don’t have time to do this yourself, enlist some of your students to scan books as part of their classroom job or clean up time.
Students can use Classroom Organizer to help them find books to read.  They can search by interest level, reading level, author, etc.
Tips:  If you use BookSource there are even more built in goodies to help you out!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BookSource Classroom Organizer in  your classroom!

Pegby: Online Collaborative Peg Board/Organizational tool

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-07-2011

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What it is: Pegby is a neat online organizational tool that has fantastic customization features.  With Pegby, students (and teachers) can share boards enabling them to collaborate with friends, family, coworkers and classmates.  Pegby is organized by a series of columns, students can decide on the number and organization of columns.  Columns can be easily expanded and collapsed so students can focus on exactly the columns they need at any given moment.  Students (and teachers) can add cards to each column.  The cards look just like a 3×5 note card and can include a title, content, tags, attachments, a due date and color coding.  Note cards can be dragged from one column to the next, shared with others or added to a stack of cards.  Students can filter all of their cards by tags to find exactly the cards they are looking for when they need them!  Pegby lets you have multiple boards so you can organize life to your heart’s content.  A Pegby board can be downloaded as a .yaml file (not familiar with that file extension, it is a unix executable file.)

How to integrate Pegby into the classroom: Pegby is one of those tools that I get totally geeked out about.  I love the 3×5 note card look, the columns, the tagging, the associated calendar dates.  A recipe for edu-love I tell ya!  Pegby is a great tool for organizing your teacher self this year.  Add ideas for the school year, tasks, lesson plans, to-do items, etc. to your board as cards.  Create columns that make sense to you and organize to your heart’s content!  Want one better?  Share your board with colleagues so that you are all on the same page and can share lessons/resources/task responsibilities.

Older students can keep their school year organized by adding assignments, tasks, uploading work, taking/keeping notes and sharing their board with Pegby.  As students work on and complete tasks, they can move items from one column to the next.  Those unit tests won’t be a problem because they can tag pertinent information and easily study and review tagged information.

Pegby would also be a great tool for organizing research projects (even collaborative research projects).  Students can decide how they want to organize their research and notes, tag information and attach documents.  All of the research is in one place and tagged for easy reference when it comes time to compile the research.  Pegby could be a useful tool for students attending college classes online.

Does your school use standards to keep track of learning?  Why not create columns of Standards headings, and associate each standard with a note card?  Students can upload any files or work associated with the standard.  OR instead of making each column a standard heading, columns can be associated with mastery level of the standard.  As a student moves through levels of mastery, they can move that standard card from one column to the next making stacks out of the standard subject.  Students can keep track of their own learning, share their “Standards” board with teachers and parents.

Is your class collaborating with other classrooms? Create a collaboration board where all involved classes can organize a project together.

For younger students, create a class Pegby that can be accessed on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  The Pegby can be added to and organized as a whole class.  Make Pegby updater one of your classroom jobs that happens first thing every morning.  Each student will have the chance to be in control of the board throughout the year and all students will benefit from observing and helping organize the day.  (Something we don’t model enough for kids in my humble opinion!)

Tips: Pegby does require a verified email account for access!

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

Quicklyst: Note taking web app created by student

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 18-01-2011

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What it is: Senior in high school Shantanu Bala emailed me yesterday with a link to a new web application he built called Quicklyst. Quicklyst is a web application for note taking. Shantanu created Quicklyst to make taking and studying notes easier.  Quicklyst makes it easy to take notes, deliver notes to a Kindle device, look up topics in Wikipedia, and define words within notes automatically using the Merriam Webster Dictionary.  It is free and easy to use from any web connected computer. Students can quickly organize their notes into study guides and even create a study queue for important notes.  Notes can be searched by topic or subject.  Quicklysts can be delivered to a Kindle, printed, or downloaded as text files.  There is no need to register to create a Quicklyst, to save a Quicklyst, students will need to create a username (could be email address but doesn’t have to be) and password. While students take notes, they can instantly include definitions and search information in their notes.  Type a question mark followed by the word you want searched and Quicklyst will automatically add information from Wikipedia and DuckDuckGo. Type a colon followed by the word you want defined and Quicklyst will automatically insert the definition into the notes. Students can click on the + sign next to their notes to add the notes to their Study Queue.  The study queue is a place for students to save notes that they want to reference and study later.

How to integrate Quicklyst into the classroom: Quicklyst is a great addition to any student (or teacher) tool box. It makes note taking a breeze, quickly importing definitions and search information into the notes. In a one to one setting (where every student has access to a computer) Quicklyst could be used by students to take notes during discussion, lecture, or any type of whole class learning activity.  In the one or two computer classroom, Quicklyst could be assigned as a student job in your classroom. During the class, the student assigned can take notes that can later be downloaded and sent to students, or printed as a study guide.  The class job should be rotated so that each student has an opportunity to be class recorder.

Quicklyst is also excellent for teachers taking notes in staff meetings, professional development, or conferences.  It is such a simple tool to use and has just the right amount of extras (instant definitions) to make it really useful!

Use Quicklyst with younger students to create KWL (know, want to know, learn) type notes with students.  Using a projector-connected computer, interactive whiteboard, or classroom computer, students can begin the chart and fill it in as they learn more.  The simple built in search and definition make it ideal for this type of use.

Tips: Quicklyst is a fantastic example of student innovation, it once again begs the question are we providing opportunities for this kind of creativity in schools?  Shantanu created Quicklyst in his free time for fun, amazing! I asked Shantuanu where the idea for Quicklyst came about and how he learned how to program, here is his response: Mainly, notes were something I always had a problem with. I’d either lose them or forget them, or just use a textbook since my notes weren’t very good. Although my school doesn’t have laptops for every student, schools are slowly getting more and more computers for use directly in the classroom. I realized it might be interesting to create something that stores a person’s notes online and allows a person to search his or her notes easily. That solved my first problem of losing and forgetting my notes. But there was one thing I found missing when looking through some of my notes: structure. I’d try to continue my notes chronologically, but sometimes there’s a gap when a teacher stops teaching one subject and jumps to something else that’s more urgent. Other times, I’d miss a lesson, and I’d forget to copy someone else’s notes. On a computer, this process is much easier, and copying/moving things around can happen in a couple seconds. I also realized that notes feel very disconnected — there’s a wealth of information available online, and there’s only so much a teacher can fit into a class period that’s less than an hour. Providing that information to a student while they take their notes in class seems like the right direction. It encourages active learning by allowing a student to ask a lot of questions and find answers themselves.

Part of the reason I am really excited about the amount of information available online (and the quality of the information) is because I was able to teach myself how to code in the 6th grade. I just followed some tutorials online, and whenever I was confused I just asked a question on a forum and I’d get an answer pretty quickly. There are a ton of people who write excellent materials and answer questions completely in their free time. It’s really amazing. Once I got into high school, I found out that I could get credit by taking some community college courses in programming, so I took Java and C++ classes. But my favorite programming language is really the one I learned first — Python.

Thank you Shantanu for creating such a useful application and sharing it with all of us!

Leave a comment and share how you are using Quicklyst in your classroom.

Organize yourself for 2011 with the Action Method

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, iPod, Middle/High School, professional development, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 28-12-2010

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What it is: You know what I love about a new year? The blank slate. The empty calendar begging to be written on. The chance to take a step back and evaluate how you are working.  I am an organizer at heart. I love having everything in its place. I love label makers, file folders, planners, calendars, and software that makes my life easier.  For Christmas my little brother (always have to have the little in there to remind him of his place in life :) ) gifted me with the book “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky.  I am about a third of the way through it and already loving it.  What my brother knows about me (I think it runs in our gene pool) is that I am a creative person. I am never at a loss for ideas. They flow constantly.  The problem: I think every single idea is genius. I want every single idea to come to fruition because surely no one has every come up with something so brilliant before.  Even for an organizational nut like me, this is an impossible task.  And if I’m totally honest, my organizational skills leave much to be desired when it comes to putting my ideas in their place.  Ideas are wonderful things, they make the world go round…but they are only useful as far as they are enacted. When the flow of ideas is constant, many truly brilliant ideas get pushed aside while another round of ideas rolls in.  This post isn’t really about the book.  While it is a good book, it isn’t really inspirational. It is life changing in what you do with the principles it reveals.  Blesky details his Action Method in the book.  I immediately loved this method because it works the way I think. It puts everything in its place and gives you a place to organize actionable items (things you can actually work towards completion right now), reference items (all those bits of notes and websites, and pdfs, and pictures I have EVERYWHERE…seriously my husband says I have a problem), and backburners- those ideas that aren’t really actionable yet but could be some day.  This keeps those brilliant ideas at the forefront and getting taken care of while the flow of ideas has a place (backburner) so that nothing is lost.  Sweet!  My next question was: where can I “do” the action method so that I can and will keep up with it?  Problem solved, introducing the Action Method online. You can put all of those principles to use in one beautiful interface.  Even better…you can access it on your mobile device too.  We all know that is a must in this day and age! The online Action Method has a free version which lets you do just about everything…for some extra shiny bits you can sign up for the pro plan.  The mobile version is a free download. (There is even a paper version for those of you who like to go old school…normally I am in this organizational camp but like I said, the website is right up my alley.) What is better than starting off the new year organized and with money in the bank?

Here is the Action Method as described on the website:

The Action Method organizes your projects into all of their most basic elements

  • ACTION STEPS are tasks that need to be completed. Each Action Step should start with a verb: “Call Y,” “Follow up with X,” “Buy a gift for Z.”
  • REFERENCES are notes, links, files, sketches – any information related to a project that gives context to your Action Steps.
  • BACKBURNERS are the brilliant ideas that you want to come back to later, but are not yet actionable.
  • DISCUSSIONS enable you to manage ongoing conversations across all of your projects with anyone that works with you. All relevant communications (shared documents, solutions to problems, feedback, decisions) are in one place.
  • EVENTS are the key occasions/meetings/milestones/etc toward which you (and your team) are working. Events can be used to coordinate deadlines for Action Steps, aiding project management.

Pretty cool right?!  I really like how the Action Method lets you track discussions and delegate tasks easily. Very handy! Need more convincing? Companies like Apple use the Action Method…you know something is working for them!  I don’t know about you, but the thought of having everything organized in one place is giving me some major warm fuzzies right now!

How to integrate the Action Method into your curriculum: The Action Method website and app can be used to organize your school life.  I constantly have ideas for new lesson plans, projects, websites, etc. that I want to use with students.  These can be easily organized with the Action Method.  Create a new Project for each unit or educational focus.  Action items can be the individual lessons and resources that you are going to complete for that unit.  Add any resources you need in the references section.  Saw a cool idea on Twitter that you want to use in your classroom but aren’t sure how it will work just yet? Add it to your backburner so you can go back and review it later.  The Action Method could very well be the only planner you need!  Create discussions with teammates and colleagues (or Twitter colleagues) directly in the program. Delegate tasks  to others on your team or even parent volunteers.

The Action Method could be used to help middle school or high school students better organize their lives and learning.  It would be especially useful for students who help chart their own learning plans.  The site does require an email address (with confirmation) to sign up.

Tips: You can learn more about the Action Method in the book Making Ideas Happen.

Happy organizing!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using the Action Method in Your classroom.

Juxio: Online Visual Creation Tool

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Create, Fun & Games, History, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 25-10-2010

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What it is: Juxio is a new visual way to create and communicate.  The web application lets students take their own images (or images from Flickr, FaceBook, or Picasa) and add them to an image stream or panel.  Text descriptions can be added to the stream to describe the images.  Streams are where text and images get placed.  Streams expand in width as elements are added.  A Jux (Juxio creation) can be expanded vertically by adding additional streams.  This is useful for organizing content into categories or for comparison.  Each stream can have its own header to add meaning or depth to a Jux creation.  Events are used to visually segment streams.  For example, students might have an animal stream of pictures that is segmented into the events “mammals” and “reptiles”.  After students create a Jux, they can save it as a PDF file, print it, or share it online via email, Facebook, Twitter, or url.

How to integrate Juxio into your curriculum: Juxio is a fantastic online tool to use for online visual creation.  Students can mash-up text and photos to create their own Jux that can be used to organize information or display understanding.  Use Juxio for animal classification, vocabulary, historical time lines, changes over time, to tell a linear story, or display any information in an organized fashion.  Take pictures of a science experiment for students to turn into a Jux, they can start at the beginning of the experiment adding captions to each picture.  Text boxes can be added for students to type in their hypothesis at the beginning of the experiment and to add a concluding statement at the end.  Take pictures of a school field trip and create a Juxio to tell the story of what happened on the field trip.  A Jux can be created individually by students in a computer lab setting, or by a whole class using an interactive whiteboard.  Class Juxio’s can be created to display new learning, each student contributing to one Jux.  The finished product can be printed and saved in the classroom with the URL sent home so students can access the learning from anywhere.  Use Juxio in place of a traditional Friday newsletter.  Take pictures of students throughout the week, add captions explaining what learning happened during the week and add a stream for upcoming events and reminders.  Anytime you add student pictures to a newsletter, the chance that a parent takes the time to read it goes way up!

Tips: Juxio requires an email address for sign up.  In addition, students must be 13 or older to obtain their own account.  If you teach younger students, create a class account where you are the owner.  Students can create a Jux using the class account and save it with their name in the title.

Juxio offers the option to purchase the finished Jux as a poster.  Prices are very reasonable and can be used for customized classroom decoration.  Cool!

If your school has access to an iPod Touch or iPad lab, Juxio can be downloaded directly to the device as an application.

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



Soshiku

Posted by admin | Posted in Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 16-01-2009

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In an effort to clear out some bookmarks (I am up to about 890) I am going to do a marathon of posts today.  I don’t usually like to load you up with too many in one day because I know how busy you teachers are, and I want you to have time to really look at the cool tool I have found.  My hope is that with the 3 day weekend you will get a chance to shuffle through these!

 

What it is: Soshiku is a web tool for students that helps them manage their assignments.  Soshiku keeps track of when assignments are due and can notify them by email or SMS.  With each assignment students can save notes, manage tasks, attach files, and share messages with assignment partners.  Soshiku is perfect for partnered assignments because it gives students a place to share files, chat, and more.  

 

How to integrate Soshiku into the classroom:  I think that organization is one of those important life skills that we don’t teach enough of in schools.  Introduce your students to Soshiku as a method of school orginization.  The email and text messaging features to notify them when assignments are due will appeal to your students.  If you have younger students, secondary elementary or middle school, encourage parents to be there Soshiku partner to help them keep track of assignments.  

 

Tips: Use a day in the computer lab to sign students up for Soshiku and teach them how to enter assignments, add notes, attach files, and share messages with a partner.  Your students are on their way to a more organized school life!

 

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

Picasa

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Blogs, Fun & Games, History, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Software, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 07-01-2009

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What it is:  Picasa is a free download from Google that helps you organize, edit, share, and create using photos.  The edit feature allows you to fix red-eye, crop, and fix any blemishes or scratches.  Picasa lets students create turning photos into movies, collages, and slideshows.  Picasa also makes it easy to upload albums to the web to share.  Picasa has been around for a while as a Google tool but the big news this week is the release of the beta version of Picasa for Macs.  The neat thing about the Mac Picasa release is its integration with iPhoto.  The features are pretty neat and definitely worth a look for either platform but with the announcement of iPhoto ’09 yesterday, they aren’t as impressive.  HOWEVER, Picasa is completely free while iPhoto ’09 is not.

 

How to integrate Picasa into the classroom:  Picasa  is a great way to organize photos you are taking of your classroom in action.  Create a web album, parents always like to see the great things their kids are learning.  Students can use Picasa to organize images they find online or pictures they take on a field trip.  These pictures can then be used to create a movie, collage, or slideshow directly in the Picasa software.  Students could create a class story in pictures, create a movie out of it and share it with other grades.  Students can also collect historical images, scientific images, etc and easily create a movie or slideshow displaying their knowledge.  

 

Tips:  Picasa is available for Macs in beta version and Windows and Linux based in alpha.  

 

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