Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Twitter for Professional Development

My professional development changed after I created a Twitter account and started following educational bloggers and leaders. I love reading the resources that are shared by the people and organizations I follow. (I also get a lot of my news from Twitter!) I have found so many good educational articles, resources, tools, tips, and positive thoughts from the people I follow on Twitter.

There are also chats you can be a part of. There are several educational threads (#edchat, #edtech, #spedchat) and a Foreign Language thread (#langchat) that I drop in on from time to time. An alphabetical list of hashtags can be found here.

Here are some tweeters that share lots of educational resources and tech tools.


One of the accounts listed above, @web20classroom by Steven W. Anderson, has a detailed Twitter "how-to" that can be found here. There are three parts to this Twitter series--be sure to check them out!

@edudemic has a visual how-to guide here, with a neat infographic.

As I said above, I use Twitter mostly professionally, so when I tweet, I send out resources, articles or blog posts and I don't tweet personal information. All of your tweets are public by default, so if that concerns you, I suggest reading up on public versus protected tweets.

If you'd like to follow me, I can be found @maragust. Happy tweeting!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chrome Extension for Emailing a Web Page

This post developed out of necessity...or at least out of want. I was reading an educational article on my laptop and I wanted to share the article via email. I normally would copy the URL, paste it in an email and send it off. It occurred to me that if I were using Safari on my iPad, I'd just touch the share button next to the URL, my email would pop up and I would send it off. Did it have to be more difficult on my laptop?

On an iPad

I jumped over to the Chrome Web Store and it took me just seconds to locate and install an email extension. Now I have a button to quickly share articles via email, added to several other extensions I already had. If you have a work and home computer, you can sync your Chrome account and your tools will be in both places, along with your bookmarks.

In Chrome with the extension installed.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of tools in the Chrome Web Store, and may of them are educational. You might want to check them out! One blog I follow, Web App Reviews, reviews them one at a time and is worth a visit as well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Options for Video Hosting

I have written a few posts about videos and YouTube already. See them here: Screencast Tools, Video Creation PD, Embedding YouTube videos,

Many teachers are confused as to where to put, and how to share a video. The general rule at our school revolves around tying up and slowing down the main server for everyone else. If a student is going to watch the video mostly at home, hosting the video on YouTube or another online service is the easiest way. If a student is going to watch the video in class, or if multiple students will be watching the video around the same time, we are encouraged to host it in locally on our Moodle server. I have had 20 students simultaneously watch a video I've uploaded to Moodle without a problem. That would never be possible here with a video on YouTube.

Our school has Google Apps for Education, so each student and teacher already has the ability to create a YouTube channel within his or her account. This is the easiest way for teachers and students to share videos. YouTube and all that comes with it is not always the best for everyone, though and YouTube is blocked at some schools.

Wistia is an easy video sharing site. The free account allows you 3 videos and 5 GB. This is not a lot but is an easy way for people to get started.

Edmodo is a free online management system that allows teachers and students to communicate, collaborate and share in a secure, Facebook-like environment. There is currently no limit as to the amount of videos you upload.

TeacherTube is a free education-based video site. There is currently no limit as to the amount of videos you upload.

All of these tools are easy to use. You might want to check with your school's technology director to see what is most feasible for your school's technology capabilities.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Screencast Tools

I wrote earlier about a video creation PD day I helped facilitate. I love making videos and especially screencasts--a video of your computer screen. One of the classes I teach is mostly Microsoft Office, and I don't have a projector or presentation area in the computer lab, so I make screencasts of each assignment, walking students through the steps on my screen so they can see exactly what to do AND if students are absent, they have an easy resource to catch them up.

Anyway, back to screencasts. I recently had my Digital Media students complete an assignment making a screencast and re-researched the best tools for this assignment. There are many screencast tools out there, but the options and capabilities vary. I painstakingly researched a few to see how they compared. Although all are easy to use, finding out that the awesome video you just made is now publicly accessible, or won't work on certain devices is what makes technology frustrating sometimes.

Tool #1

Jing used to be my favorite tool for screen casting when I had the now discontinued pro version for $15. I still like it but it may have lost its place at the head of the class. Jing requires a download and screencasts are shared at Screencast.com and from there you can download, embed, and share with a link. The video is in SWF (Flash) format and is limited to 5 minutes. Jing is also a great tool for snipping and annotating an image from your computer such as this:

Tool #2

Screenr is a free web tool. Screenr gives you the embed code to your video, so you can place it on a blog or somewhere else (besides the Screenr site). Also, it allows you to download your file as an MP4. In Screenr, all of your videos become part of the public stream, so you do want to be careful with content and also with your screen name. Time limit is 5 minutes.

Tool #3

Screencast-o-matic is a free web tool with an optional download version. It also allows you to download your video, or post to YouTube, embed, and has a generous 15 minute recording time.  In the free version, you do have a "Screencast-o-matic" watermark stamped on your video. Screencast-o-matic will only let you store one video at a time. Videos are searchable by default but you can set these options when you upload. Screencast-o-matic does have a nice paid version for only $15/year.

Tool #4

CamStudio is another tool I found, and is a free download. Videos are recorded in your choice of AVI or SWF format. It is an easy tool to use and gives you your video for you to upload where and how you want--there is no online account component. I could not find a time limit but since you are not storing the video online, my assumption is that there is no time limit.

Tool #5

If your school has an interactive whiteboard program, you can investigate the options there. My school currently has SmartNotebook 11, and there is a screen recorder tool built in. You can use it anywhere on your computer, not just in SmartNotebook. One difference here is that unlike the other tools mentioned above with which you draw a selection box around only what you want to record, SmartNotebook 11 records your whole screen. These videos save as a WMA file. There is no time limit and no account needed but of course you need the software at your school.

There are many more tools out there, but these are the handful I investigated in depth. What is your favorite Screencast tool? Why? Share your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

iPad App Review: Sock Puppets

I belong to a couple of  foreign language teachers groups and recently one of the members posted an inquiry about the app Sock Puppets and it reminded me how much I love this app!

Sock Puppets is a creation app that records voices, scrubs them, and creates a video. It is so easy (literally) kindergartner can do it. I have also had a lot of fun with high school students using this app. Videos are created by choosing your characters, props and scene. Start recording and then tap on each character as you want him or her to speak. When you are done, press stop and then save and/or share via YouTube or Facebook.

I like to use this app with Spanish students because they can talk and be silly without feeling self-conscious. Sock Puppets changes students' voices to cartoon voices, making it so engaging. If you are trying to assess pronunciation or speaking, you can tweak the voice settings to make it more accurate.

This is a great storytelling app that could be used with any subject, by any age. Examples might be a role-play story, a skit in a foreign language classroom, or even an explanatory video.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Web Tool Review: eQuizShow

eQuizShow is a website for creating Jeopardy-like games.I really like the simple interface and the lack of clutter on the screen. It is free, but you may donate money if you'd like. It can be used with or without an interactive white board or on an iPad, so it could be used for small group or individual practice as well. If played as a large group, you are able to select the number of teams and it will keep score for you--a big plus!

After you make your game, you are given a link to your game (See one of mine here.), and you are able to go back and edit your own games and search for (but not edit) others' games.

One word of advice: when you create a game, give it a specific name to help you and others in the future. "Science Vocab" is not as good as "Cell Biology Vocab". I started using the name of my textbook and the chapter for the title.

There are lots of game websites and apps but I have had good luck with eQuizShow. It is easy to set up and easy to use.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Video Creation with a Webcam

In a previous post, Video Creation PD, I talk about professional development I helped facilitate during which teachers made videos. In my Digital Media class my students have been creating videos as well. I showed some simple yet fun stop-animation videos here. I recently had the students create another video with tools of their choice: a video camera, smartphone, etc., and then edit them using the free program Windows MovieMaker. One student surprised me and created an awesome video using only her laptop's webcam as the camera. She had literally procrastinated until the night before, and used that topic as her inspiration. I thought it was creative and well-edited besides! She gave me permission to share it.

Even if we don't have the desired tools or resources, anything is possible. Digital tools have changed the way students can express themselves and complete a task or project. Remember as a teacher to be open minded about how students complete projects. Choice and flexibility are as important now as they ever have been. As long as students fulfill the goals of the project and are learning, should it matter what the final product is?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Low-Tech Book Project

Not every project has to be high tech. My high school students recently helped the second grade class with a book project. The book was showcasing their grandparents and the relationship each child had with his or her loved ones. The second graders drew pictures representing their grandparents or some of the activities they do with their parents.

For a small burst of technology, the second graders wrote a paragraph about their grandparents and then with the help of the high school students, created a page for the book using Microsoft Word. The second grade students typed their paragraphs, and the high school students taught them how to add boarders, clip art, and color, as well as a photo of the student with his or her grandparent. Each student ended up with a hand-drawn page and a computer-generated page.

Here are examples of the pages the second graders created. As you can see, the artistic guidelines were fairly open, but the second grade students loved being able to create and be fancy.

These pages were copied off in color and made into a book, representing the whole class. It was very pretty and colorful, and the little students loved working with the big kids. After completing the project, I had my high school students write a reflective blog post and all of the comments were positive. They loved helping the elementary students and being able to be computer experts for someone else. One student commented on seeing her little buddy at a school event the next day and being greeted with smiles and a hug. It was a fun way to simply  integrate technology in the lower grades and assign the school students the role of teacher.

Monday, April 8, 2013

iPads in Spanish Class

So often I hear the question, "What are some good Spanish apps to use in class?" I know there are some good ones, but my favorite apps for Spanish class aren't in Spanish.

I like to use storytelling and creation apps and have students use the language. Here are some activities I have done with specific apps.

Other uses for the iPad include accessing authentic audio and video online.

My absolute favorite part of using iPads in Spanish class are the audio and video capabilities in general. Still camera, video camera, microphone. Creating videos and recordings is so easy!

I wish I could do more with iPads, but in my school I share a cart of them with everyone else, and we are limited to what we can do in an occasional class period. Still, the students love them and we try to do what we can when we can!

How have you used iPads in your classroom? Leave me a comment below! Thanks!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Speaking of Languages Infographic

An infographic is data and information explained in a visual way. They are all the rage right now and actually quite useful. I came across the infographic below and thought it was neat and informative. I plan to share it with my students.

You can create your own infographics, too! Here are some resources http://edudemic.com/2012/08/diy-infographics/.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Collecting Student Work Electronically

One of my ongoing quests as a teacher is to reduce the amount of paper coming into my classroom. This is not just a convenience for me, but a life skill to for students. Think about how often you work with documents in your personal life--bank statements, applications, letters, cards, bills, even check blanks. Has this changed for you in the last 10 years? It certainly has for me!

I loathe paper so much that I even try to design tasks that can be submitted electronically ...versus paper-pencil.

Here are my favorite ways to collect work electronically.

  1. Moodle is a free course management system. It does have to be installed on your school's server so it isn't a task for individual teachers. We have Moodle at my school and it is easy to collect, keep track of and even score work right inside the site. It is convenient because all of the teachers here use Moodle so there is some consistency for students. Edmodo and Schoology are other examples of learning management systems.
  2. Dropbox and DROPitTOme work together to allow students to upload work to a folder. You must first create a Dropbox account and then add the Drop-it-to-Me feature. Both are free and easy. Students enter a password and upload a document, which goes to your Dropbox folder until you need it. I really like this tool because everything goes to the same place until I need it. DROPitTOme allows for larger files that may not easily be emailed. Here is what it looks like to one of my students. They simply type in the password you've set up and then upload.

  3. Email may be archaic to some, but it is easy. I create folders in my email program (we use Outlook) and store students' work there. It keeps the emails organized and declutters my inbox.
The next time you have your students create a PowerPoint or a word processed document, try one of these options for collecting work.