Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Hour of Code is Coming!

Last year my computer science students participated in the Hour of Code. This year, I am taking the plunge and organizing my entire school.

I won't bore you with statistics--how many schools don't have programming courses, the percentage of boys to girls in computer science classes... I just think that coding is an amazing activity for all students. It promotes thinking, reasoning, problem solving. It can be a hobby or a career! The shortage of progammers in he US is already significant. In the future, this shortage is expected to grow exponentially.

For the Code activities in my school I'll be using iPad apps like Kodable, Daisy the Dino and Scratch, Jr, with the younger kids. The free web tools Scratch and CodeAvengers will be used with the older students. All of these are FREE and excellent apps for learning coding strategies.

If you are interested in participating with your class or school, more info can be found at Hour of Code or Code.org. The work has been done for you and it is really easy to implement. Even if you don't have any computers or tablets, there are unplugged activities that students can do at http://csedweek.org/learn. All students should be introduced to programming.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


A colleague asked me for advice recently. He had asked students to make videos for a project and those videos were now scattered among personal devices. "How can I have students turn these in to me efficiently?" This is a question many teachers have when trying to incorporate more technology-based projects. These were not high school students, so creating their own video-hosting sites wasn't really an option. My first thought was DROPitTOme.

I have used DROPitTOme for a couple of years now. To begin, you must have a Dropbox account. Even if you use something else for cloud storage, in my opinion, creating a Dropbox account just for this is worth it.

Then register for DROPitTOme and link the accounts. DROPitTOme allows for uploads of up to 75 MB. Students simply go to a URL for your DROPitTOme account, type in a password that you've given them, and upload their assignments. (I have put this link on my teacher webpage for easy access.)

Files are collected in a DROPitTOme folder in your Dropbox, so they are easy to find and grouped together. In my personal experience, DROPitTOme has also worked fine from phones and tablets.

Both Dropbox and DROPitTOme are excellent tools for productivity in the classroom!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guest Blogger at Sophia!

I was thrilled to recently to be a guest blogger at Sophia. Sophia offers learning opportunities for students and teachers. They have several professional development units, such as their Flipped Classroom certification, that teach practical skills to teachers.

Sophia has a wealth of resources for teachers and is definitely worth your time to check out. My blog post entitled, QR Codes in the Foreign Language Classroom, can be found here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Avatar Images

No, I am not talking about the movie...we can save that for a different day. You may have noticed that my profile photo has changed recently. I replaced my traditional photo with an avatar that I created using this Avatar Generator.

Avatars have several uses in the world of education. What student wouldn't want a self-created image of superstar quality for his or her profile photo? They are definitely an engagement tool. If your students are young or safety and security is a concern, avatars conceal one's real appearance. Sometimes we just don't want a real photo floating around in cyberspace and an Avatar is a great way to avoid that.

Even for me, a technology teacher with a fairly strong online presence, I don't necessarily want personal images popping up when someone searches for me.

Here is a great list of free student-appropriate avatar creators from @MrEDUHowto.

Blogging 102

Last year I wrote a post called Blogging 101, in which I recalled how I got started with blogging. I still struggle sometimes, coming up with ideas or just taking the time to translate my classroom experiences to my blog. Over all though, blogging has helped me with my teaching and is very reflective. I have even had peers, students (and occasionally me!) refer to my blog for tools or ideas.

Recently I had one of those "YES!" moments when I got something to work the way I wanted. I discovered AddToAny and its code for adding sharing buttons to any blog. I had struggled in the past with this feature and today I was able to get things the way I had always envisioned them! I know some of you experienced bloggers are chuckling right now.

I consider myself fairly techie but sometimes the nuts and bolts (like HTML code) get the best of me. I rely on help from others to do the best I can. This experience reminded me of how helpful educators are and, in my opinion, especially those who work in educational technology. My PLN is always ready to share ideas and offer aid. Thank you!

Friday, October 31, 2014

QR Code Scavenger Hunt

qr code Besides being Halloween, today was the last day of the quarter, and the last day with my 6th grade Technology Applications class. I decided to do something fun to end the class and created a Halloween Scavenger Hunt with QR codes.

I used the site QR Code Generator and typed the clues as Text and generated a code for each clue. You'll want to copy them to a word processing document or something like that, especially if you want to save them for another occasion. Then I printed and placed the codes around the school. Be sure to double-check your codes, order and placement so that the hunt runs smoothly for your students.

I had students work in pairs and take turns being the scanner. The clue pops up as text on the devices--we were using iPad minis. My students loved the activity and even asked to do it again!

I describe a different kind of QR Code activity that I did in my Spanish class here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

iPad Apps for Elementary

A couple of weeks ago I gave a short presentation showcasing a few of my favorite apps for Elementary Students. Later on in the presentation I also share some resources for locating the right app for your needs.

You can see it here:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Remind 101 Adds Support for Attachments

I love Remind 101. I like to think I was early to the party on this one--I have been using it for a couple of years. I wrote about the basics in an earlier blog post. I am excited to see that Remind 101 has just added support for attaching files to the text you send, so students could be sent an assignment, a graphic, or a snapshot of the day's notes.

Unlike a traditional texted photo, the attachment does come as a link, so students would need a smartphone to access it, but this also makes it possible to send whole documents if desired. If your students don't have smartphones, you can still send text messages in the traditional way.

I really like the Remind 101 feature that allows you to schedule your message for a later date and/or time. Right now it is Friday afternoon and I am planning for the week ahead. I can schedule a message now (while I am thinking about it!), to remind my students Sunday afternoon about Monday's tasks. I also like that I have a record of what I sent and at what time. It really makes communicating with students so much easier.

The Remind 101 iPhone app is easy to use as well, so I can even send my students a message if I am out and about and not near my computer.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Keyboarding (Groan)

I have been an advocate of proper keyboarding skills for a long time--even before I became a computer and keyboarding teacher. The amount of time a person can save in a day, by having efficient keyboarding skills, is significant. Imagine what you do in a day, and if you were better at typing, how things might be different. Lately there seems to be a question as to whether or not keyboarding skills still are or will be necessary. For example, is typing with our thumbs the way of the future? (Ha ha) Or can't we just speak what we want to our devices? Of course technology is constantly changing, but keyboarding has been around a long time. I doubt that Christopher Latham Sholes could predict how enduring his invention would be. (He is credited with inventing the QWERTY keyboard in the late 1800's.) Laptops are definitely not going to be obsolete in the next few years.

I cannot say that my school district has the best implementation of keyboarding instruction. By the time I get my computer students in 6th grade their poor habits are very ingrained. Money, staffing, and time limit the amount of keyboarding instruction our students receive in elementary. And as explained in this article from Education World, keyboarding is sometimes thought as extra, and teachers trained in typing instruction are not always the ones teaching it.

I recently read an article promoting the continued importance of keyboarding skills.  Technology in general is still growing, and those of us who are tech geeks know there are somethings that a smartphone or tablet still just cannot efficiently accomplish. Also consider the increased use of computers for standardized and/or state-mandated testing. How can a student type a writing test efficiently if he or she doesn't know how to type?

If you are a classroom teacher who is required to also teach keyboarding, I recommend the article I noted above. The benefits of good technique, outweigh speed and accuracy. If a student practices good technique, the rest will come in time. 

There are several free resources one can use to teach typing. Just remember these are mean to accompany, good teacher instruction, as any technology tool is. 

Typing Club is a free typing program that I have used with my students. It allows me to create accounts to follow my students and assign typing tests. I like that Typing Club has a "Log in with Google" feature so my students don't have to remember another username and password.

Although not free, Edutyping is a great, comprehensive program. My school uses this in elementary and I completed a thorough exploration and review of it during my typing pedagogy class several years ago. It does offer free trials for teachers.

More free typing resources can be found here at http://www.freetech4teachers.com/, one of my favorite resources!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

iPad App Review: Literacy Leveler

I have mentioned before that my school encourages all teachers to incorporate reading as much as possible. I have a reading requirement in my Spanish classes, of English-language books with cultural content. (Read about it here.)

One of the concerns I have as a teacher, as do most teachers (and parents!), is to have level-appropriate books for all readers. A good way to ensure this is to note the reading levels of the books, and correlate that with the reading levels of the students, (or vice-verse) making sure there is something for everyone.

Yesterday, I discovered the app Literacy Leveler. It allows you to scan the barcode of a book to find out the various reading levels. It includes the Lexile, the DRA level and the GRL. This is a great resource for parents and teachers to help determine the level of a particular book. The app is easy to use and currently costs $4.99 in the iTunes store.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

iPad App Review: Splashtop 2

I live in Minnesota, and the winter has been rough. When the semester changed a few weeks ago, I was looking for a way to spice up my Spanish classes. I needed a challenge! I really wanted to utilize more technology in my teaching presentations but wasn't really sure what to do. I do not have an interactive whiteboard in my classroom, but do have a projector.

I revisited an app I had looked at a year or two ago, Splashtop. I had tried it but it had some bugs, or my school's network had bugs, or the planets weren't correctly aligned...you know what I mean. I decided to give it a try again, and am thrilled. The app itself is a little spendy at $6.99, but for me it is worth it.

I began by putting all of my lessons into PowerPoint presentations, or added to what I already had, and added audio, video and other media right in the presentations to make transitions in my class go much more smoothly. Each PowerPoint has all of the steps/notes/activities for a full class, and we teach on 80 minute blocks. I won't say that making these is quick, but once you get started it does get easier, and of course once I do it, I will have them for future years.

Here is where Splashtop comes in. I downloaded the app to my iPad, then downloaded the streamer to my computer and walk through the set up. I stream my computer to my iPad, and start the PowerPoint. By using my iPad then, I am able to control the PowerPoint from in front of the projector screen, or from any place in the classroom. I am not locked in to standing at my computer. It took a few days to really get the hang of it, but now I love it. The students like it, too--and were quite impressed when I first started navigating slides from my iPad. It was like magic!

The Spashtop website has other apps for the classroom as well, so please check it out.