Monday, February 27, 2012

I Speak Your Language

As an educator,don’t you ever wonder if your students are actually listening to you or if they understand the message that you are trying to convey? Do you speak their language? Do they speak yours? Well thanks to Edmodo, a free and safe social network for K12 education, you can all speak the same language! is a free (yes, I am repeating that again!), secure, social learning platform for teachers, students, schools and districts.

Using Edmodo teachers can create a microblogging network for their classes. Edmodo allows teachers to create a group specifically for their students and exclude those not invited to the group. It provides teachers with a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, and post messages to the group. But most importantly, it reaches students the way they reach out to their peers. We all know that a majority of our students use social networking platforms like Facebook or Myspace to connect with friends and also make new friends. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media across a typical day. It’s amazing that parents and teachers can get a word in! As the digitl world expands and envelopes more of our time and more of our students world, educators must connect to their students in that world, on their wavelength.

In Edmodo, teachers have the opportunity to send messages to their students — individually, in groups or as a class — as well as post assignments and additional materials. Students can have discussions about anything they're working on and not only get feedback from peers, but from teachers who are constantly tuned in and reading what their students are chatting about. Because of their feedback, the Edmodo service has evolved so that teachers can connect with each other, notify students of overdue homework, award badges for merits like good attendance, and provide constant assessments even after class is over. In return, students respond to their teachers more positively, and become more engaged in the class itself. The bottom line is completing the work, understanding the content and being successful during testing. Edmodo, and social networking in general, is a way to take the class and teacher/student relationship to the level of understanding of today’s kids.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“Class, put your pencils away”

Use Google Forms for Online Quizzes

As a computer teacher, I see students for a very short period of time, about 30 minutes a week per class. I have to get alot done, talk really fast and hope that the students understand what I am saying and teaching them. Since technology tools is one of my areas of instruction, a large chunk of my lesson plans include a wide variety of Google Apps for middle school students and sometimes 5th grade. They received school Gmail accounts (younger grades don’t have them yet) and are familiar with the Gmail system. My goal as a computer teacher is not only to expose the students to 21st century skills and tools but also to make sure that they know basic core computer skills, for example, word processing, presentations and spreadsheets. Regardless of my love of Google docs, I value and teach Microsoft Office applications including Word, PowerPoint and Excel. They are not as glamorous as some of the web tools that have comparable features but nonetheless, I think there is great value in them for instruction purposes. The downfall is that sometimes my students tune me out! They say “Mrs. Shekhter, I use Microsoft all the time, I know this already!” “True, you do know how to use it in general,” I say to them, “But do you know how to create a header and footer in Word, how to create and manipulate formulas in Excel and how to embed movies and animate in PowerPoint?” That’s when I hear “Huh?”. So in order to liven things up, after I show them how to use a specialized feature in these “boring” applications, I like to liven things up (and make sure they are listening!) with an online quiz using Google Forms!

Google Forms is a component of Google Docs, which is a free, web-based suite of tools for managing various kinds of files including text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. With Google Forms, you can create a set of questions and invite students to respond to those questions, either through e-mail or on a web page. Google forms support various types of questions: text, paragraph, multiple-choice, lists, check boxes, scale, and grid. It’s just a matter inputting your questions and determining if the student should give a free response or select from choices that you offer them. You can use Google Forms in class to have students answer questions alone or in small working groups, to facilitate in-class discussion of the answers clearing up an confusion, and also to increase interactivity among the students and engage all students even the shy, quiet ones.

A Google form can be emailed to students via Gmail as a quiz/test or embedded on the class web site. All the while the responses are collected and fed into a spreadsheet, which can then be used to manipulate the data and also used as a Gradebook. Google Forms give instructors the ability to assess how well students understand learning materials and to uncover student misconceptions, which helps instructors steer students to higher-level understanding. It’s so easy to generate a quiz and even easier for students to take them online, that you won’t want to see another hand-written quiz again!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Digital Learning Day 2012 - a cool tool experience!

As an educator who is passionate about the potential for the effective use of technology in schools, I was excited to participate in the first-ever Digital Learning Day campaign held on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. My goal in preparing for that day was to encourage all of the grade K-8 teachers to try at least one new technology-related thing in their classroom. I am proud to say, that the day was a success!!!

Here are some examples of some of the cool tools I was involved in teaching in my own computer class on DLD.
Grade K-1- Created a their very own animated cartoon using the IPAD app Toontastic. They were able to select how many scenes they wanted, what the background looked like, the characters, the music and the animation. They were also able to record their own voices for the characters. Once we were done, we uploaded our cartoon to the Toontastic Toontube to share. It was alot of fun, very creative, and a great introduction on working collaboratively.

Grade 2- With the help of the Social Studies teacher, we used the SMART board response system which is a set of response clickers for use with the interactive whiteboard in the classroom. The teacher created a 10 question quiz for the students who just learned a social studies lesson on early Americans. They got a real kick out of the “remote controls” and kept talking into them as though they were cell phones. After getting used to them, we went through each question with time for each student to response with a multiple choice or T/F answer. Once the whole class completed the quiz, each student was able to see what they got wrong instantaneously. the teacher also went through each question to assess how the class understood the concept. What a great feedback tool!

Grade 3 - With the help of the general studies teacher, we introduce LiveBinders to her class with the hope that the students would be able to understand how to organize their resources in a logical and easily accessible way.The topic for the livebinder was online audio read alouds. In the computer lab, each student went on to the read aloud livebinder and “read” different audio stories. Then they compared with their neighbor in the lab and offered suggestions on good stories to listen to. It got very exciting in the class especially since some of the read alouds were read by some pretty famous people!

Grade 4 - It’s always fun to try something new in the computer lab so I decided to make rock stars out of the students with the IPAD Garageband app. It was a small class of about 8 students. After giving a brif tutorial of the program, the students just took and and got creative! Each student had an opportunity to chose a musical instrument and play some “tunes”. They also had an option of recording their own song. Only 2 students actually had any musical background but after combining all 8 chords into one song, the students heard music to their ears! They were very proud of their music so they shared it on Itunes! The ultimate in collaborative work!

Grade 5 - We had a little fun with Google Maps in this class! My first assignment was to go to Google Maps and search for their own house. The I asked them to go to street view and show me a picture of their actual front door, their neighbor and their street. They had a blast finding their own homes and showing their friends. Some students who lived in gated communities were disspointed because their street view map was just not working for them. Other students were even trying to help out. After some time, we realized that one of the features of living in a gated community is that no one has access to your house image on Google maps!

The students and teachers really took the premise of Digital Learning Day to the next level. There was so much excitement in the air that resonated to the parents and administration. DLD got students motivated to incorporate technology into their schoolwork and it gave our teachers the confidence to use technology in their classroom! It was a win-win for all!

Check out what else happened on Digital Learning Day at .

Also, check out the podcast on how I used these tools on DLD @ BMA

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Go to strangers

Social Networking in the Classroom with Twitter Using GroupTweet

Most middle school and many elementary students are already networking online, so why not teach them how to do it right? After all, elementary schools have the unique opportunity to introduce kids to social networking before they stumble upon the pitfalls of web-based socializing themselves.A great way to introduce elementary age students to social networking is through a school-based network. These controlled environments allow schools to limit access and monitor use. School-based networks don’t collect personal information or preferences for marketing purposes, and there’s no entry for uninvited guests. Twitter is a hugely popular social network for the public. But how can we use it in the classroom safely but still teach the essence of its collaborative and interactive features?


GroupTweet can be set up where your classroom has a single Twitter account that can be updated by all the students as well as the teachers. It's a great way to centralize the classroom discussion under a single Twitter timeline. If you want to break up the class into different groups you can also create a new account for each group, mark it "Protected" and then activate it with Teachers can send direct messages to the group account and the messages will be converted into Tweets for only the Group's followers to see. In addition, GroupTweet allows for the creation of anonymous accounts as well. This may be usefule if the students need to communicate with a public twitter account or group as a resource for a lesson or project without using student names.