Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Digital Backpack

Wow, supply lists sure have changed over the years. 
I've noticed that we have been asking for fewer and fewer school supplies since receiving our 1:1 laptops.  All we ask for are a few folders, some looseleaf paper, some pencils and a few odds and ends.  Don't worry, we still glue, color, cut and create every day. 
Today our goal is to fill our students' desks with digital tools that promote creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving skills.

Here are the digital tools our students will need to start the school year:

  • Google Apps for Education including:  Gmail, Google Drive (no more Dropbox for us), Google Sites, Google Presentations and Google Forms                      
  • SMART Notebook 11 this is usually one of our students favorite places for creating projects.
  • Kidblog most of our students have never blogged before 5th grade.  They love sharing through the blog and leaving comments on each other's blogs.
  • Wallwisher this sticky note site is a great tool for our students.  There are endless ways to use this site. 

  • Glogster making an online poster is also new to most of our students.  When they delve into including multi-media such as audio, video and animation, amazing creativity explodes.
  • Spelling City We pay for the premium service of Spelling City and it allows our students to experience a new way to practice and learn spelling skills.  This site basically makes our spelling class a blended learning environment.
  • Lead 21 online portal This site comes to us via our reading series.  Our students are able to listen to stories online, write collaborative stories, play vocabulary games, participate in a discussion panel, and so much more!  Another great site for providing a blended learning environment.
  • Prezi Our students find that creating a Prezi presentation is a great way to use many forms of media.  The end result is quite impressive!
  • Bubbl.us Hands down our students' favorite tool for making a concept map or web.  

In addition, here are the digital tools I will need to start my school year:

  • Today's Meet -This is by far one of my favorite tools for communication.  I take the time to teach students how to participate properly in a chat room. 
  • Course Director -A Learning Management System integrated with Google.  Seriously, this is the future of education.  I can't wait for our students to participate in online courses!
  • Educreations -Can you say Flipped Classroom Lessons?  I started this last year, and I am ready to keep this going.  This is the easiest whiteboard iPad app I've found for making videos. 
  • Twitter - I can't live without my PLN or social media.  It is brings me inspiration and a wealth of resources every day.
  • Blogger -I'm all about sharing and I believe this blog touches many teachers and students lives in some technological way.  Thank you to all the Bloggers out there for sharing what you know!
  • Class Dojo - Behavior management in a new way.  Customizable to your class rules and expectations.  You have to give this tool a try.

And that's just a start.  Throughout the school year we will add to our "technology desks" and students will grow in their 21st century skills.  

What types of digital tools are you starting your school year with?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ripon Summer Tech Academy

Well, the Ripon Tech Academy sure was a great experience and I came away with so many new tools to implement this year in our classroom.

Here are a few of the best take-aways.

  • Naomi Harm is a phenomenal presenter.  She is a wealth of knowledge and I found her to be such a positive inspirational speaker.  I truly appreciated the fact that Naomi openly shared her digital tool box of resources with all of us to download and use in our profession.   If you don't currently follow Naomi on Twitter, you should start. 

  • Course Director is my new choice for hosting online classes.  It is integrated with a Google account and I am quickly seeing all of the potential of this LMS.  Check out the online lesson I created for science.  I consider this a simple version of a course.  I can't wait to delve into Google Groups for discussions and give the grade book a try as well.

  • Explain Everything might just be my new favorite way to record a Flipped lesson.  This app is worth every bit of the $2.99 cost.  I have started making videos for no reason other than to play with this amazing app.  Check out my video created with Explain Everything and then uploaded to You Tube.

  • Powtoon is a site mentioned by Naomi Harm and I have also been seeing this site mentioned by many of the bloggers that I follow.  Basically is it used to make presentations.  The presentations remind me of paper slide videos, which I've blogged about before.  Check out this video made with PowToon about Facebook.

  •  Finally, I must mention the one thing that really impressed me at the academy.  Our teachers and tech staff!  I had the chance to sit next to many different people during the week, and was amazed at the level of knowledge and willingness that our staff has for integrating technology.  I LOVE it!  And our technology staff is the best of the best.  Thanks for all you do.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Project Showcase

For a while now I've been wanting to put our classroom projects and tools that we've used in our classroom into one place.  So I created a Project Showcase on Scoop.it to do just that!  This showcase does not include any professional tools.  I have only included what the students have used.

Take a look:

Click here to visit my Project Showcase Scoop.it page.

I also have a Scoop.it for sharing technology resources that includes many resources I come across each day on the web. 

and a Scoop.it for sharing Friday Fun which are sites I share with my students to improve creativity and critical thinking skills.

I just love using Scoop.it for bookmarking, but even more for finding what others are using and bookmarking.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Blog Makeover - How I Did It

I love change and and rarely do the same thing over and over.  So a blog makeover was inevitable.  It takes quite a bit to make a blog look completely different, but I have found ways to make it easier on myself.

Here are the resources I used to complete my blog makeover.  

I found the background at the Dotty Dot Dot blog.  I chose Summer Sunset and simply had to copy the code and insert it.  I found directions on how to do this here.  I could have use the header (the title at the top of a blog) from this site as well, but I decided it was too plain, so I searched for a different header.

Shabby Blogs provided me with a header that fit my background perfectly.  I found directions to change my header here.

I wanted to add my blog title to the header, so I used a photo editing site called Fotoflexer.  This was the first time I had used this site and I loved it!  I have since used Fotoflexer for some other projects as well!

Sharing TechnologyHaving a button on my blog is an added bonus that many bloggers use.  Buttons allow others to post a button on their blog linking back to my blog.  First I made my button by cropping my header picture on Fotoflexer.  My button appears in my sidebar with coding below it.  A visitor can copy the code and embed it into their blog post.  I used this Grab My Button Code Generator to put my button on my blog.  I appreciated the ability to customize the background and text colors as well as the size of the code box.  

Next, I wanted to add social media buttons onto my blog so that people who visit my blog can connect with me through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.  To make this easy on myself I used this Social Media Widget Code Creator.  I had to know all of my usernames for each of the sites I wanted to add, which took me a while to find.  Otherwise, this was a very simple widget to create and add to my blog.

I left many of the other widgets that I previously had on my blog, including Link Within and Feedjit.  The Blogger Template Designer helped me to choose my font and colors.  And there you have it, my blog makeover.  If you are a blogger I hope this post can help you to do your own blog makeover.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Google Docs: I'm Getting Smarter; fonts, colors, embedding.

Below I have embedded one of my Google Docs with some really neat fonts.

I can't believe I didn't already know how to add more fonts to my Google Docs.  As I was going through my Google Reader, I read a post on Google Apps Experts blog.  Take a look and see how simple it is to add new fonts.

Isn't that really easy?  I never even noticed "add fonts".  I need to pay better attention!

Would you also like to know how I made a colorful background in my Google Doc?

First click on File and then Page Setup

In Page Setup, click on Page Color and click on any color.

If you don't see a color to your liking, click on custom to get the whole array of possible colors.  Notice that you can also change the orientation, margins and paper size.

And now for the biggest thing I just learned. . . 

When I first tried to embed the above Google Doc into this blog it looked like this:

I was very frustrated that my document was so small.  I tried to adjust the width and height in the embed code, but there wasn't any.  See the embed code below.  Unfortunately, I didn't learn how to code in my master's program, so I'm slowly teaching myself.  

<iframe src="https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1XSPSWDWz_h88l2Wb5139hL99QAyjrzXexrXpVUd4L_k&amp;embedded=true"></iframe>

So I looked to one of my favorite places for help, You Tube!
Thank goodness for Roaming Teacher.  She showed me exactly what to do.

I sure have learned a lot.  I hope this post helped you in some way too.  I especially want to thank Courtney Bell at Google Apps Experts and Roaming Teacher for their help!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Feeling Crafty?

Last week I sewed 30 new chair backs for our classroom.  This involved material, a cutting mat, a sewing machine and thread. Yes, I love DIY projects and enjoy doing something crafty now and then.

The OC Blog Button
One of my favorite places to find DIY projects is Charity Preston's blog called The Organized Classroom Blog.   I also subscribe to Charity Preston's You Tube channel.  

Check out this video on making colored glue dots:

Classroom DIYRecently I came across another great blog for DIY Projects.  It is called Classroom DIY.   I wasn't surprised to see that Charity Preston is a contributor to this blog among many others.  

Here are some of my favorite posts that inspire me to create things for our  classroom.

#1 - Create Digital Frames

#2 DIY Crate Seats

If you love DIY projects like me and want to get some great ideas, I highly recommend checking out the Classroom DIY blog and adding this site to your Google Reader if you use one.