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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Getting Rid of One-Size-Fits-All Discussion with #Padlet

I'm currently teaching an online graduate course on Universal Design for Learning for teachers in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Being able to practice what I preach is one of things I pride myself on.

The Learning Task: 

I am having my students analyze a text using a method I like to called the Tea Party Protocol. Students have to provide one sentence, phrase, and word that stood out to them in the text and demonstrate their reasoning.

Barriers:

One of the biggest barriers to online learning (and learning in general) is that we often require all students to answer questions the same way. Unfortunately this is not how we learn. If we have flexibility to meet the learning goal, why not provide tools for students to demonstrate their understanding in different ways? 

Overcoming Barriers:  
I decided that I was going to take a new approach and use Padlet. If you are not familiar with Padlet, formerly known as Wallwisher,  it is a free collaborative website where users create a virtual boards called a Padlet. Users can share their padlets with others as a platform to collaborate through virtual post-it notes. Each post-it note has the option of writing text, attaching a URL, and even attaching a document. 

What Did I Do? 

I created my own Padlet for students to share their answers. There are a variety of ways that you can share and have users access Padlet, but I shared it through a link where anyone could add a post-it note. This is probably not best practice, but I am experimenting to see how this works.




Participants double-click on the Padlet to create a post-it note. They enter their name and the phrase, word, and sentence that stood out to them; however, they have some flexibility on sharing their reasoning. 
  • Type answer on the post-it note 
  • Attach a file (PowerPoint, Word, etc.) to explain reasoning, access grammar tools, and add visuals.  
  • Attach a hyperlink to a an external source like Google Docs or create a MoveNote presentation, where they can verbally discuss their answer with their classmates. 
Conclusion:

Providing students with multiple ways to express their knowledge is extremely important because it solidifies the learning process. In an online community, this is important, so that we can help all participants learn and participate in the learning process. Restricting learning to one-size-fits all discussion forums is not an effective way of learning.  Providing students with options (when appropriate) is not only an excellent way to have them demonstrate their understanding, but it is also a great way to engage them in the learning process!

Clicks 4 a Cause:

Hailey is a vibrant 4-year-old, who recently developed a mass on her kidney in late January 2015. It is a cancerous, stage IV "Wilms" tumor that has spread to her lungs and liver. She and her family need our thoughts, prayers, and financial support. During the month of February, I will donate a penny to Hailey's medical fund. This goes a long way! In the past, we have raised over $400 for children in need

How Can You Help? 
  • Visit my blog - each visit literally counts!
  • Make a donation to her GoFundMe page! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cool #Chrome Extensions: Photo Editing with the PicMonkey Extension

Over the past few posts, I have been sharing awesome Chrome Add-ons and Cool Chrome Extensions.  Add-ons enhance your experience when working in a specific App, while extensions change your browsing experience. Here's another Cool Chrome Extension to change the way that you browse!

PicMonkey

Photo editing is an important task that our students need to master, which often gets overlooked. If you are familiar with photo editing, there are all kinds of tools out there. One of the best free websites available is PicMonkey. If you are a Chrome user, then you can use the PicMonkey extension. The PicMonkey extension allows you to grab any picture on a website and open it up on the PicMonkey website for editing! 

How does it work? 

Step 1: Install the PicMonkey extension in Chrome


Step 2: Visit any website of your choice. When you click on the PicMonkey extension, you will literally see every single picture available on the current webpage. 


Step 3: Select the picture of your choice and it will open up automatically in PicMonkey. No login necessary (unless you want to save your pictures).  Use a variety of free photo editing tools and save it. 




Conclusion:

If you are not familiar with PicMonkey, it makes editing photos a synch for anyone with any ability level. The best part is that it is free and easy to use! If you love PicMonkey and use it often, there is a paid version with more bells and whistles.

Clicks 4 a Cause:

Hailey is a vibrant 4-year-old, who recently developed a mass on her kidney in late January 2015. It is a cancerous, stage IV "Wilms" tumor that has spread to her lungs and liver. She and her family need our thoughts, prayers, and financial support. During the month of February, I will donate a penny to Hailey's medical fund. This goes a long way! In the past, we have raised over $400 for children in need

How Can You Help? 
  • Visit my blog - each visit literally counts!
  • Make a donation to her GoFundMe page! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cool #GAFE #Chrome Extensions: Read&Write

Check out my sessions at PETE&C today:
  • 2:30 - 3:30 pm - Don't Be a One and Done @ Hotel Hershey Starlight East
  • 4:45 - 5:45 pm - Using LiveBinders to Address All Learners @ Hershey Lodge Cocoa 5
 Several years ago, I had a student named Jamar who used to always try to get thrown out of class when we had reading assignments. One day I had a frank conversation with him and asked him why. He told me that he found it difficult concentrating on reading to himself because he needed to "hear" the text being read aloud.

If every student does not learn the same way, then why are we requiring students read the same way? Read&Write is an awesome Chrome extension that provides scaffolds and supports for struggling readers.

How does it work? 

Step 1: Go to the Chrome Store and install it on your Chrome browser.

Step 2: As you travel the Internet, create a Google Doc, or read a PDF, an icon will appear on your address bar. This icon lets you know that Read&Write can be enabled. Select the icon and you will see a variety of tools to help your struggling readers.

I enjoy pressing play and listening to my entire document (highlighted sections of the text) being read to me by a non-electronic sounding voice.



What Else Can it Do? 

Read&Write is a powerful accessibility tool for all student to gain confidence with not only reading, but writing as well. Here are some of it's awesome features (directly from the website):
  • See the meaning of words explained with text and picture dictionaries 
  • Hear text translated into other languages 
  • Get suggestions while you are typing for words to type
  • Highlight text in documents or webpages to use in other documents later. 
  • Simplify and summarize text on web pages

Clicks 4 a Cause:

Hailey is a vibrant 4-year-old, who recently developed a mass on her kidney in late January 2015. It is a cancerous, stage IV "Wilms" tumor that has spread to her lungs and liver. She and her family need our thoughts, prayers, and financial support. During the month of February, I will donate a penny to Hailey's medical fund. This goes a long way! In the past, we have raised over $400 for children in need

How Can You Help? 
  • Visit my blog - each visit literally counts!
  • Make a donation to her GoFundMepage! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

6 Tips for Conference Presentations

I am currently attending and presenting at a technology conference called PETE&C in Hershey, PA this week. A new presenter had asked me if I had any tips for engaging an audience. Here are some ideas:

1. Anyone Can Communicate, But Very Few Connect
Most people are very nervous when it comes to public speaking; however, investing a few moments of your time to make small talk and connect with people can pay dividends. It helps you relax a little more because you know a few more people than you did before. It allows your audience to be more patient with you when glitches or moments of imperfection happen.



2. Death by PowerPoint
Nothing is worse than watching someone read from a PowerPoint. Steve Jobs would throw people out of the board room for doing so. Suggestion: Don't put everything that you are going to say on your slides. What does this communicate? That you don't know your stuff.

I often use a TED Talk style, where text is outlawed for presentations within my classroom. Talk to your audience and use images to illustrate your point. Anyone can read text, but very few people can share your story.

3. Avoid Saying "I Hope it Works."
Technology glitches are going to happen, but try to avoid saying "I hope it works." This communicates that you are not very confident or you don't have a backup plan in place.


4. Assume Streaming Video Will NOT Work
Let's face it, the Wifi at many conferences is very spotty. Assume that playing a video clip will not work and use online video converters to have an electronic copy available. Video clips that don't work can annoy and frustrate your audience.

5. Leave Your Audience Better Than You Found Them
Nothing is more frustrating than leaving a presentation without resources or websites to investigate the topic further. If you don't have web design experience, you may want to consider creating a Google Doc and publishing it as a website. It's a quick and simple way of sharing resources with your audience.

6. Tap Into the Most Valuable Resource in the Room
Even though you are the "expert," try not to sound like a know-it-all because this often creates a barrier between you and your audience. Nothing is worse for an audience than listening to someone ramble on for an hour without having a chance to process and speak. Incorporate sharing information with a neighbor, talking as a group, and even having participants to share resources they use.

Conclusion:
Although I am not perfect, I try to practice what I preach when I give presentations. Do you have any other presentation ideas? I would love to hear them!

Clicks 4 a Cause:

Hailey is a vibrant 4-year-old, who recently developed a mass on her kidney in late January 2015. It is a cancerous, stage IV "Wilms" tumor that has spread to her lungs and liver. She and her family need our thoughts, prayers, and financial support. During the month of February, I will donate a penny to Hailey's medical fund. This goes a long way! In the past, we have raised over $400 for children in need

How Can You Help? 
  • Visit my blog - each visit literally counts!
  • Make a donation to her GoFundMepage! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Awesome #GAFE Add-ons: Leave Audio Comments with Kaizena

If you are a GAFE or Google Apps for Education user, then you know the power of extensions and add-ons. Add-ons enhance your experience when working in a specific App, while extensions change your browsing experience. For my next series, I am going to focus on Awesome Add-Ons that you can use within a Google Doc to address all learning abilities. My previous post focused on Tag Cloud - a great tool to use to preview or summarize text.

Kaizena Audio Feedback Tool

 Kaizena is a web tool designed to seamlessly integrate into Google Docs, providing teachers with the ability to provide meaningful feedback to students through links, audio or text comments. Comments are shared through a private dropbox generated by Kaizena and accessible in the comments section of Google Docs and Presentations. This dropbox can be customized. For example, if you wanted a box for each class you teach, you could do so.

When students are ready to share their Google Docs or Presentations with you, they will need to access a link to your Kaizena profile. When students visit this profile, they will select their file from Google, choose which dropbox to leave it in, and wait for your feedback. 

Want to see it in action? Check out this YouTube tutorial that I created:




The teacher will receive a dashboard alert on Kaizena, stating that they have received a submission. They can go through the submission and click and drag over areas that need commenting on. They can leave feedback in the form of audio, text, or hyperlinked comments. 

Students are able to access comments within the Comments section of their Google Doc or Presentation. The comment will contain a link to Kaizena, where all of the comments are stored. The best part is that students can also leave feedback in the form of audio, video, and links. It starts a dialog to improve performance. 

Why not use this tool? It's the perfect companion in any classroom because it provides multiple ways to share feedback, so that all students have the ability to understand and improve their performance! 

Clicks 4 a Cause:

Hailey is a vibrant 4-year-old, who recently developed a mass on her kidney in late January 2015. It is a cancerous, stage IV "Wilms" tumor that has spread to her lungs and liver. She and her family need our thoughts, prayers, and financial support. During the month of February, I will donate a penny to Hailey's medical fund. This goes a long way! In the past, we have raised over $400 for children in need

How Can You Help? 
  • Visit my blog - each visit literally counts!
  • Make a donation to her GoFundMepage! 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Awesome #GAFE Add-ons: Tag Cloud

If you are a GAFE or Google Apps for Education user, then you know the power of extensions and add-ons. Add-ons enhance your experience when working in a specific App, while extensions change your browsing experience. For my next series, I am going to focus on Awesome Add-Ons that you can use within a Google Doc to address all learning abilities.

Tag Cloud

If you love Wordle and Tagxedo, then you probably love the power of word clouds.  Many teachers use word clouds as ways for students to preview reading assignments for key themes and words. Google has an Add-on called Tag Cloud, which generates a word cloud in the side margin from your document's text with keywords, themes, or tags.

How does it work? 

Step 1: Open up a Google Doc and select the Add-on menu. Choose Get Add-ons.




Step 2: Search in Add-ons for Tag Cloud and install it OR you can click here.

Step 3: Select the Add-ons menu, choose Tag Cloud Generator and then select Create Tag Cloud.


What does it do? 

Although this is not a traditional word cloud generator, in the sense of saving a JPG of your cloud, it does give you a tool to quickly assess your text for themes and categories. This tool will only work if your text is 100 words or more.


Clicks 4 a Cause:


Hailey is a vibrant 4-year-old, who recently developed a mass on her kidney in late January 2015. It is a cancerous, stage IV "Wilms" tumor that has spread to her lungs and liver. She and her family need our thoughts, prayers, and financial support. During the month of February, I will donate a penny to Hailey's medical fund. This goes a long way! In the past, we have raised over $400 for children in need

How Can You Help? 
  • Visit my blog - each visit literally counts!
  • Make a donation to her GoFundMe page! 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

SimplyCircle is a Great Way to Connect with Parents!

Being able to effectively communicate with parents (in all of their business) has to be one of the most frustrating parts of being a teacher today.  Some of us send emails that are never read or design websites that are never visited. What if there was a better way to reach our busy parents?

A few months ago, I had wrote a blog post about SchoolCircle, a free one-stop-shop communication tool, which will change the way you communicate with parents. SchoolCircle is NOW called SimplyCircle

Why is it a Great Tool? 

No more frustrating mailer daemon messages or disconnected phones. No more unresponsive email communication or unreturned voice mail calls. SimplyCircle helps you communicate quickly to your entire group of parents or have individual conversations!

Communicate to the Entire Group:

For example, let’s say that you wanted to post a message about your upcoming field trip and share an electronic copy of your permission slip. After your field trip, you wanted to share pictures with parents without sending out a billion email attachments.


With SimplyCircle, you can post messages, share documents, share pictures, assign tasks, create events, and even ask for parent volunteers. Imagine all of the trees we could save!

Communicate One-on-One:

Have you ever wanted to quickly communicate with parents, but found yourself frustrated by the number of tasks necessary to find that information? SimplyCircle allows you to quickly find a parent’s name in your class roster and start a conversation, share a document or attach a picture.

Instead of spending time searching for information, you can spend more time concentrating on providing the best educational experience for all of the students in your class.