Free School Supplies!

Nothing grabs a teacher’s attention faster than those three words…except maybe, “Two hour delay!”

I don’t work for Staples.  I promise.  But over the last few years, I’ve become very fond of the deals they provide for educators.  If you’re not familiar with them, cruise on over to this page for a quick overview.

Staples

One part of their great reward program for teachers that I take the most advantage of is their ink recycling program.  For every ink cartridge you take in (up to ten per month), Staples will cut you a check to use at Staples the next month for $2.00/cartridge.  If you’re a language arts teacher like me by heart, you’re grabbing a pencil and paper and in just a second you’ll realize that you can get $20.00 every month!

Each year, I label an old coffee container (I’m pretty sure they were God’s “On the Eighth Day” Gift to us!) as “INK” and stick it in the back of the room.  Throughout the year, students bring in used (and sometimes new (I have a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell Policy”!)) ink cartridges and stick them in the container.

I take a little time at the beginning of the year to explain the  the program to the kids and try to take time to praise students who contribute to the Tub O’ Ink.  I also explain the program on my “Classroom Wishlist” page on the “For Parents” page of my classroom website.  Parents are happy to contribute…especially when it is no cost to them!

A few tips:

  • They count each individual cartridge, so if a printer has three sepearate color cartridges, they each count as one!
  • They accept toner cartridges from laser printers or copy machines!  Talk to your administrative assistants or tech. department about sending you empty cartridges.  Even small districts go through tons of those each year!
  • If I remember correctly, each check is good for two months, so you can stack two checks and have $40.00 to spend on a shopping spree school supply restock!
  • Once you get a teacher account, you don’t have to carry another shopper card.  Just give them your phone number at the register.

Staples also has great back to school specials for teachers.  Historically, they’ve had penny deals on certain supplies.  While the limit is typically two for common folk, teachers are given a limit of 25.  That’s right.  I get (25) 100-count packs of notebook paper, or (25) 10-pencil packs, or (25) pocket folders, or (25) single-subject spiral notebooks…for just 25 cents! Last year they started a “with minimum $5.00 purchase” rule.  (But if you use your ink rewards check…!)  This year, there appear to be more five cent deals than penny deals.  The deals change each week so check the flyers!

One last note.  Please take just a moment to tell Staples, “Thank you!”  It is great to feel both respected and honored by the business world.  The office supply market is extremely competitive.  Staples gets my vote!

Shorten Your Facebook Fan Page URL

Last June, Facebook allowed users to shorten the URL that directs friends to their individual site.  Instead of friends or potential friends having to search for a particular user using Facebook’s search feature, they could instead be directed to go directly to a friend’s page at facebook.com/usersusername.  Essentially, it is supposed to be a time and space-saver.

With more users creating “fan” pages for everything from small businesses to community clubs to classrooms, Facebook allows the same URL shortening service if your page has 25 fans or more. The process is simple.

1.  While logged into the account associated with your fan page, visit facebook.com/username.

2.  Select your fan page from the “Page Name” drop down menu.

Facebook | Username

3.  Create a unique username and check availability.

Now you’re set to send your users to the shortened URL!  This is much easier for publications and publicity, although Facebook offers several options for electronically promoting your pages.

Feel free to visit (and “like” or “fan” or whatever we’re calling it this week) my classroom’s page at www.facebook.com/mrmalany.

Also look for more information from Ryan Collins’s blog on why/how teachers should create Facebook pages.

It Just Looks Good!

Imagine this scenario:

You put a blank piece of a paper in front of a 12 or 13 year old child and ask her/him to create an illustration that represents her/him.  A collage, a diagram, maybe a map?  Surely they’ll include a person or two (your more advanced drawers may even go beyond The Stick Man).  They may even add a little shadow or dimension. Nevertheless, unless, by chance, you happen to be working with a future Van Gogh, the resulting illustration may be refrigerator-worthy at best.

And that’s where Web 2.0 come into play.  I contend the following:  Students (and adults for that matter) enjoy profile, document, and media creation using Web 2.0 apps because it just looks good.

Students are able to create content that is neat, organized, and makes the creator appear as an artist!  Take, for example, a recent project my students worked on.  They used an internal, open source social network called elgg to create “fake”Greek Projects_ Zeusprofiles of historic Greek figures or Greek mythology characters.  The students entered “about me” info, made up contact details, explained their location, predicted “interests,” etc.  When they were finished, they “friended” me so that I can see their profiles.  The old-school alternative? “Make a poster about your Greek character.”  I’m going to predict the latter assignment’s product to be sloppier, harder to share, and I’ll go as far as predicting: boring.

Another example.

When we studied Buddhism and Hinduism and I gave the students lots of options for presenting their group’s topic, an overwhelming majority chose someBuddhism Presentaion. _ text, images, music, video | Glogster sort of Web 2.0 app.  One of my Buddhism groups chose Glogster to make what I call, “virtual posters.”  Just as if I placed construction paper and a tub of markers in front of the group, they planned, designed, and created a canvas of content to share with others.  Their canvas, however, had animations, cheesy graphics, roll-over sounds effects, embedded videos, etc.  They took their traditional (and by ‘traditional,’ I of course mean, ‘boring’) methods of conveying information to the next level.  It didn’t matter who had better handwriting or if they ruler lines were straight or even if the marker they’re using started to run out of ink halfway through the third bubble letter!  Taking their content to the web provided a cleaner, more manageable and collaboration-friendly working environment.

My seventh graders are early in this process.  Unfortunately, they’re not used to expressing themselves academically with digital media.  I’ll admit it: they get caught up in the process and the content suffers.  For now, I’ll let that go from time to time.

Next year it looks like my building will have some “guided study halls.”  Maybe I can teach a Web 2.0 class?

eTech Session Notes: Facilitating Web Research Using Web 2.0 Tools

MY THOUGHTS IN CAPS

David D. Huston, presenter

Co-director, Kenyon Academic Partnership (KAP) and History Teacher at Laurel School

Presenter introducing himself and suggesting that research can be much more these day than just looking up information and putting it on index cards.  Today, we’ll look at lots of Web 2.0 apps that can help this process.  He hopes that today we will take away one or two different tools to help us each.

Claims that copy/paste has taken over student research and we, as educators, need to help them to overcome these temptation.

Students have access to 21st century information using 20th century tools.  We need to bring them both together.

Today’s Gold Ring metaphor:

prospecting: Google

staking a claim: iCyte

collecting resources: Noodle Tools: Reference Managr

refining the dross: Noodle Tools Notes

pouring the mold: Noodle Tools Outliner

presenting the ring:  ______________ MISSED IT, SORRY

“Successful research is a process requiring the integration of all six steps and all four tools.”

“research means: information literacy”

Information Literacy means what to look for, where to look for it, and how to look for it – especially collaborating and sharing.  Logically organizing what you find.  I THINK THE LAST LINE IS IMPORTANT – STUDENTS DON’T THINK ABOUT WAYS TO STEP AWAY FROM THEIR MATERIAL AND ORGANIZE IT IN AN ACCEPTABLE, PLEASING MANNER.

How do students research?  They google it.  “The first answer they find – that’s the answer!”  HAHA…AGREE.

Presenter is going through data on how often students are on computers, what social networking they do, etc.

Challenge in modern computing: they work on multiple computers during a typical day.  We must create a work process that keeps this in mind.  Another challenge: platforms.  The beauty of Web 2.0 tools is that they are platform neutral.  AN OBVIOUS POINT, BUT ONE THAT I HADN’T RECOGNIZED.  Same with browser-netural.  Data must be stored in a cloud.  Cloud computing: still some concern about file security.  SURE, IT’S AN ISSUE, BUT IF SOMEONE WANTS TO STEAL MY WORKSHEETS AND DOCUMENTS…HAVE AT IT! 🙂

Now (FINALLY) getting to some of the tools.

Google: A simple search of “world hunger” gives 9,320,000 hits.  Not effective!  Thus everyone needs trained on how to Google.  Users need to be able to effectevly use Google’s Advance Search.  Also, users should use the newer “Show Options” expansion bar on the left side of the main Google view.  Now introducing Google’s “Wonder Wheel” where Google will link ideas together.wheel Also showed Google’s custom search features.  GOOD FEATURES THAT I NEED TO PLAY WITH A LITTLE MORE.  I’M EXCITED TO SHOW THESE TO MY STUDENTS.

Now discussing some bookmarking tools.  Problems: bookmarks are stuck on one machine.  Social bookmarking is the answer.  He has had a hard time getting students to wrap their minds around this.  Now showing iCyte.  Great advantage is that it will socially bookmark it as well as archive the page as it looked when you visited.  Free, account required.  Add-ons available for popular browsers.  Showing the add-on in the Firefox window which allows for archive snapshot to be taken and to view your archives.  Tagging available.  THIS LOOKS COOL – I’M EXCITED TO PLAY WITH IT.  iCyte has unlimited number of saved “projects”.  Showing the sidebar and its options.  Also able to go to “live” view of the page instead of the archive you originally took.  Sharing is easy: via email or URL link.  Recipients don’t have to have iCyte account to view your collection.  Embedding available.  I THINK EMBEDDING COULD BE COOL FOR THIS FOR USE IN A WIKI.

Moving on to how and where to organize information.  Funny picture of a table full of index cards organized for a paper.  Another funny picture of a huge pile of printed out webpages.  YES – STUDENTS ARE TERRIBLE AT DOING THIS!  Alternative: copy/paste into a MS Word doc.  Problem: stuck on one computer; emailing makes confusing versions.  Same issue with thumb drives.

Now showing Noodle Tools.  Small fee (used to be free, too many users overwhelmed the servers), account required.  Pros: available anywhere.  Creates a database of all of your digital/print resources.  Makes an ongoing list of citations.  I BELIVE THIS PART OF THE SITE IS CALLED “NOODLEBIB”.  It produces the popular citation lists (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)  Claims that it does a great job of following citation records.  Also helps you to take notes as you write from each source and keeps the notes linked to the source.

NoodleTools Overview:

– Create your own notes in three stage process:  1) copy and paste, 2) re-word in your own language, 3) add further questions and thoughts

NoodleTools is the answer for teaching students the ethics behind citations and research.

NoodleTools helps you sort information on a “table top” to create piles of “cards” or tags.  Creates and editable outline of paper, all while keeping citations organized.  Export outline as an .rtf file.  Take that file and polish it into a final paper.

Finishing up with Springnote Wiki.  It can be private, shared, etc.  Much easier than DreamWeaver.  Great place for sharing the research information.

GOOD PRESENTATION WITH SOME GREAT, IN-DEPTH INFORMATION ABOUT TOOLS TO USE IN THE CLASSROOM.

eTech Session Notes: Using Blogs and Wikis

MY THOUGHTS ARE IN CAPS.

Going over definitions of blogs and wikis. Did a show of hands to survey who the audience is.

PLC grant (professional Learning Community) gavehen the direction for this.

Going over what is a blog and a wiki.

Noting that blogs and in reversed chronolgical order.  Some pages appear in static, meaning that they don’t change and can be used as portfolios for students.

Watching the camping trip planning video to describe wikis and how they are useful to collaborate.

THE AUDIENCE SEEMS TO LIKE THE VIDEO AND FINDS IT HELPFUL IN UNDERSTANDING WIKIS.

One downside to wikis: only one person can edit at a time.

Showing some examples of wikis.

One presenter is discussing using wikis to make collaborattive lesson plans.  THIS IS AIMED AT THE COLLEGE-LEVEL EDUCATORS, NOT FOR CLASSROOM TEACHERS.

Discussing the email notification features of wikis.

STILL LOOKING FOR IDEAS ON USING WIKIS FOR CLASSROOM LEARNING.

Now talking about disocvrries that they found while trying to incorperate wikis and blogs into teaching. It made students more resonsible, students learned from each other, gave a voice and presence to the introvert (INTERESTING), etc. Presenter describes that this may be because this is the natural language for so many now.

Explaining a few more lessons learned about wikis. Be sure your IT department is strong and in place before you begin. Additionally, warn students about frustrations and explain that this is a “new way to explainld things.”

Looking at graphs of the results to see that a majority of the students felt like the use of wikis and blogs increased interactions between the profs and students. Additionally, the quality of instruction was enhanced.

Audience asked which sites to reccomend. Answers: wiki – PB Works (allows for folder management); blogging – no real preference.

GOOD PRESENTATION. OBVIOUSLY GEARED TOWARD THE COLLEGE LEVEL.  I DIDNT WALK AWAY WITH MANY TOOLS, JUST CONFIRMATION THAT THERE IS ROOM IN EDUCATION FOR WIKIS.

eTech Session Notes: Ways to Mashup Google Earth

My first session to start off Ohio’s eTech conference is titled, “Ways to Mashup Google Earth” by Kathy Parker-Jones and Lauren Davis.

Here is their presentation material:

http://www.hilliardschools.org/classroom.cfm?id=77&TempID=9366&school=SSF/Technology%20Team&preview=

MY COMMENTS IN CAPS LOCK.

The session started with the presenter showing www.voki.com to demonstrate how to make a speaking avatar.  No account needed.  One drawback mentioned: the kids love it and won’t stop using it.  Let them play on it for awhile before productivity will begin.  LOOKS A LOT LIKE A WII MII.  One limit mentioned: there is a character limit so users may want to keep it at three sentences.  Cool feature: Have the avatar speak your voice OR have it change the voice.  LOOKS FUN TO PLAY WITH.

To embed into Google Earth, use the MySpace code to copy code.

COOL THAT OTHER CODES CAN BE USED FOR OTHER WEB 2.0 PLACES.

Put the code into the DESCRIPTION box after right-clicking on the placemark.  Delete the comment part of the code so the “welcome message” doesn’t show.

PRESENTATION MOVES A LITTLE QUICKLY.

Now showing Photo Peach.  Showing a slideshow made with Photo Peach.  Includes Ken Burns effects with music and ends with “replay” option as well as commenting feature.  Also embedded onto a placemark.  Note: Must bring in photos as jpeg.  Photo Peach requires making an account.  Presenters made a single account as a “tech team” for them all to share.  Nice, clean slide sorter for arranging the order of the photos.  Music available with site or you can import your own.  Easy to make slideshow with clean previewing features.  Embedding code available with easy copy feature.

On Google Earth, select a placemark, get info, and paste code into description box again.  Unfortunately, the presenters had errors and couldn’t get it to paste.

Now showing SlideBoom to show how to turn PowerPoint files into a Web 2.0 app.  Account required.  Fairly straight-forward uploading.  Options include turning a PP into a Quicktime video or just show it as slideshow.  Also makes embed code.  Again, paste code into description box.

I WONDER IF THE FILE HAS TO BE A CERTAIN POWERPOINT VERSION/FILE TYPE.  I NEVER KNEW ABOUT THE ABILITY TO PASTE HTML CODE INTO THE DESCRIPTION BOX.

Just answered my question on file types. Looks like it’s limited to many versions of PowerPoint and a few Open Office apps.

Showing how to right-click on a folder of placemarks to save the entire folder as a .kmz file to keep/share.

Now showing Time Toast, a timeline maker/sharer.  Many already-made timelines available on the site or you can make your own.  Pretty simple to add events and make a nice, custom timeline.

I DO A MULTI-TIER TIMELINE PROJECT WITH MY STUDENTS EARLY EACH FALL.  IT IS ALWAYS A STRUGGLE TO GET THEM TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO DO THE SPACINGS.  NEXT YEAR…TIME TOAST!

Drawback to Time Toast: date and month are required for each event.  When you finish the timeline, change the status of the timeline from “draft” to “publish.”  Embed code then available.  EXCITED TO SEE IF TIME TOAST ALLOWS FOR MULTI-TIER TIMELINES?  HAHA..SOMEONE JUST ASKED.  ANSWER: NOPE.

Now showing MyStudiyo, a neat online quiz maker.  Multiple choice quizzes with instant feedback  Account required for MyStudiyo.  Emphasizing the ease of creation.  Users can choose backgrounds, name for quiz, tag/category, etc.  LOOKS VERY EASY TO CREATE.  I LIKE THE EXPOSURE AND REINFORCEMENT A STUDENT WOULD BE RECEIVING WHILE MAKING AN QUIZ, THINKING OF THE RIGHT/WRONG ANSWERS, ETC.

Discussed making one single account for several of these technologies instead of having the students each make their own account.

Lastly, showing Yodio to record voice using cell/phone.  Account and phone registration required.  Now demonstrating how to record voice.  LOOKS PRETTY EASY and voice activated.  Again, recommending making a single class account.  NOTE SURE ON THE TIME LIMIT FOR A YODIO RECORDING.  Presenter is setting recordings for photos.

GREAT PRESENTATION AND A GOOD STARTING SESSION FOR ME AT ETECH.  LOTS OF TAKE-HOME LINKS, IDEAS, AND MATERIALS.  I’M IMPRESSED AND EXCITED!

Wanted: Collaboration

In two weeks, my building will be on the receiving end of something called a Technical Assistance Visit (TAV), a two-day visit by a team of local educators assessing our building’s progress and adherence to our Site Action Plan.  This two-day fury is a product of a state-funded initiative, Making Middle Grades Work, a sister program to SREB’s High Schools That Work.

As one of four members of our building’s leadership team, I’m co-charged with preparing  mounds of reports and documents for the TAV.  This process involves taking templates (unfortunately not real template files, just what some people like to call templates), populating them with the information specific to our building/district, and preparing them for publication (binders, slideshow, etc.).

So here’s my gripe:  We’ve gone old school!

In the weeks leading up to the TAV, our leadership team has covered ourselves in a nearly-unsortable web of updated, revised, changed, modified, and edited documents that have been shared, attached, forwarded, and replied.  There has to be an easier way!  And there is.

A simple Google of “top collaborative tools” yields a plethora of results.  Add the word “education” to the mix and you get even a more helpful list of tools.  There have been tweet after tweet RT’d through my PLN over the last year, offering reviews and guides to a whole slew of collaboration software.

These tools, specifically designed to connect people who are physically distanced to a single, shared document, would be PERFECT for our TAV preparation.  Simply put, we could see who edited what, when, and where.  They could even comment to tell us why! Without that tool in place, we’re left with a textbox in the footer that says “Rev. XX/XX/XX.”  Even with that, only a few of the collaborators will update it as they go.  On a bright note, I’ve used DropBox to share (and monitor updates) a folder of documents with another team member.  (On a side note: DropBox is a great solution to those of us migrating away from Apple’s MobileMe.  Another post for another day.)

When my family decided to celebrate my parents’ anniversary this past summer by renting a cabin in Tennessee, I created a pad at etherpad.com (recently acquired by Google).  It was just the right solution for helping three couples around the state plan who would bring what on the trip!  I’m confident that the same successes would be seen if our TAV team would give it a shot.

So why not?

I guess it’s easier for me to complain than it is to fix it.  Fixing it requires professional development for my colleagues and troubleshooting when something goes wrong.  It would require us to ask permission from SREB to communicate with them with these non-traditional collaborative tools.  Or does it?  What if I just…shared.  What if I just sent them invites to collaborate on GoogleDocs?  With GoogleDocs’ new “upload” feature, it’d be perfect for working on the already-existing Word document “templates.”  Would they accept the invitation, tinker with it until they figure it out, and result in true collaboration on this project?  Or is there a middle ground somewhere between these two options?

I should count my blessings.  We did use email to send attachments.  Final, no-need-to-edit-anymore, documents are being converted to PDFs for emailing/presentations.  It could be worse.  We could be sharing paper documents in manilla envelopes.