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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Today, I wanted to upload one page of a PDF to Google Docs. PDF documents are great, but they are not all that user friendly. I have split documents before using different programs that are downloaded to the computer. However, many of these only look free. They watermark your copies and then want payment in order to get them removed. Then you have to remove the program from your computer.
SPLIT PDF is a handy online app that makes pulling a page out of a PDF painless. No downloading is required. Just upload the file, choose the page or pages you want removed from the PDF and click SPLIT. The job is done. You can then save the new page to your computer.

This is one of those really simple apps that can save a person from getting a big headache!

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In the past week, I have made several lessons to teach using my interactive whiteboard. I know what you’re thinking. Here’s another cool lesson that is going to take 2 hours to prepare. Believe me, I’ve had the same thoughts numerous times after reading blogs.

There are some really cool things that can be done with an interactive whiteboard, but yes, many of them take quite a bit of up front preparation, time that most teachers don’t have. For the time it takes, most of the time it just doesn’t seem worth it.

The lessons that I planned this week weren’t anything fancy. Most of the activities were prepared in a matter of minutes. Most of them probably could have been done in some manner on a normal old whiteboard. They certainly could have been done with an overhead projector.

But here’s the deal: I have a $15oo dollar interactive whiteboard on the wall and it works good, even for simple lessons.

One lesson I did revolved around vocabulary. I typed each of the words on a separate page along with a sentence that contained the word. I applied the screen shade so I could show the word first and do a few different activities with the words alone before revealing the sentence. Making the slides took about 15 minutes, not bad for a lesson I am teaching in 6 different class periods.

Another lesson simply consisted of grammar worksheets I found online. I printed them to SmartNotebook pages using the document printer. I applied the screen shade, and we went through the sentences one at a time as a class. I had students come up and write on the board to show correct answers. Preparing this lesson took about 2 minutes.

Using the interactive whiteboard doesn’t have to be a big production. Sometimes, teachers think too hard about it and all that money spent on technology was wasted because it sits unused. What we need to do is find ways to use technology to make the simple tasks simpler not harder.

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School was officially out as of last Friday, but for a few lucky students and myself, we have another three weeks of fun filled English class. Summer school has begun. Our summer school English class is four hours every afternoon for the next three weeks. One way that we are filling this time is writing on blogs.

For several years, I have read about students blogging. In the past, I have had a few smaller classes write their own blogs, but this is the first time I have ever had every student in a decent sized class write their own blog. So far, it seems to be working pretty well.

The students are using Blogger as a platform, mainly because each of them have a Google account that is accessed through the school’s domain. I have not used Blogger much, but the students have been writing for several day without any major technical issues.

To get content, each student has also set up a Google Reader. As a class, before any blogs are written, students spend about 20 minutes reading new posts via the Reader. This has worked quite well in giving the students something to write about.

Granted, the project is just getting under way, but for now, I am impressed with the work from students. They are reading original content that is fresh and updated daily. Just the fact that some of these students are reading is a huge milestone! In turn, they are adding their own perspective on a topic they are passionate about. We also spend time during class focusing on different reading and writing skills that are applied throughout the activity.

The only problem with doing something like this that works so good is figuring out how to run it successfully with a full schedule of classes in the fall. I’ll probably be thinking about it for the rest of the summer.

To check out what the students are writing, check out MVHS Summer English Blogs.

 

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Humankind is innovative. Just think of how far we’ve come. Thousands of years ago, ancient man stared deep into the embers of the campfire and decided to change things up a bit. Now we are staring intently into the glow of a computer screen or portable device, and still, we want more. It seems that we are always wanting to change things up a bit.

This is a good thing, I think.

Yesterday morning, I went to Wiffiti to set up a board for a quiz game in one of my classes. I have used the app several times for this, and it works well, at least it had up until yesterday. They totally changed the layout of the app, and as far as I could tell, Wiffiti was not going to work the way I used to use it with my students. From the looks of it, the creators of Wiffiti wanted to change things up a bit.

I would have been a little more distraught if this didn’t happen on a regular basis. For those that work with technology much at all, change is a daily ritual (or maybe I should say rite?). Apps, sites, browsers, and interfaces are changing evolving on a daily basis. A new computer device comes out weekly that is more slim and sleek than last weeks model and has twice as much power and memory.

There are two choices here: 1. Get mad and frustrated and just quit altogether. 2. See change as progress and embrace it.

There is a camp of people out there who constantly complain about change. This is especially prevalent among users of Facebook. How many times have you heard someone complain about Facebook changing their layout or privacy settings in the last week. I bet it’s more than you can count on one hand. Complaining about these changes is not going make Facebook change their mind, and from the looks of it, they are not going to slow down any time in the near future as far as “changing things up” goes.

This is an important lesson for students (and for all of us) to learn. At times, though frustrating, having a site go down when students are in the middle of a project is good experience.

This happened to me in class today. My students were using Easel.ly to make infographics. For some reason, in the middle of class, the app stopped working. We couldn’t access the students work that was done last class period. The students got irritated and started mumbling under their breath about “dumb projects” or something along those lines. You can probably fill in the blanks there.

What did we do? I explained that we would see if the site was working next class, and we moved on.

There was no use getting all worked up about something that was totally out of our control. if the site never comes online again, we will do an alternative assignment or just scrap it and find another learning activity. The internet is growing exponentially, so much so that keeping up is like running a hundred mile race. Right now, the end is nowhere in sight.

All we can do is just keep running and drag the classroom full of students along with us.

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A year and a half ago, I worked with a group of 7th grade students to submit video for the One Day On Earth Project. Basically, people from around the world shot video to show what was happening in their lives on 10/10/10. The class I worked with had maybe 3 minutes of video that we put together and submitted to the project. Yesterday, I received an email from Mrs. Filo, the teacher of the class, who told me that the video was going to be a part of the final video made from the project. Of the two hundred worldwide first screenings of the film, one of these is going to be held in Fort Morgan, Colorado in the middle school auditorium.

I don’t write this to brag. Okay, maybe a little, but the more I think about this project, the more excited I get to do more of these kinds of projects in the classroom. It’s great that the student video is being used for the final cut, but the project meant a lot more than that to me, and hopefully did to the students involved. They participated in a global project on that day in October. Their video is now a part of a video archive that can always be looked at by future generations.

This is the beauty of the internet. No longer are we stuck in our schools within the confines of our small towns or even big cities, wherever it is we may live. Student have the opportunity to explore, share, and play a role in the global learning network.

However, there is one condition; students need the opportunity. This can only come from open minded administrators, teachers, and parents who dare to take their students there.

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You know what I am talking about. The end is in sight. I teach two senior classes, and far as they are concerned, the year is already over. This is the time of year when many teachers put the classroom on auto-pilot and cruise in hoping not to crash before it’s all over.

Snap out of it! This is the best time of year to break out of the hum-drum of the normal day-to-day class and do something fun with students. That doesn’t mean that whatever activity you choose has to ignore the standards, but this is the best time of year to set students working on an adventurous project. Usually, state tests are done, so the pressure eases a bit in many schools.

One thing that really irritates me is the amount of movies that are shown in the last month of school. There is no need to show students a video that they can watch at home. Nine times out of ten, they have already seen it. Don’t numb minds with a video. Plan to do an activity or project in these last 6 or so weeks that will challenge students and let them use all the great skills they have learned throughout the year.

My seniors are going to end the year by writing poetry. Each of them are going to write a poem that shows something they believe in. We just recently watched Sarah Kay’s TED talk on Spoken Word Poetry, so we are using some of her ideas. Then, once students have their poems written, they are going to video themselves performing their poetry. I was a little hesitant to even introduce the idea to the classes, but, surprisingly, they are pretty excited about working on the project. It’s going to be a great way to end the year, and working hard on the project should stave some of their feelings of Senioritis!

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At the Wyoming TEC conference last weekend, I sat through several sessions with presenters showing the best and newest educational apps for the iPod and iPad. There was a lot of excitement in these sessions with “oohs” and “aaahs” at every flash of the screen. I, on the other hand, found myself growing bored, not because the apps did not look like great educational tools,but because not much of what was shown applies to the students that I teach. Most of the apps specifically applied to lower ages, especially elementary students, and this was true for most of the sessions that I sat in.

After thinking about this for a couple of days, I think I am more confused than when I started. A part of me wants to think that the reason there are so many apps that apply to elementary education is because elementary teachers are adopting the use of technology in the classrooms more readily than their secondary counterparts. I don’t think this is the only reason, but I would have to say that these sessions showing elementary apps were highly attended, and most of the teachers were highly engaged in the conversations taking place. I don’t know this for sure, but I felt like the majority of the teachers at the conference taught at the elementary level. Reason says that if these are the teachers who are interested, then they are going to have the tools to work with.

That is one idea. Here’s another.

Many of the apps that I saw at this last conference teach kids at the basic level, hence the reason that they work so well at the lower levels in education. There were numerous math and reading apps that were appropriate not only for lower aged learners, but the apps catered to lower levels of thinking. Don’t get me wrong. The skills taught with these apps are essential skills. Students need to know math facts, and they need to read fluently. These skills are definitely a part of the foundation for future education, but maybe this explains why so many of the apps apply better to elementary students.

Right now, someone is reading this and thinking that the guy who wrote this is crazy because there are apps out there that require higher levels of thinking. I agree. I have seen…a few. I want to see more. If higher level thinking is going to help students be more successful, then we should have more apps to develop thinking minds. The flip side of this could be that I am just crazy 🙂

If you know of an app that for the iPad or iPod that promotes higher level thinking, post it in the comments. I would love to see what others are using.

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