Monday, May 7, 2012

Tool #11

I must say that the favorite tools I have in my personal tech toolbox have not changed.  I utilize Dropbox frequently and have found it to be one of the most useful tools for sharing information.  I have used most of these tools before and find them all to be something quite useful.  One tool that is a curating tool that wasn't listed is  That is by far one of my favorites that I have used all year.  

My vision has always been to use technology as much as I can and be sure that my students leave my classroom with useful skills they can use in the real world.  So my vision hasn't really changed. 

There really weren't any unexpected outcomes.  The only thing that was a bit unexpected was actually how tech literate I've become in the past few years.  I didn't realize how easily all of this comes to me now.  

Tool #10

Thing 1:  Students should understand that websites have biases and bad information.  They tend to accept anything they see online as truth, without question.

Thing 2:  There is an art to finding information on line.  Learning how to use keywords and narrowing search options appropriately are not something students know how to do.

Thing 3:  The web is a vast and wonderful resource that should be used all the time for things other than Facebook and social networking.   

One of the best resources for teaching how to search and digital literacy is on the Google Website.  It is especially good if the teacher and/or students are neophytes.  It has very simple and accessible lessons.

Another good website is on the November Learning Page.  It goes a little further with searching tips and lessons than the Google resource.

Teaching Digital literacy is easy to do in class.  If research is a big part of what you do in the classroom, these lessons should be done at the beginning of the year.  It sets the tone and allows to students to have some tools to search with.  For an English class it is easy to use these lessons to teach bias and argument.  By having students actually search websites on the same subject they can analyze for audience, substantiated vs unsubstantiated evidence, etc.

As for parents, I have always found a well written letter home as well as a discussion at parent night has helped immensely when attempting to do anything parents may deem as scary and/or unnecessary.  By getting the info out there well before you do anything, you can keep fires from starting.  By addressing the standards and skills you want the students to gain, you justify that you're doing something important to your course and answer most questions before they even know to ask.  Transparency is the way I've always handled this. 

Tool #9

It's important to tie the technology to the objective in class, because the objective is the skill students should leave the class with.  By viewing tech as a skill that is important to the learning instead of an add-on or fun thing at the end, we will be using the technology efficiently and effectively.  I am reminded of the video we watched from Alan November where the teacher was teaching Macbeth.  The students thought the video was really fun and they left with recalling how fun the video was to make, not any deep understanding of Macbeth or how writing can be used effectively in real life. 

Teachers and students think in terms of points and grades.  We can't help it; it's a large part of school.  Anything important should have a point value showing it's importance.  If the tech part is a throw away grade where each student gets a 100 for participation, it is not deemed important by the students.  The power of using technology though is that the students will want to do it.  They enjoy novelty of course, but they really enjoy and buy into doing things they deem important.  Being able to function is a technology rich environment is crucial.  When I've taught lessons on how Google learns a user's behaviors and keeps different points of view from a user after a while, students felt it was important.  They felt empowered.  Being able to do this makes the point value almost unimportant and the skill paramount.  Being help accountable means they are learning and they are rewarded for learning what's important. is a great tool where kids can do their thinking online.   They can work in pairs or in small groups to create a map for writing a paper or creating a story.  By using this tool, students can manage prewriting for an online story of some sort.  Once they get to the drafting portion, they could use the ipad - one of the animation apps (Toontastic is the best of the free apps) or iMovie to publish their story in a visual format.  There are also web programs to publish cartoons, so students could create on the Netbooks as well with  Flixtime, Goanimate, dvolver, or Disney's Comic Creator.  

Students could use different apps and programs to create their stories.  So, they are responsible for prewriting, then a more static comic strip version, then a moving version either live action or animated.  The students would have to re-think their story is different ways for different mediums.  

Some ipad apps that are very good, but not free are Animation Studio for $2.99 ( and Animation Desk for $4.99 (

And as I suggested with Xtranormal.  This type of activity isn't relegated to creative writing.  News programs and documentaries use analytical or persuasive scripts to create a visual.  There are even journalists who report through the comic book/graphic novel format, such as Joe Sacco and Guy Delisle. 

Tool #8

I admit I didn't learn anything new after watching the device videos.  I'm a bit ahead of the curve however and have had experiences with the Mac devices as well as the Netbooks.

It is important to understand that each device has positives and negatives.  Both of them allow you to research, which is how many English teachers use technology.  They both allow you to manage Word Processing, but the Macs will need to have Pages or the full suite (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) in order to move things back and forth.  For someone who is new to this, managing word processing on a Mac so that it will transfer to a PC will be a bit difficult to manage.  As for apps, there are many that can be used in all sorts of ways, but teachers will need to explore and, perhaps, work together on finding ways to use them appropriately. 

Managing the different devices as well as not having enough for each students to have one in their hands isn't that difficult to do.  If the students are in small groups with very clear expectations and a set time limit to complete certain steps or activities, they can manage assignments this way.  There can also be 2 distinct activities they do on the different devices - for example, they research a concept, then create a tutorial with the Show Me app on the ipads, then create a Google Doc with the steps transcribed.  The order won't matter and the kids can use both devices.  For the Google Doc and on the Show Me app it can easily be made clear who is typing by assigning each student a color and then it is obvious when a different person speaks on the ShowMe app.  So, all the students can be held accountable.

Tool #7

The purpose of this step is to allow students to connect and collaborate with others.  In an English classroom this can easily be managed with online writing communities.  There are quite a few where anyone can post writing and get feedback, encouragement, etc.

One of my favorite website is
This community is very positive and tends to give mainly praise for good effort and light criticism.  This is a great start for a student trying their hand at creative writing.  Since the new ELA TEKs have creative poetry, short fiction, and expository (which is like an editorial) as well as TEKs that call for clear and appropriate communication between students, these websites will be helpful when aligning to the state standards.

Another great site is
It is blocked by the district however, so it will only be useful to a student that will access it at home.  Keep note of it though and maybe someday they will unblock it!

Some other websites where students can communicate with other writers and get feedback are:

Tool #6

I have used many of these during staff developments and with kids.  Diigo I talked about earlier, so I won't elaborate again.

A useful and easy to use curating tool is  It looks very professional - like a webpage - and the students respond well to it.  below are links to come of my Scoopit pages.

Twitter is very useful in class, but I find few teachers use it.  You can actually create strands focused on a specific topic.  I use Tweetdeck so I can see them all next to one another.  We looked into creating Twitter feeds for a World Geography unit on South Asia.  They weren't used in class because all of the topics didn't have great feeds - some were packed but some had very little. Mainly it was difficult to find anything on the physical geography of any area, but povetry, culture, etc. was packed.  It also allows you to see tweets from all over the world - some were from Indian-Americans, Indians, Americans, Eurpoeans, etc.  Exposing students to varying points of view on a subject is also something that is worth looking into.

Here is a snapshot of 3 columns of the Twitter feeds for the Unit -


We used this over the summer in a Writing Institute. The homework was to read a summarize a chapter in their books. We asked that they share an important quote from their summary.  So they had to summarize then decide what the most important info was from their writing. They didn't have to use their actual name, so they were allowed to stay anonymous.  All we had to do was count the stickies to know if everyone had shared.  It was obvious there were a few who didn't share and we didn't have to say anything.  The students who did not do their homework came up to share why they hadn't completed it and asked to turn it in late.  it works well, as long as it doesn't freeze up.  During the school day teachers have had trouble with it freezing and not allowing students on.  It has seemed more like a Network problem, than a problem with Wall Wisher.  Below is a snap shot of the Wall Wisher with the student's notes.