Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Your attention, please!

Unless you love wasting your time, don't spend another minute working on your classroom blog or website without reading these tips to get your audience reading and coming back!  Who wants to spend time getting information online only to have it passed over?  There are ways to get your audience to notice your online presence.
  1. Determine your audience.  Is it students, parents, educators, or people interested in a particular topic?
  2. Learn what gets their attention.
    • Students might look for bonus information/questions.
    • Students like lists of links that are helpful and fun.
    • Students, depending on the age may be attracted to widgets--little gimmicks that move and appeal to their desire to interact. Want to get a widget?  Here's a good place to start:  http://www.widgetbox.com/widgets/  Code for these widgets goes in the HTML section of your website or blog. (See 8 ball widget below.)
    • Parents want new information--updates about your classroom that they won't find elsewhere.
    • Parents are drawn to pictures of students, videos or pictures of students in action (with permission, of course).
    • Topics of interest should be fresh, not a repetition of what they've already seen on the web, but a new take on what's important or trending.
  3. Write like a pro.
    • Use the appropriate language for your audience.  Write conversationally, but with correct grammar and spelling.  Do not use texting codes or educational jargon even if it's very tempting to LOL about the STAAR.
    • Titles should be catchy--draw the reader into your classroom or topic.
    • Invite comments from your audience if possible, and respond to them.
    • Consider inviting guests to write or make a video for you whether it's a student, a parent, an administrator, or an interesting community member.
    • Post a survey that gives your audience the feeling that you care what they think.
    • Check and double-check your facts before publishing.
  4. Get your site out to the public.
    • Link your web/blog in your email signature.
    • Post a link to it in your social media online profiles where appropriate.
    • Look at other classroom websites and blogs.  Comment on them and include a link to yours in the comment.
Waste your time?  Never!  Create an online presence that is fresh, helpful, and a resource to be appreciated.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Google Communities Help You Grow

It's time . . . do it now!  Click You+ at the top of your Gmail screen to join the increasing number of educators growing and learning in Google Communities.

By completing your profile in Google+, you become eligible to participate in Google Communities. What is a community?  A Google Community is a virtual gathering of individuals who build relationships around a niche or a topic of interest.

After completing the Google+ profile, look for the house icon at the left side of the screen labeled "Home" and click.  Drop down to the green Communities icon and click.  on this screen, you can begin to search for specific communities in the search field or browse the many communities listed.

Reasons why teachers should participate in Google Communities:

  1. Make new connections. Communities you meet and learn from others with similar interests whom you might have never met before or who may have never noticed you otherwise.  Be noticed!
  2. Integrates with Google tools such as Drive, Docs, YouTube, Google Earth, etc.
  3. Allows you to share content including photos, documents, videos, links and more.
  4. Have live Hangouts to discuss and meet live with others in your community.
  5. You can edit your posts at any time.
  6. Only community members can comment on posts. With the mention of a member's Google Plus name in the post, that person will be notified of the comment (+John Doe).
  7. Categories allow you to post to particular topics.
  8. Create "events" within the community and invite other members--know who will and won't attend.
  9. Users with inappropriate intentions can be removed by a moderator.
The best community members share relevant content that initiates discussion, and participate in conversations by offering comments and 1+s on posts.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Better Lesson

No matter how long we've been teaching, we can all use an infusion of ideas, ingenuity, and inspiration when it comes to lesson plans.  I've been a part of this school district's Just In Time sessions, and it seems to me that what teachers request most from these sessions is more lesson plan ideas.  With this in mind, I came across a mention in the May 2013 Phi Delta Kappan for Better LessonBetter Lesson is "focused on aggregating and scaling the most innovative content and practices from high-performing teachers across the country."

This is a website where exemplary teachers create aligned courses, units, and lessons.  Choose by grade level, by subject, and topic within the subject, and be assured that all follow Common-Core standards.  This is also a place where teachers can find resources, but also share, plan, and have the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback.

Choose by subject or by grade level.

The best part?  It's free.

"Highlighted and Underlined." Phi Delta Kappan May 2013: 6-7. Print.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chrome Extensions for Teachers V.1

I'm always about the quickest way to do anything if the results are still good. Mind you, I don't like doing a bad job of anything, but when there's a tool out there that makes the work easier and faster, I'm all for it! Here are a few Chrome extensions that you might want to try to make your life in front of a computer screen just a little bit easier.

1. Select and Speak--reads a web page aloud (available free in the Chrome Web store)

2. Speech Recognizer--works as a dictation tool (awesome fun! microphone needed)

3. PrintWhatYouLike--allows you to print only the portion of information you want (skip ads and anything else you don't want)

4. Loupe--creates a collage from your photos

5. FreeCorder--records streaming content audio and video live (this one is a download not from the Chrome store, but I've found it very useful)

Try these.  Let me know what you think, and I'll be back with more!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Google Tools for You and Your Classroom v.1

It's always amazing just how many tools are available from Google.  Sometimes I look at one and think, "Where was this when I was in the classroom?"  At other times, however, I look at one and think, "How is this helpful, or I can do this much more easily using another format." 

Take a look at the tools I showed staff yesterday in our afternoon meeting.  Try them out, take 'em for a spin around the block and see what you think!
  1.  Computational Thinking Tools - This is probably not what you think.  What you should think is "looking for patterns."  Lessons and examples provide ideas for the classroom.
  2. Custom Search - Students get the look and feel of a real Google search but only with links that you provide.  Learn how with this YouTube video.
  3. Google Chart Editor - Create and share charts and graphs.  Chosse a type of chart, then plug in your information.
  4. Google Correlate - This is an ineresting place to find search patterns that follow trends.  It's fun, but how to apply in the classroom . . .
  5. Google Earth Engine - So much data brought together in one place to help us visiualize changes and trends with the Earth!
  6. Google Logo Maker - This is your vanity license plate for a search engine. 
  7. Google Sky - Look at the galaxies, at the Moon, and at Mars.  There are so many different ways you could bring this interactive into lessons.
  8. Teach Parents Technology - Someone at home always asking you how to do something on the computer? Here's you answer that provides "a tech support care package".  If you're the one needing assistance, you can watch the videos from the folks at Google, too.
  9. What Do You Love - Here's a place to bring all of the information together on a topic of your interest:  videos, discussion groups, books about, blogs, pictures, and the list goes on.
  10. Zygote Body - Not exactly a Google tool any more, but started by Google, this is a place to learn more about the human anatomy.
Have you ever used any of these tools personally or in your classroom?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Story Starters

Sometimes beginning is the hardest part of storytelling, and unlike Snoopy the ideas don't always flow for our students. 

Here's a website with a fun, interactive story starter to give students fresh writing ideas.  Users can choose from adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, or take a risk with the scrambler.  Buttons or a lever will spin wheels, giving quick ideas for a purpose, character and action at appropriate grade level difficulty.  Don't like what came up?  Try again.  Teachers can use Scholastic Story Starters with the class to create a group story, demonstrating writing skills as well as program logistics.  It's easy enough that most students who can read the suggestions the spinners offer can write and illustrate a story at the computer station, at the interactive whiteboard, or with individual laptops. What a fun way to practice writing at home too! 

In the revised Bloom's Taxonomy of computer skills, experiences that students can have with Scholastic Story Starters fall into the Analyzing where students will be comparing, organizing, deconstructing, attributing, outlining, finding, structuring, and integrating.

Give it a go, and see what your students can write using this engaging website!