Sunday, January 31, 2010

History Alive!

As a short lived Social Studies teacher, I know I would have found this website very useful in my classroom.

Digital History is a huge site developed by The Chicago Historical Society, The University of Houston, The National Park Service, and other groups dedicated to preserving history. They have enabled their search engine to find primary sources of information. Here is a link to the New York Times reporting on the Dred Scott Case. Primary sources can be tough for students to find on the internet, so this is a great tool for students to have access to very valuable information. Here is another link to the Journal of Christopher Columbus. Students will no longer be able to say they could not find a primary source for their paper. It is a great tool that I can even use in my English classes if I wanted students to watch the video and read the text of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Simple searches can open a world of possibilities for your class and your students.

An interactive timeline is a great visual tool for students. Links to speeches and other wonderful sources could help make the Social Studies Classroom a more interactive environment for student learning.

Give it a try.

Math Fun

I stumbled upon a really good site for the Math teachers to look through. For those of you who know me, I'm not a Math person by any means, but this interactive site looked helpful and interesting to me.

Math Playground is a site that has tons of great resources. The best part of the site, is that many of the lessons and games they have on their are interactive. This means you can utilize your Smartboard in class. Most kids learn better if they are allowed to get up and interact with the lesson they are learning. These games could be used for review or shortened class periods to reinforce the lessons you have already covered.

I played Alien Angles for a couple minutes and it was interesting. Students need to set the correct angle they give you to allow the Aliens to land their craft safely. Some of the games might not be helpful at all levels, but there are some that could be very helpful to struggling learners as they try to catch up in class. 

Interactive Sudoku is a fun game under Logic Puzzles. It forces kids to think of the big picture as they place the numbers in the appropriate boxes.

Word Problems is a bit young for High School, but you may find some parts of it useful for your classes.

Math Videos has a ton of useful video Algebra, Geometry and other useful Math areas.

Take a look at the site and see if there is anything you could use. Give it a try.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Need My Teacher To Learn

Some people might think that this song might be a bit cheesy, but I think the message is important. Thanks to @xmath2007 for sharing this on Twitter.

Here is the link if you cannot watch the video above.

Why You Should Tweet!

Yes, I tweet. Feel free to make your twit joke now. I started to use Twitter at the start of the school year after an article I read about using it for schools. You might be surprised to know that Grosse Pointe North has a Twitter account. So does the school district. There is a very good reason they tweet. Information. Spreading information is key in our job and Twitter is just another way to do that.

Getting started is not as scary as you think. Here is a link to get the skinny on Twitter. It's on a blog by Kate Klingensmith and she always has something interesting to say on various topics. I also bookmarked it on my Diigo account as well. A simple Google search will bring up many articles and blogs telling you why tweeting as a teacher is a great thing. I will tell you why it is a good thing from my experience.

Reasons Why I Tweet as a Teacher:

1. It gives my students to be connected to the class at all times. If I have something I want my students to know about, I no longer have to wait until the next day. That information is there in an instant. I always seem to come across something on TV that I would love for my kids to watch, but I can't tell them in time. Now they could know.

2. It can keep me informed about the world around me when I'm out and about. You can follow many different news sites and receive information from around the world. In the information age, having access to the information is important.

3. There are smart teachers out there. There are many great teaches out there that tweet about great sites they use in class or practices that have worked well for them. It would be crazy to not want to be in contact with them. Sharing is a huge part of what teachers do all day. Why not reach out and share your ideas with other teachers and take the ideas they have if you want. Learning is global. It's important for you start thinking and sharing that way.

4. Sick Days! On the occasion that I'm not feeling well, I can send a tweet to my followers to let them know that I will not be in school and they have an extra day on their assignment. Kids love to hear about extra time on assignments. Now they can show up to your class knowing what to expect.

5. Parent contact. Not all parents are on Twitter, but the numbers are growing. This is another way for you to reach out to parents and share information. Let them know that the online gradebook has been updated. Let them know about the project that is due next week and that the information can be found on your website. Communication is very important in our job. This is just another tool for our box.

6. I talk too much! I  have had to learn to be concise with my information. With only 140 character, I have learned to put the focus on the important information. If I could only do that for my story telling.

There are many more uses for Twitter, but those are some of the big ones. Think of the many different things you could do with another from of communication. Give it a try!

"I Can't Find Any Information!"

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that from my students. Another one I love to hear is, "What do you mean I can't use Wikipedia as a source?" As an English Teacher, I have spent many long hours teaching students how to conduct proper searches on the internet. In case any of you do not know, all Freshmen at Grosse Pointe South are taught about proper searches and proper citation. They should never be able to tell you that they were never taught how to properly cite information or where to look that information up.

With that having been said, sometimes I just want my students to look at a few specific websites for a specific project. I have started using a great site I want to share with you great teachers. The site is called Diigo and it is a bookmarking site. By creating a free profile, you can add specific pages to your account and direct students or other teachers to look at them. That is not the only thing you can do with this great tool though.

Highlighting - You can highlight specific information before you bookmark the site. This can save people time when there is to much information to read through and all you want is a few lines.

Sticky Notes - You can places notes on the highlighted areas to remind you of their relevance. There have been too many times where I have bookmarked a site and I could not remember why I saved it a day or so later.

Groups - You can create specific groups and send pages you find to that group only. You can make the group a public group (anyone can join) or a private group (you select who can join). After some time, I will make the teacher's group a private group to keep nosy teenagers at bay.

Email - You can directly email any site yo find to yourself or other teachers. You can create an address book and send the site directly to students or to other teachers in your department.

Teacher Account - You can request to sign up for a Teacher Account from Diigo. This will allow you to sign up students to join your specific groups that you have created. I have a Teacher Account, but am not using it with my students yet. I'm just creating groups and keeping them open to the public. I put links to them on my website so they can view the groups without an account. It could come in handy if I want to email them sites to look at over the weekend.

Linking Accounts - Diigo allows you to link your blog and Twitter accounts to your Diigo account. This way, if you bookmark something, it can be posted to you blog and your Twitter. You can set up a your account to post all the bookmarks you have made to your blog. It can be set for a daily, twice daily or weekly. This is a great way to save you time. You can also link your iPhone to Diigo as well. Download the Diigo App and you will have access to anything that you have bookmarked. It migth be available for other phones, but you would have to check for that.

The best way to start bookmarking after you create your account is to download the toolbar. It will sit at the top of your browser and you just click the bookmark button when you want to share a website. There are many other great parts of Diigo that you can use. It's best to log on and play around a bit. Have fun!

Sharing is Caring!

There have been times when another teacher asked if I could send them an assignment I used last year because they would love to use it for their class. I'm usually a pretty organized person, but sometimes things get moved from one place to another. Slideshare is a great website where you can upload your PowerPoint presentations, word documents and PDFs for other teachers to use when they want them. You can even put certain documents directly on your website if you want your students to have access to the document.

Slideshare is a free website that is quick and easy to use. If you have some older handout that are not on your computer, it's still not a problem. Use one of the new copiers in the building, scan the document, email it to yourself, and then upload it to the site. After you upload a document, you can decide who can view the documents. As more teachers create profiles, we can create a network that will connect all of the teachers in the building across departments. Social Studies could be sharing with English, Science could share with Math and Art could share with...with... well, most department could share documents with each other.

I'm going to start slowly uploading many of my regular use documents and just send the link to all of my department members so they can pick and choose what they want for their class. It would be great if most departments would use this site because it could be a great resource for new teachers in the building. Give Slideshare a shot and see all of the different things you can do. Remember, Sharing is Caring.

Let's Go Paperless

One of the things I decided to do this year was try and become as paperless as possible. Now, I understand "Going Green" is something many people are striving to do. I also think that saving the environment is something all people should do. However, the main reason for trying to go as paperless as possible is because I hate our copy machines. They are either broken or are occupied. I seem to have the exact same schedule as a few other teachers that need to copy their entire textbook all at once. Also, as many other teachers can agree, there is nothing more frustrating than having a student come to your desk asking for a handout from last week so they can complete the assignment due the next day. I stumbled upon a great website that allows people to upload webpages, photos, videos and pdfs. Welcome to

Livebinders is a great site for a few reasons. First, it is a great way to keep any or all of the documents you have for a unit or an entire class. I have created a binder for my Graphic Novel Class. It's labeled as Pictorial Literature and it was a way from me to keep an organized binder of all of my new materials I wanted students to have access to. (Side Note: I will have more posts as time goes on about using Graphic Novels in class to teach core Language Arts concepts.) I was able to create individual units on each tab of the virtual binder and cut and paste my documents. Each assignment was clearly labeled and easily accessible for my students. As the Semester went on, I uploaded and linked more work to the binder. Each Binder has a 100MB capacity. I find it hard to believe that people are going to cross the 100MB mark, but you can always create another Binder. The Binders do not have to be teachers only though.

Students can use binders for projects. I hate having to carry around a bunch of different projects that students have created. They were frustrating in paper form and are a different type of frustrating if they are sent to my email or are burned to a disc. I use a Mac (Love it!) and might not be able to check the assignment at home if they used some weird program I don't have. Also, I just don't trust what kids put on their flash drives or email to open it at home. Livebinders allows anyone to create the binder and store on their website. With the ability to upload PDFs, Pictures, videos, etc, the students will be able to create a full presentation that a teacher can check from the comfort of home. For Social Studies teachers, I know you like to use binders for current events and other projects. A virtual binder would be a great way for students to link to current events and other important Social Studies materials that you can check at your leisure. Also, this is a free service, so it will not cost your students, or you, a dime.

Did you read that last sentence, it's freakin' free! That is another great part of Livebinders. Anything that can make a teacher's life easier and it's free is amazing. Now, it might take some time to upload all of the information you want, but once it's there, it's there. Send the link to students and they can access the information when they need it. Also, the Binder is available to the general public if you want to share the information with other teachers. You can protect your binder from general searches if you want, but that is up to each user.

Lastly, the biggest plus I can give Livebinders is their support services. I was using my binder and uploading a semesters worth of information 3 times and kept vanishing. I couldn't figure it out. I normally just assume it's a bad site and move on, but I saw the potential of this website and thought I would send the people an email to see what was going on. I sent them an email a couple of days before Thanksgiving and they hit me back in a day. The said I had stumbled upon one of their bugs that they are trying to fix. If you cut and paste too much information, the Binder you created would shut down. They apologized for the error and told me that they would work to retrieve my lost information and have it up and running after the Thanksgiving weekend. I thought that is really nice of them and I appreciated their quick response and I look forward to using the system. I received and email the weekend after Thanksgiving apologizing for the time it was taken to fix the bug in the system and offered to create the binder for me if I sent them my documents! They were going to do all of the work for me! I thanked them, but declined because I still wasn't sure about what I wanted to put in the binder. It is the best customer service I have ever received. Ever!

Livebinders is a great site that is still in the Beta phase, but it's a nice place for a teacher to start storing their handouts for students to access them when they need them. I actually had a student tell me it was nice to have access to the handouts because he is often to embarrassed to ask for a lost handout. That was reason enough for me to start storing more of my handouts on Livebinders.

Leave me a comment with your thoughts or experiences with this great site.