Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tech Tuesday 3/29

Win an iPad2!

You read that correctly. The free conference I am organizing, EdcampDetroit, is giving away 2 iPad2s to those who attend EdcampDetroit! If you decide to present at EdcampDetroit, you actually will have 2 chances to win the iPad2s! The conference is Saturday May 7th and we only have 100 spots left. I want to make sure the people in my district have a shot at these awesome tech tools. Besides the iPads, there is an iPod Nano, classroom subscriptions to wonderful websites like BrainPop and StrataLogica. TechSmith will be giving away copies of Camtasia and other goodies just for attending EdcampDetroit.

The best thing about this conference is that it is FREE! This is a great chance to get together with teachers from around the Metro Detroit area to share ideas and grow as a teachers. We already have a couple of Grosse Pointe teachers registered, but I would love to see more. Once word of the door prizes spread, registration is going to fill up quickly. Here is some of the key info you need about EdcampDetroit.

Excited? Click here to be taken to registration!

The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project

For the past month, my students have been working on an amazing project. My Freshmen are putting together a joint production of Romeo and Juliet with Van Meter High School in Van Meter, Iowa. My kids are producing Acts 1, 3 and 5 and Van Meter is working on Acts 2 and 4. The students are in charge of every aspect of the production. They are re-writing the script to modernize it for the movie. They are making props, designing costumes, coming up with a soundtrack, creating advertising and everything that you can think of that a movie might need. I have never seen the kids so engaged in Shakespeare in my life. The goal for the project is to have a joint Premiere on April 30th. The kids are excited and I can't wait to see what happens next.

I'm sharing this with you for two reasons. The first is to brag. These kids are kicking butt and I think the district should know all about it. The other reason is to show everyone how the tools I share with you can be used in the classroom.

Wiki - The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project uses a wiki to keep everything organized. I needed a place where kids from all over could edit and share information. A wiki is great for that because it is free, easy to use and it can be edited from anywhere once a person has permission to join the wiki. We have used it to upload the completed script, post due dates, post filming schedules and post student blogs. This project would be 10 times harder without a wiki.

Blogs - The project would be easy if students were just working in class every day for 2 months. I still wanted to incorporate writing in the unit. The more they write, the more they think about the story. Every student created a blog and is required to post on it once or twice a week (depending on their job in the production) as they work on the project. We have hit speed bumps along the way, but I get to check their work without having to take home tons of paperwork. I'm sure I have saved a forest or two by using the blogs. Here are a few examples. Juliet's Blog - Benvolia's Blog (We cast Benvolio as a girl because the student was amazing and we were out of female roles.) - Advertising Blog - Soundtrack - Props. Take some time to look at rest of the blogs found on the wiki. They have all Grosse Pointe and Van Meter student blogs labeled by job title.

Skype - We have had a couple of Skype sessions with the students of Van Meter. We plan on having some more before production ends April 15th. We had a Skype session last week that was simply amazing. The kids spent close to 30 minutes discussing the importance of color and the possible symbolic meanings behind what the characters could be wearing. I'm angry I did not set up a screen cast of the session because I would love to share it with all of you. Connecting with the other students in Iowa has really motivated my students to work harder because they have a bigger audience.

The other students have used various Web tools to add to parts of the production. Some students have created Twitter accounts for the characters and are going to start tweeting as the characters during the production. Some have created Facebook accounts and will have some of those up and running to share with other students. Some are creating digital poster boards using Glogster. The kids have really immersed themselves in this production in ways I never imagined.

I'm not suggesting that every teacher dive head first into big projects that require so many moving parts. I do suggest trying out some of these tools in your class and see how your students respond. This project is a culmination of a years worth of tech integration with my students and there is a ton more I wish I had time to show them. If you want to follow the craziness of this project, check out my other blog where I update the project almost daily. You can read about the ups and downs and how I'm trying to contact Taylor Swift to get the rights to her music for the production.

Now on to the tech tool of the week.


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. 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.

"Why do I need a bookmarking site?" Well, bookmarking sites are a way for you to save all of those wonderful websites you have found or I have sent you. We all have bookmarks on our computer at home and at school. The problem with saving them on our home and work computers is that we can access what we have on the other computer. Diigo, and similar bookmarking sites, solve this problem.

Bookmarking sites save all of your bookmarks on their site so you can access them from any computer with internet access. If you find a great site at home while working, just bookmark it with Diigo and you will not have to worry about emailing yourself the link. The links are very easy to share with other teachers and even students. There are tons of great things you can do with this wonderful tool.

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). I have used the groups to store specific websites I want different classes to look at. It has cut research time in half for my students on various projects.

Email - You can directly email any site you 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 and I plan on using it with my Freshmen for their research project. Goodbye note cards and hello Diigo.

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 might 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.

As always, give it a try!

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