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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where the leaves on some trees are already starting to change colors. Fall is my favorite season of the year, but it still feels like summer is ending too soon. By now school is back in session almost everywhere around here and the few places that haven't started will be back in session soon. If you find yourself looking for some new ed tech resources to use in your classroom this fall, take a look at this month's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Here are the month's most popular posts:
1. The Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Download It Today
2. How to Create a Jeopardy-style Game in Google Spreadsheets
3. 12 Good Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship - A PDF Handout
4. Google Classroom Adds Calendar Integration and Other Frequently Requested Functions
5. 5 Good Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers - And How to Use Them
6. How to Quickly Create Vocabulary Lists from a Document
7. 5 Tools Students Can Use to Keep Track of Assignments This Year
8. How to Create a Progress Chart in Google Sheets
9. Coordinate Back-to-School with Choice Eliminator and Google Forms
10. This Wage Calculator Shows Students Salaries In Terms They Can Understand

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

My Two Ground Rules for Collaboratively Taking Notes

Earlier today I pushed a post about using MeetingWords as a collaborative note-taking tool. In that post I mentioned the need for setting some rules for students to follow during a collaborative note-taking session. Through trial and error over the years I've developed a few ground rules that help collaborative note-taking be a better experience for all involved. These are the two ground rules that I use with students.

1. Yes, it is possible to write over or correct a classmate's note, but don't do it without consulting him or her first. Use the chat feature (present in Google Docs and MeetingWords) to suggest a change to the person whose note you wish to change.

Making students ask each other before changing a note does two things. First, it prevents students from getting frustrated by having a classmate delete work without asking. Second, it facilitates conversation about what is or isn't an important note to record.

2. Use your real name. I want to know who has added what to the document. Your classmates want to know who they can talk to regarding a note.

Contributing to a notes document is different than participating in a backchannel chat in which I might just be looking for anonymous questions from students or anonymous responses to my prompts. In a collaboratively created document I want to see names so I know who is contributing, who is not, who needs help, and who is with me.

Try Meeting Words for Collaboratively Taking Notes

MeetingWords is a free and registration-free service for creating an online notepad and chat room. Through MeetingWords you can quickly create an online place to collaboratively create documents with one or more partners. You can chat in real-time while creating a document on MeetingWords. Every person contributing to the documents you build is assigned a highlight color so that you can easily track who wrote what in the document. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use MeetingWords along some commentary on how it might be used in a classroom.


If you don't have access to Google Documents or another collaborative document creation tool, MeetingWords provides a quick and easy way for students to take notes together. As I noted in the video, there isn't an option to moderate comments in MeetingWords so you will need to spend some time setting up rules and expectations for your students to follow when using MeetingWords.

About Downloading YouTube Videos...

These kittens don't violate YouTube's
TOS and we shouldn't either :)
This morning I received a Facebook message from someone looking for a recommendation for a tool to use to download videos from YouTube. I get that question fairly often. Usually it is asked by people who are working in schools that block access to YouTube. I used to make recommendations for tools that will download YouTube videos, I don't anymore and removed all of the old posts that did mention those tools.

Downloading videos from YouTube through a third-party service is a violation of section 4 of YouTube's terms of service. I don't want students thinking they can download anything they want without concern for copyright or a company's terms of service. Therefore, I think I should model for students the behavior of respecting copyright and a company's terms of service.

In addition to the copyright and TOS violations, the other concern with downloading YouTube videos through a third-party tool is the varying quality and reliability of those tools. That is of particular concern when you start to dive into the free services promising that function because while they may work, they may also offer a bunch of malware to go along with the video file.

I understand the tough position that teachers find themselves in when YouTube is blocked in their schools and there is a video on YouTube that they would really like to share with their students. I've been there, it is frustrating. My recommendation at this time is to talk to your administrators about using YouTube for Schools if you cannot convince them to allow teachers to access YouTube directly.