Friday, March 14, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Evernote - Sort Your Notes

Evernote - Sorting Through Notes Made Simple
Do you ever look at your students' notebooks and wonder how they ever find anything? Do you find yourself bookmarking websites for just one piece of information? Do you write notes on your computer or on paper that you end up trashing or tediously sorting through? Wouldn't it be great if there was a program that would do the searching and sorting for you? Well, there is and it's called Evernote!

Evernote comes in two forms for PC and Mac and both perform the same great function, sorting and searching through your notes for you. Evernote can be downloaded and installed on your computer or you can use the web-based version, both are free. Evernote can be used to copy parts of websites and put into a notebook for later use. Evernote can also be used to write notes on your computer, on a mobile device, or on paper to be put into a notebook for later use. Your notebook uses tags to find your notes for you when you need them later.

Here is a short introduction to Evernote.

Here is a short demonstration of using Evernote on a Mac.

Applications for Educators
Evernote is a good utility for students using the Internet for research. Rather than copying and pasting to a word document or bookmarking websites to then later search through students can save to Evernote and quickly revisit the information they need. I think of this as the 21st century version of making research cards and writing down the "slugs" as many of us did in high school and college.
Evernote is very useful for the student who struggles to organize a notebook (either online or paper version). The searching and sorting features of Evernote will help students find the information they need from their notes to prepare for an exam.

Free Technology For Teachers: FOSSVT - FOSS Vermont

FOSSVT- Free and Open Source Software- Vermont
If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you've probably noticed that I love anything free whether it's software or coffee as long as it's free, I'll try it. There is a conference in Vermont on April 4 all about Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in education. The conference is not free (kind of ironic, I think), but I'm attending anyway and hoping to discover and learn about some new things that are free. If you're in New England or New York and would like to attend or learn more about FOSSVT, check it out here.
If you are going I'd love to meet up with some other members of the education blog-o-sphere so drop me line via comment or email at

Free Technology For Teachers: Open Standards

Federal Computer Week published a report last week about the Navy's move toward open standards in its information technology operations. FCW quotes Vice Admiral Mark Edwards as saying, "The days of proprietary technology must come to an end." One of the motivations for moving toward open standards is to cut costs in operating information technology. Read the rest of the article here.

Applications for Education
The Navy is moving toward open standards as a cost cutting measure. Schools should also look at open standards and open software as a cost cutting measure. In an education environment, using open standards and open software can increase the amount of money spent on hardware without increasing the technology budget. Proprietary programs while often more common and familiar to the average end user, are costly and in some cases limiting. Using open source programs increases budget flexibility allowing schools to invest in improving hardware and networks.

Free Technology For Teachers: Brainstorming - Lessons from Business Blogs

In a classic example of "old habits die hard" I still read business blogs despite having not worked in private industry for five years. One of the blogs I read had an interesting post about effective brainstorming strategies. While the post is targeted to managers in private business there is a lesson for teachers and school administrators too.

Here are two great reminders or tips about effective brainstorming from that apply to brainstorming sessions regardless of setting. 1. "Encourage diagrams, stick figures (2-D), mock-ups and models (3-D)." This tip is very appropriate for teachers leading a brainstorming session with students. Most students despise taking notes, but ask them to draw a diagram or picture about a topic and they'll engage in the brainstorming process. 2. "Warm up if the group are new to each other or don't regularly brainstorm or likely to be distracted by other pressing matters." Warm-up activities help ease students into the activity and overcome concerns about how their ideas will be received by others. Warm-up activities also have a team building effect which encourages collaboration.

Courtesy of here are some things not to do when leading a brainstorming session.

Here are two great web resources for creating interactive graphic organizers your students can use to record brainstorming sessions.

Free Technology For Teachers: The Case for Cell Phones and Social Networking

One of the blogs I read quite regularly is Weblogg-ed written by Will Richardson. Yesterday, Mr. Richardson wrote about his experience speaking to students and educators in New York City. The part of blog post that piqued my interest was Mr. Richardson's conversations with students about cell phones and Myspace. As is to be expected, all of the students advocated for being able to use cell phones and Myspace at school. Richardson used the students' comments as an opening to demonstrate a use for cell phones as research tools as he text messaged a search to Google and got a response in ten seconds.

Richardson also talked to students about how they use Myspace. A surprising number of the students use Myspace to communicate about assignments and projects. Many of my students use AIM and other instant messaging programs to communicate about homework assignments. This is not necessarily a justification for letting kids use Myspace at school, but it does reflect a new shift in communication. Students and some adults are using traditional email less and communicating either through instant messaging or a messaging system built into a social network like Myspace or Facebook. At the FOWA conference last month, this topic was discussed at length by industry leaders.

Are there meaningful ways of incorporating social networking applications into the classroom? Yes, there are. Twitter and Pownce are messaging systems and social networks that teachers have started to use with students. There are many discussions of this in the educational blog-o-sphere. Edublogs recently released a new feature for teachers to create student blogs that teachers can administer and monitor.

Read all of Will Richardson's blog post here.

Here is a video of Richardson speaking in New York City.