Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Random Writing Prompts

Writing Fix is a comprehensive resource for writing teachers. Writing Fix features a random story prompt generator. What I like about about this particular prompt generator is that each prompt is created and submitted by real people and is reviewed by an educator before being included in the pool of prompts.

Writing Fix features so much more than just a random story prompt generator. Exploring the website a visitor will find ideas and plans for teaching all aspects of writing. Writing Fix offers a number of teaching strategies including a creative use of Post-It Notes which you can see by clicking here. And if you're looking for online learning activities for your students, Writing Fix has a nice collection in their classroom tools section.

A reader of this blog, Courtney Rudd, told me about Writing Fix and I'm glad she did because it is a great website.

Applications for Education
The human reviewed aspect of Writing Fix's prompt generator gives me a feeling of assurance that it could be used in any classroom without fearing that questionable content may appear. The collection of learning games and activities featured in the classroom tools section are great for students to learn and practice individually.

Cartoon Explanation of Cloud Computing Benefits

Here is a short cartoon slide show I made about the benefits of having students use cloud computing tools.

Benefits of Cloud Computing
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: computing cloud)

Update: I just noticed that the slide show might not be displayed properly in Google Reader. Please click on the blog post's title to see the slide show.

Is Cloud Computing Right For You?

A quick search of the archives of this blog will reveal that I am a big proponent of cloud computing. There are two primary reasons why I like cloud computing so much. First, many cloud computing tools are completely free and can do the same tasks as more expensive proprietary software programs. Second, cloud computing is extremely portable. If you work in a school that has computer labs where students have to save work to the local network or to a storage device before they log-off you've undoubtedly had a student say "I forgot to save" or "my computer at home won't open this format." Cloud computing solves both of these problems. Two popular cloud computing word processors, Zoho Writer and Google Docs, automatically save students' work at regular intervals. Cloud computing programs operate inside of web browsers eliminating the need to have the right type of proprietary software installed on a computer in order to read a document. If a student has a Mac at home and uses a PC at school they can work on any document created online.

Deciding Whether or Not to Use Cloud Computing.
The most common arguments against cloud computing that I hear from teachers and administrators are "those Internet programs fail all the time" and "but can't people find students' work online?"

Regarding concern about Internet programs failing, how many times has your Hotmail or Gmail account not been available in the last year or three? That's about how often your Google or Zoho account will be unavailable. Now compare that to the number of times your school's local network has been down in the last year or three for one reason or another. You should find that both systems are equally reliable.

Students' work being created and stored in the cloud doesn't mean that anyone can find it online so long as you teach your students safe computing practices like not sharing passwords.

Does your school have a mix of computing environments available to students? If so, cloud computing is a great option for your students. Rather than having students fight about who gets to use which computer they can sit down at any computer connected to the Internet and get to work. Likewise if your students have a Mac at home, but use a PC at school cloud computing alleviates the problem of having students bring in work that cannot be accessed.

In the end all storage systems and productivity tools will eventually experience some type of failure. Always encourage students to save work in multiple places for the times when it is inaccessible in one format or the other.

Coming up in the next post, A Cartoon Explanation of Cloud Computing Benefits.

Dell Inspiron 910 Will Have Ubuntu Installed

According to leaked information provided by Ars Technica and Gizmodo Dell's new mini laptop will be available with Linux Ubuntu installed. The Dell Inspiron 910 dubbed the "Inspiron Mini" is designed to compete with the Assus EEE PC. The price of the Inspiron Mini is being reported as low as $299. According to Gizmodo's report the Inspiron Mini should be available next week.

Implications for Education
Dell is one of the few major manufacturers to offer a selection of laptops and desktops with Ubuntu installed. Offering the Inspiron Mini with Ubuntu is going to make the Mini an appealing option for schools considering starting a one-to-one computing program. There are significant cost savings when schools buy computers with the Ubuntu rather than Windows or Mac OS which is why I'm always amazed that more schools don't use Linux computing environments.